Students, activists to help care for black graves

High school donation will aid restoration of Westminster cemetery

June 19, 2000|By Sandra Crockett | Sandra Crockett,SUN STAFF

Progress is slowly being made to restore Ellsworth Cemetery in Westminster, a 150-year-old cemetery with 200 graves of former slaves, war veterans and African-American families with long histories in Carroll County.

The Westminster High School student senate donated $5,000, which will help with the upkeep and restoration of the oldest black cemetery in Carroll.

The grounds will immediately be mowed, said the Rev. James Hinton of Union Memorial Baptist Church in Westminster. He said a contractor was scheduled Friday, weather permitting. Union Memorial Baptist Church owns the property, on Leidy Road off Route 140 and for years had maintained the graveyard. In recent times, however, the church has not had the funds to tend it properly.

Many of the church members who cared for the cemetery have died. Members devote much of their time to community outreach.

The last funeral at Ellsworth Cemetery was about 20 years ago. Since then, the grounds have fallen into disarray, and tombstones have been damaged by vandals.

A year ago, volunteers from the community and the church cleared debris, brush and weeds from the land and found and marked 100 graves. The volunteers included several Westminster High School students.At that time, Jeff Ibex, faculty adviser to the student senate, said the group would make Ellsworth its community service project for the year.

George Murphy, a community activist from Eldersburg who is working to restore the cemetery, said the donation from Westmin- ster High will go toward monument restoration.

"I have found six graves of Civil War veterans," he said. The tombstones are broken or defaced.

Murphy said that the grounds will be taken care of now.

"We will be on top of the mowing from here on," he said, adding that the restoration will take time and money.

"You can't make a cemetery look good right away," he said. "Sometimes it has to be put back a little bit at a time. Union Memorial wants nothing more than for it to be put back to its former glory."

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