Promoting the preservation and protection of the burial sites, cemeteries, and grave yards in Maryland.
BARBARA ELLEN BECKER SIEG 1936-2019
The Coalition to Protect Maryland Burial Sites mourns the passing of our founder, Barbara Sieg, on October 24, 2019. Early to recognize what she described as the Plight of Historic Burial Sites, Barbara tirelessly worked for more than a quarter-century to protect these endangered and often overlooked historic resources. Determined to right a significant wrong, she became the Mother of cemetery protection in Maryland.
In the 1980s, as president of St. John’s Community Association in Ellicott City, Barbara learned that Whipps Cemetery, on St. John’s Lane in Howard County, was about to be lost… through indifference, lack of protection, and bulldozers. She galvanized members of the Whipps family and neighborhood volunteers to clean up the site and call attention to what she described as a moral obligation to honor the resting places of those who came before us.
This experience encouraged Barbara to make contact with other cemetery advocates, initially Ed Taylor in Cumberland and later Jim Trader in Salisbury. Meetings led to formation of the Coalition to Protect Maryland Burial Sites in 1991 and to begin telling the Whipps story to state legislators. Initial successes were stronger Maryland laws protecting the rights of descendants and banning desecration of burial sites. She was also instrumental in convincing Howard County officials to create the first inventory of county cemeteries in the state.
As president of the Coalition, Barbara organized workshops, celebrated Family Remembrance Week, recognized advocates with Periwinkle Awards, and recruited volunteers in other jurisdictions to form partnerships with all age groups. A Master Gardener, she brought in experts and willing volunteers to make Whipps Garden Cemetery a showcase of preservation and a center of learning. Her training in Journalism helped her to write testimony, suggest ideas for new burial sites legislation, and articulate the passion that she held for her mission.
Barbara’s decades of work and solid successes earned her admirers, friends, colleagues, and awards. Her legacy at Whipps Cemetery includes log-lined pathways and plantings of shrubs, trees and flowers, a woodland theater, a preserve for native plants, a place to appreciate history, and a site for community service work and education. Ferociously protective of all burial sites, in later years Barbara continued to write letters, dispense advice, and work on a book to chronicle her life’s work.
Barbara Sieg’s legacy includes the Coalition Guide to Burial Site Stewardship and the Trader Foundation for Maryland Burial Sites. Her passion, wisdom, leadership, and tenacity will be missed.
In the early very hot summer of 1991 I received a call from Western Maryland historian Al Feldstein informing me of a lady from Howard County working to protect Maryland burial sites. I made a call to this great lady, and she invited members of the Cumberland Historic Cemetery Organization to attend the first of several meetings near Ellicott City at the Miller Library. Before the end of summer Barbara Sieg had founded the Coalition to Protect Maryland Burial Sites.
After one of the meetings that summer she gave our CHCO members a tour of her wonderful Whipps Cemetery. This historic site is well known to many Coalition members. Without Barbara, this cemetery would have been lost. I have been president of the Cumberland Historic Cemetery Organization since 1983. Out of all the people I have ever known, I believe Barbara Sieg has done more to save Maryland cemeteries than any other person in state history. We will miss her so very much.
Several years ago Barbara and her husband John purchased one of our designed and protected grave monuments from the CHCO. The monument and her grave are located at St. Johns Cemetery near Ellicott City. After several attempts I was able to convince Barbara to please allow us to engrave on the monument a simple line about her founding the Coalition. She was a very humble Soul. What an honor it is for the CHCO to have one of our monuments on the grave of such a great lady, Marylander, and founder of our great Coalition to Protect Maryland Burial Sites. We miss you and love you Barbara, and thank you for everything. May God bless her Soul.
Edward W. Taylor Jr. President
Cumberland Historic Cemetery Organization Inc.
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.
Anyone arriving late to Preservation Howard County’s annual celebration would have heard Fred Dorsey praising the many community activists honored by the nonprofit over the years.
What they would have missed in the longtime president’s speech on Sept. 15 at Waverly Mansion was that he had just been surprised with a lifetime achievement award recognizing his role in preserving Howard County’s history and heritage to boisterous applause and a standing ovation.
Organizers had resorted to secrecy because they were convinced Dorsey, 82, would wriggle his way out of accepting the award otherwise, humbly deflecting credit to those he deemed more deserving.
In impromptu remarks after receiving the award, Dorsey stressed that if he weren’t “able to stand on the shoulders of the 18 years of preservationists we’ve awarded, I wouldn’t be here accepting everyone’s gratitude.”
“To the board of directors, it’s a time that’s been the joy of my life,” he said.
The framed certificate was bestowed by state Sen. Clarence Lam on behalf of the Howard County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly.
In another surprise, Dorsey’s son-in-law, Jeff Bronow, chief of the research division of the county’s Department of Planning and Zoning, presented him with a proclamation from County Executive Calvin Ball designating Sept. 15, 2019, as Fred Dorsey Day.
Preservation Howard County board member Barbara Kellner also gave Dorsey an award on behalf of the nonprofit’s board of directors.
Preservation Howard County is known for its annual list of endangered historic sites and corresponding recommendations for their restoration and potential adaptive uses.
This year’s list of eight sites includes Mt. Ida, Mt. Zion United Methodist Church, Simpsonville Mill Race, Thomas Viaduct, Troy Hill, Columbia Exhibit Center, Columbia South Entrance Bridge and Ellicott City Jail.
Dorsey told the crowd he didn’t want his recognition to overshadow that of 2019 Preservationist of the Year winners John Slater, John Byrd and Ian Kennedy, whom they’d gathered to honor.
Slater was given the Sen. James Clark Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award for his work on getting the Patapsco Valley Heritage Area designation and preserving the Thomas Viaduct in Elkridge; Byrd, who retired in June as director of the county’s Department of Recreation and Parks, was honored for stewardship of the county’s historic buildings; and Kennedy, executive director of the Downtown Columbia Art and Culture Commission, was honored for grassroots leadership resulting in the redevelopment of Merriweather Post Pavilion.
Preservation Howard County was founded in 2000 by Dorsey and Mary Catherine Cochran, the nonprofit’s president emeritus, and Preservationist of the Year awards were first handed out in 2002.
In her remarks at the afternoon event in Marriottsville, Cochran compared Dorsey’s work ethic to that of “a steady, steely-eyed cowboy . . . the kind that would hate this moment” because of its focus on him.
Dorsey, president of the preservation group since 2011, compiles the annual lists of endangered sites and reviews nominations for preservationist awards, which are “the two bookends of the organization and its biggest initiatives,” Cochran said after the event.
“Fred knows that by recognizing others, he’s elevating everyone’s work on historic preservation,” she said.
Martha Clark, owner of Clark’s Elioak Farm in Ellicott City and a board member since the nonprofit’s inception, described Preservation Howard County as “a small but mighty group.”
“Fred does 90% of the work and the rest of us help and encourage him,” she said. “He’s the Energizer Bunny and he responds to any request that comes in, whether someone wants information on a historic house, help in tracing blood lines or to report discovery of a gravestone behind their house.”
Other organizations in which Dorsey actively participates include the Howard County Genealogical Society, the Cemetery Preservation Advisory Board, Coalition to Protect Maryland Burial Sites, Historic Preservation Advocates, Harriet Tubman Community and Cultural Center Council, and the Belmont Manor Citizens Advisory Committee. He also gives historical tours, talks and multimedia presentations.
Bessie Bordenave, president of the Harriet Tubman Foundation of Howard County, wanted to give Dorsey an award last year for his efforts to transform the former all-black Harriet Tubman High School in Columbia into a cultural and educational center, but Dorsey didn’t believe he was deserving of the accolade and declined.
“Fred is a wonderful, knowledgeable and caring person,” Bordenave said. “Whenever we held hearings, we could always count on Fred to testify on our behalf. He’s not going to take you halfway down the road; he’s going to get you to your destination. He’s one of a kind.”
Beth Burgess, chief of the resource planning division of the county’s planning and zoning department, has worked closely with Dorsey since starting her job in 2012.
“Fred is this amazing worker bee who’s always reaching out and always showing up,” she said.
For instance, Dorsey compiled binders of information on preservation issues for the new county executive and the new Howard County Council that took office in 2018.
“Fred quotes in his binder that more than 221 buildings have been demolished in Howard County between 2008 and 2017, of which 129 were historic structures,” Burgess said. “He sees the practical nature of retaining historic buildings, knowing there can always be adaptive reuse, and he advocates directly with the building owners.”
Nicholas Redding, executive director of Preservation Maryland since 2014, said he got to know Dorsey in 2016 after the first of two catastrophic and deadly floods hit historic Main Street within two years.
“Fred is steadfast, extremely humble . . . and a man of uncommon character in an increasingly self-aggrandizing world. We could use more Fred Dorseys,” he said.
Kay Dorsey, Dorsey’s wife of 58 years, said she believes the magnitude of the appreciation shown to her husband hadn’t completely sunk in for him.
“I had been nervous about keeping this a secret,” she said. “It was fun to see everyone, and that instantaneous standing ovation for Fred with all the whooping and clapping was pretty overwhelming.”
The day after the celebration, Dorsey gave credit to the late Joetta Cramm, a local author whom he calls “the county’s unofficial historian,” for sparking his interest in historic preservation.
“We worked together for 13 years and we shared a great bond,” he said.
Dorsey listed Preservation Howard County’s current priorities: Expansion of oversight of the county’s Historic Preservation Commission; planning for Lawyers Hill, a historic property he said is suffering from “demolition by neglect”; an update of regulations and closing of loopholes for development proposals that affect any of the county’s 72 scenic roads; and restoration and adaptive use of the former Ellicott City Jail.
Preservation Howard County is also advocating for the future of three historic homes, Dorsey said.
They are: Athol, built in 1730 and situated on Martin Road; the Pue-Fulton House, built in 1865 off Old Columbia Pike in Dorsey’s Ridge and added onto in 1905; and Wildwood, built in the mid-1700s and located across from the Kings Contrivance Village Center.
“We’re interested in who the next owners will be and what will happen with these properties,” he said.
As for Dorsey continuing on as Preservation Howard County president, that appears to be a given.
“I’ve always just agreed to stay on another year,” he said.
We need your help documenting the current condition of cemeteries in Anne Arundel County. Anne Arundel has the largest number of known cemeteries in Maryland as well as the oldest known tombstones.
Up until the 20th century, it was common to establish a small family cemetery on private land. Unfortunately, unchecked development and vandalism has destroyed above ground traces of these important cultural resources. Small family cemeteries hold an important place in the fabric of our communities, and the names found on the headstones are often found as the names to nearby roads or geographic features. These cemeteries represent the resting place of those who made Anne Arundel County the place it is today. In order to preserve these cues to the past, and respect the last resting place of our ancestors, County regulations do not allow cemeteries to be moved from their original location. To find out more and to sign up, visit www.aacounty.org/cemeteries. [Download the flyer and share with your community]
Coalition member, Dennis Green, lends a hand and gets some hands-on experience extracting corroded pins from unstable gravestones!
This is one of the reasons that the Coalition does not encourage ‘quick fix’ techniques, methods, and materials for gravestone repair. This synthetic adhesive/epoxy, (Akeme) was applied 15 years ago according to oral reports. It had failed within the past five years and placed upon the base with the bottom fragment. Failure was contributed by water retention and UV intolerance and instability. Note the bright white areas of the marble stone which are soft and sugaring as a result of water and salts being trapped and moisture being retained. When synthetic adhesive materials fail, that take part of the masonry substrate with it and enhance as well as cause further damage which contradicts “Do no harm”. They also do not last as long, on average 20 years, but some are seeing less than 15 like this repair. Good intentions, but very costly not only in regards the fiscal cost to repair the stone again, but to the loss of some of the masonry substrate which could have been prevented. The Coalition advocates the consultation of actual, qualified, professionals and does not charge a fee to anyone that approaches the organization for guidance, assistance and support. All are welcome to attend our board meetings as well as correspond with any of our members both on and off the board. To avoid good-intentioned mistakes like this one, request a copy of the Coalitions Cemetery Stewardship Guide, it will explain in more detail the does and don’ts cemetery care and gravestone repair or simply post or submit and inquiry. There is no such a thing as a dumb and or stupid question. The Coalition to Protect Maryland Sites is here to support, advocate, educate, and help rehabilitate anything and everything that pertains to Maryland Cemeteries.
By ALISON KNEZEVICH and PAMELA WOOD
THE BALTIMORE SUN | MAR 25, 2019
A state senator said he would withdraw an obscure bill that sought to undo a 2013 Maryland Court of Appeals decision blocking development at a Pikesville cemetery.
Residents who years ago went to court to stop a housing proposal at Druid Ridge Cemetery had cried foul over the legislation, which was introduced late in the General Assembly session by a state senator from Montgomery County.
Community members questioned why Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher, a Democrat who represents the Washington suburbs, would sponsor a bill affecting a piece of property in Baltimore County. They said the legislation re-opened a dispute they thought long settled.
David B. Shapiro, a former state delegate and now president of the Dumbarton Improvement Association, which represents a neighborhood near the cemetery, called the legislation “a last-minute bill that was slipped in.”
WBAL-TV 11 – Jennifer Franciotti, News Anchor, Reporter
CARROLL COUNTY, Md. —
In Carroll County, there’s a cemetery that people drive by every day and may not know its historic significance.
Ellsworth Cemetery was created in the 1800s, out of a need to serve the black community.
“We might not always be proud of our past, but we must remember it and honor what we have here,” said Audrey Cimino, executive director of the Community Foundation of Carroll County.
Along Route 140, next to WaWa in Westminster, is a piece of history that’s little known, even to those who have relatives buried here.
“I’ve been all up and down the streets and i didn’t even know that cemetery existed,” said Gen. Linda Singh.
David Anderson, FORBES Contributor
When new construction projects break ground across the United States, they regularly encounter archaeological materials. Those materials can represent the last surviving trace of the lives lived by the people who made them; and all too often, those materials turn out to be from cemeteries and burial grounds used by segregated and enslaved African American communities. These cemeteries typically went undocumented on local and state government maps and graves were often only marked ephemerally, thus making these spaces all but invisible in the present day.
In just the past year, construction projects and archaeological surveys have encountered numerous examples of undocumented African American burial grounds across the country. Archaeological testing encountered the remains of a 19th century African American burial ground in Philadelphia; construction crews in Fort Bend County, Texas, discovered nearly 100 unmarked graves of African American prison inmates believed to have been forced to work in sugar fields long after emancipation was declared; and, archaeologists working for the Maryland Department of Transportation uncovered a previously unknown slave cemetery in Crownsville, Maryland.
These are just a handful of examples of the many times in which the lives and eternal resting places of African Americans were “lost” to written history. The stories of their lives, however, have not been lost for good. With dedicated effort, archaeological and archival research can help to reclaim the past and fill in the gaps left in our history books.
County Planning Board to review new guidelines to preserve burial grounds
By Caitlynn Peetz | Bethesda Magazine | Published February 13, 2019
A first-of-its-kind search for Montgomery County cemeteries uncovered more than 50 previously undocumented burial grounds, and county planners have new guidelines to preserve them.
The draft guidelines, set for review by the county Planning Board next week, outline requirements for retaining existing cemeteries in their original location unless approved for relocation by the Planning Board.
The guidelines come after a 15-year volunteer effort to identify burial sites.
“Cemeteries are significant and important cultural resources in Montgomery County,” the report says. “Preservation of these unique archaeological resources will further protect the cultural heritage of Montgomery County.”
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.