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Some thought that it might be a killer that waited in hiding to pounce on the unsuspecting. Others thought that it was where other killers hid their dead. It was both, and while cautious, the residents of McSherrystown didn’t fear the pits of sand around them, perhaps because the body count accumulated over decades.

 

oldquarry

This shot of an old sand quarry give you an idea of how the McSherrystown quarries might have looked. Courtesy of http://www.rossbullock.co.uk.

In September 1901, a dead newborn baby was found in one of the sand holes from the quarry in McSherrystown. “The body was wrapped in the sleeve of an undershirt, which was next bound with a cloth and then enclosed in newspaper,” the New Oxford Item reported. A coroner’s inquest determined that the baby had been born alive, but no marks of violence were found on the body. The child may have suffocated in the sand. The parents were never found.

 

Whether or not the baby was the first person killed by the sand, he was not the last.

In December 1905, the New Oxford Item reported, “The ghastly discovery was made by several school boys, who, on their way home, while passing over the hill, saw a bundle lying in one of the sand holes. A scramble was made for possession of the bundle, and on picking it up the paper covering tore, and the body of a male child rolled to the ground.”

The boys were frightened at first, but they were boys. They quickly recovered and began spreading the story of how they had found a dead body.

The coroner’s inquest was only able to determine that the child had been dead for about a week when he had been found. Once again, the killers were never caught.

The sand holes around the town gave up their secrets reluctantly and then not all of them.

In October 1907, a horse and cart were buried under 20 feet of sand. The driver, Levi Reed, only narrowly escaped the same fate.

Reed had been loading the wagon with rough sand that needed to be put through the crusher to make it finer. “Levi Reed, who was near the horse, felt the tremor as the sand shifted and quickly he succeeded in reaching the edge of the bank, thereby saving himself from being drawn in,” the New Oxford Item reported.

A month later, Reed had another close call in the sand holes, but his partner, John Frock wasn’t so lucky. They had a contract to supply sand for the building of the York and Hanover trolley and were loading a wagon with sand. “They were working at the base of a jagged wall of sand above. Without warning this wall of sand shifted, sliding with force to the bottom of the hole,” the Gettysburg Compiler reported.

 

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This shot of an old quarry shows how close they could be to residential areas. 

 

The sand buried Frock, and he suffocated. Rescuers dug his body out from beneath two feet of sand.

In 1914, Urban Gouker fell 20 feet into one of the sand holes. He sustained multiple broken bones. He was lucky. At least he lived.

Another resident who was lucky to avoid being killed in the sand holes was William Farley. He was driving his car on Third Street in McSherrystown and failed to make a turn in the road. His car slid off the road and into a sand pit 25 feet below.

“Although the machine, a touring car, landed in an almost perpendicular position, with its radiator buried in a heap of rubbish in the pit, the driver crawled from the automobile apparently unhurt, but later was reported confined to a bed at his home suffering from pains in his head,” the Hanover Evening Sun reported.

In December 1915, the Gettysburg Times reported that residents of McSherrystown had seen the shadowy form of a woman had been seen wandering near the sand holes, supposedly searching for her lost child. The newspaper pointed out that it was a ghost story that circulated from time to time in the area.

“Fictitious as the story is, it, however, recalls the fact that the dead bodies of three infants have been found in these quarries, at various times, within the past twenty years, the last child having been found one Sunday about ten years ago, wrapped in a white sheet,” according to the newspaper.

Besides hiding bodies, the holes were also used as the town dump. This created a fire hazard from time to time as the trash would catch on fire.

In 1930, a group of school boys hit the mother lode in a sand hole when they found cases of unopened beer buried in a hole. It was believed that the beer had been seized in a raid in which law enforcement officers had failed to dispose of the alcohol properly.

The boys, who were ages 7 to 13, found the treasure trove. “One boy had two cases of it in bags. They drank some of it and sold some at five cents a bottle to anyone who cared to take a chance,” according to the Hanover Evening Sun. Some of the boys also imbibed and were drunk when the police found them.

The 1930s also saw the town begin to fill in some of the sand holes, which had fallen into disuse. One area was filled in and turned into a playground. Other areas were partially filled in, which at least reduced the depth that someone might fall. However, some holes remained open even into the late 1940s when one hole was used as a local swimming hole.

It also allowed the sand hole to claim a victim by drowning when an 81-year-old man was accidentally knocked into the hole and died.

When the last hole was filled in, all of the secrets hidden in the sand were covered over, and given the depth of the holes, may never be discovered.

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