Dear Ace: I was walking through the neighborhoods near Martha Jefferson Hospital, and I found a graveyard. What’s up with that?—Morbidly Confused
Dear Confused: The final resting place you refer to is Maplewood Cemetery. Officially established in 1827, it is Charlottesville’s oldest public cemetery, 3.6 acres of irregularly scattered gravesites and stones without any formal walkways or paths.
The first stop on Ace’s recent visit there was the oldest gravestone in town: Lettitia Shelby, wife of the first governor of Kentucky, who died in 1777 while visiting relatives. Before you ask the obvious question about a lady who was dead 50 years before the cemetery was designated, Ace has the answer: Lettitia was among the many whose headstones (and possibly remains) were moved from an informal cemetery on Park Street to their final final resting place at Maplewood after its public establishment.
In addition to the governor’s wife, Maplewood is the last stop for many of Charlottesville’s historical A-listers (but, inexplicably, not the Atkinses). These were the kind of people you might call “the woof and warp of the complex fabric of human existence,” as the Daily Progress Historical and Industrial magazine of 1906 did.
Regardless, Maplewood’s residents include notables like city benefactor Paul G. McIntire, Confederate Civil War heroes Brigadier General John Marshall Jones, Brigadier General Armistead Lindsay Long and Colonel John Bowie Strange. Add to that more than 100 unmarked Confederate graves, and veterans of both World Wars and the Spanish-American War.
Also there: some free black citizens of early Charlottesville, like Fairfax Taylor, an African-American civil rights activist who lobbied for equality for newly freed black citizens after the Civil War.
A few odd cases are buried in Maple-wood, too. Consider poor Job Foster, a performer in Robinson & Eldred’s Circus Company who was killed by an elephant while in town with the circus in 1851.
But perhaps, Morbidly, you write from anxiety. Is Maplewood the kind of place where, in the immortal words of Vincent Price, when “the midnight hour is close at hand/Creatures crawl in search of blood/ To terrorize y’all’s neighborhood”?
Ace couldn’t tell you. As darkness fell, he beat it out of there. He knows a dead end when he sees one!