“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Lynchburg, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)

Old City Cemetery

(Old Methodist Cemetery)


—Lynchburg’s Oldest African-American Burial Ground —

Old City Cemetery Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, May 26, 2014
1. Old City Cemetery Marker
Inscription. This old burying ground, established in 1806, is where most of Lynchburg's African Americans were laid to rest in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As many as 75% of the estimated 20,000 people buried here are African-American.

This has always been a public cemetery, open to all citizens and “strangers” regardless of race or class. In fact, until White Rock Cemetery opened in the late 1880s, this was the only burial ground in the City open to black residents. Even as late as 1925, nine out of ten African Americans who died in Lynchburg were interred in the City Cemetery.

Before the end of the Civil War and Emancipation, virtually all of Lynchburg's enslaved and free blacks were buried here, in sections designated specifically for “colored” persons. Although slave-owners usually arranged and paid for their slaves’ burials, they allowed slaves special freedoms to attend funerals, conduct their own funeral ceremonies, and mark their own gravesites. The slave funerals held here were reported to be some of the largest gatherings of people of color in antebellum Lynchburg.

After 1865 the Cemetery’s burials and gravemarkers reflected the increasing diversity of Lynchburg’s African-American community. Tobacco factory laborers, porters, midwives, and laundresses were buried
Old City Cemetery Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, May 26, 2014
2. Old City Cemetery Marker
alongside college professors, politicians, ministers, and many other black institution-builders in the era of “separate but equal.”

Because of poor municipal management and record-keeping, and the resulting practice of overburying, Lynchburg City Council closed most of the Cemetery to further burials in 1925 and again in 1965, both times amid much controversy.

(upper left) A kneeling angel watches over the grave of little Emmett Hamilton Jefferson (1907-1909), a two year-old African-American child. Jefferson’s monument is the only statuary gravemarker in the Cemetery. Section 203

(lower left) Amelia Perry Pride (1857-1932), seated, with residents of the Dorchester Home for elderly black women. Pride and other alumnae of Hampton Institute established the Home in 1897. Buried in section 104

(upper center) A symbolically broken fife adorns the headstone of Blind Billy (c.1805-1855), a slave musician who played the fife for military parades and private parties. Section 102

(upper center) Cast-iron gravemarker (c.1900) of an African-American member of the Order of the Eastern Star fraternal society. Burial insurance was an important benefit of many such groups. Section 103

(upper right) Virginia Cabell Randolph (1876-1962) organized a popular “community house” for balck children at 812 Eighth Street. Buried in section 102

(lower right) Phillip Fisher Morris (c.1852-1923) was pastor of Court Street and Eighth Street Baptisit Churches and founder and first president of Virginia Theological Seminary and College. Buried in section 102
Erected 2003 by African American Heritage Trail of Central Virginia.
Location. 37° 24.942′ N, 79° 9.494′ W. Marker is in Lynchburg, Virginia. Marker can be reached from the intersection of Taylor Street and 4th Street. Click for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 401 Taylor Street, Lynchburg VA 24504, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. A different marker also named Old City Cemetery (a few steps from this marker); The Old Brick Wall (a few steps from this marker); Pest House Medical Museum (a few steps from this marker); Sinister Activities (within shouting distance of this marker); The Carl Porter Cato Rose Collection (within shouting distance of this marker); Gravestone Carvers in the Old City Cemetery (within shouting distance of this marker); Gravemarkers in the Old City Cemetery (within shouting distance of this marker); Cemetery Caretakers (within shouting distance of this marker). Click for a list of all markers in Lynchburg.
Also see . . .  Old City Cemetery. The Oldest Public Cemetery in Virginia Still in Use Today - Central Virginia's Most Unique Public Garden (Submitted on May 27, 2014.) 
Categories. African AmericansCemeteries & Burial Sites
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page has been viewed 457 times since then and 66 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on , by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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