Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tombstone Tuesday: Lynn-Norman Cemetery (Coles Firehouse)

As urban sprawl and development gobbles up more and more woodland and green spaces, developers and landowners alike are discovering small family cemeteries abandoned to time.

In our day and age, when we think of a cemetery we envision engraved tombstones and manicured lawns neatly contained within a fence or on a large municipal or religious property.  But before the 20th century, that was not the norm, especially in rural areas.  Engraved tombstones were expensive and the nearest stone carver might be located in a town more than 30 miles away.  Available field stones, often of quartz, were used to mark the resting place of a loved one.  Instead of engraving, oral history was passed down from generation to generation so that the family knew who was buried where in their private little cemetery.  Unfortunately, when a family died or the land passed out of their hands, the identity of the graves and even the site itself could be lost to time.

This is the case of many of the Lynn and related cemeteries in Independent Hill in the Coles Magisterial District of Prince William County.

The photo below is an excellent example.  If you were hiking through the woods and were unaware of the use of field stones as headstones, would you recognize this as a grave site?

Lynn-Norman Cemetery, Independent Hill
(photo by C. Lynn)
This photo was taken in the small wooded area beside the Coles District Volunteer Fire and Rescue Station.  Oral history in the area has known about this cemetery for many years and, fortunately, this particular site has a name associated with it because of the one engraved headstone that rested there.  Other sites -- like the Lynn Family Cemetery on the 12th High School Construction Site -- do not.

The next time you see a small upright stone standing in a field or a wooded area or in a somewhat unlikely place, give it a closer look.  You may have found a lost family cemetery.  In any case, please mark the location with a GPS (available on most smart phones) and share the information with your local historical representatives.


Prince William Public Works and the Coles District Volunteer Fire and Rescue Station have posted a Notice on the PWCo Government's website seeking the Public's help.  Anyone with information about the identity of the cemetery is asked to contact Matthew Corneliussen (703-792-5296) or Lou Ann Dorrier (703-792-6674).

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