Slave Burials in Holy Rood Cemetery


Detail of the 1933 map, showing the northern part of Holy Rood Cemetery.

The area marked “Old Ground” in the northwest corner of Holy Rood Cemetery, corresponds to the former “Free Burial Ground” of Trinity Church Upper Grave Yard. (Detail of a 1933 map.)


The northwest corner of Holy Rood Cemetery, where there are no grave markers, is, in all likelihood, where the graves are most numerous. This was the “Free Burial Ground” of what was originally called Trinity Church Upper Grave Yard, set aside for burial of the poor; and here lie hundreds of parishioners of Holy Trinity Church in Georgetown who could not afford the price of burial, much less stone memorials.

This field was also, almost certainly, where those parishioners of Holy Trinity were buried who were enslaved. And, because some of the entries in the Death Registers of Holy Trinity include the surnames of some of the deceased slaves––which is precious information––Holy Rood Cemetery is the best documented slave burial ground in the District of Columbia.

As the practice of noting whether the deceased parishioner had been a slave was discontinued in 1841, the total number of slaves buried can only be estimated. Based on the number of slaves––approximately 36––buried in seven years, the number of slaves buried in Holy Rood Cemetery while slavery existed is sure to exceed one hundred.

These are the documented slave burials from the first seven years of the Trinity Church Upper Grave Yard:


Beall, Joseph, age 5, a slave to Mrs. Kirk, son of Betty Beall, free ground in the upper graveyard, gratis, August 31, 1834

Boarman, Charity, age 65, a slave to Miss Jane Moss, T.C.U.G.Y. 1/2 pay range, September 19, 1838

Brown, Paul, (Col’d), age 55, a slave to John Kiltersmith, the husband of Nelly Brown, T.C.U.G.Y. full pay, April 12, 1838

Brown, Robert, age 65, a (col’d) man belonging to Mr. Thomas Webb, free range for col’d people T.C.U.G.Y., February 11, 1836

Butler, John, (col’d), age 53, servant of Colonel Cox, February 13, 1840

Cooper, Nancy, a colored woman, age 40, property of Mrs. Fletcher, who died the 11. instant, free range for colored people, T.C.U.G.Y., January 12, 1840

Countee, John, (Col’d), age 43, slave to Miss Connolly, T.C.U.G.Y. half pay range. August 22, 1838

Countee, Melinda, age 55, a slave to Mr. Henry Uppermann, T.C.U.G.Y. half pay range January 10, 1837

Crane, Joseph, (col’d), age 58, a slave to Mr. P.T. Berry, the husband of Mary Washington, a slave to Mr. P.T. Berry, January 21, 1839

[Gant], Lucy, (col’d), age 1, daughter of Samuel Gant and of Nelly, both slaves to Mrs. Pierson, half pay range, March 21, 1837

Gordon, Henry, (Col’d), a slave to Mrs. Ford, T.C.U. Grave Yard, May 25, 1837

Haven, Tabitha, (Col’d), age 26, a slave to Mrs. Matthew Peters, T.C.U.G.Y. free range, September 5, 1838

Johnson, Thomas Francis, (Col’d), age 2, son of Lewis Johnson, a slave to Mrs. Hellen Fenwick, and of Maria Johnson his wife, a slave to Miss Polly Hughes, free range T.C.U.G.Y., April 13, 1836

Lee, Arthur, (col’d), son of John & Teresa Lee, slaves to R. Semmes, T.C.U.G.Y. 1/2 pay range, June 9, 1839

Lee, Catherine, (col’d), age 3, daughter of Rosetta Lee, a slave to Mr.Vannessen, T.C.U.G.Y. half pay, January 9, 1839

Lee, James, age 5 months, son of John and Therese, both property to Raphael Semmes, 1838

Lee, William, age 11, a slave to Mr. Raph. Semmes, son of John & Teresa, half pay col’d ground, December 29, 1838

Madison, James, (col’d), infant of Susan, servant of Samuel Queen, free range, August 27, 1839

Montgomery, Jos. Armstead, (Col’d), slave to Mr. H. King, free range. March 13, 1840

Nolan, Chloe, age 12, a (Coloured) Girl belonging to Mrs. Emely Forest, August 7, 1834

Rhodes, Ignatius, age 50, slave to Judge Morsell, June 19, 1835

Smallwood, Nancy, a Col’d woman belonging to Mr. Ignatius Clarke, July 7, 1833

Smith, Ann, age 20, servant of Mrs. Elizabeth O’Riley, half pay ground October 24, 1834

Thomas, John Lewis, (col’d), age 10, son of Mary Thomas a slave to Mr. Ingle, half pay range in the T.C.U.G.Y., April 20, 1837


_________, Caroline, age 18 months, a slave to Mr. Barber, daughter of David, and of Mary Jenkins, a slave to Major Adlum, Free range for col’d people, T.C. upper graveyard August 22, 1835

_________, Charlotte, age 26, a slave to Mr. Henry Waring, full pay ground, T.C. upper graveyard October 18, 1834

_________, Eliza, a col’d woman belonging to Richard Smith, gratis February 11, 1834

_________, Elizabeth, age 40, belonging to Mrs. Kirk, Free range T.C.U.G.Y. March 20, 1835

_________, Harriet, property of Mrs. Adlum, daughter of Ellen Jenkins, free range for col’d. July 11, 1840

_________, James (col’d), age 53, a slave to Mr. J. Ford, T.C. Upper Grave Yard half pay range, May 12, 1837

_________, James (Colored), son of Eliza slave to Edward Clark, free range for colored people August 28, 1840

_________, Sarah Elizabeth (Col’d), age 18, daughter of Mary, a slave to Mrs. Tyer, free range for col’d people in the Upper Graveyard July 19, 1835

_________, Stephen (Col’d), age 41, a slave to Mr. Adams, half pay range for col’d people July 24, 1835

_________, Peter (col’d), son of Peter and Daphne slave to Mr. Richard O’Neill, free range for the colored people of U.G.Y.T.C., October 11, 1839

_________, Prudence, age 75, Mrs. Baltzer’s servant, half pay range for col’d people June 27, 1835

_________, age 7 days, the offspring of Mrs. Brooke’s slave, who stayed with Mr. L. Carbery, November 3, 1834



Notes and Sources


Deaths, Holy Trinity Church – Beginning 8th of December 1818,

Holy Trinity Church Archives, Special Collections Division, Georgetown University Library


“There are special and separate sections selected for the Burial of colored people, for the poor, and for unbaptized children.”

(Trinity Church Archives, Box 1, folder 2: Rules for Holy Rood, speculatively dated 1833, but more likely circa 1866)



In the northwest quadrant of Holy Rood Cemetery, starting at the North fence and extending south one hundred feet, is the area originally “allotted for Coloured people”; no distinction was made between slaves and free persons, only between abilities to pay for burial.


“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:

Trinity Church Archives, Box 3, folder 1:

College Burial Ground Records, 1817-1840

(which includes early Trinity Church Upper Grave Yard burials).



The Death Register of Holy Trinity Church also lists slaves buried between 1821 and 1833 in the College Ground, a Catholic burial ground formerly located on the campus of Georgetown University. The College Ground was one of three burial grounds of Holy Trinity Church, Georgetown, D.C.


See also:

Burial Grounds of Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Georgetown

Finding a Grave in Holy Rood Cemetery




 This material originally appeared in the Newsletter of the Catholic Historical Society of Washington, Volume X, Number 3, July-September 2002

Carlton Fletcher

 The citation and acknowledgement of my research is greatly appreciated.

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