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Baltimore County, established 1659, county seat Towson.

News from the County:

Community members upset over lack of upkeep at Mount Zion Cemetery

By: Xavier Wherry, WMAR TV,  May 09, 2024

The neglected cemetery is having an emotional burden on people in the community.
It’s a loved one’s final resting place. A place where you can visit and pray or reflect on memories. A place to find peace. But there’s no peace at Mount Zion Cemetery in Lansdowne.

LANSDOWNE, Md. — It’s a loved one’s final resting place. A place where you can visit and pray or reflect on memories. A place to find peace. But there’s no peace at Mount Zion Cemetery in Lansdowne. Instead, it’s disappointment and frustration.

The neglected cemetery is having an emotional burden on people in the community. The grass is knee-high. Gravesites covered with tree branches, littered with trash, and some tombstones toppled over.

“When you come out and it looks like this, it’s very heartbreaking,” says Catherine Simmons, who was out visiting some of her deceased family members.

She says the lack of upkeep over the past few years is distasteful.

“At the time of burial, we paid money, and [in] some cases a lot of money, for a plot here for a gravesite. So yes, it’s very disrespectful to the dead and to the family members that are still living,” says Simmons. She’s not alone.

Edward Garner says he comes out to the site once a week.

This Sunday is Mother’s Day. To enjoy the intimate moment with the person he was closest with, he says he has to do someone else’s job.

“Now I’m planning my day once I get off work. Even if it’s dark, to cut down some grass so I can make my way to my mom’s gravesite because it’s so bad. I don’t think a regular lawnmower would help. That’s how tall the grass is,” says Garner.

He says it’s so bad, he’s had to console other strangers visiting their loved ones.

“The family member that was out there yesterday, he just broke down and started crying…all I could do is say we’re gonna get through this,” says Garner.

There’s confusion about who owns the property and who is responsible for its maintenance.

Back in 2022, the Maryland Department of Labor said Baltimore AME Church owned the property. We reached out to their lawyer Kadijah Ali for confirmation. Late afternoon, WMAR got an answer.

“They are not the owners. They are not on the deed. There is no deed…transfer of deed that shows my clients are the owners,” says Ali. WMAR also reached out to the county code enforcement office. People there say it’s not the county’s property. However, their top priority is tending to the community’s needs. They say they are looking for a solution. The code enforcement office is working with a third-party contractor to get the property cleaned up. A temporary solution to a problem these family members want fixed ASAP.


On April 30, 2022, Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church held their kick-off event for the rehabilitation of their historic cemetery on 12728 Manor Road in Glen Arm, MD.

The following is a portion of an article in the Country Chronicle:

“Several Jacksonville-area churches are joining forces across denominations to rehabilitate the nearby historic cemetery at Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church. The effort to restore the graveyard — that includes colored soldiers from the Civil War, Buffalo soldiers and veterans from World Wars I and II — will not only honor the area’s past but also be a victory for race relations and historic preservation alike in the greater community, say volunteer coordinators.”

To learn details about their rehabilitation efforts, you can read the article printed in The Country Chronicle from May 2022.

Goucher Students Preserving Black History

Goucher Students Preserving Black History in AMS 230

You can follow Mt. Zion AME’s efforts on Facebook or email them at

Baltimore County Genealogical Society has embarked on a mission to create a comprehensive inventory of burial locations in Baltimore County as a resource tool for Genealogists.

This work is in progress and they state that any additions, corrections or pictures are appreciated.

On their webpage for this project, you will find a definition of a burial ground, their list of known cemeteries, an interactive map of locations of cemeteries, a historic map from 1866, forms and my favorite – the 1866 map that overlays a current map of the county!

Northern Baltimore County resident Ruth Mascari, of Monkton is the former chair of the Baltimore County Landmarks Preservation Commission. She writes articles for the “Remembering When . . .” section of the Villager newspaper.

For the July 2022 edition (Vol. 11, No. 5), she wrote a lovely article called Cemeteries Hold Local Histories. The following is a a portion from her article:

“Cemeteries in more urban areas soon were deemed to be harmful and undesirable and by the early 1800s were banned from most dense city areas. In more rural areas such as ours, we do not see large cemeteries but instead graveyards adjoining the local churches or a family’s burying ground carved out of the farm land. If a family did not have its own burying ground, it could use one associated with its local church or some extended family.

Unlike city dwellers who had turned the task of funerals over to undertakers and morticians, rural families tended to their dead in their own homes often burying them right on their properties and farms. One concession was the purchase of the wooden casket. In reading through inventories and employment records, one soon learns that a local cabinetmaker was also the local casket maker.”

Read the full article here.

Century-old cemetery is unlikely tennant for Towson Circle III“, The Baltimore Sun, February 8, 2012. (Subscription required for viewing)

In the Summer 2005 issue of the Courier there was information regarding the Shealey Cemetery in Towson. “The cemetery has been in the news lately for the effort to have the area designated as historic. It is in one of the Towson Center shopping district parking lots. It is relatively well cared for, i.e., grass is cut and trash removed.”, according to Melvin Mason.

Here are the minutes of the Landmarks Preservation Commission hearing held on November 10, 2005.

Next was item 13, the Shealey Cemetery, a ca. 140 years-old burial place of the town’s founders. The recommendation was to place it on the Landmarks List under criteria 1 and 5 (that it has yielded, or may be likely to yield information or materials important in prehistory or history).

Mr. Mike Davis, representing Heritage Properties, stated that his client was not opposed to the nomination. Referring to a written agreement between Heritage and the descendants of the Shealey family, Heritage committed to preserve and maintain the property. He also claimed that cemeteries were protected under State law. He continued that the reason for his appearance before the Commission was that there was a major development project for the site surrounding the cemetery. He did not wish that Landmarks Listing would impact these plans and wanted this to be reflected in the minutes. Referring to a letter prepared by Mr. David Iannucci, Executive Director of the Department of Economic Development, Mr. Davis noted that his request was within the spirit of County Plans for this site. Mr. Matthews inquired whether the proposed development would allow the existence of the cemetery to continue.

Mr. Davis replied that the plans asked for enhancement and raised awareness of the cemetery. Mr. Griffith asked who owned the cemetery. Ms. Ruth Muscari answered that John McGrain researched the property years ago, but that clear ownership was never established.

Ms. McIver moved to place the Shealey Cemetery on the Preliminary Landmarks List under Criteria 1 and 5. Mr. Stevens seconded the motion, which passed unanimously on a voice vote.

Shealey Cemetery in Towson, Maryland taken by Melvin Mason

Helpful County Resources:

Baltimore County – Sailor, Maryland’s Public Information Network

Baltimore County Courts

County Courts Building
401 Bosley Avenue
Towson, MD 21204
(410) 887-2601

Baltimore County Genealogical Society (BCGS)

P. O. Box 10085
Towson, MD 21285-0085

Parkville Senior Center
8601 Harford Road, Room 308
Parkville, MD 21234


Baltimore County Public Library

Baltimore County – MD Tombstone Transcription Project

Historical Society of Baltimore County

Historic Almshouse
9811 Van Buren Lane
Cockeysville, MD 21030
Tel:  410-666-1878

Catonsville Historical Society

P. O. Box 21154
Catonsville, MD 21228

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