A Rescue from Oblivion
How does a cemetery disappear?
It does not disappear, but in’stead goes underground. What disappears are, if you will, the visible markers: the tombstones, the fences, the tended plots. The dead remain sleeping undisturbed, for a cemetery is literally “a place where many people are sleeping.” They are nearly always there.
How then does a cemetery go underground?
First, it becomes neglected and forgotten by surviving descendants and friends of the dead. Time takes its toll: frost heaves the ground and dislodges tombstones; falling limbs and leaves accumulate; nature, never more than a few years at bay from civilization, encroaches.
One tombstone falls, children or vandals seek to tumble other stones, the ground rises, and pieces of monuments or fence are carried away as souvenirs’. Perhaps a farm ﬁeld is adjacent. The plows and disc come closer and closer. Who knows where the graveyard ends and the ﬁeld begins.
In 1939 a visitor reported that Holy Trinity. “today stands in ruins, surrounded by ancient and beautiful trees. Even the stone walls are crumbling. … Fine marble tombstones are thrown down and broken. The ground is deﬁled and God’s acre is neglected. The whole appearance of the church and yard is one of decay and wanton destruction.”
And so a cemetery approaches oblivion. There is little or nothing to show that the many bodies of women, children and men’still rest there. But the cemetery is still there; it is not abandoned, only shorn of its earthly markers. It is still “a place where many people are sleeping.”
The restoration of Holy Trinity Cemetery, Eldersburg, one of Carroll County’s oldest burial grounds and church sites, is a rescue from oblivion.
More than half the stones now standing, about 60 in number, were out of sight, buried under the soil, vines or leaves or lying ﬂat, slowly sinking into the ground when our restoration work began in 1990. Fences had been vandalized and carried away. The site was desolate.
But a few friends remembered what it had been and could be. With their’ interest and the continued interest of descendants, the Friends of Old Trinity cemetery organization was established. With the Friends and church groups, we are now working to establish a Trust Fund, so that this lovely and historic site will be safe and cared for evermore.
This book honors those people whose interest and efforts made possible this rescue from oblivion.
It commemorates the last of Maryland’s colonial churches, consecrated 150 years ago this week by Bishop Whittingham. And it makes available the long out-of-print Holy Trinity Parish by Dr. Purcell and The Diary of a Country Lady by Lynne Marcus.
Finally this book memorializes those who were here before us — living, working, playing, caring -— building the world we have inherited: those whose bodies are buried here awaiting the eternal awakening.
by Jim Purman