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The Churchyard

Old St. Paul’s churchyard covers some 19 acres overlooking a millpond produced by the damming of Broad Noc Creek. Michael Miller, whose grave lies near the door of the Church, sold the Vestry the original tract of about 8 acres of land out of his “Arcadia” holding on February 6, 1696 for 2,000 pounds of tobacco. Within a year of the sale, Miller returned the purchase price to the Parish. Another two acres were added through a purchase from Charles Ringgold in 1707. The remainder of the property has been acquired in more recent times, much of it from the Remington Arms Company. The churchyard is one of St. Paul’s most attractive features. It is extensively planted and harbors over 40 different species of trees. It also contains both English Boxwoods (Buxus sempervirens) and American Boxwoods (Buxus suffruticosa), considered among the largest and finest in Kent County. The churchyard was once dominated by a grove of spectacular White Oaks. Unfortunately, all but one of these trees have succumbed to time and storms. The remaining example — a Swamp Chestnut Oak (Quercus Michauxwii) — was designated a Kent County Bicentennial Tree in July, 1976, by the Maryland Bicentennial Commission. In May 2010, this Maryland species champion was designated a “National Champion Tree” and officially recognized as the largest tree of its species in the United States. It is about 120 feet in height, has a circumference of 24 feet 6 inches, and an average crown spread of 92 feet. The new champion stands near the entrance to the churchyard from the parking lot and is over 400 hundred years old. It may be the most historic living tree in Maryland.


The majority of the marked graves in the churchyard date from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but there are a satisfying number from earlier times. The oldest section of the churchyard is the section around the church, itself, and many of the oldest graves are located quite close to the building. One of the more colorful is that of Daniel Coley who died October 20, 1729. His headstone reads:

“Behold and see where now I lye,
As you are now, so once was I;
As I am now, so must you be;
Therefore prepare to follow me.”


Local tradition asserts that the casualties from the battle at nearby Caulk’s Field during the War of 1812 were buried at St. Paul’s. An archaeological survey of the grounds conducted by the University of Delaware’s Center for Archaeological Research in 1992 failed to turn up any supporting physical evidence. There are, however, many other veterans’ graves, including those of men from Kent County who fought in the War Between the States. Interested visitors will find two Confederate and three Union soldiers buried in the churchyard, including 1st Lieutenant Samuel Beck, Assistant Surgeon on the staff of General John H. Winder, the Provost-Marshal of Confederate Prisons. One modern grave that has occasionally excited interest is that of Tallulah Bankhead, located near the northeast corner of the “New Cemetery”. A frequent visitor during her lifetime to the nearby home of her sister, Eugenia, she was buried at St. Paul’s in 1968.


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