Degrees of Separation

By Marian Currens, Archives and Research Center Coordinator, Historical Society of Frederick County | Photography by Turner Photography Studio | Posted on 08.19.15 – History, Timepiece

thermometerWhen Albert Dixon opened his business in 1929, he was the first African-American mortician in Frederick. As a young man, Dixon wanted to be a doctor but an unfortunate accident damaged one of his eyes. Dixon decided if he could not treat the living, he would bury the dead. This advertisement for Dixon’s business assures “I am as near as your phone,” relaying a sense that with Albert Dixon, clients could expect kind and dependable care during trying times of loss.

Dixon ran his business in his residence at 16 S. Bentz St., and later at 22 S. Bentz St. Neither of these residential buildings could house the equipment needed for embalming, so Dixon reached an agreement with M.R. Etchison’s funeral home. Dixon used Etchison’s equipment and in return he performed some embalming for the funeral home.

Dixon’s profession led him to seek a new permanent resting place for African-American citizens in Frederick. In 1923, a group formed, chaired by the Rev. J.W. Towns, to seek land to establish a new African-American cemetery and Dixon was a member of “The Committee to Solicit Funds.” First payment for the land located on Gas House Pike was made in October of 1923.

Up until the 1920s, Greenmount Cemetery had been one of the African-American cemeteries in Frederick. By 1920, Frederick Memorial Hospital had acquired the land containing Greenmount Cemetery at Seventh Street and Fairview Avenue. In order to expand, the hospital decided to exhume the bodies interred at Greenmount. The remains from Greenmount were moved to the new cemetery acquired by Towns, Dixon and other members of the committee.

The new cemetery was named Fairview after the location of Greenmount Cemetery. This new cemetery was a final resting place for many African-Americans from Frederick County including city Alderman William “Bill” Lee Jr. Many of the bodies prepared by Dixon were buried in Fairview Cemetery.  When Dixon died in 1948, he was buried in Fairview Cemetery.