Ellsworth Cemetery Established in 1876
Ellsworth Cemetery was created on December 21, 1876, when six African American Union Army Veterans filed Maryland Articles of Incorporation to provide a burial place “for the Colored residents of Westminster, Maryland”. Reuben Walker, David Ireland, William Massey, William Adams, Lewis Dorsey and Samuel Bowens, the incorporators, all participated in the bloody Civil War Campaigns of 1863, 1864, and 1865. They recognized Colonel Elmer Ellsworth, a friend of Abraham Lincoln who was the first Union Officer to die in the Civil War. The ground on which the Ellsworth Cemetery stands was sold to the group by the Estate of Elias Yingling for the sum of one dollar on June 11th, 1894.
The cemetery was located just outside the city limits of Westminster, possibly due to regulations or customs prohibiting the burial of African Americans within the city. The Westminster Cemetery, the main cemetery for the town, had covenants that prohibited the burial of African Americans, although some enslaved people are buried with their enslavers.
Racially restrictive covenants were common in cemeteries across the United States. One estimate is that as late as 1953, 90% of cemeteries had such regulations and covenants. In 1969, a federal court struck down these restrictions as being in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 (Terry v. Elmwood Cemetery).
While we believe five of the six men who established the cemetery are buried there, research is on- going to provide documentation. Mr. David Ireland is likely buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
We have records of approximately 170 burials from 1876 to 1950 when the cemetery was active and closely associated with the Union Street Methodist Church.
Interments slowed significantly during this time. Most of the approximately 30 burials from this period were of close family members of people already interred. For example, Elmer and Harvene Charms Myers are buried next to her brother and sister-in-law, Jesse and Edna Mae Bruce Charms.
We have no records of any interments during these years. The cemetery had fallen into disrepair and was generally considered to be “full.” As early as 1940 and again in 1963, reports of cleanup and restorations efforts appeared in the local press. In the 1990s, the Union Memorial Church maintained the cemetery, with assistance from local Scouting organizations and the State Police.
In the late 1990s, members of Branch 7014 of the NAACP were recruited and organized by Mr. George Murphy to care for Ellsworth. Mr. Murphy worked at Liberty High School and was a cemetery restorationist. He was passionate about the Veterans buried in this small, nearly forgotten cemetery.
The Ellsworth Cemetery Company was re-established as a non-profit to administer and maintain the cemetery. That instantiation of the company has since been disbanded.
In 2001, the cemetery became active once again. Relatives of those who had passed away decades before were buried at Ellsworth. Mr. George Murphy continued to maintain the cemetery and advocate for Ellsworth.
In 2013, a fund was established under the Community Foundation for Carroll County to support the repair and maintenance of Ellsworth. At this same time, members of the local Knights of Columbus council began work to maintain the cemetery. After many years, Mr. Murphy was unable to continue the physical labor of mowing and clearing the cemetery.
In early 2020, the Community Foundation was awarded a $65,000 grant from the State of Maryland for the restoration of the Ellsworth Cemetery. Those funds are administered through the Maryland Historical Trust.
Ellsworth Cemetery is active again, with recent burials serving the local community. Plots that are not already owned are administered through the Foundation, and funds from plot sales will be used for the maintenance of Ellsworth.