Labor of love blooms in the spring

On Saturday, the second Daffodil Day showcased the work done to preserve the Whipps Cemetery and its history

April 04, 2007|By Adrienne Morris | Adrienne Morris,sun reporter

The Friends of the Whipps Cemetery and Memorial Gardens Inc. want to preserve small pieces of history.

"There's nothing out there like it," said Barbara Sieg, executive director of the Friends of the Whipps Cemetery, about the Ellicott City site that holds more than 50 graves, some dating to the 1800s.

"Old cemeteries are plowed up all the time," Sieg said. "There is a great deal we can learn from them about health conditions and life in the 1800s. It's rare that a neighborhood gets a chance to take a good look at history and learn about their neighbors who lived more than 100 years ago."

On Saturday, the organization held its second Daffodil Day to showcase its work on the cemetery grounds, which has benches, flowering trees and many native plants.

Nan and Mike Horrom of Scaggsville visited the parklike setting, which is off St. Johns Lane just south of Frederick Road, with friends from Virginia.

"We saw an article in the paper," said Nan. "It's such a nice day, and daffodils and old cemeteries are a great combination."

The Whipps Cemetery is also maintained with the help of master gardeners and other volunteers. The Master Gardeners program is conducted by the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Howard County. In exchange for horticultural education and training, students have to complete 40 hours of volunteer service the first year. After finishing the class, graduates must complete 20 hours of volunteer work a year and other requirements.

Sieg, 70, explained the choice of daffodils for the cemetery.

"Most of these daffodils come from the old St. John's rectory," said Sieg of the property off St. Johns Lane between Frederick Road and U.S. 40. "The area around it was being developed for houses, and the developers said I could take the flowers before they started bulldozing."

The original daffodils have grown in the cemetery since the early 1990s, and more are added each year, Sieg said.

Lisa Baum, a master-gardener intern, said daffodils were one of the only flowers that would not be eaten by deer.

The 1-acre site was purchased in 1855 by William Whipps to use as a family burial ground, but the earliest burial is thought to have been in 1828. Plots were later sold to other families, and the last burial took place in the early 1900s, according to the Friends of the Whipps Cemetery and Memorial Gardens Inc. The site eventually was forgotten and became overgrown with poison ivy and weeds. Vandals stole or damaged gravestones and other parts of the cemetery.

The plot was rediscovered in 1984, when a developer bought land next to the cemetery. Three years later, members of the St. John's Community Association began to restore it with the help of the Whipps family.

Patricia Kolpack, 71, of Guilford is related to the Whipps family through her father.

"I visited [the cemetery] with my father as a child," she said. "It's nice to come back here and walk around and see how it's improved."

As part of Daffodil Day, a talk was given on the importance of native plants by master gardener Aylene Gard, who has a background in biology. Gard, 67, became interested in gardening seven years ago and volunteers with the Friends of the Whipps Cemetery.

Sieg said that volunteers are welcome to help the gardening group, which meets from 9 a.m. to noon every Thursday.

"We do it for the satisfaction of work and because we love to garden," she said. "We love doing something for the larger community and passing on our knowledge. It's such a beautiful spot."

Yearly donations are made through the Friends of the Whipps Cemetery, which is made up of about 200 volunteers and contributors. The group, which does not receive public funding, spends about $1,000 a year on the project, Sieg said.

Angie and David Boyter have lived near the Whipps Cemetery Park for 40 years. They donate money because they believe what the organization is doing is important.

"We lose tiny pieces of history," said Angie Boyter. "Only big things get preserved."

Information about Whipps Cemetery and Memorial Gardens Inc. and the Master Garderers Program: 410-313-1913.

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