It happens every summer. Kids out of school, out late at night. They travel in packs and somebody decides it will be fun to deface a cemetery. Sometimes they spray paint headstones and mausoleums, other times they simply push over headstones. The worse thing they can do is break and destroy headstones, and that’s what happened to the old Kreider’s Church Cemetery just outside of Manheim, Pennsylvania this weekend.The history of Kreider’s goes back to 1859, being part of the White Oak District of the Dunker Faith. Today it is part of the Church of the Brethren. According to an article in the Lancaster paper, the cemetery is probably older than the Meeting House building. Kreiders (or Kreiters as it was sometimes referred to) was one of four Dunkard Churches in Penn Township, Graybills, Gibbles and Longnecker’s being the other three. It was built “near Cornelius Kreider’s” and is no longer used as a Church, but is used several times a year for special events. Just a little background of this historic little Meetinghouse.
Why am I doing a blog on this when I live close to several cemeteries that are vandalized on a regular basis? Woodward Hill where James Buchanan is buried is perhaps the worse, followed by Lancaster Cemetery, a beautiful, old, historic spot in the center of the city. Why? Because I have an ancestor buried there and with her, my history. Because of her, I am.When we first located Elizabeth Niess’ grave it was laying face down next to her daughter, Mary Ann’s grave. We uprighted it and leaned it against her daughter’s stone. We’d visit both of the ladies since their stones leaned against each other.
One day we went to visit our ladies and discovered the Church had cemented Elizabeth’s stone back on her own base. Elizabeth was back where she belonged! She was home again and we were tickled. Now we could still visit each lady, but spend time with them one at a time. . . That is until today.
Sunday morning as I opened the paper I saw the article about vandalism of Kreider’s Church Cemetery, the same cemetery where Elizabeth Niess is buried. I had to get out there and see if her headstone was involved in the destruction.
When we got there, not only was Elizabeth’s stone flat on the ground, so was Mary Ann’s. They were fortunate, though since others were smashed and broken. There were over 90 stones pushed off bases, broken or otherwise vandalized. Entire rows were pushed over and then rows were skipped. Large stones that would appear impossible to move must have had a crew involved in pushing them over! One of the first Elders of the White Oak Congregation had a very large stone pushed over onto an older stone, breaking it in several pieces. This very large headstone is relatively new and must have been installed with considerable expense on the part of either the congregation or descendants of Elder Garlach.It’s a senseless act, destroying something sacred and meaningful to another person. The stone that Garlach’s large one broke was obviously in place for a number of years. It had outlasted many people’s lifes, and it took just one thoughtless act to destroy it. Sad, isn’t it?This is the worst one I saw. They really had to work to to break this off of it’s base. One person could not have done this alone. Do you ever wonder if the perpetrator(s) ever mature enough to regret their actions? I always wonder . . .
While I was there at least 3 to 4 cars pulled up with people looking for the headstones of their loved ones, grandmother’s, aunts, etc. I’m sure they kept coming all day long.
~after all 90 stones for 90 people create a lot of descendants!
- A. Hunter Rineer, Jr., Churches and Cemeteries of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, A Complete Guide; Lancaster County Historical Society, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 1993, pages 345, 346.
- Franklin Ellis, Samuel Evans, History of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, with Biographical Sketches of Many of the Pioneers and Prominent Men.; Everts & Peck, 1883, pages 342, 1004.
- Photos, personal collection of author