Dig begun on site of planned quarry Archaeologist to focus on mystery of graves

November 07, 1996|By DONNA R. ENGLE

An archaeologist began surveying a Wakefield Valley farm this week for pieces of American Methodist Church history, including the graves of people who nurtured the infant church, which might lie in the path of a planned limestone quarry.

National United Methodist Church historians and archivists appealed late last month to the Carroll County government and Arundel Corp., the Sparks-based quarry company that owns the property, to preserve the Andrew Poulson house; the oak tree planted in 1934 to replace the tree under which Robert Strawbridge, a founder of American Methodism, preached; the stream where Strawbridge baptized converts; and the Poulson family cemetery.

Poulson was an early convert to Methodism who held the second Methodist class meeting in the United States in his home.

The location of the gravesites is uncertain because the headstones were taken from the Poulson farm on Nicodemus Road and piled in a corner of Stone Chapel cemetery. Poulson donated land from his farm for Stone Chapel, at Stone Chapel and Bowersox roads.

The Arundel Corp. hired the archaeologist to try to solve the mystery of the graves' location.

No one has been able to determine why or when the stones were moved, but historians have found no evidence that graves were transferred with the markers.

Karen Dattilio, a local genealogist, worries that the gravesites might not be found.

With the help of a computer mapping program, she has tentatively stated that the graves are in a field that will be part of the quarry pit, not in the area where Arundel Corp. employees believe them to be.

"Are we going to crush more than stones in this crushing plant? Are we going to crush bones, too?" Dattilio asked.

Limestone quarries eventually will stretch across Wakefield Valley southwest from Genstar's Medford quarry to a farm lane about 4,000 feet from Strawbridge Shrine, which honors the church founder.

Arundel Corp.'s plan is to open a quarry on the 126-acre Poulson property, which the corporation bought in 1986. Owen Neighbours, a geologist for the company, said quarry expansion would depend on demand.

Brochures available at Strawbridge Shrine list 14 local Methodist pilgrimage sites, including the Poulson farm.

"We'd just like to see if we can work out an arrangement with [Arundel Corp.] to see if Methodists can continue to visit the site," said the Rev. Arthur D. Thomas Jr., director of the commission on archives and history for the church's Baltimore-Washington conference. "They did seem open to the possibility."

Neighbours said Arundel Corp. was awaiting a proposal on preservation and visiting rights from the Methodist church representatives.

When corporate executives outlined the mining plan at a meeting last week, church representatives did not object to Arundel Corp.'s plans to divert the stream where Strawbridge is thought to have baptized converts, Neighbours said.

Arundel Corp. wants to move the stream east to extend the proposed quarry pit closer to Nicodemus Road.

Neighbours said Arundel Corp. staff members believe the Poulson graves are near the house.

"But not being qualified to make that determination, it's basically just a guess, and that's why we have hired an archaeologist to make that determination," he said.

When completed, the archaeological survey, recommended by the Maryland Historical Trust, will be reviewed by the trust and the Army Corps of Engineers, which has jurisdiction over requests to move streams.

Neighbours said he expected the report to be finished in about two months.

Dattilio, who has researched family cemeteries across Carroll County, planned to accompany two elderly men familiar with the farm on a search for the Poulson cemetery.

But an Arundel Corp. official barred her from the site last month, she said.

Neighbours said Dattilio would be allowed onto the property only for prearranged, escorted visits, and will not be permitted to go there without notifying the county because of liability concerns.

Pub Date: 11/07/96

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