The next draft of Harford's history [Editorial]

It's been said newspapers write the first draft of history.

Even if we amend that in our contemporary world to say the media writes the first draft of history, it's still essentially true because somebody has to record and report about the world in which we live, or what would we know?

But who is responsible for succeeding drafts and revisions. Not every event, every happening will be worthy of a meticulously sourced book, documentary, Internet blog or a compilation of Twitter feeds, but that doesn't mean it's not worth knowing about in future generations.

That's what we think about Jacob Richardson and his Eagle Scout project to restore the small row of crosses that hundreds of people pass by daily along North Tollgate Road just across from the Heavenly Waters athletic complex and north of the Equestrian Center and Ma & Pa Trail crossing.

How many of you have seen the crosses and wondered what they are there for? Surely, after Jacob and some fellow Scouts from Troop 238 in Hickory and other volunteers got together on Saturday, May 6, to clean up the area and to install sturdier crosses and a small memorial explaining the significance of Heavenly Waters Cemetery, we all have a better idea of this place's significance and its role in Harford County's history.

Our county is a fascinating place, and its past contains all kinds of unusual twists and turns. The cemetery, what would have once been known as a "potter's field," contains the final resting places of several people who lived at the County Home, essentially a county-run farm for poor people with no place to go. In exchange for a roof over their heads and daily meals, the residents were expected to work the surrounding 250 acres. They produced their food and the surplus was sold to pay for the upkeep of the home and farm, according to accounts in past editions of The Aegis and a variety of research materials that have been produced over the years.

Today, we know those acres as the Equestrian Center, the former landfill turned yard waste dump, the ballfields and the Parks and Rec headquarters.

Most of the graves aren't marked with names, but volunteer researchers with the Historical Society of Harford County have done a fairly comprehensive study of burial records that do exist. And, it's pretty well-established, as Jacob Richardson's own research notes, that one of the unmarked graves belongs to Lewis Harris, who was lynched by a mob in Bel Air in 1900.

Some of the details of the Harris lynching were recounted in our story Wednesday about Jacob's cemetery restoration effort but, frankly, this is one story best learned about by the original reporting done by The Aegis when the lynching occurred. You can check it out in the microfilm archives at the Bel Air Library. It's a chilling account, but a story that should be told, over and over, and never forgotten.

Jacob Richardson's Eagle project has been worthwhile on many levels, not the least to remember the 95 people who lie under the grass along North Tollgate Road, people who in the words on the memorial Jacob erected, were "Harford County's poor, unknown and unwanted."

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