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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Delaware: Tracing family roots, past and present

African American Cemetery Delaware - Copyright 2017 Nadia K. Orton

African-American cemetery, Kent County, Delaware, August 19, 2017. Photo: Nadia K. Orton

 

In mid-August, we attended a family reunion in Wilmington, Delaware, for two of the paternal branches of our collective family tree, lines that extend to the 18th-century in Virginia’s Mecklenburg County (est. 1765), and City of Portsmouth (est. 1752), and to Warren County (est. 1779), in the Piedmont region of North Carolina.

On the way to the reunion, and in keeping with the theme of “family,” we stopped at this peaceful spot, a well maintained cemetery in Kent County, Delaware. It’s located near the birthplace of Thomas Craig (ca. 1831-1896), a free person of color and Civil War Navy veteran who was included in my first blog a few years ago. (Thomas is buried near my paternal great-great-great grandfather, Max Jolly Orton, also a Navy veteran, and other ancestors in the Mt. Calvary Cemetery Complex, Portsmouth, Virginia.)

Walking through the sacred ground, I reflected on Thomas Craig’s family history, and wondered if any of his relatives were laid to rest in the cemetery. In all probability, they’re not, as the family moved to several areas throughout Kent and New Castle counties after 1855, when Thomas left Delaware and moved to New York City to enlist in the Union Navy. Still, it was nice to be able to visit the region, and forge another tangible connection to history, a moment only made possible through the protection and preservation of the cemetery. ♥

 

Accomack County, Virginia: Documenting a historically African-American cemetery, Father’s Day, 2017

Documenting a historically African American cemetery on Father’s Day (June 18th), 2017, on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. One of the oldest, inhabited areas of the state,  it’s become one of our favorite family destinations. The cemetery is just north of the birthplace of a family elder, who was a much beloved and respected teacher and educator of historic I. C. Norcom High School, in Portsmouth, Virginia. Unfortunately, most of the oldest sections of the cemetery were too overgrown for closer investigation, and my father warned of snakes and other dangers that may have been hidden by the overgrowth. We observed some areas that had been cleared by family members in order to reach their ancestors’ gravesites, perhaps in observance of Decoration Day, or Father’s Day. It was an encouraging thought; we’ll return soon in the hope of further exploration.  ♥

Accomack County African American cemetery copyright 2017 Nadia Orton

Historical African American cemetery in Accomack County, Virginia

 

African American cemetery Accomack Virginia copyright 2017 Nadia Orton

Historical African American cemetery in Accomack County, Virginia

Norfolk, VA: Profiles in Zinc – White Bronze Markers of Norfolk’s African American Cemeteries, Norfolk Society for Cemetery Conservation

 

Zinc Marker Norfolk Copyright Nadia K. Orton

White Bronze Marker, Calvary Cemetery

 

A tour of Norfolk’s historical African American cemeteries is a veritable walk through history. Cemeteries offer an important, tangible connection to history allowing closer interpretation of days past than most other sources can. Many historic cemeteries are notable for their funerary art, but a great majority of African American cemeteries do not contain such features. Families simply couldn’t afford them, due to the economic deprivations of generations of enslavement, and subsequent systemic segregation of the Jim Crow era. To maintain cultural traditions, African American families marked their ancestors’ graves as best they could, with comparatively modest headstones of granite, marble, or brick, or handmade markers of stone, wood, flowers, or concrete.

Of particular interest in Norfolk’s black cemeteries are the monuments made of a material known as “white bronze.” Composed almost entirely of pure zinc, these rare markers were popular between the late 19th and early 20th century, produced by the Monumental Bronze Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut.  READ MORE