In 1855, William Whipps bought one acre of land for the sum of $73.25 to serve as a burial ground for his family. The Whipps' were well-known farmers and merchants of the day who also served as blacksmiths at Oakland Manor--now Oakland Mills in Columbia.
The Whipps burial ground was always just a little country cemetery, not affiliated with any church. It never had any formal perpetual care. The individual families looked after their own family plots as best they could. This probably meant a once-a-year clean-up day, usually on Memorial Day, and periodic visits to put flowers on the graves and recall memories, and maybe do a little sprucing up around the tombstones.
In the late 1800s, burial lots were sold to other families in the community. The last burial of Jane Whipps took place in 1915.
Not much thought was given to this cemetery until 1984 when building stakes went up in the weeds and bulldozers began clearing the brush! A group of neighbors—members of the St. Johns Community Association, Inc. led by Barbara Sieg—decided that this little wooded cemetery had suffered enough neglect and abuse.
In 1987, when the transformation began, the cemetery site was overwhelming with impenetratable weeds and vines. And yet, there was an indescribable beauty and tranquility there, and an irresistible urge to put the place in order.
Today, the cemetery is owned by The Friends of the Whipps Cemetery and Memorial Gardens, Inc. The cemetery is supported by fund-raisers and donations. It is maintained entirely by volunteers, primarily the University of Maryland Extension Howard County Master Gardeners.
Samuel Whipps - Howard County blacksmith, farmer, post master, cemetery director and charter member of the Ellicott City IOOF Lodge - was the oldest son of William Whipps, the founder of Whipps Cemetery.
During the 1980's and 1990's, the St. John's community banded together to transform the cemetery into a garden park.
A complete listing of all the headstones at the cemetery includes 16 members of the Whipps family and 40 more for the general public. This list includes both adult and children. Children's graves are marked with a small state of Maryland flag.
During the early days of the restoration, archeologists and volunteers worked to recover and restore the all-but-forgotten gravestones.
University of Maryland Extension, Howard County Master Gardeners, along with other dedicated volunteers, maintain the gardens with their horticultural knowledge and vision.
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