Restorers Of Historic Cemetery Take Trip Back In Time

Ceremony Re-creates 1700s Atmosphere

November 06, 1991|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff writer

ELDERSBURG — The dust of the old ones' bones

drifts on the wind,

whispers through the trees,

their songs no longer heard

amid the deafening desecration.

S. V. Ashman

ELDERSBURG -- The cold wind blew gently Sunday as James Purman and other friends of the old Trinity Episcopal cemetery visited the site where the church's founding fathers and other relatives are buried.

Nearly 25 people who have contributed either time or money to the restoration of the old cemetery closed their eyes and listened to Ashman's poem, as Purman set the scene for their trip through time.

"Go back to a time when there was no Carroll County, no state of Maryland, no United States ofAmerica," he said.

"The sounds you hear didn't exist. But imagineyou can hear a scraping, sliding sound across the leaves and maybe some grunting, as sleds loaded with stone are being dragged up the hill to finish the chapel that was started in the spring."

Built in fall 1771, this was the last Church of England chapel constructed withstate money in the colonies, Purman said. Consecrated on All Hallow's Eve in 1843, the church eventually was torn down in the 1960s.

All that remains now is the quarter-acre cemetery owned by St. Barnabas' Episcopal Church, some of which is grown over with weeds.

Purman, who said he is interested in history, became involved in restoringthe cemetery after responding to Linda Greenberg's notice in the St.Barnabas church bulletin. Soon, Friends of Trinity Cemetery was bornand they began cleaning the site in March 1990.

"I was interestedin doing something and thought it was a shame that it was in that condition," said Purman, a former Episcopal priest.

Slowly, the weeds are being cleared and tombstones replaced on their bases as the group fits the broken pieces of marble back together again and scrubs them clean with baking soda solutions. Purman and his co-workers expectto have the job completed in another year.

"We're going to focus on the restoration of a cemetery," Purman told the visitors.

"There are some things you'll see now that you won't see next year."

Pointing to the fences that formerly surrounded family plots and individual graves, Purman explained that the church had at one time been used as a barn. The rails had been erected to protect the graves from cows and other wandering animals.

"Not all the vandalism here was done by bad boys," he said. "Some was done by innocent cows or the forces of nature."

In addition to cleaning the site, Purman is researching the people buried, with the help of George and Ann Morwack of the county's Genealogy Society.

"They have relatives who died here,and they have put flesh on the names that are on these tombstones," Purman told the group. "It's lives now, not just names."

As the group sat in an outline of the former chapel, Purman explained why the church was aligned east and west rather than parallel with Liberty Road or the property line.

"All Church of England churches were built that way," he said. "The altar was set to the east so people would be praying toward Jerusalem."

The cemetery was laid out the same way, Purman said.

"People were buried with their feet toward the east," he said. "The belief was that after the resurrection, people would rise and face Jesus -- the rising sun."

As the group rounded a corner of the cemetery, members came upon their visitor from the past-- Emma Eliza Lucy, played by Janie Gardner.

Responding to a series of questions posed by Purman, Gardner described life in the 1700s and how Lucy played and sang with neighbors nearby and died at the age of 22 and is buried in the cemetery.

"I thought about who I could ask to play the part, and then I chose Emma for her to portray," said Purman. "I wrote up her autobiography and we worked from that.

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