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Old City Cemetery-Confederate Section

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Old City Cemetery

Old City Cemetery Confederate Section in the fall

For many people in Lynchburg, the “Confederate Cemetery” is the Old City Cemetery.  Early maps often referred to Confederate Cemetery, not Old City Cemetery.  Why are there over 2,200 Confederate soldiers, from 14 states, buried in Lynchburg?

Although there was no significant military engagement in or near Lynchburg, the city was home to the second largest permanent hospital center in the Confederacy.  The Civil War was the first war, fought in the United States, where injured soldiers were removed from the battlefield, placed onto box cars and taken to the nearest “hospital town” for treatment, surgery or to die.  As Lynchburg had three major rail lines soldiers were oftentimes brought here.  Tens of thousands of soldiers, both Union and Confederate, were treated in local hospitals (previously used as tobacco warehouses).  When they died they were brought to the city’s only public burial ground, Old City Cemetery, where it was customary to bury “strangers” and those without relatives nearby.

In 1861 the first of 2,500 Civil War soldiers was buried in the cemetery.  There are over 2,000 white marble headstones in the Confederate section, each with two lines of inscription.  The first line gives the soldier’s initials and the second line gives an abbreviation for his military unit and state.  The headstones were installed by the Southern Memorial Association between 1904 and 1915, at a cost of $1.25 each.

In 1866 the Union soldiers buried in the cemetery were exhumed.  Many were sent to their hometowns.  Approximately 200 Union soldiers were relocated to Poplar Grove National Cemetery near Petersburg, VA.

Old City Cemetery

Winter at the Confederate Section of Ole City Cemetery

The Confederate Section is bordered on 3 sides by a boxwood hedge and the old brick wall on the fourth.  The 500-foot long, five foot tall brick wall was constructed in 1886.  You enter this section of the cemetery through the entrance arch.  Made from granite, the arch was built in 1926.  It serves as a gateway and a memorial.

In 1869 the Monument to the States was erected.  It is the oldest Confederate monument in Virginia and the fourth oldest in the United States.  Each of the 14 blocks bears the name of a state represented by soldiers buried here.  The order of states is based on the space needed for the lettering, not the number of soldiers from each state buried here.

In 1931 the large concrete bench, Veteran’s Bench, and the domed temple or belvedere, Speakers Belvedere, were built for the annual Memorial Day ceremony.  The Memorial Day ceremony has been held almost every year since 1866.  It is a most interesting and educational ceremony to attend.  Review the Old City Cemetery calendar of events for next year’s date and time.

In addition to the graves of individual Confederate soldiers is a section called Negro Row.  Ten African-Americans are buried within or adjacent to the Confederate Section.  Most of those buried in Negro Row were slaves who worked in the local military hospitals.  Others included body servants of Confederate military officers.  The only woman buried in the Confederate Section during the war was a slave known only as “Jane”.

The first Civil War soldier buried in Lynchburg was Pvt.Thomas P. Plunkett.  He died of disease at the old Lynchburg College hospital on June 17, 1862.  There are six known soldiers buried here who died in the Battle of Lynchburg, June 17-18, 1864.  Three known soldiers buried here were deserters.  All died when shot for desertion.

Using data from George A. Diuguid’s excellent cemetery records a six-sided kiosk and information display was erected in 1995. Descendants can use the kiosk to search for their soldiers name and burial location.

Throughout June, July and August when the Cemetery hosts free, walking tours (10:00 am each Saturday) of the cemetery time is always spent in the Confederate Section.  The Candlelight Tours, held during October, usually tell the story of a Confederate soldier buried here.  Or, if you would like to do research on your own burial records are available in the Cemetery Center.

During the past two summers local professors and students interested in archaeology have been conducting “below ground archaeology” surveys in the Confederate Section.  By removing and scraping the soil only six inches deep usually reveals very clear answers to grave locations and orientation.  The soil in a grave shaft is looser and a different color from the undisturbed “walls” of the grave shaft.  Although graves are traditionally six feet deep, graves found here are often only four feet deep or sometimes as shallow as one foot deep.

Almost every guest who has stayed with us at The Carriage House Inn Bed and Breakfast has visited the Old City Cemetery.  Some take advantage of the tours or events, others wander and enjoy the peacefulness of the cemetery grounds where they might take pictures or contemplate those who have passed on.

The Wreck of the Old 97

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Wreck of the Old 97

Wreck of the Old 97

On Friday, August 12th, at 3:00 pm the Lynchburg Museum will host a lecture presented by Howard Gregory.  His topic of discussion will be the Wreck of the Old 97.

What was the Wreck of the Old 97?  It was an American rail disaster involving the Southern Railway mail train, officially known as the Fast Mail, on September 27, 1903.  The train was en route from Monroe, VA to Spencer, NC.  The train consisted of two postal cars, one express and one baggage car for the storage of mail.  18 men were on board.  Due to excessive speed, in an attempt to maintain schedule, the train derailed at the Stillhouse Trestle near Danville, where the train careened off the side of the trestle bridge, killing eleven and injuring seven others.

Wreck of the Old 97

Newspaper-Wreck of the Old 97

On the day of the accident the Old 97 was behind schedule when it left Washington, DC and was an hour late when it arrived in Monroe.  At Monroe the engineer was instructed to get the Fast Mail to Spencer, 166 miles away, on time   The scheduled running time was four hours, fifteen minutes, at an average speed of 39 miles per hour.  The route between Monroe and Spencer was rolling terrain with numerous danger points due to the combination of grades and tight radius curves.  Engineers were warned to watch their speed.  However the engineer was unable to sufficiently reduce speed as he approached the 45-foot high Stilljhouse Trestle.  Approaching the curve leading to the trestle at about 70 miles per hour caused the entire train to derail and plunge into the ravine below.  A huge fire erupted and consumed all of the jagged debris from the wooden cars.  Nine of the eleven men who died were killed immediately.

Although the Vice-president of the Southern Railway placed the blame of the accident firmly on the engineer, the railroad was at least partially to blame, as they has a lucrative contract with the U.S. Post Office to haul mail.  The contract included a penalty clause for each minute the mail was late into Spencer.

The accident became a sensation with thousands of spectators at the scene, newspaper stories and a series of ballads written about he wreck.  The most popular ballad was an early country hit and the first million-selling record in the United States when recorded by Vernon Dalhart for RCA Victor Records in 1924.

The lecture will take place at 901 Court Street, starting to 3:00 pm.  Tickets are $10, unless you are a member of the Museum.  Once the lecture is finished don’t forget to tour the special museum exhibit A Great Change in the Situation of Man: Lynchburg’s Railroads, found on the lower level of the museum. This exhibit is free.


Gravestones in Old City Cemetery

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Gravestones at Old City Cemetery

Gravestones in Old City Cemetery

The graves found in the Old City Cemetery represent the diversity of the citizens of Lynchburg buried there.  This diversity also allows for a large variety of gravestones or monuments.  Due to lack of maintenance of the cemetery grounds for many years, the passing of time and hand-hewn gravestones, plus the lack of record keeping, many of the grave markers are missing.  Those surviving represent a variety of funeral art.  Some were handcrafted with primitive tools, others created in workshops by professional stone cutters.  All are a distinct form of American expression.

Gravestones in Old City Cemetery

Gravestones in Old City Cemetery

Gravestones mark the grave.  They are often made up of a headstone (a memorial stone set at the head of the grave, often with a raised top) and sometimes with a footstone (marking the foot of the grave).  More wealthy citizens might have had table tombs, box tombs, obelisks, or pedestal tombs.  A mausoleum is a large, stately tomb, most often built entirely out of the ground.  During the last half of the 19th century all gravestones became thicker and more massive.  Victorian influences added symbols.  Symbols found in the Old City Cemetery include: angels-both flying and weeping, birds-symbolizing eternal life, candles and flames, crowns-representing glory after death, doves, wreaths, open Bibles, the hourglass-time’s inevitable passing, and sleeping lambs-symbolic of the many children taken too frequently by the epidemics or simple illnesses that plaqued children long ago.

Let’s take a quick “tour” through the cemetery and discuss some of the unique gravestones.

  1. Just inside the entry gate, at Fourth Street, you will find Terriza Wallace, Jan 10th 1807 April 29 1808.  This hand-chiseled round stone of local granite has been preserved.  Not the first burial in the cemetery, but the oldest, original marker remaining.
  2. Next to Terriza is Katie Vernon Metcalfe (1836-1858).  Her intricately carved marble headstone bears the classic Victorian motifs of willow, an urn, flowers and obelisk.
  3. Nearby is R.B. Gaines (died 1811).  He was buried in a barrel-vaulted tomb of handmade Virginia brick which is capped at head and foot with Lynchburg greenstone.
  4. The marble tombstone of Judge William Daniel, Jr. (1806-1873) is a well-preserved example of an epitaph with Biblical and biographical messages, as well as the symbolism of God’s hand descending from Heaven holding the scales of justice.  Judge Daniel was Judge of the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia from 1846 until 1865 and lived at Point of Honor.
  5. A wrought iron enclosure holds the graves of Maria Ball Carter Tucker (died 1823) and her young daughter Rosalie (died 1818).  Maria Tucker was the great niece of George Washington.  A marble false crypt rests over one grave.  An antique rose, referred to in the poetic inscription on the lid, has survived all this time within the enclosure.
  6. Further down the hill you will find the life-sized cut tree trunk monument to Sophia Rhodes (died 1889).  This carved limestone monument is typically Victorian and symbolic of her life cut short.
Gravestones in Old City Cemetery

Gravestones in Old City Cemetery

There are many other interesting gravestones and monuments found throughout the cemetery.  A walk through the cemetery is always pleasant and sometimes educational.  Each Saturday morning between now and the end of August tours of the cemetery are given at 10:00 am. They are conducted by various people who work at the cemetery, so attending more than one usually imparts different information and stories than another.  The tours typically last about one hour.  No reservations are required.  The is no admission fee.

If you are staying with us at The Carriage House Inn Bed and Breakfast and would like to take advantage of one of these tours let us know.  We will be sure that you are served your breakfast with plenty of time to allow you to get to the cemetery for the beginning of the tour.

DeVault Family Vineyards

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Devault Family Vineyards

Watermelon Festival at DeVault  Family Vineyards

Less than 20 miles east of Lynchburg, VA you will find DeVault Family Vineyards.  Founded in 2000 by Terry and Sharon, when Terry purchased the 32-acre property that allowed Terry to return to his farming roots, the vineyard is a family dream come true.  The family has spent eight years perfecting the art of grape cultivation and have shaped the land into a stunning, serene landscape that you enjoy when visiting the vineyard.  The tasting room was added in 2009 to allow guests a rustic, but comfortable place to sample the various wines and enjoy the view of the rolling vineyard. In addition to the tasting room you can enjoy an indoor swimming pool, tennis court, volleyball and basketball courts, and a stocked fishing pond.  Or bring along a picnic blanket and wander through the vineyard until you find just the right spot to enjoy your DeVault wine.

DeVault Family Vineyards

DeVault Family Vineyards

DeVault Family Vineyards produces seven varieties of wines.  There are three reds: a sweet red table wine, a dry red, which is a complex bouquet of blackberry, gala apples and a touch of spice plus an oaked Norton.  Two whites are available: a sweet white table wine and a dry white with a light, fruity nose.  Two blends complete the inventory: their watermelon wine and a semi-sweet blended blush.  The red and white table wines make a delicious Sangria, delightful on a warm sunny day in Central Virginia.

Are you looking for something to do?  Saturday, July 2nd DeVault Family Vineyards will be hosting their 6th Annual Watermelon Festival!  Between the hours of 3:00 pm until 11:00 pm you can enjoy a variety of food vendors, five additional wineries, a local micro-brewery, arts, crafts and other vendors selling unique hand-made wares, six bands performing on two stages, a magician, pony rides and a talent show.  There will be something for everyone!  Tickets go on sale June 22nd or you may purchase them at the gate (at an increased price).  Ticket prices are as follows: Adult $15, age 13-20 plus designated driver $10, kids 7-13 $5.  Visit the DeVault Family Vineyards website,, to purchase your tickets in advance.

DeVault Family Vineyards are located one-half mile off Route 460 in Concord, VA.  247 Station Lane, Concord, VA. 434.993.0722 or  Hours of operation are Monday through Saturday between 11 until 6, after May 1st.  Other hours may be available with prior scheduling.

Harley Owner Group Rally-Lynchburg VA

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Harley Davidson Group

The Harley Owner Group visits Lynchburg

The Harley Owner Group to visit Lynchburg.  Starting Wednesday, June 22 until Saturday, June 25th the city of Lynchburg will be filled with H.O.G.s!  Approximately 2,000 rally participants will meet in Lynchburg to participate in numerous activities.

There will be music, vendors, activities for all ages, games, obstacle courses, riding competitions, self guided rides, tour rides and more.  Highlights of the four days of events include: guided tour rides to Red Hill,  Appomattox Courthouse National Park and the National D=-Day Memorial, a lighted bike show, motorcycle riding concepts courses, historic architecture walking tou of downtown Lynchburg and a parade.

The Harley Owner Group hosts rallies throughout the year in various cities across the United States.  The last time this event was held in Lynchburg was 10 years ago.  The Milwaukee-based Harley Owners Group has more than 1 million members and 1,400 chapters around the world.  Benefits of belonging to this group include access to the Harley Davidson Museum, a magazine, members website, e-newsletter, touring handbooks that are road ready with maps and touring tips, merchandise and touring contests.

Harleys, a work of art.

Harleys, a work of art.

So, when you hear the “roar of thunder” between June 22nd and June 25th it may just be one of the many Harley enthusiasts experiencing our town and location in Central Virginia.

Old City Cemetery Museum-Cemetery Center

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Old City Cemetery

Old City Cemetery’s Center and Museum

The Old City Cemetery, Lynchburg, VA, is Lynchburg’s most visited tourist site.  During the past four months we have posted a blog describing the individual buildings/museums found on the cemetery grounds.  This month we are going to introduce you to the Cemetery Museum and it’s artifacts.

The main focus of the Cemetery Center is it’s collection of American mourning customs and artifacts, burial records of the Southern Memorial Association, the Lee Reading Room, Taylor Conservatory and the Christian Vault.

This month’s blog post is going to concentrate on the American mourning customs and artifacts.

The main room in the Cemetery Center is comprised of doors, floorboards, beams and a fireplace mantle, all dated 1845.  This room contains mourning artifacts and decor.  Some of the most interesting pieces found include:

  • mourning and funeral photographs (c. 1900).
  • beeswax flowers (c. 1870).  These would have surrounded the casket during the funeral, then have been placed on the grave and finally taken by the family where they were framed and hung in the parlor.
  • a mantle clock draped in black crepe to signify mourning.  The clock would have been stopped at the time of death.
  • mourning stationary that is bordered in black.  It would have been used to announce the death and to invite friends and family to the funeral..
  • a cast-iron “shoulder casket” (c. 1857, from Diuguid Funeral Service). Used by upper-class citizen of Lynchburg it is painted to resemble wood.
  • an embalming kit (c.1900).  Some of the instruments are still used today.

A few of the interesting facts about mourning and burial customs found in the Cemetery Center are as follows:

  • widows were in mourning for a total of 2 1/2 years.  They were in deep mourning for 1 year and 1 day, during which time they could only wear black.  After their deep mourning period they could add a touch of white, more ruffles or trim and wear hats instead of veils.  Near the end of the mourning period they could wear clothing in dark colors:gray, purple, slate or blue.
  • women did not attend the burial.
  • flower arrangements were seldom used before the Civil War.  Between the 1880’s-1890’s fresh, dried and artificial flower arrangements  were used in profusion.
  • mourning attire for men consisted of wearing a black armband or hatband for a period of 3 months.
  • men wore mourning attire as a mark of respect.  Women wore mourning attire out of fear that the omission to wear black would be interpreted as evidence of a lack of affection for the dead.
  • immediately following the funeral all traces f death were to be removed from the house. Shutters were opened, blinds raised, crepe and flowers removed and clocks restarted.

The Cemetery Center is open between 11 until 3 daily, or by appointment.  It contains detailed brochures and booklets relating to the history of the cemetery along with information about the various buildings and museums located on the cemetery grounds (most of which we have discussed earlier this year).  There is a small gift shop that sells “Died and Gone to Heaven” honey (that is produced by the cemeteries bees), books (including Once Upon a Time…a Cemetery Story) and cookbooks (such as the award winning Food to Die For a book of funeral food, tips and tales), along with gifts and items pertaining to the cemetery.