Circuit Court Orders Relocation of Graves Discovered on the Site of the Replacement Robert E. Aylor Middle School

Circuit Court Orders Relocation of Graves Discovered on the Site of the Replacement Robert E. Aylor Middle School
Posted on 04/08/2020
DecorativeFor Immediate Release
April 8, 2020
Contact: Steve Edwards, Coordinator of Policy and Communications
540-662-3888 ext. 88235


The Frederick County Circuit Court has issued a final order in response to the Frederick County School Board’s Petition for Relocation and Reinterment of the Abandoned Graveyard discovered at the site of the replacement Robert E. Aylor Middle School on White Oak Road in Stephens City. The order was entered on March 25.

The order authorizes the School Board to exhume, relocate and reinter the graveyard located at the property, together with all grave markers and any other remains or personal effects thereto, to an alternate, but appropriate, respectful location. In accordance with the court order, the school division will relocate the graves and other items ordered by the court from the site of the replacement Aylor Middle School to the Ridings Chapel Cemetery located on Salem Church Road in Stephens City. The relocation and reinterment will be supervised by a licensed undertaker and an archeologist familiar with both the site of the replacement Robert E. Aylor Middle School and the Ridings Chapel Cemetery.

The abandoned graveyard was discovered in October 2019 after school officials received information suggesting graves may be located on the property. The discovery was unexpected because prior to purchasing the 57-acre site for the new school, a thorough evaluation of the site was completed by school staff with assistance from an outside third party. The evaluation, which found no information indicating there were graves or the possibility of graves on the site, included researching land records as well as a study of the history of the property.

Upon receiving information that graves may be located on the property, the school division contracted professional consultants who utilized ground-penetrating radar to survey the areas on the site where it was indicated graves may have been located. This testing identified areas on the property where graves appeared to be present. A certified archaeologist was contracted to complete a field survey in the identified areas which resulted in the discovery of 10 graves believed to be part of the Reed family cemetery. In addition, eight tombstones were discovered in various states of damage during the excavation of a separate area on the property. The tombstones date between 1822 and 1834.

Exhuming and relocating the graves will not impact the construction of the school which is scheduled to open for 2021-22 school year.