Lost Cemetery at UVa

By: Lisa Ferrari
By: Lisa Ferrari

August 5, 2005

Eighteen more graves have been found on UVa's expansion site. Officials originally thought the graves were part of a burial site of a free black slave family. But, now officials believe all of these remains are part of a "lost" 19th century cemetery.

"It is clearly more than a family cemetery and it's probably best to think of it more as a community or neighborhood cemetery given it's size and given it's organization," said Stephen Thompson, of the Rivanna Archaeology.

At least two distinct clusters of graves have been discovered on UVa grounds, making the total number 32, which archaeologists suggest may mean the graveyard is a "lost" cemetery. Historians said it's very unusual that a 19th century cemetery could have gone unnoticed for so long.

"I think it is surprising that it's been lost all this time but, as we're finding in a lot of the county and the city here there are little family graveyards and slave cemeteries throughout the county that are only just now being surveyed," said Douglas Dan, of the Charlottesville Historical Society.

The first graves of four adults and eight children were found on UVa grounds in 1993 and two more graves were found in May. To some, it's not surprising that 18 more graves were buried in the same area.

"In the early 1900's and before that, cemeteries were very different they weren't manicured like golf courses like the way they are now. It's not surprising that graves turn up in fields and in foundations where new houses are being built," said Dan.

But, we know very little information about who these people are and it seems it's going to stay that way. UVa has no plans to dig deeper and exhume any of these graves.

"We have no desire to. The University has no desire to. They simply want to locate the cemetery and space so that is can be preserved and that it can be avoided," said Thompson.

The University plans to memorialize the site and let them rest in peace.

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