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Gardner Family Cemetery

The destruction of a family cemetery

This is a tribute to the Gardner Family Cemetery located on Kent Island, Queen Anne's County, Maryland.

This past summer, 2003, I drove to Kent Island, Queen Anne's County, Maryland with my cousin Lynn to try to find the family cemetery of Lynn's third great grandparents, William Edward Gardner and Julia Ann Layton Gardner. We met Melvin in Stevensville on Kent Island. Melvin, another cousin of Lynn's, is a lifelong local resident of Kent Island. He accompanied us and took us to the location of the Gardner family cemetery. At that time, the family cemetery was overgrown with brush but we did see most of the tombstones and saw that they WERE intact. Lynn and I made plans to come back mid winter when some of the brush died off to clear out the cemetery and take photos of her ancestors tombstones.

Lynn received a phone call from Melvin shortly before Christmas. The owners of an Exxon Station completely destroyed this historical family cemetery. The Exxon Station is combined with a convenience store and a Wendy's fast food restaurant all in one building. The owners reasoning for ripping out the small wooded lot where the Gardner family cemetery stood, was that they complained that their sign was not visible from the public highway, Route 50. Most of the tombstones were dated to the mid 1800s. There were a few stones which were worn of the inscription and may have dated back to the 1700s. You can see the tire marks in the mud where the heavy equipment drove right over the tombstones, breaking most of them up and in many cases rendering the tombstones unreadable.

When my son and I went to the cemetery site, the sign was easily visible from the public road, Route 50. We believe that the owners just wanted their store seen from the public highway heading westbound on Route 50, although the sign was easily seen and was not impeded by the small wooded cemetery lot. We are not sure if the owners of the gas station/convenience store even owned the land where the Gardner family cemetery stood.

I placed a newspaper next to some of the tombstones to prove the date the pictures were taken. My son and I took the photos on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2003, although the newspaper I used was from the day before and shows the date December 23, 2003. Here are pictures of the destruction.

Click on the photos to see enlarged photos.

Maryland has laws to preserve and protect Cemeteries.
Here are a few applicable laws, in part, compiled by The Coalition To Protect Maryland Burial Sites, Inc.

1. To protect a cemetery against vandalism: Article 27, Section 267 (a) provides for a fine of up to $5,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 3 years for anyone convicted of willfully destroying, mutilating, defacing, injuring or removing any tomb, monument, gravestone, or other structure placed in a cemetery or any building, wall, fence, railing or other work for the use, protection or ornamentation of any cemetery.

In Article 27, Section 807, it is also provided that the judge may issue an "order of restitution" for the "victim", which, in the case of cemetery vandalism, the law defines as "the owner of the burial site and an individual related by blood or marriage to the individual buried in the burial site." Such an order of restitution can apply if the property of the victim is "stolen, damaged, destroyed, converted, unlawfully obtained, or its value substantially decreased as a direct result of the crime."

Article 27, Section 267(b) provides for a fine of up to $500 and/or imprisonment for up to 2 years for anyone convicted of willfully destroying, cutting, breaking or removing any tree, plant or shrub in a cemetery, or who is found guilty of indecent or disorderly conduct within said limits.

7. To gain access to a cemetery located on private property: To facilitate access to a cemetery, Section 14-121 of the Real Property Article provides that any person in interest (as defined in the Section) may request the owner of a burial site or of the land encompassing a burial site, that has been documented or recognized as a burial site by the public or any person in interest, to grant reasonable access to the burial site for the purpose of restoring, maintaining, or viewing the burial site. An access agreement form can be executed similar to the one that is printed in the text of the law. The law provides that except for willful or malicious acts, the owner of a burial site or of the land encompassing a burial site is not liable for damages in a civil action to a person who enters on the land for injury to person or property.

Read more laws and regulations regarding Maryland Cemeteries at:
The Coalition To Protect Maryland Burial Sites, Inc.


Copyright December 24, 2003 by D i a n a "D e e" H o r n e y - G a b l e r
The photos of the destruction of the Gardner Family Cemetery were taken by Dee Horney Gabler and her son, Kenneth Weaver, Jr.
I hope to add some "before" shots taken by Lynn Smith, the descendant of William Edward Gardner and Julia Ann Layton Gardner.

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