Stirring up history, serving up stories
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 We made our first trip to East End, a historic African American cemetery in Henrico County and the City of Richmond, more than a year ago, in May 2014, though we didn’t know it at the time. We were on our way to Evergreen Cemetery, East End's better-known neighbor, where famous black Richmonders Maggie Walker and John Mitchell Jr. are buried. Driving slowly down the access road past what looked like forest, even jungle, we spotted bits of white and gray—corners, tops, and edges of funerary monuments. We assumed that these were Evergreen graves and had no idea that we were catching glimpses of a different overgrown cemetery, a sixteen-acre burial ground with a parallel story.  Much of what is now East End was originally chartered as Greenwood Cemetery in 1892 by an association of prominent African Americans. After defaulting, they sold the property back to its original owners for five dollars. A new group of leading lights took over in 1897, when it became East End. Other back-and-forths followed. No arrangements for perpetual care were ever made, so when the community that supported the cemetery began to disperse under the weight of many forces—the attack on African American civil rights and economic power in the wake of Reconstruction; the physical destruction of Jackson Ward; the demise of de jure segregation, which opened burial grounds in the city proper to African Americans—East End Cemetery deteriorated. As a business entity, it is again in default, according to the last member of the burial association listed in Henrico County records as its owner. Volunteers, us among them, do what they can to keep nature, vandals, and surreptitious trash dumpers at bay, but only a large, creative, and collaborative effort that involves public entities and citizens—perhaps similar to the way public funds are earmarked for Confederate monuments and cemeteries such as Oakwood—will restore East End.   East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: Brian Palmer

We made our first trip to East End, a historic African American cemetery in Henrico County and the City of Richmond, more than a year ago, in May 2014, though we didn’t know it at the time. We were on our way to Evergreen Cemetery, East End's better-known neighbor, where famous black Richmonders Maggie Walker and John Mitchell Jr. are buried. Driving slowly down the access road past what looked like forest, even jungle, we spotted bits of white and gray—corners, tops, and edges of funerary monuments. We assumed that these were Evergreen graves and had no idea that we were catching glimpses of a different overgrown cemetery, a sixteen-acre burial ground with a parallel story.

Much of what is now East End was originally chartered as Greenwood Cemetery in 1892 by an association of prominent African Americans. After defaulting, they sold the property back to its original owners for five dollars. A new group of leading lights took over in 1897, when it became East End. Other back-and-forths followed. No arrangements for perpetual care were ever made, so when the community that supported the cemetery began to disperse under the weight of many forces—the attack on African American civil rights and economic power in the wake of Reconstruction; the physical destruction of Jackson Ward; the demise of de jure segregation, which opened burial grounds in the city proper to African Americans—East End Cemetery deteriorated. As a business entity, it is again in default, according to the last member of the burial association listed in Henrico County records as its owner. Volunteers, us among them, do what they can to keep nature, vandals, and surreptitious trash dumpers at bay, but only a large, creative, and collaborative effort that involves public entities and citizens—perhaps similar to the way public funds are earmarked for Confederate monuments and cemeteries such as Oakwood—will restore East End. 

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: Brian Palmer

 Nine Thompson family headstones uncovered so far, those of Peter and Bettie (Gray) Thompson, their sons Harry C., Oliver, and George K., and Harry's first wife, Martha (Hooper) Thompson. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP

Nine Thompson family headstones uncovered so far, those of Peter and Bettie (Gray) Thompson, their sons Harry C., Oliver, and George K., and Harry's first wife, Martha (Hooper) Thompson. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP

 East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP

 One of five WWII veterans uncovered one morning this month: Linwood Allen Tabb Jr., b. April 16, 1927, in Charles City County, Virginia, d. December 2, 1979, in Richmond. He was the son of Linwood A. Tabb Sr. and Mary (Cumber) Tabb, both of Charles City. According to his death certificate, he never married. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP

One of five WWII veterans uncovered one morning this month: Linwood Allen Tabb Jr., b. April 16, 1927, in Charles City County, Virginia, d. December 2, 1979, in Richmond. He was the son of Linwood A. Tabb Sr. and Mary (Cumber) Tabb, both of Charles City. According to his death certificate, he never married. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP

 Erin noticed the headstone of Samuel Smith Sr. peeking through the ivy and stopped to uncover it one late-summer evening. Mr. Smith, b. ca. 1865, d. December 11, 1927, was a deacon at the Moore Street Baptist Church, one of Richmond's historic black churches. Moore Street, an offspring of Second Baptist, was founded in 1875. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP

Erin noticed the headstone of Samuel Smith Sr. peeking through the ivy and stopped to uncover it one late-summer evening. Mr. Smith, b. ca. 1865, d. December 11, 1927, was a deacon at the Moore Street Baptist Church, one of Richmond's historic black churches. Moore Street, an offspring of Second Baptist, was founded in 1875. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP

 The imposing gravestone of restaurant and bar proprietor William Custalo—reportedly the wealthiest person of color in Richmond at the time of his death in September 1907—was too heavy even for strapping soldiers to right back in March, when its veil of ivy was removed by volunteers. Mr. Custalo, b. ca. 1840, was the son of free blacks in Richmond. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy toward the tail end of the Civil War and later married Nancy Bacchus, who is also buried at East End; the two had no children. His establishment, Custalo House, stood at the corner of E. Broad and Seventh Streets for many years.  The small, toothlike gravestone poking up next to Mr. Custalo's monument was uncovered only in the past few weeks. It belongs to one L. T. Shepard; more digging is needed to reveal the dates.  East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP

The imposing gravestone of restaurant and bar proprietor William Custalo—reportedly the wealthiest person of color in Richmond at the time of his death in September 1907—was too heavy even for strapping soldiers to right back in March, when its veil of ivy was removed by volunteers. Mr. Custalo, b. ca. 1840, was the son of free blacks in Richmond. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy toward the tail end of the Civil War and later married Nancy Bacchus, who is also buried at East End; the two had no children. His establishment, Custalo House, stood at the corner of E. Broad and Seventh Streets for many years.

The small, toothlike gravestone poking up next to Mr. Custalo's monument was uncovered only in the past few weeks. It belongs to one L. T. Shepard; more digging is needed to reveal the dates.

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP

 A thin, unmarked slab found beneath the ivy at the base of a tree in the old section of the cemetery. Could the inscription have been smoothed away by decades of neglect, or was there never anything there to begin with?  East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP

A thin, unmarked slab found beneath the ivy at the base of a tree in the old section of the cemetery. Could the inscription have been smoothed away by decades of neglect, or was there never anything there to begin with?

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP

 David Winston Jones's headstone, just inside the East End boundary line, was unearthed by volunteers in the spring of this year. Born in Richmond in 1910 (according to his headstone) or 1912 (according to his death certificate) to David W. and Lenora (Jasper) Jones, Pvt. Jones was a veteran of World War II. He died on May 28, 1978. The entrance to Evergreen Cemetery, also largely overgrown, is visible in the background. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: Erin Hollaway Palmer

David Winston Jones's headstone, just inside the East End boundary line, was unearthed by volunteers in the spring of this year. Born in Richmond in 1910 (according to his headstone) or 1912 (according to his death certificate) to David W. and Lenora (Jasper) Jones, Pvt. Jones was a veteran of World War II. He died on May 28, 1978. The entrance to Evergreen Cemetery, also largely overgrown, is visible in the background. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: Erin Hollaway Palmer

 East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP

 East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP

 Minnie Dora (Harris) Kemp was born in Richmond on July 31, 1890, to Charles E. and Barbara A. Harris. She married Wendall Porter Kemp (1884–1969), son of William and Catherine (Ransome) Kemp, on Christmas Day 1912. Both worked for the U.S. Post Office, he as a janitor, she as a "charwoman" (according to the 1930 census) or "maid" (according to her death certificate). They lived for many years on Turpin Street in what was part of Jackson Ward until it was swallowed by redevelopment.  East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP

Minnie Dora (Harris) Kemp was born in Richmond on July 31, 1890, to Charles E. and Barbara A. Harris. She married Wendall Porter Kemp (1884–1969), son of William and Catherine (Ransome) Kemp, on Christmas Day 1912. Both worked for the U.S. Post Office, he as a janitor, she as a "charwoman" (according to the 1930 census) or "maid" (according to her death certificate). They lived for many years on Turpin Street in what was part of Jackson Ward until it was swallowed by redevelopment.

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP

 East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP

 Most of the people buried at East End were born after the Civil War, but occasionally we uncover headstones such as this one. We cannot assume that Sarah J. Richards was born into slavery in 1843, and yet, given the demographics of the day, there's a very good chance she was. (In 1840, free people of color composed about 4 percent of the population; enslaved people made up about 36 percent.) Further digging revealed Mrs. Richards's death date: 23 August 1920. According to her death certificate, she was born Sarah Brown in Charles City County, Virginia. Her father's name was Jonas Brown; her mother's name is as yet unknown.   East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP

Most of the people buried at East End were born after the Civil War, but occasionally we uncover headstones such as this one. We cannot assume that Sarah J. Richards was born into slavery in 1843, and yet, given the demographics of the day, there's a very good chance she was. (In 1840, free people of color composed about 4 percent of the population; enslaved people made up about 36 percent.) Further digging revealed Mrs. Richards's death date: 23 August 1920. According to her death certificate, she was born Sarah Brown in Charles City County, Virginia. Her father's name was Jonas Brown; her mother's name is as yet unknown. 

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP

 Here is one of those maddening mysteries we encounter all the time in our research: William F. Tinsley (1912–1938), for whom there are two headstones, was apparently a deliveryman (according to his death certificate) or "wagon boy" (according to the 1932 city directory) for Thalhimer Brothers, a onetime department store in downtown Richmond. His death certificate lists, in typed letters, George O. Tinsley as both father and informant; his mother's name, Lillie, is inked in by hand — no maiden name is provided here. And his middle initial is  H,  not  F  (by this point, though, we're used to such minor discrepancies). What's perplexing is this: In the 1920 census, seven-year-old William F. Tinsley is listed along with his parents, William ( not  George O.) and Lillie, and his sisters and brother, Catherine, Caroline, and Austin, at 900 N. Seventh Street — which is also the address listed on his death certificate. The elder William's mother, Ann Tinsley (née Robinson, 1860–1923), is living with them. What we presume to be her headstone can be seen in this photograph.  Her  mother was Caroline Lindsey (1817–1910), whose name somehow became "Linsley" — a combination of Lindsey and Tinsley? — on her headstone, which was wedged between William F.'s and Ann's. She too was living at 900 N. Seventh Street as far back as 1880.  So all signs — names, address, grouping of headstones — seem to indicate that William F. Tinsley was the son of William Tinsley (middle initial  H.,  according to his death certificate and other documents) and Lillie Johnson (daughter of Steven Johnson and Kate, maiden name unknown). William H. was, in turn, the son of William Tinsley (middle initial unknown) and Ann Robinson, the daughter of William Robinson and Caroline Lindsey (maiden name unknown; she married Warner Lindsey sometime between 1870 and 1880). So who was George O. Tinsley, then?   The Richmond city directory of 1935, for instance, lists a certain Geo. O. Tinsley Jr. "(c)" — for "colored" — at 931 W. Clay Street. (On the next page, William H. appears, with wife Lillie J., at 900 N. Seventh Street. One line down is William H. Jr. — not William F. [?!] living at the same address.) According to the 1930 census, George O. Jr. was born circa 1906; his father, circa 1875. So George O. Sr. would have been the right age to be William F.'s father, but we've found nothing to link them to each other. So far, our searches have not revealed his parents' names — we have not found a death certificate or census records prior to 1910 — or any ties to the William Tinsleys. We do know he married Eva Beatrice Brown (1882–1925), daughter of Charles and Amanda (Banks) Brown, circa 1901. (We have not, however, found a marriage record.) In 1910, they were living with her parents on Sixth Street with their two sons, Dewitt Maurice (d. 1951) and George O. Jr. (d. 1975). And we know, thanks to Dewitt's unique name, which led us to other records, that the "O" stood for Oliver. According to their death certificates, both Dewitt and George O. Jr. are buried at Evergreen Cemetery, next door to East End, as are their wives, Lillian L. Freeland and Ardelia B. Epps, and their mother, Eva.  Where George O. Sr. is buried is as yet unknown. Evergreen, like East End, is massively overgrown. One small, irregularly maintained section remains opens for burials; the rest has been swallowed by forest and, worse, kudzu.  East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, September 2015. Photo: BP

Here is one of those maddening mysteries we encounter all the time in our research: William F. Tinsley (1912–1938), for whom there are two headstones, was apparently a deliveryman (according to his death certificate) or "wagon boy" (according to the 1932 city directory) for Thalhimer Brothers, a onetime department store in downtown Richmond. His death certificate lists, in typed letters, George O. Tinsley as both father and informant; his mother's name, Lillie, is inked in by hand — no maiden name is provided here. And his middle initial is H, not F (by this point, though, we're used to such minor discrepancies). What's perplexing is this: In the 1920 census, seven-year-old William F. Tinsley is listed along with his parents, William (not George O.) and Lillie, and his sisters and brother, Catherine, Caroline, and Austin, at 900 N. Seventh Street — which is also the address listed on his death certificate. The elder William's mother, Ann Tinsley (née Robinson, 1860–1923), is living with them. What we presume to be her headstone can be seen in this photograph. Her mother was Caroline Lindsey (1817–1910), whose name somehow became "Linsley" — a combination of Lindsey and Tinsley? — on her headstone, which was wedged between William F.'s and Ann's. She too was living at 900 N. Seventh Street as far back as 1880.

So all signs — names, address, grouping of headstones — seem to indicate that William F. Tinsley was the son of William Tinsley (middle initial H., according to his death certificate and other documents) and Lillie Johnson (daughter of Steven Johnson and Kate, maiden name unknown). William H. was, in turn, the son of William Tinsley (middle initial unknown) and Ann Robinson, the daughter of William Robinson and Caroline Lindsey (maiden name unknown; she married Warner Lindsey sometime between 1870 and 1880). So who was George O. Tinsley, then? 

The Richmond city directory of 1935, for instance, lists a certain Geo. O. Tinsley Jr. "(c)" — for "colored" — at 931 W. Clay Street. (On the next page, William H. appears, with wife Lillie J., at 900 N. Seventh Street. One line down is William H. Jr. — not William F. [?!] living at the same address.) According to the 1930 census, George O. Jr. was born circa 1906; his father, circa 1875. So George O. Sr. would have been the right age to be William F.'s father, but we've found nothing to link them to each other. So far, our searches have not revealed his parents' names — we have not found a death certificate or census records prior to 1910 — or any ties to the William Tinsleys. We do know he married Eva Beatrice Brown (1882–1925), daughter of Charles and Amanda (Banks) Brown, circa 1901. (We have not, however, found a marriage record.) In 1910, they were living with her parents on Sixth Street with their two sons, Dewitt Maurice (d. 1951) and George O. Jr. (d. 1975). And we know, thanks to Dewitt's unique name, which led us to other records, that the "O" stood for Oliver. According to their death certificates, both Dewitt and George O. Jr. are buried at Evergreen Cemetery, next door to East End, as are their wives, Lillian L. Freeland and Ardelia B. Epps, and their mother, Eva.

Where George O. Sr. is buried is as yet unknown. Evergreen, like East End, is massively overgrown. One small, irregularly maintained section remains opens for burials; the rest has been swallowed by forest and, worse, kudzu.

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, September 2015. Photo: BP

 After snipping away the ring of vines encircling the base of James Alfred Woodson's monument, we were startled by a copperhead, which slithered out from under the ivy. It then made a beeline for its cubby hole beneath the gravestone, where it kept watch, its orange eye with a vertical slit of a pupil trained on us. This is also where we found the four Tinsley headstones, propped against the Woodson base. A Tinsley plot, with no Tinsleys yet uncovered, is across what was once a walkway but is now choked with ivy.  East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, September 2015. Photo: BP

After snipping away the ring of vines encircling the base of James Alfred Woodson's monument, we were startled by a copperhead, which slithered out from under the ivy. It then made a beeline for its cubby hole beneath the gravestone, where it kept watch, its orange eye with a vertical slit of a pupil trained on us. This is also where we found the four Tinsley headstones, propped against the Woodson base. A Tinsley plot, with no Tinsleys yet uncovered, is across what was once a walkway but is now choked with ivy.

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, September 2015. Photo: BP

 We have been working to remove layer upon layer of slate shingles and tar paper dumped by an unscrupulous citizen on top of a plot in the old section, within easy striking distance of the access road. Ivy roots have wound their way through the shingles, binding them to the ground and to one another. We managed to clear the plot sill, revealing the name: Corbett. No headstones have been uncovered so far.  East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, September 2015. Photo: BP

We have been working to remove layer upon layer of slate shingles and tar paper dumped by an unscrupulous citizen on top of a plot in the old section, within easy striking distance of the access road. Ivy roots have wound their way through the shingles, binding them to the ground and to one another. We managed to clear the plot sill, revealing the name: Corbett. No headstones have been uncovered so far.

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, September 2015. Photo: BP

 Night had fallen, and we were getting ready to drive home when Melissa uncovered the headstone of Mary Willis, who died October 17, 1952. According to her death certificate, she was born circa 1895 in Henrico County, the daughter of Walter and Hester Young. "Victoria Tent [No.] 30," which is inscribed on her headstone, was the secondary name of the United Order of Tents of J. R. Giddings & Jollifee Union, a fraternal beneficiary society managed predominantly by African American women.   East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, September 2015. Photo: BP

Night had fallen, and we were getting ready to drive home when Melissa uncovered the headstone of Mary Willis, who died October 17, 1952. According to her death certificate, she was born circa 1895 in Henrico County, the daughter of Walter and Hester Young. "Victoria Tent [No.] 30," which is inscribed on her headstone, was the secondary name of the United Order of Tents of J. R. Giddings & Jollifee Union, a fraternal beneficiary society managed predominantly by African American women. 

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, September 2015. Photo: BP

 Charles Edward Sullivan was one of two veterans we uncovered this past weekend (Oct. 10–11). Though ivy had crept up and over his headstone, it had not totally swallowed the grave, where someone had planted a small U.S. flag. We peeled back the vines and repositioned the flag, which had become entangled in the tendrils.  Mr. Sullivan was born in Greenville, South Carolina, in 1896; served in the Army in World War I; worked for the American Tobacco Company, onetime makers of Lucky Strike and Pall Mall cigarettes; and married Lydia (Bolden) Stokes late in life, at the age of 53.  Whenever we find long-buried veterans, especially of World War I or II, we wonder what they might have faced upon their return to Jim Crow Virginia. In  From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans,  the venerable late historian  John Hope Franklin  wrote, "More than seventy blacks were lynched during the first year of the [post-WWI] period. Ten black soldiers, several still in their uniforms, were lynched. Mississippi and Georgia mobs each murdered three returned soldiers, in Arkansas two were lynched, while Florida and Alabama each took the life of a black soldier by mob violence. Fourteen Negroes were burned publicly, eleven of whom were burned alive."  East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

Charles Edward Sullivan was one of two veterans we uncovered this past weekend (Oct. 10–11). Though ivy had crept up and over his headstone, it had not totally swallowed the grave, where someone had planted a small U.S. flag. We peeled back the vines and repositioned the flag, which had become entangled in the tendrils.

Mr. Sullivan was born in Greenville, South Carolina, in 1896; served in the Army in World War I; worked for the American Tobacco Company, onetime makers of Lucky Strike and Pall Mall cigarettes; and married Lydia (Bolden) Stokes late in life, at the age of 53.

Whenever we find long-buried veterans, especially of World War I or II, we wonder what they might have faced upon their return to Jim Crow Virginia. In From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans, the venerable late historian John Hope Franklin wrote, "More than seventy blacks were lynched during the first year of the [post-WWI] period. Ten black soldiers, several still in their uniforms, were lynched. Mississippi and Georgia mobs each murdered three returned soldiers, in Arkansas two were lynched, while Florida and Alabama each took the life of a black soldier by mob violence. Fourteen Negroes were burned publicly, eleven of whom were burned alive."

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

 This image is featured in a  photo essay on the  Nation 's website . The headstone belongs to Charles Watkins (1895–1957), another veteran of World War I. Brian literally stumbled over the grave marker, the first one he found on his own, in January 2015. On Memorial Day, volunteers place American flags next to the veterans' headstones that are visible. It is likely that hundreds more remain buried beneath the carpet of ivy.   East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

This image is featured in a photo essay on the Nation's website. The headstone belongs to Charles Watkins (1895–1957), another veteran of World War I. Brian literally stumbled over the grave marker, the first one he found on his own, in January 2015. On Memorial Day, volunteers place American flags next to the veterans' headstones that are visible. It is likely that hundreds more remain buried beneath the carpet of ivy. 

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

 Volunteers from Jack and Jill's Midlothian chapter wash one of the headstones they unearthed.   East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

Volunteers from Jack and Jill's Midlothian chapter wash one of the headstones they unearthed. 

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

 Erin shares a birthday with Lilia (Ball) Jordan, who was born 82 years earlier, in 1893.   East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

Erin shares a birthday with Lilia (Ball) Jordan, who was born 82 years earlier, in 1893. 

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

 East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

 East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

 East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

 East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

 East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

 Susan Clark(e)—her name is spelled both ways—and Julia Clark Harris were sisters-in-law. It took about 15 minutes of hard digging to unearth Ms. Harris's headstone, which was tightly packed in the dirt. A tree must have fallen on it and driven it into the ground. Ms. Clark(e)'s headstone was easier to extract from its nest of ivy.  East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

Susan Clark(e)—her name is spelled both ways—and Julia Clark Harris were sisters-in-law. It took about 15 minutes of hard digging to unearth Ms. Harris's headstone, which was tightly packed in the dirt. A tree must have fallen on it and driven it into the ground. Ms. Clark(e)'s headstone was easier to extract from its nest of ivy.

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

 All but the top right corner of Joseph L. Taylor's headstone had been completely buried where it stood. Mr. Taylor (1876–1931), true to his name, was a tailor by trade. He was also the husband of Sarah Saunders (they were married in Richmond in 1902) and the father of at least five children, Margaret (named, perhaps, after his mother), Martha, Joseph Jr., Harry, and Thelma. According to her death certificate, his wife is also buried at East End, but we have not yet uncovered her grave.   East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

All but the top right corner of Joseph L. Taylor's headstone had been completely buried where it stood. Mr. Taylor (1876–1931), true to his name, was a tailor by trade. He was also the husband of Sarah Saunders (they were married in Richmond in 1902) and the father of at least five children, Margaret (named, perhaps, after his mother), Martha, Joseph Jr., Harry, and Thelma. According to her death certificate, his wife is also buried at East End, but we have not yet uncovered her grave. 

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

 Fall comes to East End.  East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

Fall comes to East End.

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

 East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, November 2015. Photo: BP

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, November 2015. Photo: BP

 East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, November 2015. Photo: BP

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, November 2015. Photo: BP

 According to Freedman's Bank records, William M. Mason was about 23 years old in July 1870. Born in Caroline County—his mother's name was Mary; there is no name given for his father, just one word: "dead"—he grew up in Spotsylvania County. By 1870, he was married to Elizabeth Harris and had two children, Walter and Alice. By 1900, Mrs. Mason had given birth to nine children, eight of whom were living, and at least two of whom, Walter and Mary (Lemas), are buried alongside their parents at East End.  In addition to being a carpenter by trade, Mr. Mason was a deacon of  Ebenezer Baptist Church , founded in 1857, and for a time the president of the Galilean Fishermen Relief Association, which maintained a " fund for the relief of widows, orphans, or beneficiaries  of deceased members of the said association or of such other persons as may insure therein." William Custalo, one of our most prominent East Enders, also sat on the Galilean board.   East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, December 2015. Photo: BP

According to Freedman's Bank records, William M. Mason was about 23 years old in July 1870. Born in Caroline County—his mother's name was Mary; there is no name given for his father, just one word: "dead"—he grew up in Spotsylvania County. By 1870, he was married to Elizabeth Harris and had two children, Walter and Alice. By 1900, Mrs. Mason had given birth to nine children, eight of whom were living, and at least two of whom, Walter and Mary (Lemas), are buried alongside their parents at East End.

In addition to being a carpenter by trade, Mr. Mason was a deacon of Ebenezer Baptist Church, founded in 1857, and for a time the president of the Galilean Fishermen Relief Association, which maintained a "fund for the relief of widows, orphans, or beneficiaries of deceased members of the said association or of such other persons as may insure therein." William Custalo, one of our most prominent East Enders, also sat on the Galilean board. 

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, December 2015. Photo: BP

 East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, December 2015. Photo: BP

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, December 2015. Photo: BP

 Evergreen Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia, January 2016. Photo: BP

Evergreen Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia, January 2016. Photo: BP

 The trash in the foreground had been unceremoniously heaped on top of this WWI veteran's headstone. Overgrowth is one thing; flagrant disregard is another. For years, East End served as an illegal dumping ground. In spring 2015, volunteers removed nearly 1,500 tires from this section of the cemetery. We spent much of one weekend nearly a year later extracting layer upon layer of impacted trash—clothing, tar-paper shingles, carpet, car parts, Pepsi bottles, plastic toys, beer cans, and still more tires—from the same area. We found several headstones and metal grave markers beneath the filthy, tangled trash. The county has since provided a dumpster for its removal, but much more remains in caches beneath snarls of ivy and roots and dirt. You do find yourself wondering as you dig through the unofficial dump, who does this? Who piles a veteran's headstone with garbage?  East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, March 2016. Photo: BP

The trash in the foreground had been unceremoniously heaped on top of this WWI veteran's headstone. Overgrowth is one thing; flagrant disregard is another. For years, East End served as an illegal dumping ground. In spring 2015, volunteers removed nearly 1,500 tires from this section of the cemetery. We spent much of one weekend nearly a year later extracting layer upon layer of impacted trash—clothing, tar-paper shingles, carpet, car parts, Pepsi bottles, plastic toys, beer cans, and still more tires—from the same area. We found several headstones and metal grave markers beneath the filthy, tangled trash. The county has since provided a dumpster for its removal, but much more remains in caches beneath snarls of ivy and roots and dirt. You do find yourself wondering as you dig through the unofficial dump, who does this? Who piles a veteran's headstone with garbage?

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, March 2016. Photo: BP

 A volunteer from Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School hauls a load of brush to the dumpster. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, May 2016. Photo: BP

A volunteer from Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School hauls a load of brush to the dumpster. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, May 2016. Photo: BP

 After helping to excavate much of the illegally dumped trash from one section of the cemetery, volunteer Justin Curtis (who moved back to Ohio in August 2015 but makes regular trips to Richmond to work at East End) tosses it into the dumpster. Henrico County has since hauled the junk away. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, May 2016. Photo: BP

After helping to excavate much of the illegally dumped trash from one section of the cemetery, volunteer Justin Curtis (who moved back to Ohio in August 2015 but makes regular trips to Richmond to work at East End) tosses it into the dumpster. Henrico County has since hauled the junk away. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, May 2016. Photo: BP

 John Shuck (right), who has been leading the cleanup effort at East End for three years (he spent five years before that at neighboring Evergreen), gives student volunteers a tour of the cemetery. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, May 2016. Photo: BP

John Shuck (right), who has been leading the cleanup effort at East End for three years (he spent five years before that at neighboring Evergreen), gives student volunteers a tour of the cemetery. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, May 2016. Photo: BP

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 East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, June 2016. Photo: BP

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, June 2016. Photo: BP

 Erin uncovered Lacie H. Rogers's nameplate in March 2015, then rediscovered it in June 2016 after tackling some of the spring growth that had engulfed it once again. An online search revealed little about Mrs. Rogers, née Jackson, who was born December 17, 1913, in South Carolina, and died in Richmond on March 30, 1966. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, June 2016. Photo: BP

Erin uncovered Lacie H. Rogers's nameplate in March 2015, then rediscovered it in June 2016 after tackling some of the spring growth that had engulfed it once again. An online search revealed little about Mrs. Rogers, née Jackson, who was born December 17, 1913, in South Carolina, and died in Richmond on March 30, 1966. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, June 2016. Photo: BP

 A handmade headstone, inlaid with marbles, survived the weight of a falling tree. There's no name on the marker—only dates: 1897, 1962. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, June 2016. Photo: BP

A handmade headstone, inlaid with marbles, survived the weight of a falling tree. There's no name on the marker—only dates: 1897, 1962. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, June 2016. Photo: BP

 This privet is going  down.  East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, June 2016. Photo: BP

This privet is going down. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, June 2016. Photo: BP

 One of many veterans buried at East End, Charles Hunt lies in an as-yet-uncleared section of the cemetery. A gigantic fallen tree stretches alongside his headstone, having narrowly missed the marker whenever it came crashing down. Mr. Hunt was born in New Kent County, Virginia, circa 1867 and served in the Army during World War I as a 1st sergeant, an unusually high rank for an African American at the time. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, July 2016. Photo: BP

One of many veterans buried at East End, Charles Hunt lies in an as-yet-uncleared section of the cemetery. A gigantic fallen tree stretches alongside his headstone, having narrowly missed the marker whenever it came crashing down. Mr. Hunt was born in New Kent County, Virginia, circa 1867 and served in the Army during World War I as a 1st sergeant, an unusually high rank for an African American at the time. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, July 2016. Photo: BP

 The work of weeding the cleared sections is never done. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, July 2016. Photo: BP

The work of weeding the cleared sections is never done. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, July 2016. Photo: BP

 Goats from Bright Hope Farm & Apiary come to the cemetery for a trial run. Poison ivy is, apparently, a "goat delicacy." East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, July 2016. Photo: BP

Goats from Bright Hope Farm & Apiary come to the cemetery for a trial run. Poison ivy is, apparently, a "goat delicacy." East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, July 2016. Photo: BP

 Volunteers, including employees from Nelsen Funeral Home, reinter remains found above ground, believed to be those of a child. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, July 2016. Photo: BP

Volunteers, including employees from Nelsen Funeral Home, reinter remains found above ground, believed to be those of a child. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, July 2016. Photo: BP

 Rampant summer growth has taken over many of the cleared sections and must be tamed. These giant weeds are relatively easy to uproot, at least. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, July 2016. Photo: BP

Rampant summer growth has taken over many of the cleared sections and must be tamed. These giant weeds are relatively easy to uproot, at least. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, July 2016. Photo: BP

 What looked like a hummock of ivy turned out to be the grave of Annie Pulliam, who died in 1927 at age 19. Like so many people buried at East End, she worked in one of Richmond's tobacco factories. And like so many from that era, she died of tuberculosis. Her father, Henry, however, lived to be 99 years old, passing away just a couple of months before his 100th birthday in January 1981. He's buried at Oakwood. On his death certificate, Mr. Pulliam is identified as "Negro"—in 1981. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, July 2016. Photo: BP

What looked like a hummock of ivy turned out to be the grave of Annie Pulliam, who died in 1927 at age 19. Like so many people buried at East End, she worked in one of Richmond's tobacco factories. And like so many from that era, she died of tuberculosis. Her father, Henry, however, lived to be 99 years old, passing away just a couple of months before his 100th birthday in January 1981. He's buried at Oakwood. On his death certificate, Mr. Pulliam is identified as "Negro"—in 1981. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, July 2016. Photo: BP

 On a sweltering summer evening, Erin bent down to pick up a few pieces of plastic and ended up unearthing another trove of trash—bottles, beer cans, shingles, miscellaneous building materials. There's more under there, but every scrap we remove feels like a tiny step toward restoring the sanctity of the burial ground. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, July 2016. Photo: BP

On a sweltering summer evening, Erin bent down to pick up a few pieces of plastic and ended up unearthing another trove of trash—bottles, beer cans, shingles, miscellaneous building materials. There's more under there, but every scrap we remove feels like a tiny step toward restoring the sanctity of the burial ground. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, July 2016. Photo: BP

 East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2016. Photo: BP   

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2016. Photo: BP

 

 Piecing together the headstone of Jean Ann Harris (1941–1966). Many of the fragments had been completely buried, perhaps by a large tree that crashed across the plot. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2016. Photo: BP

Piecing together the headstone of Jean Ann Harris (1941–1966). Many of the fragments had been completely buried, perhaps by a large tree that crashed across the plot. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2016. Photo: BP

 East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2016. Photo: BP

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2016. Photo: BP

 Erin and Melissa at work in a nearly untouched, ferociously buggy section of the cemetery on a humid late-summer day. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, September 2016. Photo: BP

Erin and Melissa at work in a nearly untouched, ferociously buggy section of the cemetery on a humid late-summer day. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, September 2016. Photo: BP

 East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, September 2016. Photo: BP

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, September 2016. Photo: BP

 Different season, same hat—and new dog! Teacake, whom we adopted from Richmond Animal Care and Control at the end of September 2016, has become a cemetery regular in recent months. Her favorite activities include bounding through the ivy in pursuit of her dog friend Willow, chomping on sticks and brambles (she has no fear of thorns), and occasionally "helping" dig out buried grave markers. Here, she supervises as Erin extracts the headstone of Lillie (Branch) Reynolds (1891–1956) on an unseasonably warm winter day. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, January 4, 2017. Photo: BP

Different season, same hat—and new dog! Teacake, whom we adopted from Richmond Animal Care and Control at the end of September 2016, has become a cemetery regular in recent months. Her favorite activities include bounding through the ivy in pursuit of her dog friend Willow, chomping on sticks and brambles (she has no fear of thorns), and occasionally "helping" dig out buried grave markers. Here, she supervises as Erin extracts the headstone of Lillie (Branch) Reynolds (1891–1956) on an unseasonably warm winter day. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, January 4, 2017. Photo: BP

 Evergreen Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia, January 4, 2017. Photo: BP

Evergreen Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia, January 4, 2017. Photo: BP

 Four days later, after a storm blanketed Richmond with about eight inches of snow. Evergreen Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia, January 8, 2017. Photo: BP

Four days later, after a storm blanketed Richmond with about eight inches of snow. Evergreen Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia, January 8, 2017. Photo: BP

 Rebecca Mitchell's monument, erected by her son, John Mitchell Jr., fearless editor of the  Richmond Planet.  Evergreen Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia, January 8, 2017. Photo: BP

Rebecca Mitchell's monument, erected by her son, John Mitchell Jr., fearless editor of the Richmond Planet. Evergreen Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia, January 8, 2017. Photo: BP

 Teacake explores Evergreens snowy alleys. Evergreen Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia, January 8, 2017. Photo: BP   

Teacake explores Evergreens snowy alleys. Evergreen Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia, January 8, 2017. Photo: BP

 

  East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, January 2017. Photo: EHP

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, January 2017. Photo: EHP

We made our first trip to East End, a historic African American cemetery in Henrico County and the City of Richmond, more than a year ago, in May 2014, though we didn’t know it at the time. We were on our way to Evergreen Cemetery, East End's better-known neighbor, where famous black Richmonders Maggie Walker and John Mitchell Jr. are buried. Driving slowly down the access road past what looked like forest, even jungle, we spotted bits of white and gray—corners, tops, and edges of funerary monuments. We assumed that these were Evergreen graves and had no idea that we were catching glimpses of a different overgrown cemetery, a sixteen-acre burial ground with a parallel story.

Much of what is now East End was originally chartered as Greenwood Cemetery in 1892 by an association of prominent African Americans. After defaulting, they sold the property back to its original owners for five dollars. A new group of leading lights took over in 1897, when it became East End. Other back-and-forths followed. No arrangements for perpetual care were ever made, so when the community that supported the cemetery began to disperse under the weight of many forces—the attack on African American civil rights and economic power in the wake of Reconstruction; the physical destruction of Jackson Ward; the demise of de jure segregation, which opened burial grounds in the city proper to African Americans—East End Cemetery deteriorated. As a business entity, it is again in default, according to the last member of the burial association listed in Henrico County records as its owner. Volunteers, us among them, do what they can to keep nature, vandals, and surreptitious trash dumpers at bay, but only a large, creative, and collaborative effort that involves public entities and citizens—perhaps similar to the way public funds are earmarked for Confederate monuments and cemeteries such as Oakwood—will restore East End. 

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: Brian Palmer

Nine Thompson family headstones uncovered so far, those of Peter and Bettie (Gray) Thompson, their sons Harry C., Oliver, and George K., and Harry's first wife, Martha (Hooper) Thompson. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP

One of five WWII veterans uncovered one morning this month: Linwood Allen Tabb Jr., b. April 16, 1927, in Charles City County, Virginia, d. December 2, 1979, in Richmond. He was the son of Linwood A. Tabb Sr. and Mary (Cumber) Tabb, both of Charles City. According to his death certificate, he never married. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP

Erin noticed the headstone of Samuel Smith Sr. peeking through the ivy and stopped to uncover it one late-summer evening. Mr. Smith, b. ca. 1865, d. December 11, 1927, was a deacon at the Moore Street Baptist Church, one of Richmond's historic black churches. Moore Street, an offspring of Second Baptist, was founded in 1875. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP

The imposing gravestone of restaurant and bar proprietor William Custalo—reportedly the wealthiest person of color in Richmond at the time of his death in September 1907—was too heavy even for strapping soldiers to right back in March, when its veil of ivy was removed by volunteers. Mr. Custalo, b. ca. 1840, was the son of free blacks in Richmond. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy toward the tail end of the Civil War and later married Nancy Bacchus, who is also buried at East End; the two had no children. His establishment, Custalo House, stood at the corner of E. Broad and Seventh Streets for many years.

The small, toothlike gravestone poking up next to Mr. Custalo's monument was uncovered only in the past few weeks. It belongs to one L. T. Shepard; more digging is needed to reveal the dates.

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP

A thin, unmarked slab found beneath the ivy at the base of a tree in the old section of the cemetery. Could the inscription have been smoothed away by decades of neglect, or was there never anything there to begin with?

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP

David Winston Jones's headstone, just inside the East End boundary line, was unearthed by volunteers in the spring of this year. Born in Richmond in 1910 (according to his headstone) or 1912 (according to his death certificate) to David W. and Lenora (Jasper) Jones, Pvt. Jones was a veteran of World War II. He died on May 28, 1978. The entrance to Evergreen Cemetery, also largely overgrown, is visible in the background. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: Erin Hollaway Palmer

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP

Minnie Dora (Harris) Kemp was born in Richmond on July 31, 1890, to Charles E. and Barbara A. Harris. She married Wendall Porter Kemp (1884–1969), son of William and Catherine (Ransome) Kemp, on Christmas Day 1912. Both worked for the U.S. Post Office, he as a janitor, she as a "charwoman" (according to the 1930 census) or "maid" (according to her death certificate). They lived for many years on Turpin Street in what was part of Jackson Ward until it was swallowed by redevelopment.

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP

Most of the people buried at East End were born after the Civil War, but occasionally we uncover headstones such as this one. We cannot assume that Sarah J. Richards was born into slavery in 1843, and yet, given the demographics of the day, there's a very good chance she was. (In 1840, free people of color composed about 4 percent of the population; enslaved people made up about 36 percent.) Further digging revealed Mrs. Richards's death date: 23 August 1920. According to her death certificate, she was born Sarah Brown in Charles City County, Virginia. Her father's name was Jonas Brown; her mother's name is as yet unknown. 

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP

Here is one of those maddening mysteries we encounter all the time in our research: William F. Tinsley (1912–1938), for whom there are two headstones, was apparently a deliveryman (according to his death certificate) or "wagon boy" (according to the 1932 city directory) for Thalhimer Brothers, a onetime department store in downtown Richmond. His death certificate lists, in typed letters, George O. Tinsley as both father and informant; his mother's name, Lillie, is inked in by hand — no maiden name is provided here. And his middle initial is H, not F (by this point, though, we're used to such minor discrepancies). What's perplexing is this: In the 1920 census, seven-year-old William F. Tinsley is listed along with his parents, William (not George O.) and Lillie, and his sisters and brother, Catherine, Caroline, and Austin, at 900 N. Seventh Street — which is also the address listed on his death certificate. The elder William's mother, Ann Tinsley (née Robinson, 1860–1923), is living with them. What we presume to be her headstone can be seen in this photograph. Her mother was Caroline Lindsey (1817–1910), whose name somehow became "Linsley" — a combination of Lindsey and Tinsley? — on her headstone, which was wedged between William F.'s and Ann's. She too was living at 900 N. Seventh Street as far back as 1880.

So all signs — names, address, grouping of headstones — seem to indicate that William F. Tinsley was the son of William Tinsley (middle initial H., according to his death certificate and other documents) and Lillie Johnson (daughter of Steven Johnson and Kate, maiden name unknown). William H. was, in turn, the son of William Tinsley (middle initial unknown) and Ann Robinson, the daughter of William Robinson and Caroline Lindsey (maiden name unknown; she married Warner Lindsey sometime between 1870 and 1880). So who was George O. Tinsley, then? 

The Richmond city directory of 1935, for instance, lists a certain Geo. O. Tinsley Jr. "(c)" — for "colored" — at 931 W. Clay Street. (On the next page, William H. appears, with wife Lillie J., at 900 N. Seventh Street. One line down is William H. Jr. — not William F. [?!] living at the same address.) According to the 1930 census, George O. Jr. was born circa 1906; his father, circa 1875. So George O. Sr. would have been the right age to be William F.'s father, but we've found nothing to link them to each other. So far, our searches have not revealed his parents' names — we have not found a death certificate or census records prior to 1910 — or any ties to the William Tinsleys. We do know he married Eva Beatrice Brown (1882–1925), daughter of Charles and Amanda (Banks) Brown, circa 1901. (We have not, however, found a marriage record.) In 1910, they were living with her parents on Sixth Street with their two sons, Dewitt Maurice (d. 1951) and George O. Jr. (d. 1975). And we know, thanks to Dewitt's unique name, which led us to other records, that the "O" stood for Oliver. According to their death certificates, both Dewitt and George O. Jr. are buried at Evergreen Cemetery, next door to East End, as are their wives, Lillian L. Freeland and Ardelia B. Epps, and their mother, Eva.

Where George O. Sr. is buried is as yet unknown. Evergreen, like East End, is massively overgrown. One small, irregularly maintained section remains opens for burials; the rest has been swallowed by forest and, worse, kudzu.

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, September 2015. Photo: BP

After snipping away the ring of vines encircling the base of James Alfred Woodson's monument, we were startled by a copperhead, which slithered out from under the ivy. It then made a beeline for its cubby hole beneath the gravestone, where it kept watch, its orange eye with a vertical slit of a pupil trained on us. This is also where we found the four Tinsley headstones, propped against the Woodson base. A Tinsley plot, with no Tinsleys yet uncovered, is across what was once a walkway but is now choked with ivy.

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, September 2015. Photo: BP

We have been working to remove layer upon layer of slate shingles and tar paper dumped by an unscrupulous citizen on top of a plot in the old section, within easy striking distance of the access road. Ivy roots have wound their way through the shingles, binding them to the ground and to one another. We managed to clear the plot sill, revealing the name: Corbett. No headstones have been uncovered so far.

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, September 2015. Photo: BP

Night had fallen, and we were getting ready to drive home when Melissa uncovered the headstone of Mary Willis, who died October 17, 1952. According to her death certificate, she was born circa 1895 in Henrico County, the daughter of Walter and Hester Young. "Victoria Tent [No.] 30," which is inscribed on her headstone, was the secondary name of the United Order of Tents of J. R. Giddings & Jollifee Union, a fraternal beneficiary society managed predominantly by African American women. 

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, September 2015. Photo: BP

Charles Edward Sullivan was one of two veterans we uncovered this past weekend (Oct. 10–11). Though ivy had crept up and over his headstone, it had not totally swallowed the grave, where someone had planted a small U.S. flag. We peeled back the vines and repositioned the flag, which had become entangled in the tendrils.

Mr. Sullivan was born in Greenville, South Carolina, in 1896; served in the Army in World War I; worked for the American Tobacco Company, onetime makers of Lucky Strike and Pall Mall cigarettes; and married Lydia (Bolden) Stokes late in life, at the age of 53.

Whenever we find long-buried veterans, especially of World War I or II, we wonder what they might have faced upon their return to Jim Crow Virginia. In From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans, the venerable late historian John Hope Franklin wrote, "More than seventy blacks were lynched during the first year of the [post-WWI] period. Ten black soldiers, several still in their uniforms, were lynched. Mississippi and Georgia mobs each murdered three returned soldiers, in Arkansas two were lynched, while Florida and Alabama each took the life of a black soldier by mob violence. Fourteen Negroes were burned publicly, eleven of whom were burned alive."

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

This image is featured in a photo essay on the Nation's website. The headstone belongs to Charles Watkins (1895–1957), another veteran of World War I. Brian literally stumbled over the grave marker, the first one he found on his own, in January 2015. On Memorial Day, volunteers place American flags next to the veterans' headstones that are visible. It is likely that hundreds more remain buried beneath the carpet of ivy. 

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

Volunteers from Jack and Jill's Midlothian chapter wash one of the headstones they unearthed. 

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

Erin shares a birthday with Lilia (Ball) Jordan, who was born 82 years earlier, in 1893. 

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

Susan Clark(e)—her name is spelled both ways—and Julia Clark Harris were sisters-in-law. It took about 15 minutes of hard digging to unearth Ms. Harris's headstone, which was tightly packed in the dirt. A tree must have fallen on it and driven it into the ground. Ms. Clark(e)'s headstone was easier to extract from its nest of ivy.

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

All but the top right corner of Joseph L. Taylor's headstone had been completely buried where it stood. Mr. Taylor (1876–1931), true to his name, was a tailor by trade. He was also the husband of Sarah Saunders (they were married in Richmond in 1902) and the father of at least five children, Margaret (named, perhaps, after his mother), Martha, Joseph Jr., Harry, and Thelma. According to her death certificate, his wife is also buried at East End, but we have not yet uncovered her grave. 

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

Fall comes to East End.

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, November 2015. Photo: BP

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, November 2015. Photo: BP

According to Freedman's Bank records, William M. Mason was about 23 years old in July 1870. Born in Caroline County—his mother's name was Mary; there is no name given for his father, just one word: "dead"—he grew up in Spotsylvania County. By 1870, he was married to Elizabeth Harris and had two children, Walter and Alice. By 1900, Mrs. Mason had given birth to nine children, eight of whom were living, and at least two of whom, Walter and Mary (Lemas), are buried alongside their parents at East End.

In addition to being a carpenter by trade, Mr. Mason was a deacon of Ebenezer Baptist Church, founded in 1857, and for a time the president of the Galilean Fishermen Relief Association, which maintained a "fund for the relief of widows, orphans, or beneficiaries of deceased members of the said association or of such other persons as may insure therein." William Custalo, one of our most prominent East Enders, also sat on the Galilean board. 

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, December 2015. Photo: BP

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, December 2015. Photo: BP

Evergreen Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia, January 2016. Photo: BP

The trash in the foreground had been unceremoniously heaped on top of this WWI veteran's headstone. Overgrowth is one thing; flagrant disregard is another. For years, East End served as an illegal dumping ground. In spring 2015, volunteers removed nearly 1,500 tires from this section of the cemetery. We spent much of one weekend nearly a year later extracting layer upon layer of impacted trash—clothing, tar-paper shingles, carpet, car parts, Pepsi bottles, plastic toys, beer cans, and still more tires—from the same area. We found several headstones and metal grave markers beneath the filthy, tangled trash. The county has since provided a dumpster for its removal, but much more remains in caches beneath snarls of ivy and roots and dirt. You do find yourself wondering as you dig through the unofficial dump, who does this? Who piles a veteran's headstone with garbage?

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, March 2016. Photo: BP

A volunteer from Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School hauls a load of brush to the dumpster. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, May 2016. Photo: BP

After helping to excavate much of the illegally dumped trash from one section of the cemetery, volunteer Justin Curtis (who moved back to Ohio in August 2015 but makes regular trips to Richmond to work at East End) tosses it into the dumpster. Henrico County has since hauled the junk away. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, May 2016. Photo: BP

John Shuck (right), who has been leading the cleanup effort at East End for three years (he spent five years before that at neighboring Evergreen), gives student volunteers a tour of the cemetery. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, May 2016. Photo: BP

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, June 2016. Photo: BP

Erin uncovered Lacie H. Rogers's nameplate in March 2015, then rediscovered it in June 2016 after tackling some of the spring growth that had engulfed it once again. An online search revealed little about Mrs. Rogers, née Jackson, who was born December 17, 1913, in South Carolina, and died in Richmond on March 30, 1966. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, June 2016. Photo: BP

A handmade headstone, inlaid with marbles, survived the weight of a falling tree. There's no name on the marker—only dates: 1897, 1962. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, June 2016. Photo: BP

This privet is going down. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, June 2016. Photo: BP

One of many veterans buried at East End, Charles Hunt lies in an as-yet-uncleared section of the cemetery. A gigantic fallen tree stretches alongside his headstone, having narrowly missed the marker whenever it came crashing down. Mr. Hunt was born in New Kent County, Virginia, circa 1867 and served in the Army during World War I as a 1st sergeant, an unusually high rank for an African American at the time. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, July 2016. Photo: BP

The work of weeding the cleared sections is never done. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, July 2016. Photo: BP

Goats from Bright Hope Farm & Apiary come to the cemetery for a trial run. Poison ivy is, apparently, a "goat delicacy." East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, July 2016. Photo: BP

Volunteers, including employees from Nelsen Funeral Home, reinter remains found above ground, believed to be those of a child. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, July 2016. Photo: BP

Rampant summer growth has taken over many of the cleared sections and must be tamed. These giant weeds are relatively easy to uproot, at least. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, July 2016. Photo: BP

What looked like a hummock of ivy turned out to be the grave of Annie Pulliam, who died in 1927 at age 19. Like so many people buried at East End, she worked in one of Richmond's tobacco factories. And like so many from that era, she died of tuberculosis. Her father, Henry, however, lived to be 99 years old, passing away just a couple of months before his 100th birthday in January 1981. He's buried at Oakwood. On his death certificate, Mr. Pulliam is identified as "Negro"—in 1981. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, July 2016. Photo: BP

On a sweltering summer evening, Erin bent down to pick up a few pieces of plastic and ended up unearthing another trove of trash—bottles, beer cans, shingles, miscellaneous building materials. There's more under there, but every scrap we remove feels like a tiny step toward restoring the sanctity of the burial ground. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, July 2016. Photo: BP

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2016. Photo: BP

 

Piecing together the headstone of Jean Ann Harris (1941–1966). Many of the fragments had been completely buried, perhaps by a large tree that crashed across the plot. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2016. Photo: BP

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2016. Photo: BP

Erin and Melissa at work in a nearly untouched, ferociously buggy section of the cemetery on a humid late-summer day. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, September 2016. Photo: BP

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, September 2016. Photo: BP

Different season, same hat—and new dog! Teacake, whom we adopted from Richmond Animal Care and Control at the end of September 2016, has become a cemetery regular in recent months. Her favorite activities include bounding through the ivy in pursuit of her dog friend Willow, chomping on sticks and brambles (she has no fear of thorns), and occasionally "helping" dig out buried grave markers. Here, she supervises as Erin extracts the headstone of Lillie (Branch) Reynolds (1891–1956) on an unseasonably warm winter day. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, January 4, 2017. Photo: BP

Evergreen Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia, January 4, 2017. Photo: BP

Four days later, after a storm blanketed Richmond with about eight inches of snow. Evergreen Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia, January 8, 2017. Photo: BP

Rebecca Mitchell's monument, erected by her son, John Mitchell Jr., fearless editor of the Richmond Planet. Evergreen Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia, January 8, 2017. Photo: BP

Teacake explores Evergreens snowy alleys. Evergreen Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia, January 8, 2017. Photo: BP

 

East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, January 2017. Photo: EHP

 We made our first trip to East End, a historic African American cemetery in Henrico County and the City of Richmond, more than a year ago, in May 2014, though we didn’t know it at the time. We were on our way to Evergreen Cemetery, East End's better-known neighbor, where famous black Richmonders Maggie Walker and John Mitchell Jr. are buried. Driving slowly down the access road past what looked like forest, even jungle, we spotted bits of white and gray—corners, tops, and edges of funerary monuments. We assumed that these were Evergreen graves and had no idea that we were catching glimpses of a different overgrown cemetery, a sixteen-acre burial ground with a parallel story.  Much of what is now East End was originally chartered as Greenwood Cemetery in 1892 by an association of prominent African Americans. After defaulting, they sold the property back to its original owners for five dollars. A new group of leading lights took over in 1897, when it became East End. Other back-and-forths followed. No arrangements for perpetual care were ever made, so when the community that supported the cemetery began to disperse under the weight of many forces—the attack on African American civil rights and economic power in the wake of Reconstruction; the physical destruction of Jackson Ward; the demise of de jure segregation, which opened burial grounds in the city proper to African Americans—East End Cemetery deteriorated. As a business entity, it is again in default, according to the last member of the burial association listed in Henrico County records as its owner. Volunteers, us among them, do what they can to keep nature, vandals, and surreptitious trash dumpers at bay, but only a large, creative, and collaborative effort that involves public entities and citizens—perhaps similar to the way public funds are earmarked for Confederate monuments and cemeteries such as Oakwood—will restore East End.   East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: Brian Palmer
 Nine Thompson family headstones uncovered so far, those of Peter and Bettie (Gray) Thompson, their sons Harry C., Oliver, and George K., and Harry's first wife, Martha (Hooper) Thompson. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP
 East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP
 One of five WWII veterans uncovered one morning this month: Linwood Allen Tabb Jr., b. April 16, 1927, in Charles City County, Virginia, d. December 2, 1979, in Richmond. He was the son of Linwood A. Tabb Sr. and Mary (Cumber) Tabb, both of Charles City. According to his death certificate, he never married. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP
 Erin noticed the headstone of Samuel Smith Sr. peeking through the ivy and stopped to uncover it one late-summer evening. Mr. Smith, b. ca. 1865, d. December 11, 1927, was a deacon at the Moore Street Baptist Church, one of Richmond's historic black churches. Moore Street, an offspring of Second Baptist, was founded in 1875. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP
 The imposing gravestone of restaurant and bar proprietor William Custalo—reportedly the wealthiest person of color in Richmond at the time of his death in September 1907—was too heavy even for strapping soldiers to right back in March, when its veil of ivy was removed by volunteers. Mr. Custalo, b. ca. 1840, was the son of free blacks in Richmond. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy toward the tail end of the Civil War and later married Nancy Bacchus, who is also buried at East End; the two had no children. His establishment, Custalo House, stood at the corner of E. Broad and Seventh Streets for many years.  The small, toothlike gravestone poking up next to Mr. Custalo's monument was uncovered only in the past few weeks. It belongs to one L. T. Shepard; more digging is needed to reveal the dates.  East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP
 A thin, unmarked slab found beneath the ivy at the base of a tree in the old section of the cemetery. Could the inscription have been smoothed away by decades of neglect, or was there never anything there to begin with?  East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP
 David Winston Jones's headstone, just inside the East End boundary line, was unearthed by volunteers in the spring of this year. Born in Richmond in 1910 (according to his headstone) or 1912 (according to his death certificate) to David W. and Lenora (Jasper) Jones, Pvt. Jones was a veteran of World War II. He died on May 28, 1978. The entrance to Evergreen Cemetery, also largely overgrown, is visible in the background. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: Erin Hollaway Palmer
 East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP
 East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP
 Minnie Dora (Harris) Kemp was born in Richmond on July 31, 1890, to Charles E. and Barbara A. Harris. She married Wendall Porter Kemp (1884–1969), son of William and Catherine (Ransome) Kemp, on Christmas Day 1912. Both worked for the U.S. Post Office, he as a janitor, she as a "charwoman" (according to the 1930 census) or "maid" (according to her death certificate). They lived for many years on Turpin Street in what was part of Jackson Ward until it was swallowed by redevelopment.  East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP
 East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP
 Most of the people buried at East End were born after the Civil War, but occasionally we uncover headstones such as this one. We cannot assume that Sarah J. Richards was born into slavery in 1843, and yet, given the demographics of the day, there's a very good chance she was. (In 1840, free people of color composed about 4 percent of the population; enslaved people made up about 36 percent.) Further digging revealed Mrs. Richards's death date: 23 August 1920. According to her death certificate, she was born Sarah Brown in Charles City County, Virginia. Her father's name was Jonas Brown; her mother's name is as yet unknown.   East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2015. Photo: BP
 Here is one of those maddening mysteries we encounter all the time in our research: William F. Tinsley (1912–1938), for whom there are two headstones, was apparently a deliveryman (according to his death certificate) or "wagon boy" (according to the 1932 city directory) for Thalhimer Brothers, a onetime department store in downtown Richmond. His death certificate lists, in typed letters, George O. Tinsley as both father and informant; his mother's name, Lillie, is inked in by hand — no maiden name is provided here. And his middle initial is  H,  not  F  (by this point, though, we're used to such minor discrepancies). What's perplexing is this: In the 1920 census, seven-year-old William F. Tinsley is listed along with his parents, William ( not  George O.) and Lillie, and his sisters and brother, Catherine, Caroline, and Austin, at 900 N. Seventh Street — which is also the address listed on his death certificate. The elder William's mother, Ann Tinsley (née Robinson, 1860–1923), is living with them. What we presume to be her headstone can be seen in this photograph.  Her  mother was Caroline Lindsey (1817–1910), whose name somehow became "Linsley" — a combination of Lindsey and Tinsley? — on her headstone, which was wedged between William F.'s and Ann's. She too was living at 900 N. Seventh Street as far back as 1880.  So all signs — names, address, grouping of headstones — seem to indicate that William F. Tinsley was the son of William Tinsley (middle initial  H.,  according to his death certificate and other documents) and Lillie Johnson (daughter of Steven Johnson and Kate, maiden name unknown). William H. was, in turn, the son of William Tinsley (middle initial unknown) and Ann Robinson, the daughter of William Robinson and Caroline Lindsey (maiden name unknown; she married Warner Lindsey sometime between 1870 and 1880). So who was George O. Tinsley, then?   The Richmond city directory of 1935, for instance, lists a certain Geo. O. Tinsley Jr. "(c)" — for "colored" — at 931 W. Clay Street. (On the next page, William H. appears, with wife Lillie J., at 900 N. Seventh Street. One line down is William H. Jr. — not William F. [?!] living at the same address.) According to the 1930 census, George O. Jr. was born circa 1906; his father, circa 1875. So George O. Sr. would have been the right age to be William F.'s father, but we've found nothing to link them to each other. So far, our searches have not revealed his parents' names — we have not found a death certificate or census records prior to 1910 — or any ties to the William Tinsleys. We do know he married Eva Beatrice Brown (1882–1925), daughter of Charles and Amanda (Banks) Brown, circa 1901. (We have not, however, found a marriage record.) In 1910, they were living with her parents on Sixth Street with their two sons, Dewitt Maurice (d. 1951) and George O. Jr. (d. 1975). And we know, thanks to Dewitt's unique name, which led us to other records, that the "O" stood for Oliver. According to their death certificates, both Dewitt and George O. Jr. are buried at Evergreen Cemetery, next door to East End, as are their wives, Lillian L. Freeland and Ardelia B. Epps, and their mother, Eva.  Where George O. Sr. is buried is as yet unknown. Evergreen, like East End, is massively overgrown. One small, irregularly maintained section remains opens for burials; the rest has been swallowed by forest and, worse, kudzu.  East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, September 2015. Photo: BP
 After snipping away the ring of vines encircling the base of James Alfred Woodson's monument, we were startled by a copperhead, which slithered out from under the ivy. It then made a beeline for its cubby hole beneath the gravestone, where it kept watch, its orange eye with a vertical slit of a pupil trained on us. This is also where we found the four Tinsley headstones, propped against the Woodson base. A Tinsley plot, with no Tinsleys yet uncovered, is across what was once a walkway but is now choked with ivy.  East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, September 2015. Photo: BP
 We have been working to remove layer upon layer of slate shingles and tar paper dumped by an unscrupulous citizen on top of a plot in the old section, within easy striking distance of the access road. Ivy roots have wound their way through the shingles, binding them to the ground and to one another. We managed to clear the plot sill, revealing the name: Corbett. No headstones have been uncovered so far.  East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, September 2015. Photo: BP
 Night had fallen, and we were getting ready to drive home when Melissa uncovered the headstone of Mary Willis, who died October 17, 1952. According to her death certificate, she was born circa 1895 in Henrico County, the daughter of Walter and Hester Young. "Victoria Tent [No.] 30," which is inscribed on her headstone, was the secondary name of the United Order of Tents of J. R. Giddings & Jollifee Union, a fraternal beneficiary society managed predominantly by African American women.   East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, September 2015. Photo: BP
 Charles Edward Sullivan was one of two veterans we uncovered this past weekend (Oct. 10–11). Though ivy had crept up and over his headstone, it had not totally swallowed the grave, where someone had planted a small U.S. flag. We peeled back the vines and repositioned the flag, which had become entangled in the tendrils.  Mr. Sullivan was born in Greenville, South Carolina, in 1896; served in the Army in World War I; worked for the American Tobacco Company, onetime makers of Lucky Strike and Pall Mall cigarettes; and married Lydia (Bolden) Stokes late in life, at the age of 53.  Whenever we find long-buried veterans, especially of World War I or II, we wonder what they might have faced upon their return to Jim Crow Virginia. In  From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans,  the venerable late historian  John Hope Franklin  wrote, "More than seventy blacks were lynched during the first year of the [post-WWI] period. Ten black soldiers, several still in their uniforms, were lynched. Mississippi and Georgia mobs each murdered three returned soldiers, in Arkansas two were lynched, while Florida and Alabama each took the life of a black soldier by mob violence. Fourteen Negroes were burned publicly, eleven of whom were burned alive."  East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP
 This image is featured in a  photo essay on the  Nation 's website . The headstone belongs to Charles Watkins (1895–1957), another veteran of World War I. Brian literally stumbled over the grave marker, the first one he found on his own, in January 2015. On Memorial Day, volunteers place American flags next to the veterans' headstones that are visible. It is likely that hundreds more remain buried beneath the carpet of ivy.   East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP
 Volunteers from Jack and Jill's Midlothian chapter wash one of the headstones they unearthed.   East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP
 Erin shares a birthday with Lilia (Ball) Jordan, who was born 82 years earlier, in 1893.   East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP
 East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP
 East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP
 East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP
 East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP
 East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP
 Susan Clark(e)—her name is spelled both ways—and Julia Clark Harris were sisters-in-law. It took about 15 minutes of hard digging to unearth Ms. Harris's headstone, which was tightly packed in the dirt. A tree must have fallen on it and driven it into the ground. Ms. Clark(e)'s headstone was easier to extract from its nest of ivy.  East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP
 All but the top right corner of Joseph L. Taylor's headstone had been completely buried where it stood. Mr. Taylor (1876–1931), true to his name, was a tailor by trade. He was also the husband of Sarah Saunders (they were married in Richmond in 1902) and the father of at least five children, Margaret (named, perhaps, after his mother), Martha, Joseph Jr., Harry, and Thelma. According to her death certificate, his wife is also buried at East End, but we have not yet uncovered her grave.   East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP
 Fall comes to East End.  East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, October 2015. Photo: BP
 East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, November 2015. Photo: BP
 East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, November 2015. Photo: BP
 According to Freedman's Bank records, William M. Mason was about 23 years old in July 1870. Born in Caroline County—his mother's name was Mary; there is no name given for his father, just one word: "dead"—he grew up in Spotsylvania County. By 1870, he was married to Elizabeth Harris and had two children, Walter and Alice. By 1900, Mrs. Mason had given birth to nine children, eight of whom were living, and at least two of whom, Walter and Mary (Lemas), are buried alongside their parents at East End.  In addition to being a carpenter by trade, Mr. Mason was a deacon of  Ebenezer Baptist Church , founded in 1857, and for a time the president of the Galilean Fishermen Relief Association, which maintained a " fund for the relief of widows, orphans, or beneficiaries  of deceased members of the said association or of such other persons as may insure therein." William Custalo, one of our most prominent East Enders, also sat on the Galilean board.   East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, December 2015. Photo: BP
 East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, December 2015. Photo: BP
 Evergreen Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia, January 2016. Photo: BP
 The trash in the foreground had been unceremoniously heaped on top of this WWI veteran's headstone. Overgrowth is one thing; flagrant disregard is another. For years, East End served as an illegal dumping ground. In spring 2015, volunteers removed nearly 1,500 tires from this section of the cemetery. We spent much of one weekend nearly a year later extracting layer upon layer of impacted trash—clothing, tar-paper shingles, carpet, car parts, Pepsi bottles, plastic toys, beer cans, and still more tires—from the same area. We found several headstones and metal grave markers beneath the filthy, tangled trash. The county has since provided a dumpster for its removal, but much more remains in caches beneath snarls of ivy and roots and dirt. You do find yourself wondering as you dig through the unofficial dump, who does this? Who piles a veteran's headstone with garbage?  East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, March 2016. Photo: BP
 A volunteer from Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School hauls a load of brush to the dumpster. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, May 2016. Photo: BP
 After helping to excavate much of the illegally dumped trash from one section of the cemetery, volunteer Justin Curtis (who moved back to Ohio in August 2015 but makes regular trips to Richmond to work at East End) tosses it into the dumpster. Henrico County has since hauled the junk away. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, May 2016. Photo: BP
 John Shuck (right), who has been leading the cleanup effort at East End for three years (he spent five years before that at neighboring Evergreen), gives student volunteers a tour of the cemetery. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, May 2016. Photo: BP
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 East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, June 2016. Photo: BP
 Erin uncovered Lacie H. Rogers's nameplate in March 2015, then rediscovered it in June 2016 after tackling some of the spring growth that had engulfed it once again. An online search revealed little about Mrs. Rogers, née Jackson, who was born December 17, 1913, in South Carolina, and died in Richmond on March 30, 1966. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, June 2016. Photo: BP
 A handmade headstone, inlaid with marbles, survived the weight of a falling tree. There's no name on the marker—only dates: 1897, 1962. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, June 2016. Photo: BP
 This privet is going  down.  East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, June 2016. Photo: BP
 One of many veterans buried at East End, Charles Hunt lies in an as-yet-uncleared section of the cemetery. A gigantic fallen tree stretches alongside his headstone, having narrowly missed the marker whenever it came crashing down. Mr. Hunt was born in New Kent County, Virginia, circa 1867 and served in the Army during World War I as a 1st sergeant, an unusually high rank for an African American at the time. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, July 2016. Photo: BP
 The work of weeding the cleared sections is never done. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, July 2016. Photo: BP
 Goats from Bright Hope Farm & Apiary come to the cemetery for a trial run. Poison ivy is, apparently, a "goat delicacy." East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, July 2016. Photo: BP
 Volunteers, including employees from Nelsen Funeral Home, reinter remains found above ground, believed to be those of a child. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, July 2016. Photo: BP
 Rampant summer growth has taken over many of the cleared sections and must be tamed. These giant weeds are relatively easy to uproot, at least. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, July 2016. Photo: BP
 What looked like a hummock of ivy turned out to be the grave of Annie Pulliam, who died in 1927 at age 19. Like so many people buried at East End, she worked in one of Richmond's tobacco factories. And like so many from that era, she died of tuberculosis. Her father, Henry, however, lived to be 99 years old, passing away just a couple of months before his 100th birthday in January 1981. He's buried at Oakwood. On his death certificate, Mr. Pulliam is identified as "Negro"—in 1981. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, July 2016. Photo: BP
 On a sweltering summer evening, Erin bent down to pick up a few pieces of plastic and ended up unearthing another trove of trash—bottles, beer cans, shingles, miscellaneous building materials. There's more under there, but every scrap we remove feels like a tiny step toward restoring the sanctity of the burial ground. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, July 2016. Photo: BP
 East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2016. Photo: BP   
 Piecing together the headstone of Jean Ann Harris (1941–1966). Many of the fragments had been completely buried, perhaps by a large tree that crashed across the plot. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2016. Photo: BP
 East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, August 2016. Photo: BP
 Erin and Melissa at work in a nearly untouched, ferociously buggy section of the cemetery on a humid late-summer day. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, September 2016. Photo: BP
 East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, September 2016. Photo: BP
 Different season, same hat—and new dog! Teacake, whom we adopted from Richmond Animal Care and Control at the end of September 2016, has become a cemetery regular in recent months. Her favorite activities include bounding through the ivy in pursuit of her dog friend Willow, chomping on sticks and brambles (she has no fear of thorns), and occasionally "helping" dig out buried grave markers. Here, she supervises as Erin extracts the headstone of Lillie (Branch) Reynolds (1891–1956) on an unseasonably warm winter day. East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, January 4, 2017. Photo: BP
 Evergreen Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia, January 4, 2017. Photo: BP
 Four days later, after a storm blanketed Richmond with about eight inches of snow. Evergreen Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia, January 8, 2017. Photo: BP
 Rebecca Mitchell's monument, erected by her son, John Mitchell Jr., fearless editor of the  Richmond Planet.  Evergreen Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia, January 8, 2017. Photo: BP
 Teacake explores Evergreens snowy alleys. Evergreen Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia, January 8, 2017. Photo: BP   
  East End Cemetery, Henrico County, Virginia, January 2017. Photo: EHP