You know the place. Eldersburg, Maryland. The intersection of 32 and 26. One of the least scenic places on earth, although it does have a sign now that says “Welcome to Eldersburg” at an intersection that doesn’t seem welcoming at all.
And after your trip to Panera or Food Lion or Cobblestones, as you sit at the intersection, waiting forever to turn left on 32, instead of looking down out the driver’s side window at the pile of cigarette butts lined from tire to tire and beyond, you can stare toward that sign, and think, at least that someone had, or has, good intentions.
And you can thank the Freedom Area Citizens Council for the sign, and then you can head toward Sykesville where history still lives and not everything’s been ripped down, bulldozed under, and built over with nothing more than convenience and dollars in mind.
Eldersburg – The Lost Frontier
And you could reflect on the fact that although you can’t find any sign of anything remotely old or historic, the sign does say, “Settled in 1750.”
And you could realize that a long time ago, before the lonely welcome sign, before all the houses and the traffic and the strip malls, before Wal-Mart and Home Depot, before Starbucks and Glory Days and countless fast food joints, before all the chain restaurants, and the struggling Moms and Pops that come and go, long before the old place that was once new and seems forever to be dying, called “Carrolltown Center,” Eldersburg was a different sort of place, farmland mostly.
It was, in fact, the frontier.
And during that time there was a small chapel, referred to as a chapel of ease, where the farmers could gather to pray, and beside that chapel, there was a burial ground, and across the way was Welsh’s tavern. The area was referred to as Delaware Hundred. And fighting Indians was an actual concern.
They built the chapel five years before the Revolutionary War and renamed it to Holy Trinity Church sometime after 1830, but eventually, sometime around the Second World War, the old abandoned, crumbling remains of the building were taken down and buried. Just as today, across the street from where the chapel stood, they’re bulldozing the grounds where the original tavern stood since the 1760s.
It’s progress, you know, free enterprise, and we can never have enough banks, beauty salons, and Chinese restaurants. We can never have enough gasoline, coffee, and convenience. Soon, I hear, there may be a Royal Farms there on the corner by the welcome sign, and another place to fill up on caffeine, Tastycakes, smokes, and gasoline as we rush about our lives.
The Hidden Graves
But nearby, hidden among all this modernization, there’s a secret place. Sacred even. And quiet. That really does go back to 1750 or thereabouts.
It’s called Old Trinity Cemetery. It sits right off Liberty Road, out of view, fortunately perhaps, nearly lost behind another Eldersburg shopping center with a Mexican restaurant, a place that sells mattresses, a bar, Chinese takeout, a Quiznos for awhile, and Rita’s.
It’s the old burial ground, you see, that surrounded the long gone chapel. It was discovered and saved. It has friends. It’s a place where James Sykes once walked and Susanna Warfield. It’s surrounded by civilization, if that’s what you want to call it, but it lives in another century.
And this Saturday was clean up day. And the Friends of Old Trinity Cemetery, as they do every spring, came to spruce up the grounds.Pictured, left to right are: Jane Cohen, Ann Strauss, Bill Conaway, Larry Ireland, Ann Horvath, Jim Dorsey, Elaine Breeding, and George Horvath.
Today was cold and dark, and there were only eight, but once again, the grounds are clean. The hidden cemetery is safe and unforgotten. The leaves are raked and hauled away. The stones are standing. The bones are buried. The ghosts are resting. Ready for another year of being mostly ignored, as Eldersburg swirls around it and the voices of children eating water ice and custard drift through the trees on warm summer nights.
The friends will return next spring to do it again.
It’s a good one right in the heart of Eldersburg, settled in 1750.