Care­tak­ers of Lau­rel’s his­tory at Ivy Hill

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Tony Glaros

The story of Ivy Hill Ceme­tery is wo­ven deeply into the his­toric ta­pes­try of Lau­rel.

The grave­yard, which rests on a serene 10-acre par­cel along the north side of Sandy Spring Road, frames a gen­tly rolling land­scape ac­cented by stands of old­growth shade trees.

The burial grounds are over­seen and main­tained by the non­profit Ivy Hill As­so­ci­a­tion, a group that has kept the ceme­tery a peace­ful spot in Lau­rel for decades.

The grounds are squeezed be­tween town­house de­vel­op­ments, dot­ted with hand­some me­mo­ri­als with names of fallen mem­bers of the Lau­rel Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment, Lau­rel Po­lice Depart­ment and Lau­rel Vol­un­teer Res­cue Squad. Amer­i­can Le­gion Post 60 also has a mon­u­ment.

One of the best-known sto­ries about Ivy Hill in­volves the 1894 ex­huma­tion of a 500-pound woman, Jane Tyson. Her body was ex­humed from a nearby grave­yard and re­buried at Ivy Hill.

The Bal­ti­more Sun re­ported the body was “in a com­plete state of preser­va­tion, be­ing pet­ri­fied into white mar­ble.” It took eight men to lift her cas­ket.

The ceme­tery’s his­tory can be traced to the mid-1800s, when the Lau­rel Cot­ton Mill re­served three acres to serve as a burial ground for poor mill work­ers. By 1890, a pri­vate com­pany pur­chased eight acres next to the ceme­try and sold stock to 150 fam­i­lies, en­ti­tling them to ceme­tery plots.

In1944 a Bal­ti­more bank be­gan act­ing as a trustee of the then-bank­rupt mill com­pany, deed­ing the ceme­tery to a pri­vate stock com­pany. Own­er­ship drama stretched into 1953, when a dis­pute landed in court and a judge ruled the ceme­tery’s fi­nances were too con­fus­ing to sort out.

The court dis­solved the cor­po­ra­tion and Groundskeeper Walt Tegeler, left, Ivy Hill board sec­re­tary Mau­rice Hard­ing, cen­ter, and pres­i­dent of the Ivy Hill board Bill Watts have helped re­store the ceme­tery. ap­pointed a re­ceiver.

By the early 1970s, con­di­tions at Ivy Hill had de­te­ri­o­rated. A group of Lau­rel res­i­dents or­ga­nized the Ivy Hill As­so­ci­a­tion in 1973 and launched a cam­paign to clean up the ceme­tery. The fol­low­ing year, the Cir­cuit Court of Prince Ge­orge’s County ap­pointed the non­profit group to serve as its trustee.

War­ren Litch­field, born and raised in Lau­rel, helped re­fresh the ceme­tery. Litch­field, 87, an or­dained min­is­ter and for­mer chap­lain of the Prince Ge­orge’s County Fire Depart­ment, said a grave­yard “should be a place of so­lace and re­mem­brance.”

“We cleaned up weeds around the trees, took up an old hedge and put a black­top road and fence in,” he said. “A lot of peo­ple were in­volved in the restora­tion.”

To­day, Wal­ter Tegeler serves as Ivy Hill’s man­ager and care­taker. Tegeler has prac­ti­cal ex­pe­ri­ence — he owns the W.S. Tegeler Mon­u­ment Co. in Wood­lawn. He said Ivy Hill has more space avail­able and is mak­ing plans to add a cre­ma­tion gar­den fea­tur­ing walk­ways, bushes and benches.

But preser­va­tion re­mains a pri­mary fo­cus.

Old Town Lau­rel res­i­dent Mar­lene Fra­zier, sits on the board of direc­tors of the Lau­rel His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety. She said her strolls through Ivy Hill nour­ish her soul “for the his­tory it holds, for the peo­ple who were here.

“And it’s beau­ti­ful,” she said. “It’s a nice, peace­ful place.”

Bill Watts agrees. Watts, 65, a mem­ber of the ceme­tery board and a re­tired Prince Ge­orge’s County po­lice of­fi­cer, said Ivy Hill is more ap­peal­ing, more per­sonal, than larger grave­yards.

“I’ll just walk through there on a nice spring or fall day,” Watts said. “It means some­thing to me to see fire­men and po­lice to­gether. I find it calm­ing and re­lax­ing.”

Tegeler said he, too, loves to fol­low the burial grounds’ his­tory. When he’s vis­it­ing Ivy Hill, he pic­tures “long ago, when there were horse and wag­ons on Main Street.”


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