Wreaths were placed on the graves of 14 veterans of America’s wars at Western Chapel Cemetery on Saturday in a ceremony organized by Louis Brown, head of the Western Chapel Cemetery Association in conjunction with the Roaring Run Lions Club of Finksburg. It was part of the nationwide Wreaths Across America program.
Western Chapel Cemetery is the historic burial ground for the African American community living along Western Chapel Road between Westminster and New Windsor. A Methodist Episcopal church built in 1868 once stood on the property. The church burned in the 1950s and the cemetery eventually became overgrown and nearly forgotten.
Brown, now 88, whose father was once Western Chapel’s caretaker, cleared the cemetery of brush and trees with the help of others and established the Western Chapel Cemetery Association in 2001.
Multiple generations from several families in the Western Chapel area are buried in the cemetery, many with distinguished military service. John Squirrell served in the 28th United States Colored Troops during the Civil War; Jack Squirrell served in World War I; Joseph Squirrell served in World War II; and Alex Eugene Squirrell was a veteran of the Korean War. Andrew Woodyard served in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War while Adam Woodyard fought in Europe in WWI.
During the Dec. 19 event, Carroll County Commissioner Richard Weaver reminded the dozens in attendance of how important it is to honor America’s veterans and those who continue to serve to preserve our way of life.
Family members and guests who laid the wreaths at Western Chapel saluted at the gravesites of veterans from conflicts including the Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Many in attendance were in their military uniforms but also bundled against the cold weather.
Samuel Riley, a guest of Brown’s and a retired colonel in the Maryland Army National Guard, spoke of forgotten heroes like Sgt. Allan Toop, whose mother, Charlotte, is buried at Western Chapel.
Allan Toop served in the 4th United States Colored Troops during the Civil War and was killed in action in 1864 at New Market Heights south of Richmond, Virginia. The heroic action of 14 members of the Colored Troops during that battle earned them Medals of Honor. Although Toop’s burial location in Virginia is unknown, his story is part of the long history of this small Black cemetery, one of less than 10 in the county.
Brown is turning over the Western Chapel Cemetery Association to his son, Blaine Brown, and to Kevin Dorm, who plan to continue caring for it in the years to come. They hope that stories of the many veterans of military service buried here will survive and be shared with future generations.
For more stories of Carroll County’s African American soldiers and sailors during the Civil War, join the Historical Society of Carroll County for a Box Lunch Talk on Jan. 19 from noon until 1 p.m. To register for this Zoom presentation, visit the Historical Society’s website: https://hsccmd.org/ and click on “Events.”