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Development, weeds encircling historic cemetery (2003)

News Story:

Ellsworth Cemetery in Westminster home to Civil War vets’ resting places

Development is encroaching upon Ellsworth Cemetery, and the new neighbors are not properly maintaining the grounds near the historic site, according to the cemetery’s caretaker.

During a Westminster City Council meeting last week, George Murphy, vice chairman of Ellsworth Cemetery Company, the nonprofit that owns the cemetery, said the grounds just outside and around the cemetery are not being tended.

The grass on the property surrounding the cemetery has not been mowed in more than a year, poison ivy vines grown to more than 5 feet tall, and much of the grass has been taken over by multiflora rose, a thorny weed, said Murphy, who also cares for the cemetery.

Murphy said he was led to believe the city was responsible for those grounds, but Tom Beyard, Westminster’s director of planning and public works, went out last Tuesday, the day after the meeting, and established that the property belonged to Wawa.

The Wawa site, where a convenience store and gas station are being constructed, is located at the intersection of Md. 140 and Market Street.

Calls to Wawa were not returned.

Beyard said that the grounds have not been maintained, rose bushes and poison ivy are present, and the grass has not been mowed. The city’s next step will be to send Wawa a letter notifying the company of its maintenance responsibilities, he said.

He also said this was the first time Murphy has complained to the city about the problem. The only violation to city code is the high grass, which stands taller than 6 inches. The overgrowth of poison ivy is not a code violation, he said.

Murphy said that in general he is just not happy with all the recent development taking place around the cemetery, which seems to be on the increase.

Thomas Leidy, who owns 33 acres next to the cemetery on Leidy Road, said a developer who wants to buy his property for commercial purposes has recently approached him.

Leidy has owned the property since 1985, he said.

Murphy described all the development in that area as an “environmental crime,” and the cemetery as “the last piece of topography in the area.”

“Everything around us is being bulldozed and dynamited,” he said.

“We’re surrounded by asphalt on both sides,” he said, referring to the Home Depot and a 30-foo man-made cliff at the eastern end of the cemetery, leading to Kohl’s.

“We’re not dealing with local, young businesses but with franchises that are not keeping up the land,” he added.

The Ellsworth Cemetery sits on just over an acre and is draped in history. Elias Yingling, a white abolitionist willed the cemetery to six black Union Army veterans for $1 in the late 1800s, according to Murphy. Some of the vets are buried at Ellsworth, he said.

Restoration efforts have been taking place over the past three or four years. About 20 Civil War veterans are buried at Ellsworth, and most do not have monuments. The restoration efforts are focused on acquiring monuments for those veterans’ gravesites and restoring the ones that were vandalized, he said.

Murphy said the earliest monument that is still standing in the cemetery dates to 1863.

In 2001, the Carroll County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People received a $1,500 grant to facilitate a project that included grounds restoration and researching the life and times of those buried at Ellsworth.

In addition to the Civil War veterans buried there, World War I and Korean War veterans are also buried in the cemetery.

No restrictions exist on who can be buried at the cemetery. It is an active cemetery and is being largely used by the parishioners at Union Memorial Baptist Church, Murphy said.

The Rev. James E. Hinton, pastor of Union Memorial Baptist Church and chairman of the Ellsworth Cemetery Company, said he hopes all the new development will not affect the cemetery and that after the Wawa construction is completed, maintenance of the surrounding properties will improve.