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Historical African-American significance found in one local cemetery in Carroll County

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.

Ellsworth is a small, Civil War-era African-American cemetery created in the 1800s by six soldiers who came home, but had nowhere to be laid to rest.

“Colored people at that time were not permitted to be buried in the city limits of Westminster,” said Jean Lewis, president of the Carroll County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

“There are about 200 people buried here. Most of the stones have been destroyed,” said Cimino.

Destroyed by vandalism, some by neglect, headstones unreadable or unmarked. Many broken and tossed some barley sticking out of the ground.

Tom Greul from the Knights of Columbus, along with his fellow Knights members began taking care of the property five years ago after seeing how the cemetery had fallen in disrepair.

“The grass was over 4 feet high,” said Greul.

They’ve put in new fencing and mulch to keep the grave markers visible.

“It’s really been a collaborative effort to maintain this site,” said Charles Kohler.

Among the oldest graves is a Stranger’s Row. Simply, it’s a place where people who have no other place to go can be buried. There are also new burial sites with mementos of love, but nothing permanent.

And there are 26 veterans here.

“Military services will give us headstones for the 26 veterans but we need to prove where they are on the property,” said Greul.

To do that, they need expensive ground-penetrating radar and help mapping the cemetery.

The ultimate goal to provide markers for every person buried in this Carroll County treasure, keeping their memories firmly in place.

A donation page has been set up to help pay for that ground-penetrating radar. You can find a link here.

The hope is to have the cemetery fully restored within five years.

Source: https://www.wbaltv.com/article/african-american-significance-found-in-one-local-cemetery-in-carroll-county/26431220

New Legislation Seeks To Protect Lost African-American Burial Grounds

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.

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15-Year Effort to Document County Cemeteries Uncovers 50 New Sites

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.”

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Planning commission recommends historic designation for Nanjemoy church cemetery

Maryland Independent – By Paul Lagasse, February 4, 2019

The Charles County Planning Commission voted unanimously last week to recommend that the county commissioners approve a local historic landmark designation for a cemetery in Nanjemoy that dates back to the mid-19th century.

In December, the county Historic Preservation Commission determined that the cemetery of the Mt. Hope Baptist Church on Gilroy Road met the criteria outlined in the county’s zoning ordinance for sites of local historical and cultural significance, which requires that it have “character, interest, or value as part of the development, heritage, or culture of the County, State, or Nation.”

Sea level rise imperils historic grave site on Eastern Shore of Maryland

If Joe Fehrer hadn’t stumbled across the grave site, it might never have been found. 

Flanked by an encroaching marsh, it sits a half mile walk from the nearest road through water that threatens to flow over the tops of mud boots. 

On a sunny Friday morning on the way to the site in the Robinson Neck preserve on Taylors Island, Fehrer tests the water depth with a well-worn staff. 

“This channel is too deep to cross,” he says, looping back to chart a new course.

His mission for the day was to measure and record information about a group of historic graves located inside the Nature Conservancy’s preserve in Dorchester County, Maryland.

Dating predominantly from the early 19th century, a cluster of family gravestones peaks out of the wooded ground at the edge of the marsh. 

Some are sunken but some still stand tall after a couple hundred years.

Last year he relocated the site.

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Forgotten Slave Cemetery Discovered in Maryland

CROWNSVILLE, MD – African America history is sometimes hard to come across because so little is known and recorded.

Yet archeologists can unearth unspoiled records of what happened hundreds of years ago.

The Maryland Department of Transportation and State Highway Administration recently uncovered a long-forgotten slave cemetery in Correspondent Morgan Wright reports on how archeologists have discovered slave quarters, a slave cemetery and descendants of slaves that once worked and lived on the land.

Deep in the forest, sisters Shelly Evans and Wanda Watts walk in the footsteps of their ancestors the two women share a frustration common to many African Americans, whose ancestors were enslaved in America.

“We have no history. We begin and we end here,” says Wanda Watts.

But thanks to a recent and accidental discovery, the sisters may have uncovered their family’s hidden family on this piece of land.

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Ocean City Oddities: The Only Grave in Town, and the Mystery of Captain Carhart

There is only one known marked grave in Ocean City, located just before the terminus of the Route 50 bridge in West OC. The grave resides within the boundaries of a housing development on Golf Course Road, Captain’s Hill. There are no cemeteries or even another lone marked tombstone in Ocean City; burying the deceased in a coastal area has long been an unsound idea since shorelines are known to erode, and the grounds of Ocean City have never been conducive to a proper, respective burial.

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Statement from Preservation Maryland

In light of ongoing debate over the development of several historic cemeteries across the state, including the Christopher Cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland, Preservation Maryland Executive Director Nicholas Redding issued the following statement:

Historic cemeteries, like historic buildings and landscapes, provide critical connections between our past and future. Cemeteries literally contain the physical remnants – human remains – of our past. Cemeteries are evocative and powerful places that speak to descendants and casual visitors equally.

These silent and serene places are also worthy and deserving our respect and continued vigilance. Paving over cemeteries is never an acceptable or appropriate way to honor or preserve our historic burial grounds. 

Moving forward, Preservation Maryland will continue to support the preservation of our state’s historic cemeteries. Whether through our partnership Six-to-Fix project with the Coalition for the Protection of Maryland Burial Sites or our planned project with the Maryland State Highway Administration to document historic cemeteries in a first-of-its-kind GIS database, we are committed to taking real and substantive action to protect these places.

We also believe that the state and jurisdictions across it should work proactively to protect historic cemeteries and make it clear that development of places made hallowed with human remains are not appropriate for development.

‘Serious Inventory Control Problem’ in Maryland’s Body Donation Program Led to Mishandled Remains

By Scott MacFarlane, Katie Leslie and Steve Jones

A Maryland program overseeing thousands of bodies given to science mishandled the remains of at least several of its donors, with problems including poor tracking of bodies, a donor’s cremains being mistakenly buried in a state cemetery and an allegation of an employee knowingly sending the wrong remains to a donor’s family, a News4 I-Team investigation has found.

Records obtained by News4 through an open records request reveal the newly appointed director of the Maryland State Anatomy Board alerted state officials in late July about what he described as a “serious inventory control problem.”

Robert Wilk, who took over the anatomy board last summer, wrote that he learned of a case in which a former employee “used anatomical material from the lab to ‘produce’ a body for cremation” and “wrongfully” obtained cremation approval before giving those ashes to a different donor’s family. He also described discrepancies between the state board’s records and those kept by a donor institution, leading to confusion over which bodies had already been cremated.

The problems were so bad, Wilk continued, he had considered suspending the anatomy board after taking the helm.

Maryland Department of Health officials are now pledging improvements at the program, which manages thousands of bodies annually donated for scientific and medical research at both in and out-of-state institutions. The anatomy board reports to the Department of Health but is jointly run by the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

“We will get to the bottom of this,” said Fran Phillips, Maryland’s deputy secretary for public health services. “We don’t want to leave any uncertainty about the state anatomy board.”

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