As one of the nation’s fastest growing counties grapples with expansion and a building boom, there’s an effort to protect and preserve some hallowed ground.
Just a few miles north of Leesburg, Virginia, in a growing community with a mountain backdrop called Paeonian Springs, Anna Peterson began her search.
“It was a difficult family cemetery to find,” Peterson said. "I wouldn’t have thought to look in a pine grove.”
Peterson, who now lives in Maryland, traced her ancestry to Loudoun County, specifically a hidden burial ground nestled between two country homes. There she learned her distant relatives were closer than she ever thought.
Removing pine needles from the headstone reading “Mary Carr,” Peterson said, “She’s my great, great, great, great, great grandmother; I’m a direct descendant of her.”
Carr's husband, Thomas, also is buried there.
“He was a wagoner in the American Revolution in the Loudoun militia,” Peterson said.
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The Shugars, the Sullivans are among the three other families in the resting place.
Some of the stones are too tough to read and in desperate need of restoration, despite three generations of neighbors helping with the upkeep.
But before she can hire a specialist to help repair the cemetery, Peterson needs a judge to name her the trustee.
Helping her out with the process of becoming a trustee is Loudoun County’s Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman.
It’s one of the lesser known responsibilities that comes with his job.
Plowman says Anna’s discovery isn’t unique. In fact, he’s worked on two other grave site findings and expects that number to grow.
“I hope people recognize this and say, ‘Hey, I know of a cemetery too that’s not taken care of or it’s adjacent to my property [and] it’s been there for years,' and they bring it forward,” Plowman said.
While some see new construction as a foe to preserving history, Anna sees it differently.
“… It helped us find the cemetery,” she said. “My deepest hope is that when my great, great, great grandchildren find my grave they’ll take care of me too.”
A hearing is set for Dec. 8 for a Loudoun County Circuit Court judge to further discuss the details of naming trustees of Peterson’s family cemetery.