Conversation buzzed as we made our way to Brown’s Chapel Methodist Church cemetery on Old Leesburg Rd. Agnes and Bobby both reminisced about how it used to be out this way. No shopping centers for one thing.
“Momma, is this where we want to turn?” Bobby asked Agnes.
“Yes, I believe so.” Soon after the turn, the pavement gave way to a dusty dirt road. The trees draping over the road, our slow speed and the rocking back and forth over the uneven pathway transported me back in time. It was 1900, and we were in a wagon, chattering and visiting as we made our way to a joyful family event.
We arrived at Brown’s Chapel church cemetery and split up, looking at stones and checking out the woods behind in hopes of finding the Thomas cemetery. Agnes knew the cemetery was near Brown’s Chapel, but we found nothing.
Back in the van, we slowly made our way up and down Old Leesburg Rd, hoping Agnes might see something familiar, but she didn’t. A woman was coming out the door of a house. She looked curiously at us, probably wondering who this van full of people was that had been driving up and down the road. “We should talk to her,” Joyce said. Joyce later told me that something told her this was someone we needed to talk to.
Tommy got out and approached her. After a few minutes, the woman came and spoke to Agnes who told her about looking for a lost cemetery and about a woman named Jannie Jones who used to live nearby. The woman had heard enough.
“We have a little cemetery back on the property,” the woman said. “It’s got some civil war soldiers in it. Did any of them fight in the war?” the woman asked. Everyone looked at me. I answered yes.
The woman’s daughter, Mary, had joined in the conversation by now and soon Katie, Tommy and Joyce were walking through the yard and into the woods with Mary and her mother. Bobby, Agnes and I sat in the car, admiring the redbirds in the nearby feeder.
My phone dinged with a text message: We found James S. THOMAS and his wife.
“Agnes, this is the right place!” I announced. Mary came back to carry Agnes, Bobby, and I to the cemetery since the 90+ year old Agnes could never make the walk. We pulled into a clearing and there on the right was Tommy, Joyce, and Katie and the cemetery. “This is the place,” Agnes said. “I remember it.”
Two stones off to the side caught my eye. My brain stopped, as I was trying to take in what I was seeing – stones for John DAVIS and his wife Mary A. C. DAVIS. “Oh my gosh,” was all I could say.
“What?” someone asked me from behind.
“John and Mary DAVIS are James’ in-laws. They’re Elizabeth’s parents.” I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
“Are you sure?” I nodded in response as I continued to smile and stare at the stones that verified John and Mary were more than just names and dates my grandma had written down. I could feel their presence in the cemetery, like they were celebrating that we’d found them after all these years.
I came out of my stupor and looked around. The little cemetery was abuzz with busyness. Joyce and Katie were cleaning stones and taking pictures. Agnes and Bobby were talking to Mary’s mother, and Tommy was taking photos. I smiled broadly at Tommy, who smiled back. We both had worked on the family history off and on for decades and knew what a fantastic discovery this was.
We thanked Mary and her family for taking us back to the cemetery. Katie suggested calling this unnamed cemetery the Davis-Thomas Cemetery, which we did.
Raindrops started to fall as we drove away. We chattered about the find and how all the pieces fell into place for it to happen. Maybe it was all of us being together for the first time – all of us being descendants of Jeremiah Daniel THOMAS’ three children, Jeremiah being a son of James S. THOMAS and his wife Elizabeth Jane (Jane) DAVIS THOMAS. We all felt as if we were led to the right house at the right time.
John DAVIS (1 Oct 1773 – 17 Aug 1872) was my 3rd great-grandfather. He was born in South Carolina according to several census records. I am not convinced he was always in Richland County, though, since I can’t conclusively find him there in the census records until 1840. John was a planter, and in his will he left about 150 acres to his wife, Mary A. C. DAVIS (1 June 1782 – 17 Dec 1882). Mary was always listed as ‘keeping house’ in the census records. John and Mary had several children: John A, Martha, Elizabeth Jane and Emeline; and many descendants from these children.
I know John and Mary were church going people because in the James S THOMAS family bible, it’s noted that some of James and Elizabeth’s children were baptized at the Davis’ church. I suspect the Davis’ church was Brown’s Chapel since some of the Davis’ children and grandchildren are buried there, and their property wasn’t far from Brown’s Chapel.
John and Mary must have been hard workers with all that land to plant. And they lived a long time. There is no notation about either being blind or deaf as they aged, but I don’t know what either died of or if either was bedridden at the end of their life. That and other details about them will have to be left to the imagination.