At the far end of a grassy field in Frizzellburg, Maryland, bowered and barely noticeable beneath the outer boughs of a little wood, are thirty gravestones in two neat lines. A good number of them are small stones marking children’s graves, and several of them have fallen over. The graves were all moved there from behind the church at the other end – the front end – of the property. They were moved together and relatively recently, sometime in the last quarter century, I am told, when the congregation found it necessary to add on to the rear of the original church building. They were in the way.
I learned this from a young man named David, who shimmied out from under the forklift he was working on in his driveway to direct me to the church, which I could not find in two passes along the town’s main road even though – as it turns out – you could throw a frozen chicken from the road to its front door. I had been researching family grave locations that afternoon at the Historical Society of Carroll County in Westminster, five miles east, and as I was passing through Frizzellburg on the way back to my temporary lodgings up on the Maryland-Pennsylvania border it occurred to me that I had just learned that one of my relations had been laid to rest in the churchyard there.
Wiping his hands on a rag, David said that in fact the church I was looking for was his church and cheerfully pointed out the way. Left at the stop sign at the top of the hill onto Frizzellburg Road and it was right there; I couldn’t miss it. He alerted me to the fact that the cemetery had been moved and I would find the stones all the way at the back of the field. He was curious about the family research I was doing, how I went about it, since he had been thinking of visiting the historical society himself but hadn’t ever gotten around to it. We fell into conversation and I turned the engine of my rented car off and asked him whether the actual graves had also been moved or just the stones. He wasn’t sure; it had been a long time ago now in a life that had seen, I’d guess, fewer than thirty-five winters, but he thought they must have been, because he recalled hearing something about how they’d only found a single belt buckle among all those graves. It was his opinion that it would have been the right thing to do to move the soil as well. He hoped they had.
I found the church off the main drag just as David had described and parked in the church lot. (Note: you can drive down Lottie Drive along the eastern length of the property if walking so far over grass is difficult.) Because David had told me where they’d be, I saw the distant gravestones at the back of the field immediately and they chilled me a little, standing there in the deep shade like a chorus of ghosts. No one was around. I walked back to the graves and scanned the markers for the name of a child that would have been my grandfather James‘ great uncle, had he not died so young.
At first I didn’t see it. But on the second, more careful search of the further row I found a little stone, third from the left, toppled and split in two across the middle, with the name Baily inscribed in capital letters on the top half under an arc of smaller letters saying IN MEMORY OF. The full inscription was as follows:
IN MEMORY OF
Son of Benjamin &
Died Feb 7th
1851 Aged 4
years 4 Months
& 21 days
I felt a heavy sadness seeing the broken stone. It was the second one of the old family markers that I’d found recently fallen and damaged. The other was Baily’s mother’s, for this little boy was the child of Catherine (Slaughenhaupt) Fleagle and “Elder” Benjamin, my great great grandparents, who according to John Scharf’s 1881 History of Western Maryland had been instrumental in founding the congregation and building the church structure here in 1842. (Benjamin and Catherine are buried at Uniontown three miles west southwest as the crow flies, and her stone in the old cemetery on Trevanion Road is likewise toppled and cracked.)
Because he did not live to marry and have children, there are few on earth who have reason to think of Baily or to care about the condition or even the whereabouts of his gravestone, but I’d like it if he were not utterly forgotten herebelow, whence this post. I’m willing to acknowledge that the child, ensconced in the bosom of his creator and long since reunited with his parents and siblings, is not uncared for, not forgotten, and is perhaps a more integral part of the turning of the universe today than I who am yet confined to this little cage of time and space and my puny vessel of sinew and bone.
Still: there was a little boy named Baily. There really was. And he was a treasure to his parents and he lived around here and I assume he went to this church with his brothers and sisters, unless perhaps he was very sick all of his short life. Maybe he swung his little legs from the pew a few yards from where his toppled marker lies. Maybe he was too young to get much out of the words coming from the pulpit, his faith preintellectual, visceral and pure. Maybe his eyes wandered along the row of congregants to stare at some adult the way children stare, or up to the windows where the sunlight coming through reminded him of something he had no words for. – mdf
*You will see the town’s name spelled several ways, including Frizzelburg, Frizellburg (the church spells its name this way) and even Fritzellburg (on an 1877 township atlas) – I have chosen to follow the historian John Scharf as he spelled it in 1881: Frizzellburg. The highway signs posted at the edge of town agree. On a note of even deeper digression, I’ve heard the name of the town all my life – I can hear it in my father’s voice in my memory’s ear – but I never paid enough attention to the details in my younger days to remember what he used to say about the place. Maybe he had a friend or some cousins there.
Image archive ID:
(Baily’s marker) 20170629-002_bailyFleagleMarkerFrizzellburg
(Row of stones) 20170629-003_FrizzellburgGraves
About the physical photographs:
These are digital photographs taken by mdf 29 June 2017.