Families want remains of relatives moved

June 28, 2003|by TARA REILLY

Descendants of people buried in a small cemetery at the Forty West Landfill said they plan to petition the Washington County Commissioners to "do the honorable thing" and move the bodies to individual graves at Saint Paul's Cemetery near Clear Spring.

Washington County officials have said 40 to 50 remains are buried in the 60- by 75-foot cemetery, which dates to the early 1800s. Earlier this month, the County Commissioners hired a Frederick, Md., archeological firm to remove the graves to make way for future construction at the landfill west of Hagerstown off U.S. 40.

While county officials said St. Paul's Cemetery and Rose Hill Cemetery in Hagerstown have offered to re-bury the remains, the commissioners have not yet decided where the remains will go.


C. Kenneth Clopper, his mother Madeleine Clopper and Clear Spring District Historical Association President David Wiles said they fear the county will re-bury the remains in a common grave to save money.

"I just don't want them dumped some place," Madeleine Clopper said. "At one point they were living human beings."

"More importantly, they were our ancestors. They still are our ancestors," C. Kenneth Clopper said.

Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said he thinks the wishes of the descendants will be granted and that the remains will be re-buried in individual graves at the cemetery of each family's choice.

Commissioner John C. Munson said his preference would be to leave the cemetery at the landfill. If they have to be moved, he said, they should go to Saint Paul's Cemetery with their other descendants.

He said he opposes the remains being buried in a common grave.

"I guarantee I'll fight that," Munson said. "That's wrong."

The Cloppers are descendants of the Wachtel family, many of whom are buried at the landfill cemetery. The known dates on the gravestones range from 1825 to 1856.

The Clopper family thinks it would be more respectful for their ancestors to be moved from the landfill.

More than 100 descendants of those buried at the cemetery plan to gather for a family reunion today, at which time they intend to sign a petition to the commissioners for their ancestors to be re-buried at Saint Paul's Cemetery, Wiles said.

"I just don't want my ancestors buried at a garbage dump," C. Kenneth Clopper said.

A portion of the landfill site had been the farmstead of John Wachtel, who fought in the Revolutionary War in the German Regiment. He bought the land in 1797.

Sarah Wachtel, a daughter of John Wachtel, married John Stine, who eventually purchased some of the land, according to the Clear Spring District Historical Association.

The Wachtel and Stine families spawned generations with connections to the landfill cemetery, according to the Historical Association. C. Kenneth Clopper is the great-great-great-grandson of John Wachtel.

Wiles said as many as 89 people might be buried at the cemetery. He said there is likely a second cemetery somewhere at the landfill site, but it has been lost.

Madeleine Clopper said she thinks slaves might be buried at the second cemetery.

"There should be county money to do the honorable thing and move each departed person at the dump graveyard to peaceful individual graves at St. Paul's," Wiles wrote in a letter to the editor sent to The Herald-Mail.

The Herald-Mail Articles