Cemetery Gets ‘Overdue’ Marker
Posted: December 6, 2012
HARRISONBURG — After more than 140 years of relative anonymity, Newtown Cemetery has finally made its mark, so to speak.
Three city residents donated money for a marker at the Hill Street entrance to the cemetery, which runs along a portion of Kelley Street. The sign, built by Hartman Memorials in Harrisonburg, went up Tuesday.
“We’re very, very happy to get it,” said Gloria H. Carter, secretary of the cemetery’s board of trustees. “It’s a very historic moment for us.”
Newtown Cemetery, as the stone sign states on both sides, was established in 1868.
But it wasn’t until Arnold and Mary Martin and Arnold Martin’s brother, Gary, made the contribution for the sign that trustees could afford one.
The absence of any kind of identifying marker has posed problems, Carter said. For example, a color guard that visited to perform at a funeral about four years ago was not sure if it was in the correct cemetery.
“It’s long overdue,” Arnold Martin said of the sign.
The family members don’t want to disclose the cost of the sign.
The section of the city the cemetery is in was known as Newtown, an early settlement of freed slaves. The area, now known as the city’s Northeast Neighborhood, is still largely made up of black families.
While the cemetery was formed to provide a final resting place for black residents, it includes a mix of races.
The cemetery has more than 600 graves, including that of Lucy F. Simms, who was born into slavery yet rose to become one of Harrisonburg’s most celebrated educators in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
“It’s beyond wonderful to have a designated sign,” Carter said. “I’m just so proud of it.”
Contact Preston Knight at 574-6272 or firstname.lastname@example.org