LeMoyne Crematory

The LeMoyne Crematory

The Legacy of LeMoyne Crematory

Dr. Francis Julius LeMoyne was a man who got things done. He was a practicing physician, a devoted husband, a loving father of eight, the founder of Washington's Citizens Library, a co-founder of the Washington Female Seminary, an ardent supporter of abolition, and, it seems, a bit of a medical detective!

When residents of his community (Washington, PA) kept getting sick with the same or similar symptoms, many of them dying from their illness, Dr. LeMoyne became more and more convinced that the culprit was directly linked to our burial practices. He believed contaminated matter from buried and decomposing bodies was running off into the streams and water sources and causing the same diseases to strike new victims. Cremation would eliminate disease-ridden contaminants from leeching into the soil and water supplies and spreading the often-times fatal illnesses.

Explore Washington County's History

Ready to visit this national landmark and learn more about Dr. LeMoyne's story?
Innovative Solution

Dr. LeMoyne Stopping Disease through Innovation

The innovative doctor, determined to stop the disease cycle, set out to build a crematory. He approached the trustees of the public cemetery in the City of Washington, proposing that if they would permit him, he would donate the money necessary to construct a crematory on cemetery property. The trustees never even considered LeMoyne's offer. Cremation was not a popular concept!

Undeterred, Dr. LeMoyne built the crematory in 1876 on his land, then called Gallows Hill, now a parcel on South Main Street on the outskirts of Washington. It cost $1500. The simple, 30- by 20-foot brick building, in remarkable condition 123 years later, has a reception room and a furnace room. Using only sketchy information about how one of the world's first crematories was built in Europe, Washington resident John Dye planned and constructed the crematory building, and Dr. LeMoyne, himself, designed the oven. Flames would never touch the bodies being cremated!

Last Cremation
  • The first cremation at LeMoyne's facility: December 6, 1876
  • Dr. LeMoyne, the founder, was the third person to be cremated in his own crematory in 1879
  • A total of 42 cremations were conducted at the LeMoyne Crematory, with the last one occurring in 1901

The Inscription

His family made preparations for his burial in accordance with his wishes: his body was cremated in the little building on Gallows Hill. Then the ashes were placed in an urn under a simple stone monument in front of the crematory. The inscription reads:

F. Julius LeMoyne M.D.
Born Sept. 4, 1798
Died Oct. 14, 1879
A Fearless Advocate of the Right

The Crematory Today

Today, the LeMoyne Crematory is administered by the Washington County Historical Society. The building is open for tours the second Saturday of May, June, July, August and September from 2 to 4 p.m. Special college and secondary school programs may also be scheduled through the Society's education director. Call 724-225-6740or fill out the form.
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Step Back in Time

* Tour dates are subject to demand and availability. We strive to accommodate all interested participants and will do our best to arrange tours on preferred dates whenever possible.