St. Vincent Cemetery opened in 1853 on a 5-acre parcel located on the country estate of philanthropist Johns Hopkins, which was then located just outside of Baltimore City in today’s Clifton Park. Parishioners at St. Vincent de Paul Church had previously used the St. James Cemetery on Harford Road which was closed and sold to the city that same year. The bodies interred at St. James were then moved to the new St. Vincent Cemetery.
The cemetery is located within the confines of the Clifton Park Golf Course in Baltimore, Maryland. Though it looks like open space park land, it was once covered with gravestones and mausoleums. Unfortunately, it suffered from extensive vandalism that included destroying the monuments and disinterring bodies. In order to protect the remains of the deceased, government and church authorities removed all markers. Subsequently, the land became overgrown with volunteer trees and underbrush.
It remained that way for over 30 years until a small group of descendants found each other online and formed the Friends of St. Vincent Cemetery (FoSVC). The mission of the FoSVC is to develop St. Vincent Cemetery into a memorial dedicated to all those buried in the cemetery and that will complement the encircling Clifton Park. There are records for over 3,700 people buried at St. Vincent Cemetery. More records continue to be found due to ongoing research conducted by volunteers and coordinated by FoSVC Archivist Joyce Erway. The most recent list can be found on the “List of Interred” page of this website.
The following is a detailed account of “What Happened to St. Vincent Cemetery?” as it appeared in the Maryland Genealogical Society Journal.
The following archival documents relate to the cemetery history
- Excerpt Archdiocese of Baltimore History of Cemeteries
- Brief handwritten description of genesis of St. Vincent Cemetery
- St. Vincent “Regulations” with grave and funeral pricing, dated 1853
- Early example of deed to cemetery lot
- St. Vincent Church annual reports, including cemetery status
(1854 report | 1856 report)
The following stories are from a few people who witnessed the results of some of the grave desecration that ultimately lead to the decision of removing all grave markers.
St. Vincent’s Cemetery (Clifton Graveyard) 1974 by May Lane (PDF file)
May Lane shares her memories from childhood when she, her sister, and a friend encountered a disinterred body on the Clifton Park golf course.
Memories of St. Vincent Cemetery by Joseph Yori (PDF file)
A son recounts his father’s memories of visiting St. Vincent Cemetery with his mother to pay their respects to his two brothers. Unfortunately, the visits stopped after a trip in 1949 when they found a woman’s remains propped up against a coffin.
Testimony of Cecilia Deems on the Libertini Family Vaults at St. Vincent’s (PDF file)
Cecilia Deems fondly remembers visiting two Libertini family vaults.
The following news articles give some of the details of the desecration of St. Vincent Cemetery, as well as the subsequent clean-up by hundreds of volunteers.
- The Baltimore Sun, 20 Sep 2010, Neglected Cemetery Gets $2,500 Cleanup by Jacques Kelly
- The Baltimore Sun, 18 July 2010, Descendants Want Unmarked Cemetery to Be Maintained by Jacques Kelly
- City Paper, 2001, Grave Circumstances by Tom Chalkey
- Arcadian, Nov/Dec 2001, Grave Circumstances by Tom Chalkey
- The Old Line Blog, 15 Sep 2010, A Haunting Account of St. Vincent’s Cemetery
- Evening Sun, 20 March 1978, Pillaged Parish Cemetery: ‘We’d need 5 Watchmen’
- Evening Sun, 10 April 1978, Anti-Vandal Steps Planned at Cemetery
Baltimore Sun, 11 June 1882
The following is supplied by Nancy Bramucci and submitted by Joyce Erway
An incident occurred at City Hall yesterday which excited a great deal of sympathy and at the same time aroused no little indignation in the health department. Mrs. Minnie C. Ashworth, a tidy little woman appealed to Secretary A.R. Carter with tears in her eyes and voice choked with sobs to bury her dead infant, a little boy 7 months of age who had died of brouchia; catarrh and whose wan little corpse she had in her arms wrapped against her bosom in a faded shawl. “How is it you bring the child’s corpse to me?” The Secretary inquired. “I have no place else to take it.” I cannot leave it in the street. I am not permitted to let it stay where I have been living.
To further inquire she stated that she had carried the body in her arms through the crowded streets of the city from No 214 South Durham street between Aliceanna and Lancaster Streets, where she had resided in the house of Theresa Rode, working in a pickling establishment for what money she could earn to pay for shelter, while her husband who is a soldier in the United States Army, was in Alabama. She said she was a native of Alabama and had another child older, whom she was obliged to leave with a friend while she went to the City Hall to have the infant buried.
She told Mr. Carter she was perfectly destitute and homeless; that she was not allowed to leave the corpse n the house on Durham Street long enough to go to the City Hall to beg for its burial. A physician connected with the department certified that the cause of death was bronchial catarrh, and it is believe that if the mother had been able to get medicines and attention for it the life of the child might have been spared. Secretary Carter, who was greatly touched by the incident, said it was the worst case he had encountered in all the years he had been in the health office. Mr. F.A. Kerschner, of the department took the body in charge for burial and Rev. E. Didier gave a permit for its interment in St. Vincent’s Cemetery. The mother said she proposed putting other child in an asylum and it will probably go to St. Vincent Orphanage.
A sum of money was made up for her immediate wants by the attaches of the health department. The family at No 214 South Durham street removed into country yesterday and when the reporter went there the house was locked up.