Suffolk, Virginia: Elverta Plumie Sheppard

Grave of Elverta Plumie Sheppard, Oak Lawn Cemetery, December, 2012. Photo: Nadia K. Orton. All rights reserved.

Family surnames: Brinkley, Douglass, Sheppard, Thomas (Nansemond County/Suffolk, Virginia); Sheppard (Southampton County, Virginia); Kersey (Henrico County/Richmond, Virginia.)


The headstone of little Elverta P. Sheppard is one of the oldest, extant gravestones in Oak Lawn Cemetery. It was literally the first stone I came across during my initial visit to the cemetery in the summer of 2011.

Elverta was born on October 2, 1879, in Southampton County, or Nansemond County, Virginia. She was the daughter of Andrew Sheppard, son of Caroline Sheppard, born about 1850 in North Carolina, and Miss Ashley D. Douglass, born a free person of color to John Francis and Elizabeth Thomas Douglass, about 1854, in Suffolk, Virginia. Andrew and Ashley were married on April 6, 1879 in Nansemond County. In 1880, the family was documented in Franklin, Southampton County, Virginia.1 Andrew Sheppard was noted as a saw mill worker.2 Elverta passed away on December 10, 1885, Franklin, Virginia, just two months after her sixth birthday. Her gravestone was chosen with care. The inscription contains her vital statistics, and names of her parents. At the top of the gravestone is a representation of the lily of the valley, symbolizing purity, or rebirth, a not uncommon motif that I’ve seen on the graves of infants and children in Tidewater, Virginia.

Lily of the Valley, as seen on the gravestone of William Morris Kersey, Evergreen Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, 2018. All rights reserved.

Lily of the Valley, depicted on the grave of William Morris Kersey. Evergreen Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia. 2018. Photo: Nadia K. Orton. All rights reserved.

Andrew and Ashley D. Douglass Sheppard rest with their daughter in Oak Lawn Cemetery. Andrew passed away in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on April 7, 1921. His remains were brought back to Suffolk for burial.3 Ashley passed away on January 22, 1929, and was buried on January 25, 1929.4 Their gravestones have not yet been identified in Oak Lawn Cemetery.

  1. The City of Franklin became an independent city in 1961.
  2. “1880 U. S. Census,” database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 2 November 2020); Virginia, Southampton County, Franklin, Dist. 103, p. 11, citing, “Year: 1880; Census Place: Franklin, Southampton, Virginia; Roll: 1391; Page: 235C; Enumeration District: 103.”
  3. “Pennsylvania, U. S., Death Certificates, 1906-1967,” database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 5 June 2020), certificate image, Andrew Sheppard, 7 April 1921, no. 163, citing, “Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Harrisburg, PA; Pennsylvania (State). Death Certificates, 1906-1968; Certificate Number Range: 041501-044500.”
  4. “Virginia, U. S., Death Records, 1912-2014,” database with images, Ancestry (https:/www.ancestry.com : 6 September 2020); certificate image, Ashley D. Shepard, 12 January 1929, no. 2132, citing “Virginia Department of Health; Richmond, Virginia; Virginia Deaths, 1912-2014.”

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