Cemetery Preservation at the Howard Family Cemetery in Patuxent River State Park


Preservation Maryland and The Campaign for Historic Trades were joined by the Maryland Park Service and the National Park Service at a cemetery preservation day at the Howard Family Cemetery in Patuxent River State Park in Montgomery County, Md. The team cleaned the site, maintained landscaping, and cleaned and reset the grave markers of Enoch George and Harriett Howard.

Enoch George Howard was born into slavery in 1814, possibly in the area of the Hawlings River. In 1851, at the age of 37, Howard purchased his own freedom from his enslaver, Sarah Griffith Brown of Elton Farm. In 1853 he purchased the freedom of his wife Harriet from her enslavers, Samuel R. Gaither and his wife Maria Gaither. In 1862, in the midst of the Civil War, George and Harriet purchased from the Gaither Family a 1790 plantation house, Locust Villa, along with 289 acres of land. Harriet and George now owned the very land on which she had been enslaved, and moved into her former enslavers’ home and made it their own.  Through determination and entrepreneurship, Enoch George Howard ultimately acquired over 600 acres of land and became a leading citizen of the area.  The family founded a chapel and school to serve other free Black men and women in the Unity district.

Upon their deaths, Enoch George and Harriett Howard were interred in a secluded family burial ground just south of the Locust Villa house. Later generations of the family moved out of the area and the land was sold to investors, from whom the State of Maryland later purchased it in the 1960s.

The land will become part of the new Freedman’s State Historical Park. As part of the passage of the Great Maryland Outdoors Act, for which Preservation Maryland advocated in 2022, the state will invest more into cultural and historical sites and establish the new state park, creating a pathway for a state park system that addresses needs for acquisition, accessibility, and equity.