Townes-Turner Moved Graves?

On Sunday afternoon, on a whim, I decided to go back to Green Hill Cemetery in Danville to try to get more photos of the graves and to do my usual haunting. Since it gets dark earlier now, the bizarre weather,  and because the city is a stickler for locking the gates at 4:30 it’s difficult to arrange a good time to visit.

In the brief time I was there, in between being scared by accidentally flushing flocks of birds out of various trees and shrubbery and the rain which cut my visit short, I was able to get pictures from areas of the cemetery that I’d never been in before. Later I realized that I’d crossed the invisible border between Green Hill and the Freedman’s Cemetery, a border that was once marked with a thin barbed wire. Freedman’s Cemetery was once the final resting place of at least 100 people, most of whom were newly emancipated slaves or the direct descendants of freed slaves. Over time, the number of marked graves in Freedman’s has dwindled to less than 30 due to neglect and possible re-interment into other graveyards.  I was standing on a hill in Green Hill when this photo was taken. In the background on the right you can see the Motley plot in the Freedman’s Cemetery, which is on the incline of another hill. Between the two hills there is a depression that could have been a creek or drainage ditch at one time. This was possibly near where the barbed wire used to be.

To the left you can see the military markers inside the brick wall around the Danville National Cemetery.

That information was just to give you a point of reference as to where the Townes-Turner graves were in the cemetery. After I hopped back across the ditch and started up the hill I noticed an interesting crypt.

There were no names anywhere on it, and because it was built partially into the ground I could see the roof. To the left are four headstones and one footstone. The headstones belong to Sgt. John Turner, Catherine Townes, Stephen C. Townes, and Capt. Thomas J. Turner. I checked Green Hill’s Find A Grave page and there was nothing there on Sgt. John Turner, who happened to be the first headstone photo that I started to research. According to his grave marker, he died at 25 from wounds received during Seven Pines and was the son of James and Sarah Turner. After many dead-end links I finally came across a page of inscriptions from 1936 which contained all four of the above-mentioned names with matching tombstone inscriptions from Green Hill. The physical location of the graveyard didn’t match Green Hill’s either, so I found myself doing numerous searches trying to find out more about these four people and their burials.

Thanks to Pittsylvania County History I was able to find the GPS coordinates for the cemetery where Stephen Coleman Townes, a War of 1812 veteran, was supposed to be/originally was buried.

I know, this screen shot isn’t of the best quality, but as soon as I’m finished with this blog I’m going to contact the admin. of that site to let them know about the new location of this grave, so if you visit that page, you might not get these coordinates.

For comparison purposes, this is the map containing Green Hill. That’s a stick figure of me saying “Hi.”

By looking at these two images, clearly this is not the same location.

Obviously the headstones that were once in the “Old Townes graveyard” are now in Green Hill and because it wouldn’t make sense to move the markers and not the bodies, I can only deduce that these four peoples’ graves were moved sometime between 1936 and today.

Because I’ve been digging around for several hours and am now drawing stick figures of myself on Google Maps, it may be time to set this mystery aside for awhile. I’ve been unable to find a link between the Townes and Turner families as of yet, but in my research I did find Stephen’s name as the informant for at least two deaths in the 1850s where several of his slaves had died of disease. Stephen and Catherine reportedly had a daughter named Sarah, but if the information I found was correct, she would have been 8 when John Turner was born, which almost rules that out completely. (Hopefully.)

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