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Promoting the preservation and protection of the burial sites, cemeteries, and grave yards in Maryland

Promoting the preservation and protection of the burial sites, cemeteries, and grave yards in Maryland.

Get Involved

Membership in the Coalition is open to all individuals, families, students, and organizations interested in the protection of burial sites in the state of Maryland.

BECOME A MEMBER!

File a Complaint

The Office of Cemetery Oversight assists consumers with complaints against cemeteries, crematories, monument dealers and providers of burial goods and services. A written complaint, stating the facts upon which the complaint is based, should be addressed to the Office of Cemetery Oversight at 500 N. Calvert Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21202.

SUBMIT COMPLAINT

Cemetery Legislation

CURRENT LEGISLATION BILLS

The Maryland Cemetery Conference and 32nd Annual Meeting of the Coalition to Protect Maryland Burial Sites held on May 4, 2024 at historic State Theater in beautiful Havre de Grace was a terrific opportunity for excellent presentations and lots of networking.  See presentations here

The Coalition to Protect Maryland Burial Sites (CPMBS) is a state-wide nonprofit organization of volunteers dedicated to protecting and preserving historic Maryland cemeteries that 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 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 to incorporate a group in 1992 that would address concerns not covered by existing laws and organizations. Our members appreciate the importance of burial sites as hallowed grounds, irreplaceable cultural resources, and sources of valuable genealogical data often found nowhere else. Membership in the Coalition is open to Marylanders and others who care about their heritage and their ancestors. Learn more by reading About Us.

The Coalition is grateful for financial assistance from Preservation Maryland and the Maryland Historical Trust to enable this website.

Burial Sites Legislation at the Maryland General Assembly

Although several cemetery-related bills were filed in the 2024 Maryland General Assembly session, only a few made it farther than an initial hearing at House or Senate Committees. A committee of advocates has begun to consider 2025 legislation, including specific bills, possible sponsors, and best strategies. If you are interested in working on this effort, please contact us here. https://cpmbs.org/contact/. Here is a summary of four of those bills.

Cemeteries – Burial Transit Permits – Required Information (SB224/CH106)
PASSED with Governor’s Signature, effective October 1, 2024

  • Requiring a person in charge of a cemetery to write on a burial-transit permit the date of final disposition, the name and physical address of the cemetery, the burial, inurnment or scattering section and the lot and space number, or if the body or fetus was cremated and a certain authorizing agent takes control of the cremains, the name and address of the authorizing agent and the authorizing agent’s relationship to the deceased or fetus.

Human Remains – Alkaline Hydrolysis and Natural Organic Reduction (Green Death Care Options Act) (HB1168)
PASSED with Governor’s Signature, effective October 1, 2024

  • Establishing a regulatory system for reduction operators and reduction facilities; establishing requirements and prohibitions related to the performance of alkaline hydrolysis and natural organic reduction and the disposition of hydrolyzed or soil remains by certain facilities; requiring the Director of the Office of Cemetery Oversight and the Director of the State Board of Morticians and Funeral Directors to adopt regulations governing the performance of natural organic reduction; etc.

Criminal Law – Destroying Funerary Objects and Cemetery Elements – Statute of Limitations and Prohibition (HN593)
NOT PASSED

  • Extending for 1 year to 3 years the statute of limitations for prosecutions relating to destroying funerary objects and other elements of a cemetery to begin at the time local authorities knew or reasonably should have known of the violation; and prohibiting a person from willfully destroying, damaging, defacing, or removing a funerary object or another structure in a cemetery or landscaping or part of the grounds of a cemetery.

Abandoned Cemeteries Fund – Establishment and Income Tax Checkoff (Cross-files with HB0828) 

  • Establishing the Abandoned Cemeteries Fund to provide for the care, preservation, maintenance, and restoration of abandoned cemeteries in the State; establishing a certain income tax checkoff for voluntary contributions to the Abandoned Cemeteries Fund; and requiring the Comptroller to include a checkoff on individual income tax return forms for voluntary contributions to the Fund and to include certain information in each individual income tax return package.

Burial Sites of Enslaved Persons – Protection and Access (Emancipation for the Maryland Deceased Enslaved Act) (SB105)

  • Requiring an owner of land that encompasses any part of a former plantation to identify and allow visitation to certain burial sites of enslaved persons, under certain circumstances; prohibiting construction of any structure on certain burial sites; establishing the Office of Burial Sites of the Maryland Enslaved; and requiring, beginning in fiscal year 2026, the Governor to include in the annual budget bill an appropriation of $2,500,000 for the Office.
News

After 60 years, gravestones return to a reborn island

By Jeremy Cox, Bay Journal, 8 July 2024

Sometimes, a final resting place is far from final.

When the Howarth family interred their loved ones in Poplar Island’s soil in the late 1800s, they probably had no idea that the ground, along with everything on it and in it, would disappear in a matter of decades.

A mixture of forces — sinking land, rising seas and erosion — chewed away at the Chesapeake Bay island just off Maryland’s Eastern Shore. By the 1920s, the last of the original 100 residents had been forced to flee. By the early 1990s, nothing of Poplar remained above water but a few small scrapes of marshland.

Water has claimed countless cemeteries and individual graves around the Chesapeake. As climate change accelerates the pace of sea level rise, much more hallowed ground is at risk of vanishing.

But the descendants of those buried at Poplar fought for a different outcome. More than 60 years ago, an aging family member led a mission that rescued the remaining five headstones from a watery grave. Then, fate intervened. A history-making project to rebuild Poplar Island gave them the opportunity to bring those stones back to where they had once stood.

At the center of this story are an aging father, Louis Howeth, and his son, Lee. (The family surname morphed its spelling after they left Poplar.) Lee, an IT specialist at the Shore’s Salisbury University, has raced against time over the past few years to fulfill his father’s dream while he was still alive to see it.

The Bay Journal reported this story over 15 months. What follows is the account of an unlikely reunion told by those who made it happen. Go to the online article.

Read more...

A landmark study opens a new possible way for Black Americans to trace their ancestry

(Attendees at the May 4th CPMBS Conference were treated to presentations by Dr. Doug Owsley and Elizabeth Comer on this ground-breaking study and project.)

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Uncovering history: Montgomery Co. students help preserve site of Black cemetery

A teacher’s curiosity about the lives of formerly enslaved people in Montgomery County, Maryland, took her on a journey that would land her — and dozens of Wheaton High School students — in a heavily wooded area, searching for a historic burial ground.

The site is listed in official records as the “Avery Road Colored Cemetery.”

Wheaton High School teacher Lauren Zolkiewicz told WTOP, she had been researching the history of formerly enslaved Black people and several burial sites in Montgomery County, “when I found, just down the road from my house, this place called Avery Road Colored Cemetery which just so happened to pop up on Google maps.”

Zolkiewicz got in touch with county planning officials and eventually connected with Katie Gerbes, the comprehensive planning manager with the City of Rockville.

Gerbes explained, “We have some historical research which talks about a gentleman named Benjamin Franklin Smith,” who had been born into slavery and after Emancipation in 1884, bought an acre of land on Glen View Farm.

Read more...

Community comes together to support Potomac woman trying to restore historic Black cemetery forgotten by government

The Montgomery County government had no idea the cemetery was there when it auctioned the land in 1975 for $162 over delinquent taxes.

POTOMAC, Md. — Piece by piece Cherisse Crawford is repairing the past, by uncovering what had been lost for decades.

Union Wesley Methodist Church cemetery in Potomac is filled with an estimated 100 graves of former enslaved people and freed Blacks who were members of the historic church.

“My great, great, great grandfather was the very first person buried at this cemetery,” Crawford told a WUSA9 reporter as she picked up trash at 150-year-old cemetery. “It’s been a long, long journey; a 15-month journey after contacting you.”

Read more...

Community members upset over lack of upkeep at Mount Zion Cemetery

The neglected cemetery is having an emotional burden on people in the community.
It’s a loved one’s final resting place. A place where you can visit and pray or reflect on memories. A place to find peace. But there’s no peace at Mount Zion Cemetery in Lansdowne.

By: Xavier Wherry
WMAR TV,  May 09, 2024

LANSDOWNE, Md. — It’s a loved one’s final resting place. A place where you can visit and pray or reflect on memories. A place to find peace. But there’s no peace at Mount Zion Cemetery in Lansdowne. Instead, it’s disappointment and frustration.

The neglected cemetery is having an emotional burden on people in the community. The grass is knee-high. Gravesites covered with tree branches, littered with trash, and some tombstones toppled over.

“When you come out and it looks like this, it’s very heartbreaking,” says Catherine Simmons, who was out visiting some of her deceased family members.

She says the lack of upkeep over the past few years is distasteful.

“At the time of burial, we paid money, and [in] some cases a lot of money, for a plot here for a gravesite. So yes, it’s very disrespectful to the dead and to the family members that are still living,” says Simmons.
She’s not alone.

Read more...

Your assistance is needed!

St. Anne’s Cemetery committee in Annapolis, MD needs you. They are looking to do the first major update in years for both St. Anne’s Cemetery and St. Anne’s Cedar Bluff Cemetery.

If you have information about individuals buried in either cemetery (name, death date or place, plot information, cemetery deed, burial plot receipt, funeral home, or obit), they are interested in hearing from you.

Contact St. Anne’s Parish, 199 Duke of Gloucester St., Annapolis, MD  21401, email them at info@stannes-annapolis.org or call 410-267-9333. They can also be reaching on Facebook.

Read more...

Their journey to unearth a cemetery for enslaved people led to communitywide interest

February 9, 2024 | NPR.org

CHEVY CHASE, Md. — Rachel Perić was pushing her stroller through her neighborhood in the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic when she noticed an older home with a log cabin on the property — something she hadn’t noticed before. She went home and logged in to the Chevy Chase Historical Society’s website looking for information.

Perić learned that in the 1800s, Chevy Chase consisted of farms and slaveholding plantations. “That was a huge surprise to me,” Perić says. “It wasn’t the history that I had grown up with. So I kept digging.”

Chevy Chase is made up of about a dozen subdivisions, including Rollingwood, where Perić lives — an affluent, quiet, leafy suburb of Washington, D.C.

On the historical society’s website, Perić came across a 1997 report written by the Montgomery County Historic Preservation Commission. She says, “There was this reference to a burial ground where people who had been enslaved on these farms were buried. And I said, ‘What is this?'”

She recalls vivid memories of long nights when she would be “sitting hunched over my phone, waiting for my children to fall asleep at night, poring through these historical society records.”

Nationwide historically, Black burial sites have been erased, built over or neglected and their history wiped out. But now, people are taking agency, looking for clues in their communities to piece together lost history.

Read more...

Maryland Historical Trust 2024 African American Heritage Preservation Program Cemetery Awardees

Brewer Hill Cemetery – Annapolis ($250,000) | Sponsor: Brewer Hill Cemetery Association, Inc.

Brewer Hill Cemetery is the oldest Black graveyard in the City of Annapolis. Judge Nichols Brewer originally owned the cemetery and used it to bury those he enslaved, his servants, and other employees of the Black community. Among the interred are people with significant stories, such as Mary Naylor, who maintained her innocence until her hanging in 1861 for allegedly poisoning her master. Funding will support overall cemetery conservation efforts including fence repairs and masonry repairs.

Mt. Calvary United Methodist Church – Meeting Hall and Cemetery – Anne Arundel County ($186,000) | Sponsor: Mt. Calvary Community Engagement Incorporated

With grant funds supporting both cemetery and building preservation efforts, Mt. Calvary United Methodist Church will establish a heritage center in its Meeting Hall to share the histories of the local African American community in Arnold. The Hall served as the original Meeting House for the African American community between 1832-1842. By preserving the cemetery, where Civil Rights activists and veterans are buried, the church can provide further educational opportunities in addition to programs in the Meeting Hall. Funding will support ground penetrating radar, site work, and foundation and masonry repairs.

Bushy Park Community Cemetery – Howard County ($63,500) | Sponsor: Bushy Park Community Cemetery, Inc.

Bushy Park Community Cemetery was historically part of farmland worked by the enslaved populations of Howard County. The cemetery is the burial location of many enslaved and freed individuals, United States Colored Troops soldiers, and Civil Rights leaders. The cemetery’s restoration, supported by grant funds, will allow for educational opportunities centered on those interred there. Funding will support cemetery conservation efforts, ground penetrating radar, and vegetation removal.

Bryan’s Chapel and Cemetery – Queen Anne’s County ($250,000) | Sponsor: Bryan’s United Methodist Church, Inc.

Bryan’s Chapel was founded in the 1800s and is the second oldest African American Methodist Episcopal Church in the United Methodist Peninsula-Delaware Conference. The Bryan’s Church congregation helped establish a school, a beneficial society, and the county’s NAACP Chapter. Shortly after the Civil War, the congregation helped establish an African American school in 1866 that a Rosenwald school later replaced. Funding will support ground penetrating radar, headstone conservation, and foundation and masonry repairs of the Chapel.

Ridgley Methodist Church and Cemetery – Prince George’s County ($111,000) | Sponsor: Mildred Ridgley Gray Charitable Trust, Inc.

Ridgely Methodist Church is one of only two buildings that remain in the small rural African American community of Ridgely, founded by freedmen around 1871. Historically, the church also functioned as a school for the local Black children. By undergoing rehabilitation efforts, the church hopes to increase the awareness of African American history through special programs, lectures, and tours. Funding will support cemetery conservation efforts, ground penetrating radar, and a fence installation.

See the entire list of 2024 awardees here.

Read more...
Events

Meetings are open to all members.

Grants

Applications for Trader Foundation Grants are due on July 1, 2024

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.

Apply now...
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