In 2013 I trekked to the northern part of Pittsylvania County to visit the graveyard at Siloam United Methodist Church. On the return trip I noticed a small family cemetery that looked too old and interesting to ignore. What caught my eye were the shapes of the markers and the symbols decorating them.
Because the Berger-Dickenson cemetery is on private property I parked on the side of the road and took a few photos from a distance. There were many other graves that I would’ve liked to have seen up-close, but I didn’t want to risk trespassing.
Mabel Berger was the intended focus of this entry, but over the years I haven’t been able to find out much about the the infant’s brief life in Oklahoma’s Sac & Fox territory or how she died. For that reason I held off on posting all of the photos of this graveyard…until now.
She was born in the year of our Lord 1818 and departed this life on the 30th day of July 1833.
Aged fifteen years, 4 mo’s. and 18 d’s.
When blooming youth be snatched away
By Death’s resistless hand
Our hearts the mournful tributes pay
Which pity must demand
While pity prompts the rising sigh
Oh may this truth impress’t
With awful power ‘I, too must die’
Sink deep in every breast”
Elizabeth’s grave in Grove Street Cemetery is memorable for two reasons: she the earliest known burial in the cemetery and according to folklore, the teenaged boarding school student was “scared to death” after a foreboding message appeared on her bedroom wall in 1833.
The plaque by her brick tomb gives an outline of the events surrounding her death. “Elizabeth Royall, a native of Halifax County, died while a student at one of Danville’s female academies. She was supposedly frightened to death by a prank played by schoolmates.”
The following two images are from the ledger of Green Hill’s burial records. “Mrs. Rosa Fuller Lawson, age 25 years/ I hereby certify that I saw her on the 18th day of March 1891 that she died on the 19th day of March 1891 and that the cause of her death was Gripp, B.B. Temple M.D. Undertaker Jno. Ferrell & Co.”
Browsing through the burial records
for1891 there were many different causes of death with cholera, diphtheria, typhoid fever, malarial fever, consumption, whooping cough, and dysentery being the most prevalent among adult deaths from disease. Comparing Green Hill’s burial records with tombstones I’ve seen on the grounds, this is not a complete listing of people interred there. Either some names were omitted or it’s possible that the remains were moved to Green Hill from another cemetery. I have only perused the records to 1895. After that, the records have no cause of death listed.
The Gripp, also spelled/written as grip or La Grippe, was a term used in the 19th century for influenza, which returned at the end of that century as an epidemic in some parts of the world, with many areas reporting the first signs of a large-scale influenza problem in March of 1891, which is the month of Rosa’s death.
Dixie Dixon was one of the many bright-eyed young girls who left behind small town life in search of fame and fortune as a vaudeville performer, but unfortunately her suspicious death instead of her stage presence became her legacy.
Before stopping by Spring Hill my first destination in Lynchburg last weekend was Old City Cemetery. Longtime readers here probably recall some of my previous excursions to OCC, which I consider to be one of Virginia’s loveliest burial grounds.