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Dennis Cemetery


In the middle of a forest near Shady Side, Anne Arundel County, the late Dan Weiskotten raked away leaves and branches, established a grid system, and mapped what proved to be a cemetery with as many as 86 graves. Dan determined that the half-acre parcel was part of a tract called 'Bay Breeze,' owned by the Dennis family. Five of the thirteen inscribed markers bore the Dennis name.

The Reverand Alexander A. Dennis was a minister for several African Methodist Episcopal churches in the Annapolis area between 1875 and 1903, possibly earlier. The federal census of 1870 listed him as a carpenter, aged 36, and as the husband of Sydonia Dennis, aged 34. The headstone of Sydonia Dennis, one of several marked tablets in the Dennis cemetery, is dated 1884 and notes that she was the wife of the Reverand Dennis.

Dennis Cemetery Overview
Gravestone of Sydonia Dennis, 1884; Dennis Cemetery Overview

Two of their children are also buried in this cemetery: Annie Generva Dennis (1877) and Charles Dennis (1878). The Rev. Dennis served a congregation on the South River at the time of the children's deaths.

Markers of Charles and Annie Generva Dennis.

Unfortunately, the 1878 Hopkins atlas appears not to have included African churches, or at least did not designate them as such.

Hopkins atlas of 1878. W. Maudlin underlined in red.

The 1860 Martenet map, on the other hand notes several African churches in the vicinity, one just west of the lands of Alexander Franklin where Alexander Dennis eventually would establish a cemetery.

Martenet atlas of Anne Arundel County (1860).

Whether or not the Rev. Dennis created this cemetery for his congregation or for his extended family remains uncertain. The earliest marker bears the date 1873, the latest is dated 1895. The dates fall within the period during which he served as a minister. But those dates may not accurately date the use of the cemetery as 73 of the 86 grave shafts that Dan identified lack inscribed markers, and three of the markers--two wooden planks and one concrete tablet--bear only initials. Another eight graves have a wooden post at one or both ends (they probably were crosses).

'WM" Plank marker and detail, and 'JHH' concrete slab marker.

Surviving inscriptions appear below.

Grave Fossa
Grave fossa and wooden post markers.

Harriet S. Coates, daughter of John H. and Sophia Coates, born June 2, 1864, died September 19, 1877, age 13 years, 3 months 17 days.

Rachel Crowner, wife of John W. crowner, died January 22, 1895, age 56 years, 5 months, 21 days.

Annie Generva Dennis, daughter of Alexander and Sydonia Dennis, born May 21, 1875, died June 12, 1877, age 2 years 22 days.

Charles Dennis, sone of Alexander and Sydonia Dennis, born February 24, 1856, died May 30, 1878, age 22 years 3 months 6 days.

Elizabeth Dennis, wife of Jacob Dennis, born May 9, 1816, died August 3, 1880, age 64 years.

John Dennis, born September 18, 1840, died July 4, 1873.

Sydonia Dennis, wife of Rev. Alexander Dennis, born December 25, 1838, died February 14, 1884.

J.H.H. (Concrete marker without further information. Possibly a Holland family member.)

James H. Holland, born May 15, 1822, died December 24, 1891. (Probably the Henry Holland noted in the 1870 federal census.

Jane Holland, wife of Henry Holland, born October 11, 1836, died January 15, 1894.

Josephine Holland, born May 2, 1855, died June 13, 1876.

WM. (Wooden plank head and foot markers without further information. Initials evident on both head and foot markers.)

SM. (Wooden plank head and foot markers without further information. Foot marker severely decayed, no inscription discernable.)

The 1878 Hopkins atlas notes a 'W. Matthews' in the immediate vicinity and the 1880 census lists William and Sarah Matthews, aged 48 and 40 years, living near the Coates and Dennis families.

Dennis cemetery