The Presbyterian Burial Ground of Georgetown

Notes on the history of the Presbyterian Burial Ground of Georgetown. It was in use between about 1802 and 1887. In 1907 it was converted into the playground now known as Volta Place Park. Some remains were moved to other cemeteries, but the great majority remained in place.

 

George-Town, August 22, 1802

The committee of the Presbyterian congregation in George-Town, wishing to discontinue the interment of the dead in the burying ground next to the church, have lately purchased a large plat of land, for the purpose of a grave yard, which is a beautiful eminence, situated between the Columbian Academy and Mr. Threlkeld’s Meadow Farm. Part of this purchase has been paid off by Mr. Fenwick, and divided into small lots suitable for the interment of whole families: the committee, therefore, wish immediately to sell as many of these lots, as will raise a fund sufficiently large to enclose the ground with a decent pole and rail fence and liquidate what of the purchase money remains as yet unpaid. Let all who wish to see the plat of the graveyard and to become purchasers, make application to Thomas Corcoran, or to Mr. James Melvin, Bridge Street, George-Town. N.B. Lots at present will be sold low for cash, in order to defray present expenses, but when these are discharged, they will rise much higher in price. (Washington Federalist, Georgetown, D.C., September 1, 1802)

 

Died Oct. 10, Capt. Wm. Theobald Wolfe Tone, in his 37th year, formerly an officer in French Imperial army, including disaster at Leipzig, since the restoration of the Bourbons he has resided in this asylum of oppressed humanity, mostly in Georgetown. Funeral from his late residence, First street, Georgetown, this afternoon. (National Intelligencer, October 10, 1828)

 

(The Evening Star, May 30, 1886, reports that a delegation of Clan-Na-Gael visited old Presbyterian Cemetery on Memorial day to decorate the graves of the wife and child of Wolfe Tone, a patriot of 1798, and the graves of Charles Devine Riley, Col. J. P. Garesche, Father Boyle, and the soldiers and sailors of the late war buried there.)

 

Georgetown Courier, June 6, 1868, reports that the first transfer from old Presbyterian Cemetery to Oak Hill Cemetery was in November, 1851.

The burial Vault on Market between 4th and 5th has been declared a nuisance on account of noxious gases which emanate from decomposing bodies. (Georgetown Courier, April 18, 1874)

1887, burials discontinued?

1891, some relatives initiated transfer to other cemeteries, mostly to Oak Hill Cemetery. A group of various veterans were transferred to Arlington Cemetery in 1892.

 

Complaint about former Presbyterian burying ground made to Commissioner West; neglect of the owners, site used as dump, not fenced, used as playground; dilapidated tombs, broken headstones, etc. found by Lt. Swindells of Georgetown Precinct. A request to the owners to be made to improve conditions. Georgetown Citizens Association suggested recently that the land be taken by the District and converted into a public park. An act of Congress would be required. (Evening Star, April 23 1903, p. 14)

 

1907, playground was ordered. Paul Sluby estimates some 200 graves were paved over, never accounted for. (Selected Small Cemeteries of Washington, DC, compiled by Paul E. Sluby, Sr.)

1934, playground paved and improved. Bones found when sewers were installed in the streets. (Star[?], March 8, 1958)

In September 1942, an administrative assistant of the D.C. Water Department was granted a disinterment permit to remove 10 bodies, more or less, from the Georgetown Presbyterian cemetery, and reinter them at Blue Plains. (Wesley E. Pippenger, District of Columbia Interments (Index to Deaths), January 1, 1855 to July 31, 1874, 1999; Records of the Columbia Historical Society, 1963-1965, p.29, Blue Plains and Bellevue)

 

”A Buried Graveyard Pops Up Again. Beneath The Seesaws: Revolutionary War Heroes”

In 1957 three boys noticed a beveled stone in the excavation for a new house at 33rd and Q Street NW. The stone––inscribed: E.S./1825––was carried to Mrs. Elden Billings, 3313 Q Street, Columbia Historical Society Librarian, where it was put in the yard. She said Revolutionary veterans were still there, judging from Georgetown Presbyterian records. (Washington Daily News, September 7, 1957)

 

“Revolutionary Graves On Playground Marked”.

On the basis of substantial evidence that at least 17, and undoubtedly more, Revolutionary soldiers and patriots were still buried there, the Historians Committee of the DC Chapter, DAR, placed a marker in the center of the playground at 34th and Volta Place. Ceremony included 50 members of the DAR, and representatives of the Recreation Department, the Reverend Russell Cartwright Stroup, and an Honor Guard from C Company, 3rd Infantry, Fort Myer. (Star[?], March 8, 1958)

 

___________________________________________________________

Carlton Fletcher

 The citation and acknowledgement of my research is greatly appreciated.

All rights reserved.

 

 Questions and corrections may be directed to

carlton@gloverparkhistory.com

 

The support of the Advisory Neighborhood Council (3B) is gratefully acknowledged.