Graveyard & Cemetery

The Graveyard at Old Trinity is a historic site, dating back to colonial times. But the church also maintains an active community cemetery, open to persons of all faiths. Together, they contain the graves of veterans of every American war, a 19th century Maryland governor and his famous, yet enigmatic daughter, and several Episcopal clergy. Framed by ancient trees, the grounds are meticulously kept. If you are interested in purchasing a gravesite in the Cemetery, please contact the church office (410-228-2940) and leave a message with a call back number for the Cemetery Manager.

The “Old Graveyard”

The “Old Graveyard” (the burial section around the church) includes the graves of veterans of the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the American Civil War. The date of the oldest burial is not known because the wooden markers common in the 17th century have disappeared. Indeed, stories of accidentally discovering an older grave while digging a new one were common up to the early 20th century.

One possible candidate for the earliest known grave is the so-called “Miller’s Grave” (above left), believed to be the resting place of a local 18th century windmill operator. This grave, located near the church’s south entrance, is marked by a pair of uninscribed millstones, which local author John Barth claims were already standing in December 1775 when Benedict Arnold was waging his assault on Quebec (as mentioned in his 1979 epistolary novel Letters). But this is almost certainly a fiction. In fact, the earliest known grave is that of Levin Dorsey (above right), whose inscribed marker indicates had died in 1781 at the “Battle of Vienna,” a small skirmish between local patriots and foraging British soldiers in the town of Vienna nearly 20 miles away.

The Carroll Family Graves

Near the main entrance of the church is a section known as the “Carroll Graves.” Here can be found the grave of Anna Ella Carroll, sometimes called a “shadow member” of Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet, along with her father, mother, four of her nine siblings, and other members of this illustrious family. Born on the Eastern Shore in 1815, she remains an enigma, but there is no question that Anna refused to stay within the societal bounds that limited the roles of women in the 19th century.

An adamant supporter of Lincoln after his 1860 election, she secured the freedom of the enslaved workers on her father’s plantation. She argued against succession in her book The War Powers of the General Government (1861) and worked to keep Maryland in the Union. Meanwhile, contacts in the War Department asked Carroll to tour the upper Mississippi River. For this she hired a river pilot from St. Louis, named Charles Scott, to explain the river and its major tributaries. She sent a plan back to the War Department proposing the use of the Tennessee River as an avenue of invasion, giving Scott credit for the strategy. This information was then used by Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in 1862 in the capture of several key forts and transportation junctions. In the postwar years, Carroll claimed that she, not Scott, had developed the Tennessee River strategy, but was not given credit for it because she was a woman. Carroll never married and eventually received a small Federal pension, but still struggled financially until her death in 1894.

Buried nearby is Anna’s father, Thomas King Carroll, who was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates at the age of 21 and served as Maryland’s Governor from 1830-1831. After moving to Dorchester County in 1840, he resided at “Walnut Landing” near Church Creek until his death in 1873. Her mother, Juliana Stevenson Carroll, was the daughter of a British medical officer, Dr. Henry James Stevenson, noted for treating the wounded of both armies during the American Revolution. Anna’s brother, Dr. Thomas King Carroll, Jr., was a well-known local physician. Her niece, Nellie Carroll (Thomas Jr.’s daughter), lived long enough to witness the Chrysler-Garbisch restoration of the church in the 1950s, and attended its rededication service in 1960.

Local Legends

Any church of this era is bound to have a few local legends attached to it, and Old Trinity is no exception. The “Miller’s Grave” (below left) has naturally given rise to such lore. Those looking for a “hidden meaning” behind its two millstone markers have been quick to find one in the words of Jesus about those who place stumbling blocks before his children (Matthew 18:6). From this text one could easily infer that millstones are a sign of judgment. So could it be that our hapless miller led a notoriously evil life? Add to this the fact that the millstones have no inscription and suddenly the local saying attached to these stones, “Good riddance and long forgot,” makes perfect sense!

Perhaps the most enduring legend involves sightings of the “Lady in Black,” the ghost of a woman in vintage black gown and veil, who appears at dusk walking near the Vesting House behind the church. Sometimes a gentleman wearing a top hat accompanies her. Known as the “saddest corner of the graveyard,” this area features the large McGuire family headstone (above right) inscribed with the names of “James W. McGuire” (1842-1914) and his seven children: Emma, Susie, Katie, John, Samuel, Hugh, and Rosie. All seven children died before the age of five. Nearby stand nine initialed foot stones marking the final resting places of each McGuire family member, including the matriarch, whose initials were “E.M.” Apparently she was the last to be buried, having died “of a broken heart” (as the story goes). Sadly, her name is missing from the headstone.

The Cemetery

The Cemetery encompasses approximately 2.5 additional acres of gravesites adjacent to the Old Graveyard. Here plots are available for sale to the public. During the time of the Chrysler-Garbisch restoration in the 1950s, guidelines were put in place to maintain the Cemetery in a manner appropriate to the church’s original colonial design and public appeal as a place of historic interest. Restrictions concerning the size, style, and color of grave markers, as well as the inscriptions placed on them, are enforced by the Dorchester Parish Vestry. As well, grave decorations are almost exclusively limited to natural wreaths and fresh flowers. If you have questions about the purchase of plots or wish to see the Cemetery Guidelines please contact the Cemetery Manager at the phone number provided above.