MANCHESTER HISTORIC SITE RESTORED Tombstones repaired, plot fenced at cemetery behind former church


The fallen tombstones have been righted, and kids and dogs have been fenced out.

The cemetery behind the former Manchester Bethel Church on High Street, given to the town of Manchester in 1991, has been restored with money from the Manchester Historical Center.

"We got it all done and did not borrow from the town," said Councilwoman Charlotte Collett, who has oversight responsibility for parks and is active with the Manchester Historical Center.

Mrs. Collett said the project to restore the cemetery was started by center volunteer Julia Berwager about three years ago.

The Manchester Historical Center paid $1,350 to fence the plot and $1,381 for repairs to the tombstones.

The money came from donations to the center, Mrs. Collett said.

Manchester Town Manager Terry L. Short said the town paid $115 to upgrade the cemetery fencing. But he said the town, which maintains the cemetery, expects to recoup that amount within a few years in reduced maintenance costs.

The cemetery measures about 78 feet by 62 feet, Mr. Short said.

The Mason-Dixon Vault Co. of Manchester did much of the restoration work, filling in sunken areas and piecing together broken monuments.

"Some are epoxy-ed together," said Brian Graf of the vault company. "Some are cemented together."

The building at the site, the former Manchester Bethel Church, was built in 1870.

In 1950, United Brethren sold the building to a congregation of Baptists.

It later passed to a Southern Methodist flock.

The building now houses a travel agency owned by Dr. WilliamCunningham, who donated the cemetery plot behind it to the town in 1991.

That year, Mary Ann Ashcraft, chairwoman of the Cemetery Inscription Project of the Carroll County Genealogical Society, with the help of Boy Scouts Chris Price and Matt Kutrik, documented as many of the tombstones' inscriptions as were legible.

Some were hopelessly worn.

"For some people, that's the only source of birth and death information," Ms. Ashcraft said. "Their ancestors may not have left any kind of records."

Inscriptions on the headstones may shed clues on the person's religious beliefs and family relationships, she said.

"One thing that surprised me was that for its size, [the Bethel cemetery] did have some stones that went quite far back," Ms. Ashcraft said.

Possibly the oldest tombstone belonged to Ezekiel Boring, who died in 1838 and was the father of the Rev. Ezekiel Boring, an early pastor of the Bethel church.

At least one of the cemetery's inscriptions is in German, the legacy of Manchester's early settlers.

Mrs. Collett said she has already had people poring over the tombstones' inscriptions, looking for clues to the family tree.

Ms. Ashcraft called the Bethel work "a real success story.

"Small historical groups are just so strapped for money for anything," she said.

"The nice thing about Bethel was that it was small and not impossible to tackle on the budget they had."

The Carroll County Genealogical Society is collecting inscription information from small private cemeteries in northeastern Carroll County. Anyone who knows of private burial plots in the area is asked to call 848-4285 and ask for Mary Ann Ashcraft.

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