The sun was peeking from behind the looming clouds as I arrived at the Ursina Cemetery. The morning had been cold, frosty and foggy, but that was not going to stop my journey into the heart of Somerset County.
Turning off Jersey Hollow Road, the road leading to the cemetery was a narrow dirt road shared by the neighboring houses. I entered the cemetery and drove slowly along the roadway that made a figure-eight within the sacred piece of land.
I quickly discovered the grave I sought. It was located just a couple yards from the edge of the roadway, near the spot where the two loops in the cemetery intersected. Parking near the intersection, I walked the short distance to the grave of Lawrence “Larry” Critchfield. Studying the simple stone, there’s nothing on it to reveal the life of the gentleman who rests here next to his wife. Note: His wife’s name on the tombstone is spelled Ellener. The newspapers state his wife’s name was spelled Eleanor.
Critchfield was born January 6, 1908 in the community of Acosta in northern Somerset County. He attended Ursina grade school and graduated from Confluence High School. Critchfield attended college at Grove City where he played football and participated in track while studying education. His senior year at Grove City, Critchfield was elected captain of the football team. Note: Many places state Critchfield was born in Ursina, but his obituary states he was born in Acosta.
In 1933, Critchfield would make history appearing in the roster as left guard for the newly formed Pittsburgh Pirates football team, which was formed from mostly local semi-pro players. He took the field with his teammates on September 20, 1933 for their first game as part of the NFL. The game was a 23-2 loss to the New York Giants. The following week, they won their first game in a 14-13 victory over the Chicago Cardinals. Critchfield would play in all eleven games that season and the Pittsburgh Pirates football team would end the season with three wins, six losses and two ties.
Note: The 1933 season would introduce three new teams to the NFL. The teams added were: the Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates. The team took its name from the baseball team and would not be called the Steelers until the 1940 season.
After playing one season of professional football Critchfield made the decision to leave the game and began teaching in the Confluence school district. In 1944, he accepted the position of assistant coach at Clairton while teaching physical education. He died June 30, 1965 at the age of fifty-seven at his cabin near Confluence.
I finished paying my respects to the member of the first roster of the Pittsburgh Pirates football team and left him resting in the small, peaceful cemetery overlooking the community he once called home.