Slave Cemetery

Slave Cemetery (HMFZT)

Location: Somerset, VA 22972 Orange County
Country: United States of America

N 38° 13.17', W 78° 10.369'

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Inscription

c. 1820s

The burial ground where you are standing is the final resting lace for many members of Montpelier's enslaved community. Slaves' belief in a spiritual world - originating in African religions - was reinforced by Christianity. This drawing shows slaves, in their "Sunday best," gathering for a burial. Clothing was one of the few ways available for slaves to express their individuality.

Stone Grave Marker
Some graves here were marked by the placement of field stone, but many had no markers. As a result, none of the gravesites can be associated with specific individuals. One slave, Sawney, who lived out his years at Montpelier, is likely buried here. In 1769 Sawney accompanied James Madison to college at Princeton. Back at Montpelier, he supervised a work crew that was responsible for several hundred acres of tobacco fields. In his final years he was a personal servant to Nelly Madison and was described by a family member as "the very picture of Time with his scythe."

3-D Image of Slave Cemetery
The Slave Cemetery is about one-half an acre in size with 38 visible grave depressions. Given that close to 200 slaves lived out their lives at Montpelier, the graves you are viewing represent just a small percentage of the total burials. Other unmarked cemeteries have been found at Montpelier and are likely additional slave burial grounds.

Grave Depressions Filled with Snow
The depressions, easily seen in this winter picture, are the result of coffins deteriorating and collapsing, allowing the soil above to settle. The Slave Cemetery was maintained by the enslaved community, who would have filled in these depressions as they appeared. The visible depressions mark the last burials, ones that would have settled after slavery was abolished.
Details
HM NumberHMFZT
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Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Monday, October 6th, 2014 at 6:43am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)17S E 747501 N 4233949
Decimal Degrees38.21950000, -78.17281667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 38° 13.17', W 78° 10.369'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds38° 13' 10.20" N, 78° 10' 22.14" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)540
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 53 Race Barn Rd, Somerset VA 22972, US
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