Chapter 2 (Percy Cemetery Restoration)
THE CURRENT RESTORATION
Our work on the restoration of Percy Cemetery began in the late fall of 1984. It was an outgrowth of a community service project begun by Chi Delta Phi fraternity at Frostburg State College, for which I served as a faculty advisor. One of the young men in the fraternity (Tim Simmons, Class of 1986) somehow discovered the existence of the cemetery. He was told that it was a small cemetery and we originally and automatically assumed the clean-up work would take a few days. That was before we saw it. We went to look over the cemetery one afternoon and it was immediately apparent that it was more than a "little cemetery." At that time, I remember saying that it would take about two years to clean this place up. Actually, it was closer to three years before things were in reasonably good shape. Originally, the fraternity members were enthusiastic about working in the cemetery. It was a mess. Too many trees, brush, trash, weeds, and fallen and broken headstones were what we found ourselves faced with. But every Saturday morning some or most of us would be out there cutting and chopping. At first, we used hand tools loaned to us by the CETA program in Cumberland—saws, axes, and brush cutters. It was backbreaking work. Gradually, the fraternity's enthusiasm dwindled, especially as the weather turned colder. After the first snow in 1984, we quit for the year. Some enthusiasm was re-kindled as Spring 1985 approached. In March we got out our tools again and continued to labor on Saturday mornings. We managed to borrow a couple of chain saws, which helped immensely in cutting down the trees. Piles of fallen trees and brush began to accumulate. We didn't know what to do with it.
Finally, I called Dale Kelly's Tree Service in Cresaptown and he donated the used of his tree-mulching equipment and one of his workers for a Saturday morning. We managed to make a small dent in the accumulated debris and got rid of a few of the larger fallen trees. As the spring wore on, fewer and fewer of the kids were rousing themselves out of bed to work on Saturdays—too many late nights, too many hangovers, and small interest in back-breaking work. However, we did make some progress.
Most of the upper end of the cemetery near First Street was cleared of trees by the time school was out but the weed problem was "blooming". During the summer of 1985, after the kids went home, not much got done. I would go up occasionally and make an effort to clear the weeds and brush. I sprayed weed killer and chopped with my machete. I don't hesitate to say that I could have done more but I didn't. However, it was during that summer that I began making the list of those buried in the cemetery by traipsing around looking at and for headstones. This was not very easy but I managed to generate a list with a few names on it.
During the fall of 1985, things began to turn around. Again, the fraternity kids were helpful during the early fall but interest tapered off quickly. The significant event was a telephone call I received one night from Sam Layman, who said he wanted to get involved with the project.
I did not know Sam before his call but he showed up early the next Saturday and was there every week thereafter. His enthusiasm, his exceedingly hard work, and his determination to succeed were a major stimulus that kept me going for the next two years. Most Saturdays during that fall, it was Sam and I out there braving the elements and winning small victories over nature.
Winter came and went and now it was spring 1986. The fraternity members showed up only sporadically, certainly not frequently enough. So, it was still Sam and I most of the time. More piles of junk accumulated and again Dale Kelly donated his truck for tree mulching but we made only a small dent during the halfday we had access to this equipment. We were discouraged because there was still so much to
Anthony E. Crosby and Michael R. Olson
This chapter is based on an article which appeared in the Journal of the Alleghenies, v. VIII, 1992, titled "Frostburg's Percy Cemetery: The Current Restoration," pp. 17-27 by Michael R. Olson.
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Cemeteries, Maryland, Frostburg; Obituaries, Maryland, Frostburg. .
Frostburg (Md.), 1800-1972