CHATHAM — Months after Oak Grove Residential Care closed its doors, the board of directors rediscovered a cemetery on the property from when it was a poorhouse and are working to do what they can to clean it up.
Oak Grove Lodge began as a poorhouse in 1928 for six counties — Pittsylvania, Patrick, Henry, Campbell, Franklin and Halifax. It became a non-profit assisted living facility in 1978 as the “South Central Aging Consortium, Inc,” but was still owned by the six counties. It became a private nonprofit in 1999 in hopes of receiving more funding through different sources by not being state funded.
The property was closed in October, due to an inability to make ends meet and keep up care for residents cared.
The Oak Grove Residential Care board of directors will only exist until June 30, at which point the board will be dissolved and any money remaining in the accounts will be either used or donated to a cause for the indigent.
The small cemetery was rediscovered after a great-grandson of a former resident found information about his relative being buried at Oak Grove. He and director Kitty Rogers walked around the formerly 40-acre property until they found the small cemetery.
Only two markers in the area have names. The other half dozen graves visible amongst the brush have only moss-covered stones. The only records still in the former poorhouse’s possession consist of two ledgers, stating simply how many days someone resided in the home, the date they arrived and left, and what county they were from.
State-licensed archivist Desmond Kendrick has visited the cemetery several times in his life, but remembers more than 90 graves in the area.
“When I was a child, there were some temporary markers that had funeral home information, but even those had rotted then,” Kendrick said. “They had a metal bracket, and put a piece of paper in the marker, with a piece of glass to protect the paper with the names on it.”
After learning of its existence, Rogers and fellow board members decided that they wanted to clean up the area so it could be seen and visited. However, a lack of money has caused a problem. Quotes to clean up the area have come to about $5,500, and Oak Grove Residential Care does not have the money or people to do the work for free.
“There isn’t a whole lot of money left. We’d like to donate the money to a local food bank or pantry,” Rogers said. “We want that leftover money to go to help the people here who need it. That’s what Oak Grove was always about.”
First Piedmont, a waste management company based in Chatham, has offered trash bins to use for cleanup, and the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors voted to waive the tipping fees for the organization because.
Kendrick would like to see the cemetery preserved, because it’s an important part of our county’s history.
“One of the things that struck me when I started researching it was how many families were there,” Kendrick said. “It shocked me how many babies are buried there with nothing but stones a few feet apart.”
The property no longer belongs to the Oak Grove board of directors. The land with the cemetery on it was sold to Paul and Bertha Peachey in 2014 alongside 20 acres of land, who were unreachable to comment for this story.
Rogers plans to donate the ledgers to the Pittsylvania Historical Society.
Any who wishes to donate time or money to clean up the cemetery can contact Rogers at (434) 432-8419. Anything the board chooses to do with this cemetery must be done before June 30.