“This is a new and finely located ‘place for the dead,’” The Iris reported in 1846. Early plans included a chapel and a residence for a cemetery superintendent. Lots were priced at the “extremely moderate” cost of $5 for an 8’ by 10’ area.
Just three years later, in December 1849, the Maryland Assembly passed "An Act to Establish the Western Cemetery" allowing the Trustees of the Fayette Street Methodist Episcopal Church to open a "public" or nondenominational 55-acre cemetery west of the city in Baltimore County. Like Green Mount Cemetery, Western tried to create a park-like open space for visitors to stroll as well as greive.
Early burials at the cemetery included both city and county residents from a range of backgrounds. In 1858, the Sun reported on the burial of William Fairbank, a Baltimore County resident who worked as a conductor on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad between 1830 and 1850 and as the keeper of the bridge on the Baltimore and Washington Turnpike. In the fall of 1861, a number of Union soldiers stationed in Baltimore, likely including soldiers recovering from injuries taken at the Battle of Bull Run (or First Manassas) in July 1861, died from typhoid fever and were interred at the Western Cemetery.
In 1915, Baltimore City acquired a portion of the cemetery property for the construction of Ellicott Driveway. This required the closure of the “the railroad crossing at the Cemetery lane entrance to Western Cemetery” and an agreement between Baltimore City, the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, and the officers of the cemetery company.
The cemetery continued to serve as a popular place of internment for military veterans and police officers during the 20th century. In July 1926, the Sun reported on a huge crowd of “several thousand persons” who attended the burial of Patrolman Webster E. Schumann, noting, “A full firing squad of eight men from Camp Meade fired three volleys into the air and a bugler sounded ‘taps’ as the services for the war veteran ended.”
After World War II, the cemetery, along with nearby Leakin Park, took center stage in West Baltimore’s highway fights. Relatives of the interred joined forces with environmental activists and local residents in opposing the extension of a proposed highway through Leakin Park and into the city. Fortunately, Mayor Thomas D'Alesandro responded to this effort and, in 1969, encouraged state highway designers to consider a new route for the Rosemont section of the East-West Expressway to bypass Western Cemetery.