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Dead remembered at Spring Grove Cemetery

May 25, 2008
PARKERSBURG — A small crowd gathered at the Spring Grove Cemetery on Sayre Avenue Saturday to read the names of the veterans buried there, say a prayer and pay respects.

The cemetery is the final resting place of veterans who fought for freedom with the “colored” Union regiments during the Civil War as well as veterans who served in the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam.

Marc Washington of Findlay, Ohio, and William Webb of New York City, both Parkersburg natives, came to the service to pay respects to one of those veterans, their ancestor, George Edmondson, who rests in an unmarked grave.

Webb said he began researching his family after watching the series “Roots” in the 1970s. For black families, researching history can be difficult, but rewarding. Census information and many other sources genealogists typically rely on often give little information about slaves.

“You really have to look at the easy stuff, like family Bibles. You start with the easy parts and then fill in the rest of the puzzle. There was further information in grandfather’s discharge records from the Civil War and pension applications, but you might hit a ceiling prior to the Civil War,” Webb said.

Webb said he was lucky that family Bible information gave a glimpse of family history during slavery — the records went as far back as 1829.

The family has information going back as far as Edmondson’s grandfather, Brown Colbert, thanks to records kept by his owner, Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson owned Colbert from 1785 to 1806, when he sold him to John Jordan for $500, Webb said.

“Jefferson kept detailed records,” Washington said. “They were property to him and he wanted to know things about them, know how productive they were, so he wrote a lot of things down. We know Brown Colbert’s birth date because Jefferson wrote it with his own hand,” Washington said.

Washington and Webb went to the Monticello Community Gathering, a reunion of the descendants of those who lived and worked at Monticello during Jefferson’s time, in 2007.

Because of those records, Washington said while at Monticello, he was able to trace his ancestor’s footsteps.

“We know what he did and to be able to stand on the very spot where he worked, it was an inspirational feeling,” he said.

Many people have traced their lineage to Jefferson via one of Jefferson’s slaves, Sally Hemings, and DNA analysis has confirmed their claims. Colbert was a nephew of Hemings. His father was white, but Webb does not believe it was Jefferson.

“We don’t know who Brown Colbert’s father was. His was a mulatto family — that’s the word they used at the time — but we don’t know who the father would have been. It could have been an overseer, we don’t know,” Webb said.

Webb said during the Monticello reunion, the graveyard was locked.

“The graveyard was locked the entire weekend. Still, in 2008, there is some resistance,” he said.

Webb said people need to preserve what oral history their families have left.

“Oral histories disappear so quickly. It’s important to remember the spirits of our ancestors,” he said.

Article Photos

Photo by Dave Payne Sr.
Marc Washington and William Webb speak at the Spring Grove Cemetery Saturday as a memorial service was about to begin.



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