Desecration of old church property continues

September 18, 1997


Staff Writer

LEITERSBURG - On Millers Church Road at the Mason-Dixon Line north of Leitersburg, the site of a former church and an old cemetery lies desecrated by broken beer bottles, cans, spray paint and smashed tombstones.

It wasn't supposed to be this way.

The Washington County Commissioners purchased the Jacobs Church property for $4,800 in October 1990 and demolished the abandoned 1841 building, which had been repeatedly vandalized by marauding youth, with rumors of satanic rituals. The County Commissioners had the cornerstone of the building made into a monument marking the land. The property was cleaned up.

Since then, however, the county hasn't kept up the .18-acre property.

Neighbor Dick Keely said young people frequently drink alcohol and do drugs on the site after sundown.

Meanwhile, the desecration of the neighboring cemetery, which was inherited by the St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Leitersburg after Jacobs Church was abandoned, continues unabated.


Keely said there were more than 160 tombstones in the cemetery when he moved to the area in 1973, the oldest of which dated to 1731. Now, only eight or nine remain, he said. Those are too thick to be toppled, stolen or smashed. Instead, several have become tablets for psychedelic spray paint.

"It's disgusting," he said.

John Lung, the treasurer of the cemetery board at St. Paul's, said the church was only given about $2,000 for upkeep when it inherited the cemetery about 30 years ago. Lung said the money is long since gone and the church doesn't have the funds to keep the cemetery up. A forest is now growing where the cemetery once stood.

Keely said he has given up calling the Sheriff's Department, because no one is ever arrested or ticketed, he said.

Sheriff's Department 1st Sgt. Doug Mullendore said his office has investigated six incidents at the site since 1994, including one call from Keely. Two of the incidents involved couples parked at the site. In two others, no one was found when police arrived.

Mullendore said the department used to receive numerous calls from the area before the church was dismantled.

A turnoff was built for people wanting to visit the cornerstone, but Keely said it's almost exclusively used by those up to no good.

"What they've done really is to make it convenient for vandals," he said.

Keely said he wants a guardrail put around the property and the monument taken down.

County officials said they would address the situation.

County Commissioner James R. Wade said the site is less than a mile from his house and he jogs by it frequently. He said he never knew that the county had purchased the property.

"It's a dump," he said.

Wade said the county will be able to at least install a guardrail to prevent people from parking.

County Commissioners Ronald L. Bowers and Gregory I. Snook said they hadn't heard about problems at the site recently but would investigate the matter.

"If we made the obligation back in 1990 then I think we should take care of it now," Snook said.

"We'll find somebody - whether it will be us, or somebody else - to take care of it," said Dean Lowry, who handles the county's land transactions.

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