Chapter 1 (History of Percy Cemetery)
THE STORY OF PERCY CEMETERY
This is the history of the Percy Cemetery, located in Frostburg, Maryland.
In the past, it was referred to in many different ways: Old Percy Cemetery, Percy's Cemetery, the old Cemetery, the old graveyard, Percy graveyard, the cemetery on the hill, the cemetery on Federal Hill. A few people referred to it as the Methodist Cemetery; while there were many from that denomination buried here, there were many from other Protestant groups as well.
As far as we can determine, the name "Percy Cemetery" derives from a grant of one acre of land (the south end of the Cemetery, near First Street) to the community in 1850 by David and James K. Percy for use as a community burial ground (Cordts, 1976). However, it must be recognized that earlier, in 1841, Josiah Porter donated the first acre of ground (the north end) for a community cemetery (Cordts, 1976). It is not clear why the Cemetery's name was linked only to the Percys, excluding the Porters, but it was and that is the name by which it is most commonly known.
Percy Cemetery was presumably Frostburg's first public burying ground and interments were made without regard for religious affiliation. Later in the 1850's, St. Michael's Church established a separate Catholic cemetery. Allegany Cemetery, another early burial place dating back to 1864, was incorporated into what is now Frostburg Memorial Park. The German Lutheran Cemetery located on Mt. Pleasant Street dates back to about 1880.
Our research indicates that there are well over 500 graves in the Cemetery. The first apparent burial, Sarah Matilda Lowe, may have been as early as 1811 or 1812. This statement is conditional, based on our reading of her headstone. The lettering is eroded and very difficult to make out and our reading may be incorrect. It is also possible that the name is "Loar" and not "Lowe." Additionally, the 1811/1812 dates seem to conflict with Cordts' (1976) contention that the beginnings of the Cemetery were much later, around 1840. If the Lowe headstone is incorrect, then the first burial was Mary Thompson, who died May 24, 1839, at the age of 42 years. Edna Willison was the last person to be buried in the Cemetery in 1972.
The Percy Cemetery is situated at the corner of First Street and Lemmert Street. The Cemetery was surveyed by Chapman's Surveying, Inc. in October of 1990 as part of the legal proceeding through which the property was transferred by the City of Frostburg, in trust, to the Percy Cemetery Commission. In size, it is 1.737 acres. The dimensions of the Cemetery are as follows: the north end is 196.26'; the south end, 267.29'; the east side 341.14' and the west side, 323.15'. The survey map is reproduced on the reverse of the title page. (An earlier, undated plat map found in the Special Collections area of Frostburg State University's Ort Library indicates slightly different dimensions for the Cemetery than those just cited.)
THE CEMETERY AS A LOCAL PROBLEM
We have found virtually no information about the Cemetery for the twenty-five years between 1850 and 1875, beyond the fact of burials, some in lots sold by the Percy family.
Beginning in 1876 and moving forward in time, we found newspaper references, which suggest that the neglected condition of Percy Cemetery was a continuing concern to the community. These complaints were sometimes followed by efforts to restore the Cemetery to a state of "decency." For example, in 1876 (FMJ 5-20-1876, p.2), the following brief editorial and the long letter upon which it was based appeared. First, the editorial:
The Old Cemetery. A correspondent writes some nervous words with regard to the condition of the old Cemetery. His statement is not too strongly put; indeed, it might have been made stronger. If our people's dead had been left to 'bury their dead' the condition of things could be not much worse.
Anthony E. Crosby and Michael R. Olson
28 x 22 cms
Cemeteries, Maryland, Frostburg; Obituaries, Maryland, Frostburg. .
Frostburg (Md.), 1800-1972