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 a session where major issues of gun control, school safety and funding, climate change and medical coverage captured the headlines, the General Assembly took time to protect Maryland’s history and sacred burial sites. The effort required 2 bold sponsors, a core group of resolute advocates, 5 House and Senate committees, and hundreds of emails and phone calls to pass the first burial sites legislation since the 1990s. The signature of Governor Hogan is still required.
While half of the changes proposed by the Coalition and allies did not survive in committees, we are happy to report that starting on June 1, 2018, descendants and caretakers will gain easier access, owners will be required to consult with the Maryland Historical Trust about conservation treatment, and counties and towns are now authorized to provide a property tax credit related to burial sites.
Appreciation goes to bill sponsors Delegate Tony Knotts of Prince George’s County and Senator Joan Carter Conway of Baltimore City, to the Maryland Association of Counties, David Zinner, Funeral Consumers Alliance, The War of 1812 Society in Maryland, and to all Marylanders who urged legislators to improve state law for the benefit of abandoned and neglected cemeteries.
The precise new wording in sections of the Annotated Code of Maryland will be posted on this site as soon as those details are available.
By Christina Tkacik – The Baltimore Sun – Mar 20, 2018
Ron Castanzo pulled up to the parking lot of the strip mall in the Belair-Edison neighborhood of Northeast Baltimore in his minivan a while back.
On a grassy spot near the entrance of the Belair Edison Crossing shopping center on Belair Road, he saw the top of a white tombstone breaking through the ground, like a tooth coming in.
Castanzo, a professor at the University of Baltimore who teaches courses in anthropology and human biology, remembers thinking: “Wow, there was a cemetery here.”
Relatives of Francis Scott Key owned Belvoir plantation, where a cemetery of slaves’ graves has been found, historians say.
ANNAPOLIS, MD – From The Maryland Department of Transportation: Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) archaeologists discovered a burial ground in late January in Anne Arundel County.
Within a forest surrounded by snarled cedar stumps; field stones, perhaps marking old graves, dotted the surface on a tract of land known as Belvoir, a plantation owned by relatives of Francis Scott Key, the writer of our National Anthem from the War of 1812.
A white marble headstone was discovered. Although the name and date on this stone were eroded away by time and elements, MDOT SHA archaeologists suspect that it may have belonged to a 4-year old African-American boy, Joseph Grocia, who was buried somewhere on the property in 1913.
The cemetery find was excavated by Anne Arundel County and MDOT SHA archaeologists as part of a Transportation Enhancement Project. They did not know about the burial ground until now. The property is now owned and maintained by Rockbridge Academy in Crownsville.
Rodney Daff and James Brown Jr., who grew up on the Belvoir plantation in the 1970s, when the property was covered in strawberry fields, reached out to MDOT SHA Chief Archaeologist, Dr. Julie Schablitsky. Brown’s dad shared the history of the plantation and the “slave cemetery.”
“When we walked to the flat point of land, I became very excited about what I saw,” said Dr. Schablitsky. “I could tell right away that this was a sacred place that had been lost to time, but we needed more evidence that it was used as a burial ground.”
To help confirm the oral history of this space being used as a “slave cemetery”, MDOT SHA enlisted the help of Heather Roche, with Bay Area Recovery Canines, who visited the site in late February to help determine if human remains were buried at the site. The dogs are trained to detect the scent of human decomposition, even after 200 years in the ground. All three of the canines indicated the presence of human remains.
“The topography and location, along with the pattern of field stones and indications by Roche’s K9 team, are compelling pieces of evidence to indicate that this is, in fact, a long-forgotten cemetery related to residents of the Belvoir plantation,” said Anne Arundel County Chief of Cultural Resources Jane Cox. “The discovery offers tremendous potential to learn about an under-represented part of our county’s history.”
Further study would still be needed to determine the date of the burials and whose relatives may rest there. Despite the cautious optimism by the archaeologists, the descendants of the African American community at Belvoir are excited about the potential.
“As descendants of enslaved families who lived on Belvoir Plantation we are thrilled to have this access and knowledge of our history in Crownsville, Maryland,” said Wanda Watts. “Not many African Americans are connected to the heritage of their ancestors as we are,” said Watts.
MDOT SHA and Anne Arundel County archaeologists partnered in the discovery of historic sites along General’s Highway, where Civil War sites, homes, and Native American camps lay buried. Along this corridor, Rochambeau’s troop of 5,000 soldiers camped at Belvoir on their way to the Battle of Yorktown, which effectively ended the American Revolutionary War. Additionally, Francis Scott Key spent time at the plantation with his grandmother, Anne Arnold Ross Key. The archaeological findings will help interpret the use and evolution of this transportation corridor. The team began work at Belvoir in April 2014 and are currently writing up their finds. The African American community, county, and state have come together to recognize the lives of the enslaved people who lived and worked at Belvoir.
Source: Annapolis Patch
House Bill 877 received a unanimous vote in the Health & Government Operations Committee (HGO) on Saturday afternoon. Although there was no public opposition, certain sections of the bill were removed. The bill will be voted on by the full House of Delegates on Monday. (You can watch the replay of the February 28 hearing here which starts at the 0:54 minute mark)
Senator Joan Carter Conway of Baltimore City filed Senate Bill 1242, which is identical to HB 877 as amended. It will be heard by the Finance Committee on Thursday, March 22, at 1 pm in Annapolis.
Your help is needed now and through the first week of April, after which the General Assembly adjourns.
An outpouring of grass roots support is alerting our legislators about the need to protect Maryland cemeteries and to encourage their caregivers and advocates. Please phone your senators in the Finance committee with brief messages about why you care and ask them to vote positively on these bills …in committee, in the full Senate, and in this session.
This legislation is the most comprehensive burial sites protection to be proposed in Maryland since the early 1990s. Read the summary of these bills here. They will correct several unfortunate existing circumstances and provide a better future for many needy burial sites in Maryland. Let’s take make progress this year!
Contact CPMBS president Eileen McGuckian (301-468-7331, email@example.com) if you have questions and to say what you are willing to do at home and in Annapolis between now and April 9.
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.
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.
Meetings are open to all members.
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.