US Plans to Dig Up the Dead for New Cyber-Defense Building

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The United States government is planning to relocate a family cemetery in Maryland to make way for a new cyber-defense facility.

Last week, a Maryland District Court judge granted the federal government the right to possess a cemetery that is located on the grounds of Fort George G. Meade. The 418-square-foot site, embraced by a chain-link fence, is currently the resting place of members of the Downs family. 

In 1917, as World War I was raging, the Downs family saw their land transformed into a military base. Now it seems likely that the family's cemetery is to be taken over for the grave purpose of national defense. 

Court filings indicate that two members of the Downs family are interred at the plot, both of whom enjoyed impressive longevity for their time. The first person to be buried there was Mary A. Downs, who lived from 1803 to 1875. The second individual to be laid to rest at the site was William Downs, who was born in 1790 and didn't shuffle off this mortal coil until 1883. 

Should the Department of Defense's plan to obtain the cemetery succeed, the land will be used to build national security computing facilities. The DoD has said that it will move William and Mary's headstones to Bethel Cemetery, where their remains will be re-interred.

According to the Anne Arundel Genealogical Society, there is “a possibility that slaves owned by the Downs family were buried outside the fenced cemetery and a larger area was then cordoned off using orange construction fencing.” However, court filings state that an archaeological study of the area revealed no additional graves. 

Downs family descendant Mike Myers has raised no objection to the department's plans to relocate his ancestors. 

Annapolis resident Myers said: "My grandmother, she was into family history, so if she was alive it would have mattered to her. It really doesn’t matter to me one way or the other."

What is now Fort Meade was once the Downs family farm, built on land owned by the Downs family since before the Civil War. The farm became Camp Meade—a training base for US soldiers destined to fight overseas in World War I—in 1917.

Then in 1919, William T. Downs, along with dozens of local residents, sold his farm to the government so that Fort Meade could be built. 

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