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Family seeks decision on graves

September 09, 2000

Family seeks decision on graves



By SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer


Descendants of people buried in a 19th-century cemetery within the boundaries of a county landfill near Clear Spring want to know where and when Washington County is going to move the graves, which will be necessary for landfill expansion.

County Administrator Rodney Shoop said it may be two years before he has answers.

Relatives of those in the graves want answers sooner, said Clear Spring District Historical Association President David Wiles.

Wiles said there are about 300 local direct descendants of people buried in the cemetery.

It will be three to five years before the county moves the graves from the Forty West Landfill property, Shoop said. The county won't get to the part of the landfill where the graves are for at six to eight years.

It is believed that 40 to 50 bodies were buried in the cemetery from 1825 to 1856. Relatives say there may be closer to 80.

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A landfill cell will eventually be constructed on the site of the cemetery, which is about 60 by 72.5 feet.

A 425-acre landfill is scheduled to open about Dec. 15. The property is in a bend of the Conococheague Creek near the Resh Sanitary Landfill, which it will replace.

About half of the summer edition of the historical association's newsletter is devoted to the landfill and the graves there. The association has approximately 400 members.

Wiles said it would be disrespectful to open the landfill before moving the graves, even if the cemetery is in an area of the landfill that won't initially be used.

Relatives also say there is a second cemetery containing an unknown number of graves on landfill property, but county officials have been unable to find it.

Shoop said the county will look again for a second cemetery, hopefully using help from the association and descendants. If the cemetery is found, the county will move those graves also.

If that cemetery exists and is in the general area where relatives say it is, it won't be reached for 20 to 25 years, Shoop said.

The consensus of the descendants is they would like the graves to be relocated to the nearby Saint Paul's German Reformed and Lutheran Church cemetery, Wiles said. Many have relatives there already, he said.

The county has offers from Saint Paul's cemetery and the Rose Hill Cemetery to move the graves there, Shoop said. He said it is too early to make a promise on whether the graves will be moved to one or both places.

In order to get permits for the landfill, the county had to sign an agreement with the Maryland Historical Trust that included developing a plan for moving the graves. The agreement requires the county to draft an archaeological data recovery plan.

The first draft of that plan isn't due for two years, and the final plan isn't due for three years, Shoop said. As part of that work the county will get a better sense of where to move the bodies, he said.

The county doesn't want to select a site before getting approval from the state historical agency, he said.

The county used consultants in 1996 to conduct an archaeological investigation of the landfill property. A written report by Joseph Hopkins Associates Inc. of Baltimore said most of the identified gravestones were from three German-American families - Wachtel, Stine and Troup.

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