Generations later, a determined descendant finds the private plot containing relatives, including one of Rappahannock’s first judges

By Deborah L. Napier, Esq.

Special to the Rappahannock News

Immediately after an ice storm this January, I set out from home with dedication, sharp tools, and protective clothing. I was determined to locate an ancestral cemetery I had been searching for — for four years.

After many days of collecting and poring over information from records, historic maps and in talks with local residents, I had a strong hunch I had finally discerned the only possible location for this cemetery. I was close to finding the site. On Tuesday, Jan. 9, I walked briskly across the corner of a field. As I got closer, I could see the wrought iron fence enclosing a small private cemetery full of large gravestones. I ran east, through the gate, toward the closest monument to read the name on the front, and then seeing one of the long sought after names, I shrieked with joy and amazement and relief.

Unbelievable! It exists!

All of the inscriptions are readable, and in January it was in phenomenal condition considering the passage of 177 years since one of the first burials. On the day we were there, we cut vines, lifted fallen tree limbs off of gravesites, dragged the fence back into its proper alignment and scattered leaves. And then, I took photos of my 18th century ancestors’ graves. What an incredible finale, the culmination of a long, long search.

Buried here is Col. Thomas Addison Spindle, one of the first justices of Rappahannock County; a son of Col. William Addison Spindle and Leticia Puller. Col. Thomas Addison Spindle presumably served in the War of 1812, and then married Elizabeth Mundy. They had several children. Col. Thomas A. Spindle performed notable public service in addition to his military service. He served as one of the first justices in the newly created Rappahannock County, having transferred his judicial service from Culpeper County when Rappahannock was created in 1833. He died in 1843 and was buried next to his daughter, Amanda, who had died first in 1841.

This is the Spindle Family Cemetery. Quite near to this cemetery, on the same crest of a hill, lie those Rappahannock residents who worked for our families prior to 1865, who were of mostly African descent. I’m not going to call it a “slave cemetery” because I don’t know what their status was during their working lives. I do know that the Spindle family held slaves, and that they maintained close family relationships. The estate planning decisions expressed in my Culpeper and Rappahannock ancestors’ wills clearly indicate these families of African and English descent lived together in family units. (I wrote about this in a 2013 Rappahannock News article, “DNA Solves a Rappahannock Family Puzzle”).

I have been fortunate to find the burial sites of many of my 18th- and 19th-century Culpeper and Rappahannock county ancestors. This is due in large part to the great care that was given to these private family cemeteries by landowners later in time. Last year, I located an early 1800s family cemetery not far from Viewtown in Culpeper County, also after much effort in the blazing heat of the summer. Thanks to former landowner Randy Settle in Culpeper County, this place had been meticulously maintained. Not one weed or vine disgraced the stones there.

I implore all present landowners to respect and care for these important small historic sites. Not only are these areas of sacred importance to descendants, they remain as monuments marking our national history.

And I am thankful for all who have allowed me to interrupt their day without warning to ask questions, to cross their land, to walk among their curious cattle, and most importantly who have managed the land to conserve these important memorials. My gratitude goes out to all of you. Thank you. This is our shared history.

In the Spindle cemetery

With tablets or monuments:

  • Col. Thomas Addison Spindle (1772-1843), son of William A. Spindle and Leticia Puller, Culpeper and Rappahannock County justice, husband of Elizabeth Mundy (1780-1844).
  • Amanda Jane Spindle (1806-1841), daughter of Col. Thomas Spindle and Elizabeth Mundy; wife of Rev. Joseph Carson: Mrs. Carson
  • Harriet Courtney Spindle (1808-1880), daughter of Col. Thomas Spindle and Elizabeth Mundy; wife of Col. Thomas Throop of Kentucky: Mrs. Throop
  • Eliza Virginia Spindle (1814-1846), daughter of Col. Thomas Spindle and Elizabeth Mundy, unmarried
  • Adaline America Spindle (1816-1889), daughter of Col. Thomas Spindle and Elizabeth Mundy; wife of Dr. John Smith Hughes (1808-1871): Mrs. Hughes

The most recent burials:

  • Emma Carson Spindle (1865-1935), age 70, daughter of James Mortimer Spindle and 3rd of 4 wives, Elizabeth Carroll Taliaferro; granddaughter of Col. Thomas Spindle and Elizabeth Mundy
  • Dr. John Smith Hughes (1808-1871), brother of Puller A. Hughes (owner of Laurel Hill, now long owned by the Fannon family), husband of Adaline America Spindle
  • Virginia Emily Hughes (1851-1865), daughter of Dr. John Smith Hughes and Adaline Spindle
  • Dr. Thomas Mortimer Hughes (1856-1884), son of Dr. John Smith Hughes and Adaline Spindle
  • Marker for John Spindle Hughes (1853-1919). Large monument on empty grave. Re-interred in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Va., 1943. Son of Adaline Spindle and Dr. John Smith Hughes, husband of Capitola Luthera Luttrell, who is also buried at Hollywood Cemetery in the Hughes Family plot with 4 of their 7 children: Dr. Thomas E. Hughes, Mary Virginia Hughes, John Mortimer Hughes, D.D.S., and Charles Russell Hughes. The other three Rappahannock-born children: Marvin Luttrell Hughes, Puller A. Hughes, Sr., and William “Will” Hughes are buried in the Cold Harbor National Cemetery in Richmond, Warrenton, and Frederick, Md., respectively. John Spindle Hughes inherited Laurel Hill from his uncle, Puller A. Hughes, an owner who purchased the property from a previous owner, Maj. John Roberts.

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