Boys dig up a tombstone mystery

July 23, 1997


Staff Writer

The half-buried stone had served as a handy second base for neighborhood children, but when two Hagerstown boys dug it up, they unearthed a mystery dating back nearly 140 years.

Virginia Starliper, of 21 W. Antietam St., said her son Bradley, 6, and his friend Daniel Kane, 8, were looking for worms and bugs about three months ago when they dug up the stone in the back yard of the 105 E. Washington St. apartment building where Daniel lives.

Starliper said she turned over the heavy stone, brushed off the dirt and discovered it was an old marble tombstone, clearly inscribed with the words:


Julia Anna

wife of Samuel Schindel

died Oct. 19, 1858

aged 61 years, 3 months & 17 days.

The bottom of the stone is jagged as if it had fallen off its base.

Carrie Wilson, who has lived at 105 E. Washington St. on and off for 22 years, said the stone had been partially buried in the yard there for as long as she can remember.

"We always used it as second base" during neighborhood ball games, said Leroy Miller, 13, of 105 E. Washington St.

Leroy said he visited Washington County Free Library and Rose Hill Cemetery in an effort to research the origins of the stone.

A Herald-Mail search of records at the Washington County Historical Society, the library and Rose Hill Cemetery, turned up some information about Schindel and where she probably is buried today, but no explanation of how her tombstone landed in an East Washington Street back yard.

Julia Schindel was the daughter of Johan Hade, "who, it is said, used his eight-day German clock case for his bank deposit vault, and bought a farm every time it became so full of money the clock was stopped, dying with 21 farms in his possession," according to "A History of Washington County Maryland," by Thomas J.C. Williams.

A bit of history

Julia Hade, who was born in 1797, married Samuel Schindel. Her sister, named Catherine, Mary or Jennie Hade depending upon the source, married his brother, Philip Schindel.

Samuel and Julia Schindel lived on a farm on the Western Pike from Hagerstown at Huyett's, while Philip Schindel and his wife settled near Halfway, according to historical society records.

Julia Schindel appears to have been socially prominent and to have died unexpectedly.

Her obituary in the Oct. 27, 1858, issue of the Herald of Freedom & Torch Light, a weekly Hagerstown newspaper of the time, noted that she died on Tuesday night, Oct. 19, of apoplexy, what would today be called a stroke. The obituary said she had been "in the enjoyment of her usual health but a few hours before her death."

She was identified as the "consort," an archaic term for wife, of Samuel Schindel Sr.

"She was an estimable lady and her remains were followed to the grave by one of the largest funeral trains that has for some years entered this town," according to the paper.

Of grave concern

The obituary did not say where that grave was.

The records of St. John's Lutheran Church at 141 S. Potomac St. note that Samuel Schindel was buried in 1863 but they do not say where and they make no mention of his wife's burial five years earlier.

J. Thomas Scharf's "History of Western Maryland" lists those who were buried in Hagerstown's Rose Hill Cemetery, including "Samuel Schindel, born Dec. 23, 1791, died Aug. 14, 1863, aged 72; and his wife, Julia Anna, died Oct. 19, 1858, aged 61."

But Rose Hill Cemetery wasn't established until 1866, eight years after Julia Schindel died and five years after her husband's death.

However, there were at that time Lutheran and Methodist cemeteries at the corner of East Baltimore and Mulberry streets, adjacent to the Episcopal cemetery that still exists, according to local historians John Frye and H. Jane Martin and an 1850 map of Hagerstown.

The Lutherans had bought two lots at the site in 1836 and sold one of the lots to the Methodists for their cemetery, Martin, historian for St. John's Lutheran Church, said.

The Lutheran and Methodist cemeteries "were allowed to deteriorate so much that the town termed them a nuisance and when Rose Hill Cemetery was opened, between 1868 and 1870, the graves were removed to Rose Hill and the ground used for building lots," according to "Records of St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church Vol. 1."

Julia Schindel's grave could have been among those moved from the cemetery at East Baltimore and Mulberry streets to Rose Hill, Martin said.

Rose Hill records indicate that a Mrs. S.E. Schindel was disinterred on June 3, 1876, for $25.20 and an unnamed child was reinterred in the plot.

But the records don't say from where her body was disinterred or where she was reburied.

There is a Schindel family plot at Rose Hill, but the monument is so old and weathered the names on it have become unreadable.

For now, Julia Schindel's tombstone is resting under a porch behind 105 E. Washington St., but Starliper said she hopes it can be placed on the proper grave.

Starliper said that if it belonged to one of her relatives, "I'd want it put back where it belongs."

Rose Hill Manager Bill Divelbiss was not in the office this week.

The Herald-Mail Articles