Push to restore dilapidated cemetery in North Potomac's historic Tobytown

NORTH POTOMAC, Md. (ABC7) - A Montgomery County Council politician says a demonstration during Black History Month opened his eyes to a crumbling historic cemetery.

The cemetery is located in Tobytown, a small predominantly African American community located along River Road in North Potomac. Tobytown was established in 1875 by emancipated slaves who mostly worked on farms in the area. The living conditions were severely lacking until the 1970s when the county constructed new residences with electricity and running water.

Today, Tobytown has a modest community center, playground and athletic fields - all in working order. The neighborhood's cemetery, however, is in a state of disrepair. The burial ground is littered with weeds, fallen branches and trash. The few remaining tombstones are so weathered, their etchings are no longer visible.

Last week, the Montgomery County Council viewed an eight-minute documentary on local historic African American communities. The video, produced by Montgomery Community Media, in part, highlighted the poor conditions of the Tobytown cemetery.

Council President Roger Berliner, whose council district includes Tobytown, took notice, and promptly sent a letter to the Housing Opportunities Commission (HOC) in Kensington. The sharply written letter called on the HOC, which owns and manages Tobytown, to restore the cemetery to its original luster, plus develop an ongoing maintenance plan.

"We might be standing on graves right now, we just have no idea," lifelong Tobytown resident Wesley Wilson stated. "This needs to be cleaned up. It looks like junk right now, just junk."

Wilson, who has a number of ancestors buried in the cemetery, says he's taken it upon himself to make necessary repairs in the past. He's comforted knowing Berliner has placed a spotlight on the issue.

"Let's hope this gets fixed quickly," Wilson added.

There is no immediate estimate as to the cost of repairs or a date for repair work to begin.

If you would like to read Council President Berliner's full letter to the HOC, scroll below:

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