July 23: Rosalie Mackenzie Poe (1874)

In the center of an oak-shaded section of Rock Creek Cemetery stands a large granite marker. On one side is carved “Epiphany Parish” and on the other, “Epiphany Church Home.” In the mid-1870’s, Epiphany purchased cemetery lots for its poorer members and lots for Church Home residents, who were typically poor, and had no place to be buried. On the Church Home side of the granite marker, there are rows of identical grave markers as might be seen at a religious order cemetery. One of the markers is labeled, “Rosalie Mackenzie Poe, 1812-1874.” This is the grave of the younger sister of renowned author, Edgar Allan Poe.

Rosalie Poe was the youngest of three children of itinerant actors David and Eliza Poe. Shortly after Rosalie’s birth, the father abandoned the family and soon died. About the same time, the mother died as well, leaving three young orphan siblings. The oldest child was taken in by grandparents. The younger two were cared for by other families – middle child Edgar by the Allan family and youngest child Rosalie by the Mackenzie family. Edgar and Rosalie had an estranged relationship. Rosalie never had the physical beauty and talent of her famous older brother. Rosalie led a comfortable existence with the Mackenzies until the Civil War left the family destitute. For many years, she survived on the streets of Richmond and Baltimore by selling reproduction pictures and artifacts of her famous brother. Rosalie was eventually placed in the Epiphany Church Home, where she died. Her burial is recorded in Epiphany’s records.

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