State to maintain Confederate cemetery at Skinquarter church
Beginning July 1, the state will help maintain those graves in western Chesterfield County, along with 10 Civil War graves in McKenzie Cemetery in Grayson County in far western Virginia.
A new state law adds the two cemeteries to the list of Confederate graveyards whose maintenance is supported by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
"The department of historic resources has long been the vehicle for getting the funds to the individual organizations providing grave care," said Ann Andrus, the agency's state grants coordinator.
Since the 1930s, the Virginia General Assembly has been appropriating funds to help care for the cemeteries, Andrus said. The legislature annually provides $5 per grave.
The department of historic resources transfers the money to the Virginia division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). The UDC, in turn, distributes the funds to organizations that care for particular cemeteries.
The list now includes 210 cemeteries with 11,774 graves of Confederate soldiers.
Skinquarter Baptist has maintained its cemetery since the church was built in 1778.
McKenzie Cemetery started in 1852 after the death of George Washington McKenzie's son, William Lundy McKenzie. It has been maintained by the McKenzie descendants, and all decisions about the graveyard are made by the cemetery's board of trustees, according to board Chairman Buford C. Wilson.
The National Cemetery Administration was established in 1862 and helped commanders bury their soldiers in cemetery plots within military posts. Sometimes the commanders were unable to bury their soldiers in plots and had to bury them at the site of their death.
Luckily, good resting places were found for the 22 soldiers buried in the Skinquarter and McKenzie cemeteries.
"One interesting thing is that all but one of the Civil War soldiers buried here were Confederates," Wilson said of McKenzie Cemetery. "There is one Union soldier here, too."
Most of the soldiers' tombstones were called the "Civil War" type - four inches thick, 10 inches wide and 12 inches high. The top was either slightly curved or pointed and had a sunken shield on the front with the rank and name.
Though many soldiers' grave sites are maintained by the government, some are not. That's a problem - and so is development that threatens some cemeteries, according to the Chesterfield Historical Society.
"Not only are cemeteries not being maintained, but they are being relocated to make way for new homes and malls," said Peter Lipowicz of the historical society.
He is thankful that Virginia now will help maintain the Skinquarter and McKenzie cemeteries.
"It's a small step in the right direction," Lipowicz said.
For a list of all Confederate grave sites maintained by Virginia, visit www.snipurl.com/csagraves.