I've been thinking about … Ellsworth Cemetery.
Ellsworth Cemetery is an important historical site in Carroll County. Despite that, few people recognize its history or even know it exists. The cemetery is named after Col. Elmer Ellsworth, the first Union casualty of the Civil War and a close friend of Abraham Lincoln.
Legally established on Dec. 31, 1876 by six African-American Army veterans — Reuben Walker, David Ireland, William Adams, Lewis Dorsey, William Massey and Samuel Bowers — it has served as a burial place for African-American residents of Westminster for 158 years. Among the more than 100 people buried there, 26 are veterans from the Civil War through the Vietnam War. Strangers who died in Westminster and were unable to be returned to their families also found a resting place there on "Strangers Row." Ellsworth Cemetery is an active burial site, the most recent interment happened this past spring.
Over the years, Ellsworth Cemetery has been vandalized, its headstones severely damaged and, in some cases completely destroyed.
In the late 1990s, George Murphy, working with the Rev. James Hinton, president of the Ellsworth Cemetery Company and the Rev. Robert Beall, executive director of the Westminster Rescue Mission, collaborated to provide the direction, financial support and manpower to begin restoring the grounds, headstones and markers. I have been told that Pritt's Funeral Home helped in this effort. A flagpole was erected and a split-rail fence was installed around the perimeter of the cemetery. Murphy and his legion of volunteers worked tirelessly in this effort and also to promote and educate the community about the historical significance of Ellsworth Cemetery. Murphy gave many rousing lectures about the cemetery and the soldiers buried there.
When George Murphy's health began to fail, other people including Michael Hill tried to maintain the work in cooperation the current Board of Directors at Union Memorial Baptist Church where the Rev. Edwin C. Smith is now pastor.
In the spirit of fellowship quite common in Carroll County, members of St. Bartholomew's Knights of Columbus Council 9127 toured the cemetery and placed flags on the veterans' graves. Inspired by its beauty and historical significance, the interest and involvement continued to grow into an effort to provide general care and maintenance of the cemetery and an ecumenical bond began between St. Bartholomew's and the Union Memorial Baptist Church. As time passed, businesses and volunteers joined the group. They include but are not limited to: Kohl's Cares Associates in Action, The Wawa Foundation, Lowes and the U.S. Army Recruiting Center in Westminster.
Recently, St. Bartholomew's Knights of Columbus conducted a golf tournament which benefited Ellsworth Cemetery. Many local businesses sponsored the event or participated in it. Thank you very much.
I would like to acknowledge the information and assistance I received for this article from Daniel Kloss, of the St. Bartholomew's Knights of Columbus. In closing, I would like to quote Mr. Kloss when he says, "At a time when opposing factions find it difficult to express their views without resorting to violence, vandalism and destruction, it is indeed refreshing to see that it is still possible to correct mistakes made in the past with fellowship, justice and dignity. It proves that whenever good people unite, any adversity can be overcome."
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Audrey Cimino is executive director of the Community Foundation of Carroll County. She writes from Westminster.