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Land in Williamsport known as 'one-man grave' has rich history

January 03, 2013|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com
  • This plot of land in Williamsport, next to Conococheague Creek, is the gravesite of Jacob Friend, son of Charles Friend, who is known as the first permanent settler in what is present-day Washington County.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

WILLIAMSPORT — Above a western bank of the Conococheague Creek on Williamsport’s edge sits a small plot of land, surrounded on three sides by a chain-link fence in various stages of disrepair.

Dump trucks rumble by on Md. 68, passing the guardrail on the fourth side.

This grassy lot, referred to by Williamsport Town Clerk Donald Stotelmyer as the “one-man grave,” is one of the town-owned areas for which the Williamsport Town Council recently approved a mowing and snow-removal contract.

In the center of the lot is a stone bearing a plaque that, in part, reads: “This stone marks the site on ‘Swede’s Delight’ of the family burial plot of Charles Friend.”

Charles Friend is “commonly known as the first permanent settler in what is present-day Washington County,” according to a document about the “Charles Friend Memorial.” The document came from the files of Mary V. Mish and was found in a vertical file at the Washington County Historical Society. Mish, who served as president of the Washington County Historical Society, died in 1968.

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The marker was placed there in 1950 to replace the tombstone of Jacob Friend, Charles Friend’s son, according to the plaque. Jacob Friend died in 1802.

Charles Friend brought his family to the “mouth of the Conococheague Creek, possibly as early as 1732 when Lord Baltimore offered inducements to homesteaders to settle the western reaches of the Royal Province of Maryland,” according to a copy of a 1950 program for the Friend memorial dedication.

“‘Friend’s Fort’, situated on the site of the old Byron barn, served jointly as a family residence and a place of refuge for other settlers during the perilous years of the French and Indian War,” the program states.

According to “Partial History of Israel and Jacob Friend of Washington County, Md,” Charles Friend is buried at “Friend Cemetery, Williamsport, MD.” The Friend family history contains a printout of a map with the words, “Swede’s Delight” and “Friend’s Cemetery” near an arrow pointing to the plot off Md. 68 near the creek.

Volume one of “Washington County, Maryland Cemetery Records” describes the “Graveyard by Conococheague Creek at Williamsport bridge, at Park” as “One grave, plain stone. Old gravestones have been destroyed.”

The program for the Friend memorial dedication states Jacob Friend is buried on Swede’s Delight, which is the name of the family property, “along with many other members of the Friend family whose graves are today unidentifiable.”

Asked about the burial lot and who else is buried there, Stotelmyer said, “I don’t have a whole lot to tell you about it because the people who knew have passed.”

“It’s unique to say the least,” Stotelmyer said of the cemetery.

Williamsport Town Councilwoman Joan Knode said some older town residents might know of Friends Cemetery, but its history doesn’t get repeated enough. Knode is secretary for the Williamsport Town Museum and her husband, Jerry, is museum chairman.

“You see it every day and you don’t realize how great it is,” she said.

Friend heirs sold several parcels, including Swede’s Delight, to George W. Potts on Nov. 12, 1878, for $5,930, according to an email from Joan Knode. That deed contained the following provision: “That plot of ground in the southeast corner field, next to the old bridge, a few feet south of the bridge built in 1829, burial place of Jacob Friend, their great grandfather, was to be kept inviolate.”

According to Mish’s files at the historical society, Friend family members turned the property over to the historical society in the 1940s.

The town took receipt of the deed for the cemetery, “along the southwest side of the Williamsport-Clear Spring Road” from the Washington County Historical Society on March 20, 1950, for $1, according to a copy of the deed found in online land records through www.mdlandrec.net.

The historical society received permission from Friend descendants to mark the site after Mish proposed the project during her first meeting as historical society president in 1942, according to a Jan. 27, 1950, story in The Daily Mail, a former Herald-Mail newspaper that ceased publication in 2007.

The memorial, dedicated on March 5, 1950, and difficult to read today, states:

“This stone marks the site on
“Swede’s Delight”
of the family burial plot of
Charles Friend,
pioneer land-holder in
Washington County in 1739.
The present marker, erected in 1949
by the Washington County Historical Society,
replaces the original tombstone of Jacob Friend,
Son of Charles.
Damaged by the floods of 1936-1937,
Jacob Friend’s headstone is in the
possession of the society.”

The headstone, worn and chipped, is in storage in the basement of the Miller House, a historical West Washington Street home owned by the historical society. The headstone is standing on the floor, leaning against shelving.

In the far southeast side of the cemetery is another stone marker with a plaque with words match those of Jacob’s Friend’s tombstone:

“Here lies the remains of JACOB FRIEND, Sen r Born 18th Sept r 1738. Died 10th Feb ry 1802.”
At the bottom of the plaque, the epitaph reads:

“Reader WHOE’ER thou art, Thy life mu(s)t (s)hortly end Prepare in time that God may be Thine everla(s)ting FRIEND.”

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