In October, our efforts to restore the Higgins Cemetery were greatly advanced by our first major archaeological effort. The project took three days and included scraping the surface to reach the original ground level and the discovery of previously unknown grave sites. With the voluntary help of Capitol City Landscaping and the Ottery Group, archaeology work began with the removal of the surface level in the burial area. The excavation was conducted under the supervision of James Sorensen, the Montgomery County Archaeologist and Lyle Torp, Archeologist and Chief Executive Officer of the Ottery Group, a Silver Spring Archaeological and Environmental consulting firm. The Officers and Board of the Cemetery Association are very grateful to Capitol City, Jim and Lyle for the gifts of their time and expertise. A report of the excavation, presented to the Board by Lyle, is reproduced here.

Archeological Dig in 2005

Cemetery Work Day – April 30, 2005 – 9:30 -11:30 a.m. (see p.4 for details)


By Lyle Torp
The archeological work at the Higgins Cemetery was aimed at determining whether gravesites, other than those already marked, were present in the cemetery area. Capitol City provided a small backhoe and my company,  The Ottery Group, provided an archeological field crew to accomplish the work. To identify gravesites, the backhoe repeatedly scraped the ground to remove thin layers of soil. If  buried headstones or footstones were present, the backhoe would scrape against it, and the field crew would begin hand excavating in the area to uncover the stone. Several new stones were identified in this manner, including a footstone market with the initials M.G. for Mary E. Higgins Gott (1812-1891) and a headstone and
footstone associated with a child’s grave. Based on field notes provided by Eileen McGuckian, the child’s grave may contain the remains of Mary L. Knowles (1873-1874).

In areas where the backhoe did not reveal buried grave markers, mechanical excavation continued to the depth of subsoil. Subsoil is the layer of soil existing at such a depth below the surface that it is not reached in the usual operations of gardening and agriculture, generally from about 1 foot below the surface downwards. If a pit is dug into the subsoil and then re-filled, topsoil will mix with the subsoil and the shape of the pit will be identifiable by the change in soil composition, color, and texture. Thus, graves will leave evidence of the grave shaft where the original gravesite was excavated into subsoil to place the coffin, without having to excavate as deep as the actual burial. Most of the Higgins Cemetery tract was excavated in this manner, and no other burials were identified.

The backhoe was also used to identify the fence that surrounded the cemetery. The principle is the same as identifying graves. As fence posts are put into the ground they disturb subsoil and leave a pattern in the ground. Due to the amount of ground disturbance from trash and rubble that was strewn across the site, it was not possible to relocate any of the original fence posts. When the soil was replaced throughout the cemetery, we ended up with a much more flatly-landscaped surface, since much of the building rubble and trash piles were removed. Until grass seed can be put down, be prepared for muddy shoes if you visit
the site. A new map was prepared of the Higgins Cemetery, which shows the orientation of identified graves and provides an inventory of stone markers at the site. This new knowledge about where the graves are located will allow us to better preserve and protect the cemetery and move forward with the
next steps in the master plan.

By Mary Ann Barnes
(This is the second in a series of short articles about the Higgins family and the cemetery in Rockville. The first provided a brief overview of the life of James Higgins, his burial location on hishome tract and brief mention of his second tract, now part of Kensington, Maryland.)
R. I. P.
Restoration in Progress The James Higgins burial ground located in the 5700 block of Arundel
Avenue, off Washington Street and below the Twinbrook Parkway Bridge over the CSX railroad has been an on going restoration in progress. In June, 1998 Peerless Rockville placed a large informational sign at the site. About a year and half prior, Eileen McGuckian of Peerless Rockville had gathered a small group of descendants and others who wished to save this cemetery from loss.
The names of early contributors and volunteers were posted on the sign.
They included: Mary Ann Barnes; Chevy Chase Chapter, National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution; Colorlab Corp.; Montgomery County Historic Preservation Commission; Montgomery County Department of Public Works & Transportation; Peerless Rockville; Preservation Maryland; Town of Kensington; and Video Transfer. Later, by December, 2005 active participants
including both descendants and others made cash donations to help with the expenses that were not covered by previous grants and donations.
Our R. I. P. sign concludes,

In 2005, this small burial ground is the only remaining evidence of this once extensive tract immediately east of the current limits of the City of Rockville. Higgins' land now boasts a small business industrial park, the nearby Parklawn Building of the US government's Health and Human Services, Parklawn Cemetery, and other valuable commercial property that includes the Montrose Crossing Shopping Center.
Higgins Cemetery Association is working to fully restore and maintain the cemetery site. We welcome
descendants and volunteers who are willing to share their talents and contributions in the interest of  preserving this important location.
We are an active group that qualifies as a 50l (C) (13) tax exempt organization.

On Saturday, April 23 from 9am – 3pm the Coalition to Protect Maryland Burial Sites will hold its Annual Meeting at Glenview Mansion in Rockville. The day will include:
• Presentations and speakers on cemetery issues and topics
• Tour of historic RockvilleCemetery
• Demonstration by Robert Mosko, gravestone conservator
• Lunch
• Presentation of Periwinkle Awards
This meeting is co-sponsored by Peerless Rockville and the Rockville Cemetery Association. For more
information: 301-762-0096 or www.cpmbs.org  registration fee: $20 includes speakers, tours, and lunch.


Much as we dislike the task, we must ask for your financial assistance. As this Newsletter indicates, we have made some major strides toward our restoration goals but we need your help to cover overhead costs as well as costs of further restoration. For example, our insurance costs $500 per year. In addition, we hope to complete some much needed landscaping work this year. Much of this work will be done by
volunteers but the materials cost money and that is why we need your help. In 2004, we received 8 donations and spent $500 to cover the costs of insurance. We also paid $250 of the $750 we owed to Phil Dake who has been most patient in waiting for payment for the work he did for us in helping us
to settle the title in 1998. In March 2005, we had to remove six trees from the site at a cost of $1650. We still owe $150 on that bill. Thus, while we are making good progress at the cemetery site, we are financially in the hole. We really need your help. Attached is a contribution form. Please fill it out and send it along with your check to Knowles Little, our Treasurer.

President: John E. Higgins, Jr.
Work: 202-273-3700
Home: 301-656-7202
Fax: 202-273-4483
Email: Jhiggins@nlrb.gov
Vice President: Mary Ann Barnes
Home: 301-762-7582
Secretary: Joan Geer Treasurer: Knowles Graham Little, Jr.
Home: 301-762-6253

Ernest Aschenbach         Joan Geer        Dottie Brault         Eileen McGuckian
Laura Edson         Margaret Welsh May

April 30 – Work Day – bring a trowel and periwinkle. Rain date – April 30
May 14 – Association Annual Meeting – 4:00 p.m. – 5707 Arundel Avenue, Rockville, MD

Please consider historic Higgins Cemetery when you make your community donations.
Enclosed is my tax-deductible donation. Apply toward (please specify amount):
– Much-needed tree work_______ – Another special project_______ – Unrestricted Donation_______
– My employer will match my contribution
– My check, payable to Higgins Cemetery Historic Preservation Association, is enclosed.
City/State/Zip Code
Telephone E-mail
The volunteers at historic Higgins Cemetery thank you !!!! Higgins Cemetery Historic Preservation Association, Inc. is a 501c (13) organization, so contributions are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law.
Mail contribution to Higgins Cemetery,
c/o Knowles Little, Treasurer,
 9109 Scott Drive,
Rockville, MD 20850