With more than 13,000 graves, Parsons Cemetery is so large that you might not know where to start. Thankfully for visitors, the cemetery has several self-guided walking tours to choose from.
After visiting for an award presentation in August, I decided to return to the Salisbury cemetery for a walking tour.
Parsons Cemetery offers seven self-guided walking tours, with topics such as history, military, art and even trees.
I wanted to involve our community, so I posed the question on Instagram stories: Which tour should I take? Since Instagram polls only allow two choices, I let people pick between The 1800s: Parsons Cemetery Historic Section Walking (Bus) Tour and Parsons' Heroes and Veterans: Parsons Cemetery's Military Walking Tour. It was pretty close, but The 1800s won.
Each walking tour has its own page on the Parsons Cemetery website; here is the one for The 1800s tour. There is a slideshow, but the easiest way to follow the tour that I found is what is recommended on the Parsons Cemetery website — to save the images to your phone to be able to zoom in on and refer to them.
The website says the tour is about an hour long, but it look longer for me, probably because I was taking photos and posting to Instagram stories, and it took a little longer for me to find some of the graves. I also like to read a lot of information when I visit historic sites. I didn't even end up getting to the entire tour — there's so much to see. However, admission is free, so if you don't make it through the entire tour or only have a limited amount of time, you can come back and pick up where you left off.
Slides in the tour slideshow have photos of the graves, which can make them easier to find. There is also a map on the website and a map by the main entrance, which help with finding some of the less prominent graves.
There are also kiosks throughout the cemetery where people can learn more.
Early on in the tour, not far from Bishops Circle, is the tall marker for Benjamin Parsons, with these engraved words: "The donor of this burying ground." Other Parsons relatives are located across the small street — the tour information notes there are 202 or more Parsons family members buried in the cemetery.
I found it interesting that the Parsons family ties into another Wicomico County historic site: Pemberton Hall. Jehu Parsons, second cousin of Benjamin Parsons, purchased Pemberton Hall in 1835. Descended from him are Alison C. Parsons; Alison's son Jehu T. Parsons, who served as Salisbury's mayor from 1898-1900; and Jehu T.'s son Alison J. Parsons, who provided the Main Gate to the cemetery in 1967. All this information is from the tour slideshow.
There may even be a horse buried in Parsons Cemetery — at least, that's the rumor, according to tour information. That part is noted with the information for former Salisbury Fire Department Chiefs Frederick A. Grier Sr. and Frederick A. Grier Jr., both integral to the department. It's noted that Grier Jr., who served with the Salisbury Fire Department from 1910-1965, bought the department's first motorized fire engine, ambulance and fire boat. It's tough to think of firefighting without fire engines.
Some of Wicomico County's largest institutions have founders buried at Parsons Cemetery, including Dr. George W. Todd, who in 1897 founded Peninsula General Hospital, which was recently renamed TidalHealth Peninsula Regional. Another founder buried at Parsons is Dr. William James Holloway, who founded the Salisbury State Normal School — today's Salisbury University — in 1925.
Several politicians are also buried at Parsons Cemetery, including Elihu Emory Jackson of Delmar, who served as Maryland's governor from 1888-1892.
This blog post barely scratches the surface of the stories to be uncovered at Parsons Cemetery. Take a visit there to learn more.
You can also follow along with my visit on the Wicomico County Tourism Instagram account. We've saved a Parsons Cemetery highlight to our stories.
Want to visit?
Address: 912 N. Division St., Salisbury, MD 21801
Hours: 9 a.m.-sunset