Three Greenbelt Cemeteries and Indian Springs
When the federal government purchased the land for Greenbelt, three cemeteries were included within its boundaries–those of the Hamilton, Turner, and Walker families. On a recent morning, I visited these three cemeteries and also the famous Indian Springs.
Intersection of Hamilton Place and Ridge Road, with crepe myrtles full of blossoms. The Hamilton Cemetery is located at the end of Hamilton Place.
Hamilton Place at Ridge Road
Drive down Hamilton Place, pass GHI’s administrative building on the left, and park. At the end of the parking lot is this sign for Hamilton Cemetery.
The road is lined with trees and vines.
On the right is one of the community garden plots.
An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on a marigold
Sunflowers are blooming in a distant garden plot.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the community gardens is that there is no water source on site. Each gardener has to find his or her way to bring water in and then store it.
A display case
The remains of the marble headstones from the Hamilton Cemetery are now in the display case.
“To the rear of this marker buried in the briars and brambles lie the graves of at least seven members of the Hamilton family who were pioneers in the settlement of Greenbelt. John Hamilton originally ‘patented’ 240 acres including this site in 1768. This property covered much of what is now Greenbelt East. He named the property ‘Hamilton’s Purchase’.
Most, if not all of the people buried here were born in the 18th century. Andrew Hamilton (1753-1823) was a prominent citizen in the area and served as both Justice of the Peace and Supervisor of Roads. Very little else is known of them as individuals. All had died by the … of the Civil War.”
Those known to have been buried on this site are:
Andrew Hamilton (born 1753; died 1823)
Jane Hamilton (born 1747; died 1824)
The wife of Andrew Hamilton.
Colonel Samuel Hamilton (born 1783; died 1857)
An article from The Prince Georges Post dated December 11, 1969: “When Mrs. Backstrom at the National Arboretum Public Information Office expressed interest in our findings at the old Walker family cemetery we called to report on its absence of stones, with the exception of the concrete column which lacked its metal plaque. She said yes, and there was a curious story here which could be verified with the Prince Georges County Police Department….”
In memory of
Sept. 21st, 1823,
in the 70th year
of his age
In memory of
Feb. 28th, 1824,
in the 77th year
of her age.
In memory of
Col. Samuel Hamilton
in the 47th year
of her age.
In memory of
Second Wife of
Col. Samuel Hamilton
In memory of
Col. Samuel and
Plants have covered the space behind the displace case.
The second cemetery I visited is on Ivy Lane just west of Edmonston Road. This area is now Capital Office Park and this is the building across Ivy Lane from Turner Cemetery.
Sign for Greenbelt Cemetery/Historic Turner Cemetery facing Ivy Lane, with a wrought-iron fence behind. One can drive into the cemetery and park on top of a slight incline.
The only remaining tombstone from the Turners is in a display case.
The note on the right is titled “The Origins of the Greenbelt Cemetery”: “On the 2,623 acres of land purchased in 1935 where President Roosevelt’s first planned green town was to be constructed, three old family cemeteries were known to exist. These cemeteries belonged to the Hamilton, Turner and Walker Families. Remains from other burials and family cemeteries were uncovered when the land was cleared for construction, and these were relocated to the most accessible cemetery, that of the Turner Family. When a construction worker died whose family was unknown, he was buried there and so were a few residents during Greenbelt’s early years of existence. These are the origins of the Greenbelt Cemetery.”
It goes on:
“The Turners came to this site in 1759, when Shadrick Turner purchased a 125 acre farm known as ‘Wild Cat.’”
“Shadrick Turner was a devout Methodist. He and Bishop Francis Asbury are honored today as the principal founders of the First United Methodist Church of Hyattsville, one of the oldest Methodist churches in America.”
“The Turners occupied the farm until 1935 when it was sold to the Federal Government. The cemetery was deeded to the City of Greenbelt in 1941.”
the memory of
THOMAS P. TURNER,
who departed this life
September 26th 1855,
aged 15 years.
Grave markers from the founding of Greenbelt to the present day
Greenbelt’s former mayor Richard R. Pilski (April 16 1925—August 14, 2004) is buried at Greenbelt Cemetery.
A tiny cross marks this site.
“God, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as the pathway to grace. Amen”
The third and last cemetery I visited is Walker Cemetery. Here is the intersection of a very busy Greenbelt Road and Walker Drive, and on the other side of Greenbelt Road is the entrance to Greenbelt Park.
Sign for Walker Drive above Greenbelt Road
This area is called Golden Triangle, a triangular area bound by Kenilworth Avenue, Greenbelt Road, and Capital Beltway. A T.G.I. Fridays Restaurant is at the entrance.
In front of T.G.I. Fridays is this Maryland historic marker: “Toaping Castle (Circa 1750).”
“On this site, Isaac, Charles, and Nathan Walker erected a large white oak log house, named for their ancestral stronghold in Scotland which the three brothers had fled after the failure of attempts to unseat George I, King of England, as ruler of Scotland. Isaac permanently settled here and obtained land grants for 188 acres. He and his three sons served in the Revolutionary War. The graves of Isaac and his son Nathan are north of here.
Toaping Castle was the birthplace of Samuel Hamilton Walker (Feb. 24, 1817–Oct. 9, 1847), Lt. Colonel of the Texas Rangers and captain of the U.S. Cavalry. He left home at age 19 to fight Indians, and later he became a leader and hero of the Rangers. His suggested changes to Samuel Colt’s revolver resulted in Colt’s success as an arms manufacturer. 1000 Colt-Walker pistols—the first, heaviest and longest revolvers ever issued to American forces—were purchased for the Texas Rangers during the Mexican War. Walker was killed in that war at the battle of Hua Mantla, Mexico.
The family cemetery is all that remains of the Toaping Castle estate.
Prince George’s County Historical Society
(Marker erected by the City of Greenbelt Bicentennial Committee, 1976)”
Driving north on Walker Drive, one reaches this sign. Turn right in front of the sign.
This building (with the Exelis sign) is 7855 Walker Drive and the next building on the right is 7833. Drive around these two buildings to their back side.
Wikipedia: “ITT Exelis (NYSE: XLS), also known as Exelis Inc., is an aerospace, technology and security company created in October 2011 as a result of the spinoff of ITT Corporation’s defense business into an independent, publicly traded company.”
This is the back (north) side of 7855 Walker Drive, with a parking garage on the right. Park here at the north end of the parking lot, near the trees, far away from the building.
There is a picnic table and a couple of blue trash cans. On the right there is a path going into the woods. This area is a city park.
The path is unpaved, fairly wide, and flat.
After only a few steps, on the left is a stone wall with three openings. These are Greenbelt’s famous Indian Springs. This area was a Native American meeting place, and generations of Greenbelters visited here to picnic or search for arrowheads. Memories about Indian Springs are abundant.
In the July 26, 2012 issue of the Greenbelt News Review, Eugenia M. Horstman writes: “My family and I loved Indian Springs. It was a lovely bosky glade not far from the lake. In the side of a steep hill on one side of the clearing were three pools with metal rims fed by a spring. It looked like they could have been oil drums sunk side by side into the ground to catch the water; that would be about the right diameter.
A rock wall extended beside, behind, and above all three pools. Tall, straight, widely spaced trees shaded the clearing; and I seem to remember one or two picnic tables. It was a short walk from the lake to Indian Springs but seldom did we see anyone else there.”
Horstman is referring to a path from Greenbelt Lake to this location. That path was cut off by Capital Beltway.
All three pools are filled with water, with a stream flowing out of them.
The area around the springs looks like a primordial forest.
The Capital Beltway, with its never ending traffic and noise, is just beyond the trees.
Retrace one’s steps to the picnic table, and now walk toward the parking garage. There is another trail on the right again leading into the woods.
This trail is also wide and goes up a small hill.
At the top of the hill, enclosed by a chain link fence is Walker Cemetery.
There is a gravestone, a plaque, and some decorations.
1ST LT MD MILITIA
PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY CHAPTER D.A.R.