They sang all six verses of “Amazing Grace,” the hundred or so neighbors and visitors who had gathered under gray skies to honor 24 men and women and one child who had died before the end of the Civil War. In life they had all been slaves whose final resting place was a patch of cleared earth about a mile from the master’s house in the small community of Quicksburg in the northern part of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.
That cemetery was long ago abandoned and had disappeared beneath brush, vines and spreading woods. A century or more may have passed since anyone last visited it. Those buried there seemed to be as forgotten as the place.
“A lost community was found here,” was how Sarah Kohrs, director of the newly named Corhaven Graveyard, explained it at the solemn dedication ceremony April 30. More than a year of hard work by several teams of volunteers had returned the burial ground to cleared land. “A cemetery is sometimes the only record left,” she said.
The lost graveyard was found when the nonprofit Coracle wanted to expand its property to include a stretch of nearby Holman Creek. The plan was to create longer walking trails through the woods and along the creek for those who come to Corhaven, as the retreat farm is known, seeking solace or sanctuary, alone or in groups. A 10-acre slice of a former 600-acre, 18th century plantation named Edge Hill was purchased several years ago.
It wasn’t until after the deed was signed that the Rev. Bill Haley, the facility’s executive director, and his wife, Tara, who live with their children at Corhaven, began to hear rumors that the new property contained a cemetery. Eventually, a search was launched and an area containing field stone markers and depressions in the earth was found. County records identified it as “Sam Moore’s slave cemetery.” Samuel Moore, a slave owner, bought Edge Hill in 1846.
The graveyard, one of only three known slave cemeteries in Shenandoah County, is now a part of what Corhaven has to offer. It is a quiet but welcoming place, down the hill and out of sight of the Haley’s home. A simple three-rail wood fence encloses the entrance, a walkway defined by rough mulch, and the burial ground. Plain wood benches are provided in the graveyard, where paths skirt the few markers that have survived as well as the graves laid out in several rows. A brass plaque identifies the graveyard and reads: “The names of the unknown souls buried here were not recorded. Yet we know the names of some of the enslaved persons who once labored long on this plantation. Some may lie here. We recognize their dignity. We honor their memory.”
A list follows: TOM, GEORGE, NAN & HER CHILD, JAMES, SAM, DOLL, JOHN, OLD NAN, SUE, REUBEN, MARY, JENNY, OLD JACK, SALL, WINNEY, TOBY, ANN AND OTHERS …