“Your tombstone stands among the rest
Neglected and alone.
The name and date are chiseled out
On Polished marble stone.
It reaches out to all who care
It is too late to morn.
You did not know I exist
You died and I was born.
Yet each of us are cells of you
In flesh and blood and bone.
Our blood contracts and beats a pulse
Entirely not our own.
Dear Ancestor, the place you filled
One hundred years ago.
Spreads out among the ones you left
Who would have loved you so.
I wonder how you lived and loved
I wonder if you knew.
That someday I would find this spot
And come to visit you.”
by Walter Butler Palmer
Back in the early 1990s, Anthony M. (Tony) Lowe, a cousin of mine, had been working on our family history for about a decade. As a result of this research, he put together a Jones Family reunion for the descendants of the five sons of Wilson and Margaret Elizabeth Delk Jones: Abraham, Issac Newton, Jacob, Junius Wilson, and Josiah Benjamin. During the reunion we were introduced to many facts about our family; some of which I knew and many I did not. Around 1995 Tony documented the findings of his research in a book titled, Three Hundred Years in Eastern Virginia: DESCENDANTS OF ARTHUR JONES (1630 – 1692).
I am a descendant of Abraham Jones, the eldest of the five brothers. His wife was Fannie Elizabeth Hunnicutt. As I sat in the fellowship hall of Smithfield Baptist during the evening dinner, I was amazed as I looked around the room and saw people that I had gone to school with or seen many times in Smithfield that I was not aware of our kinship. It was also amazing to look at their faces and see the resemblance that many had with one another. During the reunion, we visited family home places, graves, etc., and given some history about our family. A ceremony, with a Confederate Honor Guard, held at the grave of Abraham Jones marked his grave as a Confederate Veteran.
A few years before the reunion I had found and visited Abraham’s grave. There were other graves there marked, but I did not find the grave of his wife, Fannie Elizabeth. In Tony’s book it stated that she was buried in Surry County Virginia in the Hunnicutt Family Cemetery located on the PG West farm on Route 10.
After years of wanting to find and visit my great-great-grandmother’s grave, I had the opportunity to meet Mr. G. P. West and ask about the graveyard. He said he knew about the graveyard and would be glad to show it to me, but asked to wait until it got cooler and snakes would not be an issue. Finally, the day arrived! Last Saturday, February 27, I received a call from Mr. West asking me if I would like to visit the grave. I contacted my brother, C. David Jones, told him to get ready and I would take him with me.
Saturday was one of those I can’t believe it’s a “February day!” It was a sunny day with a very light breeze when we got there. After some introductions and reminiscing we loaded into Mr. West’s new toy, what looked like a “souped-up” golf cart, and headed around the edge of the fields to the very back. Adding to the delight of the day, we came across a large flock of wild turkeys. I’m not sure who was the most surprised! Finally, we stopped and made our way into the woods. After stepping over an old rusty wire fence, we crossed what appeared to be an old road or path.
Just along the path on the opposite side, we came upon the graveyard. It sits on a high spot in the woods that gently slopes down to a stream. Leaves, limbs, and some overgrowth from years of neglect cover the many sunken gravesites. Located next to a tree with an orange plastic marker attached, we found the grave of Fannie E. Jones.
Fortunately for us, her grave had a headstone and a footstone. There was evidence by the sunken earth of as many as a dozen or more graves there, but only Fannie’s had a marker. I’m not saying other graves were not marked, but without disturbing the graves covered with leaves and dead limbs, it was not evident. It was a very solemn moment as I stood there for the first time. My mind was reminiscent of the poem “Dear Ancestor” that I read last June at a family reunion. How appropriate were the words as I stood there looking over her grave.
My visit to Fannie’s grave came nearly 88 years after her death. Fannie died at the age of 87.
It’s ironic, there is a familiar quote at the bottom of the stone that reads “Gone but not forgotten”. There are many graveyards that once were in plain view of their loved ones left behind to remember them, but over time, families have moved away, woods have taken over, and they become lost treasures. Fortunately through the efforts of those keeping family history alive we can truly say; they are “Gone but not forgotten”!