Countless drivers zip by Southern Maryland's only known Quaker cemetery every day in a cacophony of bass music, blaring horns and squealing sirens. Until last week, they probably never would have known that just about a hundred yards from the noisy Route 5 strip in Hughesville sits a quiet patch of the region's history.
The tract covers 31 graves that have gone largely unnoticed since 1871. On Monday evening, several members of the Patuxent Friends Monthly Meeting gathered in an informal ceremony to erect a sign that proclaims the cemetery's existence. The new marker was a project taken on by Matthew Keck, 16, to earn the rank of Eagle Scout, the Boy Scouts' highest honor.
"I wanted to help the meeting, and this has definitely been a learning experience," said Keck, a regular at the Patuxent meetings in Lusby. "Scoutswise, I've never done anything like this before."
Keck's grandmother, also a Quaker, stumbled across records of the cemetery three years ago while researching Maryland Quakers in materials at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. One handwritten legal document from 1893 describes one boundary marker on the site as "a large stone on the aforesaid public road, not far from said Hughesville."
Even more than a century later, this description is fairly accurate. As cemeteries go, this one is humble. The Quaker tenet of simplicity is evident in this parcel of land, just less than an acre, off Luke's Lane in Hughesville.
The elements have been unkind to the now mostly illegible headstones. There are no ornate carvings or flowery phrases etched onto the plain, gray markers. But for Southern Maryland's Quakers -- about 30 families remain here -- the sign that now marks the cemetery is monument enough to the work of a peaceful people to whom they are related through faith and values.
"When you get up to the grave area, it's kind of peaceful," said Cynthia Gonzalez, 30, a member of Patuxent Friends Monthly Meeting. "It's not so important who was there, just that there were people here before. Most people don't even know there are Quakers in Southern Maryland."
Quakers arrived in Calvert County as early as 1671, said Pat O'Donnell at the Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College. They converted some Puritan settlers but never established a large, continuous population. These early meetings eventually died out and the people who started the cemetery came along much later, possibly to help newly emancipated blacks participate in society, O'Donnell said.
The Friends library has a record of a Charles County monthly meeting established in 1871 and held at the home of Daniel P. Haviland. He and four other Havilands are buried in the Hughesville cemetery.
The new sign "lets people know that there are not only Quakers here now, but there were Quakers here then," said Diane Kesler, 56, of the Patuxent Meeting. "This, to me, is kind of connecting the past to the present."
The Patuxent Meeting does not own the cemetery. It belongs to a meeting in Adelphi, but members there can't make the drive often enough to maintain the land. When Keck decided to adopt the cemetery as a Scout project, the Lusby meeting supported him through cash donations and labor. Months of mowing, filling in sunken graves and arranging the construction of the sign ended Monday with the placing of the white placard with black lettering. For Keck, it was a step toward his Eagle Scout badge. For the modern-day Quakers in the area, the sign is a celebration of their predecessors.
"Quakers have a saying, `As way opens,' " Kesler said. "It means that things have a way of working out. For us, the way opened."