Find­ing a fam­ily’s an­ces­tral rest­ing place

Gen­er­a­tions later, a de­ter­mined de­scen­dant finds the pri­vate plot con­tain­ing rel­a­tives, in­clud­ing one of Rap­pa­han­nock’s first judges

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - By DeB­o­rah L. Napier, esq.

Im­me­di­ately af­ter an ice storm this Jan­uary, I set out from home with ded­i­ca­tion, sharp tools, and pro­tec­tive cloth­ing. was de­ter­mined to lo­cate an an­ces­tral ceme­tery I had been search­ing for — for four years.

Af­ter many days of col­lect­ing and por­ing over in­for­ma­tion from records, his­toric maps and in talks with lo­cal res­i­dents, I had a strong hunch I had fi­nally dis­cerned the only pos­si­ble lo­ca­tion for this ceme­tery. I was close to find­ing the site. On Tues­day, Jan. 9, I walked briskly across the cor­ner of a field. As

I got closer, I could see the wrought iron fence en­clos­ing a small pri­vate ceme­tery full of large grave­stones. I ran east, through the gate, to­ward the clos­est mon­u­ment to read the name on the front, and then see­ing one of the long sought af­ter names, I shrieked with joy and amaze­ment and re­lief. Un­be­liev­able! It ex­ists! All of the in­scrip­tions are read­able, and in Jan­uary it was in phe­nom­e­nal con­di­tion con­sid­er­ing the pas­sage of 177 years since one of the first buri­als. On the day we were there, we cut vines, lifted fallen tree limbs off of gravesites, dragged the fence back into its proper align­ment and scat­tered leaves. And then, I took pho­tos of my 18th cen­tury an­ces­tors’ graves. What an in­cred­i­ble fi­nale, the cul­mi­na­tion of a long, long search.

Buried here is Col. Thomas Ad­di­son Spin­dle, one of the first jus­tices of Rap­pa­han­nock County; a son of Col. William Ad­di­son Spin­dle and Leti­cia Puller. Col. Thomas Ad­di­son Spin­dle pre­sum­ably served in the War of 1812, and then mar­ried El­iz­abeth Mundy. They had sev­eral chil­dren. Col. Thomas A. Spin­dle per­formed no­table pub­lic ser­vice in ad­di­tion to his mil­i­tary ser­vice. He served as one of the first jus­tices in the newly cre­ated Rap­pa­han­nock County, hav­ing trans­ferred his ju­di­cial ser­vice from Culpeper County when Rap­pa­han­nock was cre­ated in 1833. He died in 1843 and was buried next to his daugh­ter, Amanda, who had died first in 1841.

This is the Spin­dle Fam­ily Ceme­tery. Quite near to this ceme­tery, on the same crest of a hill, lie those Rap­pa­han­nock res­i­dents who worked for our fam­i­lies prior to 1865, who were of mostly African de­scent. I’m not go­ing to call it a “slave ceme­tery” be­cause I don’t know what their sta­tus was dur­ing their work­ing lives. I do know that the Spin­dle fam­ily held slaves, and that they main­tained close fam­ily re­la­tion­ships. The es­tate plan­ning de­ci­sions ex­pressed in my Culpeper and Rap­pa­han­nock

an­ces­tors’ wills clearly in­di­cate these fam­i­lies of African and English de­scent lived to­gether in fam­ily units. (I wrote about this in a 2013 Rap­pa­han­nock News ar­ti­cle, “DNA Solves a Rap­pa­han­nock Fam­ily Puz­zle”).

I have been for­tu­nate to find the burial sites of many of my 18th- and 19th-cen­tury Culpeper and Rap­pa­han­nock county an­ces­tors. This is due in large part to the great care that was given to these pri­vate fam­ily ceme­ter­ies by landown­ers later in time. Last year, I lo­cated an early 1800s fam­ily ceme­tery not far from View­town in Culpeper County, also af­ter much ef­fort in the blaz­ing heat of the sum­mer. Thanks to for­mer landowner Randy Set­tle in Culpeper County, this place had been metic­u­lously main­tained. Not one weed or vine dis­graced the stones there.

I im­plore all present landown­ers to re­spect and care for these im­por­tant small his­toric sites. Not only are these ar­eas of sa­cred im­por­tance to de­scen­dants, they re­main as mon­u­ments mark­ing our na­tional his­tory.

And I am thank­ful for all who have al­lowed me to in­ter­rupt their day with­out warn­ing to ask ques­tions, to cross their land, to walk among their cu­ri­ous cat­tle, and most im­por­tantly who have man­aged the land to con­serve these im­por­tant memo­ri­als. My grat­i­tude goes out to all of you. Thank you. This is our shared his­tory.


The Spin­dle Ceme­tery re­mains in­tact, 177 years af­ter the first buri­als in the grave­yard east of Bat­tle Moun­tain.

Among the mul­ti­ple gen­er­a­tions buried at the Spin­dle fam­ily plot rests Col. Thomas Ad­di­son Spin­dle, one of Rap­pa­han­nock County’s first judges.

There is a marker for John Spin­dle Hughes, but he was later re-in­terred at a Rich­mond ceme­tery.

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