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Country cemetery vandalized

August 26, 1999

Cemetery vandalizedBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer




NEEDMORE, Pa. - A caretaker at the remote Hill Chapel Cemetery in Fulton County discovered Wednesday that vandals had knocked over or destroyed about 50 headstones, including one marking the resting place of a Civil War veteran.

The Hill Chapel Cemetery Association, made up of seven people whose ancestors are buried at the cemetery, had been making an effort to keep the 18th century cemetery in good condition, said member Floyd Palmer, 81.

Palmer's son, Dale, discovered the damage Wednesday morning when he arrived at the secluded knoll to mow grass.

Floyd Palmer said his grandparents are buried in the country graveyard, which is at the end of a dirt lane off Alpine Road near the village of Dott in southern Fulton County.

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"Theirs was one of the stones that was knocked over," he said.

Several Civil War veterans are buried at the cemetery, and both the stone and flag on one veteran's grave were knocked over.

The last person to be buried at the cemetery was Lucy Anne Bernhart, who died Sept. 1, 1977, at age 92, Palmer said. Her stone was among those vandalized.

"It really makes you sick to see this. They probably left that one standing because they couldn't push it over," Palmer said, pointing to a tall marble grave marker.

Palmer said volunteers working to keep the cemetery looking nice have been straightening headstones that over the years had begun to lean.

"We pried them up and set stones under them, then they come along and do this. If we ever find who did it we'll make them put the stones back up," he said. "I'd use a whip on them to make sure they did it right, too."

Roy Morse, 55, president of the cemetery association, said he can see the cemetery from his barn.

He said the graveyard at one time was next to Hill Chapel Church. Morse said the contents of the church were removed and the building was razed sometime around 1960.

Donations from relatives of those buried at the cemetery and money from the sale of timber around the cemetery were used to establish a small fund for perpetual care of the burial ground, Morse said.

"We kept it mowed and tried to keep the stones level," he said. "I don't know what we'll do now, how much it will cost to fix things or even if we have any insurance.

"We'll have to have a meeting and decide what we're going to do. We'll probably have to get advice from some memorial company," he said.

Morse said the cemetery has been vandalized in the past, once around 1970, but never to the extent that it was this time.

"These stones are heavy," he said. "It took quite a few people to do this and they didn't do it in 10 minutes. It's a shame they had nothing better to do.

"I don't understand what the meaning of this is or who they were trying to spite."

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