About

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The Oella Historical Society, Inc.

The Society is a 501(c)(3) organization founded in 2006.

The mission of the Oella Historical Society is to encourage research and education on the history and development of the Oella area in order to increase the community’s understanding of and appreciation for its historical significance and the importance of preserving its unique character.  The Society actively supports historical restoration and preservation efforts in the area.

Past project:

Production of Historic Oella Walking tour brochure.

Current project:

Stabilizing the grounds of the Oella Cemetery and providing access and interpretation of the site.

A History of the Oella Cemetery – the only company cemetery in Maryland

The story begins with the founding of Oella…..  The Union Manufacturing Company was formed as a direct result of the embargo on trans-Atlantic trade passed by Congress during the heightening of tensions which lead up to the War of 1812. William Patterson, a Baltimore civic leader and President of the Bank of Maryland argued that “the United States must and ought to manufacture her own supplies of clothing and other necessary articles, if she is ever to become a completely independent nation.” He then wrote up the Articles of Incorporation and sale of stock in the company began in March of 1808. It became the first manufacturing corporation chartered by the Maryland Legislature in November of 1808. The directors of the new company purchased land on both sides of the Patapsco River just north of Ellicott’s Lower Mills. Production began at the mill in Oella in May of 1810. It became one of many manufacturing mills powered by the water of the Patapsco River. (from The Patapsco River Valley – Cradle of the Industrial Revolution in Maryland by Henry K. Sharp)

The company set aside this hillside burial ground where the oldest graves date to within a few years of the mill’s founding. Acquired by W.J. Dickey & Sons in 1878 as part of the purchase of the mill village, a separate company, the Oella Cemetery Company was established to operate the cemetery. Approximately 380 mill workers and their families, including many children, are buried here. Interments continued until around 1950. Many of the earliest burials were of those born before the Revolution. The stones bear witness to a wave of immigration to this area with many born in Lancashire, England.
As a company cemetery (not associated with a church) there was no perpetual care established. The Sexton(s) of the Company Cemetery was in charge of maintenance of the cemetery and digging the burial gravesites as directed by the company. The ledgers show that in 1891 the charge was $1 for a child and $2 for an adult for interment plus $1.50 for a child and $2 for an adult for opening the grave. Sadly, many parents buried more than one young child taken by the high childhood mortality rates of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The inscription for one, Lillie W. Webb who died at the age of 8 in 1874 reads in part “…she was our joy and pride, but like the fading lilly, she drooped her head and died.

This cemetery was the heart and soul of the mill village. Oella was operated as a company town, with workers living in company housing and shopping at a company store until the mill ceased operations in 1972. It is believed to be the only company cemetery in Maryland.

Many of the stones bear touching inscriptions. The stone of Louis Imhoff born August 24, 1846, died March 10, 1903, aged 56 years, 6 months & 14 days, includes this poem:
“In Oella Cemetery the stars
are shining upon a lone and silent grave,
where sleepeth without dreaming
the dearest one I could not save.”

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