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From the Vault: News from the Wednesday, July 25, 2012 edition of the Press & Journal

Posted 7/24/19

Where in the world is George Frey? Pioneer’s remains are lost; search has been suspended

George Frey lies in front of the entrance to Frey Village. The problem is, no one knows where.

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From the Vault: News from the Wednesday, July 25, 2012 edition of the Press & Journal


Where in the world is George Frey? Pioneer’s remains are lost; search has been suspended

George Frey lies in front of the entrance to Frey Village. The problem is, no one knows where.

A search for the remains of Frey, one of Middletown’s most prominent pioneers, and his wife Anna Catharine began last year in anticipation of an expansion project at the Union Street retirement village. The remains were believed to be buried under a monument. Crews searched here, there and everywhere, but came up empty-handed.

Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries, which owns Frey Village, brought in a company that used ground-penetrating radar pulses to detect objects, changes in material and cracks in the subsurface in an area referred to as Swensen Park, where the remains were thought to be located. Workers removed nearly 180 square feet of sidewalk and dug five feet deep, with no luck.

Excavation was expanded beyond the Swensen Park, but still no remains.

Efforts to find the remains have been suspended. A plan to add apartments for seniors on the ground where the remains may be located is anticipated to begin early next year pending presale goals.

No further excavations will be done at this time unless someone can provide new and specific information on the possible location of the remains, said William Swanger, senior vice president for corporate communications at Diakon.

When construction for the new project, called Union Square, begins, diligent care will be used in the search for the Freys’ casket, he said.

Changes made to Frey Village over the years have caused confusion over the exact location of the remains, said Walt Reider, president of the George Frey Trust, the philanthropic trust that Frey created to build an orphanage. The orphanage, which Frey never saw completed, operated at Union Street until the 1960s, when it was replaced by a retirement village.

The remains have a history of being moved from one spot to the next, and also have a habit of going missing. Frey died in 1806, and since his death, his remains have been lost for more years than he lived.

In 1925, they were moved near Frey’s orphanage beneath a monument, and eventually to their current resting place when excavation began to build Frey Village.

The new project at Frey Village propelled the George Frey Trust to find a permanent resting spot for the remains.

A grave was dug last year at St. Peter’s Kierch at Union and High streets, the historic church Frey founded. The monument, a sundial that marked where Frey and his wife Anna Catharine’s remains were supposed to be at Frey Village, was moved to the new site.

Last October, a service for Frey and Anna Catherine was held at St. Peter’s Kierch. The Rev. Dr. J. Richard Eckert of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church led a group in prayer over the open grave.

That grave remains empty, covered with a piece of plywood, pending discovery of the Freys. A pile of dirt stands tall beside the grave.

It’s possible the remains are lost forever, but hope isn’t lost.

“The idea of trying to find them has not been abandoned,” said Reider. “The actual spot of [the remains] just got lost.”

Many of the eyewitnesses who saw the remains moved to their current location have passed away, and changes made to Frey Village over the years have added to the confusion of the remains’ location, said Reider.

There are still some areas that can be dug up once construction begins, he said.

“We have been pleased to work with the trust throughout this effort and hope that eventually the remains can be located, if they are still in this area,” Swanger said.

Lytle development moves forward

Preliminary plans for the first phase of a project to transform Lytle Farm in Londonderry Township into a development of more than 1,600 homes have been approved by the Londonderry Township Planning Commission, and were presented to the township supervisors July 17.

“We are moving forward with our development,” said Mark Stewart, an attorney for the developer, George Desmond.

The supervisors granted preliminary approval for the project in 2010 despite complaints from township residents who said it would affect the township’s rural character and increase traffic.

The project, which would include apartments, townhouses, businesses, recreational fields and tennis courts, is moving forward despite a legal dispute between the Middletown Borough Authority and Pennsylvania American Water Co. over who will supply water to residents.

“We are confident there will be public water,” Stewart said.

Phase I of the project, on the north side of the farm, would create 626 residential units, said Mark Allen of Alpha Consulting Engineers, an engineering firm working on the project.

Once the plan is approved, it will be divided into subphases for different types of housing, each of which will need its own final plan approved by the supervisors, Stewart said. The developer plans to build apartments first, he said, but that could change based on the housing market.

The supervisors raised several possible concerns about the plan, including the increased traffic levels on Iron Mine Road from residents entering and exiting from the development and the need for more fire hydrants than those included in the plan.

Allen, however, said a traffic study showed new traffic would still be below capacity for the road and that project engineers would work with borough staff on increasing the amount of fire hydrants.

Township Manager Steve Letavic said there are still technical issues brought up by the borough engineer that have to be addressed before the supervisors will consider approving the plan.

Middletown gets $3 million in federal flood buyout funds

Middletown has been awarded almost $3 million in state and federal grants to purchase 22 homes severely damaged in September’s flooding.

The grants are funded through the Hazardous Mitigation Grant Program, which is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.

The buyout program removes flood-prone homes from the flood plain to reduce costs of future disasters. The 22 homes will be demolished and the land preserved as open space.

“While we are saddened by the prospect of losing those members of our community who might end up relocating out of the borough, we are very happy to be able to offer relief to those residents, who lost so much in the flood,’’ said Council President Christopher McNamara.

Plans call for the borough to close on the 22 properties, part of Middletown’s Phase One application for program funding, in early fall, with demolition completed and the property re-graded soon after.

“Our goal is to get grass growing there before winter sets in to help control erosion,’’ said borough Manager Tim Konek.

Troop 97 captures Scout camp award

Boy Scout Troop 97 of Londonderry Township won the Baden Powell Honor Troop Award at Hidden Valley Scout Reservation in Perry County for exceeding expectations at the summer camp.

The troop finished second in the boat race, building a vessel out of cardboard and duct tape that could hold scouts Garrett Little and Richie Varner without sinking.

Other headlines

• It’s shuttlecocks and Ping-Pong balls when Keystone State Games and the Pennsylvania Senior Games come to town

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