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Friday, November 2, 2012

Old cemeteries offer glimpse of Annandale's past

The Gooding-Seaton Cemetery in Annandale.
Despite all the developing going on around here, remnants of the past exist in the form of small, family cemeteries, often forgotten or hidden away in suburban backyards.

So far, 415 cemeteries have been identified in Fairfax County, including church, community, and family cemeteries—many of them in the Mason District. “We think there are more out there,” says Mary Lipsey, member of the Fairfax County History Commission (Braddock District) and founder of the Fairfax County Cemetery Preservation Association.

The association seeks to identify, document, and clean up old cemeteries and encourages Scout and civic groups to “adopt” them.

Among the old cemeteries in Annandale is the Gooding-Seaton family cemetery on Little River Turnpike across from Northern Virginia Community College. The Gooding family had a farm there and operated the Gooding Tavern for almost 100 years, which served travelers along what was then a toll road.  During the Civil War, John Mosby and his raiders attacked a supply wagon nearby, and Mosby was badly wounded during the raid.

When William Goodling died in 1861 at age 94, his will called for a burial ground to be established on the property for his family and descendants. An obituary noted that Gooding lived within five miles of a railroad and had never seen a train, Lipsey says.

There’s a small plot nearby where the family’s slaves and the slaves’ descendants were buried. It’s so overgrown, it’s hard to find the graves. Back then, Lipsey says, the only stonemason was far away, in Alexandria, so people generally used field stones as markers.

In the 1800s, getting to a church could be a daylong trip, so families often buried people in their own cemeteries, she says. “Memorial Day was a big deal back then, and families spent the day in cemeteries having picnics.”

The Trumble family cemetery is now in the backyard of a house on Margaret Lane in Annandale. It is accessible by following a path from the parking lot of Parkwood Baptist Church at 8726 Braddock Road.

Vance Trumble was born in about 1837 in Ulster County, N.Y. He moved to Fairfax County, where he was a carpenter, a soldier in the Virginia Cavalry, and later, a justice of the peace. The cemetery has graves for members of the Trumble family and others who might have been connected by marriage. One of the graves has 10 names on it.

The subdivision developer put a chain link fence around some of the graves, but Lipsey thinks there are more bodies buried outside the fence.

There are a couple of old cemeteries on Lincolnia Road in Mason. One of them, at 6271 Lincolnia Road, is still active. It was originally connected with a church, which burned down in the 1940s, and was recently acquired by Fairfax County for burying indigents.

The Summers Cemetery, at 6250 Lincolnia Road, dates from about 1760. The property had been owned by John Summers, who built tobacco houses in Northern Virginia and lived to age 104. He is buried there, along with his son Francis and Francis’ wife Jane.

There are lots of documents about old cemeteries in Fairfax County in the Virginia Room in the City of Fairfax Public Library. The Virginia Room website has an online database of cemeteries and burials.

You can learn a lot from cemeteries about how people lived and died, says Lipsey, who grew up in Falls Church and taught American history at Lake Braddock Secondary School for 31 years.

In old Fairfax County cemeteries, for example, there are lot of graves of veterans, children, and woman who died in childbirth. And there are lots of deaths in 1918 when the Spanish Flu wiped out millions of people across the globe.

There have been few instances where the discovery of an old cemetery stopped a proposed development; more often the graves have been moved. That’s what happened when the Fairfax County Government Center was built. There had been an old family cemetery on that site, and the bodies were transferred to Fairfax Memorial Park.

“There has to be a very good reason to move a cemetery today,” Lipsey says. A developer in McLean  bought land with graves on it and wanted to build a house there but was denied permission to move the graves.

The Trumble cemetery
Lipsey founded the Fairfax County Cemetery Preservation Association (FCCPA) in 2008. The group’s first project was cleaning up the Marshall family cemetery in Burke, which is near a 7-11 and had become a gathering spot for teenagers who spray painted the graves.

Volunteers removed 20 bags of beer cans and trash and did their best to remove as much paint as possible without damaging the marble. The group has cleaned up the Gooding-Seaton cemetery three times.

Lipsey would like to encourage community groups, homeowner associations, and Scout troops to volunteer to adopt a cemetery. Adoption would involve cutting the grass, picking up trash, and calling the police if the cemetery is vandalized. That would make a great student community service or Eagle Scout project. If you’re interested, contact the FCCPA.

1 comment:

  1. It is nice to know that Lipsey is taking on the much needed preservation of local family Cemeteries. Good Job!