Surry County, Virginia: Beneath the surface

Gray map of Virginia, ca. 1877. Pan over map to magnify

In a recent visit to Surry County, Virginia, I found two tablet gravestones in Mount Ray Cemetery, near Bacon’s Castle. They are similar in size and composition, with only the decedents’ names visible, Robert Wilson and Christiana Wilson. The stones are sunken to a degree, with the base and setting pin of Christiana’s headstone exposed. At the top, motifs symbolic of the divine and innocence, an angel, lamb, and rabbit, are depicted underneath a tree, whose trunk blends in with the right side of the arch.

Gravestone of Robert Wilson. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, August 26, 2021. All rights reserved.

Gravestone of Christiana (Christianna) Wilson. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, August 26, 2021. All rights reserved.

Despite my curiosity, I didn’t want to physically disturb the gravestones. Robert and Christiana Wilson are not known members of my family. As a rule, I always attempt to get permission prior to clearing or cleaning headstones. In addition, a bad storm had damaged the cemetery, and there was evidence of recent cleanups. The weather was also a deterrent. With a heat index of one hundred degrees, the thought of doing anything beyond a careful walk through the cemetery was out of the question. However, the design of the gravestones intrigued me, so I made a mental note to research the stories behind the stones.

The dates on the extant gravestones in the cemetery range from the late 1890s through 2020, so I chose to begin with the 1920 Census. I located a Robert, aged forty-one, a farmer, and his wife, Christianna, aged thirty-seven, enumerated in the Cobham District of Surry County, Virginia, where the cemetery is located. The Wilson home included Gladys (9), Robert (7), Everett (4), and Willie (9 months).1 Next, I located a marriage record for Robert and Christiana. Robert, the son of George Wilson and Diana (Dinah) Wilson, married Christiana, daughter of Emanuel and Sarah Edwards, on February 3, 1911, in Surry County, Virginia. Two death certificates reviewed identified Robert Wilson, son of George Wilson and Diana Twine, who died in 1943, while Christiana, daughter of Emanuel Edwards and Sarah Todd, passed away four years later in 1947. Both were interred in Mount Ray Cemetery by the Poole Funeral Home, originally established in 1890.

Photo: Nadia K. Orton, June 9, 2012. All rights reserved.

With this information and other data, I traced the Wilson-Edwards families and their descendants to various regions of Virginia, and cemeteries in Hampton, Isle of Wight County, James City County, Norfolk, Northumberland County, Surry County, and Williamsburg.


  • Amelia County, Virginia: Ford
  • Brunswick County, Virginia: Broadnax, Drumgoole (Domingo)
  • Northumberland County, Virginia: Curry
  • Surry County, Virginia: Blunt, Broadnax, Clayton, Drumgoole (Domingo), Edwards, Pierce, Price, Spratley, Todd, Twine, Wells, Wilson

(Pan over image to magnify)

Copyright 2021 Nadia K. Orton

(Pan over image to magnify)

Copyright 2021 Nadia K. Orton

  1. “1920 U. S. Census,” database with images, Ancestry ( : accessed 27 August 2021); Virginia, Surry, Cobham, Dist: 0111, p. 14 of 24, citing, “Year: 1920; Census Place: Cobham, Surry, Virginia; Roll: T625_1916; Page: 7B; Enumeration District: 111.”

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