Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Many Hands Make Light Work -- And for WhiteHall Cemetery, the Results Are Amazing!





Anyone who knows me knows I am HUGE into cemetery restoration.  I live in Civil War country in Virginia and spend my days seeking out cemeteries that have been neglected.  I’m not talking about being neglected over the past year or so, I’m talking about so overgrown people forgot the cemetery is there!

I began this journey in 2008 when my church reached out to me requesting assistance in teaching the the youth, during their summer Youth Conference, the importance of cemeteries and how to care for headstones.  We adopted a civil war era cemetery and cleared it of overgrown weeds and debris and gently tended to the headstones.  The following years brought on Eagle projects as I located local cemeteries in much need of attention and sought volunteers to help with the clean up.

Whitehall Cemetery April 2014.
When I became a BillionGraves volunteer, I saw the perfect marriage between my goal to find and restore cemeteries and their goal to locate and digitize headstones for historic preservation.
A couple of years ago I reached out to Bill Olson, who takes the lead in the local Historic Preservation of cemeteries in my area, and let him know that during my search to find cemeteries to digitize for BillionGraves, I had located a cemetery in much need of repair.  

Whitehall Cemetery 2014.


Bill confirmed that the Prince William Historic Society was aware of the cemetery, known as WhiteHall, and that it had no current caretaker.  There were a few groups interested in helping bring this site into beautiful order – and that is what we all set out to do.   


 
 





This restoration project was a combined effort of Boy Scouts working on Eagle Projects; Robert Moser, who took a great interest in this cemetery and played a large part in getting trees cleared; and myself, along with volunteers from the Manassas 1st and 2nd Wards of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints working to mulch all the wood that was cut down.





You can see we had our work cut out for us.  I think the project was bigger than any of us imagined.  In fact, in an effort to make a parking area for future cemetery visitors, the foundation of the original church building associated with the cemetery was located.  




The cemetery is near the final stages of restoration, and I have to say it is absolutely beautiful!  My heart was warmed when I visited the site yesterday to see how things were progressing.  The volunteers who built the benches, cleaned the stones, built the outlying fence, and keeping up with the future maintenance have done an amazing job! 

WhiteHall Cemetery.  March 1, 2016.


Even the headstones received a makeover.




Edward B. Ellicott's gravestone before...
...and after!



















You can view Edward B. Ellicott's grave and others buried in WhiteHall Cemetery at BillionGraves.com.


Now that Spring is in the air, stay tuned for future posts about my search for cemeteries that have been lost but not forgotten!


Note:  All photos presented here are my own.  Please request permission before using them in any other venue.

 This project was the result of many volunteers from different programs in Prince William County.  Any omission of names or groups is not intentional and all service provided to this cemetery is greatly appreciated!