A few days ago, our family visited the grave of Pvt. Josephus Riddick (1844-1925), of Company E, 1st Regiment, U. S. Colored Cavalry. The concrete headstone stands about three feet tall, and contains the inscription, “husband of Mary Riddick,” perhaps carved by hand or pressed into the cement before it set. The marker is in very good condition considering its age, and was most likely made by someone skilled in working with the material. I wanted to take a picture of the gravestone without the vine obscuring the inscription, so we wet the stone face with a few bottles of water to loosen the vine’s roots, then carefully snipped it away. Due to the heat, it didn’t take long for the stone to dry. As a rule, we generally try to do as little as possible to a gravestone, but may return soon to remove the rest of the biological growth, as it contains acids that may further damage the stone.
All photos by Nadia K. Orton (unless otherwise noted). All rights reserved.
Over the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend, our family visited Shepherdsville Baptist Church, established in the late 1800s, near the community of Ark in Gloucester County, Virginia. It was a stop on one of our regular trips to historic sites along Highway 17, a mostly coastal, multi-state route we’d begun exploring in 2009, soon after relocating from Richmond, Virginia, to lower Tidewater to help preserve an ancestral cemetery, the Mt. Calvary Cemetery Complex (1879). Part of that preservation effort includes my ongoing study of the over 100 Civil War veterans buried in the eleven-acre cemetery, the majority of whom were enslaved prior to 1863. These men had all escaped to various Union lines from North Carolina to Washington, D.C., to fight for freedom against the “peculiar institution” of slavery. Representing over one dozen regiments, I’ve found that many served in the 36th Regiment, formerly, the 2nd North Carolina Colored Infantry, and that some had Gloucester County roots. The goal of this particular cemetery visit was to see the gravesite of Rev. Frank Page (1844-1916), who served with Company I of the 36th USCT.