African Americans Buried in Holy Rood Cemetery


Maria Smackum

Maria Smackum, died May 12, 1871


The burials of African Americans took place in sections 18-19, 21-22, 25-26, and 36, in the north-central part of Holy Rood Cemetery.

The burials of African Americans originally took place in the area marked “Old Ground”, and later in sections 18, 19, 21, 22, 25, 26, and 36, in the north-central part of Holy Rood Cemetery.


Antebellum Georgetown’s free black people, descendants of Catholic slaves from Maryland, are represented in Holy Rood Cemetery by, among many others, the Barker, Becraft, Belt, Butler, Chandler, Coquire, Dodson, Dorsey, Dover, Hawkins, Henson, Jackson, Lee, Ridgely, Queen, Shorter, Smackum, and Thomas families

Surnames shared with white Catholics, and the loss, over time, of impermanent grave-markers, may explain why the presence of African Americans is not more readily apparent to the visitor in Holy Rood Cemetery.

Nor are the records all they could be: whether the race of the deceased parishioner was noted depended entirely on the inclination of the priest who made the entry.

Before 1853 these burials must be assumed to have taken place somewhere near the northwestern corner of Holy Rood, called the “Old Ground” on the Holy Rood cemetery plan. After the cemetery was enlarged the burials of African Americans took place in sections 18, 19, 21, 22, 25, 26, and 36, in the north-central part of Holy Rood.



What follows is a list of sightings of black burials in the Archives of Holy Trinity Catholic Church. The list represents only a fraction of the total number. An index of Holy Rood burials prepared by Georgetown University in 1989 counted about five hundred black burials.

But, during the years 1889 to 1900––years for which reliable official statistics are available, and when the cemetery was at its busiest––the ratio of white to black burials was about six to one, so it seems only reasonable to conclude that, of the estimated 7312 burials at Holy Rood, the number of black burials is nearer to one thousand.

(Cemetery Statistics, Annual Reports to the Commissioners of the District of Columbia, 1889 to 1900)


(Section and lot number––such as 19/172––are given, when available.)



Barker, Henrietta, 37, 1860

Barker, Isaac, born 1847, died September 7, 1919, son of Andrew Barker, Jr., 19/172

Barker, James, born February 1822, died June 12, 1894, buried near his grandmother, Henrietta Steptoe, in a lot purchased by Mr. Barker prior to 1858. (19/172). “Mr. James Barker, a very much respected colored citizen, died early this morning from the effects of a stroke of paralysis. Death came at his home 3415 Q Street.” (Star, June 12, 1894, p.6) (The old Q Street is now Volta Place.)

Barker, John, 31, 1860

Barker, Thomas, August 14, 1912, plasterer, 1418 36th Street NW (1897), 19/172

Becraft, Caroline, died 1879, dressmaker at 118 Beall (O) Street, Georgetown, circa 1860-5, 19/173

Becraft, Rosetta Line, February 25, 1839, age 20, child of William Becraft and Sarah McDaniel, lot 4, full pay range for colored, Trinity Church Death Register, p.79, 19/173

Becraft, Sarah D.      died 1866, 19/173

Becraft, William B., August 28, 1859, 19/173

Belt, Armistead I., 1870-1911, (near Smackum), 19/196

Belt, Ignatious, 1824 -1907, 26/ eastern part (anchor insignia on stone)

Belt, Martha Ann, 1, child of John Belt and Henrietta Fletcher, 1835

Belt, Teresa, daughter of John and Henny [Henrietta] Belt, August 29, 1834, age 6 months, half pay ground, TC upper graveyard, TC Death Register, p.59

Booth, John and Elizabeth; John d.1884, Elizabeth d.1927; buried near Ellen Jenkins, 25/272

Booth, John and Sarah, 25/321

Bowman, Annie,      d. 1899, 25/370

Bowman, Charles H. and Elizabeth; Charles d. Sep.18, 1937, Elizabeth d. 1905, 26/360

Brisco, Edward, about 40, 1862

Brown, ____, William Brown’s Col’d daughter, 1833

Brown, Henrietta Ann, aged 7, 1833

Butler, Augustus, son of Charles and Anna, both Free Col’d, age 7, 1835

Butler, Lidia, Free Col’d woman, 1834 (A mainstay of black Holy Trinity Church, her name appears thirty-eight times as the godmother at baptisms of children, both free and slave. See also, Warner, At Peace with all Their Neighbors, pp.90-91)

Butler, Nancy, Free Col’d woman, 1833

Carrol, Dennis, b. ca. 1855, d. 1907, Row 6, Grave 10 of Free Ground, HR Ledger, P. 489

Carrol, Susan, former slave of Mrs. Barber, b. ca 1826, lot bought in 1884, HR Ledger, p. 199, 25/297

Chandler, Hilleary, born circa 1810, married Louisa Boarman, free colored, at Trinity Church, in 1840. Lot in NW corner of cemetery, near fence, old ground, purchased by him for $40, September 1, 1865.

Clarke, Lucy, former slave of Mary Ann Clarke, age 34, December, 1862, coloured, buried Holy Rood

Coakwire (Coquire), David, Free Col’d, 40, 1835

Coakwire (Coquire), Laura, 33, 1862

Countee, Susanna, Col’d daughter of Henry Countee and his wife, 1833

Daggs, Montezuma, age 25, 1859

Dodson, Walter, free col’d man, October 11, 1834, age 60, buried in the half pay range, upper graveyard, Trinity Church Death Register, p.60.

Dorsey, Alice, 25/272

Dorsey, Joe, 1894

Dover, Francis & Catherine, “of Tenleytown”, bought lot in 1902, 26/344

Dover, George H. [Sr.], born circa 1839 free colored, in the Gtn census of 1850, Holy Rood Ledger, p.224 (26/322)

Dover, George H. [Jr.], laborer, age 24, colored, died, July 6, 1886, buried with his father, George H. Dover, 26/322

Dover, Oray (i.e. Ary, Arianna), former slave of Lewis Kengla, b. ca 1827; HR Ledger, p.224, 26/322

Dunbar, Josephine, daughter of Caroline Dunbar, 1833

Egling, Samuel, Free Col’d, 1834

Gerry, Betty, February 15, 1838, age 2, daughter of Edward Gerry, a slave to Mrs. Brook, and of Rachel Wilson (free), Trinity Church Upper Grave Yard, half pay range.

Gray, Charles, Free Col’d, 80, 1834

Hamager, Richard, col’d, age 30, drowned near Harpers Ferry, 1841

Harris, Henry, free col’d man, May 4, 1833, in the half pay ground, Trinity Church Death Register, p.55. (This was just the fourth burial in the new upper graveyard.)

Hawkins, Catherine, born 1814?, possibly the free daughter of Wilson Hawkins of Georgetown. (26/361)

Henson (Handson), Jourdon, huckster, born Maryland, circa 1771, died March 1862, age 91, Trinity Church Death Register, p.110

Jackson, Catherine, 73, 1835

Jackson, Eliza, February 21, 1835, age 20, (Col’d) wife of John Jackson (Col’d), Trinity Church Upper Grave Yard. (Daughter of Murray Barker!)

Jackson, Elizabeth M., 25/270

Jackson, Sarah R.      , 25/342

Jackson, Sophy, December 1863, age 46, TC Death Register, p.117

Jenkins, Ellen, former slave of Mrs. Barber, b. ca 1802, lot bought 1884, HR Ledger, p. 176, 25/272

Jenkins, Lucy, April 1861, age 70, TC Death Register, p.108

Jenkins, Rachel, 42, 1862

Jenkins, Rachel, July 1863, age 2, TC Death Register, p.115

Jenkins, Thomas, January 1862, age 16, TC Death Register, p.110

Johnson, Rosa, free col’d, October 6, 1834, age 40; and infant Rachel Anastatia, age 6 months, October 7, 1834. Burial gratis, upper graveyard, Trinity Church Death Register, p.60

Jourdon, Handson, 91, 1862

Lacy, Thomas, son of Benjamin Lacy and Nelly his wife, 1835

Lee, Alexander, 26/372

Lee, Alfred, September 24, 1845, TC Death Register, p.94

Lee, Charles A., 25/321

Lee, Ellen, d. 1874, of 2064 34th St. NW (now 1764 34th?), 21/245

Lee, Francis, 22/246

Lee, John, 25/321

Lee, John, 36/390

Lee, Mabel Martina, March 7, 1879-March 23, 1924, 18/B0

Lee, William, 26/322

Mahoney, ______, 25/343

Marshall, Clarence and Ignatius, 26/372

Marshall, Joseph and Elizabeth, 26/372

Nevitt, Edward Jason, d. 1900, 36/390

Nevitt, James Edward, 1861-March 2 1910, lived at 1705 N Street NW, communicant of St. Augustines Church, obituary in March 3, 1910 Star, 36/390

Nolan, Lucy, June 1866, TC Death Register, p.122

Odister, Joseph, son of Joseph Odister, and of Sarah Ann, 1835

Payne, Julia, 19/173

Queen, Lucinda and child, 25/296

Queen, Matthew and Matilda, 25/320

Ridgely, Miss Eliza E., May 24, 1869, buried by Jos. Birch; funeral at Trinity, “attended by white and colored friends” (Georgetown Courier, May 29, 1869)

Ridgely, Eleanor (Ellen, Nelly), wife of Henry Ridgeley. “An old colored woman in her eighties living near the Catholic Burying Ground on the Heights, was burned to death. Her clothes caught fire from kerosene spilled on them. She begged neighbors to send a priest. Before Rev. Fr. Stonestreet could reach her she had died.” (Georgetown Courier, October 28, 1871)

Ridgley, George,      1830-1881, 25/321

Ridgley, George,      February 29, 1884, 25/272

Ridgely, Henry, born Georgetown circa 1792, married Eleanor Jackson in DC, January 12, 1820, died November 1865, age 73 years, 4 months. Trinity Church Death Register, p.121

Ridgely, Monica, 75, 1862

Ridgely, Mrs., April 3, 1864, buried by Jos. Birch

Sammon, Betsy, Free Col’d, 1833

Sampson, Augustus, col’d man, May 4, 1833, in the half pay ground, TC Death Register, p.55 (3rd burial at upper graveyard)

Shorter, Maria, August 1862, age 56

Shorter, Rachel, free col’d, died 1851, Trinity Church Death Register, p.112

Silence, Thomas, 2 days, son of Walter Silence & Caroline Barker, 1835

Smackum, Annie, 21/216

Smackum, Helena, March 11, 1905, 14 yrs, lived at 3628 N Street?, died in Baltimore, 21/216

Smackum, Hilary, d.1909

Smackum, John, of “the College Observatory”, d. 1874, 21/0

Smackum, John B. “John B. Smackum, 59, colored, died at his brother’s residence, 3624 P St. Employed for many years at Georgetown University. Intered at Holy Rood.” (Star May 4, 1899)

Smackum, Maria, d. May 12, 1871, 19/194

Smackum, Mary L., d.1878

Smackum, Mary M., d.1876

Smallwood, William T., May 2, 1892, aged 65 years; wife, Elizabeth Smallwood, February 23, 1910. (Near the northern fence-line Randy Walsh uncovered a fragmentary marker, possibly of a son and a daughter in-law of Nancy Smallwood, a Col’d woman belonging to Mr. Ignatius Clarke, buried at Holy Rood July 7, 1833)

Smith, John, “of Tenleytown Road”, d. 1873, 21/0

Smith, Siah and Lucinda; “Siah Smith the gravedigger, died April 7 1834, age 40, and was buried in the TC upper graveyard, gratis. Lucinda, a col’d woman, the wife of Siah Smith, died June 28, 1834, was buried gratis.” TC Death Register, pp.57-58

Smith, Stephen (Col’d), age 17, son of John Smith, a slave to Mr. John Pickrell, and of Hellen, a free woman, buried in the free range for col’d people in the Upper Graveyard, August 15, 1835

Somerville, Scott and Sarah, both d. April 10, 1917,      18/A0

Steptoe, Henrietta, born circa 1769, died June 2, 1850, age 71. (19/172) Henrietta Steptoe

Thomas, Anna A.      , 21/245

Thomas, Ellen, February 1862, age 27, Trinity Church Death Register, p.110

Thomas, Elizabeth, 18/0

Thomas, Jason, 19/194

Thomas, John P.,      “Father”, 1878-1925, 18/B0

Thomas, Margaret A., 25/270

Thomas, Nancy Free Col’d, 1833

Thomas, Sarah E., 25/297

Thomas, Susan L., d. May 24, 1915, aged 47 Years, 18/A0

Thomas, Sylvester, 18/A0

Thompson, Lucina (col’d), age 6, daughter of John Thompson and Catherine Chandler (the husband a slave, the mother free) who died in the city, having been burnt up, buried in the free-range of the upper-graveyard, November 26, 1836.

Travis, Ann, 3, daughter of Miley [Miller?] Travis & Ann Dodson his wife, October 1, 1835

Travis, Ann, wife of Miley, age 25, August 4, 1835

Travis, Lewis, son of Miley Travis and Ann, both Free Col’d, age 4, 1835

Travis, Benjamin, son of Miley Travis, Free Col’d man, and Ann Travis, October26, 1834, age 2, Half pay for col’d ground, TC upper graveyard, TC Death Register, p.60

Woods, Andrew, Col’d man, 1834

Wullod, Elizabeth, Free Col’d, age 15, 1834



Notes and Sources



This is a partial List, extracted from Deaths, Holy Trinity Church – Beginning 8th of December 1818, and from Holy Rood Cemetery Ledgers, Holy Trinity Church Archives, Special Collections Division, Georgetown University Library; and from Register of Burials of the Joseph F. Birch Funeral Home: January 1, 1847-December 31, 1938, Paul Sluby and Stanton Wormley, 1989.

In the original regulations of the burial ground, no distinction was made between slaves and “Free Colored”, only between abilities to pay for burial. “There are special and separate sections selected for the Burial of colored people, for the poor, and for unbaptized children.”

These sections were in the northwest quadrant of what is now Holy Rood Cemetery, starting at the North fence and extending south one hundred feet. After expansion of the cemetery in 1866, burials of African Americans took place in sections 18-19, 21-22, 25-26, and 36, in the north-central part of Holy Rood.


 “The range near the North fence is 46 ft ½ broad from north to South is allotted for Coloured people who cannot pay for the ground, but their friends must pay for the digging of the grave, according to the dimension as above, page 71;

the 2nd range is 32 ft. for Coloured people who are able to pay half price 4 dollars for a grown person and 2 dollars for a child whose coffen or grave is less than 5 feet long;

the 3rd range is for Coloured people who are able to pay: 32 ft.;

the 4th range is 32 ft. broad for white people who are not able to pay for the ground.”


(Regulations for the Trinity Church Upper Burying Ground, 1835, p.100: College Burial Ground Records, 1817-1840, Box 3, folder 1, Trinity Church Archives; Rules for Holy Rood [speculatively dated 1833, but more likely circa 1866], Box 1, folder 2, Trinity Church Archives)



See also:

Slaves Buried in Holy Rood Cemetery

Henrietta Steptoe

Burial Grounds of Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Georgetown

Finding a Grave in Holy Rood Cemetery





Carlton Fletcher

 The citation and acknowledgement of my research is greatly appreciated.

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