This small cemetery sits on the side of the Rochambeau Road in a wooded area. It lies near CIA training center, Camp Peary, and I-64, yet feels hidden and secluded. I was researching the area for hidden treasures and I definitely found one with Oak Grove Cemetery. The 150 grave cemetery is owned by Oak Grove Baptist Church. The site fell in disrepair to tall grass, downed trees, scattered leaves and damaged headstones. Colette Roots who is a descendant of many of the people buried there held a long standing tradition of going to the cemetery once a year to clean up the site. Roots contacted the church and other descendants after finding the damage, but it had fallen into major disrepair and was beyond the resources of the church. In June of 2020, Roots sent a letter outlining the issues with the cemetery to Colonial Williamsburg and received a response several days later. Colonial Williamsburg committed $40000 in funds and resources. Colonial Williamsburg searched for unmarked graves and Whitings Funeral Home replace or repaired headstones. The project was completed in November 2020.
The church bought the land in 1901 and built a church and cemetery there. The church and cemetery served as segregated sites in the community. It is the oldest African American cemetery in the area. The cemetery contains the burials of enslaved people, a Black Union solider and original members of the congregation. The church moved to another spot in 1914 and in 1943 the U.S. government seized the land through eminent domain for expansion of Camp Peary. The expansion never happened. After years of government control, Colonial Williamsburg purchased the parcel in 1974 and gifted it to Oak Grove Baptist Church.
A numbers of the grave markers bares the name Whitings. Whitings Funeral Home is still in business today and has a history of funeral services to the area. In 1868, an initial request for Henry Cooke to make an infant coffin grew into a multi-site funeral home business with headquarters in Richmond, Virginia. The Cooke family ran the business and in 1932, one of the Cookes married McKinley T. Whiting. They acquired Tabb & Company funeral home and changed the name to Whitings after the death of the George E.B. Tabb. In 2018, the funeral home transferred to Pastor Christopher Stone, who continues the legacy of love, grace and compassion.
Find A Grave website
The Virginia Gazette (VA VG Oak Grove Clean Up)
Whitings Funeral Home website
WTKR News website (Descendants of those buries at local cemetery look to clean up revamp cemetery)
Leave a Reply