An 18th century graveyard containing a Revolutionary War captain, threatened by a proposed warehouse development in Maxatawny Township, recently got a new lease on life.
Berks County Judge Timothy J. Rowley temporarily vacated a previous order that allowed Duke Realty LP to relocate the historic Kemp Family Burial Ground to make way for a proposed warehouse.
“The court’s final decree filed July 22, 2020, is hereby stayed pending further order of court,” Rowley ruled Feb. 8.
Rowley also directed Duke Realty to immediately provide Kemp family descendants with an unredacted copy of a cultural resources assessment that concluded there were no descendants of Kemp family members buried along Hilltop Road, north of Route 222.
CHRS Historic Preservation Services of Lansdale, Duke’s consultant, previously provided descendants with a redacted copy of the assessment.
Under terms of Rowley’s recent order, the descendants and Duke Realty have 120 days to reach an agreement or request a court hearing.
Duke Realty, an Indiana-based logistics company, has filed preliminary plans for a 300-acre logistics center in the northwest quadrant at Route 222 and Long Lane in Maxatawny Township.
Plans for the Maxatawny Logistics Center call for the construction of two 1-million-square-foot warehouses, one of which would be atop the Kemp graveyard at the western end of the complex near Hottenstein Road.
Among an estimated 18 people buried there are Theobault (Dewalt) Kemp, considered by some to have been among the first settlers of Maxatawny Township. Also interred is Capt. George Kemp, Theobault’s son, who is said to have participated in the Battle of Germantown during the American Revolution. Also interred is a woman identified only as Hannah, identified in court documents as a slave, a Kemp family servant.
On Jan. 16, Kemp descendants petitioned the court to stay Rowley’s order granting permission to relocate the graveyard.
Attorney David W. Crossett of Blandon argued the judge’s order was handed down without input from Kemp descendants, who were not notified of Duke’s petition to relocate the graveyard.
Filed on behalf of Brenda A. Winkler and three others, the petition claims an estimated 200 Kemp descendants have come forward following news reports of Rowley’s initial decision.
Winkler, who lives near the graveyard, is Theobault’s sixth great-grandniece and George Kemp’s first cousin seven times removed, according to court documents. She is a retired Kutztown School District superintendent.