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Grassroots effort to restore Reisterstown Community Cemetery begins

Graveyard dates back to 1764; Reister and soldiers from three wars buried there

By Barbara Pash

6:10 AM EST, December 12, 2012

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Chris Larkins remembers his mother checking on the cemetery. She'd visit the graves of family members buried there.

"Over the years, she would notice how rundown it was becoming, how the grass wasn't being cut," said Larkins, a fifth-generation Reisterstown resident, of the Reisterstown Community Cemetery.

Larkins is co-chair with Linda Percy of the cemetery project, a recent effort by the Reisterstown Improvement Association to restore the cemetery and the crumbling brick wall that surrounds it.

Located on Cockeys Mill Road, next to the Reisterstown Branch of the Baltimore County Public Library, the cemetery is about three-quarters of an acre in size and contains approximately 700 graves, some of them without headstones.

The cemetery is quite well known in historical circles. It dates to 1764, when John Reister deeded the land to the "People of Reisterstown."

In 1821, the Maryland General Assembly appointed seven trustees to oversee the cemetery trust. The trust still exists and the trustees have been appointing their successors for almost two centuries.

Reister himself is buried there, as are nine signers of the 1777 Oath of Fidelity To The Colonies, six soldiers from the American Revolutionary War, eight soldiers from the Civil War — three from the Union Army and five from the Confederate Army — and 24 soldiers from the War of 1812. Many of the names are now familiar roads and landmarks in the area.

Until the 1850s, there was no charge to Reisterstown residents for a burial plot. "All races and religions are buried in the cemetery, including slaves," Larkins said.

About two months ago, Reisterstown Improvement Association took on the project, and Larkins and Percy began a fundraising campaign. A sign prominently placed in Reisterstown advertises the campaign and it has attracted a lot of attention, association President Glenn Barnes said.

He should know. The sign gives his cell phone number to call for information.

"It has turned out to be a popular topic in the community since people heard about it," said Barnes, who figures he gets at least two calls per week about donations. Most are in small denominations of $5 and $10 but there have been $100 donations as well.

"People feel like we are part of history," he said.

So far, said Linda Percy, the cemetery committee has raised $2,500 out of at least $7,500 that will be required for the initial stage of restoration. Because the cemetery is on the county, state and national historic lists, a specific protocol must be followed.

The initial stage consists of getting an assessment for the cost of repairs from a certified conservator. The assessment is sent to Baltimore County for approval before restoration, which must be done by a qualified mason, can begin.

Percy said the committee consulted one conservator who told them it would probably cost $7,500 for an assessment of the cemetery and brick wall. The committee decided to spend the $2,500 already raised on getting an assessment of repairs to the brick wall. When the remaining money is raised, it will proceed with an assessment of the cemetery.

"And the assessment cost does not include the cost of the actual repairs," said Percy, who is planning to have an assessment of the brick wall done after Christmas.

For information about the project and to make a donation to The Reisterstown Community Cemetery restoration project, call Glenn Barnes at 443-695-2308 or visit the website http://www.reisterstownimprovementassociation.com