Benedict Eshleman Cemetery

The Benedict Eshleman Cemetery, also known as the Eshleman Family graveyard, is one of the oldest in Lancaster County. Historical documents provide directions, but they read more like a map with no names and no clear starting point over time.

The only recognizable landmarks that exist today indicate the graveyard is located somewhere south of the Enola Low-Grade Trail near the Shenk’s Ferry Wildflower Preserve. As a point of reference, Shenks Ferry is 92 acres in size. Without something more precise, that could become miles of bushwhacking before stumbling across it. Trust me. That’s more or less how we located it.

The cemetery takes its name from Benedict Eshleman, born in Bern, Switzerland, in 1709 and later immigrated to Lancaster in the 1720s.

Then on June 5, 1727, Eshleman, at around the age of 18, purchased 600 acres inside what would later become Conestoga Township.

Not much is known about Eshleman beyond the distinction of having built the first dwelling in Conestoga Township. Unfortunately, the ravages of time have consumed that structure. On August 5, 1780, Eshleman died at 70 or 71 years of age. He also has the oldest recognizable tombstone in the cemetery. He is joined by his wife, Anna, who died a few years later in 1787.

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There are 27 marked graves from the Steman, Eshleman, Lingerfelter, Schenck, and Warfel families. Many of these headstones are written in German.

It is challenging to know how many people are buried in this graveyard. Several tombstones are so degraded they are nearly impossible to read. Still, others are just headstones of plain rock to mark the passage of their (perhaps more youthful) inhabitants. For this reason, plus shorter life expectancies and the higher mortality death rate of young children during this period, I would argue that some graves are older than 1780 and probably closer to the 1727 land purchase date. If this is true, the cemetery is closer to 300 years old than 240.

You might also be curious to learn the subtle difference between a graveyard and a cemetery.

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Please note that this cemetery is on private property.

For more history about Shenkf Ferry

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