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.


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…


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.


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.


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.


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.


 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.

Collection Continues…

We had a short but successful collection day this week. The Trimble GPS device is fast in collecting the coordinates and very user friendly. I will have to go back and count but I believe we have already located more burial sites than are on the official county list. This is a little like comparing apples to oranges however, because the county does not track all of the small sites on private property but I wanted to emphasize that there are so many more than people realize.

One of the biggest challenges we have encountered when going out and collecting these points is to stay on task. Driving down some of the back roads of the county reminds you how truly beautiful the area is. I find myself stopping to take pictures that are completely unrelated to the project but the scenery is just so captivating.


Exhibit A…

The second issue we have come across is that there are still many unpaved “official” county roads. That is; these are county roadways, county maintained, and yet they are still just dirt roads. The official field research vehicle for this project does not appreciate us exploring these roads, especially after a heavy rain. Apparently we are not operating an All-Terrain Camry.

And finally, For the time being all the photo pages are named either for the common name for the burial site, the road they were found on, or after any signage located on the property. The “Official” names of the burial sites are used when available, but we will have to do some more research to be sure we get these names exactly right.

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.

water photo

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;


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.


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.


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.


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!