Halfway’s Lost African-American Cemetery: The Story Unfolded

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"Hood College students will study the area and will eventually turn into a peaceful park for the descendants' families."

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WDVM)– In 2009, the neighborhood on Clinton Avenue discovered their entire block sits on a lost burial ground. 

“I just feel bad that people are buried here that were getting trampled over or lost by the overgrowth or forgotten about,” said Neighbor Elizabeth Paul. “That was even before I knew the historic significance.”

Halfway’s historic Colored Cemetery dates back to 1844 and laid to rest over 400 unmarked graves. Spanning over seven acres, Good Samaritans and Daughters of Samaria bought the land in 1897. But, as decades passed, the land was forgotten about, sold in the 1950’s and eventually developed into a neighborhood.

“It was very common for African-American cemeteries to have been built over or just abandoned in the past,” said Hood College History Professor Emilie Amt. “This one became a housing development but this little piece of half-an-acre or less was preserved for a while and then it was abandoned and neglected.”

Courtesy: Elizabeth Paul

From a bird’s eye view, you can see the lost cemetery takes up a big portion of the neighborhood and is highlighted in yellow. Now a much closer look, the outer yellow line represents the cemetery’s boundaries that still hold grave sites to this day. The smaller yellow area sectioned off in the top left represents the half-acre that’s currently preserved and fenced off. However, you can see even outside the fencing, headstones stand in surrounding neighbors’ yards.

Although the cemetery was lost for over a century, the community teamed up with Hood College to work on preserving the land and honoring hundreds of lives.

“I think this is going to go forward once we get past covid and it will be restored,” said Professor Amt. “It will be again a place of memory and commemoration.”

Records show at least seven Civil War veterans and a World War I vet are buried in the lost cemetery including Perry Moxley, a notorious member of Moxley’s Band. The band is a Hagerstown musical group that enlisted together in 1863 to form the First Brigade Band of the United States Colored Troops.

Courtesy: Professor Emilie Amt

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