Recovering and Preserving African American Cemeteries – Preservation Leadership Forum, National Trust for Historic Preservation

Pinewood Cemetery COPYRIGHT Nadia Orton

Pine Forest Cemetery, Wilmington, North Carolina

The reverence attached to cemeteries and burial grounds, which have long been considered sacred sites, is an example of enduring Africanisms and cultural tradition in the African American community. Burial grounds have always been regarded as places where ancestors could be properly honored and provided with the dignity, care, and respect in death that had often been denied them in life.

Interest in the study of my family tree has led me to over a dozen cemeteries throughout Tidewater Virginia and North Carolina, and helped reconstruct a family legacy spanning over 400 years. Cemeteries offer an important, tangible connection to history allowing closer interpretation of days past than most other sources can. Genealogists and family historians have long recognized the benefit of cemeteries in the study of family history and an increasing popular interest in genealogy has led to an increased focus on them.  READ MORE

Tales from the East End: The obituary of Elisha Mayo, Evergreen and East End Cemeteries

**Elisha Mayo originally researched and documented in the East End Cemetery database on Find-a-Grave, July 31, 2015**

Elisha Mayo (1837-1915)

In Memoriam – Mayo – The record of a faithful life, though it may have no place in written history, will always be enshrined in hearts its faithfulness has touched and so, moved to the expression of a single tribute to such an one, we pronounce at the bier of an old and honored servant this encomium to his fidelity, from which, along the humble path he trod so many years he never wavered. ELISHA MAYO, or “Uncle Elisha,” was born April 10, 1837, and died at his home in this city June 4, 1915. His parents, Samuel and Fannie Mayo, were slaves, and were wedding gifts to Mr. and Mrs. E. A. Blanton, Sr., of Amelia County, Va., parents of Mr. T. L. Blanton, of this city, in whose employ “Uncle Elisha” was for many years, and up to the time of his death, and who joins in this memorial to his valued and trusted servant. Elisha was twice married, and left surviving him seven children, namely Walter L. Mayo, Ella Mayo Price, Mary Mayo Rogers, Bettie Mayo Kemp, Edmonia Mayo Brown, Grandison Mayo and Frank J. Mayo. Of many of those to whom he ministered in the days now long gone, and who have passed into the beyond, it may doubtless be said that in his latter days, when his head was “bending low,” he “heard their gentle voices calling him, as in the days “before the war.” And so, full of years, he has passed peacefully from an humble, though well-spent earthly, life to that reward that knows neither race nor class nor creed. X X X.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, June 21, 1915; Richmond Planet, June 26, 1915
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Suffolk, Virginia: William Thomas Fuller, M. D. (1866-1921), Oak Lawn Cemetery

This post originally appeared on The Historic Oak Lawn Cemetery Foundation

Dr. William Thomas Fuller (1866-1921), ca. 1908. Library of Virginia

Was Head of Bank – Many Citizens Join Family in Grief
 
Dr. W. T. Fuller, one of the leading physicians and businessmen of this section, died suddenly in his office in E. Washington street, here last Saturday. The exact cause of his death could not be learned.
 
Dr. Fuller was an academic graduate of Hampton Institute, Shaw University, Leonard Medical School, Raleigh, N. C. He came to this city from Danville, Va., and in a short time had built up a large practice. He was connected with many business ventures here. Chief among them was the Phoenix Bank of Nansemond, of which he was president. He became connected with this institution during its infancy and it has had a phenomenal success ever since. Today it is one of the most progressive banks of which the race can boast.
 
Dr. Fuller was in every sense a man who lived for his people. Always in the front ranks, he towered head and shoulders above the masses. No home into which he had not entered and administered to some member of this family. Few bedsides his loving hand and gentle voice, had not soothed and softened the pain which it was his pleasure to alleviate. The oldest citizens and those who knew him longest and best could not hide their sorrow. It is indeed a blow to the community.
 
He was fifty-five years of age, and leaves a loving wife and two daughters.
 
Funeral services were held at his home, 149 Pine street, Tuesday afternoon. The services were conducted by Rev. R. J. Butts. Burial was in his private lot in Oak Lawn Cemetery. The Mt. Vernon Lodge No. 48, A. F. and A. M., had charge of the remains.

Norfolk Journal and Guide, February 12, 1921
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Portsmouth, Virginia: Update on one of Portsmouth’s “Harlem Hellfighters”

Gravestone of Pvt. Ollie Lee Snow. Cypress Hills National Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York. Photo courtesy Find-a-Grave user Leslie W.

We’re pleased to report that we now have a photo of Pvt. Ollie Lee Snow’s headstone. It was taken by Find-a-Grave volunteer Leslie Wickham, a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.), and she graciously allowed me to use it.

Pvt. Ollie Lee Snow, a Portsmouth, Virginia native, served during World War I. He was a member of the 369th Infantry, 93rd Division, the famed “Harlem Hellfighters.” He was featured in an earlier blog from last year, “In Their Own Words: Voices of African American WWI Veterans,” in recognition of Veterans Day. At the time, Pvt. Snow wasn’t listed in the Find-a-Grave database for Cypress Hills National, so I added the listing, and sent a photo request. Leslie fulfilled the request just a few weeks later. Thanks so much, Leslie!

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Suffolk, Virginia: The Nansemond Collegiate Institute (1890-1939), Historical Marker

This post originally appeared on The Historic Oak Lawn Cemetery Foundation.

Photo: Nadia K. Orton, January 5, 2013. All rights reserved

Marker text:

Here stood the Nansemond Collegiate Institute, founded in 1890 as the Nansemond Industrial Institute by Rev. William W. Gaines to provide local black children with an education, because free public schools were closed to them. Eventually the institute offered elementary, secondary and normal school courses of instruction. In 1927 a public school for black residents was opened; competition for students and a series of disastrous fires forced the institute to close in 1939.

Department of Conservation and Historic Resources 1988
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