Old Cemeteries Deserve Our Care

All too often, “progress” bulldozes everything in its path, with little regard for those who were the founders of modern America – men, women and children of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries who once lived in modest cabins and subsisted on modest farms where we now want shopping centers, parks, apartment buildings and the like.

Stories of construction crews who encounter old cemeteries and keep tearing up the earth regardless of the souls buried beneath it are, sadly, not uncommon. Occasionally, lawsuits are filed and won over such desecration. But by then, the damage is done.

Just such an upsetting situation appears to have occurred more than a century ago in Wheeling.

When the Elks Playground was established near the corner of 16th and McColloch streets, a small cemetery was disturbed. Some of the remains were relocated.

But some remained. We don’t know why workers in 1910 were not more careful about the cemetery.

Now, more construction work is in progress at the site. In the process, workers discovered some human remains and a large grave marker, for a veteran of the war of 1812 and his family. The remains do not appear to be those of the veteran.

To the credit of construction workers and the city of Wheeling, care has been taken in dealing with the remains and the tombstone, as we reported Sunday.

The human remains will be reinterred at the Peninsula Cemetery. The tombstone, memorializing Fielder Berry, his wife Elizabeth and their son George, will be placed at the Mount Wood Cemetery.

That is as it should be. Berry helped keep Americans free at a time when our continued existence as a nation was far from certain. Then he and his family helped Wheeling grow.

City Manager Robert Herron said it is not expected the discoveries will delay work on the new recreation park in East Wheeling.

But even if delays result, workers at the site should continue to be extraordinarily careful around the old cemetery site. Clearly, the hallowed ground was not treated with the care it deserved in 1910. That is a mistake that should not be repeated – again, even if it slows the modern project and adds a few dollars of cost to it.