Posted by: buyandsellcemeteryplots | January 6, 2008

Cemeteries in Chesapeake

Cemeteries are intensely personal for some people, representing connections to family and friends. Cemeteries also serve as reminders of our own mortality. Part of the attraction is the gravestones, often looked upon as works of art, from their design detail to the haunting or humbling epitaphs. Most important, gravestones serve as a reminder of a person’s life, offering clues as to who they were: husband, father, friend.

You can tell a lot about a time and place by the way people treated their dead, and the Eastern Shore is no exception. This story encompasses a sampling of Eastern Shore burial traditions, ranging from church cemeteries to family burial plots to unmarked graves along the side of the road. Each cemetery, each gravestone has a story to tell. Here are two.

Broad Creek Cemetery at Christ Church Parish 
Stevensville, Queen Anne’s County, Md.

The oldest continuous church congregation in Maryland, Christ Church Parish, located in the south end of Kent Island, dates from 1632 and was organized by the Rev. Richard James at Kent Fort. Around 1650, the church moved to Broad Creek and was rebuilt in 1712 and again in 1826. The congregation moved to its current site in Stevensville in 1880, abandoning Broad Creek and its graveyard.

What’s left of the cemetery sits off Route 8 tucked behind a shopping complex and neighbored by a small industrial park and airport. In 1999, members of the Stevensville church embarked on an archaeological project to restore the condition of the graveyard and determine the location of its burial plots. “We have an ethical obligation to the people buried there,” says church member Richard Ervin, who is also an archaeologist with the Maryland State Highway Administration.

Many of the earliest grave markers were likely wood, says Ervin, because there was little native stone in the area. In the approximately 1.5-acre burial ground, only a dozen markers from 1746 to 1903 remain, all clustered in the northwest corner of the cemetery.

To date, the archaeological committee has located and marked off the original foundation stones of the church building. The parishioners are seeking grant money to fund the use of high-tech equipment, such as ground-penetrating radar, to learn what lies beneath the rest of the land. “There could be a hundred-maybe even a couple hundred-people buried there,” says Ervin, “but we really have no idea.”

Sturgis Plot 
Franktown, Northampton County, Va.

Like a miniature Stonehenge, five tombstones belonging to the Sturgis family-William, Elizabeth, and their three children-sit in the middle of a barren field just south of Franktown. The Sturgises lived in a house nearby, and when William died in 1903, like many of the area’s deceased, he was buried outside the house.

“There’s a strong tradition of burying people on family land on Virginia’s Eastern Shore,” says Wayne Stith, a Richmond resident with strong family ties to the area. Stith runs a Web site, the GHOTES Virtual Cemetery at ghotes.org, which is dedicated to identifying every one of the estimated 50,000 tombstones that dot the lower portion of the Delmarva peninsula. (GHOTES is an acronym for Genealogy and History of the Eastern Shore.) Since the summer of 2000, more than fifty volunteers have helped him gather photographs of more than 15,000 gravestones, and they’re all posted on the Web site.

Stith says it’s a challenge to catalog all the tombstones; many have weathered away or been disturbed by vandals. The Sturgis plot is in relatively good shape since it’s comparatively new. (The youngest child was buried there in 1961.) However, the Sturgis’s property transferred hands years ago and the house was razed. These five tombstones in a barren field by the side of the road are all that remain.
To view more cemeteries go to Buy and Sell Cemetery Plots

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