Rose Hill cemetery offers free space

May 05, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

The Washington County government is considering an offer to move the 40 to 50 bodies it plans to disinter from a landfill property into a prominent portion of Rose Hill Cemetery.

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The Hagerstown cemetery would allow all of the bodies to be buried separately in one part of the property, free of any expenses, said Bill Divelbliss, manager of Rose Hill. The bodies were buried in a small private cemetery between 1825 and 1856, according to a 1996 county-commissioned report.

"I am just trying to help the county out so that they can get out of this situation," Divelbliss said Wednesday. The 135-year-old Rose Hill Cemetery on South Potomac Street is 110 acres and has 28 acres left to develop, he said.

Moving the bodies to an existing cemetery would be a preferable option to a prior county plan to put them elsewhere on landfill property but not under any landfill cells, said Washington County Commissioner William J. Wivell.


"That sounds a lot better than moving them to the west side of the dump," said Emmert Stine of Falling Waters, W.Va.

It also would allow relatives of those buried in the cemetery to easily visit the graves, Divelbliss said. Some relatives have said they did not even know the cemetery existed until The Herald-Mail began reporting on the county's plans to move it.

Public Works Director Gary Rohrer said the county is exploring the Rose Hill proposal. Since the cemetery is in a depression, not moving the bodies at all would reduce the landfill's capacity from 80 years to about 50 to 55, he said.

A 1996 county-commissioned study found 17 positively identified graves but said there may be as many as 89 grave markers. The report estimated that 40 to 50 bodies were buried in the cemetery.

One of the people the report said is "probably" buried there is John Wachtel, who in 1797 purchased the property on which the cemetery is located. Wachtel was a member of a German regiment during at least a portion of the Revolutionary War, according to "Maryland Troops in the American Revolution War."

The three main families with relatives in the small private ceremony are Stine, Wachtel and Troup.

The County Commissioners signed an agreement last month with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers detailing how the county should go about moving the bodies. The Corps of Engineers required the agreement before giving the county permits necessary to proceed with development of the landfill.

Under the agreement the County Commissioners must approve an "archaeological data recovery plan" by June 2003 even though the bodies may not be moved for another five to 10 years, when the landfill cell will be constructed there.

Whenever the county wants to move the bodies, the Rose Hill Cemetery will be ready, Divelbliss said.

The county was aware of the cemetery's existence when it bought the 425-acre landfill property in a bend of the Conococheague Creek near the Resh Sanitary Landfill in 1990, Rohrer said.

The Lund landfill is expected to open in about 20 months, which is when the Resh Sanitary Landfill is expected to run out of room. 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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