Last month, Messiah College’s History Department, History Club, and the Oakes Museum of Natural History combined forces for the 2011 annual Service Day. In the past, the history club and department have participated in service activities like painting houses and construction projects, and last year the service project was discipline-based: cleaning artifacts from the excavation of the historic Dill’s Tavern for the Northern York County Historical and Preservation Society. This year we continued this discipline-based service by recording and preserving a small rural cemetery on state game land 5 miles south of Dillsburg.
Sammi Lehman, a long-time adjunct in the history department and local history buff, has long been interested in recording and preserving the cemetery. The cemetery dates to the late 1700s but was already ‘out of use’ by the mid-1800s–it does not even appear on an 1876 map of Washington township. In the 20th century, the edges of the cemetery were bulldozed away and modern farming has slowly encroached on the cemetery. The space was badly in need of some recording and protection.
The project also had special significance for several other people. Diane Philips, owner of the Stouffer Farm property (the site where the HIST 305 class worked this semester), has had interest in the cemetery because the man (Abraham Stouffer) who long ago owned her property is buried there. Indeed, some of the students who participated in the service day project had excavated on the Abraham Stouffer farm. The Service Day event gave them the chance to document the mortuary space where Abraham and his community were buried.
On Service Day, we arrived at the cemetery and got to work on different activities. One group drew a plan of the cemetery and plotted the graves.
A second group surveyed the property for missing headstones and footstones. On the field boundary, bingo! We found a couple of missing stones that had been bulldozed to the edge of the field. We returned those to the cemetery.
Another group set to work photographing and transcribing the stones:
We are still processing the results and will post the complete data set over the summer, but already they are interesting. We recorded the following individuals buried on the property:
Abraham Stouffer, died 1785, age 56
Baltzer Smith, died 1802, age 73
Christina Stouffer, 1734-1808, age 74
Hanna Kebel, 1771
John Penfz, died 1804, age 62
John Stouffer, Senior, died 1821, age 63
Magdalena Deardorff, died 1831, age 87
Mary Smith, died 1784, age 40
Peter Beisel, died 1794, age 84
Peter Stouffer, died 1812, age 20
Philipea Penfz, died 1813, age 60
This is an old cemetery. All of these individuals flourished in the later 18th century and first part of the early 19th. The oldest man, Peter Beisel, was born in 1710! Interestingly, if the last recorded burial was in 1831, then the cemetery was used for only 60 years (1771-1831). We do not know, however, what grave stones are now missing that once existed. There are at least 3 fragmentary stones that do not appear to belong to any of the head stones noted above. We will be conducting further research at Stouffer Cemetery in the future — stay tuned!