Promoting the preservation and protection of the burial sites, cemeteries, and grave yards in Maryland.
HOUSE BILL 1099 — HISTORIC AFRICAN AMERICAN CEMETERIES PRESERVATION STUDY AND FUND (UPDATED 5/16/21)
House Bill 1099 was filed in the 2021 session of the Maryland General Assembly by Delegate Al Carr of Montgomery County. Building on the prior efforts of Delegate Pam Queen, the bill was intended to assist Marylanders who are concerned about African American burial sites in their communities.
HB 1099 directed two actions:
- To study issues facing historic Black cemeteries, including conditions and needs, how other jurisdictions are protecting and managing these fragile historic resources, and how any proposed initiative would be funded. This study would be conducted in one year by appropriate organizations, some named and others generally described.
- To create a fund that will provide grants to qualified applicants. Individuals and organizations would be eligible to apply to “identify, preserve, restore, protect, maintain, or commemorate graves, monuments, or markers at historic African American cemeteries.”
As with most everything in life and law, the “devil is in the details.” The bill started the General Assembly process with a hearing before the House Appropriations Committee on February 24. It was conducted virtually via Zoom. Sign-ups to submit brief written or two minutes of oral testimony were required in advance; everyone could watch via the General Assembly link. Following an introduction by Del. Carr, witnesses testifying in favor of this legislation were Elly Cowan of Preservation Maryland (who covered policy, importance of the study, how proposal differed from current African American Heritage Grants), then Eileen McGuckian for the Coalition to Protect MD Burial Sites (who noted state-wide need and support, how this will assist ALL African American cemeteries, and what other states are doing in this regard). Elinor Thompson, activist from Anne Arundel County and member of Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture, described her experiences, as did Reginald Bishop, caretaker of multiple cemeteries in Harford County and a Coalition board member. Other witnesses who testified were organized by a Montgomery County group that has long sought justice for a Bethesda cemetery that was removed and paved over in the 1950s for development. These speakers requested amendments to HB 1099 that would have drastically altered the bill. Neither legislators nor bill proponents found the amendments workable. These specific demands hurt the chances for assistance to African American cemeteries this year, and the bill never advanced for a vote in the 2021 session.
Knowing how important it is to document specific issues and situations related to Maryland cemeteries, and particularly African American sites, the intent of HB 1099 will continue to be pursued. Maryland’s historically large Black population is evidenced in its proportion of cemeteries, but it is over-represented in the numbers of abandoned and unmaintained sites today. This fact must be addressed with solutions.
Fortunately, the study portion of the bill was salvaged by budgetary action of the Appropriations Committee. The Joint Chairmen’s Report – Operating Budget, April 2021 requests that the Maryland Dept. of Planning and Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture provide a report by May 2022 that will identify issues and provide valuable data to determine the need for financial or other assistance. Stakeholder participation and public comment will be encouraged. You can read the full description at http://dls.maryland.gov/pubs/prod/RecurRpt/2021_Joint_Chairmens_Report.pdf (pages 37-38).
Beginning this summer, Maryland Historical Trust—working with the Office of the Attorney General—will be conducting background research regarding what types of cemetery preservation activities can and cannot be accomplished under current law and regulation. MHT will also be collecting information on the types of cemetery identification, preservation, and commemoration programs that exist in other states, and will be collecting data from local Maryland governments regarding cemetery identification and protection activities. The results of this background research will then be shared with stakeholders as development of the report proceeds.
The Coalition remains committed and available to work with public and private entities toward a good result. Please direct any questions, descriptions of specific Maryland cemetery situations and issues, ideas, and thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
PRESS RELEASE – Friends of Moses Hall, June 3, 2021, Cabin John, MD
The National Trust for Historic Preservation has named the Morningstar Tabernacle No. 88 Order of Moses Cemetery and Hall site in Cabin John, Maryland one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places of 2021.
“Saving the Morningstar Moses Cemetery and Hall site is how we make good on promises to expand our infrastructure in an equitable way without further destruction of communities of color. Past disregard for the heritage of the community of Gibson Grove in transportation projects has already resulted in the loss of an important part of our full American story. This endangered listing challenges us to do the right thing today as we expand our infrastructure, so there will be no additional wrong to correct in the future, and it also calls attention to the threats facing African American cemeteries across the country.”
– Katherine Malone-France, Chief Preservation Officer, National Trust for Historic Preservation
John Maynard, born a free Black man in Annapolis in 1810, died at the age of 64, a wealthy property owner in the city.
After he was buried in St. Anne’s Cemetery decades ago, the exact location of Maynard’s headstone in the city graveyard was mostly forgotten. It became one of the hundreds of markers filling the hilly plot in the shadow of the majority-Black Old Fourth Ward.
But thanks to the sharp eye of Annapolis historian Janice Hayes-Williams and with the help of cemetery maps provided by Ginger Deluca, co-chair of St. Anne’s Cemetery Committee, the worn gray headstone was rediscovered this week nestled between two bushes, covered in dirt, branches and grass clippings.
A clean break at its base indicates it broke off its foundation at some point and was perhaps placed under the bushes for safekeeping, said Mark LaBuda, St. Anne’s manager. Other broken headstones are often propped up against the cemetery walls.
Now, Hayes-Williams hopes to find a place to display Maynard’s headstone permanently to teach future generations about the city’s Black history. A logical spot, she said, would be in the backyard of the historic Maynard-Burgess House on Duke of Gloucester Street that Maynard owned from 1847 until his death in 1875.
Just between Saltpeter Creek and Dundee Creek on the eastern side of Baltimore County, Marshy Point Nature Center attracts bountiful wildlife to its Upper Chesapeake wetlands.
On any given visit a guest might encounter frogs and toads in its vernal pools, seasonal ponds that dry up in the summer, or see majestic eagles soaring across the creek. Kids love checking out the chickens, owls and vulture near the nature center.
But the sights aren’t limited to wildlife.
Just past a dry-docked boat in the parking lot sits a gray tombstone from more than 200 years ago. Few of the visitors to Marshy Point Nature Center even realize it’s there, much less stop to read its inscription:
“In Memory of CASSANDOR HAMILTON Who Departed this Life October 1 1794 Aged 42 Years.”
by Anne Brockett, February 2021
As discussed in the last Courier, local designation as a historic site is a powerful means of protecting cemeteries in Maryland. Historic designation by a city or county government provides protection from inappropriate changes to keep the historic character of cemeteries intact.
While local designation often affords the strongest level of physical protection, cemeteries can also receive protection and recognition by inclusion in the one or more of the following:
• Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties
• National Register of Historic Places
• National Historic Landmark listing
By DONOVAN CONAWAY
CAPITAL GAZETTE | FEB 01, 2021
Elinor Thompson has started cleaning a cemetery in Deale where her in-laws’ family has ancestors buried and has been marking possible unmarked graves along the way.
Tanyard Cemetery, also known Franklin Cemetery, is an African American cemetery owned by Franklin United Methodist Church. Tombstones mark dates ranging from 1842 to 1982 and the site contains over 120 graves, many unmarked and many with hand-carved stones.
The property used to include two buildings, a place where cowhides were tanned and a meeting house that was one of the oldest Black Methodist gathering places in southern Anne Arundel County, said Thompson, the cemetery project manager and steward.
We are proud to acknowledge the accomplish of our member, Tina Simmons, who has just published a booklet entitled, “Anne Arundel County Cemetery Art” in conjunction with the Anne Arundel Genealogical Society and assistance from the Trader Foundation for Maryland Burial Sites. The booklet highlights the various art forms of gravestone markings throughout Anne Arundel County.
Exploring the history of Morningstar Tabernacle No. 88 of the Ancient United Order of the Sons and Daughters, Sisters and Brothers of Moses and United Order of Tents.
On September 12, Dr. Alexandra Jones of Archaeology in the Community hosted an amazing panel of women discussing the archaeology and history of African American benevolent societies.
You can watch a replay at your leisure. You may recognize panel speakers who have been heavily involved in preservation efforts related to the Moses Hall No. 88 and Morningstar cemetery site in Cabin John, MD.
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.