February 8, 2018

Old Graveyard in Stephens City

Perhaps I wouldn't have noticed this cemetery if the sun hadn't been shining right on it. I had left a gas station and was avoiding traffic by taking Mulberry Street when I saw it and stopped to take a look.

Some of the markers are broken or unreadable. I see on FindAGrave that the fence was erected by a Boy Scout as a project. That article shows stones leaning against a tree, but since then the tree has been cut down.

One thing I've noticed consistently is that old cemeteries belie the myth that people did not live long until recently. Here's a David Wilson who lived to be 80. The belief in short lives is based on averages that are skewed by a large number of childhood deaths, plus deaths from epidemics or women who died in childbirth. But if a person escaped all those, he could easily live to be 80 or more.

The town has changed names over the years, being called Stephensburg and Newtown before getting the current name of Stephens City.

"The Old Graveyard" is composed of town lots number 76 & 77, each a half acre in area. On January 17, 1799 they were sold by Lewis Stephens, Jr. to the following thirteen Trustees: David Wilson, William McLeod, William Elsea, Ebenezer Potter, Richard Barton, Joseph Fawcett, Jacob Leonard, Jacob Moires (Myers), David Mittinger, Lewis Stephens Jr., Bryan Martin Stephens, Henry Stephens, and Andrew Pitman. The deed read, "in behalf of the freeholders of the Town of Stephensburg." Both lots sold for the sum of 5 shillings and were described as being commonly called the graveyard and schoolhouse lots, suggesting that the property was already in use. prior to the dedication of the trustees.

   Inez Virginia Steele wrote 1906: "The dust of the first settlers rests in the graveyard, but being generally marked by common limestone rocks, their graves are not distinguishable." The Stephens family plot is in the southwest corner, adjacent to Mulberry Street. South of these graves is the older part of the cemetery referred to by Miss Steele in her book Methodism in the Early Days of Stephens City.  
The first house of worship in "Stephensburg" was built in the northwest corner of the cemetery. As described in 1850 by Pastor Rueben A. Funk, "This old log church ... was a homely structure with plain board pews and a common floor." Miss Steele further describes this structure as "the old schoolhouse, which stood on the northwest corner, having three windows looking east, west and south; they were about six feet wide and three feet high and were protected by board shutters. When light was required, these were propped up as high as possible by wooden sticks or pins. It was sometimes called the East Academy."

These ground are maintained by the Town of Stephens City.


  1. Interesting history
    Have a wonderful day!

  2. Thank you for the interesting history and beautiful photos. I really like the shadows you captured.

  3. I met a fellow whose hobby is fixing up areas like this in his county. Funds aren't available when there isn't family to be caretakers.

  4. A lovely little cemetery, especially in that light!

  5. ha...I've been struck by the ages-thing upon visiting an old cemetary, too... The striking thing, are all those tiny headstones of baby-Joe...died after three days.

  6. This looks like a really neat one. I like seeing pictures of old cemeteries.

  7. A lot of history there. It makes me think of those people buried there and wonder what their stories are.

  8. Great shots. I love visiting old cemeteries.

  9. Thank you, thank you, thank you...My name is Rosie Stevens Burt and I am a descendant of Peter Stephens..this is something that I have just recently discovered. Just imagine my surprise to find something tangible to connect me with family now long gone. Stephens City, Virginia . Land donated by my grandfather (×7) .. My family is planning a trip and I will definitely be looking for this cemetery along with the Peter Stephens Farm Cemetery. Thank you so much for the pictures...

    1. You're welcome! Sometimes I include names in my posts just in case someone is looking for an ancestor. It's great to hear from you!


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