A group of fourteen students from McDaniel College in Baltimore are working to uncover the past residents of a Frederick County African-American cemetery once owned by Wesley Church. The church is long gone, but the cemetery, which was desperately in need of restoration, is still in tact. The cemetery holds ancestors dating back to 1885 through 1975. They were residents of what was once called Libertytown.

By sifting flour on the gravestones, they have discovered former church members like Alfred B. Roberts, a sergeant of the U.S. Colored Infantry during the Civil War and Margaret E. Stanton, who died in 1886 at age three. Through research, the students found that most buried only had a 7th and 8th grade education. They look deeper into the lives of those laid to rest using Census information. One of the more difficult challenges are the deceased women, who were buried under their married names.

The students are working through a program called the “Common Ground on the Hill” program, which encourages students to investigate the twenty-plus cemeteries located in the Baltimore area. They are being led by chemist and geneologist Richard Smith. Aside from restoration and discovery of the cemeteries, the students are tracing their own ancestry as part of the class assignments.

Professor Richard Smith has launched frederickroots.com, a website dedicated to the program that serves as a resource for researching the history of the African American families of Frederick County, Maryland. He, along with other researchers, discovered the African American towns of Oldfield, Mount Pleasant and Mount Olive. Professor Smith is also a biochemistry researcher of HIV/AIDS.

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