Cemetery won't halt progress Cockey burial ground moving so retail stores have open building site

Landmark for 250 years

Descendants saddened but say relocation 'somewhat inevitable'

December 02, 1996|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,SUN STAFF

After 250 years, the burial ground of Cockeysville's founders -- including a Revolutionary War patriot -- is to be dismantled today to make way for commerce.

The landmark Cockey cemetery on West Padonia Road will be moved north to Church Lane and Beaver Dam Road, where it will become part of a new history park.

In its place, Redland Genstar Inc. will build Texas Station, a complex of two restaurants -- a Bob Evans and Romano's Macaroni Grill -- three office buildings and a yet-to-be-named "big-box" retail store, all on the 60-acre parcel where the 1-acre cemetery is located.

But progress comes at an emotional price for descendants of such famous Cockeys as Thomas Cockey Deye, a Revolutionary War patriot and later speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates.

"I feel really sad this is happening. But it was somewhat inevitable," said Moira Hutchins-Fuhr, a 10th-generation Cockey who lives in Vermont but often visits the site with her husband and three children.

The land is hardly the pastoral setting of the past. The family estate, Taylor's Hall, was moved in 1986 to Rockland near Falls and Old Court roads, leaving behind the graves of family, slaves and indentured servants.

Traffic whizzes by on busy Padonia Road, as cars scoot off Interstate 83. Across the street, a motel and Denny's restaurant on Deereco Road are part of a sprawl of office buildings and warehouses.

For months, Cockey descendants have wrestled with the decision of where to move the graveyard -- or whether to move it. If left in place, it would have been overshadowed by the Bob Evans restaurant.

Joshua F. Cockey of B -- a ninth-generation Cockey who uses the formal designation "of B" for "son of Bennett Cockey" -- said the family felt that, in the long run: "If Genstar didn't do anything, they could abandon it and put a fence around it.

"But 10 years down the road, the graveyard could be so decimated. They were under no obligation to take care of it."

Now, under an agreement with Genstar, the cemetery's new location will be cared for by the company or its successors. "It gives us a place where the family will be protected and be there permanently," Cockey said.

At the Texas History Park, which will have a picnic area and exhibits on the region's limestone mining industry, the cemetery will be reassembled on less than a half-acre.

It will include the original markers and new plaques detailing the genealogy of the family, which came to the rolling hills of Baltimore County in 1727.

"Anyone interested in Baltimore County history will find this interesting," said Richard A. Reid, attorney for Genstar Inc., which is paying almost $200,000 to move the cemetery.

"It will be nice for the neighborhood and an overall benefit for the family."

But no one is certain how long the disinterment will take. First, the markers must be removed and tagged. Then, the remains will be cataloged and reinterred.

It is unclear how many people are buried in the cemetery.

Some family members say 67. Others point out there could be fewer remains if some graves are marked with both footstones and headstones.

Preservationists say the cemetery could contain more remains.

"It is certainly possible there are unmarked graves," said Richard B. Hughes, chief of the Office of Archaeology for the Maryland Historical Trust. "That's my No. 1 concern."

Hughes said the graveyard, although not listed as a historical site, is important because of its association with Thomas Cockey Deye, who died in 1807 and is buried there, and because it is one of the few family cemeteries with family and slaves.

Genstar, after receiving a request from the family, has agreed to hire an archaeologist to act as a consultant during the process.

"We want to ensure that we find every single grave," said John H. Gease III, Genstar's director of real estate.

The company could have developed the land without moving the graveyard, he said, "but it would have been surrounded by a parking lot. This makes for a better project."

Pub Date: 12/02/96

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