Haiti Cemetery was one of the earliest burying grounds in Rockville. It opened in the 1880s when an heir of Samuel Martin sold burial sites to local families on an unused portion of the garden behind her house.
Martin’s Lane was the dividing line between Margaret Beall’s property to the south and Samuel Martin’s to the north. Miss Beall, who lived in the Beall-Dawson house on Montgomery Avenue, sold land (often with existing houses) to several former slaves; members of these families continued to work for Beall and Dawson heirs well into the 20th century.
Samuel Martin was born a slave near Rockville about 1800. When he died in 1873, he left considerable fortune and property, as well as the respect of those who knew him. His children divided up the farm north of Martin’s Lane, constructing houses as each generation necessitated.
In the division of her grandfather’s estate, Charlotte Penny received the westernmost lot on “the lane leading from the Frederick Road to the farm of John T. Vinson,” (now Martin’s Lane), identified in his 1873 will as Lot No. 1 on the plat. Martin had divided this 8 ¾ acre portion of his property into five lots of 1 ¾ acres each. Charlotte Penny, “of Washington City in the District of Columbia,” took title to her portion in August 1883.
Following land exchanges with her brother, Thomas P. Martin, Charlotte Penny sold the unimproved parcel four years later to her sister, Agatha P. Smith. The Smiths probably constructed a home on this property soon after, for they mortgaged it in 1890 in order to secure a $500 loan. The loan was made by the Home Mutual Building Association of Montgomery County to the Trustees “who want to erect a new house of divine worship …for use and occupation of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church of Rockville (which became Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church).
The Smiths began making their land available for burials in the early 1880s, for the earliest readable stone—that of Charlotte Penny—is dated 1889. In 1906, Eliza and George Patterson purchased “150 square feet, more or less, being a burial lot in the private cemetery of Smith and wife.” Eliza Douglas bought 110 square feet in 1908, “and the same lot wherein the late Liz Douglas is now buried, including one more foot of land in the Walk Way the length of the said lot facing thereon. And the said Agatha Smith covenants to warrant generally the land herein conveyed.”
The Haiti area of Rockville also became a focus for black families who worked in Washington, D.C., often for the Federal government. They resided in the city close to their places of employment, coming to Rockville for summers and weekends. Other Haiti residents lived on Martin’s Lane year round.
Haiti Cemetery remained in the same ownership as the westernmost house on the north side of Martin’s Lane. Burials slowed down considerably after 1917, when the Order of Galilean Fishermen purchased land in Lincoln Park for use as a cemetery.
U. Grant Smith owned the property for many years. The last resident of the house was Mrs. Frances “Lottie” Johnson Crutchfield. The Crutchfield house was razed in the early 1970s, but the family still maintains the cemetery.
Almost all of the individuals buried at Haiti Cemetery are related to one another. Many of the families now living on Martin’s Lane are direct descendants of the free and enslaved people who first settled there in the 19th century. The cemetery is still in use as a family burial ground.
In 2002, Haiti Cemetery was designated a local historic district.
Some notable people buried at Haiti Cemetery:
- George W. Johnson (“Mr. T, “ restaurant proprietor)
- George Meads (deputy sheriff and fire chief)
- Len Meades (pianist)
- William Wood (founder of Rockville’s modern Memorial Day Parade)