Portsmouth, Virginia: Disappointments and Discoveries

Sgt. Williams Lincoln Cemetery Portsmouth Copyright 2018 Nadia Orton

The recently (re)discovered grave of Sgt. George Williams, Company F, 36th U. S. Colored Infantry. Lincoln Memorial Cemetery. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, March 22, 2018.

On March 22, 2018, we visited Lincoln Memorial Cemetery (est. 1912), in Portsmouth, Virginia. Our family has long ties to the sacred ground, with ancestors from North Carolina and various areas of Tidewater, Virginia, being buried there for decades.

So, it was no surprise that, after a week of snow and rainstorms, we encountered major flooding in the cemetery. It happens often, as the grounds are low-lying with exceedingly poor drainage. But this flooding was horrible, perhaps the worst I’ve ever seen. It was present in the front of the cemetery…

Lincoln Memorial Flooding 2018 Copyright 2018 Nadia Orton

Waterlogged graves of Dr. William E. Reid and wife Cornelia, and Dr. Frank G. Elliott and wife Laura Carr Elliott. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, March 22, 2018.

the center of the cemetery…

Flood Graves Lincoln Copyright 2018 Nadia Orton

Submerged graves of Korean War veteran Leonard Walker, and Vietnam War veteran William McKentry. Lincoln Memorial Cemetery. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, March 22, 2018.

and the rear…

Flooding in a rear section of Lincoln Memorial Cemetery, March 22, 2018. Photo: Nadia K. Orton

No section of the historic burial ground was spared, and hundreds of grave markers were barely visible beneath the rippling pools of water, mud, and random trash blown in from the roadway. I tried to muster my game face, and family members made a comment that was both practical and dispiriting. “I hope your boots don’t start leaking!” Sigh. This visit was supposed to be a positive one. We were there to mark the gravesite of Pvt. Albert Jones, a member of the 1st Regiment, U. S. Colored Cavalry. He died in a terrible house fire in 1940 at the age of one hundred and two, and for over seventy-eight years, had rested in an unmarked grave. In February, we submitted a request for a new headstone for Pvt. Jones, which was recently approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs and delivered to a local monument company for installation. It seemed a simple task: go to the cemetery, and flag his gravesite for the monument company. But the flood waters made the simple act of marking Albert’s grave practically impossible.

“…you better never let mastah catch yer wif a book or paper, and yer couldn’t praise God so he could hear yer. If yer done dem things, he sho’ would beat yer.”

Not long ago, I discovered Albert’s slave narrative, recorded in 1938 as part of the Works Progress Administration. Through it, I had the opportunity to learn details of his life not found in any other source. It’s simply stunning, reading first person testimony, feeling the inherent power of the words. Albert described being born enslaved in Southampton County, Virginia, site of the Nat Turner Rebellion in 1831. Though he never shared his name, Albert stated that his owner was relatively decent. However, if the owner found any books, paper, or other reading or writing materials in the hands of the enslaved, they would be beaten or otherwise severely punished.

Albert had remained on the plantation until the age of twenty-one, when he’d escaped with his brother, and enlisted in the Union Army on December 3, 1864, at Newport News, Virginia. In the narrative, he described the living conditions in the Federal camps, and the roles of African American women there who’d joined their husbands in their flight to freedom.

In one battle, Albert had been shot through his right hand. At the time, Albert stated that he’d simply wrapped it with a bandage and continued to fight, but the wound would continue to plague him for the rest of his life. After showing her his injury, the WPA interviewer noted “it was half closed…this was as far as he could open his hand.”

Learning these fascinating tidbits about his life, coupled with the tragic way that he died, made me determined to mark Albert’s grave. He’d begun to feel like a long-lost member of our family. So as we would with any other family member, we tried to find his grave despite the flooding. But good intentions aside, there was no way it was going to happen that day…the whole area was underwater, a foot deep in some sections. Albert would have to wait, again.

Flooding in Albert’s section. Lincoln Memorial Cemetery, March 22, 2018. Photo: Nadia K. Orton

Disappointed, I began to make my way back to the car, but was soon distracted by another grave. It was a headstone of government-issue, and judging by its weathered appearance, a very old one. Mindful of the sodden ground and flood waters, I leaned down as close as I dared, and made out a very faint inscription. “____ Williams, Co. __, __ U. S. C. I.” It certainly wasn’t Albert, so who was this? Had I found another United States Colored Troop?

I trudged back to the car a little faster, and retrieved a pair of gloves, an old towel, and our trusty brush/ice-scraper for an impromptu cleaning (brush for the stone, ice-scraper for the mud at the base). After a few minutes, the inscription was clear enough to read: “Sergt. Geo. Williams/Co. F/36 U. S. C. I.” Indeed, I had discovered another freedom fighter.

Sgt. George Williams 36th USCI Portsmouth Copyright 2018 Nadia Orton

Clearing the gravestone of Sgt. George Williams, 36th Regiment, U. S.Colored Infantry. Lincoln Memorial Cemetery, March 22, 2018. Photo: Nadia K. Orton

Sgt. Williams Lincoln Cemetery Portsmouth Copyright 2018 Nadia Orton

The rediscovered grave of Sgt. George Williams, Company F, 36th U. S. Colored Infantry. Lincoln Memorial Cemetery. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, March 22, 2018.

Returning home, I looked up Sgt. Williams’ service record. He was born about 1843 in Suffolk, Virginia, and described as five feet, five inches tall, with “black eyes, complexion, and hair,” occupation farmer.  He’d enlisted on August 13, 1863, in Norfolk, Virginia, and mustered in at Portsmouth on October 28th. While his service record doesn’t indicate his participation in any battles, it does note his intermittent assignments with the Quartermaster Department. He was appointed Corporal on September 9, 1863, and Sergeant on July 24, 1866. He mustered out on August 13, 1866, at Brazos Santiago, Texas, after a term of three years.

Excited, I continued to dig. After the war, George married Jennie Knight, daughter of Paul and Jennie Knight. According to later

Enlistment record of Sgt. George Williams, 36th U. S.Colored Infantry.

testimony of their children, both George and Jennie had ancestral ties to Richmond, Virginia. In the 1870 and 1880 census, George, Jennie and family were documented in Portsmouth, with George working as a general laborer. Not having much luck finding the family in the 1900 census, I did learn that Jennie Knight Williams passed away in 1909, and was interred in Mount Olive Cemetery, the oldest cemetery in the historic Mount Calvary Cemetery Complex, Portsmouth. To date, Jennie’s grave has not been located.

In Lincoln Memorial Cemetery, Sgt. George Williams is interred with several other family members, Present are the graves of some of his children, including sons George, Jr. (1878-1941), and Edward (Edinborough) (1866-1934). Edward (Edinborough) Williams is interred next to his wife, Hattie A. Churchwell Williams (1867-1934), daughter of Isaac and Ellen Churchwell, free persons of color.

Central portion of Lincoln Memorial Cemetery. The Williams Family plot is on the lower left. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, March 22, 2018.

Over the years, flooding hasn’t spared Sgt. George William’s family plot either. Edward’s (Edinborough’s) gravestone is currently upside down, and his wife Hattie’s has shifted slowly to the right of its original location. And I’ve come to wonder how Sgt. George Williams is even buried in Lincoln Memorial. After all, according to military records, he’d died about 1901, and yet the earliest recorded burials in Lincoln Memorial began in 1913.

One possibility is that Sgt. Williams’ children had his grave moved to Lincoln after the Mt. Calvary Cemetery Complex became increasingly overgrown in the 1940s. It wouldn’t be the first instance of grave relocations to Lincoln from other historically African American burial grounds in the area. The family of realtor and businessman Thomas William Newbie (1879-1936), had done the same in the 1970s, and the grave of Sgt. Lewis Rodgers (1844-1884), of the 28th U. S. Colored Infantry, was moved to Lincoln during the construction of Portsmouth’s historic Truxtun community in 1919. Although George rests among family in Lincoln Memorial, it’s still somewhat disheartening to think of him resting apart from his wife, Jennie, buried somewhere in the rear of the Mt. Calvary Cemetery Complex. There’s a logical conclusion; George’s children had moved the only ancestral grave they could find amidst the overgrowth.

Perhaps fate is the reason why I stumbled across Sgt. Williams’ gravesite, to help tell his family story. Or maybe I just got lucky, spotting the grave of a local freedom fighter I didn’t expect to find while carefully tracing a path amidst flood waters and sunken graves. Or maybe I’m just overthinking again, and the buzzing sounds in my ear are my annoyed ancestors telling me to just be happy with the discovery. Either way, finding Sgt. George Williams is a great reminder that in cemetery preservation, despite all disappointments, the delays, lack of funding, cooperation, and in my case, chronic health issues, there are still wonderful discoveries to be made that keep the awful tug of hopelessness at bay. The job’s never a small task, but every little bit helps the larger goal. You have to keep trying, no matter what.

As for the flooding, I hope someday that funds can be secured to fix the problem. Thousands of families have connections to Lincoln Memorial, and no matter the conditions, descendants and the surrounding community remain committed to maintaining family connections to this sacred ground. This is especially evident every Memorial Day (Decoration Day) weekend, where hundreds come out, clean the gravesites they can reach, and decorate them with flowers, telling stories of ancestors and sharing memories while they work. The constant flooding only makes these family moments, precious as they are, that much harder to accomplish. Floods erase inscriptions and valuable history. It has to be remedied. There are simply too many priceless stories and family legacies at peril. ♦

Virginia: Update on a Tidewater Freedom Fighter

Pvt. Jones Portsmouth Enlistment Card

Pvt. Albert Jones, 1st U. S. Colored Cavalry, enlistment card

 

Great news for Spring. Pvt. Albert Jones is getting a new headstone! Our request from February has been approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs. It was delivered to Ogg Stone Works on March 21st. Pvt. Jones’ grave has been unmarked for over 78 years, ever since the terrible tragedy that claimed his life on February 27, 1940. The recent rains have caused a terrible bout of flooding in Lincoln Memorial Cemetery. We hope to be able to mark his gravesite for the monument company as soon as the flood waters recede.

Pvt. Albert Jones will be the 19th Civil War veteran to receive a new headstone. The others are: Cpl. John Cross, 10th U. S. Colored Infantry; Sgt. Ashley Lewis, 1st U. S. Colored Cavalry; Pvt. Arthur Beasley, 1st U. S. Colored Cavalry; Pvt. David Bailey, 10th U. S. Colored Infantry; Cpl George Baysmore, 36th U. S. Colored Infantry; Pvt. Austin Smallwood, 14th U. S. Colored Heavy Artillery; Pvt. Richard Reddick, 1st U. S. Colored Cavalry; Pvt. Thomas Reddick, 1st U. S. Colored Cavalry; Pvt/Landsman Samuel Morris; Sgt. Lewis Rodgers, 28th U. S. Colored Infantry; Pvt. Zachariah Taylor, 5th U. S. Colored Infantry; Pvt. Samuel Dyes, 36th U. S. Colored Infantry; Pvt. Washington Milbey, 10th U. S. Colored Infantry; Sgt. James “Jim” Edwards, 2nd U. S. Colored Cavalry; Pvt. Edmond Riddick, 36th U. S. Colored Infantry; Pvt. Henry Brinkley, 2nd U. S. Colored Cavalry; Pvt. Alfred Savage, 2nd U. S. Colored Cavalry; and Landsman John Hodges. ♥

 

On Memorial Day, Reflecting on African-American History – The National Trust for Historic Preservation

First Memorial Day plaque Charleston SC Copyright Nadia Orton 2015

Plaque honoring the first Memorial Day in the United States. Hampton Park, Charleston, South Carolina. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, September 6, 2015

 

Every May, the nation marks Memorial Day, the longstanding tradition we use to recognize fallen veterans. The holiday has its origins in “Decoration Day,” originally held in Charleston, South Carolina in 1865, when thousands of former slaves, Union soldiers, and missionaries honored Union soldiers who had died in a Confederate prison and were subsequently buried in a makeshift mass grave.

Historian David Blight recounts that after the soldiers’ proper burials, a massive parade followed. Participants decorated the graves with flowers, and clergy delivered speeches to commemorate the fallen.

My personal introduction to Decoration Day began with oral histories provided by my family’s elders. In rural Tidewater, Virginia, they told stories of Decoration Day commemorations stretching back to the 1880s. Parades began in African-American communities and ended at local black cemeteries. Families and friends honored their ancestors through song and praise, while their graves were cleaned and re-decorated.

They had good reason to pay homage: Many veterans had returned from the front lines of war to become leaders in their communities, forming masonic lodges, burial societies, schools, churches, and cemeteries. These institutions formed the foundations of post-Civil War African-American communities, giving their communities potential for the very type growth and development African-Americans had been denied in slavery. READ MORE…

Memorials to United States Colored Troops, Pt. 6 – Richmond, Virginia

Memorials to United States Colored Troops

A photo-essay series dedicated to the United States Colored Troops, and how they were remembered in contemporary news media

Pt. 6

Richmond, Virginia

East End Cemetery, Evergreen Cemetery, Richmond National Cemetery

 

William I. Johnson, Sr. – East End Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia. Photo, New Journal and Guide, 1938

 

William I. Johnson, Sr.

“W. I. Johnson, Sr., Pioneer, Buried With Honors Here – Funeral services for W. I. Johnson, Sr., pioneer citizen of Richmond, a former slave who became a prominent member of one of Richmond’s most highly respected families, were held here Wednesday of this week in First African Baptist Church, with Dr. W. T. Johnson, pastor in charge. Interment was in Evergreen Cemetery.

Mr. Johnson, a reputedly self-made man, was born in Albemarle County, Virginia, February 14, 1840, and had attained the ripe age of 97, when he folded his arms in that sleep from which none ever wakes to weep.

Was pioneer Contractor

Mr. Johnson was one of the pioneers in the business world, having entered the contracting business during the dark and stormy days of reconstruction remaining active therein until a few years ago when he retired from active service because of injuries suffered in an accident.

Born and reared in slavery, Mr. Johnson saw his first experience on the battlefield as a body servant to his then “master.” Later, however, being a man of courage and initiative, he managed from the Confederate side to the Federal side when he escaped to a Yankee camp where he later served in the quartermaster corps of the Federal army. He took part in the bloody battles around Petersburg, Fort Harrison, Seven Pines, Danville and the famous battle of Manassas and was mustered out of the Federal service in Washington, in October, 1865.

Mr. Johnson has been an active member of the First African Baptist Church for 67 years; the Samaritans 65 years; Odd Fellows, 58 years; Masons, 58 years; Saint Lukes, 63 years and the National Ideals for sixteen years.

Buried With Masonic Rites

Full Mason honors were accorded this distinguished citizen as his funeral was conducted from First Baptist Church Wednesday at 2 p.m.

Mr. Johnson is survived by four daughters, Mrs. Ella Carrington, Mrs. Mamie Coleman, Mrs. Lavinia A. Banks, Mrs. Alice Johnson, and one son, W. I. Johnson, Jr. He is also survived by fourteen grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.” — The Richmond Planet

 

Sgt. Dillon Chavers Richmond National Copyright Nadia Orton 2016

Sgt. Dillon Chavers, Co. E, 5th Regiment, U. S. Colored Infantry. Richmond National Cemetery

 

“LAID TO REST – The funeral of D. J. Chavers, who died at his late residence 318 East Preston Street, took place Friday, October 15, at the Leigh Street M. E. Church, Fifth and Leigh Streets, at 2 P.M. Funeral Director A. Hayes was on time and the ceremonies at the church were simple and impressive. Rev. E. M. Mitchell, pastor, preached the funeral. On the rostrum were Rev. A. S. Thomas, D. D., Rev. W. E. Nash, Rev. S. C. Burrell, Rev. Evans Payne, D. D., Rev. T. J. King D.D.

The Scriptures were read by Rev. S. C. Burrell. Prayer was offered by Rev. A. S. Thomas, D. D. ‘Lead Kindly Light’ was sung by the choir. The call for Resolutions was answered by remarks eulogistic of the deceased, by Master Tilton of Friendship Lodge, No. 19 A. F. & A. M. He was a member of Venus Lodge, No. 46, Knights of Pythia. He had been a director of the Mechanics Savings Bank since its organization. Resolutions from that body were read by Vice-President Thomas M. Crump.

Rev. E. M. Mitchell sang a solo entitled ‘Home of the Soul.’ Ere the charming melody had died away, he began his text, which was from John 11:21.

‘Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here my brother had not died. He pictured the scene and the promise of the Savior that her brother would rise again.’ He dwelt upon the sterling qualities of the deceased and gave comfort to the weeping widow.

At the conclusion prayer was offered by Rev. T. J. King D. D. pastor of the Fifth Street Baptist Church. The choir sang. Funeral Director A. Hayes marshaled the pall bearers into line and the mourning throng filed out of the church. The Directors of the Mechanics Savings Bank attended the funeral in body. The casket was of finely carved oak and is known as the ‘State” casket. The funeral designs were numerous and costly. The pall-bearers were, honorary B. P. Vandervall, Col. Willis Wyatt, W. W. Hill, Dr. E. H. Jefferson, Dr. A. A. Tennant, Richard Davis, Christopher F. Foster, Ross Bolling. Active, Hezekiah Curtis, S. J. Gilpin, Thomas Liggon, J. W. Pryor, Dan Turner.

The remains were interred in the National Cemetery here. Arrangements had been made through Mr. Cosby Washington. The head stone will be 4855-A. Outside of this all that remains of D. J. Chavers has been swallowed up in that national grave yard to remain until the sounding of the last trump.” — The Richmond Planet

 

 

Cpl. Edward Stewart, Buffalo Soldier, Funeral – Richmond, Virginia 1938. Burial: Evergreen Cemetery

 

Edward Stewart, well known Richmond business man and first vice-president of the Southern Aid Society, was buried from the Second Baptist Church in Richmond Friday afternoon. The Rev. Joseph T. Hill officiated. Many Richmond businessmen and most of the executives of the Southern Aid Society attended the funeral. The picture above shows the pallbearers entering the church with the casket, covered by a large United States flag. The deceased man was formerly a member of the famed Tenth Calvary unit of the United States Army. The pallbearers are W. A. Jordan, Sr., William E. Randolph, John M. Moore, John Hall, B. A. Cephas, and Thomas Johnson.” — New Journal and Guide, January 8, 1938

 

Memorials to United States Colored Troops, Pt. 3 – Atlanta, Georgia

Memorials to United States Colored Troops

A photo-essay series dedicated to the United States Colored Troops, and how they were remembered in contemporary news media

Pt. 3

Atlanta, Georgia

South-View Cemetery

Grave of Cpl George “Union” Wilder – Co. F, 137th Regiment, U. S. Colored Infantry. The inscription includes his name, the symbol of three links, representing affiliation with the Order of Odd Fellows, his age, and “A soldier of the Civil War/was killed in the riot/ of Atlanta Sept. 26, 1906”

 

“One of the dead negroes killed in the Brownsville fight Monday night, and up to this time unknown, has been identified as George Wilder, 70 years old.” — Atlanta Journal Constitution, September 26, 1906

(Photo: Nadia K. Orton, February 15, 2012)

 

 

Grave of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, Chaplain, 1st. U. S. Colored Infantry

 

Bishop Henry McNeal Turner (1834-1915). Library of Congress

 

“The funeral of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, senior bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, who died at Windsor, Ontario, Canada, Saturday, May 8, will take place at Big Bethel Church, this city, on Wednesday, May 19. The remains will lay in state the day preceding the funeral. Nearly all of the bishops of the church, the general offices and many ministers are expected to be in attendance.

Bishop Turner was born in South Carolina in July, 1833. He learned his alphabet when he was nine years of age and while working for a firm of lawyers at Abbeville, S. C., was taught to read. He studied under the tutelage of his employers, history, literature and other subjects. When quite a young man he was ordained a minister of the M. E. Church, South. He later joined the African Methodist Episcopal Church and was appointed to a charge in Baltimore by the late Bishop Daniel A. Payne. While in Baltimore he studied languages and the higher branches.

First Colored Army Chaplain

During part of the Civil War he was pastor of what is now known as Metropolitan Church, Washington. President Lincoln appointed him the first colored chaplain in the Negro troops enlisted during the war. When the colored troops were established after the war, President Johnson appointed him a chaplain in the regular army. He soon resigned, however, and organized the work of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Georgia.

He was elected manager of the publication department of the church in 1876, serving until his elevation to the bishopric in 1880. He organized the work of the denomination in Africa, as well as annual conferences in this country. He had served as a member of the legislature in Georgia and of constitutional conventions in that state. He was considered one of the most forceful characters in his denomination.

Bishop Turner was married three times. His second wife was the late Mrs. Harriett Wayman, of Baltimore, widow of Bishop Alexander Wayman. His third wife, Mrs. Laura Lemon Turner, and two sons, Jonathan and David Turner, survive.” —The New York Age, May 13, 1915

 

Ledger grave of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner

“TURNER – Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, February 1, 1834-May 9, 1915 – Grandson of an African Prince/Bishop Presiding Elder, Pastor/Chaplain (U.S. Army), State Senator (Georgia)/Organizer and Builder of the/African Methodist Episcopal Church/In Georgia, West and South Africa/Missiologist, Publisher, Activist Theologian/And Heroic Christian/

Noble and Indomitable Spirit/Rest In Peace/May God Bless

Erected by the Women’s Missionary Society/Sixth District — A.M.E. Church/June 1996/Rev. Augusta H. Hall, Jr. Archivist/Mrs. Edith W. Ming, Supervisor/Bishop Donald G. K. Ming, Presiding Prelate/

 

“VAST HOST PAY TRIBUTE TO LATE BISHOP TURNER – Seldom has a larger crowd witnessed a funeral here than the one that saw the sad last rites paid to Bishop Henry M. Turner at Big Bethel A. M. E. Church today.

Bishops of the church, general officers and visiting ministers were here to pay a last tribute of respect to the man that organized the work in Georgia, but whose influence is seen in the work being done by denomination in West and South Africa and in various sections of the United States.

The services were conducted by Bishop James S. Flipper, of this city. He paid a splendid tribute to the life of the deceased prelate. Others taking part in the services included: Bishops C. S. Smith, Levi J. Coppin, William D. Chappelle, Joshua H. Jones, H. B. Parks, B. F. Lee, C. T. Shaffer and J. M. Conner. The following bishops were unable to be present: Evans Tyree, who is presiding over the sessions of the Philadelphia Conference at Dover, Del.; J. Albert Johnson, who is in South Africa; W. H. Heard who is in West Africa, and John Hurst, who is visiting the work of the denomination in South America and the West Indies.

Telegrams of condolence and resolutions from various religious bodies eulogized the deceased bishop.

Many were the tribute paid by prominent whites here when they heard that the prelate was dead.

As was told THE AGE last week, Bishop Turner died in Windsor , Ont.; on May 8. He was born in South Carolina 83 years ago, and enjoyed the distinction of having been the first colored man appointed to a chaplaincy in the United States Army. He was elected a bishop in 1880 and had his funeral occurred one day later it would have been on the thirty-fifth anniversary of his elevation to the episcopacy.” — The New York Age, May 20, 1915

(Photos: Nadia K. Orton, February 15, 2012)

The Descendants Corner: The Walker Family, Lincoln Memorial Cemetery

Lincoln Memorial Cemetery - Portsmouth, Virginia

Lincoln Memorial Cemetery – Portsmouth, Virginia

 

Guest post by Freda Walker Moore

 

My family and I would like to have this opportunity to honor our ancestors and to thank the Orton Family for their dedication to preserve the African American gravesites in the City of Portsmouth.

Last year, when my Dad, Frederick Walker, passed away, our family was conscious of previous years of neglect at Lincoln Cemetery. Recently, we learned that the Orton family is advocating for the preservation of the cemetery. They’ve chosen to take this arduous task and we are most grateful. When my Dad passed, the family and I were mindful of the number of Brothers and Sisters that he had eulogized at Lincoln Cemetery as well as many others. As a Mason Worship Leader, he was honored to serve in white apron and gloves and respected the passing of his Mason Brothers and Eastern Star Sisters who were being buried. Daddy solemnly and eloquently spoke the Orations over “many a gravesite.” The families of those Brethren were comforted with his passionate words. I can envision his say “….we are but a vapor.”

My father’s mother, Annie Newton, and her husband, Linwood Newton, are also buried at Lincoln. Mommie Annie served for many years as Secretary for her Eastern Star Lodge. Back in the day, Daddy Lin served as a Pianist who travelled to many Churches in Portsmouth and Suffolk. My mother’s parents are also buried at Lincoln – Ella Patterson and her husband, William Patterson. Pop served and was a Veteran in World War I. Before “Toot” passed away, we promised her that we would never sell her home. You see, when Pop passed away in ’59, it was difficult for our grandmother to maintain her house, but by God’s Grace, she was able to keep it.

When Pop was alive, he was called “The Mayor of Brighton.” He was a man literally “larger than life.” Upon his funeral, my grandmother, because of his size, had to have a custom made coffin shipped to Rogers Funeral Home for his burial. On the other side of the spectrum, during the Depression, Pop was able to make “loans” to many of his neighbors in Brighton. He and my grandmother hardly ever recovered any of those debts. Nevertheless, their efforts were not in vain. Don’t believe in Karma – just the goodness of the Lord.

When we read of the Orton family’s commitment from their loved one’s last wish (before she passed), we recognized that desire – to do good. (I) never expected this reverence – guess I was just used to the way families maintained their own families’ sites. The way Daddy would go on Memorial Day (until his health failed) and look after my grandmother’s site as well as others. There are many of our relatives, including our great-grandparents buried at Lincoln. They paved the way for their descendants – we honor them by taking care of their sites. We’re mindful that Daddy as well as our grandparents left the family a legacy of service. Our parents and grandparents have left us valuable treasures; perhaps not necessarily financially, but a lasting legacy of faith and endurance to sustain the generations. Lincoln Cemetery services as a reminder of their sacrifices. The name Lincoln itself is a reminder of how our ancestors remembered and honored their past. Once again, we want to celebrate and thank God for the Orton family’s service and dedication in showing that “Black Lives” really do matter.   ~ Respectfully submitted, Freda.