Our Rich History

“Grandview is a true melting pot that represents the diversity that has long been the cultural hallmark of Johnstown.”

A Growing Community

Following the close of the American Civil War and the opening of a new industrial age, the nation’s demand for iron and steel grew dramatically. The Cambria Iron Company of Johnstown, Pennsylvania played a major role in meeting that demand. The mills, the mines, the railroads, and numerous support industries provided the jobs that powered the local economy. The need for skilled works made jobs plentiful. As immigration increased steadily in the later decades of the 19th century, Johnstown became a thriving and growing community. It was a highly desirable destination for those seeking a better life in America.

The Need for a Cemetery

Although numerous churches in the area had their own small cemeteries, there were only two public cemeteries serving the area. They were the Union Cemetery located on the current site of the War Memorial Arena, and Sandyvale Cemetery situated along the Stonycreek River in Johnstown’s Hornerstown section. Although they had served the area well, by the early 1880’s it became clear that there was a growing need for additional cemetery plots for the Johnstown area. To address that need, a group of concerned citizens met on August 9, 1884, for the purpose of developing a new cemetery for Johnstown and its surrounding communities. At this meeting some initial committees were formed and work began.

Searching for Land

Several sites had been reviewed and considered by early 1885. As the committee charged with that responsibility continued its work, it was reported that the asking price for land in the area had seen a sharp rise. In several instances, land that had been available for $50 to $100 per acre was being offered for as much as $600 per acre.

Following their review of numerous sites around Johnstown, the committee agreed that the most favorable site was a 100-acre plot on Kernville Hill in Upper Yoder Township, west of the town. The land was owned by the Cambria Iron Company. It was farmland used to produce feed for the mules and horses used by the company in their Johnstown plant. The decision was made to purchase that parcel of land.

Complications Arise

During the spring of 1885, the process of procuring the land was stalled. It was clearly the first choice of the committee, due in large measure to the grand view afforded from its elevation above the town. It was also far removed from the flood plain on which Johnstown had been established in 1800. The site was more than 700 feet above the elevation at the corner of Main and Franklin Street in Johnstown. However, access to it would require that a road be built up the extremely steep hill and through the heavily wooded terrain of Kernville Hill.

The complications of building a road to the top of Kernville Hill were numerous, and the projected costs were prohibitive. As a result, other sites were reviewed, but no decision could be made. The Upper Yoder Township land remained so desirable that the matter of completing an access road was referred to Robert Fulton, the general mining engineer of the Cambria Iron Company. By early 1886, a road construction plan developed by Fulton and others was approved. With that matter resolved, a contract for the land was executed with the Cambria Iron Company. The purchase prices was $75 per acre for 100 acres.

The Beginning of Grandview

A draft of the charter for the proposed cemetery was read and approved at a meeting held in January of 1885. In accord with this charter, The Citizens Cemetery Association would offer cemetery services, and its business would be transacted in Johnstown, Cambria County, Pennsylvania. Theirs would be a perpetual corporation, holding no capital stock, and neither making profit nor offering dividends. Fifty subscribers, each paying the sum of $50 would form the initial association membership.

By the end of January, fifty names had been secured. They would be the initial subscribers of The Citizens’ Cemetery Association. Member of the Association would have one vote on matters brought before the membership. The Association would be managed by a Board of Trustees, consisting of seven members. The Board was prohibited from incurring any debt beyond $20,000, and that debts was to be incurred only for the “. . . purchase and improvement of ground for the cemetery and ways and roads thereto. . . .” The charter further directed that when all debts of the corporation are secured, at least one-half of annual revenue would be invested in government, state or municipal loans of real-estate securities, with all proceeds to be reinvested in the cemetery’s “. . . protection, care, decoration, and maintenance. . . forever.”

In September of 1886, Charles L. Miller, of Philadelphia was selected to be the landscape architect for the project. By years’ end, rules and regulations for the cemetery had been developed and approved, and title forms for the plots to be offered had been prepared for public offer.

Open to the Public

At a public auction held at 1:00 PM on Saturday, April 30, 1887, the first lots went up for bid. William Coshum was the first successful bidder, buying lot #75 in Prospect Section #4, for $38.40. Just five days later, the first interment took place when Mrs. Lucretia Hammond, of Kernville, was laid to rest in Prospect 4 Lot #77. In June of that year, the Association selected and approve its first superintendent, John M. Osborne.


Since its inception, The Citizens’ Cemetery Association has been and continues to be led by a president, a secretary, a treasurer, and it is governed by its board of trustees, selected from among the members by the members. James McMillen was named the first president. The first annual meeting of The Citizens Cemetery Association was set for Sunday, March 22, 1885. At that meeting the initial set of Association by-laws were read and approved.

Historical Landmarks

Donations and contributions have long been part of what has made Grandview a model of cemetery operations, and they have contributed to its ongoing legacy. Three of the earliest and most notable of these contributions were the Morrell Gateway, offered by Mrs. Daniel J. Morrell, the McMillen Chapel offered by Mrs. James McMillen, and the Chapin Arch.

Volunteers’ Efforts

The hard work of volunteers has and continues to play significantly into the success of Johnstown’s Grandview Cemetery. As noted in the Historical Sketch of the Citizens’ Cemetery Association, from the Founding of Grand-View Cemetery to March 25, 1901, published in 1901, “It will not be out of place here to step aside from the strictly historical for a moment and make note of the vast amount of valuable service rendered to Grand-View Cemetery by those who have at various times served on its committees and Board of Trustees, for which, though much time as been committed, they have never received a penny of remuneration.”

Expanding Into the Future

As the scope and operations of Grandview Cemetery was expanded, over nearly a century and a half, the ongoing efforts for the Association have enabled Grandview to grow and expand its operations, services, and facilities to meet the needs of the Johnstown region.

Mark J. Duray, president and chief operating officer of the cemetery, proudly points out that, “Grandview is a true melting pot that represents the diversity that has long been the cultural hallmark of Johnstown.” As of, August 1, 2023, 73,191 burials have taken place at Grandview. Today the cemetery includes 239 acres and is accessible by way of 11 miles of roads.

Written by Mike McGough