Promoting the preservation and protection of the burial sites, cemeteries, and grave yards in Maryland.
Over time, however, burial sites in Maryland have too often been neglected, not maintained, unprotected, and the victims of expediency and exploitation by persons seeking a short-term economic or personal goal. The Coalition to Protect Maryland Burial Sites (CPMBS) believes that neglect or the willful desecration or destruction of burial sites is unacceptable in a civilized society. Our members appreciate the importance of burial sites as hallowed grounds, irreplaceable cultural resources, and sources of valuable genealogical data often found nowhere else.
CPMBS is a State-wide nonprofit organization of volunteers dedicated to protecting and preserving historic Maryland cemeteries. Membership in the Coalition is open to Marylanders and others who care about their heritage and their ancestors. The Coalition recognizes that many burial sites are established through a purchased right of burial that is protected by the laws of Maryland, with such right passing on to the relatives of the deceased, and which right cannot lawfully be abridged by others at will. These beliefs led individuals in the summer of 1991 to form a group that would address concerns not covered by existing laws and organizations. Learn more by reading About Us.
In 2004, the Department of Veteran Affairs National Cemetery Administration turned to NCPTT when it wanted advice on chemical cleaners for their marble headstones. This began and partnership and extensive research on the subject of commercially available cleaners for removing biological growth and general soiling from marble headstones.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has awarded half a million dollars in funding to fix the stormwater runoff problem at an historic Annapolis church cemetery. Asbury Broadneck United Methodist Church is home to a historic cemetery where members of the African American community have been buried for over 150 years, including former slaves and Harriet Tubman’s descendants. The church, located near Whitehall Creek in Annapolis, floods during significant rain events.
About 20 years ago, Maureen and Bill Norton were looking at oysters in a tidal creek off of the Potomac River in southern St. Mary’s County. Maureen started walking through the nearby woods and came across an iron fence surrounding a small plot of headstones among the ivy and the trees.
In the ensuing years, the vegetation has continued to grow over the cemetery, some headstones have fallen over as well as part of the fence. The ornate gate of the iron fence has gone missing.
Called the Hencoop cemetery, there are five generations of three families buried there. The land became part of Point Lookout State Park when the Maryland Department of Natural Resources bought 444 acres around Cornfield Harbor Road in 1992.
The 26th Annual Meeting of the Coalition was held on April 29, 2017 at the Parish Hall of St. James Episcopal Church, in Lothian, southern Anne Arundel County, Maryland. St. James is one of the original colonial parishes, with the present church dating to 1765 and the cemetery containing the oldest dated gravestones in Maryland.
Sixty members and guests heard bad and good news about the state of cemetery protection and preservation in Maryland. Hundreds of Maryland cemeteries – in every county — remain neglected, vandalized, abandoned, and forgotten. However, interest in historic cemeteries is growing, through the attraction of genealogy and in burial grounds as historic places, with increased public awareness and partnerships, and more tools and strategies available to assist those who care. President McGuckian described activities of the Coalition over the past year and presided over the business meeting, which heard committee reports, re-elected half of the current officers and directors, chose Glenn Wallace as the new Vice President and thanked John Higgins for his service, and adopted a minor change to the by-laws.
Two presentations were enthusiastically received: Dennis Montagna, director of the Monument Research & Preservation Program for the National Park Service, introduced institutional burial grounds in locations around the United States. He was joined by Tina Simmons, cemetery inscription chair for the Anne Arundel Genealogical Society, who then related the subject matter to Maryland. Monument conservator Robert Mosko talked about what is happening now in cemetery conservation. He described factors involved in conducting a cemetery assessment and noted the latest technology in conservation and burial identification. He estimated that 30 to 60 percent of needed conservation work in any given situation can be performed by volunteers. Dr. Montagna showed a video of how his office assisted the recently vandalized cemetery at Mount Carmel in Philadelphia, and all speakers responded to questions about documentation, cleaning markers, and other problems and solutions.
The conference featured the 2017 Periwinkle Award to James Hinds for reviving a neglected African American cemetery in Anne Arundel County, a book-signing by the author of “A Pigeon Named Pete,” and a lively Open Forum and Group Discussion that generated concerns, accomplishments, suggestions, offers of assistance, and networking. The supervisor of St. James Parish Cemetery conducted a tour of the colonial church and cemetery, allowing attendees to learn about their history and to talk about conservation and administration issues. The day, including proceeds from a Silent Auction and Raven’s Roost gift shop, was deemed a success. Attendees left with evaluation forms to complete, “I Break for Old Graveyards” bumper stickers, and smiles on their faces.
PreserveCast podcast episode is now available online!
When you picture a historic cemetery, you probably imagine a place that’s calm and serene. When you picture cemetery preservation, the fact is that the work done by folks like our guest this week Eileen McGuckian, of the Coalition to Protect Maryland Burial Sites, requires a lively energy and lots of grassroots enthusiasm. Eileen McGuckian is here to fill us in on the ins-and-outs of cemetery preservation in general. This week we’re spreading the preservation love as we welcome guest host Meagan Baco.
On October 13, 2016, Preservation Maryland’s new class of Six-to-Fix projects was revealed to a packed room at the Maryland Zoo’s historic Mansion House in Baltimore. This innovative impact-focused program is designed to help provide real solutions to big preservation challenges. The prestigious statewide organization selected Historic Maryland Cemeteries as one of six strategic projects for 2016-2017. CPMBS views this partnership with PM as a unique opportunity for owners, caretakers, and advocates of historic Maryland cemeteries to take giant steps forward.
Across the state, some of Maryland’s most sacred sites are endangered by environmental factors, lack of clear ownership, and development pressures.
Working closely with the Coalition to Protect Maryland Burial Sites, Preservation Maryland will help call attention to the many cemeteries that are in disrepair, organizing volunteer clean-up days while also providing pro-active information to the greater community about historic cemetery maintenance, repair, and protection.
CPMBS launched this fresh and improved website in 2016. Our goal is to provide access to helpful information and the inspiration to document, rescue, reinvigorate, interpret, restore, and enjoy the burial sites in their jurisdictions and beyond. A 2016 Heritage Fund grant from Preservation Maryland and the Maryland Historical Trust matched Coalition funds to re-design and update the old website.
The Coalition’s Board of Directors invite you to submit content for the County pages, notices of Maryland cemetery-related events, your suggestions and questions, and photos with captions of your activities. Send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Trader Foundation for Maryland Burial Sites provides financial assistance for worthy projects to rejuvenate endangered historic Maryland cemeteries. The Foundation invites applications for grants up to $2,000 to qualified parties. Application deadlines are January 1 and July 1 of each year.
The project or program must benefit a specific burial ground in Maryland, and Trader funds must be matched by the grantee in cash or in kind. Examples of eligible projects include rescue of an endangered site, gravestone conservation or restoration, documentation, protection of burial site from desecration by nature or by man, cemetery clean-up, and planning for restoration. For further information and the application form, click here.
Meetings are always from 1:15–3:15 p.m. and are open to all members.