When Pandora White was a young girl, her grandmother Mary White would march her and her siblings along a path in the woods that ran behind 19 Carver Rd. to the Moses lodge and cemetery where she would put them to work. They would either clean up the lodge for some adult function or a funeral or they would tidy up around the family graves.
Pandora, 71, still lives on Carver Rd. On April 10, she was back at the cemetery, along with 22 others who have relatives buried in the historic African American cemetery at the edge of Cabin John. The descendants were gathered by the trustees of the newly reestablished Morningstar Moses 88 ownership group to have a tour of the cemetery now that the bamboo and debris have been removed by the state.
The other important reason for the meeting was to inform the descendants that in the course of clearing the bamboo, the state found indications of possible gravesites within the right-of-way of the existing Beltway. While Pandora was pleased with the cleanup efforts, she is concerned about the possibility of graves outside the cemetery fence.
“I’m very pleased about how it’s been cleared out.” she said, noting that she didn’t realize how far back the graves went. Should the state determine that there are graves in the right-of-way, she wants them left alone. “I don’t think they should disturb the graves, but they should go around them,” turning that land over to the cemetery, she added.
Steve Archer, cultural resources team leader at the Maryland State Highway Administration, said they are still completing their archeological investigations of the site for a report that will “provide detailed surface mapping of the cemetery as well as historical research to understand what we can from an archival perspective.” He expects the report to be released this summer.
However, the report will not address whether there are gravesites in the Beltway right-of-way. To determine that, Archer explained that they would have to do a two-step investigation. First, they would dig just deep enough to determine if there are any grave shafts. If they find any, they would work with the descendants and the community to determine a proper course of action. Only then, if it is determined that any human remains are to be relocated, would they dig deeper to unearth those remains. Archer gave no time frame for when they might start this investigation.
For now, the cemetery remains closed to the public while the state completes its current assessments. The Friends of Moses Hall, a group comprised of descendants, historic preservationists, and Cabin John community members, also requests that the public stay away as they are starting a bamboo remediation project June 7 that requires the use of chemicals to kill the bamboo. In some cases, bamboo that the state cut in January had already sent up new shoots that stand six feet tall or more.
The Friends of Moses Hall has another request of the public. They are asking people with any ties to Moses Hall to go through their family photo albums, letters, and other documents. They are hoping that folks might find photographs of events held there, letters that might mention a Moses Hall function, or other documents with reference to the property. Any information, from any source, in any format, that mentions the lodge or cemetery, even if it’s just in passing, would be of interest to the group.
Friends of Moses Hall can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SUSAN SHIPP, CJCA President