HARRIS TOWNSHIP — Locals spent the past couple weeks marking all 51 Civil War graves at the Boalsburg Cemetery.
On Saturday, the group, Tent No. 62 Catherine Wilson Curtin — run by the Daughters of Union Veterans — laid down the last flags around the headstones.
On Sunday morning, they awoke to a vandalized cemetery that State College police said was a random act.
Detective John Aston said police received a report around 11:26 a.m. Sunday that 51 headstones were knocked over and pulled out of the ground at the 149 Old Boalsburg Road cemetery near Zion Lutheran Church.
He did not say if those 51 grave sites were of those Civil War veterans.
“There was a lot of damage,” Aston said. “Some dated back to the Civil War era.”
Aston said the majority of damage occurred to burial lot headstones located behind Zion Lutheran Church, at the corner of Church Street and Old Boalsburg Road.
During the investigation, a ground-mounted spotlight was also discovered to be damaged at St. John’s United Church of Christ, across the street from the Zion Lutheran Church and the Boalsburg Cemetery, Aston said.
Some neighbors in the area said they didn’t hear or see anything suspicious.
Boalsburg residents Barb and John Neff were taking a walk around the trail at the Pennsylvania Military Museum on Sunday afternoon when they found out about the vandalism.
“It’s such a shame someone would have the audacity to do that,” Barb Neff said. “Hopefully they can clean up the cemetery and get it back to its history. Those grounds deserve some respect.”
The Boalsburg Cemetery Committee runs the cemetery, and its members are livid.
“Right now we haven’t met with anyone. I figure we’ll let tempers cool for a couple days and call around later,” said committee President Pete High. “Everyone is aware of the situation.”
The committee is composed of seven members, and in High’s 10 years as president, he said, he’s never seen anything quite like this.
“A few years ago, a driver ran through the cemetery and took down a couple new trees, but the cost was covered by his insurance,” High said. “It’s a shame what happened here this weekend.”
With Memorial Day coming up, High said members will do their best to make the grounds look nice, but won’t begin repairs to the headstones until after Memorial Day.
“We’re just going to wait and see,” High said. “I want the world to see what some (expletives) did. There are things that can’t be replaced. Even if we had time in the next week to completely repair and fix all damages, this situation would be forgotten … but we will have it looking good for Memorial Day.”
This week, High and committee members will reach out to appropriate people who are able to fix the broken headstones. But High said, even when it’s fixed, it won’t be the same.
“These old stones are broken and you can’t put them back together properly,” High said. “Maybe they can be fixed to some degree, but that piece of history is lost.”
The process will be a lengthy one, High said. Workers will need to dig new footers, clean up the site and repair the damage, something that could get expensive.
“The bottom-line is that this was a real tragedy for this place, but we’re going to do the best we can to get it back to what it was before,” High said.
Police are urging anyone with information to contact them at 234-7150. The department is offing a $1,000 reward to anyone with information leading to an arrest.