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Rock Creek Church Yard and Cemetery
Washington, DC

[Photo]
Rock Creek Church Yard and Cemetery
Photo by nostri-imago via Flickr and Creative Commons

Rock Creek Church Yard and Cemetery contributes, significantly-to the cultural heritage and visual beauty of the District of Columbia. Covering 85 acres, the cemetery is sited on high ground, its undulating terrain falling away to the north from the main gate. St. Paul's Episcopal Church, with its 18th century churchyard, occupies a prominent knoll opposite the entrance gate toward the center of the cemetery. Rock Creek Cemetery is superimposed upon and around the old church yard. It was designed and laid out in the mid-19th century in the fashionable picturesque rural cemetery manner introduced at Mount Auburn Cemetery, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The many mature native trees include the ancient Glebe Oak, with a circumference of more than 17 feet. There is an interesting diversity of design in grave markers, monuments, mausoleums and sculpture reflecting the long history of the cemetery and the status and sensibilities of those buried within it.

[Photo]
Rock Creek Church Yard and Cemetery

Photo by nostri-imago via Flickr and Creative Commons

Despite the outstanding landscape, the cemetery derives its primary significance from age, and from the graves of persons of great importance in the history of the District of Columbia and the nation. The graves, many with notable memorial sculpture and architecture, are often the only visual and permanent record of the productive lives of these persons. Rock Creek Cemetery is the oldest public burial place within the District of Columbia and part of the church yard of the oldest church in the District, St. Paul's Episcopal Church. The cemetery is the site of many memorials of distinguished aesthetic quality including not only the Adams Memorial (Grief) by sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaidens and architect Stanford White of McKim, Mead and White, but also the Frederick Keep Monument (Journey of Life) by James Earle Fraser; the Kauffmann Monument by William Ordway Partridge;  the Heurich Mausoleum by Louis Amateis;
and the Flouke Memorial (Rabboni) by Gutzon Borglum.

[Photo]
Rock Creek Church Yard and Cemetery
Photo by danieljdougherty via Flickr and Creative Commons

The old inscriptions on the early graves are few in number. Of those which currently are legible are the Thomas Gramphin family markers showing burials in 1775 and 1783; the Levering family in 1791; the I. M. White family in 1795 and 1801; David Steuger in 1802; Mary Tunnicliff in 1798; and numerous others in the early 1800s, all of which are clustered within about 100 yards of old St. Paul's Church. In this general area are located nine Revolutionary War heroes whose graves have been identified and suitably marked, including Captain Peter Faulkner, Sergeant John Hines, Lieutenant Thomas Boyd, Midshipman James L. Cathcart, Chaplain Abraham Baldwin, Colonel William Deakins, Colonel Thomas Deakins, 2nd. Major, Maryland Militia, Samuel W. Magruder, and Sergeant Abram Swartwout.

[Photo]
Rock Creek Church Yard and Cemetery
Photo by danieljdougherty via Flickr and Creative Commons

Henry Adams, journalist, author and historian, has one of the more remarkable markers. Born in Boston in 1838, the son of Charles Francis Adams, American statesman and Minister to England from 1861-1868, grandson of John Quincy Adams, 6th President of the United States; and great grandson of John Adams, our 2nd President. His principal works were the History of the United States, 1801-1817 and The Education of Henry Adams. His Washington home was just: off the corner of 16th and H Streets, N.W. A memorial was erected in 1891 in memory of Marion Hooper Adams, Henry Adams’ wife, who died in 1885. The sculptor was the noted Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Although many titles have been ascribed to this memorial, including "Grief" - most fixed in the popular mind - the sculptor himself preferred to call it "The Peace of God that passeth understanding". The granite settings of the memorial, including the circular bench, were designed by the noted American architect, Stanford White. Henry Adams died in 1918. His will directed that no inscription be placed on the memorial, which serves as his gravesite as well as that of his wife.

[Photo]
Rock Creek Church Yard and Cemetery

Photo bymartinpro via Flickr and Creative Commons

Locally, Montgomery Blair and the Blair family retain their importance in the history of the District of Columbia and Maryland. Among the members of the family buried in this
mausoleum are Francis Preston Blair (1791-1876); his son, Montgomery Blair, (1812-1833);
and his grandson, Gist Blair (1860-1940). What was subsequently to become known as
"Blair House" on Pennsylvania Avenue, diagonally opposite the White House, was built
in 1824. In December 1836, Francis Preston Blair bought the house. He served as a member of President Jackson's influential advisors, known as the "Kitchen Cabinet". In 1842 Blair bought a country place which he called "Silver Spring" - the seed of the present Maryland suburb of that name.

Among the many noted people buried in the cemetery is Mabel Thorpe Boardinan the first woman to serve as a Commissioner of the District of Columbia. She was the  National Secretary of the American Red Cross; originator of its nursing service; supervisor of its trained volunteers; and largely responsible for raising the necessary contributions for erection of the beautiful headquarters building in Washington as a memorial to the women of the Civil War.

Also of note to the District’s history is the resting place of David Burnes (1739-1799), an original proprietor of the land that became the city of Washington. Congress in July1790 passed the Residence Act, establishing a permanent seat of government of the United States along the Potomac. David Burnes was one of 19 proprietors of the land that the President wished to acquire for the Federal City.

For more information on the church and cemetery visit:
http://www.rockcreekparish.org/

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