Cemetery Masthead_final for now
Cemeteries in Virginia: A Newsletter from the Department of Historic Resources
July, 2021
Vol. 1 Issue 2
In this issue: *Mount Fair's Slave Cemetery *Memento Mori Funerary Symbolism *Questions to Ask before Cleaning Grave Markers *Increasing DHR Cemetery Documentation *Profile: Ivy Hill Slave Cemetery *News Clips
Welcome to our second issue of GraveMatters. Our inaugural issue in April generated a lot of enthusiasm and new subscribers; we trust this summer issue sustains that positive momentum.
With this issue, we are pleased to announce that the Department of Historic Resources now has on staff a new full-time Cemetery Preservationist. After a wide candidate search and competitive hiring process, in June DHR selected Joanna Wilson Green, a staff archaeologist with DHR since 2003, as the agency’s first Cemetery Preservationist. Joanna is a longstanding member of DHR’s in-house “cemetery team,” and the agency’s specialist on funerary iconography (authoring a regular GraveMatters column on the topic) and the analysis of human remains. Joanna is available to work with individuals and community groups interested in the preservation, stewardship and documentation of their historic cemeteries. You can contact Joanna at phone (804) 482-6098 or by email. Also, we welcome correspondence on all things cemetery; you can contact us at gravematters@dhr.virginia.gov.
Burial ground.
Burial ground at Mount Fair, Albemarle Co.

Reclaiming and Memorializing a Slave Cemetery

When John and Dudley Macfarlane purchased a historic farmstead in Virginia’s Blue Ridge in 2003, they knew the work ahead of them—rehabilitating the main house, outfitting the barns, and taming the horse pastures—would take time. Once they were moved in and the Macfarlanes began to walk the fields and woods of their new property and speak with their neighbors, they soon realized there were additional tasks requiring their attention.
Read more . . .
Skull and crossbones, known as memento mori, on a grave marker at Aquia Church Cemetery, Stafford Co.
Cemetery Iconography

Remembering What We’d Rather Forget, Memento Mori

The image of the naked skull and crossed femurs is a universal symbol that warns viewers of the presence of mortal danger. From poison to pirates, that hard grin is a reminder of the basic fragility of the human body. The same imagery can be seen in artwork, including funerary art, with human skulls and bones used in both portraiture and still life painting to reference the brevity of life. This artistic tradition is known as—memento mori, Latin for “remember death.” Read more. . .
Earth spattered gavestone.
Lawn-mowing debris covers a gravestone.
Cemetery Conservation & Stewardship

Asking the Right Questions Before Cleaning Grave Markers

Seeing an old gravestone covered in dirt, lichen, moss, and innumerable other encrustations, stained, pitted, broken and off kilter, begging to be taken care of, makes us taphophiles yearn to grab our scrub brushes and pruning shears and get to work.
Read more . . .
Hickory Hill Slave and African American Cemetery.
Profile of a Historic Virginia Cemetery

Descendants Use Genealogy and Family Records to Support Preservation

The Hickory Hill Slave and African American Cemetery is a burial ground established as early as 1820 in Hanover County. Researchers and descendants have collected considerable information about the cemetery and those interred there over the past 30 years. The depth and breadth of information that extends from the 1810s to the recent past provided the basis for nominating the cemetery for listing in the Virginia Landmarks Register and National Register of Historic Places. Read more. . .
Inscribed fieldstone
An inscribed fieldstone at the Bear Mountain (Monacan) Cemetery in Amherst Co.

Expanding DHR’s Record of Virginia Cemeteries

Like many organizations, DHR is challenged with managing and correcting a record of the past that is incomplete and does not yet fit the needs or reflect the complexities of all of our constituent communities. Our staff is making efforts to correct that record however, and some of those results can be seen in the agency’s cemetery records. Read more . . .

African American Cemetery & Graves Fund

Recent cemeteries and affiliated groups awarded funding:
  • Fairview Cemetery, Staunton / Shenandoah Valley Black Heritage Project (SVBHP)
  • Kipps Free Colored and Slave Cemetery, New Market / SVBHP
  • Mount Jackson Colored Cemetery, Mount Jackson / SVBHP
  • Newtown Cemetery, Harrisonburg / Northeast Neighborhood Association, Inc.
  • Mount Zion Church Cemetery, Loudoun County / Mount Zion Cemetery of Aldie, Inc.
  • Oakland Cemetery, Suffolk / Little Bethel Baptist Church
  • White Rock Cemetery, Lynchburg / Jackson Street United Methodist Church
Visit this DHR webpage to see a complete list of the graveyards and organizations that DHR has certified to receive grave funds. For more information about the grant program, visit DHR's Grants webpage.

Cemetery-Related News from Around Virginia and Beyond:

Archaeologists find more graves at lost Williamsburg African American cemetery
The Washington Post
The total of likely burials discovered at the location of the old First Baptist Church on Nassau Street in the former Virginia capital now stands at 21, with . . .

WATCH NOW: White Rock Cemetery clean-up honors historic site and the woman who led the ...
Lynchburg News and Advance
.. . . more than $3,000 in annual funds from the African American Cemetery and Graves Fund through the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

Historical Society brings forgotten town stories to life in Sinking Spring Cemetery Tour
Southwest Virginia Today
It's Saturday, July 21, 1888. The setting is Main Street in Abingdon. It's market day at the “jockey lot” behind the courthouse, . . .

Excavation at a battlefield cemetery in Virginia finds a buried road from the 1800s
Charlotte Observer
Archaeologists were using ground-penetrating radar and magnetometer surveys to find unmarked graves at the time of the discovery . . .

WHRO debuting film about unearthing history, burial sites of one of America’s oldest Black churches in Williamsburg
Daily Press
Since September, archaeologists with Colonial Williamsburg have found evidence of its pre-1818 building and burial sites under the guidance of the church. The congregation first formed in 1776
. . .

Preserving the legacy of historic Black cemetery in Lewisville (NC)
“I found a document where he told where he was, where he had been a slave in Virginia and Mecklenburg County, Virginia, the day of independence, . . .

Prince William seeks funds to investigate cemetery connected first families of Va.
According to Rob Orrison, division manager for the County's Office of Historic Preservation, the cemetery was owned by Robert “King” Carter during . . .

Highgate Cemetery, London, England
London's creepiest cemetery was once the site of dueling magicians and mobs of stake-carrying vampire hunters . . .