A Hidden Black Cemetery in Virginia is Rediscovered

Decades of overgrowth – branches, leaves, prickly brambles – cover the ground. However, if you look closely, you can see a break in the heavy brush. At least 17 gravestones dot the earth.

The cemetery appeared to have been abandoned for more than 50 years, and it wasn’t clear who was buried there, where or how many. Most of the plots were believed to be vacant, and there weren’t any headstones, lawyers wrote in court documents. The lawyers ran a legal notice in Inside Business; no one came forward. Historical societies didn’t have a record of the cemetery.

But in addition to the 17 gravestones, The Virginian-Pilot found more than 40 obituaries saying people were buried in the Edgewood Cemetery from the mid-1930s to the 1960s.

The full story may be found in an article by Margaret Matray in the Virginian-Pilot at: https://pilotonline.com/news/local/article_8522a7da-4a24-11e8-915f-d73d7451cced.html.

My thanks to newsletter Ernest Thode for telling me about this article.


Oh, the oddness of my home state. There may be a Norfolk County Historical Society, but Norfolk County, VA, ceased to exist in 1963. Virginia is unique among states in that all incorporated cities are wholly independent of counties. After the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth had absorbed much of the county, the remnants were incorporated into the city of South Norfolk and the resulting jurisdiction was renamed as the City of Chesapeake. Just to the east, Princess Anne County was fully incorporated into the city of Virginia Beach and another county thus ceased to exist. Virginia Beach now has a surprisingly large land area as it includes a large portion of the famed Great Dismal Swamp within the city limits.
A few other major cities — Baltimore, Philadelphia, and St. Louis come to mind — are also independent of surrounding counties, but Virginia stand alone in that every incorporated city in the state is legally independent.


    Baltimore and St. Louis, yes. Philadelphia, no. The City of Philadelphia is coterminous with the Philadelphia County and is the county seat.


L eslie Drewitz May 1, 2018 at 9:13 am

Why not visit the surrounding libraries in the district? They may find the answer in Oral histories or cemetery records in the Local History Department. Why do people never think of this?


    Is Chapman Funeral Home still in business? Why not get their list of burials from them? Then go to other funeral homes in the area and see if they have records also. So easy – why isn’t anyone thinking of this?


As the article mentions only 17 gravestones and 40 obituaries, I wonder how FindAGrave.com lists 101 memorials for the cemetery…


    That would be me, researching the interments. So far, no original cemetery records have been found. It’s an attempt to identify who may be buried in the cemetery, designed to be complementary to future preservation efforts.


The article states “At least 17 gravestones dot the earth.”, yet goes on to say that “…there weren’t any headstones, lawyers wrote in court documents.”
Perhaps the lawyers didn’t survey the complete area, so that makes me wonder how many other cemeteries or other signs of habitation are yet to be rediscovered around the world as populations grow, and need more space to live.


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