Dear Dr. Scribblerboneorchard:

The old Tschantz Graveyard, on the west side of Pequea Lane, south of Penn Grant Road, used to have a sign designating it as the oldest cemetery in Lancaster County.

That sign has been removed. A new sign reads simply: "Tschantz Graveyard 1733."

Is this the county's oldest cemetery or not?

Old Mose

Ronks

Dear Mose:

That's not an easy question to answer, Mose.

A Hunter Rineer Jr., who described all of the county's churches and cemeteries in a large book in 1993, does not say this is the oldest cemetery.

He does say that Hans Tschantz, the first Mennonite bishop in the area, set aside the graveyard in West Lampeter Township in 1740.

Darvin and Regina Martin, who have produced multiple CDs with photographs and information about thousands of tombstones in more than 100 county cemeteries, provide a more complete answer.

"We cannot confirm for certain if the Tschantz graveyard is the oldest European cemetery in Lancaster County," Darvin writes in an email. "It is within the original acreage laid out for the Swiss pioneers in 1710, but there are no tombstones that old."

The oldest surviving tombstone in the Tschantz graveyard is dated April 20, 1739. It belongs to Jacob Miller.

Wendell Bowman, who lived nearby and died in 1735, probably also is buried there, Darvin says.

But there are older, dated tombstones in Old Chestnut Level Presbyterian Church Graveyard in Drumore Township.

"The oldest original tombstone in Lancaster County that has a clear date on it, as far as I know, is that of Elizabeth King, who died Feb. 21, 1732, aged 23 years," Darvin says.

That stone and others at Chestnut Level are made of black slate, which preserves engraving better than sandstone or limestone.

Chestnut Level contains 14 of the 20 oldest tombstones the Martins have located in Lancaster County.

Tschantz contains four.

The Martins have not completed their cemetery survey and may yet find older stones. Some of the oldest stones &tstr; readable or not --logically would be located in areas closer to the Chester County border.

But the oldest cemetery &tstr; that apparently remains an open question.

Dear Dr. Scribblerliquor:

Regarding your Oct. 18 column item on the Blue Ball Hotel building, your reader asked for the reason why the hotel building was torn down and what was the point of taking it down.

Your answer was interesting and entertaining, as usual, but doesn't really get to why the building was torn down with no plan for the future.

The reason it was bought and torn down, as anyone in that neck of the woods, including the owner, would tell you, is because Mr. Zimmerman believes in the notion of the demon alcohol; the liquor license was bought to take it out of circulation.

As you know, this is commonly done in Lancaster County by strictly religious people who can afford it; the building just happened to come along with the license.

That it created and is maintained as such a highly visible eyesore seems to be of no concern to the owner.

Steve Musselman

Sinking Spring

Dear Steve:

When the Blue Ball Hotel was demolished in 1997, The Sunday News reported a "rumor" that "no one wanted to buy the hotel because Zimmerman wouldn't sell the liquor license with it."

Zimmerman still has the license in "safe keeping," as the state Liquor Control Board terms the freezing of a license to sell booze.

Blue Ball Realty, Zimmerman's business, remains mum on the matter.

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Contact The Scribbler: jbrubaker@lnpnews.com or 291-8781.