Washington, Pennsylvania: Ashes of First Cremated American

Baron de Palm became the first American to be officially cremated in 1876. The town where he was burned has a museum in the LeMoyne House, and it shows off the Baron's ashes in a bottle.

Washington County Historical Society

Address:
49 East Maiden St., Washington, PA
Directions:
Washington County Historical Society. South side of downtown, on the north side of E. Maiden St., just east of its intersection with Shaefer Ave. Look for the Le Moyne House historical marker out front.
Hours:
Tu-F 11-3 (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Phone:
724-225-6740
Admission:
Donation.
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Ashes from First Cremation in America.

Ashes of First Cremated American

The ashes of Joseph Henry Louis Charles are kept in a jar at the Washington County Historical Society Headquarters and Museum. Known as "Baron de Palm," Charles was a free spirit and a high-ranking Mason. On his deathbed he expressed his horror at the thought of burial; he said he once knew of a woman who had been buried alive.

After his death, his executor realized that Charles would make an excellent corpse for the first cremation in America, which, at the time, was considered a shocking and unacceptable way to dispose of a dead person (Burning bodies had a bad reputation in the U.S.).

Six months after Charles's death his corpse was moved from New York City to the small town of Washington, Pennsylvania -- where America's first crematory had just been built -- and Charles was cremated on December 6, 1876. It was a public spectacle, attended by crowds of curious onlookers.

[Tabitha Pauley, 05/21/2017]

Nearby Offbeat Places

George Washington's ThumbGeorge Washington's Thumb, Washington, PA - < 1 mi.
Whiskey Rebellion StatueWhiskey Rebellion Statue, Washington, PA - < 1 mi.
Singing Statue of Perry ComoSinging Statue of Perry Como, Canonsburg, PA - 7 mi.
In the region:
Wheeling Island Flood Memorial Wall, Wheeling, WV - 27 mi.

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