St. 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 War soldiers.
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.
Jesuit 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 twenty-ninth governor.
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 parole.
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).
Transcriptions from our visit:
East Fourth Street