As I noted in my last post, this week I went to Old City Cemetery in Lynchburg, Virginia.
"I consider [Lynchburg] as the most interesting spot in the state."
~ Thomas Jefferson
Lynchburg is about two hours from my home and this was the first time that I have been here since I was a kid. My phone’s weather app predicted that there was a 30% chance of rain that morning. After my drive there was a 60% chance. I was caught in a downpour but somehow that added to this visit.
Established in 1806, this cemetery was open to all residents. About 75% of the burials were African-Americans. There were several self-guided tour brochures to choose from including Roses, Shrubs, Butterflies, Medicinal Herbs, Birds, and Trees: A Horticulture Guide; A Quick Guide to Gravestones in the Old City Cemetery: Their History, Art and Symbolism; A Quick Guide to Black History in the Old City Cemetery, etc. One of the impressive aspects of this cemetery is that there was a self-guided African-American history tour. I opted for that one because I really wanted to see a particular grave which I’ll discuss in a later post.
My first stop because it just so happened that that was a convenient place to leave my car was the Hearse House and Caretakers’ Museum. This museum contains the hearse owned by W. D. Diuguid Funeral Home. This hearse is gorgeous and in beautiful condition considering its age. Diuguid Funeral Home has been in business since 1817 which makes it the oldest funeral home in the state and the second oldest funeral home in the country. Interesting enough, the funeral home “was started by chance and not by design.” Sampson Diuguid made fine furniture. Because of this, he was often asked to make caskets for local town members.
Per the traditions of the time, this hearse would have included horses that corresponded with the service. White horses would have been used to pull the hearse for children and black horses would have been used to pull the hearse for adults. Of course, that is *if* one could actually afford such a luxury. The second hearse on display isn’t exactly a hearse but a horse-drawn wagon made by Thornhill Wagonworks. Most of the individuals buried in Old City Cemetery would have used the basic wagon which was also used by the grounds crew to move their tools.
Family members were responsible for the maintenance of the plots of their loved ones until 1866 when a superintendent was hired by the city for $100 per year to take care of the Confederate Section. The role of caretaker expanded from the first days the first caretaker Benjamin S. Fortune was hired. After that the role started to include digging graves and maintaining the grounds. In 1880, caretakers were living on-site at the cemetery with the first caretaker in-residence as John T. Mason. Even with these caretakers, some of whom were notorious for not doing any work in the cemetery for months and sometimes years at a time, the cemetery was not in the pristine condition that it is today. In fact, it is so well-organized I even purchased some of their honey from their bee hives.