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Mt. Nebo Cemetery Burial Survey Completed - 245+ Burials
Sep 09 – Sep 22, 2021
Praising the Past

mt nebo cemetery map

Tales from Historic Mount Nebo Series 

Is an ongoing series of stories about people connected to the historic Mount Nebo African American Episcopal Church, Cemetery, and/or Colored School in Bowie, Maryland.

Previous published articles in this series:

Prosperous White Farmer Claims Self-Defense for Killing Negro Named Thomas Turner

When Society Discovered that Dr. Watkins was a Negro

Dr. Watkins, The Colored Who Defied Housing Segregation Circa 1880

The Flu Shuns Us, Says Health Doctor
Some of those buried in the Mount Nebo African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church cemetery in Bowie, Maryland, outside of Washington, DC, were probably once enslaved. Though they lived at the bottom of the social/economic ladder, memories of them and their final resting places are being restored. “The work of the church’s members to reclaim the cemetery is proof that to many people Black lives matter in death, too,” says Morgan State University Archivist Dr. Ida Jones.

Mount Nebo church members formed the non-profit Friends of Historic Mount Nebo Preservation Corporation (FOHMNPC) and recently hired Dr. Tim Horsley to help them identify unmarked graves that are in the cemetery adjacent to the church. Horsley recently released the report from his high-resolution, ground-penetrating radar (GPR) survey of the cemetery.

The report says he detected 123 definite or probable burials and provided evidence for a further 122 possible burials. The geophysical archaeologist found an additional 19 tentative burials, “although these geophysical anomalies are more likely caused by other subsurface disturbance,” he says.

Cemetery Project Manager Jan Hagey, (FOHMNPC) that before the survey, we thought we had about 150 burials Hagey says, Horsley is counting at least 245 (123+122= 245).
We have markers for about 60 of those burials, most with names and dates,” added Hagey.
For ease of interpretation, burials are divided into “definite/probable,” “possible,” and “tentative” depending on the confidence that such an interpretation can be made. Among the 245 definite/probable and possible burials, 122 of them Horsley consider possible burials as suggested by weaker GPR reflections that are likely associated with burials or ground disturbance caused by digging a grave shaft, although other explanations for these anomalies are possible. These other explanations include natural soil variations, tree roots, or disturbances caused by burrowing animals.

However, Horsley expects that the total number of graves in the cemetery is greater than the 245 indicated by the survey. It appears that some burials were beyond the expected cemetery boundaries. “We may need conduct more investigations on those possible plots and a possible building that may have been on the property or many reasons including before we construct a parking lot and add landscaping.” Preservation Maryland funded the survey.

We have markers for about 60 of those burials, most with names and dates,” added Hagey. Those names include Jane Ellen Owens Turner, her husband Wilson Tuner, and son Thomas Turner whose stories are included in Port Of Harlem’s Tales of Mt. Nebo series. “There are others I will write about who are buried there,” added Hagey.  

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