Ellsworth Cemetery is a Civil War-era burial site, founded by Black soldiers in Westminster. The historic Ellsworth Cemetery in Westminster is now part of the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area, recognizing the cemetery’s December 1876 founding by six Black Civil War veterans.
Sherry Greenfield January 30, 2024 at 4:03 p.m.
Ellsworth Cemetery is a Civil War-era burial site, founded by Black soldiers in Westminster.
The historic Ellsworth Cemetery in Westminster is now part of the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area, recognizing the cemetery’s December 1876 founding by six Black Civil War veterans.
On Jan. 11, the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority approved expanding the Civil War Heritage Area to encompass the historic cemetery, a final resting place for many prominent Black residents of Carroll County. The heritage area covers parts of Carroll, Frederick and Washington counties.
“We applaud the expansion of the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area boundary to include Ellsworth Cemetery, and look forward to supporting efforts to preserve and promote this storied place that was founded by slave descendant Civil War veterans,” said Elizabeth Shatto, executive director of the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area, in a news release.
Last March, the Community Foundation of Carroll County petitioned the City of Westminster government to annex the cemetery, located on Leidy Road, which would allow the cemetery to be included in the heritage area and be eligible to receive grants and loans.
In June, the Westminster Common Council approved the annexation. The council’s decision came after months of discussion and review by city and county officials and advocacy by several groups.
“Ellsworth Cemetery is a part of Westminster’s history that has been too long forgotten,” Westminster Mayor Mona Becker said in an email. “I am thrilled that the city annexed the property last year enabling Ellsworth to be included in the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area.”
The Board of Carroll County Commissioners, the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission and the City of Westminster Planning and Zoning Commission all reviewed the annexation proposal and recommended approval.
The Westminster Common Council voted to annex the Ellsworth Cemetery into city limits in June 2023.
Carroll County Commissioner Tom Gordon III, who represents District 3, which includes Westminster, is a local historian who advocated for the annexation for more than three years.
“As commissioner for the Westminster area, a historian by nature, and a strong advocate for the
Ellsworth Cemetery, I am thrilled with Maryland Heritage Areas Authority approving the expansion of
the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area boundaries to encompass Ellsworth Cemetery,” Gordon said in an email. “This is a perfect fit and the next step in the evolution of the Ellsworth Cemetery as it will allow this historically significant location to benefit from the heritage’s resources.
“This approval will generate opportunities for new heritage tourism preservation and will secure the longevity and legacy of the history of current and future generations for many years to come,” he said.
The mission of the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area is to preserve and promote historic sites, towns and cultural landscapes in Carroll, Frederick and Washington counties.“]
Ellsworth Cemetery was founded to provide a burial place “for the Colored residents of Westminster, Maryland,” according to the cemetery’s website. Reuben Walker, David Ireland, William Massey, William Adams, Lewis Dorsey and Samuel Bowens, the incorporators, all participated in the Civil War campaigns of 1863, 1864, and 1865. They named the cemetery to recognize Col. Elmer Ellsworth, who was the first Union officer to die in the Civil War.
Until about 1950, the cemetery was still accepting burials and closely associated with the Union Street Methodist Church, but interments slowed by 1983. By the late 1990s, the cemetery had fallen into disrepair, with a small but dedicated volunteer force attempting upkeep. In 2013, a fund was established under the Community Foundation to support the repair and maintenance of Ellsworth. A local Knights of Columbus chapter, with help from local businesses and Scout troops, volunteered to maintain the grounds.
The Community Foundation of Carroll County now owns the cemetery and administers a Field of Interest Fund to restore and maintain the grounds. A state grant in 2020 is providing funding for the continued mapping of the cemetery as well as restoration of the memorials. Ground-penetrating radar had identified 182 unmarked graves at that time, according to the cemetery’s website.
In June 2022, nine headstones marking the graves of seven Civil War soldiers and two World War I soldiers were unveiled at the cemetery. Work continues to identify graves and gather more information about the people who may be buried there. For more information, go to https://ellsworthcemetery.org.