John's Catholic Cemetery (1845 - Present)
St. John's Catholic Cemetery is the beautiful resting ground for an interesting
and distinguished group of early settlers, historic figures, Jesuits and Civil
The cemetery was first used in 1832. On September 25th of that year, a free
black man named Henry, who died of cholera, was the first person buried here.
The cemetery was officially established in 1845. In 1903, additional graves
were moved from the old Jesuit Graveyard, when the Jesuits left Frederick.
Novitiate Cemetery (1805-1904)
More than half of the seventy-nine Jesuits now interred in St. John's Cemetery
were originally buried in an earlier graveyard behind the chapel of the former
Novitiate established in 1834 on East Second Street. The Graveyard was started
in 1805 by Father John DuBois, who also built Frederick's first Church of Saint
John the Evangelist in 1800 across the street from the present church. In 1808,
he founded Mount Saint Mary's College and Seminary in Emmitsburg, twenty miles
north of Frederick on U.S. Route 15, near the Basilica of Saint Elizabeth Ann
Seton and the Grotto of Lourdes.
Others who were first buried in the Novitiate Cemetery include Chief Justice
Roger Brooke Taney (d.1864) and his mother Monica (d.1814). Chief Justice Taney
served as Attorney General and Secretary of the Treasury under President Andrew
Jackson, and as Chief Justice swore in seven presidents, including Abraham
Lincoln. Probably best known for the Dred Scott decision, Chief Justice Taney
is considered by many to be one of the great Chief Justices. Mr. Taney served
from 1836 to 1864. Chief Justice Taney was the brother-in-law of Francis Scott
Key, author of The Star-Spangled Banner.
Father John McElroy
One of the most interesting of the Jesuits was Father John McElroy, S.J. who
worked tirelessly for Catholicism in the early years of this country. Father
John McElroy was born in Enniskillen, Ireland in May 1782. He came to America
in 1803 and was ordained in 1817. Father McElroy was pastor of St. John's
Church from 1822 until 1845. In 1837, he oversaw the construction of the present
church building. This beautiful structure was the first Roman Catholic Church
consecrated in what was then the United States.
Father McElroy became the first U.S. Army chaplain in 1846 and served in the
Mexican-American War. In 1863, he founded Boston College. When Father McElroy
died at age 95 in 1877, he was the oldest living Jesuit in the world.
A number of French settlers are buried in St. John's Cemetery. Those include
John Payne Boisneuf, who was one of those who condemned Marie Antoinette to the
guillotine. Bellumeau de La Vincendi`ere was a refugee of the Negro
Insurrection of 1791 in the French colony of St. Domingue. Next to Mr.
Vincendi`ere lies his grandson, Enoch Louis Lowe, who was Maryland's
Two of Napoleon's soldiers who survived Waterloo are nearby: Francis Lueber and
Herman Weber. Peter Nicolas Simard, a member of the French Legion of Honor, is
also buried here.
Soldiers from every armed conflict in which this nation was involved are
represented. Revolutionary War soldier George Littlejohn, who fought for
England in the Battle of Saratoga, is buried at St. John's. He was imprisoned
in Frederick's Hessian Barracks during the war and remained here after his
You may also visit the grave of Hugh McSweeney, who helped quell Pennsylvania's
"Whiskey Rebellion" in 1794. The training ground for this action was
on the site of what is now the Visitation Convent. Both Yankee and Confederate
Civil War soldiers are buried here, as this was home for many who were killed
during the war, or died following their return. Union soldiers buried in the
old novitiate graveyard, many who died of their wounds while receiving care at
area hospitals, were moved to St. John's Cemetery when the old graveyard was
closed. Many burials took place following Frederick's Battle of the Monocacy,
which saved the National Capital, and following nearby fighting in Gettysburg
and Antietam. Some of these soldiers include Col. John Haydon (2nd MD inf.,
USA), Christopher Steves, killed in Virginia serving with the 1st MD Cav., CSA,
and Capt. William Dorsey (1st MD Cav., CSA) Veterans of both World Wars, and
the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, also lie at rest in St. John's Cemetery.
More Politician & Notables
In addition to Judge Taney and Governor Lowe, the cemetery holds Judge Madison
Nelson, Chief Justice of Maryland's Sixth Judicial District, James McSherry, a
Maryland writer and historian, and his son the Honorable James McSherry, Jr.,
former Chief Judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals; Outerbridge Horsey, was a
U.S. Senator from Delaware, General Lewis Victor Baughman, president of the
Chesapeake & Ohio Canal and former Maryland State Comptroller; and Leonard
Smith, who founded Brunswick and Jefferson, Maryland. John Tehan, the architect
and builder of St. John's Church, and many other Frederick buildings, is buried
at St. John's Cemetery.
Photos from our visit, click here (all have been downloaded to the 'Find A Grave' site as well).