In Dorchester County, the Travers’ Anchor of Hope Cemetery in Hoopersville is the final resting spot of 150 Marylanders, all of whose remains will soon be washed into the Chesapeake Bay if shoreline erosion can’t be stemmed.
In that overgrown burial ground, War of 1812 veterans lay beside infants and adjacent to unmarked graves of 65 slaves and freedmen. The site was nominated by Donald Willey, a retired Marine who is working with the nonprofit Bucktown Village Foundation to raise funds for restoration. The graveyard is community property, but it neighbors Willey’s acreage. (His nomination was also supported by the Dorchester County Department of Tourism.)
Willey is haunted by his Sisyphean efforts to keep the bodies in their final resting places. “One infant washed overboard [into the bay]. The water sucked him right out of the bank. We just found a little cavern where his casket must have been. All that was left was a coffin handle and a white button that probably popped off of his christening dress.”
After viewing the disturbing photos of cracked coffins, toppled headstones, and visible skulls, Endangered Maryland board members felt both compelled to help and helpless at the same time. Several acknowledged the need to bring the issue of rising sea level to the forefront. By 2050, the prediction is that all of Hooper’s Island will be under water.
Willey is hoping to attract enough funding to pay for a state permit to revet the area and to finance the materials, time, and labor needed to place huge boulders along the shoreline. He believes this will offer a semi-permanent solution to the erosion.
In the meantime, he has been hard at work trying to identify the graves so that at least “names can be put with those bodies.”
For more information, call Donald Willey at 410-397-3433.