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Cemetery steward cleans up African American graves in Deale and looks to have its history recognized

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.

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Alexandria Chapel Cemetery Project

Alexandria Chapel began the onsite work of identifying unmarked graves on October 24, 2020. Special thanks to Alexandria Chapel volunteers, the District Superintendent of the Washington East District, Rev. Dr. Johnsie Cogman, the Charles County Planning and Growth Management Office, Coalition to Protect Maryland Burial Sites and the African American Heritage Society of Charles County for their work on this project. There’s more work to be be done, but we are pleased to share this video created by the Charles County Planning and Growth Media Office.

Halfway’s Lost African-American Cemetery: The Story Unfolded

“Hood College students will study the area and will eventually turn into a peaceful park for the descendants’ families.”
by: Caroline Morse
Posted: Jun 24, 2020 / 11:07 PM EDT / Updated: Jun 25, 2020 / 07:18 PM EDT
https://www.localdvm.com/news/halfways-lost-african-american-cemetery-the-story-unfolded/

“I just feel bad that people are buried here that were getting trampled over or lost by the overgrowth or forgotten about,” said Neighbor Elizabeth Paul. “That was even before I knew the historic significance.”

Halfway’s historic Colored Cemetery dates back to 1844 and laid to rest over 400 unmarked graves. Spanning over seven acres, Good Samaritans and Daughters of Samaria bought the land in 1897. But, as decades passed, the land was forgotten about, sold in the 1950’s and eventually developed into a neighborhood.

“It was very common for African-American cemeteries to have been built over or just abandoned in the past,” said Hood College History Professor Emilie Amt. “This one became a housing development but this little piece of half-an-acre or less was preserved for a while and then it was abandoned and neglected.”

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MDOT SHA Cemetery Inventory app is under way with initial volunteers

In 2018, after working on a number of projects on previously unidentified burial grounds, MDOT SHA Chief Archaeologist Dr. Julie Schablitsky had the idea to create a mobile application that would allow volunteers passionate about cemetery preservation to use GIS and Cloud data storage technology to record the location and condition of burial grounds throughout the state. This data could then be shared responsibly with appropriate public and private entities to help protect and preserve both recorded and unrecorded burial grounds.

After years of design, testing, and extensive public feedback MDOT SHA Cemetery Inventory is live and undergoing its most extensive testing to date. Currently more than 150 volunteers have signed up to collect and upload data using the mobile web-based application, allowing archaeologists and GIS specialists at MDOT SHA to develop best practices to collect, vet, organize, and share the location, description, and photographs of Maryland burial grounds.

After an extensive round of testing and troubleshooting this summer, the app will eventually be made publicly available to individuals and groups interested in using it to help record and protect Maryland’s burial grounds. Information on how to participate in the future will be available on the CPMBS website.

Alexander D. Keim, PhD
MDOT SHA Archaeologist

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