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Union Memorial plans to restore overgrown cemetery (1990)

News Story:

On first glance no one would believe a cemetery lies in the underbrush next to Liedy Road in Westminster.

Weeds have grown out of control and rotten tree trunks are strewn about in disarray.

But people still visit the old Ellsworth Cemetery to pay their respects to their dead.

And the Rev. James E. Hinton pastor of the Union Memorial Baptist Church wants to restore the cemetery to make such trips more pleasant.

“When I first started preaching here, I was inquiring as to why the church didn’t have a cemetery in Westminster and people told me that there was one but it had been allowed to grow up with weeds,” Hinton said.

“Members from this church have relatives buried there and I wanted to know why it had been allowed to grow up that way.”

The cemetery, one of 10 county cemeteries exclusively for black residents, has not been used since 1981 when a man named Richard Leon Smith died at the age of 55 and was buried there, according to cemetery records at the Historical Society for Carroll County.

The cemetery’s upkeep once rested in the hands of the cemetery committee of the Union Street Methodist Church, but since the deaths of older members, no one has expressed interest in keeping up the property, Hinton said.

“I told members of my congregation that it was a shame to allow the cemetery to waste away like that. Why it was allowed to deteriorate into such wilderness is beyond me.”

With tombstones dating as far back as 1862, the cemetery also has historical value. Hinton said people like the Rev. John Baptist Snowden are buried there.

Historical Society records show that Snowden, who died on Sept. 8, 1884 at the age of 84, was a slave who earned his freedom when he was 29.

He was a man of royal descent. Snowden’s grandmother was an African princess stolen by slave traders and brought to America.

Today, Snowden’s grave is obscured by the heavy growth that covers the gravesites.

“I cant do it all by myself, but I am willing to use what facilities and resources we have to get this project, confronting us here in the black community, off the ground,” Hinton said.

As he makes plans to establish another cemetery committee, Hinton also hopes to build up funds for the project through his congregation. The funds will not only be used to clean up the cemetery, they will also be used to sustain it on a yearly basis, he said.

“This way, I feel we will get the support of the community and the county. If we can do that, we can move forward and do something constructive.”

The church would like to get the clean-up project under way sometime in early May, Hinton said.

“Once we get more background information on the cemetery, we plan to restore it in such a way that it will be completely cleaned,” he said.

Instead of recruiting volunteers for the clean-up, Hinton plans to have the cleaning done professionally.

“We want to make sure nothing is desecrated out there,” he said.

“For those who have relatives buried there, we will contact as many of them as possible to get them involved in the project and concerned about the cemetery’s upkeep. I would even like to set aside a day in church that will be used as a memorial day for the cemetery.”

Alice Green, church corresponding secretary, said the church would like to turn the cemetery into the Ellsworth Memorial Park.

“Hopefully this is the church’s project for the ’90s,” Green said.