Eagle Scout project restores 200-year-old Pine cemetery where township founder resides
Thursday, November 7, 2019 | 4:52 PM
John Hoffman, III didn’t want to put a bench somewhere and call it his Eagle Scout project.
The Pine-Richland High School junior wanted to do something that would challenge him and make a real difference, so he undertook a project that would intimidate many adults.
Hoffman led the charge to clean up and preserve a nearly forgotten local cemetery that includes the remains of Pine Township’s founder and a Revolutionary War soldier. There was a ceremony to rededicate the site on Nov. 2, and Hoffman was given a plaque in recognition of his community service by the Pine Board of Supervisors at their Nov. 4 meeting.
“I just wanted to give back to my community and do something I really enjoy,” said Hoffman, who loves history. “I learned a lot throughout the whole journey about not just the project but about (soldier) Thomas Mallerson and what this place means and why it’s important and why people should know about it.”
The Rogers family burial plot sits a few yards back in the woods off Twin Oaks Drive but without any marker people could drive by it every day and not know it was there.
When Hoffman sent letters to family and friends soliciting donations to help fund the project, the place was unknown to many.
“People were like, ‘I’ve been living here my whole life and I have no idea where this place is,’” Hoffman said.
Twenty-one people are believed to rest there, including several children. All the graves date back to the 1800s.
Among them are Thomas Rogers, believed to be Pine’s first settler who died in 1808, and Revolutionary War soldier Thomas Mallerson, who died in 1813. He is referred to as Mallison on a more recent marker on the gravesite, but Pine Township manager Scott Anderson said although it could be either, “Mallerson” shows up most frequently in records and is probably correct.
About two years ago a local Pine history blogger, Marrissa Southwell, posted about the cemetery. She feared that a thick 30-foot tree branch that was hanging over a number of the headstones, including Mallerson’s, was in danger of smashing them to pieces and sending the cemetery, already in bad shape, into an even greater state of disrepair. She hoped that by calling attention to it, some member or members of the community might step in to help preserve the piece of history.
The Pine Creek Journal picked up the story and that caught Hoffman’s eye.
Tammy Hoffman, John’s mother, said the first challenge was determining who owned the property, which took some time. Public works director Tony Barbarino ultimately said they couldn’t find any living family so Hoffman was free to go ahead and restore it.
Jim Cortes with American Tree Service gave them a discount and came and removed the dead limb, then Hoffman and the Scouts from Troop 150 worked long days cleaning up debris, weeding, raking and righting and securing headstones that had fallen over or were leaning. The township hauled away the debris they dragged out of the woods.
Then Hoffman, his dad and his grandfather went to work on replacing the old and broken fence with help from Penn Fencing, which also gave them a discount. The project cost about $2,600, all of which Hoffman raised through donations.
They’re now working with the township to get an historical marker erected by the road so that people will know where to find the cemetery and can go visit.
Tammy Hoffman said they’re also hoping that through social media the story might reach Connecticut and any living descendants of Thomas Mallerson.
One of the things John Hoffman learned was that Mallerson enlisted in January 1777 and was with the 7th Connecticut Regiment, which fought in the Battle of Brandywine, the Battle of Germantown and the Battle of Monmouth. He was honorably discharged on Dec. 31, 1779 and given several acres of land in the township.
The Scouts participated in the rededication of the cemetery, which was also attended by several members of the board of supervisors and other township personnel. The Rev. Keith Dunn from Bakerstown United Methodist Church, where the Scout troop meets, said a prayer for the souls of the cemetery to be at rest.
“Now it’s rededicated and it’s 200 years later (after Mallerson’s death) and he’s a veteran,” Tammy Hoffman said. “You can see how important that was to John to restore, that that man’s life was important. I’m just so proud of him.”