Community Rallies to Save the Graves

If you have traveled east through Clarke County over the mountain on Route 7 you may have seen the roadside sign advertising a unique fundraiser to “Save the Graves at Ebenezer Cemetery.” The sign is perched on the shoulder at the entrance to the Shenandoah Retreat and it has led to frantic calls with concerns that a graveyard was going to be desecrated by developers or builders. Jim Wink owner of the Horseshoe Curve Restaurant and Chairman of the Horseshoe Curve Benevolent Association (HSCBA) said that the land and the graves are safe, it is the markers at the Ebenezer Church cemetery that community members are concerned about.

photo credit - Mike Dowling

One of many fallen markers at Ebenezer Church cemetery. Photo credit Mike Dowling

Time and benign neglect have left the little mountain cemetery in a state of severe disrepair and the HSCBA is working with event organizer Linda Martz to save the historic mountain treasure. Located off Ebenezer Road the cemetery represents a snapshot of the families that have lived and died on the mountain. “There are family names in there like Ashby, Barrett, Bayless, Dodge, Fowler, Furr, Hummer, Littleton, Longerbeam, and Martz that still have relatives living in our community today,” said Jim’s wife Tracee. “Some graves go back into the 1800’s.”

Secluded in the woods the hallowed ground has fallen victim to time and mother nature. The site was originally established as a Methodist Church, but was sold to Jimmy Mercer, pastor of the Ebenezer Church of God, which held services there until about 10 years ago. Now fallen limbs and brush are encroaching on the small patch of land and the weathered slabs of stone that mark the 120 existing graves are beginning to tumble. Some have fallen completely and are stacked at the perimeter fence, others lean precariously in a ponderously slow motion decline.

“It’s pretty bad,” Jim said, “But Enders and Shirley Funeral Home has agreed to do the work to rehabilitate the markers. They have buried a few people there recently and are aware of the conditions.”

Some markers are leaning precariously. Photo credit Mike Dowling

However, that work will cost a significant amount. It’s estimated that the project will require about $100 per grave. Tracee said, “Some need more work than others, some need very little, but when it’s all spread out that’s what we need to bring the place back into shape.”

Which is where the HSCBA came into the picture. The well known not-for-profit is responsible for many familiar fund raising events and is bringing their resources to bear to assist Ms. Martz with the project. While many in the county are familiar with the HSCBA’s barbecue events, Tracee said this will be a completely different kind of fundraiser. “It will be more like a church luncheon with live music and terrific home-made food.”

The menu includes, marinated chicken, baked ham, au gratin potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and baked apples. Dessert will include an array of home-made baked goods provided by locals.

The Winks are excited about the event, ” A lot of the locals have taken a huge interest in it. We have been getting a lot of phone calls and we are all excited about this project.” Tracee laughed about the unusual nature of the event, “Usually the association does things for the living, not for the dead.”

The fundraising event will be held April 15 from noon to 4 PM at the Blue Ridge Fire Hall and will feature music by “The Ebenezer Holler Band.” Tickets are $10.00 and lunch is included. For more info you can call Linda Martz (540-554-2650) or Tracee Wink at (540-554-8291).




  1. Sage of the mountain says:

    Great article Mike. Thanks to you guys and gals at HSCBA for all you do. We have lost a lot of our history in our area and a great effort to same some of it.

  2. Kathy Elgin says:

    Leave it to the HSCBA and specifically Jim and Tracee to come to the rescue of such an important project!

    You guys are terrific!

    Hope to see you Sunday!

  3. Thank goodness that Don & Mary Royston surveyed and listed all the tombstones in 2004. They are listed in his “Cemeteries of Clarke County”. Thank all of you that are helpng to save this cemetery. I know of an abandoned cemetery on ‘The Bench’ that was found, almost obliterated, surveyed and then an ice/wind storm came down over the whole cemetery and left the graves under large fallen trees. Do not know what happened to it. If we hadn’t surveyed it no one would have known it was there.