Hampstead Councilman David Unglesbee has proposed to restore the nondescript cemetery where the town’s founding family is believed to be buried.
A self-proclaimed history buff, Unglesbee said highlighting local history has become the prerogative of interested citizens and lawmakers because hyper-local history isn’t taught in schools.
Having citizens understand their town’s history “helps them take pride in their community,” Unglesbee told the Times after the Hampstead mayor and council meeting March 12.
Edward Richards was an English Quaker whose family founded the town of Hampstead. Richards’ brother-in-law Christopher Vaughn laid out the town, Carroll County Historical Society documents detail.
The cemetery sits on town-owned land and is the site where members of the Richards family are believed to be buried.
“They are buried there, so the actual father of Hampstead is there,” Unglesbee said.
In 2004, the town and Richards descendants undertook something of a restoration project for the small grave along what was called Rattlesnake Ridge — the original name of the Richards family farm.
Councilman Wayne Thomas, president of the town’s historic train station committee, said historical attractions are important for education — to “educate the youngins” — for preserving the past and for the benefit of the local economy.
“Small towns, we compete for visitors just like other towns, just like Westminster does, we’d like more people to come to town,” he told the Times. “Anything you can press as a small town of your history to encourage people to come to the town is a boon for your town.”
Thomas said he’s known tourists to travel some 200 miles to visit the Hampstead Train Station. “When they’re in town, guess what, they need to eat, they need to fill up with gas, they might want to buy a drink.”
Located on Willow Street, across from Terrace Drive, the cemetery was renovated by the developer of neighboring communities before being turned over to the town in the early 2000s, Unglesbee said.
Unglesbee wants to take it to another dimension — to attract more people to learn about Hampstead history — and has enlisted the help of the University of Maryland Extension’s Master Gardeners.
“The mission of Master Gardeners is not just to go into a garden and maintain it as gardeners,” said Courtney Coddington, coordinator of the Master Gardener program of the University of Maryland Extension Carroll County. “Develop gardens and develop environmental plans that are educational, too, so there’s an underlying element of education.
“So you’re going to walk away with something learned in addition to your enjoyable garden experience.”
The burial sites of various members of the Richards family are marked by small and large head stones and field stones. The burial markers are surrounded by a black wrought iron fence and a grove of cherry trees.
Unglesbee hopes to see it revived like the Whipps Garden Cemetery in Ellicott City. It took some 30 years for interested citizens and Master Gardeners to restore what had become an overgrown burial ground, according to the cemetery’s website. The cemetery in Howard County now features a host of native plant species in a Rose Garden, a Butterfly Garden, an Herb Garden and a Whipps Garden.
Coddington said the Whipps Cemetery is interesting because it’s become an activity center, where visitors can follow history and plant species by picking up a pamphlet and taking a walk. “You can spend a few moments in the afternoon learning about the different stops.”
She hopes the Hampstead project will provide similar respite from the stresses of daily life.
“It will be nice to have that aspect of a quiet place that you can lose yourself in,” she said. “Where people can go to take pictures of flowers and insects.”
Unglesbee envisions that the Master Gardeners, together with volunteers, can “transform this site into a plot of native grasses, bushes, trees, and also some historical plants that aren’t even out anymore that they’ve kept the seeds from.”
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Hampstead already pays to cut the grass around the Richards burial ground on an approximately 1.5-acre lot, Unglesbee said, but he hopes in the future the town can pay for water connection to maintain the cemetery garden, as a water main passes nearby.
Native plants, Coddington said, typically require less maintenance because they’ve evolved to the area’s conditions.
Coddington said the area in Hampstead presents some challenges because the cemetery is shaded by the grove of trees. But, she said, developing a robust garden there could serve as an example to others in Hampstead and Carroll County of how to garden in partially shaded areas.
“We’ll have to balance something we can work for interest and ease for propagating,” she told the Times.
Unglesbee hopes to continue garnering donations of plant seeds, flower bulbs, topsoil and more. He said he’s already received inquiries about topsoil donations from several landscaping companies, who want to have their names connected to the project.
Coddington also emphasized how critical of a role donated seeds and flower bulbs can play. A family’s historical flower bulbs could be a neat addition, the history of which can be included in the garden, she said. “Every plant has a story.”
“I’m excited about having people come into the space to have people learn about the history of the cemetery,” Coddington said. “But then also get excited about growing things in their own space at home.”