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Second search for Kammerer graves planned

July 22, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

A Washington County Sheriff's Department investigation turned up no evidence of a burial ground on the Kammerer house property but relatives want to look again anyway.

The Maryland Historical Trust, acting on behalf of Kammerer descendants, has received permission from the property owner to test soil and possibly remove a layer of topsoil on old family property at the Airport Business Park, a descendant said.

Lara Lutz, a Kammerer descendant who said she is speaking for 50 other relatives, believes there may be about eight graves on the property.

Lutz, of Mayo, Md., said that if there are bodies on the property the relatives will want to commemorate them in some way and possibly move the graves.

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"We would hate to see them become additional parking spaces," she said.

The property is owned by the Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation Inc., known as CHIEF.

CHIEF President Merle Elliott said he does not object to the work as long as there is no liability or cost to CHIEF.

The Maryland Historical Trust can provide personnel and expertise but it is not clear who will pay to rent equipment that might be needed to locate bodies, said Richard Hughes, director of the Historical Trust's office of archaeology.

Some of the graves may be under a road owned by Citicorp Credit Services Inc., Lutz said.

Citicorp spokesman Philip A. Kelley did not return phone calls Wednesday or Thursday.

A 1774 farmhouse on the property was torn down in April because CHIEF thought Citicorp was going to buy the property on which it sat. Citicorp last month decided not to buy the land.

The property lies near the Pennsylvania state line. The two-story Kammerer house was on the edge of a field next to a parking lot between a Citicorp office building and child-care complex.

The property was the original home of Johan Ludwig Kammerer, a German immigrant who sailed to America on the same boat as Jonathan Hager, who is credited with founding Hagerstown.

Earlier this year, some Kammerer relatives asked state officials to investigate whether any bodies were buried on the property. The request was forwarded to Washington County State's Attorney M. Kenneth Long, Long said Tuesday.

He asked the Sheriff's Department to investigate whether any crimes were committed, such as graves being desecrated when the home was taken apart, he said.

Sheriff Charles F. Mades said an investigation in May turned up no evidence of human remains. As part of the investigation, cadaver dogs, which are trained to smell corpses, were used, he said.

"Does the possibility exist that we missed something? Yes," Mades said.

Lutz said there may be no graves at the site but the relatives want to check more thoroughly.

"I'm sure the police department made a real good-faith effort," said Hughes.

He said, however, he did not think a visual examination and use of a cadaver dog would determine if graves exist.

"I am very skeptical that would tell anything. I doubt there would be any scent," he said.

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