The History of Union Dale
Union Dale has always been a family cemetery notable for the successive generations who are buried in family plots centered around obelisks and other handsome monuments. At rest in Union Dale Cemetery are hardworking people who carved a pleasant, livable city out of a wilderness . . . and made a history worth remembering.
Incorporated in 1846, Union Dale Cemetery is a silent and enduring panorama of Pittsburgh. In the cemetery's ninety-six hilltop acres along Brighton Road are buried some of the most prominent residents of Allegheny City as well as generations of families, war veterans, and individuals whose lives have shaped the texture of our past. Today the cemetery offers attractive lots for traditional burial as well as cremated remains.
Union Dale was founded during a time of historic change in American cemeteries. As progressive cities like Allegheny and Pittsburgh doubled in size, their churchyard burial grounds were becoming unpleasantly crowded - and increasingly valuable for development.
To solve this dilemma a new ideal emerged: the dead would be laid to rest not in the city but in beautiful and permanent "gardens of graves" . . . far removed from the hustle and bustle of urban commerce and the smoke of factories. This rural cemetery movement swept the country during the 1830s and 1840s.
The 19th century cemetery was transformed into a picturesque landscape, an island of natural beauty and repose. Flowering trees and ornamental shrubs welcomed the living while impressive monuments honored the dead. Communities began to take pride in the history their cemeteries represented.
Families grew secure in the knowledge that the remains of their loved ones would rest in a safe and permanent burial place. People of all ages enjoyed Sunday and holiday outings to the cemetery where they could contemplate the virtues of nature, remember their relatives, and look forward to eternal life. Rural cemeteries became one of America's first tourist attractions.
From Farmland to Cemeteries
Incorporated as a city in 1840, Allegheny City by 1846 had 15,000 residents. Only one bridge linked the citizens to Pittsburgh. In April of that year, members of the First Associate Reformed Church received a charter to create Mount Union Cemetery, one of the area's first rural cemeteries. Located on ten acres of farmland in Reserve Township, two miles from town, Mount Union was "a pleasant day's buggy ride out of Allegheny City." The founders opened the cemetery to all denominations and took pride in its "inspiring view, unequaled in beauty and extent."
Eleven years later, another cemetery was chartered directly across the road from Mount Union. Organizers of the new Hilldale Cemetery included Allegheny residents Josiah King, Isaac Pennock, William McCarthy, and John Hutchison.
Following the Civil War in 1867, the trustees of Mount Union bought the Hilldale grounds, combining the two cemeteries. Union Dale, the consolidated cemetery, was granted a perpetual charter in 1869. Soon, more farms were purchased and added to the undulating acreage.
Union Dale became the pride of its community. Visitors entered often to walk through the grounds, reflect, and enjoy the fountains and the masses of annuals planted each summer. As the author of Historical Gleanings of Allegheny wrote in 1880, "To the thoughtful, the refined, and the religious, a visit to the silent necropolis is fraught with both profit and pleasure."
Dignity of an Age Gone By
A nonprofit cemetery governed by an elected board of trustees, Union Dale gained a reputation for careful and capable management that continues today. The staff serves the community with the respect and dignity of an age gone by. Union Dale consistently ranks among the best cemeteries in Allegheny County in terms of maintenance and appearance.