“Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery: 100 Years of Pets, People, and the Stories Behind the Stones,” by Julianne Mangin. The Montgomery County Story, Fall 2020, vol. 63 no. 2. pp. 1-21.
Published by Montgomery History (formerly known as the Montgomery County Historical Society).
This is the most comprehensive history of the Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery to date. Print copies can be obtained from Montgomery History. This issue will be available in PDF once the next issue is published.
This photograph, from 1926, shows the beginning of section 2 of Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery. The cornfield in the background is approximately where the intersection of Wendy Lane and Athania Street is now.
President Lyndon Baines Johnson had three of his dogs cremated at Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery during his years at the White House. These included his most famous dogs, beagles named “Him” and “Her.” They were litter mates who were born in on June 27, 1963.
Him and Her became famous after an incident during a press conference on April 27, 1964. President Johnson lifted “Him” by the ears, causing him to yelp. An Associated Press photographer was present and the photo was published the next day in the Washington Post. 1 People across the country were outraged at what they felt was President Johnson’s abuse of his dog. The furor died down eventually, as it became obvious that the president was a devoted dog lover (although he continued to believe it was okay to lift a beagle up by its ears). 2
Sadly, Him and Her both died young. “Her” died in on November 27, 1964 when she swallowed a stone. Surgeons tried to remove it, but she died on the operating table. “Him” died on June 15, 1966 after being run over by a car on the White House grounds. After their cremations at Aspin Hill, the remains of both dogs were sent to the LBJ Ranch in Texas for burial. 3
I was recently notified that I have been selected to receive an Excellence in Preservation award for the documentation of and advocacy for preservation of the Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery. The award will be presented at the 2019 Annual Montgomery County Awards for Preservation at a ceremony and reception on Saturday afternoon, March 14, 2020, at historic Grace United Methodist Church, 119 North Frederick Avenue in Gaithersburg.
Business boomed during the years that S. Alfred Nash owned the cemetery. He buried around 10,000 pets during the 13 years that he was there. Mr. Nash and his wife, Martha, were said to have had between 200 and 300 pets of their own while they lived at Aspin Hill. In addition to several dogs, they had ducks, peacocks, goats, a turkey, and even a Shetland pony. Continue reading Aspin Hill Memorial Park 1975 to the Present→
In mid-September of this year, I was searching the online photographic collections of the Library of Congress. Ever hopeful of finding historical images of Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery, I came across this shot of a grave stone for a pet named “Miss Fudge.” The title of the photograph was “Dog cemetery, Miss Logan’s dog.” It was taken around 1921.
Suspecting that this might have been taken at Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery, I checked the burial records. Sure enough, on the very first page of the oldest burial register, there was an entry for a Mrs. Logan, who buried a fox terrier there on September 15, 1920. There was even a little sketch of the grave stone in the register, which matched the one in the photograph. Continue reading Miss Fudge→
Today, October 4, is World Animal Day, which also happens to be the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals. Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery used to hold observances of this day in during the 1930s and 1940s.
The first was in 1936. Pet cemetery owner Richard Birney spoke at the ceremony, along with Virginia W. Sargent, president of the Animal Protective Association and James P. Briggs of the Humane Education Association.
In 1940, the event featured a talk by Charles Edward Russell, president of the National Society of Humane Regulation of Vivisection and a display of the work of Harry Bradbury, an artist specializing in birds and animals.
The last observance of World Animal Day at Aspin Hill which was reported in the newspapers was in 1943. After Richard and Bertha Birney’s deaths in 1944, the practice appears to have been discontinued.
“Rites Will Honor Pets at Cemetery.” Washington Post, October 3, 1936. pg. X26.
“Animal Lovers Pay Tribute to Dead Pets.” Washington Post, October 7, 1940, pg. 13
“Animal Memorial Observance to Be Held Today.” Washington Post, October 4, 1943, pg. 8.
On September 4, 2019, I appeared in John Kelly’s column in the Washington Post. He came to the cemetery to see the grave of Eddie Bernstein’s monkey. I located it for him, and then gave him a tour. Because John enjoyed the stories I told about Aspin Hill Memorial Park, he wrote a separate article just about the cemetery and the work I’ve been doing there. Here’s a link:
“More than 50,000 animals are buried in this cemetery,” Washington Post, September 4, 2019. p. B3.