This article was a part of the "Haunted Lancaster" series, produced by LancasterOnline and sponsored by LancasterHistory.org that was originally published in October 2017.
We put the spotlight on the little cemeteries that dot the Lancaster County landscape.
They dot the rural roads and farms of Lancaster County. Some are even seen along the sides of highways or in the front or side yards of houses.
The cemeteries of yesteryear are still being honored and not disturbed, even by the development of the area today.
Passersby might be curious about these final resting places and wonder, “Just who is buried there? What was here before this road?” They might be intrigued by the stories that are held deep beneath the earth or maybe even a little spooked by the closeness of these little graveyards to where people live.
As a part of a print and online series, sponsored by LancasterHistory.org, LNP and LancasterOnline is going to take a look at “Haunted Lancaster” over the next four weeks. In the series, we will look at the local, small cemeteries, ghost tours within an hour’s drive, ghost stories from residents and more.
Family plots make up a large number of these cemeteries, as many were connected to the family farm of yesteryear.
Just feet away from York Road, which runs between Lititz and Oregon pikes and parallel to Route 30, is the 19th century Johnson family cemetery.
The 25-square-foot plot is now overgrown. At one point, there was a wreath hung every holiday season by an anonymous person. That tradition has stopped, according to newspaper records, and the plot has become barely visible from the road.
The earliest headstones are from 1848, with Elizabeth Johnson, who died at 79, being the last person to be buried here. Joining her are her children, John and Fanny, who died in infancy, according to newspaper archives.
While tracking ownership of these plots is difficult, one rule that is followed by developers more often that not is that cemeteries do not get disturbed.
On the grounds of LG Health Campus, along Harrisburg Pike, are more than 20 grave markers, which are weathered and show their age but are still cared for.
A mix of family names — Denham, Dunkel, Evans, Kurtz, Weiler, Lutz, Withers — is represented on the stones that are tilted or on the ground.
Identified as the “Old Burying Ground on the Lancaster Pike,” the plot’s earliest stone dates back to 1810 and belongs to Daniel Kurtz, who died at 52, according to newspaper archives. While Kurtz’s stone reads “With Jesus whom we love,” several stones also are inscribed in German.
Ownership of the graveyard is not clear, but Lancaster General Hospital did not take title to the tiny parcel when it acquired the adjacent 126 acres of cropland for its $61 million complex. The hospital pledged to East Hempfield Township that it would maintain the graveyard, according to newspaper archives.
Along Harrisburg Pike, just to the west of Sylvan Road, lies a small plot in a cornfield to the right. When the stalks are high, the family cemetery is not visible from the road, but after the stalks are cut down, it can be seen on the hillside.
The property, now owned by Laverne and Sherry Kreider, was once owned by the Landis family, who built the farm in 1876.
The former owners of the farm, Grace and Norman Landis, are both buried at the plot.
Do you have or live near a family plot and wish to share your story with us? Contact Claudia Esbenshade, firstname.lastname@example.org.