All Saints church seeking to identify unmarked graves -- Gazette.Net



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There are more than 360 graves at All Saints Episcopal Church in Oakley. There are plenty of Blackistones, Butterfields, Dents and Faunces buried there, but there are about 50 unmarked graves as well.

Bruce Blackistone of Avenue is hoping that some of those can be identified. Some graves only have a stone to mark them. Some have only the base of a wooden cross left. The church does have a map of the cemetery with names for most of the burials, “but who knows what’s buried under the church,” he said.

All Saints was established in 1642 by Thomas Gerard; it began as Tomakokin Chapel at a site elsewhere. The current location off Oakley Road has been in use since 1750 and the current building dates to 1846.

“Does anyone remember in the family who some of those stones are for? There’s no markings whatsoever,” Blackistone said. Someone may know that someone was buried in the cemetery who isn’t in the records. “Even if we find out about one or two it would be worth it,” he said.

“It’s just so complex, something as simple as a cemetery,” he said, and the old cemetery ledger can’t be found.

Now when a new burial is about to take place, the grave diggers prod the ground to make sure there isn’t something already buried there. “Sometimes you run into one where you don’t expect it,” he said.

“When I was a boy, there would be wooden crosses” to mark some of the graves. There are still two wooden markers, dated back to 1884, made of either cedar or black locust.

“So many family names you see here,” he said, and many of them were his cousins.

In the Dorsey family section there is the most depressing headstone in the cemetery, Blackistone said. “I have seen my fondest hopes decay,” reads the headstone of Philip Henry Dorsey said, who died on Feb. 6, 1945. Nearby is the headstone of Luke Dorsey, who at 19 was killed by lightning near St. Clement’s Bay on Aug. 29, 1895.

Also buried at All Saints is Lettie Marshall Dent, Blackistone’s cousin. Dent was the first female superintendent of schools in Maryland, presiding over the St. Mary’s County public schools from March 7, 1928, to Dec. 31, 1957. She died on Nov. 2, 1982, at age 88 and there is an elementary school in New Market named after her.

There is also the grave of Adam T. Wible, the Avenue blacksmith and columnist known as “Gabriel” for The Enterprise and the St. Mary’s Beacon. Wible noted the end of the horse-and-buggy era when he commented in May 1916, “Sunday evening, five autos passed one buggy. Five years ago, five buggies passed one auto. Time changes all things!” He died on Nov. 24, 1957, at the age of 85.

“About two years ago the old penman could no longer continue his sentimental and sometimes salty comments in prose and poetry on the state of the world and St. Mary’s County,” The Enterprise wrote of his passing. “Thus faded from the local scene a colorful figure that spanned nearly a century of violent change.”

The oldest grave known at All Saints is that of Ellen T. Allstan, who died in 1817 at the age of 32.

“We’ve got a lot of history here, a lot of families, love and faith,” Blackistone said. He and his wife plan to be buried there, he said.

“I think it would be wonderful if we could gather and preserve more of the history associated with this special little church and its people,” Jennifer Schmidt, a member of the vestry of All Saints, said.

jbabcock@somdnews.com



To help

To submit information about those buried at All Saints Episcopal Church call Bruce Blackistone at 301-769-2627 or email at asylum@earthlink.net.