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Slave cemetery discovered on former Anne Arundel plantation

Slave cemetery excavated on former Anne Arundel plantation (Courtesy: MDOT SHA)

CROWNSVILLE, Md. (WBFF) - A historic slave cemetery, on a tobacco plantation owned by Francis Scott Key's relatives, has been discovered in Anne Arundel County.

The burial ground was first found in late January, on a tract of land known as Belvoir in Crownsville; the property is now owned and maintained by Rockbridge Academy, according to a news release sent Tuesday.

Archaeologists from the Maryland State Highway Administration originally found it, as the area is now part of a Transportation Enhancement Project.

The burial ground was covered in "field stones, perhaps marking old graves," on the plantation owned by National Anthem writer Francis Scott Key.

A white marble headstone is believed to have belonged to a 4-year-old African-American boy, Joseph Grocia, who was buried on the property in 1913.

Two men who grew up on the plantation in the 1970s, Rodney Daff and James Brown Jr., reached out to the SHA Chief Archaeologist, Julie Schablitsky.

SHA used Bay Area Recovery Canines to help detect human remains in the ground, even after 200 years.

"The topography and location, along with the pattern of field stones and indications by Roche's K9 team, are compelling pieces of evidence to indicate that this is, in fact, a long-forgotten cemetery related to residents of the Belvoir plantation," said Anne Arundel County Chief of Cultural Resources Jane Cox. "The discovery offers tremendous potential to learn about an under-represented part of our county's history."

Descendants of the African-American community at Belvoir, like Wanda Watts, re excited about the potential.

"As descendants of enslaved families who lived on Belvoir Plantation we are thrilled to have this access and knowledge of our history in Crownsville, Maryland," said Watts. "Not many African Americans are connected to the heritage of their ancestors as we are."

(MDOT SHA photo: (left to right) - Jane Cox - Chief, Cultural Resources Section, Anne Arundel County, Shelley Evans - Descendant, Pam Brogden - Descendant, Nancy Daniels - Descendant, Erica Jones - Descendant, Wanda Watts - Descendant, Julie Schablitsky - MDOT SHA Chief Archaeologist, Kim Franklin - Local resident, and Rodney Daff - Local resident.)

MDOT SHA and Anne Arundel County archaeologists partnered in the discovery of historic sites along General's Highway, where Civil War sites, homes, and Native American camps lay buried. Along this corridor, Rochambeau's troop of 5,000 soldiers camped at Belvoir on their way to the Battle of Yorktown, which effectively ended the American Revolutionary War. Additionally, Francis Scott Key spent time at the plantation with his grandmother, Anne Arnold Ross Key. The archaeological findings will help interpret the use and evolution of this transportation corridor. The team began work at Belvoir in April 2014 and are currently writing up their finds. The African American community, county, and state have come together to recognize the lives of the enslaved people who lived and worked at Belvoir.

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CONTACTS

Jane Cox, Chief, Cultural Resources Section, Anne Arundel County: 410-222-7444

Dr. Julie Schablitsky, MDOT SHA Chief Archaeologist: 503-319-5777

Angela Bailey, Rockbridge Academy Contact: abailey@rockbridge.org

Descendants of African Americans enslaved at Belvoir

Pam Brogden: 410-336-8121

Nancy Daniels: 301-490-2365

Shelley Evans: 717-668-2336

Wanda Watts: 443-540-7193

Local Residents

Rodney Daff: 410-903-4322


(MDOT SHA photo: (left to right) - Jane Cox - Chief, Cultural Resources Section, Anne Arundel County, Shelley Evans - Descendant, Pam Brogden - Descendant, Nancy Daniels - Descendant, Erica Jones - Descendant, Wanda Watts - Descendant, Julie Schablitsky - MDOT SHA Chief Archaeologist, Kim Franklin - Local resident, and Rodney Daff - Local resident.)

For Immediate Release

Contact: MDOT SHA Office of Communications (410) 545-0303

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