The Historic Midland Cemetery

Friends Of Midland Memory

Welcome to our memory page, which are short stories given by members of the organization past and present.

The purpose is to give you a glimpse into the thoughts of family members who have someone interred in the historic Midland Cemetery. This page will be periodically updated with new stories.


When I was a youngster I felt an intense dislike for Midland Cemetery. It was after all a place given to grief remorse and sorrowful ceremony over the loss of loved ones. It was there that I said final good-byes to my Father, my Grandfather, two brothers, an aunt, other relatives and friends. Too many times it was there that I heard intoned….”Ashes to Ashes...Dust to Dust”.

Among my recollections of Midland was that when I had occasion to go there it was chilly, windy and damp… and invariably it rained …on me. I remember to the long walk I took with my Mother, sister, and brothers from the west side of Steelton carrying shovels, rakes and buckets to dress the gravesite prior to Memorial Day.

Memorial Day was a departure from the norm at Midland. It was a day when drum and bugle corps paraded, someone always recited Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, politicians mouthed platitudes and social exchanges between parties who came to visit the graves of departed relatives and friends. It was rather like a picnic.

As I grew older and burials took place less frequently at Midland I like others drifted away from concern over Midland. But then along came Barbara (Barksdale that is). I was impressed and inspired by her fervor for restoring this old run down piece of real estate. The history that she uncovered buried with the bodies at Midland is noteworthy. She literally caused those bones to speak to us. Terms like Buffalo soldiers, U.S. Colored Troops, and increased knowledge of local Black history came to the fore. A pride of heritage and a realization that the people buried at Midland included those who rose from involuntary servitude and denial of equal opportunity climbed to positions of voluntary and exemplary service to their community, their country and to their God.

The hatred I thought I once felt for Midland is now replaced by Pride, Respect and Love. I know that we must not allow our concern for the symbol of our heritage and history to wane.

Zane G. Phoenix Sr.

Note: Mr. Zane Phoenix Sr. wrote this for a newsletter prior to his death in March 2006. He was a brilliant person and a great board member. Loved his church, family and community.

Mary E. Allen - Mother - Patriot - Aircraft Mechanic

Each year around Memorial Day, I think more and more about my mother, Mary E. Allen. This time of year is special because it was then that she used to get extra busy preparing her Booster Club of the Andrew Askins Post #479 ready for the two parades to Midlands and William Howard Day Cemeteries. Several people reading this message will remember very well that group of young girls and boys--toddlers up to teenagers--all decked out in white and carrying small American flags, because some may have been members of the cited group. Typically that unit of the parade drew warm applause because of the symbolic innocence the kids represented.

Who was this woman? Mary Allen was born Mary Mont in Caroline County, Virginia in 1891. She later moved with her family to Hummelstown, Pa. where her father was doing construction work in the area and she attended public school. Her mother ran a boarding house and it was there that a young gentleman from Staunton, Virginia, James Allen, stayed while he worked in the brown stone quarries in the Hummelstown area. Later, my grandfather sold the boarding house and moved the family to Poukeepsie, New York where large projects were underway to construct fresh water systems for the city of New York. James must to have liked what he saw because he later followed the Monts to New York. Upon completion of high school at age 16, Mary enrolled in nursing school which she completed in 1909. In 1910 James and Mary married and started their family.

The Allens had two children born in New York state and at the start of World War I, they moved to Steelton, Pa. where James worked for the Bethlehem steel Company. During the next several years, eight more children were born and along came World War II. Even though she sent sons to war, Mary joined the ranks of Rosie the Riveters doing defense work for the Air Force -staying on through the Korean War to retire as an aircraft mechanic. All the while she was active in the American Legion Auxiliary raising her family and others as well. On several occasions she held positions in the Dauphin, Lancaster and Lebanon Tri-County Council of the American Legion.

A writer once wrote, "The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on...Nor all thy piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all thy tears wash out a line of it...". In her 86 years of life, Mary Allen wrote an indelible message about service, patriotism, love and caring. Her name should be etched on a wall commemorating those who helped define the rock solid character of Steelton.

Respectfully submitted by her youngest child,

Eugene D. Allen, P.E. Captain USAF (Retired)