Fairview Cemetery is an important vestige of the African American community in Staunton and Augusta County, Virginia. For 140 years, families and friends have entrusted the caretakers of this place with the remains of their loved ones.
Fairview is much more than a burial ground. It is a reservoir of memories, holding generations of stories. The names and contributions of many of those buried here are recognized around the globe.
Located at the intersection of Lambert and Augusta Streets, Fairview Cemetery is a testament to the tradition of community building that existed in Staunton’s Black Community. In 1869, members of the Augusta Street United Methodist and Mt. Zion Baptist churches, former slaves, purchased six acres of Simpson Taylor’s 700-acre “Selma” estate. Taylor’s devoted former slave, Anderson, may have influenced the sale. Fairview is still owned by the two churches and is the same property shown on the original survey.
Fairview Cemetery holds many clues to local African American heritage. In the mid-19th century Fairview was outside the city limits in an area known as Sandy Hollow, one of several Black communities in Augusta County. The area was familiar to folk artist Grandma Moses, and a map drawn in 1884 by noted Virginia mapmaker Jed Hotchkiss shows cabins in Sandy Hollow and the Fairview School House.
Martin and Margaret Ann Simmons (b. 1866 and 1867) lived in Sandy Hollow, where Martin worked at the cemetery digging graves by hand. Their granddaughter, Peggy Crawford, and her sons, Jerome and Nathaniel, still live in the close-knit Sandy Hollow community.
Those laid to rest in Fairview represent a diverse society:
William McGlascoe Carter (1852-1902) was born a slave in Albemarle County. He was the owner and editor of the Staunton Tribune newspaper and president of the Augusta Teachers Association. A skillful orater, he defended public education and voting rights for African Americans. Carter shares a grave with his wife, Serena, and their infant son Storum.
Mary Matthews Scott (1880-1934) was born in Ashland, Virginia, and spent her childhood in the home of Robert Blackwell, President of the Randolph-Macon College, where her mother was a housekeeper. Mary followed that tradition, becoming a housekeeper at Mary Baldwin College. She owned a home on Stuart Street and was instrumental in her church’s mortgage-payment fundraising. Her life was dedicated to her family, her church and Mary Baldwin. She was such an inspiration to students and faculty that the college placed a memorial on her grave at Fairview and named a house on campus in her honor.
Godfrey L. and Carrie J. Tate (1881-1946 and 1890-1988)
Oliver J. Tate (1921-2009)
Godfrey Tate was a native of Staunton. He became fervent in his desire to preach. After leaving home for studies and work at several churches, he returned to Staunton as pastor of Augusta Street United Methodist. He married Carrie Ethel Johnson, pianist and organist at Mt. Zion Baptist. To help support their five children, Godfrey also worked six days a week in a clothing store, and Carrie taught piano. He preached until his sudden death at 65, while Carrie continued to make an impact on their neighborhood and church until her death at 98. Their son, Oliver, was the modern-day heart and soul of Fairview Cemetery, serving for more than 15 years as caretaker, funeral liaison, and chairman of the Cemetery Committee.
Ruth Washington Waller (1906-1995) was born in Staunton and attended Booker T. Washington High School. She earned her B.A. at Morgan State College and her M.A. at Columbia University. A teacher, counselor and administrator with Staunton City Schools for 40 years, she was active in the Virginia and National Education Associations, Augusta Street United Methodist, Kings Daughters Hospital, the Woodrow Wilson Birthplace Foundation and the American Red Cross. Her husband, Charles, a Staunton family doctor, was president of the local NAACP and a founder of Montgomery Hall Park.
Fay Wright Gaines (1917-2000) was born in Augusta County. She began her catering career under the tutelage of Rose Smith and managed her own business for 52 years, catering an average of 200 gatherings a year. She was beloved by the women of First Presbyterian, who honored her with their special Life Membership Award. A plaque at Staunton’s R.R. Smith Center for History and Art designates the “Fay Gaines Kitchen.”
Arthur R. Ware, Jr. (1912-2003) was a Staunton native. After earning a B.S. from Virginia State, he studied at Hampton Institute, City College of New York and Cornell. He was principal of his alma mater, Booker T. Washington High School. With the integration of city schools, he administered federal programs and directed adult education. Westside Elementary was renamed in his honor. Ware was an Army veteran, an author and a community leader.
Charles Points (b. 1843) was a bank founder and long-time trustee at Mt. Zion Baptist. Robert Cicero Pannell (b. 1865) was pastor at Ebenezer Baptist for more than 50 years. James Morris (b. 1867) was Staunton’s first black lawyer. Queen Miller (b. 1874) established an orphanage. Serena Conway (b. 1878) worked in the home of Mary Baldwin College President Frank Bell Lewis. Frank Evans (b. 1893) operated a tourist home and a barbershop on New Street. Alonzo Harden (b. 1895) can still be seen in some of the 100 homes he built in the area. With Julius W. Gaines, Sr. (b. 1909) he founded Harden & Gaines Bros. Builders. Gaines, trustee and secretary of the Fairview Board, performed at Carnegie Hall with the choir from Hampton Institute. Harry Smith, Sr. (b. 1896) is one of many veterans buried at Fairview. A blacksmith in WWI, Smith’s service including shoeing General Pershing’s horse. Phillip Gaines (b. 1914) was a messenger and custodian at Augusta National Bank in downtown Staunton. Also at rest in Fairview are the parents of William H. Shepphard, Jr. He was, in 1890, the first African American missionary to central Africa, where he fought against King Leopold’s treatment of the Congolese. He was also the first African American elected a Fellow in London’s Royal Geographical Society.