Ellsworth Cemetery

City Annexation Requested for Historic African American Cemetery


Community Foundation of Carroll County is requesting Ellsworth Cemetery become part of the City of Westminster. The petition was filed on Thursday, March 23, 2023. A successful annexation will require the introduction and review, as well as a public hearing, with a majority vote before the Mayor and Common Council for the City of Westminster.

The Community Foundation of Carroll County has petitioned the City of Westminster for annexation of Ellsworth Cemetery, bringing this historic Carroll County Black cemetery within the city limits. The petition was filed on Thursday, March 23, 2023. A successful annexation will require the introduction and review, as well as a public hearing, with a majority vote before the Mayor and Common Council for the City of Westminster.

The Community Foundation of Carroll County holds the deed to Ellsworth Cemetery, which is governed by an advisory committee of volunteers who maintain the grounds and work to discover and preserve the cemetery’s history. “This is an important step in the continued preservation of Ellsworth Cemetery. Equally important is the recognition by the City of Westminster of the cemetery’s place in both the city’s history and future,” said Jaclyn Mathias, executive director of the Community Foundation of Carroll County.

Local attorney, Kelly Shaffer Miller, prepared the petition pro-bono and said, “Our firm is pleased to provide pro bono services in support of the efforts of Ellsworth Cemetery. I was unfamiliar with the work being done to restore the cemetery and recognize those buried there. I am happy to be involved and provide whatever help possible.” CLSI, a local surveying firm, provided the annexation plat pro-bono as well, further demonstrating the community’s desire to bring Ellsworth into the corporate boundary.

About Ellsworth Cemetery

Formed in the late 1870s, prominent Black citizens of Westminster incorporated the Ellsworth Cemetery Corporation. Designed to provide a “Burial Place for the Colored Citizens of Westminster,” the place has been outside of the city limits. Successful annexation would serve a symbolic purpose as well as a practical one. The cemetery currently lies immediately outside the borders of the city, along three directions. Annexation will allow inclusion in the Heart of the Civil War Heritage area and provide access to grants.  

While records do not show why the cemetery was placed outside of the city limits, it has served as a final resting place for Black residents of Carroll County for more than 150 years. The cemetery is home to at least 17 Civil War veterans, and eight veterans from the World Wars. Nicholas Paraway, the first African American to vote in the county, as well as John M. Snowden, the first African American to serve on a jury, are among the historical figures interred there.

Over the decades, the cemetery fell in and out of repair. For many years, Union Memorial Baptist Church maintained the grounds. By the 1980s, the cemetery was considered full and burials stopped. By 2021 only about 100 headstones remained, but recent ground-penetrating radar surveys have discovered another 182 unmarked graves in the one-acre cemetery.

In 2022, nine new headstones were installed for Civil War and World War I veterans. These were installed by a diverse group of volunteers, including people from the Carroll County Genealogical Society, the Historical Society of Carroll County, the Pipe Creek Civil War Round Table, the Navy Federal Credit Union, the Uniformed Services University, and the Westminster City Council as well as members of the local chapters of the Boy Scouts of America, the Catholic War Veterans, the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

Thomas Greul has been maintaining the cemetery for over 12 years, leading volunteers from the Knights of Columbus at St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church in Manchester. He first visited Ellsworth seeking to place flags on veterans’ graves for Memorial Day but was unable to locate headstones because the weeds and grass were so high. He’s excited about what the future and the annexation means for Ellsworth Cemetery. “As a part of the city, Ellsworth Cemetery will be maintained,” Gruel says, “and this crucial part of our history will not be forgotten again.”

About Community Foundation of Carroll County

An umbrella organization that facilitates philanthropic activities across Carroll County, Community Foundation of Carroll County (CFCC) manages 8 million dollars in endowments, operating funds, scholarships, programs, and funds managed for non-profit organizations. Established in 1994, CFCC provides the legal underpinnings so that more than 320 projects, which are referred to as “Funds,” can focus on running their programs, for a 2% fee. The community foundation manages every incoming and outgoing donation, payment, scholarship, and grant. CFCC provides the structure, so the Funds can do the work they dream of. If it has a non-profit purpose, CFCC can be involved. Learn more at wearecarroll.org.

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