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Footstone mystery solved

January 06, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- S. Michael Goulding was doing some landscaping in the backyard of his fiancée's new house on Paradise Church Road Sunday when he made an unsettling discovery: The granite blocks that formed a low wall around a gazebo were inscribed with names, birth dates and dates of death.

"We were rather shocked, you know, when we flipped it over," said Goulding, who alerted the Washington County Sheriff's Department Monday, thinking the footstones might have been stolen from a cemetery.

Investigation revealed their origin was much less sinister. Charles Brown, owner of Rest Haven Cemetery in Hagerstown, said the blocks were discarded footstones that were replaced due to damage. Brown used the discarded stones for landscaping while he owned the house between 1989 and 2006.

"I just sort of forgot about them," he said.

Sometimes in the winter, especially when the ground is frozen, cemetery crews run over markers and they break, Brown said. The cemetery replaces the stones and discards the old ones, he said. Most of the damaged stones are broken up, but Brown saved some that were intact aside from their inscriptions and used them to construct the wall, he said.

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Goulding said his fiancée recently bought the house at 13713 Paradise Church Road. He and his son were pulling up pieces of flagstone from the backyard when they flipped over three rectangular granite stones and saw dates of death from 1976, 1989 and 1993.

"We knew what they were just by looking at 'em," Goulding said.

They found 13 more footstones stacked around the gazebo.

Sheriff's Department deputies removed all 16 stones to clean them and investigate their origin, Deputy Jason Logsdon said. That investigation ended with a call from Brown, who explained their origin, Logsdon said.

The department will return the stones to the property's new owner and no charges will be filed, Logsdon said.

"There's no crime at all," he said.

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