The foreboding cedar trees on the rough terrain of Cedar Hill cemetery appear to be ethereal sentinels standing in protective awe of past lives in rest.
Massive and unscathed, these cedars present a sense of vitality on a site of sobering impermanence.
Previously named Green Hill, the grounds were developed in 1802 as a public cemetery in the city of Suffolk. It originally served the Union Church, which was subsequently removed from the property to accommodate expansion. The cemetery grew to its current size by 1910. Such expansion became a growing necessity with a total of 15,000 grave sites. In early 2004, Suffolk sold the last 122 available grave sites at the legendary cemetery, at a cost of $600 each.
Although Union soldiers are buried there as well – the Union army occupied Suffolk in May 1862 and most are in unmarked graves. It is likely that slaves and Indians are buried in Cedar Hill, as well. ~ Sue Woodward, Executive Director of the Suffolk-Nansemond Historical Society
The grave markers within the cemetery date to the early 19th century. The earliest grave markers are plain in design, while the mid- to late-19th-century markers display high craftsmanship through statuary and traditional funerary motifs. The pre-Civil War tombstones mostly feature a curved motif with inscribed names and dates, as well as an inscription of age and religious or secular writing. The post-Civil War markers are more evocative of the Victorian-era in cemetery monument style. Those of the immediate post-Civil War period feature similar characteristics to their antebellum predecessors.
The monuments that mark Civil War causalities display iron crosses and cannonballs stacked in a pyramid form. The Victorian-era style monuments are more sculptural with carved figures, crosses, and cedar trees.
In 1997, a dedication was held for restored monuments of local Confederate soldiers. Video recording captured a shadowy, lanky figure standing between the monuments. The figure appeared to be wearing military garb. City residents claim Cedar Hill is supposedly haunted by the ghosts of many different Confederate soldiers.
According to local news reports and accounts, the Cedar Hill cemetery has acquired much neglect and vandalism over its years of operation. Many tombstones and sculptures embellished with carved figures have been particularly sought out and damaged by vandals. Storms and hurricanes, in particular, have produced much damage to the property. Nevertheless, the cedars surrounding the cemetery serve as a resilient refuge for the living and the dead…ethereal sentinels, after all.