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November 01, 2008
Since there has been so much in the media lately about the cemetery that was found near the Virginia-North Carolina line, located in Price but actually in Henry County, I have decided to begin with a poem whose author is unknown.

This is a Cemetery…
Lives are commemorated
Deaths are recorded
Families are reunited
Memories are made tangible
and
Love is undisguised.
This is a cemetery.
Communities accord respect
Families bestow reverence
Historians seek information
and
Our heritage is thereby enriched.
Testimonies of devotion, pride and warmth are
carved in stone to pay
warm tribute to accomplishments and to the
life—not the death—of a loved one.
The cemetery is homeland for memorials that are a sustaining source
of comfort to the living.
A cemetery is a history of a people—a perpetual record of yesterday
and a sanctuary of peace and quiet today.
A cemetery exists because every life is worth loving and remembering—always.

Family cemeteries or family burial plots were for family and many times their neighbors. Of course relatives by marriage were also buried in these graveyards or cemeteries that are most common in the South where plantation life made it impractical to take a body to town as the town was probably miles away. For this reason family cemeteries came to be in existence. There are probably more family cemeteries in certain areas of the South than there are church cemeteries or public cemeteries. Family cemeteries were on the family’s property, in an orchard or in a field, or possibly on a knoll on the property to keep it away from future floods on low land. Today one finds that some of these family cemeteries are not maintained at all and many times they have grown up so badly with weeds that it is hard for someone to find them. One could find a cemetery out in the field with the cows, and where the owner of the property, not necessarily family, has built a fence around the cemetery itself so that the cows wouldn’t step on the graves. One must also realize that plots in a family cemetery were somewhat located haphazardly since there was no plan laid out for the burials…no neat rows or areas within the cemetery.

Old-timers can usually tell a person where a family cemetery is located or was located, as people have actually covered up a cemetery with a building or have cleared the land for corn fields. Many times these family cemeteries are small, making them easy to search if one can access them. Some family cemeteries contain homemade markers or mail-order markers as no one near them sold monuments and they certainly didn’t have mausoleums nearby.

These types of family cemeteries have been moved, sometimes because of a major project as when Philpott Dam was built in the 1950s. Family cemeteries and homes are underwater as the family chose not to move their family cemetery and this was the family’s option. Other families wanted to move their loved one’s burial place, so land was chosen for a cemetery for these burials. This cemetery is indexed and was photographed by one of our volunteers several years ago. Other family burials have been moved to make way for a larger burial area for future generations. Many times the family will set up a trust for the care of a family cemetery especially if the family no longer lives in this area. There are many options for the care of a cemetery that is in your family, there are options as to what one can do if the cemetery needs to be moved, but when there are no members of the family in the area, land owners sometime take responsibility themselves to care for that cemetery. Would you not hope that your family cemetery would be cared for by someone who now owns your family’s land if you couldn’t set up a trust fund for the care of that cemetery?

If you are inclined to clean an old family cemetery please do not use soap, abrasives, Clorox, shaving cream, cleanser or anything that will mar the monument or marker. It is recommended that you use Orvis Soap or Kodak Photo-flo as these are both recommended. Use with a soft nylon or natural bristle brush and rinse thoroughly. Once the growth is cleared from the cemetery, if there is no fence it would be nice to enclose the cemetery with a fence to insure that this cemetery will be preserved. Do not cut down trees or try to pull up a tree or shrub as this could damage the markers or pull up roots that are in the burial spot. Record the names of each monument or marker, and photograph each of them if you can do so; there may be some rocks used to mark a grave, so be careful to check and see if there are initials or a name on the rock. If there are no names or initials on the rocks, at least count these and put the number of rocks in your inventory of the cemetery. These people buried in the family cemetery are family members so preserve those family cemeteries with love and care.

“The Roots that make Us One are Stronger than the Branches that Divide Us.”
Author Unknown








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