In 1831, Henry Burkitt, founder and namesake of the village of Burkittsville, deeded land to the Evangelical Reformed and Evangelical Lutheran Churches for their shared use. Already standing at this time on the south end of the lot was the Union Church, began in 1829 to be shared by the Reformed and Lutheran congregations. Thirty years later, the Lutherans erected St. Paul’s Church in 1859 and the Reformed congregation rebuilt the Union Church in 1860, rededicating it as Resurrection Reformed Church. After closing its doors in 1979, the Reformed Church was acquired by South Mountain Heritage Society and restored for use as a museum and community space.
The northern end of the land was used for a burial ground, shared by the two congregations and thus known as Union Cemetery. Among the first interments in the cemetery was John Willard (1777-1831), an early leader in the Reformed congregation who was killed in an accident while cutting timbers to build the Union Church. Among the many figures from Burkittsville’s history who are interred in the cemetery are former member and Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates Hon. Daniel S. Biser (1801-1877); industrialists Manassas J. Grove (1824-1907) and John D. Ahalt (1848-1916); and Baltimore and Ohio Railroad surgeon and Mayor of the City of Brunswick Dr. Arlington G. Horine (1862-1956).
During the Civil War, the cemetery was used for temporary burials of both U.S. and Confederate soldiers who were casualties of the Battles of South Mountain and Antietam. Letters written home to families of these soldiers who died in the many field hospitals established throughout the town often referenced their burial in the village’s graveyard. In 1867, most of the U.S. soldiers were exhumed and reinterred at the newly-established Antietam National Cemetery. A few years later, the Confederate soldiers were also exhumed and reinterred at Washington Confederate Cemetery, established within the City of Hagerstown’s Rose Hill Cemetery.
In 1880, a group of Burkittsville citizens banded together to form The Burkittsville Cemetery Company and to purchase additional land for the cemetery (see photos below).
In 1898, the consistory of Resurrection Reformed Church and the council of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church transferred the original cemetery to the Burkittsville Cemetery Company, bringing both parcels of land under the ownership of the Burkittsville Union Cemetery Company, which incorporated in 1947 and still owns the cemetery today.
The Burkittsville Union Cemetery Company, Inc. is currently managed by a Board of Directors to oversee the continued use and preservation of this historical burial ground.