Volunteers makeover historic Henrico cemetery, uncovers buried headstones

Henrico County

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC)–A historic African-American cemetery near the Richmond/Henrico County line has been getting a makeover at the hands of several volunteers.

The Woodland Cemetery Restoration Foundation has transformed the cemetery in the last two years. Patricia Bozeman, who has several family members buried at the cemetery, said the site looked different before volunteers stepped in.

“The last visit it was really, really overgrown. It was scruffy. It was really bad,” she said.

The group has since cleared away brush, mowed the grass, resurfaced headstones and repainted the chapel.

Ashley Catterton, with the Henrico County Department of Community Revitalization, said the county manager spearheaded the project back in 2019.

“It was neglected and it dates back to Jim Crow, so over time there just wasn’t anything to help it,” she said.

The county gave about $25,000 to the foundation and tools to clean up the site, according to Catterton.

“We have deep roots, so to speak, here at Woodland Cemetery,” said Bozeman.

She became a board member for the foundation after watching volunteers restore the burial site.

Bozeman hopes to continue the upkeep of Woodland Cemetery by partnering with the Library of Virginia.

John Shuck, the volunteer coordinator for the cemetery, dug up a partial headstone Tuesday morning.

“We find them several inches deep,” he said.

Shuck said he discovered over one thousand headstones this year and finds about 100 headstones each month. He cleans them, takes pictures and then uploads them to a website so family members can find them.

“Over the years they’ve sunken into the ground and gotten covered over with grass clipping, leaves,” Shuck said.

Marvin Harris, Executive Director of the foundation, said about 30,000 African-Americans are buried at the cemetery. The goal of keeping up the graveyard to help families reconnect with loved ones buried there.

“We do see a lot more flowers and decorations put on the graves. Before people couldn’t even find them,” Shuck said.

Arthur Garthwright, a volunteer with the foundation, said Richmond city leaders have paved the road in front of the cemetery, but he wants them to do more.

“It just seemed like it was such a gem that had been lost and no one knew about it,” he said.

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