By Linda Percy
The Reisterstown Improvement Association, in conformance with its mission statement, has taken on the project of restoring the little historic cemetery that sits beside the Reisterstown Library. We are currently engaged in fundraising for this restoration.
The RIA took on this project because this little cemetery is one of the most important historic places in the county. In 1764, John Reister created a deed of trust for a plot of land on Cockeys Mill Road. This small plot of land was to have a cemetery, a school, and church, all of which were to be used by the entire community. The school became the first high school, and then the public library. The church burned down.
The cemetery was open to all religions and races, and there was no charge for a burial plot until the 1850s. In 1821, the Maryland General Assembly appointed seven trustees to oversee the trust and maintenance of the cemetery (Dickson, Berryman, Beckley, Harryman, Reister, Fisher, Macklefresh). The trust still exists and the trustees have been appointing their successors for almost two centuries.
Who is buried in this little cemetery, and why is this important? There are quite a few historic heroes buried here who represent the chronological history of the beginnings of our county. There are six soldiers from the American Revolutionary War with the last names of Medairy, Owings, Reister, Smith, and Snyder. There are nine 1777 signers of the Oath of Fidelity To The Colonies (and not to England), Reister, Eichelberger, Bausman, Berryman, Bushey, Forney, Frosh, and Norwood. There are two names from the Mexican War, Storm and Thomas. There are three names from the Civil War Union Army, Neal, Beckley, and Owings. There are five names from the Civil War Confederate Army, Gore, Stansfield, Waggoner, Ellison and Conrad. Yes, Reisterstown was on the Confedrate side. And there are twenty four names from the War of 1812, many of which are now associated with very familiar roads and landmarks.
This little cemetery, which is now known as The Reisterstown Community Cemetery, has weathered well over the centuries, but is now in desperate need of repair. Because the cemetery is on the county, state, and national historic list, we must use only qualified masons experienced in restoring historic buildings and walls.
The first phase of the restoration is going to be the wall that surrounds the cemetery. We will have to have an historic mason assess the damage, and write a report of repairs, materials, and costs. This assessment will be submitted to the county with an application for approval for the work to be done. We can begin work only after the county gives approval, but we need donations to pay for the assessment and for the work.
We need your help. Please consider donating to the restoration of our (your) little cemetery which represents a huge place in Maryland's history.
Checks should be made out to The Reisterstown Improvement Association with The Cemetery Fund in the Memo area and mailed to the Reisterstown Improvement Association, P.O. Box 856, Reisterstown, MD 21136.