Looking for Methodists

I went to last night’s Baltimore Orioles game — they were paying tribute to Brooks Robinson with a personal appearance and a Norman Rockwell print giveaway — but before the game I made a visit to Baltimore’s Mt. Olivet Cemetery. I was looking for two things — early Methodist bishops and Joe Biden’s ancestors.

We’ll take the second first — Joe Biden’s ancestors. Earlier in September I located Joe Biden’s grandfather in Baltimore’s Loudon Park Cemetery, and it turned out, on later review, that I’d found his great-great-great-grandfather William Biden, the Biden ancestor who emigrated to North America, years ago. The intervening generations, though, are buried at the nearby Mt. Olivet Cemetery. Which leads us to…

Some of the early Methodist bishops, including Francis Asbury, are buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery. There’s a section of the cemetery known as “Bishop’s Lot.” And since I used to be a Methodist, and was confirmed at a church named for Asbury — Harrisonburg’s Asbury United Methodist Church — I thought I’d also look for Asbury.

Norman Rockwell’s painting of Brooks Robinson

I didn’t intend to make this visit until October, but my mom wanted me to get the Rockwell print for her. It’s a nice piece of art; a signed copy used to hang in one of the conference rooms at Diamond. But it also left me with less time in the cemetery than I’d have liked.

I hadn’t been to Camden Yards since 2019, and it remains a lovely stadium. How long it continues to be the home of the Orioles, despite the state of Maryland pumping a lot of money into it, remains to be seen; one of Peter Angelos’ sons has filed a lawsuit against the other over the team’s management, John Angelos wants to move the team to Nashville, and the front office is investigating the sale of the team.

(This idea of mine may be too clever by half, but if John Angelos wants to move the team to Nashville, let him. Then move the Oakland Athletics, who need a stadium, to Baltimore’s now vacant Camden Yards. The two ownerships can work out a trade in names and histories, and two problems are solved.)

One final thought about the Orioles. Brooks Robinson is old and frail. He’s now in his eighties, and he looks a lot like my grandmother did at that age.

Now, the cemetery.

Mt. Olivet is on Frederick Avenue. I passed Loudon Park’s old entrance and St. Joseph’s Monastery on my way there. It’s surrounded by a stone wall, and you enter through a gatehouse with a narrow aperture. It’s a little harrowing, as you can’t see if there’s someone wanting to come out as you’re turning in.

Map of Mt. Olivet Cemetery inside the entrance
Map of Mt. Olivet Cemetery inside the entrance

I did not find the two generations of Bidens.

They are supposedly located in section N. I scoured section N, which was in somewhat bad repair, with many broken and fallen stones.

The view from there was fantastic, as you can see from this cobbled-together panorama. (Yes, my phone can do panoramic shots. I haven’t figured out how.)

Downtown Baltimore as seen from Mt. Olivet Cemetery

You could see all the way to the Key Bridge from up there. I tried to see if I could see Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium, and while I-95 was clear, I was less clear about where the stadiums would be.

The area that was right in front of me, by the way, is section N. The Bidens should be in there. I’m going to have to review my photographs again, because it may turn out I took a picture of the gravesite and not realized it. (Not uncommon with me!)

The Public Vault at Mt. Olivet

The cemetery’s public vault was to my left when I took the pictures of my “panorama.” I’m curious what’s inside. Bishop’s Lot would be uphill and to the right of this photo, and section N was right behind me.

With the monument to Francis Asbury and other early Methodists
The author with Francis Asbury

Francis Asbury was rather easy to find. It’s a large obelisk on a base — Sir William Gull’s lecture to Netley on the pagan significance of obelisks from Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell comes to mind — and, in retrospect, it could be seen from where I parked by the cemetery entrance. Asbury’s actual grave and headstone are behind this, but the headstone is very worn and close to unreadable.

Asbury was one of the first two Methodist bishops, the other being Thomas Coke. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, sent them to the nascent United States after the American Revolution to be “superintendents,” but the Methodist clergy made them bishops instead, much to Wesley’s consternation.

The monument to the old bishops had brief biographies of the four men buried there, and a time capsule was downhill of the monument.

Sign announcing “the Bishop’s Lot”

I finding the bishops, I made my search through section N for the Bidens, to no avail. As I mentioned, I’ll go through my photos and look for clues. Perhaps I will go back in October, as I’d intended. Or perhaps I’ll wait until spring. No rush. They’re not going anywhere, and I barely scratched the surface.

It was a fine day for an outing, not too hot, though I definitely needed my hoodie on the third deck at Camden Yards.

And it turns out, I took a photo of Joe Biden’s great-great-grandfather’s grave!

Joe Biden's great-great-grandfather, Joseph Henry Biden, circled in blue
The grave of Joseph Henry Biden, Joe Biden’s great-great-grandfather

It transpires that the map of Mt. Olivet Cemetery at the gate, which is above, is incorrect. Sections H and N have been swapped by mistake. I’d have known this had I consulted the maps on the Lovely Lane United Methodist website. It’s Section H outside of the public vault, not section N. Section N is closer to the entrance, and I cut across it quickly on my way up the hill. I paused to take a few photographs of things in the area that caught my notice, like a statue of a woman holding a wreath…

The grave of Jacob Max at Mt. Olivet Cemetery
Jacob Max and family

…and there, at left, is a large stone that says “Biden.” It belongs to Joseph Lee Biden, the brother of Joe Biden’s great-grandfather George Biden. (Joseph Lee Biden was married to a Gardner. I’m not sure if that’s interesting enough to note.) This area is a cluster of Bidens. George Biden’s grave is there, too, but you can’t see it in my photo. It’s toppled to the left of Joseph Henry Biden’s stone.

You will notice cars in some of the photos. There was some sort of event in the cemetery. It didn’t look to me like a funeral — there was no hearse — and people left at different times across the hour plus I spent there. I tried to be respectful and not take photos in their direction.

When I go again to Mt. Olivet, I now know where to look.

Published by Allyn Gibson

A writer, editor, journalist, sometimes coder, occasional historian, and all-around scholar, Allyn Gibson is the writer for Diamond Comic Distributors' monthly PREVIEWS catalog, used by comic book shops and throughout the comics industry, and the editor for its monthly order forms. In his over ten years in the industry, Allyn has interviewed comics creators and pop culture celebrities, covered conventions, analyzed industry revenue trends, and written copy for comics, toys, and other pop culture merchandise. Allyn is also known for his short fiction (including the Star Trek story "Make-Believe,"the Doctor Who short story "The Spindle of Necessity," and the ReDeus story "The Ginger Kid"). Allyn has been blogging regularly with WordPress since 2004.

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