Kegley Lectures Presents:
Reclaiming Our History: Old Lick Burial Grounds with Anne Beckett and Alison Blanton
Tuesday, March 28 at 7pm
Christ Lutheran Church
Anne Beckett and Alison Blanton will share how the Friends of Old Lick Cemetery are exploring the early history of the cemetery in NE Roanoke. This history correlates directly to the history of Gainsborough (now Gainsboro), Roanoke, and of St. John’s Episcopal Church. Maps and graphics will demonstrate the evolution of the cemetery as it expanded over the years and changed ownership from St. John’s Episcopal Church to First Baptists Gainsboro and the City.
Gracefully sited along a rolling hillside, this small urban cemetery was the resting place of more than 1000 souls who mostly lived in the African American neighborhood of Gainsborough. Beginning in the 1960s with the construction of I-581, the Roanoke Civic Center and US Post Office, Urban Renewal physically and spiritually decimated this section of Roanoke. The demolition included not only a section of the cemetery, but hundreds of stores, businesses, churches, and houses. Many of the graves at Old Lick Cemetery and the former Poor house Farm (currently site of Virginia Western Community College) were relocated to Coiner Springs. Many of the bodies were never identified and reinterred in a mass grave because the poorest of the poor were buried there when the city operated part of it as a free cemetery. Fortunately, we now acknowledge the negative impacts of Urban Renewal and federal laws are in place that prohibit anything like this from ever happening again.
Learn how The Friends of Old Lick Cemetery formed as a non-profit to restore the cemetery and honor the lives of those buried there. Comprised of members of the local community and churches, including St. John’s and First Baptist Gainsboro, the group has been working monthly for more than a year to clear out the grounds of the cemetery and repair the remaining grave markers. Research is being done to identify the people buried in the cemetery and learn more about their lives. . Plans are also underway to install new signage that will identify the cemetery and interpret its history. The long-term goal of Friends of Old Lick Cemetery is to install new fencing, provide parking, and develop a meditative area where visitors can remember and honor the spirit of those once buried at the cemetery.