On Hooper’s Island in Dorchester County is a small cemetery that contains the remains of at least 150 people who lived, loved, worked and played in this remote region of the Eastern Shore. Located directly on the Chesapeake Bay, their final resting place is severely threatened by shoreline erosion. However, local citizen Donnie Willey continues his almost decade-long battle to stem the tide of the bay.
Family names in the Anchor of Hope (AOH) cemetery are familiar to the area: Travers, Ruark,Meekins, and Cox. Most of the people buried there are descendents of the Travers family, who owned the nearby plantation. Tombstones date back to 1805 with many graves unmarked. It is believed these are the slaves of the Travers family. Veterans from several wars including the War of 1812 are also buried here.
Over the years, Willey has been successful in recruiting volunteers for periodic cleanups of the graveyard and in 2011 Department of Correction’s inmates from Salisbury were involved in a massive overgrowth clear out. He is untiring in his campaign to bring awareness to the plight of those interred there and continues to solicit funds, manpower and equipment to place rip-rap along the shoreline to protect against erosion.
He has partnered with the South Dorchester Folk Museum (SDFM) and the Bucktown Village Foundation to continue the non-ending battle against the bay. Volunteers are always welcomed to help with clean-up of the cemetery. The SDFM has an ongoing War of 1812 Commemoration Project that will include the soldiers in the AOH cemetery. Check their website, www.sdfmuseum.net, for periodic updates and schedule of events. There is also a Facebook page – Friends of Anchor of Hope Graveyard. Donations can be made to the Bucktown Village Foundation, 4303 Bucktown Road, Cambridge, MD, 21613. Donnie Willey can be contacted at 410-397-3433.
In 2011, Preservation Maryland listed the Anchor of Hope Cemetery as one of its most endangered sites.