Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Hidden Cemetery

Jim mentioned the supposed African American cemetery we discovered in Anne Arundel County last week and I would like to expand upon it briefly.

These types of burial grounds are very hard to spot. Indeed, we spoke to a hunter in the area and he had no idea it was there despite having walked past it numerous time. This type of graveyards lacks what one would normally expect to see: carved stones, flowers, and nice neat rows. This one is marked only by native stones placed at either the head or foot of the grave and sometimes both. In many cases, the grave is not marked at all but, seen only as a depression in the earth (fossae) from where a coffin had rotted and collapsed.

Site map of the cemetery

There is an obvious road cut as shown on the map above. It begins a rocky spring head, runs past the cemetery, and then off into the woods. While shovel testing nearby, Jim and Dio discovered some mid 19th century pottery that had been burned as well as brick fragments. Could this be the remains of a slave quarter? If so, is our burial ground associated with it? Perhaps exhaustive deed research could tell us more but, that is beyond the original scope of that project.

Map showing individual graves. Dark ovals represent grave fossae while other figures represent planted stones.

There are hundreds of such cemeteries throughout Maryland and all too often they are missed or worse, ignored when the land is slated for development. Many have already been obliterated. If, in your travels, you think you may have found such a site, notify your county government or historical society. You can also contact Jim or myself. Just do your part to protect this limited historical resource.

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