Mount Zion Cemetery (Washington, D.C.)

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Mount Zion Cemetery/Female Union Band Society Cemetery
Mt. Zion Cemetery 2.JPG
Mount Zion Cemetery (Washington, D.C.) is located in Washington, D.C.
Mount Zion Cemetery (Washington, D.C.)
Location27th Street NW at Mill Road NW, NW
Washington, D.C.
Coordinates38°54′42″N 77°3′16″W / 38.91167°N 77.05444°W / 38.91167; -77.05444Coordinates: 38°54′42″N 77°3′16″W / 38.91167°N 77.05444°W / 38.91167; -77.05444
Area3.1 acres (1.3 ha)
Part ofGeorgetown Historic District (#67000025)
NRHP reference #75002050[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPAugust 6, 1975
Designated DCIHSApril 29, 1975

Mount Zion Cemetery/Female Union Band Society Cemetery is a historic cemetery located at 27th Street NW and Mill Road NW in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., in the United States.[2] The cemetery is actually two adjoining burial grounds: the Mount Zion Cemetery and Female Union Band Society Cemetery. Together these cemeteries occupy approximately three and a half acres of land. The property fronts Mill Road NW and overlooks Rock Creek Park to the rear. Mount Zion Cemetery, positioned to the East, is approximately 67,300 square feet in area; the Female Union Band Cemetery, situated to the West, contains approximately 66,500 square feet. Mount Zion Cemetery, founded in 1808 as The Old Methodist Burial Ground, was leased property later sold to Mount Zion United Methodist Church. Although the cemetery buried both white and black people since its inception, it served an almost exclusively African American population after 1849. In 1842, the Female Union Band Society purchased the western lot to establish a secular burying ground for African Americans. Both cemeteries were abandoned by 1950.

Both cemeteries are considered a single unit, and were added to the National Register of Historic Places on August 6, 1975.


In the early 1800's Georgetown was the northernmost port on the Potomac River. It was a major port for the slave and tobacco trade in the area and a center for mills and markets for the newly created city of Washington. Its population was one-third black - half freedmen and half slaves.

In 1808, the Montgomery Street Church (known as Dumbarton Street Methodist Episcopal Church after 1850) purchased the property later known as Mt. Zion Cemetery for the burial of their church members and their slaves.

Many blacks attended the Montgomery Street Church. Between 1801 and 1810 their numbers fluctuated between 37 and 97. At times nearly 50% of the congregation consisted of "coloured brethren." Dissatisfied because they were segregated within the white church, about 123 blacks attending the Montgomery Street Church met on June 3, 1814, to consider forming a separate congregation under the supervision of the parent church. In 1814, a group of blacks broke off from Montgomery Street Church to establish their own congregation, the Mount Zion Episcopal Church, recognized later as Mount Zion United Methodist Church.

The Female Union Band Society, a cooperative benevolent society formed by free black women whose members were pledged to assist one another in sickness and in death, and who desired a separate burying ground for free blacks, in 1842 purchased the West end of the Dumbarton Church Cemetery, adjacent to the Methodist grounds. On May 24th, 1879, Mount Zion United Methodist Church leased the East end of the Dumbarton Church Cemetery for 99 years. In ensuing years these distinct cemeteries were often referred to as the single entity Mount Zion Cemetery. [3]

The burial grounds are the resting place of free blacks, slaves and a small number of individuals of European heritage (those not disinterred and reburied in other cemeteries). Various citations suggest several German soldiers, fighting as members of the Kings German Legion in the War of 1812, are buried in the cemetery as well. The cemetery is believed to have served as a station for runaway slaves fleeing the South via the underground railroad.

Interments ceased in 1950.

The Afro-American Bicentennial Corporation conducted a historical study of the Mt. Zion section of the cemetery.

As the Mount Zion Cemetery/ Female Union Band Cemetery is one of the oldest remaining African American cemeteries in Georgetown and greater Washington, D.C., The Joint Committee on Landmarks designated the cemetery a Category II Landmark of importance that contributes to the cultural and visual beauty of the District. It was officially listed in the Register on August 6, 1975 in the areas of Archeology-Historic and Social/Humanitarian with an 1809-1950 period of significance. [4] While the cemetery is located within the Georgetown Historic District, its historical significance is sufficiently different to merit individual registration. The cemetery became a Historical Landmark of the National Capital in 1975, and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, on August 6, 1975.[5]

Restoration is underway, by Dumbarton United Methodist Church and Trustees of the Female Union Band Society as owners of the properties, together with Mount Zion - Female Union Band Society, Historic Memorial Park, Inc. and the Society for the Preservation of Historic Georgetown.


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  2. ^ "Washington, DC--Mt. Zion Cemetery". Retrieved 11 March 2016.
  3. ^ Richardson, Steven J. (1989). "The Burial Grounds of Black Washington: 1880-1919". Records of the Columbia Historical Society, Washington, D.C. 52: 304–326. ISSN 0897-9049. Retrieved 22 February 2020.
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-05-28. Retrieved 2011-10-31.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

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