One of my favorite things about training to be a tour guide at Hollywood Cemetery was doing the research. I learned a ton from the older guides but in the end the kind of research I enjoyed doing was the obscure this-has-some-meaning-to-me kind which isn’t what I learned from other guides or a class. It’s what I learned doing my own research. So since I’ve officially left my position with the museum, citing that "the institutional culture no longer aligns with my core values" I am able to enter Hollywood and go exactly where I want to go.
I appreciate the histories of the individuals, those who were significant to many in their time but who are basically unknown today.
One of my favorite examples is the stunning gravestone of Elvira A. Bruce. Not only do I adore the Gothic architecture of the piece but it holds one of the best views of the James River. I would argue that Mrs. Bruce’s location is even better than Presidents Monroe or Tyler’s locations in President Circle.
Eldest daughter of Col. William Cabell, a plantation owner of Union Hill, Nelson County, Virginia, Elvira became the wife of Patrick Henry, Jr. (no relation to the famous Patrick Henry) on February 9,1804 in Amherst, Va. Within a year, Henry died. After 15 years, which seems practically unheard of for the time, she married James Bruce. When Bruce died in 1837, he was the third wealthiest man in America. James built the family fortune through a system of stores; he operated a series of wagon trains to supply his stores with goods. Between the years 1802-1837, he was the owner of twelve country stores, several flour mills, a fertilizer-plaster manufactory, a commercial blacksmith shop, several lumber yards, a cotton factory, and two taverns.
Elvira lived for a while at Woodbourne in Halifax County after James died.
Her marker is next to James Alexander Seddon, a Richmond lawyer; he was a United States Representative from Virginia from 1845 to 1847 and again from 1849 to 1851. He was a member of the Peace Convention held in Washington, D. C., in 1861, and when that effort failed he was elected as a Virginia Delegate to the Provisional Confederate Congress. He was appointed Secretary of War by Confederate President Jefferson Davis and served from 1862 to 1865. Arrested by Union forces in May 1865, he was imprisoned for seven months.