While studying the burial registers for Aspin Hill Memorial Park, I noticed an entry with the notation “removed from Dr. Buckingham’s cemetery.” This was written in the space usually reserved for the name of the veterinarian who brought the animal to the cemetery. Who was Dr. Buckingham, and where was his cemetery?
I searched digital versions of the Evening Star and the Washington Post and discovered that Dr. Buckingham actually had two pet cemeteries in the Washington, D. C. area. One of them, I was surprised to learn, was in Silver Spring, Maryland, just a few miles from Aspin Hill Memorial Park.
David Eastburn Buckingham was born in 1870 in Delaware. He received a degree in veterinary medicine at the University of Pennsylvania around 1892. He came to Washington, D. C. and in 1893 set up a veterinary practice called the Hospital for Animals, at 14th St. N.W. Over the years, he held prominent positions, including veterinary surgeon for the District of Columbia and president of its board of veterinary medical examiners. He was the first dean of the George Washington University of Veterinary Medicine. He was also the veterinarian at the White House for 25 years.1 In 1928, he traveled to Labrador, Canada to personally select 78 husky dogs for Admiral Byrd’s expedition to Antarctica. 2 3
Around 1901, Dr. Buckingham started a pet cemetery on land east of Mount Olivet Cemetery, on Bladensburg Road.4 In the early part of the 20th century, this area was mostly farm land. Now, it is the grounds of the U. S. National Arboretum. By 1914, the cemetery had fallen into neglect, according to an article in the Evening Star newspaper5. This was around the time that Dr. Buckingham began his work as White House veterinarian.
Searching the National Arboretum grounds
I visited the U. S. National Arboretum, hoping to find some sign of the old pet cemetery. The 1914 article provided directions to the cemetery from an old pottery factory which was once at the intersection of 28th St and M St. N. E. I believe I found the general area where the pet cemetery had been, but there was nothing left to see — no grave stones, no fence, no gate. Apparently, the area has been used as a pet cemetery more recently.
[Update: I located more precisely Dr. Buckingham’s cemetery at the Arboretum. It is not near the 1982 wooden grave marker pictured above.]
Rosedale Dogs’ Cemetery
In 1934, an article was published in the Washington Post, reporting on the burial of one of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s dogs. Winks, a Llewellyn spaniel, was running around the White House grounds when he ran headlong into an iron fence and died from a brain concussion. It was noted in the article that Winks was buried next to Manchu, a Manchurian spaniel who had been presented to Alice Roosevelt Longworth by the Dowager Empress of China. Dr. Buckingham attended the burial, which took place at Rosedale Dog’s Cemetery in Silver Spring, Maryland.6
I was astounded to learn that there was another pet cemetery in Montgomery County, Maryland. Surely, I had to try and find it. Upon further research I found that the dogs’ cemetery was part of Rosedale Kennels, which was established in 1919. That was one year before Aspin Hill Cemetery for Pet Animals began. However, the first advertisement for Rosedale which mentions the dog cemetery appeared in 1922. I am inclined to give credit to Aspin Hill (first burial in 1920) for being the earliest pet cemetery in Montgomery County.
The advertisements for Rosedale Kennels did not give a specific street address. In the first half of the 20th century, Silver Spring was considered “the country.” Properties often had names, but not house or lot numbers. People who wanted to go to Rosedale Kennels could call the number in the advertisement, after which they would be given directions.
Without an address, I wondered how I would find Rosedale Dog’s Cemetery. If you are at all familiar with Montgomery County, you know that the place name “Silver Spring” can mean anywhere in the southeastern part of county, covering several square miles, at least. I needed more clues if I was going to find the pet cemetery.
Land Records and Map Research
I searched the land records, and found that David E. Buckingham bought property in Montgomery County in 1919, but the deed described the location in a way that meant nothing to me in the 21st century: “Parts of 3 several tracts of land called ‘Hills and Dales’, ‘Fenwick’, and ‘Charles and Williams’ … .”7 There’s an area of Silver Spring known as Hillandale, and also a street in downtown Silver Spring called Fenwick. But knowing this didn’t help me narrow down the location much at all.
The deed referenced the previous deed for the property. I realized that if I could trace the ownership back to 1894, I might have some luck finding the location. There is a real estate map of Washington, D. C. and vicinity, published in 1894, that has the names of property owners on it.8
Tracing the title back to 1915, I found a more detailed description of the location: “Beginning At a stone planted in the North edge of the County Road leading from Rockville to Bladensburg…” On the 1894 map, I could see that a person could travel between those two towns using a combination of Rockville Road (now known as Veirs Mill Road) and Bladensburg Road (now known as University Boulevard). But I still needed to find out who would have been the owner of the property in 1894. Eventually I worked my way back to the name “Joseph F. Rhine.”
Scanning the map along the north side of Bladensburg Road, I came across a 13-acre property with “J. F. Rhine” on it. I thought it was a likely prospect for the location of Dr. Buckingham’s Rosedale Kennels and Dog Cemetery. But how could I prove that this was the correct location? As it turned out, one look at a current map of the area clinched it.
In the same area where Joseph F. Rhine’s property had been is a four-block street called Buckingham Drive. The naming of this street could not have been a coincidence! Looking at the map, I saw that there was an open green space about where Buckingham Drive dead-ends. Since it was only 3.4 miles from my house, I headed there to see if there was any trace of the cemetery.
What I Found
The land where I believe the pet cemetery used to be is now private property connected to the nursing home on Daleview Drive. The green space on the map turned out to be a well-maintained lawn with the base of a column sitting on top of a drainage grate. Farther back from the street, there’s a drop-off in the land, and I could see what looked like a column and its capital about 30 feet down the hill. That was enough to convince me that I’d found the location of the Rosedale Dog Cemetery. Somewhere under the nicely manicured lawn, are the remains of dozens of pets, including two belonging to the Roosevelt family.
It was 1934 when the remains of a cairn terrier were transferred from Dr. Buckingham’s cemetery to to Aspin Hill Cemetery for Pet Animals. My guess is that they were from Dr. B.’s cemetery in Washington, because Rosedale Dog’s Cemetery was still active at that time. Meanwhile, the Civilian Conservation Corps was working on the grounds of arboretum — clearing land and building infrastructure such as roads, bridges and drainage ditches.9 Pet owners may have learned that Dr. Buckingham’s cemetery was going to be demolished and decided to take action. Some of the remains from the cemetery at the arboretum could have been transferred to Rosedale, but there’s no way of knowing for sure. There are no records for either of Dr. Buckingham’s pet cemeteries.
Why Look for Pet Cemeteries That No Longer Exist?
While I didn’t find graves at either of the pet cemetery sites established by Dr. Buckingham, I believe my research adds context to the history of Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery. When Dr. Buckingham was no longer interested in maintaining his pet cemeteries, he did not seem to have made any plans for their continued existence. Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery, on the other hand, is now entering its 100th year.
- “White House Veterinarian Sees Dog’s Life as Not So Bad. Many Understand 150 Words and Their Ears and Noses Are Especially Keen.” Evening Star, October 14, 1940. pg. B-1.
- “39 of Byrd’s Eskimo Dogs Pass Through D. C.” Evening Star, September 4, 1928. pg. 19.
- “Female Huskies Prove to Be More Brainy Than the Male.” Evening Star, September 9, 1928.
- “Dogs Buried in State.” Washington Post, May 11, 1902. pg. 26.
- “Abode of Dead Pets.” Washington Post, August 2, 1914. pg. ES16.
- “Winks, White House Prankster, Buried Beside Longworth Dog.” Washington Post, July 17, 1934. pg. 1.
- Maryland Land Records, Liber 284 folio 399 (1919) https://mdlandrec.net/
- Hopkins, Griffith Morgan, Jr. The Vicinity of Washington, D.C. Philadelphia : Griffith M. Hopkins, C.E., 1894. 1 map on 6 sheets.
- Goodrum, Charles A. The History and Development of the National Arboretum. Washington: The Arboretum, 1950. pg. 12.