Local historic African American cemetery formally recognized and restored

Maryland

RED HILL, Md. (WDVM) — What used to be a patch of overgrown trees and greenery on the side of the road has now been formally recognized as a historic African American cemetery. People gathered in Red Hill, Maryland outside of Keedysville to honor the people buried in Red Hill Cemetery.

Just two years earlier, the burial ground, which lies right off the side of Red Hill Road, was unrecognizable, overrun by bushes and trees. Raymond Thomas is a descendent of a number of people buried in the cemetery. Knowing that many of his family members were buried in Red Hill Cemetery, Thomas was one of a handful of people who tried to clear debris and keep the area tidy.

Red Hill Cemetery in 2020 before volunteers began clearing the area. Photo courtesy of the African American Historical Association of Western Maryland

On Saturday, the burial ground was formally recognized by the town of Keedysville as well as Washington County. During both dedications, the sun broke through the clouds and shined a little brighter on attendees, especially on Thomas.

“Oh it, it means a lot now that it’s getting recognized and, you know, I finally got some help to take care of it now,” Thomas said. “Because before, it was me and a couple other ones in the family, and you know, come out here two or three times in the summer to try and get it cleaned up and stuff. It was just, you know, hard to do.”

Thomas tried his best to always keep the headstones of his grandparents, Reason and Carrie Thomas, clear. He says before the volunteers cleared out the heavy brush and trees, the two most visible headstones were the only indication of a burial ground.

The African American Historical Association of Western Maryland estimates that there are around 56 people buried in Red Hill Cemetery but are looking to confirm more and even identify dependents of those buried here.

“Our next goal is, we’re going to start to grid out the cemetery and identify the approximately 56 to 58 graves that are here,” Richard Kline, president of the African American Historical Association of Western Maryland, explained. “My goal is within the next year to also get ground-penetrating radar to actually identify the specific sites, and then identify those known burrows that we have.”

The African American Historical Association of Western Maryland hopes to get the red hill cemetery formally recognized by the national register of historic places in the future. Nonetheless, Kline is grateful for the recognition of the burial ground as he believes a lot of recent focus by historians has highlighted the underground railroad. He hopes that by restoring the red hill cemetery, it will highlight the need to find and restore other forgotten cemeteries around the state and the country.

The African American Historical Association of Western Maryland also plans to hold more clean-up days in the future. For more information, please visit their website.

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