This web site is the result of an initial research inquiry from former Chief Judge Robert Mack Bell.
The Judge, along with the Governor's Appointments Secretary Jeanne Hitchcock, had helped organize a general
clean-up of Mount Auburn Cemetery and had asked Dr. Papenfuse how the community might go about better
documenting the individuals buried there. Dr. Papenfuse provided input and recruited the Archives lead programmer,
Nancy Sheads, to provide technical support to develop the site. Mrs. Sheads also donated many hours in gathering and
formatting the data found on the site. This website was dedicated to Chief Judge Robert Bell upon his retirement in
2013 as the Chairman of the Hall of Records Commission in recognition of his generous support of the
Maryland State Archives and its research activities.
As with any transcription, errors are possible. Researchers are strongly urged to double check information provided against
the source materials cited.
This site is not affiliated with the Sharp Street Memorial United Methodist Church or Mount Auburn Cemetery and the information
provided is for reference purposes only. For additional information
on burials at Mount Auburn Cemetery, please contact the Sharp Street Memorial United Methodist Church.
A VERY BRIEF HISTORY OF MOUNT AUBURN CEMETERY
Located in the Westport/Mount Winans community of Baltimore, Mount Auburn Cemetery is one of the city’s largest African American cemeteries.
Founded in 1872 by Reverend James Peck, the cemetery is the final resting place for former slaves, clergymen, teachers, doctors,
military veterans, and Civil Rights leaders as well as countless African-American families.
Over the years, the cemetery suffered from periods of neglect and vandalism. Articles and photographs published in the Afro-American revealed the deteriorating condition of the cemetery. Dense,
overgrown briars prevented family members from locating the graves of loved ones. In October 1944, the Afro-American reported that "The graves themselves present a contrast of raw clay mounds, sunken pits, muddy trenches and weedy plots
above which the marble and granite markers made a desperate effort toward dignity." Periodically, volunteers attempted to clear dense brush and mow the grass, but maintaining a cemetery is a year-round, expensive endeavor -
reportedly costing $25,000 per year - and the cemetery lacks a perpetual care fund.
Without a regular maintenance plan, the landscape quickly became overgrown and weed-choked once again.
Recently, access to the cemetery has been made possible through the efforts of the inmates participating in the state prison system's
Public Safety Works program. Thanks to their hard work clearing debris, cutting down overgrown brush and mowing grass, families are now
able to visit the graves of loved ones. The worn boundary wall has
been replaced with new fencing and a new arch adorns the entrance on Waterview Avenue.
The resurrection of Mount Auburn Cemetery has begun.
Information on burials is drawn from a variety of sources. First, of course, is the information available from the tombstones.
Tombstones are photodocumented using the IPhone app associated with the website
Billion Graves. The photographs and their geocoded locations are upload to the Billion Graves website where they are transcribed and linked
back to this website. Since Billion Graves is a relatively new website, photographs
are also uploaded to the better known FindAGrave so that the information can be made available
to a wider community.
Since some graves were never marked and many of the existing tombstones have been damaged, other sources are necessary to identify those
who may now be buried in unmarked graves. Some names were derived from death certificates while others were collected from obituaries
published in The Sun (Baltimore) and the Afro-American (Baltimore). In addition, cemetery records -- available at the
Maryland State Archives,
the Enoch Pratt Free Library, and the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture
at the New York Public Library -- can be consulted to determine burials.
While burials may have been systematically recorded from the founding of the cemetery, extant records available at the Maryland State Archives and the Enoch Pratt Free Library appear to document primarily post-1904 burials. By 1921, a card index to 5,000 lot holders existed (and may still exist), but
this card index does not appear on any of the microfilm editions of the cemetery records. As a result, research will initially focus on pre-1904 burials to try to identify through death certificates and obituaries those burials that may
not be recorded in existing cemetery records. Although death certificates and obituaries are not definitive proof -- the certificates are not infallible and in at least one case to date, an obituary cited a burial in Mount Auburn that actually took place in another cemetery --
this can be a starting point for a period when cemetery records are elusive.
As of 2/20/2017, nearly 50,143 burials have been identified through a combination of the sources listed above.
Since there are an estimated
55,000 burials at Mount Auburn, this is clearly a work in progress and will evolve over time. Hopefully it will serve its intended
purpose -- to provide preliminary documentation of the historic landscape and to help loved ones locate family graves -- and it has been
gratifying to hear from the families of those whose graves have been located so far during the project.