A recent trip took me to the Maury Cemetery in Southside. The cemetery is anchored by two streets, Maury and Jefferson Davis Highway. Maury Street as you may know runs through Manchester. I’m embarassed to say it, but I did not know about this cemetery until recently.
Apparently, there were a number of small private cemeteries in Manchester before Maury opened its gates back in 1874. This prompted town trustees to purchase land outside of town limits to consolidate into one cemetery. By April 1872, an ordinance was passed forbidding burial within the town limits and all burials were moved out of Manchester and into Maury by 1877.
The name of the cemetery refers to Matthew Fontaine Maury. For some of you who aren’t familiar with Maury, he was a true Renaissance man. He was an United States Naval Command Officer, oceanographer, astronomer, meterologist, among many other disciplines. He was nicknamed “Pathfinder of the Seas” as well as “Scientist of the Seas” later in life.
Maury started his career on the open seas but after injuring his right leg those days were over. So he decided to devote his time charting navigation and meteorology. He entered into the civil war and helped to acquire a ship, all the while trying to advocate for the end of war. When the war was over he did what Robert E. Lee did and resided in Lexington, Virginia until his death. Maury became a teacher at Virginia Military Institute while Lee became President of what is now known as Washington and Lee University.
There are many places named after Maury as well as monuments erected in his name. The Maury River being one such place that flows solely in Rockbridge County and directly into the James River. I spent summers fishing back behind my Granny’s house on the Maury and remember it fondly. Upon Maury’s death in 1873, he was taken through Goshen Pass along the Maury River to Richmond where he was to be buried in Hollywood Cemetery. He rests alongside other notable individuals, James Monroe and John Tyler.
My walk through Maury cemetery was like discovering remnants of a time capsule. Each headstone has a story to tell. A lot has changed around this plot of land that continues to overlook Manchester and Downtown Richmond, including industrial tobacco warehouses. It’s about time we rediscover these once thriving areas and celebrate their history.
You will see in the following images that quite a few familiar names stand out as names that you’ve seen or heard throughout the city.
Photo credits – Laura Dyer Hild