One of the great things about living in a section of the country that has a long history is all the old stuff. Seriously, where I grew up, in what we referred to as the "historic" section of town, the oldest building there was from around 1950. Not that the city didn't exist before then; they just tend to knock stuff down there rather than to try and restore it.
But even out here, progress (or what counts for progress) marches on too and old farms make way for new strip malls like evolution says they must. But since old farms often also have family cemeteries attached to them, not everything can go.
Monica and I happened upon an example of this one day a couple of weeks ago as we out foraging for computer parts and free Slurpies. It might be the tiniest cemetery I've ever seen, with but two headstones.
|Just a few yards to the right of this frame is a Starbucks.|
Armistead T. Thompson was a Southern soldier who was captured and held at a Union prison camp. He died of typhoid and was buried there but in the 1880s, his father went to Point Lookout and brought his body back to be buried in the family graveyard.
It was harder to find information about the second stone, Amana Abigail Tobin.
|Amana Abigail Tobin|
Apr 4, 1876
Feb 1, 1904
The lost in sight are to memory dear
I did a little research and came up with this story about how the cemetery ended up in the parking lot of a Starbucks and a Safeway.
No one knows for sure how many bodies are buried there. Sources mention anywhere from nine to 70. Today, there are only two headstones visible, one for three members of a branch of the family known as the Tobins, the other for Armistead, the Civil War veteran. Other graves might have been marked with simple fieldstones that were taken by vandals or used to fill depressions in the road.
We can't say for sure when the first body went into the ground at the Thompson family cemetery. It might have been a veteran of the War of 1812 named Ethan Allen (not that Ethan Allen). What's clear is that when Lawson Turner Thompson died in 1886, his will left a half-acre of land to his heirs for use as a cemetery.
After that, it's a familiar story: What had been rural slowly became anything but. Various members of the Thompson clan sold bits of their land to developers. In the 1920s and 1930s, Lee Highway was widened, nibbling away at the cemetery. In 1973, construction started on the Pan Am Shopping Center. Developers wanted to disinter all the remains and move them to another cemetery to make way for the parking lot.
The Thompsons fought back, persuading a judge to block the shopping center's action. Twice since then, the Virginia Department of Transportation has wanted to encroach on the graveyard to add lanes to Lee Highway. In 1979, 63-year-old Alfred Thompson was arrested after sitting in a lawn chair in the cemetery to block a bulldozer. He vowed to be buried there when his time came.
The last recorded burial was in July 1918. That means the lawn chair-sitting, bulldozer-defying Alfred Thompson must be buried somewhere else, right? Nope. He isn't buried anywhere. He is 95 years old and living in Falls Church.
"I did want to be buried there," Alfred told Answer Man. But he changed his mind. "I just thought it would be kind of lonesome down there." Most of Alfred's contemporaries are buried at Fairfax City Cemetery. That's where Audrey, his wife of 68 years, was buried just last year. And that's where he'll go.
Alfred said he knows some might wonder why his family has gone to so much trouble over a bunch of dead relatives, but he likes the result. "What it is is a little green oasis floating in a sea of asphalt," Alfred says of the graveyard in a shopping center.
I kind of love Alfred, you know?