Founded in 1846, Lancaster Cemetery is home to several prominent Lancastrians, such as painter Charles Demuth and Civil War Union General John Reynolds. However, its most famous grave (at least in the sense of the supernatural) belongs to Augusta Bitner. Legend holds this young woman died on her wedding day when she tumbled down the steps after tripping on her gown. Her statue is said to roam the cemetery at night.
Augusta Harriet Bitner was born on August 24, 1884, to Charles W. Bitner, a prominent leaf tobacco dealer, and his wife, Amelia. Augusta’s great-grandfather Abram Bitner founded the Lancaster Watch Company and owned all the land that later became the Hamilton Watch Company. She was Bitner’s only child.
The family lived at 902 Marietta Avenue, Lancaster, PA, and attended the Moravian Church. Augusta graduated from the Moravian seminary in Lititz, where she studied piano, German, and embroidery. She was also a graduate of the National Park Seminary in Washington, D.C.
Legend holds that Augusta Bitner did not get the wedding of her dreams. Allegedly, her parents disapproved of Augusta’s fiancé, Stanley Tevis. There were quiet rumors that she was pregnant with his child, and this was a shotgun wedding.
On the morning of the wedding, Augusta had one final argument with her mom concerning Stanley. Upset, she ran from her bedroom only to trip on her wedding dress and tumble down the stairs breaking her neck.
Guilt-ridden, Augusta’s family sold their Marietta Avenue home to cover the $12,000 cost of the monument, even going so far as to have her exact likeness carved into the oversized six feet, five inches-tall granite statue.
Beside the figure is a broken column entwined with bronze ivy. The foot of the column is inscribed, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” the title of Augusta’s favorite hymn.
Not approving the marriage, her parents refused to add Stanley’s last name to Augusta’s tombstone. Adding chill to the tale is the grave’s enigmatic inscription of “Could love have kept her?”
However, Augusta’s story does not end with her death. Her statue is said to cry real tears, a phenomenon reported by many visitors. The statue is said to wander the cemetery at night with flaming green eyes swollen with tears, trapped in a state of death, searching relentlessly for answers. These nocturnal strolls have earned Augusta the nickname of the “Walking Ghost of Lancaster County.”
Like so many ghost stories, there is little truth to this haunted tale. Augusta did not die on her wedding day. She didn’t even die in Lancaster County, PA. She was married more than a year before her death on May 3, 1905, in the parlor of her family’s Marietta Avenue home. After a two-week honeymoon in upstate New York and Canada, the happy couple moved into the up-and-coming West Philadelphia neighborhood of Garden Court.
Almost eight months later, on December 25, 1905, Augusta gave birth to a daughter, Sylvia. The trio had a mere six months together before tragedy struck. After visiting her family in Lancaster, Augusta fell ill with typhoid fever. Through May 1906, Augusta battled the illness. It even appeared she might pull through, but her condition suddenly worsened. She died on June 1, 1906—her death certificate lists the cause of death as intestinal hemorrhage with typhoid septicemia.
Where to find her grave
Augusta Bitner’s grave can be in the northeast corner of Lancaster Cemetery at 205 E Lemon Street, Lancaster, PA. The grave’s exact position can be found at 40°02’45.0″N 76°18’08.0″W.
Graveyard vs. Cemetery
Today, we use the terms graveyard and cemetery interchangeably. Both are used to describe the place where people are buried. But you might be surprised to know that there is a subtle difference between the two. Click here to learn the difference.