Man & Dog Shot By Jilted Admirer

This story is of personal significance to me because George Shackelford was my great-great grandfather on my mother’s side of the family.

It wasn’t until a few years ago when I started working on my family tree that I even knew his name, let alone the fact that he’d been killed in front of his wife and daughter.

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A Stranger In A Strange Land

I first noticed Francois Thomas’ tombstone several years ago¬† in a promiscuous section of Danville’s Green Hill Cemetery. (Promiscuous here meaning that the area is populated by single graves rather than family plots.)

This particular section is far from the entrance, near the chain link fence that separates the burial grounds from the railroad tracks. Extended distance between tombstones likely suggests that unmarked graves outnumber the marked.

I can’t say with certainty that this is a pauper’s lot because in all my time researching Green Hill I haven’t determined which lands were designated for the poor or unclaimed bodies.

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W.W. New & Family

Several years ago I wrote about 1911’s Pinnix Murder-Suicide, which took place in Danville and involved Fannie New Pinnix and her husband William Gunn Pinnix.

Both parties rest in Green Hill Cemetery in unmarked graves according to burial records, however; there are monuments in the plot designating the graves of Fannie’s immediate family.

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Christ Church Burial Ground

Earlier this week I was fortunate enough to make it to the fifth Death Salon event at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia. While in town I planned to visit Laurel Hill Cemetery but time constraints and exhaustion prevented me from following through. (Excuses, excuses.)

Christ Church Burial Ground was about a half an hour’s walk from the hotel so one afternoon I ventured out in that direction knowing that there was only an hour or so for exploration.

Additionally cutting into time, Google Maps sent me to the church instead of the cemetery so I wandered around aimlessly before someone told me that my destination was three blocks away on 5th and Arch.

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Died at Sea; Buried in a Cask of Alcohol

I knew about Nancy Adams Martin’s unusual burial in Oakdale Cemetery months before my arrival. From a cursory glance her marker doesn’t really stand out from the taller surrounding monuments in the plot. As you can see below the granite is carved to resemble a rustic wooden cross. A photo taken nearly a decade ago from Find a Grave shows a less-weathered version where the name “Nance” and the cut branches are more visible.

What we can’t see from the surface is that deep below the ground Nancy’s body has been seated in a chair entombed in a cask of alcohol since her death on May 25, 1857.

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More From Danville National Cemetery

In November 2013 I wrote about Civil War prisoners who died in Danville’s prison camps or military hospitals. While I’m far from being finished with the task of photographing and researching these Union and Confederate soldiers’ backgrounds, here are a few more of their stories. The majority of the men in this post also died in Danville’s military hospitals from diseases caused by or worsened by their deplorable living conditions and medical care.

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John Thomas Rudd

J.T. Rudd’s entry has been sitting in my queue for close to two years now because I hoped that somewhere I’d find out more about his life than his tragic death at his own hands. I’ve researched his name intermittently during that time and unfortunately came up with little more than his obituary, which you can read below the photo of his grave marker in Danville’s Green Hill Cemetery. His death notice only gives us a glimpse of how his final days (or weeks or months) played out, although I’m sure that there were many happier memories that were never made public.
At least I hope that’s the case.

“DANVILLE REGISTER, Danville, Va., Fri., Jan. 3, 1908, p. 2, col. 3 [edited]. J. T. Rudd, a former merchant and well known business man of the Northside, committed suicide by shooting himself through the head yesterday at his home on North Main street, near the end of the street car line. Despondency, due to ill health, drinking and business troubles is supposed to be the reason actuating the terrible deed. Mr. Rudd was a native of Lunenburg County, Va., where he was born about 43 years ago. He moved to Pittsylvania early in life and about 15 or 16 years ago came to Danville. He was married twice. His last wife, Mrs. Berta Slaughter Rudd, two daughters, Evelyn, aged 6, and Garnett, aged 3, survive him, together with a father, several brothers and a sister, all of whom live in Lunenburg. Mr. Rudd was engaged in the mercantile business here up to about a year ago, when he sold out. He was a Mason. Funeral services will be held this afternoon from the residence of Mr. C. D. Daughter (sic) followed by burial at Green Hill Cemetery.

Cause of Death: “Saw Throat”

“OUR DAUGHTER
IN MEMORY OF FLORENCE ANN
3RD DAUGHTER OF
WILLIAM & JULIA ANN
AYRES
BORN NOV. 27, 1848
DIED JULY 24, 1859
‘BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART
FOR THEY SHALL SEE GOD'”
This tall marble grave marker in Danville’s Green Hill Cemetery belongs to ten-year-old Florence Ayres. Her parents were William Ayres, a wealthy tobacconist, and his second wife Julia Ann Henderson Ayres. At the time of the 1850 Federal Census, the only census that Florence was living during, her family lived in Danville. Sadly there is no street address listed on the census. I think it’s interesting to be able to link the house to its former inhabitants & imagine what life was like when they were living there.

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Death, Taxes, and Insanity

I made a note in my copy of Green Hill’s Mortuary Reports on William Fernald because it listed his place of death as the “Govn’t Hospital for Insane” in Washington, D.C. According to this record, he’d been buried on April 7, 1885 (the day after his death from “paresis.”)

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