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The “Who’s Who” of Lynchburg Cemeteries

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John Lynch, founder of Lynchburg

Lynchburg cemeteries are located throughout the city and some date back to the early days of the city.  Many of the people buried in these cemeteries are famous.  If you are looking for something to do on a fine spring day, travel through the city of Lynchburg to the various cemeteries and look for the following famous “residents.”

Richard and Emma Watts

Lynchburg has five active cemeteries plus Old City Cemetery, which at this point in time is not accepting new burials.  The cemeteries in Lynchburg are as follows:  Fort Hill Memorial Park, Forest Hill Burial Park, Presbyterian Cemetery, Quaker Memorial Cemetery and Spring Hill Cemetery.

The Watts family plot is located in Spring Hill Cemetery.  Richard Thomas Watts was the gentleman who had 404 Cabell Street built (today known as The Carriage House Inn Bed and Breakfast.)  RT died September 21, 1910.  His wife, Emma, died a few months later, March 22, 1911, while on a trip to California with their daughter Mary.  Their children are buried with them in the family plot.  Two of the gravestones are labeled just “baby.”  The impressive obelisk, designating the Watts family burial plot, was erected many years after RT and Emma were buried.

The founder of Lynchburg, John Lynch (1740-1820) is buried at the South River Meeting House Graveyard.  In the late 1700’s John Lynch operated a ferry service across the James River, from the foot of today’s Ninth Street to Amherst County.  In 1786 he founded Lynchburg.  The church today is known as Quaker Memorial Presbyterian.  This church served the Quakers until 1839.  By then most had moved away as they opposed slavery.

Poet and activist Anne Spencer (1882-1975) and her husband Edward (1876-1964) are buried at Forest Hill Burial Park.  The Spencer plot is located about 100 yards from the entrance, on the left side of the traffic circle.  Sharing the family plot are their daughters, Bethel and Alroy and son Chauncey.  Anne Spencer was the long-time librarian at Dunbar High School, and co-founded Lynchburg’s chapter of the NAACP.  She and Edward hosted many notable African-American intellectuals in their Pierce Street home.  Among their friends and visitors were: George Washington Carver, Paul Robeson, Dean Pickens, Adam Clayton Powell, Thurgood Marshall and W.E.B. Dubois.

Anne Spencer

Chauncey Spencer (1906-2002) shares the family plot.  A pioneering aviator and educator who pushed for racial integration of the U.S. Army Air Corps during WWII, he took this cause to then Missouri Senator Harry Truman.  After WWII, President Truman desegregated the military.

Spring Hill Cemetery has quite a few “famous” residents.  Samuel Miller (1792-1869) was a local businessman and philanthropist.  He moved to Lynchburg at 18, prospered in business and became a multi-millionaire.  He donated the land that became Miller Park and the Lynchburg Female Orphan Asylum, known today as the Miller Home.

Lt. Gen. Jubal Early (1816-1894) is buried at Spring Hill. Known as Gen. Robert E. Lee’s “Bad Old Man” he reportedly had a bad temper but was brilliant on the battlefield.  When the Civil War ended he refused to swear allegiance to the Union so moved to Mexico and then Canada.  Eventually he settled in Lynchburg.

Artist Georgia Morgan (1869-1951) is buried at Spring Hill with her tombstone decorated with a painter’s pallet and brush.  Known for her still life and landscape paintings she was chair of Lynchburg College’s art department for 30 years.  Today her work can be found at the Jones Memorial Library and the Lynchburg Museum.

Don Reno (1927-1984) is also buried at Spring Hill.  Known as “The King of Flat Picking Guitarists” he was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.  He is credited with co-writing “Dueling Banjos,” the song made famous in the 1972 movie Deliverance.

Presbyterian Cemetery is the final resting  place of Edwin “Ned” Emerson (1839-1922).  He was an actor, performing at Ford’s Theatre when President Lincoln was shot on April 14, 1865.  He was delivering a line from “our American Cousin” when John Wilkes Booth, a friend of Emerson’s, killed Lincoln.  After Lincoln’s assassination, Emerson quit acting and moved to Lynchburg where he worked in the stationery and book business.

Folk artist Emma Serena “Queena” Stovall (1887-1980) is also buried at Presbyterian Cemetery.  A self-taught artist she didn’t start painting until she was 62 years old.  Sometimes called the “Grandma Moses of Virginia” her scenes of country life–farm auctions, funerals, hog killings, etc.–are in museums as well as private collections.

All of the Lynchburg cemeteries mentioned above are open to visitors from dawn to dusk.