The fam­ily ceme­tery in the heart of an of­fice com­plex

White Plains gravesite, over 200 years old, gets new look

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com

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.

STAFF PHOTO BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU

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.

STAFF PHO­TOS BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU

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.

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