Alumna takes care of sacred spaces – Duke Magazine

Thanks, Janine!

Nadia Orton ’98 made a pledge to document her family lineage. It’s turned into a mission to preserve disappearing and discarded history

Nadia Orton ’98 steps carefully around concrete vaults and sunken spots where pine caskets have collapsed inside century- old graves, her knee-high camo boots laced tight.

“I’ve had snakes and stray dogs come out of holes like that,” Orton says, nodding at a grave split in two by a fallen tree branch. Her family insists on the snake boots, a walking stick, a companion.

They tell her, “We know you love history, but you’re not supposed to be part of it yet.”

So the boots are always in the car. So are the thin purple gardening gloves she pulls on to protect her hands from her own impatience to sweep aside pine needles and poison ivy and run a finger over the engravings there, thinned by weather and time.

It is cool out, but still Orton has had to stay home and rest up for five days in order to muster the energy for this tour of Oak Lawn, an unmarked black cemetery in Suffolk, Virginia. The lupus that dogged her at Duke is dragging on her still, after kidney failure and dialysis, and finally a transplant, but it was also her lupus that led her on this quest to preserve black and African-American gravesites. Continue reading

Richmond, Virginia: Finding an African American Civil War veteran, Evergreen Cemetery

Enlistment record of Pvt. William H. Payne, Company D, 117th U. S. Colored Infantry

We’ve verified another African American Civil War veteran in Evergreen Cemetery, Pvt. William H. Payne of Company D, 117th Regiment, U. S. Colored Infantry. Born in Richmond, Virginia, William enlisted at the age of 22 on April 8, 1865, five days after the city fell to Union forces. He mustered out on August 10, 1867, at Brownsville, Texas. William passed away on November 18, 1911, and was interred in Evergreen Cemetery on November 20, 1911. I’ll know a bit more about him once I finish reviewing his pension file.

Tales from the East End: The obituary of Elisha Mayo, Evergreen and East End Cemeteries

**Elisha Mayo originally researched and documented in the East End Cemetery database on Find-a-Grave, July 31, 2015**

Elisha Mayo (1837-1915)

In Memoriam – Mayo – The record of a faithful life, though it may have no place in written history, will always be enshrined in hearts its faithfulness has touched and so, moved to the expression of a single tribute to such an one, we pronounce at the bier of an old and honored servant this encomium to his fidelity, from which, along the humble path he trod so many years he never wavered. ELISHA MAYO, or “Uncle Elisha,” was born April 10, 1837, and died at his home in this city June 4, 1915. His parents, Samuel and Fannie Mayo, were slaves, and were wedding gifts to Mr. and Mrs. E. A. Blanton, Sr., of Amelia County, Va., parents of Mr. T. L. Blanton, of this city, in whose employ “Uncle Elisha” was for many years, and up to the time of his death, and who joins in this memorial to his valued and trusted servant. Elisha was twice married, and left surviving him seven children, namely Walter L. Mayo, Ella Mayo Price, Mary Mayo Rogers, Bettie Mayo Kemp, Edmonia Mayo Brown, Grandison Mayo and Frank J. Mayo. Of many of those to whom he ministered in the days now long gone, and who have passed into the beyond, it may doubtless be said that in his latter days, when his head was “bending low,” he “heard their gentle voices calling him, as in the days “before the war.” And so, full of years, he has passed peacefully from an humble, though well-spent earthly, life to that reward that knows neither race nor class nor creed. X X X.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, June 21, 1915; Richmond Planet, June 26, 1915
Continue reading