Volunteers help preserve Brunswick’s oldest cemetery

Maryland

Probing of the burial grounds has uncovered additional headstones

BRUNSWICK, Md. (WDVM) — On Tuesday morning, Diane Ellis and Wayne Allgaier roamed the grounds of Old Berlin Cemetery. For the past two years, they’ve dived into the history that lays under the field of tombstones.

“This is the final resting place of the people who really built this town. You’re talking about all the railroad works, C&O canal workers, Civil War soldiers buried here. That’s how far back all this goes,” Ellis said. 

According to Ellis, records dating back to 1779 make reference to the cemetery, making it the oldest burial grounds in Brunswick. A majority of the remains here, Ellis says, were buried between 1890 to 1910. 

In the decades since, the cemetery has fallen into disrepair.

“It was an eyesore,” Ellis explained, “We needed to beautify it, and to kind of restore the dignity and pride.”

Ellis and Allgaier are both members of the city’s Old Berlin Cemetery restoration committee created in 2016. The committee sought state preservation grants to collect an inventory of the gravestones here, repair those that were broken, and to turn upright those that have fallen over. 

Ellis says records show about 160 bodies were buried here, but she suspects there could be several more. Probing of the grounds have already discovered additional headstones and footstones.

“I remember the first one I found, I heard ‘clunk, clunk,’ brushed it off, there were some initials and it was a footstone,” Allgaier explained, “I thought there’s got to be more, and there were.”

A special area of the cemetery has been devoted to the more than 30 “orphan stones” found on the grounds–these are markers that have been moved over the years and their original locations are unknown. 

Recently, three benches were added to the grounds, crafted by R. S. Kinnaird Memorials, and a new monument formally naming the cemetery.

Allgaier says his passion for history has moved him to conduct research on the history of about 15 individuals buried at the cemetery. The goal is to create a website listing the names of all those buried on the grounds, along with information about them. 

Preservation work is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

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