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Rebecca (Selby) Elder


Mrs. Rebecca Selby Elder is another amazing pioneer Carroll County woman who is buried at Ellsworth Cemetery, outside of Westminster, Maryland.
Ms. Rebecca Selby was born in Maryland, in March of 1809. She may have been born free, although her parents have not yet been found. Records in the early 1800s are sparse, and even more so for the small African American communities in the area.
Ms. Selby’s marriage to Mr. John Elder was registered on November 20, 1838. She would have been in her late 20s. In the 1840 census, she is enumerated as free. Mrs. Elder lived in Carroll County with four Black girls, two under 10 and two between the ages of 10 thru 23. Her husband is not living with them. Mr. Elder may have been enslaved by a nearby family, or he may have been working in some other part of the State. If he had been enslaved, then he would have needed his enslavers permission to marry. Since the couple appear to have registered their marriage after the birth of at least three of their daughters, this is the most likely scenario. Children of free Black women would inherit their mother’s freedom, even if their father was enslaved.
The couple had at least six children, including two sons. We believe that both Charles Elder and George Elder served during the Civil War. We have found a Mr. Charles Elder who enlisted as a drummer boy in the 142nd Pennsylvania. He died of disease in the winter of 1863 and is buried in Baltimore’s Loudon Park National Cemetery. Mr. R. George Elder served in the US Navy, enlisting in Philadelphia. He served as a mess steward (waiter) and traveled aboard USS Wachusett to South America and as far away as China. He may have never returned to Maryland.
Mrs. Elder continued to live in Westminster, often with one of her daughters. She began to receive an “outdoor pension” from the County in the mid 1870s.
Mrs. Rebecca Selby Elder died on April 19, 1881. Her belongings were sold, her debts paid and the remaining $23 split among her three daughters. Two of her daughters, Frances and Martha, are also buried at Ellsworth Cemetery.
Mrs. Elder is buried in an unmarked grave in historic Ellsworth Cemetery. 

American Sentinel, 23 April 1881