Many rural family cemeteries on the outskirts of Baltimore disappeared as the streetcar suburbs advanced into the countryside. In northeast Baltimore, some remain, including the Gontrum, Biddison and McCormick/Councilman family burial grounds.
I knew from the Hopkins Atlas of Baltimore County that there had been, as late as 1898, a Koppelman family burial ground just north of the corner of Franklin/Frankford and Radecke avenues in Gardenville/Raspeburg.
When I found Johann Hermann Koppelmann’s will, I learned that he had directed that the family burial ground be preserved in perpetuity.
A codicil dated 8 January 1877, about two months before his death in February 1877, reads:
“This added to my Last Will and Testament which I have made some years back but had forgotten to mention the graveyard in the same the Grave Yard is situated on my property called Grindon containing 1 quarter of an Acre Shall remain as a grave Yard forever and ever and if the place is ever sold the Grave Yard is to be reserved for the Koppelmann Family for ever and is never to be sold.”
But I knew from visiting the former location of our family’s original farm that no cemetery remained. All the Koppelman, Schaub, and related family remains we had located were buried in graves in Parkwood Cemetery (ancestors of John Hermann’s son John George Koppelman) or Baltimore Cemetery (ancestors of John Hermann’s son John Henry Koppelman).
A number of Schaub and Schaub-related graves are located in Oak Lawn Cemetery on Eastern Avenue.
So what happened to the Koppelman family burial ground? It wasn’t until I did extensive research into land records in the Maryland State Archives that I discovered the answer.
On 6 October 1920, 34 of Johann Hermann Koppelman’s descendants and their spouses–surnamed Koppelman, Raab, Christ, Schaub, Greensfelder, Hedeman, Sack, Gleitsman, Lutz–signed an agreement that deeded the 1/4 acre burial ground to John Henry Koppelman’s widow, Anna Catherine (Weber) Koppelman, presumably so that she could sell the entire farm surrounding the cemetery to a developer (SCL 3690, Folio 122, pg. 122).
The family’s argument was that “the purpose of the lot . . . so set aside as a burial lot . . . has since ceased to be used as such . . . and the dead there buried have . . . been either removed or are about to be removed.” And since all 34 descendants agreed, the terms of our immigrant ancestor’s will could be broken.
Descendants of family members recall their parents talking about the property transfer, but the details of the discussions were never recorded. No photographs of the Koppelman family burial ground have been discovered.
The legally-sanctioned demise of our family burial ground makes me wonder how others in the vicinity endured. Were the terms of wills written more carefully? Did descendants fail to come to agreements similar to the one I’ve described? If you know the answers for the Gontrum, Biddison and Councilman/McCormick cemeteries, I’d like to hear from you.
All of the Koppelman family graves I have documented are gathered in a “virtual cemetery” on findagrave.com.
To learn about doing research on Maryland land records, visit the Maryland State Archives website. Finding these records takes great patience. You can request free access to digitized land conveyances on MdLandRec.net
The best way to research Baltimore County wills is to purchase the excellent Baltimore County Wills Index from the Baltimore County Genealogical Society. You will find it listed under “Publications for Sale” on the “Resources” tab.