Memorial Day, for much of the country, is a day set aside for remembrance. But in Carroll County it is called the “Memorial Day Weekend.”
Many services and ceremonies were held this past Memorial Day weekend from one end of the county to the other as folks took time to remember the fallen who have gone before us.
This past weekend in Carroll County we honored the spirit of all those who died in service to our nation but whom we continue to remember and honor in our hearts. Throughout the weekend, the list of speakers at the various events read like a list of who’s-who in Maryland.
This year, the Memorial Day weekend events included a rededication ceremony on Saturday, May 26, at the historic Ellsworth Cemetery “on Leidy Road behind the Crossroads Community Church in Westminster,” according to an article by Carroll County Times writer Jennifer Turiano.
“Currently … maintained by Union Memorial Baptist Church in Westminster,” the cemetery was established Dec. 21, 1876, “when six black Union Army veterans sought a place to bury African-Americans — who were not allowed in the city’s cemeteries at the time.” In 1876, what we know today as Leidy Road was the route of the original Native American trail which ran from the Baltimore area to points west beyond Westminster. As late as the 1960s and ‘70s, the road was still dirt.
“The veterans, Ruben Walker, David Ireland, William Massey, William Adams, Lewis Dorsey and Samuel Bowens, created the cemetery but named it after a white man, Colonel Elmer Ellsworth, a friend of Abraham Lincoln and the first Union officer to die in the Civil War,” according to Turiano’s article.
I grew-up in the nearby ‘Tree Streets Development’ in the 1960s. The area where the cemetery is located was known as ‘Brown-ville’ or ‘Brown Town,’ because a prominent family, the Browns, farmed most of the area. When Route 140 was built in the early 1950s, the road went through Brown Town and destroyed much of the farm and the town. Today, essentially nothing remains -except the cemetery. In the 1960s it was still a dirt road, used mostly by Westminster Nurseries.
The original dirt road, Native American trail was known as the (Old) Baltimore Road. It was “replaced” by the Baltimore and Reisterstown Turnpike in 1807. The turnpike was chartered by the Maryland General Assembly in 1804 which commissioned the turnpike company to build a road to the Mason-Dixon Line.
Turiano reported, “It is estimated there are about 200 people buried at Ellsworth Cemetery and about 60 of them are African-American veterans from the Civil War to the present day, according to Audrey Cimino,” the executive director of the Community Foundation of Carroll County, one of the key supporters of the cemetery— and last weekend’s ceremonies. Other key supporters, among many on a very long list, include the Knights of Columbus, cemetery restorationist George Murphy, the Carroll County branch of the NAACP, and the Maryland National Guard.
Col. Charles S. Kohler with the Maryland National Guard observed, “The cemetery is home to the grave of a 110-year-old man who died in 1876 …” At that, he spoke for many when he said, “and there are other amazing stories to be discovered.”
The keynote speaker was Carroll County’s own native daughter Maj.Gen. Linda Singh. “‘All my time in Westminster, I never knew this was here,” she said at the Memorial Day rededication service for the historic African-American heritage site, according to the article.
In her moving presentation Singh remarked that she recognized the names of many members of her ancestral family roots in Carroll County. After she became familiar with the cemetery, Singh realized that “there is probably an even deeper connection [with the cemetery and Carroll County] I don’t even know about?”
Keeping track of the many other Memorial weekend events was a daunting task. Fortunately, Carroll County Times writer Catalina Righter listed them out in an article in the paper on May 25.
Hampstead American Legion Post 200 and town of Hampstead hosted a service on Monday at 9 a.m., at the Hampstead War Memorial, located on Main Street, according to Righter. She reported that Legion Commander Bill Nash was scheduled to open the ceremony, and Col. Charles Kohler, Carroll County Commissioner Richard Weaver, Mayor Christopher Nevin, and state Sen. Justin Ready were to speak at the event.
Sykesville American Legion Memorial Post No. 223 hosted a program on Monday at 11 a.m. at the post, 7327 Slacks Road. Post Commander Brent Barnes was scheduled to speak.
In Mount Airy, The American Legion Gold Star Post 191 held a program at 11 a.m. on Monday at Pine Grove Chapel and Cemetery, 787 S. Main Street.
In Taneytown there were a number of ceremonies including prayer services at two local cemeteries, followed by a program at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6918, 5801 Conover Road, at 4 p.m. Col. Charles Zimmerman, a veteran, faculty instructor at the U.S. Army War College, and New Windsor resident, was scheduled to be the keynote speaker, according to Righter. After the ceremonies, the annual Good Ole Days celebration took place in the pavilion.
Then on Monday, May 28, Maryland National Guard Command Sgt. Maj. Tom Beyard was the speaker at the Hesson-Snider American Legion Post 120, 9 Broad St., at 2 p.m.
The New Windsor Presbyterian Church, 200 Church St., held a program at 6 p.m. on Sunday, May 27. Elaine May-Spem, a retired sergeant major with the U.S. Marine Corps, served as the keynote speaker.
Charles E. Harrison, a former judge on the Carroll County Orphans' Court, and a Vietnam veteran, was the keynote speaker at the 100th Anniversary of the Pleasant Valley Community Observance on Sunday afternoon, May 27. The event took place indoors at the social hall at the Pleasant Valley Community Fire Company because it rained. The event has historically taken place at the Pleasant Valley Cemetery. It was well-covered by Lois Szymanski for the Carroll County Times.
Commissioner Steve Wantz, R-District I delivered a moving presentation in Union Bridge, at the VFW Post 8806, 15 Penrose St., at 6 p.m. Monday in front of the VFW War Memorials. He spoke for many when he said, “As a 42-year veteran of fire and emergency medical services, I believe it is also fitting to include all walks of public service in the day we set aside to honor those who laid down their lives so we could live ours. …
“Words alone are not enough to honor the lives of those who gave the last full measure of devotion. Parades, ceremonies, gatherings in whatever fashion, have given countless people the opportunity to express meaning and respect. We are blessed here in Carroll County with many of these opportunities. …
“In all of our communities you will be hard-pressed to find anyone who does not have family members or find someone who has not been touched by someone who has served.”
Deputy Secretary of the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs Robert L. Finn, pulled triple duty on Monday, May 28. First he was the keynote speaker at the 151st Westminster ceremonies at the Westminster Cemetery at the end of the annual Memorial Day parade.
Afterward, he spoke at the Carroll County Vietnam Memorial on Willis Street, along with Ronald Hollingsworth, U.S. Army, who served in two tours in Vietnam; Vietnam combat veteran Walter Pete Groomes; my Westminster High School Class of 1971 classmate Doug Battaglini, St. John Catholic Church Father Mark Bialek, and Circuit Court Judge Richard Titus.
Then later in the evening, Finn spoke again, along with Wantz, at the VFW ceremonies in Union Bridge.
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“Being a Vietnam combat infantry veteran, I know the price paid by our military to enjoy the freedoms we have today,” said Finn. “They say that servicemembers die twice, once when they are killed in action and once when their name is spoken for the last time. … As you walk through the cemetery today, and you find a veteran’s grave, stop and speak their name so that they will never be forgotten.”