Deer Park Cemetery in Carroll County is hallowed ground for Marine Corps

Deer Park Cemetery in Carroll County is hallowed ground for Marine Corps
On June 12, 1898, U.S. Marine Sgt. Charles Hampton Smith, from Smallwood was one of the first three Americans to die in the Spanish American War. He is buried in the Deer Park Cemetery behind the chapel in Carroll County. (Staff photo by Kevin E. Dayhoff)

On Oct. 4, 1891, the cornerstone was laid for a new chapel for the Deer Park United Methodist Church in Smallwood, just south of Westminster on Route 32.

The origins of the church date back to 1846, according to a brief history found on the church's website. According to the website, "the people of this cross­roads community of Smallwood felt a need to worship together. Itinerant preachers came out from the Reisterstown area to hold services in the Union Schoolhouse by the year 1848.


"The worshippers were formally incorporated as the Deer Park Chapel Congregation of the Maryland Conference of the Methodist Protestant Church in 1854..." The first chapel "was dedicated in September 1855 and served as a place of public worship for the next thirty-six years.

"The original Deer Park Chapel began to deteriorate physically, and a thunderstorm on June 7, 1891, caused damage to the ceiling and roof. A decision was made to build a new Chapel," which was completed in February 1892, and "dedicated debt-free."

The church building still stands, although a new sanctuary was constructed across the road and dedicated on Sept. 17, 1995.

Deer Park is one of many Methodist churches in Carroll County, where Methodism began in the United States in the early 1760s at the Strawbridge Shrine, located not that far away to the west, near New Windsor.

The historic cemetery located at the church is hallowed ground to the United States Marine Corps, for it is there that Marine Sgt. Charles Hampton Smith is buried. Smith is one of the first five Americans killed on Cuban soil during the Spanish American War (1898-1901).

According to research on the matter for the Historical Society of Carroll County by Jay Graybeal, "Smith was born on 15 January 1867 near Smallwood… At about age 20 he left the county and worked in a Baltimore insurance firm. In 1893 he joined the Marine Corps…

"The deteriorating relations between the United States and Spain and the destruction of the Battleship Maine on 15 February 1898 led to war…"

On April 11, 1898, President William McKinley asked Congress for permission to use military force in Cuba.

Smith landed on Cuban soil on June 10 with the 1st Marine Battalion. Its "mission was to capture the harbor at Guantanamo Bay for use as a Navy coaling station…," according to Graybeal's research. "The novelist Stephen Crane … accompanied the battalion…" and wrote extensively about the subsequent combat as a correspondent for McClure's magazine.

"The Marines established a camp on a hill overlooking the harbor. The first action came during the afternoon of 11 June when Spanish regulars or guerrillas attacked a scouting party containing Sgt. Smith and Pvts. William Dumphy and James McColgan." By the morning June 12, "All were killed…"

These events took place at a critical time in the history of the Marine Corps as discussions were taking place that the Marines could be disbanded.

"The success of the 1st Marine Battalion solved a long-standing argument among naval officers over the role of the Marines," wrote Graybeal.

"Sgt. Smith's remains were shipped home and he was buried with full military honors in Deer Park Methodist Cemetery near his parents' home in Smallwood," according to Graybeal's account of the events. "More than 2,000 people attended the funeral. His parents erected a cemetery monument to his memory in August 1903. More than a thousand people attended the dedication of the plain, 8-foot shaft of Vermont marble."

. Semper Fi.