Moorehead Methodist Episcopal Church, which once stood in Union Mills, is long gone - yet its Little Garden of Memory is still offered as a final resting place. The cemetery needs help, however, as expenses have outstripped funding.
Dave Sasser, who has been looking after the property, said, "I saw the grass was high one summer a few years ago, so I called the owner, Eva Simmons." Her name was on the sign in front of the cemetery. "When I called, she said the man who was taking care of the property was ill. Since I live across the street, I agreed to start taking care of it."
Sasser said he then got interested in the history of the place. "I was standing there one day after trimming around the graves, and I wanted to know more," he said. "I knew there was a church there and now I've found the foundation stones in the ground."
The Rev. Isaac Newton Moorehead spearheaded efforts to build that church, which was dedicated Oct. 24, 1880, and took its name from the founding pastor.
One book about local cemeteries refers to the Union Mills congregation before Moorehead's arrival. "In 1856 Henry MacIlvaine was invited to come from Littlestown [Pa.] to hold Methodist meetings at 'Shull's Pines' north of Union Mills," according to the book. "The first meetings were held outside, but later in the Carroll Academy building located in town. The small congregation struggled for many years until it finally erected a church."
Moorehead had been appointed to serve in Littlestown by the Central Pennsylvania Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1878, but since the Centenary Church in Littlestown had been completed and was under the direction of another pastor, Moorehead turned his attention to Union Mills, according to archivist Robert W. Shindle at the United Methodist Historical Society, Baltimore-Washington Conference.
Shindle noted that there is a discrepancy in the spelling of "Morehead/Moorhead/Moorehead" in various historical references.
The land for the church in Union Mills was deeded to Moorehead, John Burgoon and Francis M. Hall by Lewis C. McKusker and his wife.
Simmons, who now lives in Fishing Creek, Md., remembers Moorehead Methodist Episcopal Church and its white frame building. "I was born in 1940. I was the last child baptized in that church," she said.
Simmons said her father, Stanley Myers, and grandfather, Ephrata Myers, from Silver Run, and some other men in Silver Run tore down the old church around 1949 when she lived in Severna Park.
"My grandfather's father's father was the property owner," she said. "My grandfather had it until 1952 and then my father. He died in 1984 and that's how I inherited the property."
Simmons said that in recent years she has had to pay some expenses from her own pocket. She hopes the community will step forward with donations to replenish the fund meant to keep the cemetery in good repair.
"There was a fund, but all the money is gone now," Simmons said. "There was vandalism and I had the stones repaired and the mowing fees are ongoing."
The fund set up years ago and supported by donations has long been depleted, she said. Currently, there is no money for perpetual care and few are buying grave sites; meanwhile, the cost of maintaining the cemetery has escalated.
"Now, I would turn over the paperwork [for the cemetery] to the right person if they would agree to take care of it," she said.
There are about 250 existing graves and about 200 more grave sites available for purchase, Simmons said. Burial plots at the Little Garden of Memory start at $200 for a single plot.
"Our ancestors, family, and relatives deserve to have the grave sites taken care of," Simmons wrote in an email. "Graveyards often have genealogy information available that is not found anywhere else. We acknowledge our debt to these people of the past who were a part of our history by our care for their graves."
Simmons said "contributions are desperately needed" to help pay for the cemetery's upkeep.
"As descendants we have a responsibility for our ancestors' graves," she wrote. "With combined effort we can be proud of the old graveyard."
"This is sacred, hallowed land and I'd like to see it taken care of. I'd like to see donations come in to help us restore some of the stones and pay for the upkeep of the cemetery," said Sasser. "It's a piece of history."