Early Saturday morning, two dozen scouts from Troop 1159 and volunteers converged on Church Union Cemetery in Waterford to continue efforts to restore a once overlooked burial site for the village’s black residents.
Dating back to 1820, the cemetery near Waterford Old School was strictly separated, with white and black residents buried in separate sections. Although both areas have marble monuments, many graves of black residents were marked by flat stones or wooden markers that have eroded.
Linda Landreth, chair of the cemetery trustees, said the scouts’ work was a continuation of decades-long efforts to restore the cemetery, which had long been ignored and completely overgrown.
In 2018, cemetery administrators hired a company to use ground-penetrating radar to locate unmarked burial plots, finding 50 in the black section and four in the white section. Each burial site was marked with a wooden stake and then a metal bolt hammered into place.
Saturday’s project involved scouts finding the bolts and replacing them with marker stones.
White said the work is more meaningful than many options he considered for his eagle scout project.
“I was asking around different places. I asked the hospital. I asked the retirement homes. I was just asking for some kind of projects that they needed me for,” he said. Then his father, a volunteer at a nearby farm, passed on connections to him in the village. They had ideas for road paving or fencing work. “Then they came to me with this, and it really caught my eye because it was unique and, I think, it was meaningful in a lot of ways,” White said.
He noted that the Quaker community in the 19and century was ahead of its time compared to other communities in Virginia in that the residents were not slaveholders; however, attendance segregation was evident in cemeteries.
“What we did was use a metal detector and find the bolts and things by digging holes, dropping a little hammer and then some paving stones to mark the grave,” he said . Loudoun Milling in Hamilton donated two tonnes of gravel for the project. White bought the markers.
At the end of the day, scouts located and marked 46 burial sites and found one buried headstone which was put back in place. They also did a general cleanup of the grounds, raking up lots of leaves and nuts.
White’s project was the latest from the cemetery scouts. In 2003, Boy Scout Adam Anderson led an effort to help document and map legible headstones. In 2020, Joshua DiStefano organized the construction of a new fence around the cemetery.
Landreth said there was still work to be done, with the priority being to remove the large trees that have grown into the cemetery.