Family Cemeteries: Time marches on, and sometimes over, them

October 13, 2015
Photo Credit: Bonnie Maskery

Photo Credit: Bonnie Maskery

Family and historical cemeteries are often forgotten or even ignored. Most recently this has come to light in a Virginia matter.

More than 250 years ago, Zachariah and Elizabeth Terrell Moorman purchased land in Lynchburg where they and their descendants lived. In 1972, Embra Moorman Tillotson sold the last parcel to Jerry Falwell’s Old Time Gospel Hour Inc. for $6 cash and $49,700 in a trust fund.

The parcel was home to a family cemetery that held five marked Moorman family graves, 22 additional graves, and graves of an unknown number of slaves.  The deed, according to the newspaper, stated “the conveyance” was subject to all “‘easements, restrictions, reservations and conditions of record and now applicable to said property and expressly to a graveyard 105 feet by 105 feet…”

The Moorman Family Cemetery, which is on the Liberty University campus, is now a 32-foot-by-34-foot patch of grass with a dogwood tree and a bronze marker.

As the article details issues with the handling of the Moorman Family Cemetery are complicated.  There was a 1979 court order.  More recently family members have complained about the treatment of the cemetery and the remains of their loved ones.  In September, Liberty University went to court to uphold the 1979 order and now 89 family members have filed a countersuit.  The Moormans are asking that to have the bodies and any grave markers moved to another local cemetery where generations of Moormans have been buried.

If you have loved ones in a family cemetery, The News & Advance also has a side bar on family cemeteries and how to protect them.

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