TAYLORS ISLAND — Volunteers from around the region joined congregants of New Revived United Methodist Church on June 19 to restore its adjoining cemetery. The buzz of chainsaws blended the rumbling of a small excavator, as crews cut and removed timber, stumps and debris that had fallen on the resting places.
The effort was led by Eddie Dean, who operates the Lower Shore Cemetery Preservation Organization, a group that has been active in finding some of the more obscure — sometimes simply hidden — grave sites in the Dorchester, and giving them the care Mr. Dean and his associates believe they deserve.
Asked why the strenuous and time-consuming work is done, Mr. Dean paused for a moment before saying, “How couldn’t you?”
On a mission
The group’s social media site describes its work, saying, “The focus of this organization is the conservation and preservation of historic cemeteries on the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland. Advocacy through outreach promoting education in restoration and documentation of these sacred burial grounds.”
That sense of mission has taken Mr. Dean throughout the region. Sometimes, it leads to graveyards like New Revived UMC’s, which are in relatively good shape, and at other times, to spots that are nearly invisible to the eye or almost lost in the records.
The cemeteries, with the few words and dates on the headstones, hold not only the remains of ancestors, but information on their lives and situations. Some are the simplest markers, made by pouring concrete into frames and tracing a name into the wet material.
Others share clues on the work done by the deceased, such as that of one of the Opher brothers in Hargis. His stone shows that he was a veteran of the Second World War, who served in the 3515 Quartermaster Truck Company.
A fallen tree or overgrown grass could hide the record of a serviceman’s time in the army, and eventually cause his contribution to be forgotten.