Old Washington. Church and Grave Yards

By James Croggon, The Evening Star, April 6, 1913 [pt. 4, p. 1]

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In 1850 many of the old graveyards within the city limits were occupied and at the time projects were being devised for their gradual abandonment or the location of others beyond the city limits. About St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church there were a number of graves, and a vault was located on G street, about the site of the present schoolhouse. There was, however, a parish graveyard site just beyond the boundary at the head of 2d street, about 1803, during the time of Father Caffy, and this was being rapidly filled.

Similar conditions existed about St. Peter’s Church on Capitol Hill, a number of graves flanking that edifice, but the parish burial place was on its street between 2d and 3d streets northeast. There was also a semblance burial place adjoining the old Protestant Orphan Asylum on H street between 9th and 10th, a mausoleum having been erected by Gen. VanNess on the site of the Thomas Burnes family graveyard, Thomas Burnes being the brother of David Burnes, original proprietor of the land thereabout. Here was laid the body of Marcia Burnes, the wife of Gen. VanNess, and he too was laid there in 1840. Between R and S, 12th and 13th streets was the burial ground attached to St. John’s Episcopal Church, opened about 1822, and was still being used. A number of prominent persons, including Thomas Law, were interred there.

On 14th street, near the boundary was a graveyard attached to St. Matthew’s Roman Catholic Church, and that known as the Foundry Methodist graveyard, on the boundary line, located in the thirties. In 1830 on H street near 4th street was a small graveyard for the Lutherans. The most prominent one in the western part of the city was known as Holmead’s situated between 19th and 20th streets, south of the boundary and this was well peopled, having from its inception about 1807 been in use. It was a public ground designated for such purposes in the early days, and under the control of the Corporation. Lewis Payne, one of the Lincoln conspirators, who was executed July 6, 1865, was the last one interred here, about June, 1869. The next year his remains were removed when the ground around was converted into building sites. There were also other grounds under the control of the Corporation, one on H street between 13th and 14th northeast, which, however, was used only by a limited number of persons. It was not looked upon as a suitable place for such purposes, the ground being watery. There were also in several other locations graveyards for the colored people.

While the graveyard on the glebe about St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church or Rock Creek Church had been in use for a century and a half, there were comparatively few Washingtonians interred there owing to the distance from the city. Glenwood was not established until several years after nor were Oak Hill in Georgetown, Prospect Hill and St. Mary’s near Glenwood.

Congressional cemetery, on E street between 18th and 19th streets southeast to which had been added the square south in 1849 was in like condition to the others, all the lots being taken and most of the sites occupied. The square south of Georgia avenue between 17th and 18th streets was added in 1855. During that decade an addition eastward was taken on the authority of Congress, a section 200 by 478 feet of reservation thirteen being conveyed to the parish in 1858 as well as square 1105 between 17th and 18th streets and G and H streets. The following year square 1106 south of the latter extending in the circle and Water street was taken, as was also square 1117 extended to Water street, and square 1123 between G and H streets and 19th and 20th directly south of that part taken from the reservation. As stated in a former article, there were many deceased members of Congress and prominent men interred here prior to 1878. In 1853 Senator Upham of Vermont, who died of smallpox at the Irving House on the site of the Raleigh, found a last resting place here, as had David S. Kaufman of the House of Representatives from Texas in 1851. And there were also interred many prominent personages, nearly all the mayors of Washington among them including Joseph Gales, William W. Seaton, John W. Maury, James G. Berret, Richard Wallach and S.J. Bowen. There were a number of others whose names were not so prominent interred between 1850 and 1860, and some of the epitaphs upon them caused comment. A marble slab sacred to the memory of one who in life was known as a sportsman and gambler bore the inscription, “None knew him but to love him. None named him but to praise.” and the few now living who were personally acquainted with the deceased looked upon the words as being exceedingly appropriate, for outside of his business he was known to be one of the most charitable, useful citizens of the District. A burial lo bearing the word “Welcome” at the entrance, and two fine marble monuments, one with the statue of an angel and the other with the figure of a woman, attracts much attention, the figures being artistic and the lot being kept in excellent condition. Other well known characters are here buried, among them the eccentric ‘Beau’ Hickman, who ended his days in poverty and was buried in the potter’s field, but removed here and a monument placed over him. Another is that of a woman known as “Becky Smith,” who had spent about forty years in the Washington asylum or poorhouse, but it is unmarked.