Bodies reinterred in Sunday ceremony

Published 8:41 pm Monday, August 6, 2012

The remains of 31 bodies were reinterred during a moving ceremony at Washington’s Oakdale Cemetery on Sunday.

The service began with a call and response reading of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, led by First Presbyterian Church of Washington pastor William Lee Kinney: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot.”

Dozens of congregants responded, as they surrounded a tent donated by Paul Funeral Home for the occasion.

The decision to move the remains of church ancestors was made earlier in the year when plans for new construction butted up against the close boundaries of Gladden Street to the west, West Second Street to the north and Maiden Lane, the alley running behind West Main Street businesses, to the south. The only direction allowing expansion was east, atop graves, some of which are nearly two centuries old.

According to state statute, “disinterment, removal, and reinterment of graves” may be conducted by “any church authority in order to erect a new church, parish house, parsonage, or any other facility owned and operated exclusively by such church; in order to expand or enlarge an existing church facility.”

The process is, however, closely regulated by the state.

The church’s planning commission was required to notify all living descendants of the impending move, which entailed hiring a genealogist. The state also mandated the hire of a state-licensed cemetery services specialist to supervise the removal and reinterment.

According to Kinney, none of the living people notified had any objection to the transfer of their ancestors’ remains to the city-owned cemetery.

Because of the acidic nature of the soil and graves’ proximity to the natural water table, time and decomposition ensured there were very few remains to be moved from one location to the other, said Kinney.

Each was solemnly remembered as Kinney called out the names of the 31 people before the closing prayer: Annie B. Fowle (Harris), Sarah Fowle, Martha P. Fowle, Samuel R. Fowle, Samuel R. Fowle, Martha Ann M. Fowle, Fowle infant, Matilda S. Marsh, Anna P. Fowle, Mary Ellenor Blount, Margaret Ann Blount, Joseph Edmond Blount, Sarah Ann Blount, Joseph William Blount, Samuel R. Fowle, Matilda Dorcas Fowle, William S.A. Reaney, James Edward Reaney, Sarah A. Moules, John O. Moules, David P. Moules, Thomas Owens, Owens family (father, mother, sister and brother), Julia Swindell, Joel Swindell, John Sherwood Granger and Ann Fowler.

Bagpiper Peter McArthur played the Oakdale ceremony to a close with a somber rendition of “Amazing Grace,” as the members of First Presbyterian returned to the church to continue the remembrance of church ancestors during the regular church service and following dinner.

Vail Stewart Rumley attends First Presbyterian Church of Washington.