Quarry concerns religious leaders Arundel Corp. plans to work near home of Methodist convert

Company termed sensitive

Historians say cemetery exists on proposed pit site

August 26, 1996|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

The Arundel Corp.'s plans to open a limestone quarry in Wakefield Valley has local church leaders worried the mining operation will rock the cradle of American Methodism.

Arundel representatives have met with state and county officials to discuss mining on a company-owned 126-acre tract on Nicodemus Road, where Robert Strawbridge, founder of American Methodism, preached in the 18th century at the still-standing home of convert Andrew Poulson.

Strawbridge also is supposed to have baptized converts in a nearby stream.

The Sparks-based quarry company also has plans to move the stream, an unnamed tributary of Turkeyfoot Run, but has not applied for a permit to relocate it.

Arundel bought the land in 1986, but has not submitted site plans to county planners. No date has been set to begin quarrying, a company official said.

"We don't own the property, but we'd certainly appreciate it if Arundel could preserve it," said the Rev. Arthur D. Thomas Jr., director of the commission on archives and history for the church's Baltimore-Washington Conference.

Thomas has been circulating a petition among local Methodist churches urging Carroll County officials to preserve the Poulson house and surrounding property. The site is important to Methodists because one of the earliest meetings of the denomination was held at the Poulson home.

"That's why it's particularly significant to American Methodists," Thomas said. "We don't have that many historic sites now standing."

Richard Hughes, chief of archaeology for the Maryland Historical Trust, said Arundel's mining operation and the historic farmstead buildings, which include an architecturally unusual barn, might be able to coexist.

"Arundel Corp. has been sensitive [to historic sites] and has been good working with us on that type of thing," Hughes said.

George Brewer, Arundel's vice president for operations, said Methodist leaders have not approached the company about preserving the house and grounds, which also are believed to contain the Poulson family cemetery.

Brewer said although the company hasn't made a written commitment to preserve the house, "It's our understanding that it would stay rental property."

Kenneth Short, a historic preservation planner for Carroll County, would also like to see the barn saved. Arundel's concept plan, approved by the county Planning Commission in 1992, left the house untouched but called for demolition of the barn.

The barn, built by landowner William M. Englar about 1872, is unique in Carroll County; its lower story is designed with two large semicircular brick arches and a central aisle.

Local historians believe a cemetery exists on a 40-acre site where Arundel plans to open a quarrying pit. The cemetery is difficult to find because headstones were moved for unknown reasons to the nearby graveyard of Stone Chapel United Methodist Church. It is not known whether the bodies were moved, too.

"When we bought the property in 1986, it was rented, and we didn't see any tombstones. We weren't made aware that the house was historic. We didn't look [for the cemetery] because we didn't know to look," Brewer said.

If the Poulson family burial ground is in the proposed pit, Arundel Corp. would need Carroll State's Attorney Jerry Barnes' permission to move the graves. It's a crime in Maryland to remove dead bodies without authorization, punishable by a $2,000 fine and up to three years in prison.

"There is a cemetery on that site, no maybe," said Karen Dattilio, a Carroll historian who has toured the property. "From all the information we have now, the cemetery is right smack in the middle of the [planned] pit, and it will go. So will the barn."

Johnny Johnsson, Arundel director of environmental affairs, recalled walking the property with Dattilio in 1992 in an unsuccessful search for the cemetery.

He said Arundel is retaining a consultant to do an archaeological survey recommended by the Maryland Historical Trust.

The genealogy collection at the Carroll County Public Library has materials that make reference to "19 head and foot stones" moved from a burial plot on the Poulson farm to a corner of Stone Chapel Methodist Church cemetery. The chapel was built in 1783 on land Poulson donated.

Dattilio expressed fear that the quarrying operation could mean more sinkholes that could affect other old cemeteries in Wakefield Valley and the New Windsor area.

"They're quarrying for marble that will be sent to Florida and Georgia and put on lawns [as ornaments]. What's going to happen to my ancestors?" she said.

Pub Date: 8/26/96

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