The family cemetery in the heart of an office complex
White Plains gravesite, over 200 years old, gets new look
It may seem incongruous: a small cemetery on a hill located in the middle of a modern corporate office complex. But the cemetery’s residents have been there for over a century and a half, and no one is moving them.
“We decided to preserve it,” said Randall Williams, president of Meinhardt Properties, which owns the corporate site. “We didn’t want to take it out, because we thought preserving it was the right thing to do,
to leave it for any descendants.”
Meinhardt has invested almost $10,000 in the site toward landscaping and restoration work, Williams said.
“It came about because I was concerned about what people might think, looking out the window of the new building and seeing the graveyard, especially if we rent to doctors’ offices,” Williams said.
“So we planted a bunch of trees, we’ve done some landscaping, and we’ve put in a boxwood hedge,” Williams said. “It hasn’t grown up yet, since we just put it in, but in a couple years, when it’s grown, it’ll be like an English hedge — it’ll all grow together and it’ll hide the gravestones from view.”
Williams said that while concealing it from casual view, they also wanted to leave the cemetery accessible.
“We wanted to make sure people could go up the hill and get a good look at the graves,” Williams said.
Williams said that when the 30-acre site was purchased in the 1980s, the cemetery was completely overgrown.
“When we bought the property, it was still woods, I believe. We cleared the property when we went to do the development here, and that was when we saw the graves,” Williams said. “The woods had grown around the gravestones.”
Wilson said there were no trails to the cemetery, and no sign that anyone had visited it in years.
Still, Williams said the company decided not to disturb the gravesite.
“We’ve got all these buildings, and they just go around the graveyard. In fact, the roads and everything had to be designed around the graveyard,” Williams said.
The markers are in surprisingly good shape, given their age.
The oldest marker on the site is only partially legible; someone with the surname Hargraves who died Sept. 1, 1793, at age 53. The newest and most recent marker was placed in memory of Mary Hargraves, who died Nov. 1, 1848, at age 73.
According to records from the Historical Society of Charles County stored at the Southern Maryland Studies Center at the College of Southern Maryland, George Hargraves (1730-1803), who is buried at the cemetery, deeded and willed much of his property to his son, Theophilus Hargraves (approximately 1776-1818), who was also buried at the cemetery.
Richard H. Hargraves of Arkansas said he is the great, great, great grandson of George Hargraves.
“He was born in England, Lancastershire, I believe,” Richard Hargraves said in an email. “He fought in the Revolutionary War with George Washington, a personal friend and neighbor. Washington’s house at Mount Vernon was just across the Potomac River from George Hargraves land in Port Tobacco, Md., where George grew tobacco. Family history tells that George was an honorary pallbearer at George Washington’s funeral.”
Richard Hargraves said he was aware of the cemetery through online postings, but had never visited. He said his ancestor owned hundreds of acres of land in and around Port Tobacco, as well as an island in the Potomac. His extensive land holdings were passed to his children.
When Theophilus Hargraves died at the age of 42, his property holdings passed to his sister, Ann (née Hargraves) Smoot and her husband, Col. Wilson Smoot, both of whom are buried at the White Plains cemetery.
The Smoots may have died without children, because when Ann Smoot died in 1830, she willed all of her property to her sister Mary Hargraves, with instructions that upon her death, the property should go to indigent children of their “sister Spaulding,” according to the Southern Maryland Studies Center records.
Before Mar y Hargraves’ death in 1848, she willed all of her property to her nephews, Basil Dennis and John F. Spaulding. According to a Maryland Historical Trust report by J. Richard Rivoire of the Charles County Planning Commission in June 1978, the property was sold after Mary Hargraves’ death and passed through various land speculators’ hands.
The Historical Society of Charles County records indicate the site was visited and cleared in 1971, according to notes in the records.
Williams said the plan going forward is to continue to maintain the site. He said future plans include installation of a plaque with more information about the cemeter y.
“We want to put it on an outdoor plaque and stick it in front of the graves, so that when you go up, you’ll go through the trees, and you’ll have this nice landscaped area around it,” Williams said.
The Hargraves-Smoot family cemetery is located in White Plains south of Billingsley Road in a complex of office buildings owned by Meinhardt Properties, which spent close to $10,000 to fix up the gravesite.
Grave marker for Ann Smoot, wife of Colonel Wilson Smoot and daughter of George Hargraves.
Gravestone of Colonel Wilson Smoot, husband of Ann (Hargraves) Smoot, who died in 1823.
Fallen grave marker of Mary Hargraves, believed to be the last person buried in the family cemetery. She died in 1848.