Thursday, September 17, 2009

Remains of Union Soldier to Be Buried in New York

A previous blog post, Remains of Union Soldier Found at Antietam Battlefield, dealt with the discovery of the remains of an unidentified Union soldier by a visitor to the Antietam National Battlefield and the steps that were being taken by specialists to identify the remains.

As the team of specialists predicted, no positive identification could be made. Nearly a year after the discovery, however, the remains – consisting of 400 bone fragments, 13 uniform buttons, a U.S. belt buckle, and some scraps of fabric and leather – were taken to New York, the soldier’s home state as indicated by the insignia on the buttons. The remains, along with some soil from the battlefield, were placed in a donated pine coffin by six National Park Service rangers and two Civil War re-enactors in Union uniforms. The coffin was covered by a 34-star U.S. flag. Two Army National Guardsmen and a volunteer motorcycle escort accompanied the remains on the 330-mile trip to the Gerald B. H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery, where the burial took place today, the 147th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, also known as the Battle of Sharpsburg.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Cemetery of The Falls Church, Falls Church, Virginia

The photos below were taken at the cemetery of The Falls Church, for which Falls Church, Virginia, was named. According to the historical marker, “This Georgian-style church designed and built in 1767-69 by James Wren, related to Sir Christopher, replacing the 1733 frame structure on 2-acre lot (part of 1729 248-acre Trammel grant). Washington and Mason were vestrymen. After the 1788 disestablishment of the Church of England, fell into disuse until repaired in the 1830s. Union troops used it as a Civil War hospital and stable. Repaired by 1866, an Episcopal congregation has worshipped here since 1873. In 1959, church chancel narthex and galleries were added. Adjacent structures were built in 1952 and 1992. Church gravestones date to 1803.”

The “repair” referred to as having taken place in 1866 was necessary due to the fact that the church had been vandalized by Federal troops; a picture of the damaged church can be seen here.

During the cold and overcast winter months here in Falls Church, I decided I would postpone photographing the graves in the cemetery until the sunnier summer months. This was actually not the best course to have followed, as I found out when I returned on the sunny day on which these photographs were taken. In the summer large trees keep most of the tombstones in the shade for most of the day. You can see that some of these are in the sun, but unfortunately I paused to speak with one of the church members and within perhaps 15-20 minutes storm clouds quickly moved in and eliminated the possibility of further photography. I can either return in the summer during the brief part of the day during which these tombstones are in the sun or postpone all further photography until the winter, when the trees have lost their leaves. The best-laid plans....

Monday, February 16, 2009

Learning to Drive in Oakwood Cemetery

I was 31 years old when I finally got my driver’s license. In high school I was unable to take Drivers’ Ed. because all elective-type classes were held only during 2nd and 5th periods, and I already had those periods filled with band, foreign language, and advanced math classes, and even had to take trigonometry and 2nd- year Spanish during the same period.

During college and graduate school I avoided the problem of learning how to drive by attending colleges in big cities and living in places that were within walking distance or an easy bus route.

During my first years as a working stiff, I took the bus and then my husband drove me to work for a short while.

When it finally appeared that we could afford a second car, he announced: “You have to learn to drive.” He was right. I couldn’t avoid it any more. And our friend Linda – kind, patient, generous Linda – came to the rescue.

Linda is a natural teacher, so despite my fears, the experience wasn’t too traumatic. We started out at Oakwood Cemetery, which is located in Falls Church near where we live. Driving the small, winding roads was even enjoyable. Venturing from there to the outside world took a bit more courage, but we managed.

My older daughter learned to drive on local neighborhood streets and our younger daughter started out at the local multiplex parking area (the multiplex was recently closed down for some “urban improvement” and may reappear in metamorphosed form in whatever yuppie-tastic residential/commercial conglomeration springs up to take the place of the comfortable, low-rent previous incarnation) and has now graduated to neighborhood streets as well.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Remains of Union Soldier Found at Antietam Battlefield

My family and I are lucky to have Stephen Potter as our neighbor. Who is Stephen Potter? You may have seen him on the Discovery Channel or History Channel. He is an archaeologist for the National Park Service and has under his purview several local Civil War battlefields. A number of you may be aware of the news item referenced above; I was not until I ran into Steve recently at our local grocery store and he filled me in on this relatively recent discovery. You can find several links to this story by just Googling Union Soldier Discovered Antietam. Perhaps the most complete account can be found at here:

Steve is closely involved in this project and is very excited about the research they are doing based on this discovery. The shallow battlefield grave was found when a burrowing groundhog pushed some of the bone and clothing fragments to the surface; these in turn were found in October 2008 by a battlefield visitor who turned them in at the battlefield's visitor's center. Photographs were made of the fragments and then sent to Stephen Potter, who recognized immediately that the remains must have been from a battlefield burial and called in additional experts to pin down more particulars about the soldier's identity.

The Park Service sent a team including Steve to the battlefield to find the site where the bones had been discovered in the hopes of beating relic hunters to the punch. The finds and the location have helped narrow down the probable age and origin of the soldier at the very least: a young Union soldier (no more than 21, and probably younger) from a New York regiment who, despite his youth, had seen some campaign time. His age was gleaned from the state of his teeth, New York as the state affiliation from the jacket and cuff buttons, the fact that the soldier was not a raw recruit from the fact that several NY-specific buttons had been replaced by ordinary buttons, and 24 specific New York regiments among the numerous New York units present at the battle from the location of the remains.

Steve says they hope to do additional examination and tests to determine the origin of the soldier – was he born in this country, or, like many New York recruits, was he Irish or German? This might help to further narrow down the group of unaccounted-for soldiers from these regiments. When the investigation is complete, the young soldier will be given a proper burial, most likely at Antietam National Cemetery.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Tombstone of Armistead T. Thompson, Thompson Family Cemetery

"In memory of Armistead T. Thompson

Son of Lawson T. & Fannie L. Thompson
A member of Co. G, 8 Regt. Va. Vols
Who died at Point Lookout, Md.
a prisoner of war Nov. 23, 1865.
After an imprisonment of 17 months.

Aged 27 years

Mouldering though thy body be
Yet in our dreams thy form we see:
Our tears in torrents duly fall
O! thee we would but can't recall.

Thou art gone to Christ, thy God
He who bought thee with His blood
Enabled thee to run thy race:
Raised thee now to see his face."

In addition to the flag and plastic flowers, a smooth rock has been placed at the base of the tombstone.

John Compton Tobin and Laura Virginia Tobin, Thompson Family Cemetery

John Compton Tobin
Oct. 1825
July 7, 1916

He is not dead but sleepeth.

Laura Virginia Tobin
June 22, 1841
Sept. 6, 1915

Not my will but thine be done.

(On the other side of the tombstone is the inscription for Amana Abigail Tobin.)

Tombstone of Amana Abigail Tobin, Thompson Family Cemetery

Amana Abigail Tobin
Apr. 4, 1878
Feb. 1, 1904
Though lost to sight to memory dear

(The other side of the tombstone lists John Compton Tobin and Laura Virginia Tobin.)

Thompson Family Cemetery, Pan Am Shopping Center, Vienna, Virginia

Above are some views of the Thompson Family Cemetery, situated the area of the Pan Am Shopping Center that abuts Lee Highway. Many old graves in Fairfax County have had to be relocated when commercial development moves in, but in this case the shopping center was built around the old graveyard. The area of the cemetery rises above the level of the Center's parking lot and has timber restraining walls on most of the four sides; it is best approached from the one corner that has no restraining wall. There is a group of tall trees in the center and plantings on the shopping center side. The grass is not "manicured" but is well kept.

Only two gravestones can be seen. According to Brian A. Conley's book, Cemeteries of Fairfax County, Virginia, other persons likely to be buried here are: Henry Allen, Rita A. T. Covington, Daniel Thompson, Ellen Thompson, Fannie A. Thompson, Katie Thompson, Reverend Lawson T. Thompson, Lola Thompson, Marshall Thompson, Nat Thompson, Samuel P. Thompson, Carmey Tobin, and Mamie Tobin.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Robinson, Jack

The above tombstone is located in the cemetery of the Second Baptist Church of Falls Church located on Costner Drive, Falls Church, Virginia.

Jack Robinson
PVT 841 Co. Trans Corps
World War I

Robinson, Jennie Lee

The above tombstone is located in the cemetery of the Second Baptist Church of Falls Church on Costner Drive, Falls Church, Virginia.

Rock of Ages
A Tribute of Love
Jennie Lee Robinson
Born June 2, 1868
Passed into eternal rest Jan. 8, 1927
Gone but not forgotten

Cemetery of the Second Baptist Church of Falls Church

The photographs above were taken at the cemetery of the Second Baptist Church of Falls Church on Costner Drive, Falls Church, Virginia. According to the page on the website of the Virginia Room of the Fairfax County Public Library dealing with the Fairfax County cemetery survey, "This church was organized in 1871 by ex-slaves and free Blacks. The cemetery, located behind the church, is the resting place of many prominent Black residents of Falls Church including JAMES LEE and FRANCIS FORREST FOOTE." There are also members of the Tinner family buried in this cemetery.

This cemetery is located in a field-type setting between a residential area and a county field and is surrounded on three sides by a chain-link fence; the fourth side opens to the church parking lot.

Tinner, Margaret and Harrison R.

This tombstone is located in Galloway United Methodist Church Cemetery on Anndale Road, Falls Church, Virginia.



Harrison R.

Harrison Tinner was a brother of Joseph Tinner, who was one of the leaders of the desegregation movement in Falls Church.

Grave Marker, Galloway United Methodist Church

Here is an anonymous marker in the Galloway United Methodist Church Cemetery, Falls Church, Virginia.

Jones, Harold Emory

This tombstone is located in the Galloway United Methodist Church Cemetery located on Annandale Road, Falls Church, Virginia.

Harold Emory Jones
April 23,1906
Aug. 12, 1962

Cabaniss, George W. and Louisa R.

This tombstone is located in the Galloway United Methodist Church Cemetery located on Annandale Road, Falls Church, Virginia.

George W.
March 7, 1920

Louisa R.
July 26, 1940

This may be the Dr. George W. Cabaniss referred to in an article from the Washington Star (December 15, 1911) included in the Booker T. Washington papers, Volume 11, p. 419: "District Colored Men Honor Leaders of Race: Booker T. Washington and Other Trustees of Education Fund Guests at Banquet." (Found at

Cemetery of Galloway United Methodist Church

Above are some images from the cemetery at Galloway Methodist Church on Annandale Road in Falls Church, Virginia. It is a small cemetery, and as you can see, a bit uneven and hilly in places. It was not terribly difficult to move around the graveyard, though for people of limited mobility some parts would be difficult. The grounds of the church and cemetery are part of the Tinner Hill neighborhood, a historic black district (home to the first rural branch of the N.A.A.C.P.) that is right next to my neighborhood, Greenway Downs. Members of the Tinner family and other prominent families of this neighborhood are buried here. According to a survey done by the Fairfax County Public Library system and the Fairfax Genealogical Society, there are about 60 headstones and a number of homemade grave markers and unmarked graves in this cemetery.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Goals of this Blog

As a member of the Association of Graveyard Rabbits, I hope to devote this blog to all things graveyard:

- To exploration, preservation, and restoration of graveyards and burial sites.
- To studying and chronicling the history and art of graveyards and putting this in the context of the history of the surrounding area.
- To mapping graveyards and transcribing tombstones.
- To learning about burial customs and tombstone/grave marker conventions.

I will post photographs, information, and articles covering the cemeteries of the Northern Virginia area, including but not limited to: Fairfax County, Falls Church City, Arlington County, Alexandria City, and Fairfax City. I have a lot to learn about graveyards and burial customs in general and for this area in particular, and I wish to share what I learn. Northern Virginia has undergone a tremendous amount of development in recent years and this can create problems for existing cemeteries and burial sites.