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Parish History Notes 18: The Cemetery

In the few cities and towns that existed in colonial Virginia, churchyards were used as the final resting places for distinguished citizens, paupers, and all between. Outside of the population centers, though, Virginia’s economic and social life revolved around the farms and plantations, and each family would maintain its own graveyard on its own property. This tradition continued as common practice through much of the nineteenth century. Church burials became more common with the advent of the memorial parks, such as Hollywood in Richmond, and the trend toward community graveyards continued as properties were less likely to be held by multiple generations of the same family.

The earliest stone at Fork Church, at least the first that we know of, marks the grave of Capt. Thomas Price, born Oct. 29, 1754, died December 21, 1836. Capt. Price lived at Coolwater, where he raised 12 children with his wife Barbara Winston Price. Thomas, Barbara and at least one daughter, Ann Price Callis, are interred inside the brick wall on the east end of the church structure. Another daughter, Elizabeth Randolph Price, is buried in the Dabney lot.

Even though the cemetery became an integral part of the Fork Church landscape, families were expected to maintain their own lots. In about 1918 Heyward Hunter assumed responsibilities for the common maintenance of the property. With financial help from Thomas Nelson Page, grass was planted uniformly and graveled walkways were placed. Rev. Philip Mason established a separate cemetery fund, and in 1959 the first certificates of lot ownership were issued.

Today the cemetery is divided into 20 sections, with additional space for expansion to the East and South. Section 5 defines the area dedicated to unknown Confederate soldiers. Section 14 exists on some maps, but has never been used. There are just under 500 known burials, with about 290 lots unused and another 111 unsold.

Erratum:

To correct a sentence in Parish History Notes #18, it is not known where Elizabeth Randolph Price (1784-1873) is buried.  It is a later descendent, Elizabeth Price Dabney (1854-1925), who is interred with the Dabneys. Thank you to Mrs. Nancy Houston of Charlottesville for spotting my error.