Historic marker with McDowell Cemetery in the background, Fairfield. ©Jennifer Law Young
Historic Lexington Foundation spearheads a communitywide project to maintain, research, and disseminate information about cemeteries in the Lexington and Rockbridge County areas.
Our first initiative involves restoring the site and documenting headstones at the historic McDowell Cemetery on Route 11 near Fairfield, eight miles north of Lexington. Early work involved removing overgrowth that had taken hold in the cemetery. Next steps include a census of stones that survive, as over the years root mat and sediment have buried many; this effort will involve Washington and Lee University’s geology department, using remote sensing technologies such as ground-penetrating radar to locate gravestones no longer visible on the surface.
Stones in the cemetery mark the resting places of prominent settlers, including Capt. John McDowell, who died during a conflict with Iroquois while he was traveling through the area in 1742.
Volunteers from Washington and Lee University, Virginia Military Institute, the Garden Club of Virginia and the Colonial Dames, as well as HLF, have contributed funds, time, and effort to the McDowell Cemetery project.
The McDowell Cemetery is on private property, and permission from the landowners is required to visit.
McDowell Cemetery, near Fairfield, overgrown with weeds. HLF photo
Volunteers remove weeds and trees from the overgrown McDowell Cemetery. HLF photo
Trucks filled with trees removed from the overgrown McDowell Cemetery. HLF photo
A volunteer stands on the shoulders of another to remove a large weed growing atop the 1855 McDowell monument in the McDowell Cemetery near Fairfield. HLF photo
The McDowell monument, which was erected in 1855. HLF photo
An old gravestone in the McDowell Cemetery near Fairfield. HLF photo
A volunteer mows grass outside the brick wall of the overgrown McDowell Cemetery. HLF photo
Old graves among the weeds in McDowell Cemetery. HLF photo
McDowell Cemetery after volunteers removed the overgrowth. HLF photo