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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

Anne Arundel County’s Citizen Preservation Stewardship Program

We need your help documenting the current condition of cemeteries in Anne Arundel County. Anne Arundel has the largest number of known cemeteries in Maryland as well as the oldest known tombstones.

Up until the 20th century, it was common to establish a small family cemetery on private land. Unfortunately, unchecked development and vandalism has destroyed above ground traces of these important cultural resources. Small family cemeteries hold an important place in the fabric of our communities, and the names found on the headstones are often found as the names to nearby roads or geographic features. These cemeteries represent the resting place of those who made Anne Arundel County the place it is today. In order to preserve these cues to the past, and respect the last resting place of our ancestors, County regulations do not allow cemeteries to be moved from their original location. To find out more and to sign up, visit www.aacounty.org/cemeteries.  [Download the flyer and share with your community]

Learning in the Field

Coalition member, Dennis Green, lends a hand and gets some hands-on experience extracting corroded pins from unstable gravestones!

Quick Fixes Do Not Fix

This is one of the reasons that the Coalition does not encourage ‘quick fix’ techniques, methods, and materials for gravestone repair. This synthetic adhesive/epoxy, (Akeme) was applied 15 years ago according to oral reports. It had failed within the past five years and placed upon the base with the bottom fragment. Failure was contributed by water retention and UV intolerance and instability. Note the bright white areas of the marble stone which are soft and sugaring as a result of water and salts being trapped and moisture being retained. When synthetic adhesive materials fail, that take part of the masonry substrate with it and enhance as well as cause further damage which contradicts “Do no harm”. They also do not last as long, on average 20 years, but some are seeing less than 15 like this repair. Good intentions, but very costly not only in regards the fiscal cost to repair the stone again, but to the loss of some of the masonry substrate which could have been prevented. The Coalition advocates the consultation of actual, qualified, professionals and does not charge a fee to anyone that approaches the organization for guidance, assistance and support. All are welcome to attend our board meetings as well as correspond with any of our members both on and off the board. To avoid good-intentioned mistakes like this one, request a copy of the Coalitions Cemetery Stewardship Guide, it will explain in more detail the does and don’ts cemetery care and gravestone repair or simply post or submit and inquiry. There is no such a thing as a dumb and or stupid question. The Coalition to Protect Maryland Sites is here to support, advocate, educate, and help rehabilitate anything and everything that pertains to Maryland Cemeteries.

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