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Vandals strike Burns Hill Cemetery in Waynesboro

July 17, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- "Life's race well run, life's work well done. Life's victory won, now cometh rest."

The words on the Philips family monument at Burns Hill Cemetery reference rest, but it was instead turmoil that met that gravestone and possibly 100 others this week.

Vandals toppled and shattered gravestones throughout the cemetery on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.

"I counted 67, but the (police) officer said it was more than that," said Butch Matthews, a caretaker at the cemetery.

In what was perhaps the most poignant destruction, vandals knocked the head off an angel statue that overlooked the Philips family. A doctor and several infants are among the family members buried there, and the latest death date is inscribed as 1908.

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Many of the damaged gravestones were from the mid- to late-1800s, and some were made of Italian marble, Waynesboro police said.

Police said that a cemetery board member, John Gress, estimated the damage to be in excess of $500,000.

Little information about the history of Burns Hill Cemetery is on file at the Alexander Hamilton Memorial Free Library. The cemetery was incorporated on Dec. 21, 1880, and Matthews said he's heard that it was once the farmland of John Bourns.

Nestled between the cemetery and Pa. 16 is Waynesboro's oldest house, a log building built by Bourns circa 1770 for use as a schoolhouse and church.

Matthews lives at the edge of the cemetery and discovered the damage at about 8 a.m. Wednesday.

"I was drinking my coffee, looking out the window, and I saw those up there," Matthews said, pointing to a row of toppled headstones.

"I thought, 'Oh my golly,'" he said.

Vandals hit the cemetery earlier this year, Matthews said, and did significant damage in an incident 15 or 20 years ago.

"I don't know who would be doing it," he said.

Police asked that anyone with information call them at 717-762-2132.

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