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Elmwood Cemetery Open House highlights 150th anniversary renovations of Superintendent’s House

By Staff | Sep 27, 2019

Shepherdstown Middle School seventh grader Felix Alexander scrubs dirt off of the front of a tombstone in Elmwood Cemetery on Saturday morning. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Keith Alexander reached out with his left hand to be given a wooden popsicle stick, as he held onto the ladder with his right hand. The Shepherd University Associate Professor of History then rubbed the stick against moss covering the outside of a tombstone from the 1800s in Elmwood Cemetery, as he helped lead one of the two informational events at the cemetery’s 150th anniversary open house on Saturday morning.

Alexander’s demonstration and group cleaning took place in the Schley family plot, which stands prominently along Kearneysville Pike because of its prominent angel and broken column monuments.

A few plots away, Elmwood Cemetery Board President Richard Brown showed another group of community members how to restore tombstones that have fallen apart. By the end of his demonstration, one fallen tombstone had been set back in its original place.

“I would hope interest in the cemetery would develop from this, as well as a little education into what is involved in cleaning and restoration of the tombstones. It’s things that a normal person doesn’t pay attention to,” Brown said, mentioning the fall is the best time to do this kind of work, when mowing has slowed down and cold weather hasn’t arrived.

Brown said he hoped attendees would also take advantage of the open house to walk into the cemetery’s Superintendent’s House, which is currently in the middle of renovations.

Community members walk around the Superintendent's House in Elmwood Cemetery on Saturday morning. Tabitha Johnston

“The exterior is going to be about $165,000. We haven’t gotten an estimate for the interior yet, which is going to have to be re-plumbed and given modern electric,” Brown said.

According to board member Eric Hendricks, of Martinsburg, while most of the funds will need to be raised by Elmwood Cemetery itself, the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution Pack Horse Ford Chapter plans to help with a portion of the fundraising.

“The Pack Horse Ford Chapter is raising funds to restore the cupola and bell tower on the roof of the Superintendent’s House. The roof on the building is the original roof from when it was built in the 1800s,” Hendricks said, mentioning the now-missing cupola and bell tower had made the building look church-like for funeral services. “In the front of the house is the old chapel, where they used to hold services. We would like that to be restored to be an office for the cemetery, and we’re considering possibly renting out the other rooms, once the restoration is completed.”

While the fundraising and restoration will take some time, for history lover Katie Morgan, of Shepherdstown, the effort will be worth it.

“I’m passionate about history, and my family’s buried here,” Morgan said, mentioning one of her most noteworthy ancestors is Civil War Colonel William August Morgan. “[Elmwood Cemetery] holds many prominent citizens from Shepherdstown’s history, and this work is for future generations.”

Elmwood Cemetery board member Betty Lowe talks with Shepherdstown residents Pat and Jack Egle, left, during the open house on Saturday morning. Tabitha Johnston

To donate to Elmwood Cemetery, visit elmwoodcemeteryshepwv.org/html/board.html.

Elmwood Cemetery board member Eric Hendricks-Jenkins, of Martinsburg, washes the side of a tombstone on Saturday morning. Tabitha Johnston

Community members clean tombstones under the direction of Shepherd University Associate Professor of History Keith Alexander on Saturday morning. Tabitha Johnston