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Elmwood rehab requires contributions

By Staff | Dec 25, 2009

Elmwood Cemetery,?W.Va. 480

In her book Historic Shepherdstown, Danske Bedinger Dandridge wrote:

“And now let us turn as a last argument for the early settlement of Shepherdstown, to the ‘testimony of the rocks.’ And first let me say that tombstones are not traditions, they are hard facts.”

In this context Dandridge is referring to the dates on tombstones found in the sacred burial grounds of Shepherdstown. She used those dates to support her theory that early settlement in the Lower Shenandoah Valley occurred first in and around Shepherdstown.

Fast forward to today. Shepherdstown’s Historian Laureate, Dr. James C. Price, conducts an annual tour of the hallowed ground of Elmwood Cemetery. At the conclusion of each tour, Dr. Price refers to Danske Dandridge’s quote “testimony of the rocks.” But, for a different reason.

Elmwood Cemetery is operated by a volunteer board of directors. The directors are responsible for protecting and preserving the “testimony of the rocks” of Elmwood Cemetery entrusted to their care. And, they take that responsibility very seriously.

When you visit Elmwood Cemetery, the first thing that you see is the majestic iron fence that guards the cemetery’s entrance. Originally installed in 1879, after 125 years of silent service the cemetery board recognized that the fence was in need of refurbishment and repair.

The board planned to complete the project in phases. Phase One, started in 2003 and completed in 2005, focused on the restoration of the beautiful entrance gates and re-grading the entrance into Elmwood. Work on the entrance gates was completed by local blacksmith Daniel Tokar of The Willow Forge.

To restore the iron fence the cemetery board contracted with Herb Snyder of Sandblasting Professionals and Powder Coating Pros. Phase Two, the removal and repainting of the iron fence from Cherry Lane to the cemetery entrance, was completed in 2006. Phase Three, completed in 2008, and Phase Four, which was just finished this year, accomplished the original goal of restoring the iron fence. The total cost for completing all four phases was $52,238.65.

But Elmwood’s board could not preserve the “the testimony of the rocks” without significant support from the community, and, in typical fashion, the community responded to the challenge. The full cost of restoring both the gates and the fence was covered without drawing from Elmwood’s endowment. No contributions were used unless the donor specified that the funds were intended for the restoration of the fence. One anonymous donor graciously contributed $25,000. Another gave $10,000. The board received two West Virginia Development Office grant awards. Two local businessmen added $5,000 and when the project was complete, it was paid in full.

As the fence restoration was nearing completion, Elmwood Cemetery Board President Richard Brown said, “Our board knew that the fence and gates needed repair. We just didn’t know how we could afford to have it done. We first contacted Daniel Tokar and then Herb Snyder to help us develop a plan and determine how much money we’d need. The local media helped us get the word out. We were overwhelmed by the response!”

The Elmwood Cemetery board would like to express its thanks to each and every person who helped to make the dream of restoring the fence become a reality. Without the continued support of the community, the responsibility of preserving “the testimony of the rocks” would be an impossible task.

As you drive by or visit Elmwood Cemetery, remember the “testimony of the rocks.” Remember that the commitment to preserving that testimony comes with a price.

If you would like to help the Elwood Cemetery board maintain its commitment, contributions may be sent to:

Elmwood Cemetery Association Inc.

P.O. Box 561

Shepherdstown WV