Long-Lost Slave Cemetery Discovered and Preserved in Rural Virginia

At least 24 men and women and one child who died before the end of the Civil War were buried in “Sam Moore’s slave cemetery.” Samuel Moore, a slave owner, bought the property in 1846. The cemetery was abandoned years later and eventually disappeared beneath brush, vines and spreading woods. A century or more may have passed since anyone last visited it.

The cemetery was recently discovered and restored. A brass plaque identifies the graveyard and reads: “The names of the unknown souls buried here were not recorded. Yet we know the names of some of the enslaved persons who once labored long on this plantation. Some may lie here. We recognize their dignity. We honor their memory.”

You can read more in an article by Linda Wheeler in the Washington Post at https://goo.gl/yTM90i.

My thanks to newsletter reader Anita Chesnut for telling me about this story.


For what it is worth.
Much to my surprise I found out that my 5th great grand father and his son owned slaves in NC. I have tried to find family histories, names etc with little success. I know my 5th great grand father Francis Bryan born 1770, married 1792 to Phoebe Woodruff moved to what was then Wilkes Co.,NC, later Ashe co., now Allegheny Co. at 21 yrs of age. He was known to be the first family to occupy that area. He died in 1863 at 92 years old.

The reason I am revealing this is a family home he build in the early 1800’s still stands in good repair and behind it known only to me is a family grave yard with the graves of these slaves. Unfortunately they are not marked. This has been handed down to me thru family history.

Francis only seems to have had what is referred to as a few house slaves. He had a old black man look to his need in his later life. His son Abe expanded that to at least 13 as the family success continue.

I have tried to find out these slaves and their histories but this county seems to have keep little records on the purchase or birth of slave.

It might be that I haven’t found the right place to look. I was hoping to find some connections to pass on to possible families of these slaves of their ancestor and where they are buried. The small family cemetery is in bad repair. My Dad, Son and I cleaned it up some 30 years ago but time has taken its toll.

For the record my family had members who fought for the Rebels and the North. One was a General for the north.

I this information will help someone let me know. You or they are welcome to call or email me.

Larry Bryan 704-366-788
Tell them If I don’t answer to leave me a message. I don’t normally answer call outside my area code or they can email me.



Larry, it is my understanding that slave owners kept records of their salves as they were considered personal property. Usually they had a ledger book with the dates of births, deaths, purchase and sales along with first names. Last names for slaves was generally the last name of their owner. If the house is still standing there may be a ledger book someplace in the house.


    or even at a local Historical society They might have info on this gentleman and you might be able to check a census to see how many slaves he had etc. Perhaps there is a Black society in the area that might also have information on the local Black community.


Larry, have you looked through the house for a ledger book? It was common practice for slave owners to enter their slaves first names, births deaths, purchase, and sales along with the cost or sales price. Last name of slaves was generally the last name of their owner.


It appears that your family cared enough to bury their slaves in a special place. Have you tried to contact Dr. Gates? He is renown in the field of black history. I believe he is in Boston. I’m sure there is someone in his office who could help.
Also have you found wills or land transfers from your family? Many left something to their slaves or their descendants.
Hope this helps.


As distasteful as it is for us, if you are looking for information on enslaved African-Americans you need to keep in mind that at the time they lived they were considered valuable property, and were treated as such in legal proceedings. So one place that you should look for information is at the local county courthouse (or online) for wills and probate records of your ancestor and his kin, including the appraiser’s reports that were often filed separately from the actual wills. Both familysearch.org and ancestry.com have some substantial probate and will collections online. Try looking for your ancestor’s last name, located in the county where they lived and died. I have no experience with NC records, but I have discovered substantial information on enslaved persons (including names, ages, and sometimes suggestions of family groups) in families I have researched in AL and MS.


You can sometimes find records of slaves in Church Records such as Church Minutes. Also sometimes little vignettes that bring some of the people to life.


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