Mt Zion Cemetery! Underground Railroad?

December 16, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Yesterday I went to Georgetown with a friend and we did a walkabout in another cemetery. Actually, two cemeteries!! Both are primarily the final resting places for African-Americans from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Mount Zion Cemetery and the Female Union Band Cemetery were originally part of the Old Methodist Burying ground which started in 1808. Originally for whites and blacks but separated by a fence, the cemetery eventually fell into disrepair. Part of the site washed away and the remains went towards Rock Creek where they would have been covered by construction of the parkway. The site has been the subject of decades of litigation and is currently a "passive memorial" in need of a great deal of restoration and preservation. A small brick vault sits on the hillside of the Mt Zion side and is rumored to have been part of the Underground Railroad during the years leading up to the Civil War.

The Mt Zion side of the cemetery has some "piles of headstones." I can only speculate how they got there. I think the most likely scenario is past attempts to gather artifacts that had perhaps been displaced, perhaps as far away as the Rock Creek Parkway.  These piles of stones are only on the Mt Zion side, none on the Female Union Band side. The one image of the Female Union Band gravesite with the "Father-Mother" stone, has the Oak Hill Cemetery in the background. Oak Hill was started after Mt Zion and was Whites only. When Oak Hill opened many Whites exhumed their family members from Mt Zion and reinterred them at Oak Hill also taking away the perpetual funding. The difference between these Black and White cemeteries is stark and continues.  

Headstones Mt ZionStone GatheringHeadstones arranged in Mt Zion cemetery VaultUnderground Railroad stop! This vault was used for "pre-burial" storage, is hidden over the hill from the street and was frequently used by runaway enslaved people on their flight to freedom in the north. HeadstonesStone YardHeadstones gathered on the Mt Zion hilltop. HeadstonesHeadstones in the Female Union Band CemeteryHeadstones in the Female Union Band Cemetery on the edge of a slope overlooking the manicured grounds of Oak Hill Cemetery.

 


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