“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Montpelier Station in Orange County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)

Slave Cemetery

c. 1820s

Slave Cemetery Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 6, 2009
1. Slave Cemetery Marker
Inscription. The burial ground where you are standing is the final resting lace for many members of Montpelier's enslaved community. Slaves' belief in a spiritual world - originating in African religions - was reinforced by Christianity. This drawing shows slaves, in their "Sunday best," gathering for a burial. Clothing was one of the few ways available for slaves to express their individuality.

Stone Grave Marker
Some graves here were marked by the placement of field stone, but many had no markers. As a result, none of the gravesites can be associated with specific individuals. One slave, Sawney, who lived out his years at Montpelier, is likely buried here. In 1769 Sawney accompanied James Madison to college at Princeton. Back at Montpelier, he supervised a work crew that was responsible for several hundred acres of tobacco fields. In his final years he was a personal servant to Nelly Madison and was described by a family member as "the very picture of Time with his scythe."

3-D Image of Slave Cemetery
The Slave Cemetery is about one-half an acre in size with 38 visible grave depressions. Given that close to 200 slaves lived out their lives at Montpelier, the graves you are viewing represent just a small percentage of the total burials. Other unmarked cemeteries have been found at Montpelier and are likely additional
Slave Cemetery Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 6, 2009
2. Slave Cemetery Marker
slave burial grounds.

Grave Depressions Filled with Snow
The depressions, easily seen in this winter picture, are the result of coffins deteriorating and collapsing, allowing the soil above to settle. The Slave Cemetery was maintained by the enslaved community, who would have filled in these depressions as they appeared. The visible depressions mark the last burials, ones that would have settled after slavery was abolished.
Location. 38° 13.17′ N, 78° 10.369′ W. Marker is in Montpelier Station, Virginia, in Orange County. Marker is on Race Barn Road, on the right when traveling north. Click for map. Located in the African American Slave in the Montpelier Estate. Marker is in this post office area: Montpelier Station VA 22957, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The African American Cemetery (a few steps from this marker); Mount Pleasant c. 1750s (about 700 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Madison Family Cemetery (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Quarters (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Road (approx. mile away); Homes for Enslaved Families (approx. mile away); The Backyard (approx. mile away); Madison Farm Complex (approx. mile away). Click for a list of all markers in Montpelier Station.
Also see . . .
Area of the Cemetery image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain
3. Area of the Cemetery
Depressions in the ground indicate the burial sites.
 Slave Cemetery. Page from the Montpelier web site. (Submitted on November 5, 2009, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.) 
Categories. African AmericansCemeteries & Burial Sites
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,200 times since then and 66 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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