Posts Tagged ‘cemeteries’

Draymen and Drayage

A drayman at Bethel Burying Ground*

“Drayage was vital to a seaport town. Tons of merchandise were transported to and from the surrounding countryside, and between wharves and mercantile houses. Even firewood and drinking water were brought into the borough….A run-down horse and a makeshift cart were the minimum necessity for getting started. The established draymen usually owned at least two horses, or mules, and several carts and wagons. The work of these proud, independent men caused them to travel throughout southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina and they established contacts with some of the most prominent merchants in the area.”
Tommy L. Bogger, Free Blacks in Norfolk, Virginia, 1790-1860: The Darker Side of Freedom. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press. 1997, p. 67

“A visitor to Norfolk in 1828 called drayage ‘the business of the negroes’ … In addition, a historian labeled drayage as ‘the only occupation in which Norfolk’s free blacks faced no competition from whites.’ But a close investigation reveals that whites had begun to enter that field between 1850 and 1860. Economic considerations disposed them once again to seek employment in a traditionally black field.”
Bogger, p. 69

*Efforts to memorialize the cemetery have been sponsored by the Bethel Burying Ground Project. Locate the photograph by putting these terms in the Google search box — “black drayman” “bethel burying ground” — with the quotation marks.

The cemetery’s nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places is 70 pages long and has lots of photographs and maps.

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“Laurel Cemetery (1852-1958) existed for over 100 years as a nonsectarian cemetery for Baltimore’s African American community. In its early years, it was a premier burial site for people across Black Baltimore’s socioeconomic spectrum. However, years of improper maintenance led to the eventual demolition of the site in 1958. Today, the Belair-Edison Crossing shopping center occupies the footprint of the old cemetery.

“In spring 2014, University of Baltimore and Coppin State University professors initiated the Laurel Cemetery project as an inter-institutional project for students interested in cultural resource management, history, archaeology, and environmental sustainability. Through archaeological excavation, faculty and student researchers found conclusive evidence of existing burials. Their current efforts focus on public education, research into the lives of those buried at the site, and the erection of a memorial to recognize the burial ground.”

The above is excerpted from the Laurel Cemetery Memorial Project website. Resources on the site include maps, photographs, presentations and programs on YouTube, and a list of burials including those of U.S. Colored Troops.

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“Under pressure from the black community, in 1873 the City of Norfolk designated an area of the city specifically for African American burials. Black city councilman and Union war veteran James E. Fuller proposed it be named West Point Cemetery in 1885, and asked the city council to dedicate a section of the cemetery to his fellow black Civil War veterans. This resulted in the cemetery’s most distinguished feature, as well as a prominent example of African Americans exercising newfound political power during Reconstruction: a grouping of 58 headstones of African American Union Civil War soldiers and sailors, and a monument dedicated to their service. It took over 30 years for the money to be raised for the monument, which was completed in 1920, one of only a few similar known monuments in the South. The model for the soldier featured atop it was Norfolk native Sgt. William H. Carney. The 14-acre cemetery also contains a Potter’s Field, or burying ground for the indigent, of 55 headstones that predate the formal establishment of West Point by 30 years; an 1876 mausoleum for a local mason; and several family plots.”

Donna Bluemink and Tim Bonney created a database of West Point Cemetery burials. Their sources included the City of Norfolk Register of Deaths, 1852-1897, St. Mary’s Parish Records, and obituaries.

National Register of Historic Places — Final Nomination Form — West Point Cemetery — #122-5181
includes these facts:
“When federal policy allowed the Union army to enlist blacks, Norfolk was one of the few major cities in the South where blacks could be recruited because the area had been re-occupied by Union forces. After the Conscription Act of 1863 went into effect, northern recruiters flocked to Norfolk and offered bonuses of $300 to blacks who were willing to serve as substitutes for white draftees. The large amount of money that local blacks received led to the establishment of a bank for freedmen in Norfolk and it served as a model for freedmen’s banks in other cities.1 In addition to local blacks serving in northern units, they enlisted in the 1st and 2nd Cavalry Regiments on the peninsula, and the 36th, 37th, and 38th Infantry
Regiments which were organized in Norfolk and Portsmouth. About 1200 local blacks served. They distinguished themselves at the battles of Chaffin Farms, New Market Heights, Fair Oaks, Dutch Gap, and the sieges of Petersburg and Richmond. Many were cited for bravery and awarded medals.”

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The Isle of Wight County, Virginia website hosts this map and several others. You have the option to click on this image.

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Cemeteries in the Northern states are burial sites for troops and officers of the U.S. Colored Troops.

“The Lowell Cemetery was conceived by a group of prominent Lowell citizens in 1840 as a private, non-sectarian, non-profit cemetery corporation. [It] emphasized the physical beauty of the surroundings and created a restful sanctuary for those contemplating the departed. …

“The Cemetery was dedicated on June 20, 1841, at a time when there were no parks in Lowell, and it soon became a place of refuge for outdoor pleasures such as strolling and bird watching amid shrubs and flowers close to the city.”

“Lowell Cemetery” ( https://www.lowellcemetery.com/ ), accessed May 24, 2021

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“In addition to interments made from the military hospitals at and near Fort Monroe, cemetery burial records in 1868 indicated that remains had been brought to the Hampton National Cemetery from the military posts of Fort Monroe; Big Bethel in Elizabeth City County (now the city of Hampton); Newport News in Warwick County; Jamestown in James City County; Craney Island, Deep Creek, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Blackwater in Norfolk County; Smithfield in Isle of Wight County; Suffolk in Nansemond County and Cherry Stone in Northampton County.” This text is from the  National Register of Historic Places – Final Nomination Form – Hampton National Cemetery – Hampton, Virginia – #114-01480, page 14.

“The great number of sick and wounded soldiers during the Civil War resulted in numerous military hospitals being set up near battle sites. A 1,800-bed military hospital was established at Fort Monroe, near Hampton. Although the Fort Monroe hospital was better staffed and organized than many Civil War hospitals, the mortality rate was high. Consequently, burials at Hampton National Cemetery included many soldiers who died at Fort Monroe and other military hospitals in the vicinity. Although burials began at the cemetery in 1862, it was not classified by the U.S. Government as a national cemetery until 1866. The legal transfer of 4.749 acres for the cemetery did not occur until 1868.”
National Cemetery Administration: Hampton National Cemetery


Was your person of interest buried in a national cemetery?
Try grave locator on the National Cemetery Administration website. This database includes all national cemeteries.

Was your person of interest buried at Hampton National Cemetery?
Find A Grave volunteers have photographed 95% of the gravestones at Hampton National Cemetery.

See also the website Lest We Forget: African American Military History by Historian, Author, and Veteran Bennie McCrae, Jr. for “United States Colored Civil War Veterans and A White Officer.” It’s a database of burials at Hampton National Cemetery.  Mr. McCrae is an Associate Member, Sargeant Elijah P. Marrs Camp #5, Department of Kentucky, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.  He edited and posted images of gravestones that were photographed, researched and submitted by John Hall, Graves Registration Officer, Colonel James Brady Camp #63, Department of Maryland, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. Enter “Hampton National Cemetery” in the search box on his website’s main page and you can access each segment within the database.

Interested in other burial grounds?
Scroll to the bottom of Mr. McCrae’s website and click on “Resting Places” for more sources.


Keep in mind, these are just some of the possibilities. Veterans were buried in local cemeteries, churchyards and family property. Those who died sick and destitute were buried in hospital and almshouse graveyards. I’ve come across one burial at sea. It’ll be posted soon.

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The soldier was born in Norfolk, Virginia, enlisted in that city in December 1863, and died of cerebo-spinal meningitis in Portsmouth, Virginia on January 31, 1865. He was buried at Hampton National Cemetery.

— Compiled military service records of volunteer Union soldiers who served with the United States Colored Troops [microform]: 1st through 5th United States Colored Cavalry, 5th Massachusetts Cavalry (Colored), 6th United States Colored Cavalry (1997). Reel 0014 – 1st United States Colored Cavalry: Tines, Archer – Wheldon, Charles M. (online at  https://archive.org/details/compiledmili0014akesunit/mode/2up). Anderson Toyan’s CMSR can viewed at (n112 – n116).


Mother — 454,805 / 463,669, Lucinda Toyan


Declaration for Mother’s Pension, Lucinda Loyan, 18 July 1890
60 years old; residence, Perquimans Co., North Carolina; post-office address, Belvidere, Perquimans Co., N.C.
“He left neither widow, child nor children, but a dependent mother — Lucinda Loyan who received his bounty under Certificate 289,351 on August 5, 1873 at Fort Monroe, Va.”


Claimant’s Affidavit, Lucinda Loyan alias Twine, 17 April 1896
“The claimant states that her correct name is Lucinda Twine & that her son’s name should be Anderson Twine. She states that she cannot read or write herself. [When she received Certificate 289,351 and her son’s bounty at Fort Monroe] and when her application for pension was wrote, she did give that certificate to the man who wrote it …. said that the man who enrolled her son must have made a mistake and put his name Loyan instead of Twine for the name on the certificate was Lucinda Loyan so he made out her application for pension by that name”


General Affidavit, Josephus Riddick, 18 July 1896
post-office address, Nicanor, Perquimans Co., N.C.
“I was not in the same company but I was in the same Reg’t and in Co E.
“We were raised near together and I knew him well.”


General Affidavit, Benjamin Hurdle, 13 April 1897
54 years old; post-office address, Belvidere, Perquimans Co., NC
“I was acquainted with Anderson Twine …”


General Affidavit, Dempsey Elliott, 26 May 1897
post-office address, Suffolk, Nansemond Co., Va.
“I was a Sergnt. in Company D, 1st Reg USCC  and I knew Anderson Twine who was a member of said company and Reg. I knew that he was sick and died in Portsmouth, Va. in the winter time of 1864.”


General Affidavit, Lucinda Twine, 12 June 1897
“To the Hon. Commissioner of Pensions, Washington, DC — Sir, I beg to state that I, Lucinda Twine, the above named claimant has from this day changed my post-office address from Belvidere, Perquimans, North Carolina to Dewight, Perqs Co., N.C. hoping if there should be any mail matter sent to me at any time from the department that it may be sent to that office & oblige your humble servant.”
[The scribe wrote “Dewight” but it’s “Dwight, Perquimans County, North Carolina” — Leslie]


General Affidavit, Acwell Jones, 22 March 1897
post-office address, 723 Blunt Street, Portsmouth, Norfolk Co., Va.
“I was acquainted with Anderson Twine and was in the same Company and Regiment …. I waited upon him during the sickness that brought on his death. I was 3d duty sergeant at the time of his death … and saw his body after death and recognized it.”

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The widowed veteran was almost twenty years older than his second wife. Both were born in York County, Virginia. He was buried at Hampton National Cemetery.

— Compiled military service records of volunteer Union soldiers who served with the United States Colored Troops [microform]: 1st through 5th United States Colored Cavalry, 5th Massachusetts Cavalry (Colored), 6th United States Colored Cavalry (1997). Reel 0003 – 1st United States Colored Cavalry: Casey, Thomas – Davenport, John J. (online at http://www.archive.org/details/compiledmili0003akesunit).  Cheesmans’s CMSR can be viewed at n287-n310.


Widow — 1,022,930 / 776,313, Elizabeth Cheesman


Marriage License, William Cheesman & Elizabeth Fitchett, 21 February 1884
Elizabeth City County, Virginia
ages, 45 years old and 27 years old, respectively; husband’s and wife’s condition, widowed and single; birthplace, York Co., Va.; residence, Elizabeth City Co., Va.; husband’s parents, Sambo Cheeseman & Phillis Cheeseman; wife’s parents, Joseph and Ann Fitchett; occupation, farmer


Questionnaire, William Cheesman, October 1897
[married] I am a married man, Elizabeth Fidget, maiden; now Elizabeth Cheesman
[when, where, by whom] about 1875 in York County, Va.; Rev. Nash, pastor of Bethel Church, York County, Va.
[marriage record] by licenses filed in Elizabeth City County
[previously married] blank
[living children] Noveller Cheesman, two years old; Esteller Cheesman, five years old; Albert Cheesman, eight years old; Howard Cheesman, fifteen years old; Edward Cheesman, twenty-one years old


Notarized Statement, Elizabeth White & Ella Carter, 18 April 1914
55 and 51 years old, respectively; both reside in Elizabeth City County, Va.; both post-office addresses, Hampton, Va.
“They were personally acquainted with Nancy Cheesman, deceased, wife of William Cheesman, deceased, and that they attended her funeral; that she was buried by undertaker Andrew Toliver, and was buried at the grave yard on Frazier’s Farm in the County of Elizabeth City, Virginia, that said William Cheesman was married once before he was married to Elizabeth Cheesman, the applicant, and that his former wife Nancy Cheesman, died before his marriage to the claimant, that the claimant lived together as husband and wife, from the time of their marriage until the death of the soldier, William Cheesman, and that the claimant has never re-married since the death of the soldier.”


Notarized Statement, Laura Brown, 18 May 1914
47 years old; residence, York County, Va.; post-office address, Box 88, RFD No. 2, Hampton, Virginia
“That she has known Elizabeth Cheesman, the claimant since she was a small girl, before she became of marriageable age, that she went to school with her and has lived near her nearly all of her life. That the said Elizabeth Cheesman was never married before she was married to the soldier, William Cheesman, having known him since she was a very young girl. That when she first became acquainted with him he was married to Nancy Cheesman, his former wife, that the said Nancy Cheesman died over thirty years ago; that said Elizabeth Cheesman lived with said William Cheesman until his death as his wife; that said Elizabeth Cheesman has not re-married since the said of the said William Cheesman.”

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The book Inscriptions in Triumph: Tombstone Inscriptions from the African American Cemeteries of Mt. Calvary, Mt. Olive, Fisher’s Hill, and Potter’s Field, Portsmouth, Virginia by Mae Breckenridge-Haywood and Dinah Walters (Author House, 2001) lists hundreds of interments and transcriptions from Portsmouth’s early African American burial grounds. It includes a selected number of photographs. Many burials were published on USGenWeb Archives Virginia.

Mrs. Breckenridge-Haywood is the former librarian of I.C. Norcom High School in the City and President of the African American Historical Society of Portsmouth, Virginia, Her advocacy for the preservation and promotion of African American history includes coordinating volunteer efforts to protect these cemeteries.

Thank you, Mae, for your dedication and hard work!


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Even an application for pension benefits as an Invalid can be a source of useful genealogical and community information.


Invalid — 729,437 / 531,419


General Affidavit, Thomas Riddick, 17 March 1890
50 years old; post-office address, Portsmouth …”That is well acquainted with Cyrus Washington being a member of the same company with him and while in the line of his duty at Texas he became effected [sic] with deafness and partial loss of sight which disability has continued to the present time and I believe him to incapacitated to perform hard manual labor to the extent of at least one half.”


General Affidavit, John Betsy, 3 January 1891
78 years old; post-office address, 709 County St., Portsmouth, Va….”I know Cyrus Washington well. We live near neighbors and see him every day. We know that he is a great suffering with his eyes and is also deaf.”


General Affidavit, Benjamin Jenkins, 3 January 1896
51 years old, post-office address, 709 County St., Portsmouth, Norfolk County, Virginia …. “I was in company & Regiment with Cyrus Washington. He was a sound man when he went into the army. I live near neighbor to him now and see him every few days. He suffers much. His eyes and is partially blind and almost deaf. At times he is unable to see or hear without using the voice very loud. His general health is fast going away and he is not able to work one half the time or to earn the half that a well man can earn.”


Statement, Thomas Riddick, 14 May 1899
“Shortly after we arrived at Brazos Santiago, Texas, Comrade Cyrus Washington was taken sick and sent to General Hospital at New Orleans, La. and did not return to his company till it was ready to be mustered out. We arrived in Texas in the summer of 1865, but I cannot tell the date that Washington became sick, or when he was sent to hospital. I know that he did not stay in Texas long.”


Deposition, Cyrus Washington, 19 June 1902
“I am about 70 years old; occupation, laborer; residence, cor of Godwin & Columbus Street, Portsmouth, Norfolk County, Virginia … “I was born in Sussex County as a slave to Spencer Pleagand [?] (dec’d). My father’s name was Cyrus Washington and he was a slave to a man name Wm. Harvey (dec’d). My mother’s name was Sylvia – but I can’t tell you her last name. I was called after my father. My full and correct name is Cyrus Washington and I have never been known under any other name.

“I was about grown but I can’t give you an idea how old I was when I enlisted. I enlisted at Fortress Monroe, Va. I can’t tell you the year or what time of year. I was stripped and given a thorough physical examination at enlistment and was sworn in at the Fort. I don’t remember the name of the recruiting officer for I volunteered.

“I was discharged at City Point, Va. after we came back from Texas, after the fall of Richmond along towards the Spring. I was mustered out at Brazos Santiago, Texas. I can’t give dates nor tell you how long I was in the service but I enlisted for three years. Don‘t think I was in the service quite three years.

“Immediately after discharge I went on the Bayes farm near Hampton, Va. and remained there a year, then I went to Bowers Hill for a year and have lived in this locality ever since.

“I have my original discharge certificate which should show you (Exhibited but ink on certificate is so faded as to render the writing thereon illegible.)”

“Q.  What was the title of the commanding officer of the regiment?
A. Colonel Cole. Major Seipp was next.

Q. Didn’t you have a Lt. Co.?
A. Yes, I think so but I forget.

Q. Who ranked next below Major?
A. Captain Whiteman
1st Lt. ranked next … Hart
2nd Lt. ranked next …. Ricker
Orderly Sgt was Thomas Pitt. I tented with Fielding Washington and another comrade whose name I forgot.

Q. Name some other comrades
A.  Squire Bright (Navy Yard), James Smith and Alfred Jones (decd), a sergeant and Beverley Whiting.

I was never in a battle but we went up in front of Petersburg but not get in any battle.

“My witnesses were Alfred Jones and Nelson Elliott. I gave each 50c. I didn’t testify for either of them.”

[At this point, he goes into great detail about impaired vision and impaired hearing, being hospitalized at Corps d’Afrique Hospital, New Orleans, and the attorney who executed his voucher … extremely difficult to read. – Leslie]

“I have been married twice. My first wife Easter Newsom died at Hampton, Va. about two or three years after my discharge. I was next married to Susan Martin at Portsmouth about two years I guess before I got my pension. She was married before to Reuben Martin who died at Hampton before I married her but I don’t know anything more about it. I have no child under 16.”


Letter from Cyrus Washington to Commissioner of Pensions, 15 August 1910
“… I have a claim for pension pending before you. Mr. Wills represented me but I can hear nothing from him now. Being an inmate of National Soldier’s Home, Virginia, my original pension papers are there and I cannot at this writing furnish the number of the claim.”


General Affidavit, Cyrus Washington, 1 July 1990
70 years old; residence, National Soldier’s Home, Elizabeth City County, Virginia; post-office address is Hospital Ward 7, National Soldiers Home … “I will state that I was a slave and had no means of knowing my age. The enlisting officer put down 27 as my age when enrolled which I think was in March 1864. I cannot procure any public, church, baptismal, bible or family record or record of any kind to prove date of my birth there being none in existence as that I know.”


Death Certificate [copy], Cyrus Washington, 13 October 1911
[age] 70 years
[birthplace] Virginia
[occupation] laborer
[death date] October 13, 1911
[cause of death] acute nephritis
[burial place] Mt. Cavalry Cemetery
[undertaker] Jno. T. Fisher & Bro., Portsmouth, Va.


General Affidavit, Hester Washington, 8 July 1912
post-office address, 1115 Richmond Ave….”That there were no cemetery expenses in connection with the burial of Cyrus Washington other than the bill of the undertaker, John T. Fisher & Co.; that the cemetery in which the soldier was buried belonged to the said John T. Fisher & Co. and is known as Fisher’s Cemetery; that any expenses which there might be for burial in said cemetery are included in the bill of said john T. Fisher & Co. already on file, and said bill shows all amounts due the said John T. Fisher & Co. for such burial: that she has applied to the Commander of the G.A. R. Post of which soldier was a member for a certificate that the Post waive claim for any expenses incurred on account of burial of soldier, but the Commander is a ignorant person and while he states that there is no claim on the part of the Post he refuses to sign any statement unless the Commissioner of Pensions writes him to do so, which renders it impossible to obtain any statement.”


Letter from U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Pensions, 9 July 1912
[Includes a written note at the bottom that Silas Fellowes Post No. 7, G.A.R. have no interest in the claim – Dred Smith, Commander”]

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