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Graves to be moved for landfill

April 19, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

Washington County plans to disinter bodies from a 19th-century cemetery within the boundaries of what will be the Lund Landfill to avoid decreasing the landfill's capacity.

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A 1938 survey of the cemetery determined there were 41 visibly marked graves at the site. The bodies had been buried from 1825 to 1856, according to the survey.

The bodies will be moved to a different location on the landfill property, and a monument will be erected, Public Works Director Gary Rohrer said.

"We are trying to do this in an appropriate and respectful way," he said.

The Washington County Commissioners are scheduled today to sign an agreement that also will be signed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Maryland State Historic Preservation Office and the Advisory Council of Historic Preservation

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The Corps of Engineers, which must approve landfill plans, requires the county to sign the agreement before landfill development can proceed. The county is required to develop an "archaeological data recovery plan" by June 2001.

The Lund Landfill, which is replacing the Resh Sanitary Landfill, has enough space to handle Washington County trash for 80 years.

The cemetery is in a major depression in the landfill and must be moved or it will decrease the capacity of the landfill, Rohrer said.

A landfill cell will be built on top of the cemetery's current site in about five to 10 years, Rohrer said.

The cemetery is eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, according to a 1996 archaeological report by Joseph Hopkins Associates, Inc. of Baltimore. The cemetery is in the southern section of the landfill.

The archaeological investigation did not find the cemetery's name. The county refers to it as the Area 1 cemetery.

The report's authors believe those buried in the plot were mostly German-Americans. Most of the identified gravestones were from three families, Wachtel, Stine and Troup. None of the families was historically significant, the report says.

The cemetery is on property purchased by John Wachtel in 1797, the report said. The Stine family later held adjacent land.

Rohrer said the county has been developing plans to deal with the small cemetery for four to five years and knew of its existence before obtaining the 425-acre landfill property in a bend of the Conococheague Creek near the Resh Landfill.

It is unclear how many human bodies are buried in the cemetery, Rohrer said. There may be horses and pets buried near their owners, which was common practice at that time, he said.

"Most of the graves are in pretty bad shape," Rohrer said.

Since most of the grave markers are field stones it is difficult to tell those that mark graves from those that do not, the 1996 report said.

That report found 17 positively identified graves but said there may be as many as 89 grave markers.

The county is required to follow state regulations when disinterring and reburying the bodies. If previously unidentified historic properties are found during construction, the county must halt work within the area and contact the Corps of Engineers.

Resh is expected to run out of space in 20 to 21 months, at about the same time Lund is expected to open.

Rohrer has estimated it will cost Washington County about $12 million to close Resh and another $12 million to get Lund ready for operation.

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