Sunday, May 20, 2018

Cemeteries divided in Fredericksburg, Virginia

It has been terribly rainy here in Central Virginia. Summer thunderstorms have interfered with a few of our River City Cemetarians Meet-Up events. I cannot complain too much because my garden is thriving; and, I have plans to be in three different cemeteries this week since I am teaching a summer course on Washington, D.C. cemeteries. This morning, however, I have been reminiscing some of the regional cemeteries that I have visited.

Just a short drive north of Richmond, VA The Fredericksburg City Cemetery was established in 1844.The cemetery adjoins The Fredericksburg Confederate Cemetery, which is owned and maintained by the Ladies’ Memorial Association of Fredericksburg. The Confederate Cemetery was dedicated in May of 1870 to 3,553 Confederates soldiers who were killed in battle and reinterred in this cemetery. 

When you enter the cemetery, if you look to the right you’ll see the Confederate Cemetery; if you look to the left you’ll see the Frederickburg City Cemetery. If you look straight ahead, we’re not sure which cemetery you’re facing because there isn’t a clear division.
There are two original entrances although everyone currently enters the side entrance of the Confederate Cemetery. There are two websites. There are even two boxes of brochures about the very separate cemeteries.

There were a few magnolia trees in the cemetery/cemeteries. The one that was clearly in the Confederate Cemetery/section was gorgeous. Magnolia trees are ancient flowering trees. Evidence from fossils show that they were growing close over 100 million years ago right along with dinosaurs. And although bees and butterflies collect pollen in magnolia blooms, the flowers actually evolved before bees! Because of this they are adapted to pollination by beetles.

Magnolia blossoms are one of the most beautiful indicators of spring here in the South. Apparently, each bloom lasts only a single day and is gone the next. It almost seems impossible for this to be true but I can attest to the hibiscus blooms showing off for merely a day. Capturing these photos was easy because the magnolia braches reached practically to the ground.
I was delighted to find two “blue stones” in the cemetery. Characterized by their bluish color and state of impeccable preservation, if you knock on one (which I do lightly and politely) you’ll discover that they’re hollow. Blue stones or White Bronz are actually made from zinc. Between 1874 and 1912 the Monumental Bronze Company of Bridgeport, CT made headstones that were meant to “weather”. Made of sand cast zinc, they called them White Bronze for marketing purposes to make it more appealing to customers. The zinc carbonate gave the headstones a bluish gray color. Each stone was created individually for the person who ordered it. These monuments were ordered from a sales agent with a catalog which is most likely why you will only see a few in each cemetery. These salesmen did not make much money because the headstones where so inexpensive in comparison to other grave markers. Even shipping costs were significantly cheaper because of the light weight of the materials. The company mass produced them using molds.

During WWI, the government seized the factory since the zinc was needed for the war effort.  Sadly, after the war, the business never fully recovered which is a shame because I would love to have my own White Bronze marker.


The cemeteries are maintained. There was evidence of restoration within the cemetery, the Fredericksburg Cemetery has an active Facebook page. Unfortunately, even in well-maintained old cemeteries there are signs of damage. I tried to take a picture of the stain glass but it was a difficult shot to capture. One of the other windows was destroyed most likely from age and weather conditions as opposed to vandals.

Nature can be cruel. We must appreciate what we have now in this very moment.

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