"Time has not been kind to the severely neglected Mount Carmel Cemetery," writes Jane B. Wilson in her ‘The Very Quiet Baltimoreans: A Guide to the Historic Cemeteries and Burial Sites of Baltimore’ (White Mane, 1991).
The once majestic Mt. Carmel Cemetery has been allowed to decay. The once paved roads are littered with pot holes and buried stones, while vines and in some instances even trees grow through the stones that mark the final resting spot of many of our ancestors. Many of the graves are sunken and on one visit after a hefty rain, we spotted a few vaults protruding from the ground.
The cemetery, incorporated by an Act of the Maryland General Assembly in 1852, appears to be an outgrowth of an older cemetery on Wilkes Street (now Eastern Avenue) established in 1787 by the M.E. Church. This older cemetery was abandoned (no burials occurred after 1830). It would seem that the cemetery was abandoned due primarily to the growth of East Baltimore. In 1857 the old cemetery was excavated and notifications made. All were provided with graves in Mt. Carmel Cemetery or moved to other cemeteries where family had lots. The Baltimore Sun, April 27, 1857.
In August 1996 a monument was discovered in Section S that read:
In memory of the dead removed
From the old Wilk St. Ground
of them M.E. Church March, 1857
The East Baltimore Station Methodist Church was originally the ‘Wilk Street M.E. Church’ which evolved into the ‘Strawberry Alley Methodist Church’. The burying grounds located at Wilk and Chester. Apparently John Randolph was a lay leader of East Baltimore Station and also President of the Canton Company, which sold the ground.
From the Baltimore Sun, Seventeen acres were purchased from the Canton Company. The property was enclosed with a substantial fence. The grounds are now laid out in Avenues, Walks, Lots. A substantial vault and gate house and Superintendent’s Lodge have been built. The cemetery is about one quarter mile distant from the Eastern boundary of the city and two and one half miles from Broadway, binding on O’Donnell street extended; better known as the road leading through Canton to the North Point Battle Ground. The public are invited to view the premises. The Canton line of Omnibuses run regularly to within a few minutes walk of the cemetery, and the Managers intend on making arrangements for Omnibuses to run to the grounds daily. Lots are now on sale at prices varying from ten to fifteen dollars for lots eight by ten feet. The bylaws require ten per cent of all the receipts shall be appropriated to erect a stone or brick wall around the Cemetery. The Baltmore Sun, December 22, 1853
The only statement from this older Sunpaper article that is still true, is that the cemetery is on O’Donnell street. The cemetery located on O’Donnell Street (formerly Trappe Road) is nestled between four other cemeteries, all in much better condition than poor Mt. Carmel.
Seventeen acres of the property were sold by the Canton Company, in 1854, to the ‘Mount Carmel Cemetery Company of Baltimore’. The cost was $1000. Some of the original stockholders of the company were Robert Turner, John Randolph, Lewis Audoun, Benjamin Thomas, Cyrus Copper and the Trustees of the East Baltimore Station Methodist Episcopal Church.
For a brief period, the Cemetery operated under the name of ‘Mount Carmel Annex Cemetery Company’. A few acres were added to the original seventeen. New owners in 1995 returned to the original name.
There are accounts in several newspapers that speak of the almost festive atmosphere of the cemetery. It was where the street cars would bring visitors, many would picnic in the park. There are actually accounts that tickets were required if entering via the main gate on O’Donnell Street. Many plots were purchased and after interment, there were no stones. Some accounts talk about the families taking care of their own. Even today, German families take care of their family graves, often adorning them with flowers and borders. The plots in the last decade of the 1800s sold for approximately $18. The cemetery also charged minimal amounts to open a grave. All of these costs were probably still hardships on the families. There wasn’t anything like ‘perpetual care’ at that time. The families did what they felt was their obligation to honor and remember their dead.
The cemetery architect was James Belden, a Welshman. He also designed the layout for Mt. Olivet in Frederick. His monument, at Mt. Carmel, is often called the ‘Thinker’ and sometimes ‘Father Time’. One Baltimore Sunpaper article described the grounds as laid out by James Belden the architect as being done in a manner as to add to its extreme beauties, which will compare favorably with the best cemeteries in the country. There are many charming spots to be seen, whilst fish ponds, grottoes, graveled walks and picturesque groups of vines and shrubbery amply repay the visitor and comfort the spirit and design of the enterprise. The vines still exist. The ponds and walks are long gone.
The cemetery was directly in the path of Interstate 95 making it necessary to again disturb the occupants and in 1970 a listing of those remains being moved was posted in paper. The Baltimore Sun, November 22, 1970. This provided the required notification. The state reimbursed for the expenses of removing remains, if unclaimed. Many were moved to other sections within Mt. Carmel. The sites were taken from what is considered the Annex section, primarily parts of Section H and all of Sections C and F, half of Section A, one third of Section I and a portion of Section D. The locations of the removals and re-interments have never been published.
I have my great-great grandfather here, as are five other ancestors, and even after four trips, we have been unable to find any of them. It is difficult to walk this cemetery. There are so many pockets of overgrowth, each having visible headstones, but too overgrown to photograph or view.
We took approximately 200 photographs on our multiple visits.
The Baltimore County Historical Society has a five book set that lists all of the burials here. They may be purchased as a set or by individual books. To determine if you have ancestors in Mt. Carmel, they do have a FREE index for name look ups and their db is searchable. The index is at http://baltimoregenealogysociety.org/mtcarm/Mount_Carmel_A-Z_With_Cover.pdf, Their website http://www.baltimoregenealogysociety.org/BCGShome/bcgs-publications-for-sale/.
The GenWeb project also has transcriptions. http://www.usgwarchives.net/md/baltimorecity/tsimages/mtcarmel/mtcarmel.html
5712 O’Donnell Street
Baltimore, MD. 21224