In the mid-19th century, Laurel Cemetery was incorporated by African Americans and served as a final resting place for some of the most influential and financially successful members in Baltimore. Among those interred were Bishop Daniel Payne of the A.M.E. Church; the Rev. Dr. Harvey Johnson, founder of the Mutual Brotherhood of Liberty, from which the Baltimore Chapter of the NAACP evolved; and, Isaac Myers, founder of the first African American labor union and co-founder of the first African American shipyard. Hundreds of members of the United States Colored Troops were also interred at Laurel. Over time, the USCTs were reinterred in a federal cemetery and the other remains were transferred to Carroll County, Maryland. The cemetery was paved over and a department store constructed.
Preliminary archaeological research by Dr. Elgin Klugh, Coppin State University, and Dr. Robert Costanza, University of Baltimore, indicates that there are still human remains at the site. BAAHGS volunteers are working diligently to document and tell the stories of ALL of those originally interred. We have done so by reading obituaries in local newspaper archives, by collecting funeral programs from our members and reading every death certificate issued by Maryland between 1875 and the mid-1950s.
As a result of this collaborative effort with the aforementioned professors, funding was secured and a symposium was held on June 15th at Coppin State University to discuss our findings. In addition to the historical and genealogical communities who participated, descendants of those interred also attended. A secondary goal is to research and identify other descendants and secure their support and assistance in having an historical marker erected on the site.
Research and activities related to Remembering Laurel Cemetery continues, and a Facebook group has been created and maintained by a BAAHGS member to record the names and information about the interred.