Brigitte V. Fessenden
Friends Burial Ground
Baltimore, Baltimore City
The Friends Burial Ground is the earliest cemetery in Baltimore, established in 1713 on Harford Road in what is now the eastern section of the city. The property is approximately 2.8 acres in extent; about 2.3 acres of the grounds form a rectangle, the longer sides running east-west, with the remaining half-acre section forming a triangle extending to the south. Originally, the plot was only one acre, which is now located in the southwestern portion of the burial ground. The cemetery contains a total of approximately 1900 small, simple grave markers, arranged in compact rows interspersed with large trees. These are organized in parallel rows stretching from north to south and marked with gray cut stone markers. The graveyard is divided into six sections, roughly according to age. The oldest section's markers are slightly darker, and there are some gaps within the rows. All of the stones are small and unadorned. At the back of the cemetery are two rows of weathered stones which were moved there in 1926 from the burial plot at the Aisquith Street Meetinghouse. The graveyard is surrounded by a fieldstone wall 8 feet high, built in the 1860s, now covered with moss, roses, and ivy. An iron gate in the eastern wall provides the entrance off Harford Road. Also on the property are a three-bay, two-story stone house, constructed in the 1860s as a residence for the sexton; a receiving vault installed in 1879; and a small stone tool shed of c. 1890.
The Friends Burial Ground is significant for its design; its rows of low, simple grave markers are typical of Quaker cemeteries of the 18th and 19th centuries. Their simplicity and uniformity convey the community's egalitarian principles, and their serried ranks reflect the Quaker emphasis on order. The 2.8-acre property includes the earliest burial ground in Baltimore, established by Quakers in 1713, and contains 1900 marked graves. It has been used continuously since its establishment; while the earliest legibly-dated grave marker dates from 1802, the cemetery undoubtedly contains unmarked 18th century burials. The stone wall surrounding the cemetery, an the stone sexton's house, were constructed in the 1860s; a stone tool shed dates from 1890, and a frame addition was made to the house in 1910. No substantial changes have occurred to the Burial Ground since 1926, when 122 graves were relocated there from the cemetery at the Aisquith Street Meetinghouse which had been acquired by the city for the construction of a public playground. The Friends Burial Ground derives additional significance for its association with the Quaker community whose members played a disproportionately influential role in the early economic and cultural development of Baltimore. Founded in 1792, the Baltimore Monthly Meeting of Friends included many prominent merchants and industrialists whose activities helped shape the city as it emerged through the first half of the 19th century. Friends controlled manufacturing and milling operations, were involved in the founding of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, and established a wide variety of mercantile and financial interests in Baltimore during a particularly important formative period in the city's history. The fruits of these enterprises provided the means for philanthropy, through which Friends were instrumental in the founding and development of many of the city's early social and cultural institutions. These institutions include McKim's School, the first free school for poor children in Baltimore, which antedated the establishment of the city's public school system by nearly two decades; Johns Hopkins University; the hospitals founded by Hopkins and by Moses Sheppard; and numerous social institutions directed toward the welfare of the sick and aged, and toward securing civil rights for minority citizens.