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Church rededicates historic cemetery

May 27, 2000|By MARLO BARNHART

In 1787, Elizabeth Muggs passed away at the age of 45 and became the first person laid to rest in the St. John's Episcopal Church cemetery.

On Sunday, the 213-year-old cemetery on Mulberry Street in Hagerstown was to be rededicated as parishioners gathered after morning services at the historic site.

Although little space remains in the small cemetery, there are families who still have plots. In recent years, most burials have been the interment of ashes of parishioners and their families.

For the occasion, the cemetery has been spruced up, said church member Chuck Ford.

"The front stone walls have been replaced with wrought iron," Ford said. "The two old gates have been restored and reinstalled."

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The back stone walls were repointed and a new side gate was added, Ford said.

"The entire area has been cleaned up," Ford said.

Sunday's service was to feature prayers, readings and a blessing of the gate and new fence.

The cemetery, which is between Antietam and Baltimore streets, is on the original site of the second church built in Washington County, according to church archives.

The stones in the cemetery are inscribed with the names of many prominent Washington County residents, including Col. William Fitzhugh and Gen. Otho Holland Williams.

Also buried there is Otho Holland Williams Stull, keeper of the Globe Tavern, where President George Washington spent the night while in Hagerstown.

Stull also helped start The Torch Light newspaper in Washington County.

While the cemetery remained at the original site, the church outgrew its building and built a new church in 1823 at the corner of Antietam and South Jonathan (now Summit Avenue) streets, where the Dagmar Hotel now stands.

That church was destroyed in an 1871 fire that began in a hardware store and spread, eventually consuming the Washington County Courthouse and the church.

A new site for the church was secured on South Prospect Street, where the church still stands.

In 1954, it was suggested that the cemetery land be sold and the graves moved elsewhere, but the proposal was not approved, according to church archives.

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