Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Memorial & Dedication of Lynn Cemetery on PWCo High School Site

The Memorial Ceremony and Dedication of the Lynn cemetery on the 12th High School site took place on Saturday, September 6, 2014.  It was a poignant, respectful conclusion to a 12 month journey that began with a whirlwind of miscommunication, frustration, and media frenzy, but ultimately ended with Prince William County Schools (“PWCS”), Lynn family members, leaders in the historical community, neighbors, and the general public coming together to rescue a small 19th century family cemetery from oblivion.

When I saw the newly relocated and restored cemetery for the first time before Saturday’s ceremony, it brought me to tears.  The original field stone markers stand clean and upright amid newly planted periwinkle.  A shiny new memorial plaque near the entrance of a simple but attractive black fence reads:

This 19th century cemetery was moved from its original location in 2014 by Prince William County Schools during the high school construction.  The original location was 925 feet south-west from this spot.  Historical research and archeological evidence suggests that the cemetery includes the burials of William and Cordelia Lynn and their family.  This new cemetery is rededicated on William Lynn’s original tract of land.

With the aid of GPS and laser measurements made during the archeological excavation of the original cemetery, the 11 graves were reinterred as close to their original orientation and layout as possible.  All of the remains and artifacts were reinterred in the new cemetery.

Approximately 25 people attended Saturday’s Memorial Ceremony, which began with an opening prayer by Rev. Gene R. Wells of Woodbine Church and a greeting from David S. Cline, PWCS Assoc. Superintendent of Finance and Support Services.  It was a nice touch that the attendees in the audience were given the opportunity to introduce themselves and their interest in the proceedings.  More than a dozen of my Lynn family cousins were there to honor their ancestors and support the new cemetery.

Pastor Gene Wells
Pastor Gene explained that his church, Woodbine Baptist Church on Canova Drive in Independent Hill, was founded by Levi C. Lynn in May of 1875.  In a wonderful homage to the past, he used Levi's original 1875 Bible to tell the Biblical story of how Joseph’s bones were taken out of Egypt and into the Promised Land by his descendants.  Pastor Gene also spoke a bit of how his own search to discover the history of his church had led him to learn about the Lynn family and their involvement in PWCo. 

David Cline, Marte Nohe, and
Pastor Gene Wells
I was honored to be one of the speakers at the ceremony and used the opportunity to tell a bit more about the contributions made to PWCo by my Lynn ancestors.  I spoke about the land itself, and how much of Independent Hill in the 19th century was made up of farms owned by the Lynns or neighbors who married into the family.  But mostly, I spoke about the family we believe to be buried in the cemetery itself – that of William and Cordelia Lynn, my 2nd great grandparents, and their children.  I’m not quite certain how the attendees felt, but it was a moving moment for me to be able to speak those 11 names aloud just a few feet from their newly dedicated resting place.

Wreath laying - John Windley,
David Cline, Lillie Jesse, & Marte Nohe
Marte Nohe, County Supervisor for the Coles Magisterial District, acknowledge the contributions of the Lynn family to PWCo and how the county and community came together to work in compromise.  The new high school being built on what was once the William Lynn farm is just one more contribution toward the good that can be done for PWCo and its students.  One day soon, the 12th High School will begin to educate the county leaders of tomorrow.

Bagpiper Kevin Byrne, the husband of a PWCS teacher, played Amazing Grace as David Cline, Marte Nohe, School Board member Lille Jesse (Occoquan), and John J. Windley (PWCS Director, Office of Facilities Services) laid a silk wreath of autumn colors in the cemetery beside the new memorial plaque.

After the wreath laying, three generations of Lynn family descendants went into the cemetery to lay white roses on each of the 11 graves before Pastor Gene concluded with a closing prayer.

All in all, it was a touching and respectful ceremony to honor the final resting place for William and Cordelia Lynn and their children.

~ ~ ~

It was noted by David Cline that, because the cemetery is still within an active construction site, visitations in the immediate future will need to be coordinated with PWCS’s Office of Facilities Services.  However, when the 12th High School is completed in 2016, a small, tree-lined path will lead from the parking lot to the cemetery so that family may visit at any time.

~ ~ ~

Over the course of the past year, many people and organizations stepped forward to help resolve the issue of William and Cordelia's final resting place -- far too many to thank them all by name!  However, there are a select few that I personally would like to single out for special thanks:

(1) Bill Olson of the PWCo Historical Commission, who is a fierce advocate and force to be reckoned with when it comes to the preservation of PWCo's cemeteries, large or small.

(2) The wonderful staff/volunteers at RELIC for their invaluable research in determining that the cemetery is (almost certainly) that of William and Cordelia Lynn and their children.

(3) John Windley, PWCS Director of Facilities Services, who has worked closely with the Lynn family to come to a respectful, appropriate solution.  His professionalism and calmness throughout is greatly appreciated.

(4)  Last, and certainly not least, I would like to thank Pastor Gene Wells of Woodbine Church.  From the very beginning Pastor Gene has been a calming voice of reason in a raging storm.  He worked hard to bring all of the parties together (PWCS, Lynn family, county, and neighbors) to reach a peaceful conclusion to what began as a heated, volatile situation. Pastor Gene also planned the beautiful and touching Memorial Ceremony and Dedication from beginning to end, for which I will be forever grateful.

The Author standing with her ancestors.  (Photo by Pastor Gene Wells)

1 comment:

  1. I had not heard how this story turned out. Thanks for sharing!

    R.C. Woolfenden