Well this is it!!!

Here it is. The big day. The chance to present my project in front of my friends, family, and community members. I’m very excited about this and I hope you all are too.

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Please join us on Wednesday, June 15th, 2016 at 12:00pm. The presentation will be held at the Dorchester County Historical Society at 1003 Greenway Drive, in Cambridge, Maryland, 21613.

I look forward to seeing you there!

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A Public Presentation…

Well it is that time of year. It is almost time to start collecting new sites and I look forward to new and interesting locations and photos to be able to share with you. The most exciting thing I have to share right now is that we have been invited to speak at the Dorchester County Historical Society and I finally have a date for that to share with you.

The presentation will be held on June 15th, 2016 at 12:00pm (bring your lunch!). It will be held at the Dorchester Historical Society Building at 1003 Greenway Drive, Cambridge, Maryland, 21613.

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I would like to extend an invitation to everyone who has been reading along and sending in locations, and supporting us throughout this project. I couldn’t have done this without all of the help from tips coming in through email and spotters keeping lists of sites they see while driving, and the guides for taking me to some of the more remote parts of the county. I would love to see you all there and be able to thank you in person.

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Remember to keep those tips coming in! There are just some graves that we could never find without your help!

Anyone going out now working on their own research remember, Spring has Sprung. Make sure you use bug repellent, I’ve already heard reports of ticks, chiggers, and mosquitoes. I have also seen some snakes while I was out, so be safe and make sure you keep an eye on your surroundings.

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TUgis Here We Come!

I am thrilled to announce that the Dorchester Graves Project was selected to be presented at the TUgis Conference in March. TUgis is Maryland’s Geospatial Conference and is held annually at Towson University. Those who aren’t familiar can learn more here. The conference highlights GIS Projects and Initiatives from around the State and it is a great honor to be selected to present.

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Also I would like to let everyone know that I have been picking away at posting photos, and all pages, alphabetically, up to the letter “G” are up to date. I am still looking for new sites to map when we start collecting again at the end of March so keep the tips coming.

A Huge Thank You to everyone who has helped out so far!!! Your support has taken us from the fields and marshes of Dorchester County, to the classrooms of Salisbury University, to the event halls of a major state Conference! And none of it would have been possible without you!

Time and Tide…

I know I use this phrase often, but it truly is the best summary for not only the challenges posed to the integrity of the grave sites, but the challenges we’ve faced on this project as well.

You would think being almost completely surrounded by water I would have paid much more attention to the tides. But it wasn’t something I had considered until last Friday when we went to scout locations for Saturdays field collection trip. Water was completely across the roadway in many parts of the lower county making many of the sites inaccessible.  We haven’t been able to go out collecting for the past two weekends now, last week due to the super moon tides and this week due to Hurricane Joaquin.

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Time is against us as well, in that this is our last semester at Salisbury University and many of the resources we have currently had access to, including the GPS device and the various computer mapping programs, will be gone after graduation in December. With all of the tips coming in on grave locations I hope to cover more ground in less time, so we are remaining positive in this regard.

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Since there won’t be a field collection update for this week or last week, I’ve decided to answer some of the most popular questions received from visitors to the website. If this goes well and I keep getting great feedback from visitors I’ll try and do this every couple weeks.

“Are you interested in any sites in southern Caroline County, since depending on the census year, it was sometimes in Dorchester County?”

Not at this time, but it is something we will consider as a supplement in the future. Due to the time constraints listed above I am sticking to Dorchester County as the boundaries currently sit. But for any researchers having trouble locating sites, remember that Caroline County was created out of parts of Dorchester and Queen Anne’s counties.

“Are you attempting to photograph every headstone to allow researchers to look/search for their ancestors, or just to document the existence of these cemeteries?”

Again, due to time limits we are not able to photograph every stone at every site. Being a geography major, the main purpose of this project is to locate where these sites are, and to create a map of their locations for future researchers. That being said, there are other resources to help genealogists and enthusiasts who may be looking for a particular family member or gravestone. I don’t want to duplicate any efforts since there are so many volunteers out there who are photographing stones and researching family connections already.  I will create a resources page and list as many links as I can think of to help those researchers find the help or information they need.

“Do you already have this one?”

Please don’t hesitate to send us any tips you may have for the locations of graves! Even if you think it’s a simple one or something someone else may have already pointed out. I would rather receive 10 tips for the same location than miss a hidden or remote grave because someone figured their tip had already been submitted. Just this weekend I received 2 great new locations from followers (Thanks Kari and Jacob!). Keep the tips coming! The more we receive the more complete the final map will be!

“How do I subscribe?”

Anyone who wishes to follow the website and be alerted when a new blog post is published can have the article sent straight to their email inbox. All you have to do is click the plus sign icon (+) at the bottom of the screen and enter your email address into the box. Poof, that’s it. Now you’ll be notified when new information is posted.

Thank you everyone for your support! And check back next week when hopefully I will have some new pictures and stories posted!

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Where to start…?

Our last blog post tackled the big question of why we are working on this mapping project. The next most common question is “where do you even start?” Getting started is actually very easy. Living in the county for 30 years has given me enough of a head start to know where to find the large cemeteries and the church yards. Once these larger properties are marked however, is when things get tricky. After that it’s all family plots, and these can be anything from dozens of graves to one single tombstone all by itself.

How do you know where to look for these you ask? Well I started with the locals. They are the experts on the area after all. The same families have been living and working here for hundreds of years. This is evident when you read the last names on the tombstones. You instantly recognize the surnames of friends, classmates, coworkers, etc.

So after asking around and talking to quite a few people I marked a paper map with all of the locations where people told me I could find graves.  This was especially helpful in the southern part of the county where practically everyone has a family plot either in their own yard, or knows of someone who has one near them. Also some of the larger burial grounds, church or public, were already marked on the paper map.

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After local “questioning” my next step was interviewing some of the older folks in the community. A friend’s grandfather is very interested in genealogy and his family tree, so he invited me to come spend an afternoon with him and he showed me the locations on my map of even more grave sites, and directed me towards the owners or caretakers of the properties so I could gain access to those sites.

After people, one of the best resources I have for locating as many sites as possible is Google Earth. I use it to try and verify the tips received from people around the county. The biggest trouble I have run into is that some are so grown over you can’t really tell that they are even there without actually going to the site!

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There really are graves there! I promise!

Another method we’ve used is simply driving down the back country roads, places off the beaten track, and just looking around. Mostly it’s just enjoying the beautiful scenery, but sometimes we get lucky and find a great location. Additionally I would like to thank the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office for keeping mental notes and telling me of the all the places they’ve spotted grave sites while out on their patrols.

Google Earth can also be used to try and find plots that no one has pointed out to us yet. This is the most time consuming part. Zooming in to a part of the county and then panning around, looking for something, anything that might mean grave sites.  Sometimes we are fortunate and can actually see the rows of stones on a property.

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Sometimes however we are simply panning around, looking for changes in agricultural patterns and then questioning the farmers on whether this is just an irrigation stop or perhaps something that warrants more investigation.

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As it happens, there actually were graves in the field shown above. That small circle in the middle of a soy bean field is someone’s final resting place.

As always, check back for more updates, but for now I’ll leave you with an interesting fact:

We have located 90 burial sites already, and haven’t even been south of
Church Creek yet!

Why are we here…?

The question I get from people most often when talking about this project is “Why?”. Apparently graveyards are not something people think about often. We go to a funeral, bury a loved one, and then move on with our lives, rarely thinking about that small stone in the ground. If you are lucky this cycle doesn’t happen often, If you are like me, it happens far more frequently than you would wish.

The answer is simple. Because. Because we are losing these sites to time and tide. Because some have no one to take care of them, because some are already past all hope of help. Because this is our heritage, our history.  Because there are so many stories out there to be told. Because these sites, no matter how small, or how old deserve the same respect and dignity of any of the large, for profit, cemeteries. Because I don’t believe anyone even knows where they are all anymore. And finally, Because if we don’t do it, who will?

Some are easy to find. They can be right in someones front yard.

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Some take more time and effort to find and then get to…

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When strangers happen upon us at a burial site we get some of the strangest looks; surprise, disgust, suspicion… Cars slow down and creep by, I guess wondering why there are a handful of people in the cemetery taking pictures and holding strange electronics. After all nothing says mischief like a pair of rainbow polka dot rain boots…

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However we have been fortunate in our travels that there are many more people fascinated by what we are doing than repulsed by it. I was able to speak with a man who was volunteering his time to help rebuild one of the more historic churches in the county down on Taylor’s Island. In addition to a quick history of that church, he was also able to guide me to another grave site nearby and gave me a brief history of that one as well.

Sometimes curious neighbors come out and speak to me absolutely thrilled that their site will be featured in the project. I had a lovely conversation with a church elder who gave me a brief history of the church, some great facts about the neighboring historical buildings, and discussed with me the sad situation that since the church has recently been renamed, the church elders feel they have lost some of their identity. I wish I had the capability to record some of these conversations, or at least had an anthropologist on my team to know what to do with such cultural knowledge.

Always looking for volunteers.   Email us at dorchestergraves@gmail.com

Heroes and History

I wanted to dedicate an entire blog post to the Members of the Armed Forces. We have come across many, many military graves located around the county. For such a small area we have certainly produced a proud number of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines.

In addition to the hundreds of World War I and II service members laid to rest in Dorchester County, there are a notable number of military gravestones from Vietnam, and Korea, as well as campaigns as far back as the Spanish American War, the Civil War, the War of 1812, and even the American Revolution. The Revolution graves are usually marked with a medallion so as to be properly identified.

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Christ Church in Cambridge has a row of such graves. The medallion reads SAR 1775. Sons of the American Revolution.

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The monument on the left is for a French born sailor who served in the Spanish American War and the monument on the right is for the first man from Dorchester County to die in World War I. His ship was torpedoed off the coast of Scotland and he died on a life raft a few hours after the explosion from his injuries and exposure. He volunteered for service.

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This crypt is for a young man who died in Coblenz, Germany during the United States Marine Corps campaigns during World War I. A fact of note is that this is the only above ground crypt in the entire graveyard.

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This graveyard is the final resting place for what appears to be three brothers who all served in the War of 1812. The 1812 Service Members are also identified with a marker. Sadly no further information is available for this family. I will have to do some more research and hopefully bring more of their narrative to light.

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Everyone has heard the phrase “Brother against Brother” when speaking about the Civil War; Dorchester County had Father against Son.

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 This humble stone is the marker for Lieut. Colonel Thomas Woolford, leader of the 4th Maryland Regiment during the American Revolution. Wounded and taken prisoner in the Battle of Camden, SC, he was also part of the campaign to free Charleston from the British.

All of these stories are either amazing, heroic, tragic, or moving. They all deserve to be told. And yet, this is just a handful of the monuments around the county. This project has only covered about half of the area of the county, so there are still a great many more resting places as yet unmapped.

All of the information for these brave soldiers was gleaned from the monuments themselves or from 5 minutes on Google. If this much information was uncovered in such a short amount of time I would love to see what could be accomplished by a dedicated researcher.

Ansel Adams we are not…

In case it has not become abundantly clear by now that this page is not maintained by professional photographers, let me set the record straight; all photography is entirely done by amateurs. I apologize. This site is more a labor of love and less an artistic endeavor.

Geographers, Possibly. Cartographers, Hopefully. Photographers, unlikely.

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Lets hope it doesn’t get this bad…

That being said, we do try to take nice pictures of the grave sites, clear pictures of interesting stones or monuments, and effective documentation of wear, damage, or vandalism to these markers or locations.

Also, since the one thing Dorchester County has an abundance of is water, occasionally I will post pictures of landscapes, in addition to big skies, and sunsets. Additionally some local points of interest or historical sites will be showcased, but as the primary purpose of this project is the burial sites, these photos will only be incidental.

The update for last weeks field collection is as follows;

Bugs.

We went to a location a local had told us might have some stones and we could not even get 10 feet into the field. The insect swarm was so thick the Deep Woods Off couldn’t even keep up. Yet another site that will be waiting until fall after the first frost.

I will leave you with the most interesting find from last weeks collection.

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Check back next week for more progress.

 

The Birds and the Bees…. and Frogs.

As I have mentioned before there is the issue of wildlife to consider while traveling around the county working on this project. I have come across ducks nesting in the cemetery, rabbits munching on the grass, and even frogs bouncing around enjoying the scenery. But yesterday I encountered something I had forgotten to consider. The bees!!! I got my first bee-sting in over 20 years yesterday. I had forgotten how much they hurt. Needless to say I didn’t handle it with the dignity someone my age probably should have. The score currently stands;   Bee – 1    Pride – 0.

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Why can’t I encounter more passive wildlife? This little fella was very friendly.

So yesterdays adventure included the Cambridge and Church Creek areas. We have pretty much finished with Church Creek, there are still 2 sites to record in the City Limits of Cambridge, and there are 2 sites the locals have told us about but we were unable to locate them. Time for more research.

Check back next week for more pictures and more adventures.

 

 

 

GPS Collection Begins!

So last week officially began the GPS data collection portion of this project. I’d like to thank Dr. Harris of the Geography and Geosciences Department at Salisbury University for getting me up and running. Since the county is so large I will be taking readings and photos of the sites by district. I have a collection of maps from 1877 that I found in the Dorchester County Library that has the county broken down into 12 districts and so I will be doing all of my field work based on these divisions.

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After last weeks collection I was convinced I had finished my first district. But then we started receiving tips about small plots on private property and some sites I would need a kayak or canoe to access. I was excited and frustrated all at the same time. Excited that there was so much more than I had first imagined, and frustrated that I had missed so much in my first foray into the field.

The photo above is just one of those tips. This stone is located in Hudson, right on the side of the road, practically in a ditch. I would never have found it without help from the locals. This is a reminder that every bit of help is welcome. If you know of any locations, or have some on your property, please email us at dorchestergraves@gmail.com so we can come document these burial sites.

Hopefully we will finish with the Neck District by the end of the month and then we will move on to Taylor’s Island. Stay Tuned for more updates and photos!