by Maria Reichenbach, Ringgold Band Historian
Charles Evans Cemetery was founded in 1846 by Charles Evans, a local lawyer who saw the need for Reading to have a cemetery somewhat removed from the city. To fulfill his wish, he donated the initial 25 acres of land for such a place. On February 24, 1846, the cemetery was incorporated and the trustees were instructed to “lay out, ornament, plant and embellish the lands as a place for public interment and no street, lane or road shall hereafter be opened through the lands so occupied as a cemetery and that the cemetery should be totally exempt from all taxation.” Today, Charles Evans Cemetery encompasses approximately 120 acres. The office building, located near the main entrance, provides a good starting point for touring the cemetery.
The list of gravesites in the cemetery reads like a “Who’s Who Among Reading and Berks County.” Some recognizable names are Muhlenberg, Mengel, and Hiester. The cemetery is also the final resting place for notable artists, mayors of Reading, members of Congress, soldiers, historians, governors, state senators, and, of course, musicians. The gravesites of two Ringgold Band directors can be found here. Joseph Winter, director of the band from 1865–1870 and 1873–1900, is buried here as well as Monroe Althouse, director from 1901–1923. The year 1999 marks the 75th anniversary of the death of Althouse, best known for his marches he composed specifically for local organizations and events in Reading. Major James McKnight, leader of the Ringgold Light Artillery and strong supporter of the band in the 1860s, is also buried there.
Though many of the tombstones in Charles Evans Cemetery are worn from the years, the history of Reading and the Ringgold Band are vividly displayed there.