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Family Reunites at Balsley Cemetery Thanks to FRIENDS Members and Volunteers

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lost but not forgotten

Family Returns and Reunites at Balsley Cemetery Thanks to FRIENDS Member

A couple months ago, we shared news that dedicated FRIENDS member J.R. Elliott and volunteer Grant Heggie conducted extensive research at the Balsley Family cemetery near the Parkway Visitors Center.

After seven years of painstaking research, and with the help of park service officials, volunteers and Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the site has been cleared of brush and plant overgrowth, and on August 19, a rededication ceremony was held at the site. More than 40 people were in attendance, including family members from Florida that were descendants of Samuel Conrad Balsley and Anna Elizabeth Page Balsley.

The cemetery will remain kept up and cleared of overgrowth. Elliott estimated the cemetery is about 200 yards north of the visitor center, and is now a federally protected historical aspect within the park. Check out the article by The Daily Progress with interviews here.

Grant Heggie web

Humpback Rocks Chapter volunteer Grant Heggie cleaning up the Balsley Family Cemetery.

 

Along the Blue Ridge Parkway there are many old cemeteries located within the narrow corridor of the Parkway.  Many of them are well maintained and easily visible from the road while others are quite old and less conspicuous, with few standing headstones.  Still others are small plots that resided on the family farms of the former mountaintop communities and frequently consisted of simple rock markers with no names of the deceased.  Ass the terrain and flora of the Parkway has recovered over the past century, many have been swallowed up and lost forever to time. J.R. put together a presentation in April that focused on efforts to locate the Balsley Family Cemetery, to explore the inhabitants of the earlier farm, and to identify those interred in this small plot lying within the corridor of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Here’s just a snippet…

More than just a scenic drive, the Blue Ridge Parkway contains many historical and archeological elements.  Among these hidden gems, there are many old cemeteries located within the narrow corridor of the park.  Some of them are small plots that resided on the family farms of the former mountaintop communities and frequently consisted of simple rock markers with no names of the deceased.  As the terrain and flora of the park has recovered over the past century, many have been swallowed up and lost forever to time.  One of the “lost” cemeteries is the Balsley Family Cemetery.

Samuel Conrad Balsley and his wife, Anna Elizabeth (Page) had a large 112 acre farm just north of the Humpback Rocks Visitor Center on the eastern side of the BRP.  They moved here sometime between 1854-1859.  With the Civil War beginning shortly thereafter, their sons and nephews enlisted in the Confederacy and fought in numerous engagements throughout Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Inevitably though, the War came front and center to their humble farm In 1864.  Ultimately they survived it and continued to persevere long thereafter.

Locating the cemetery was challenging due to overgrowth, but now in the spring with its numerous blooming daffodils it is well defined against the contrasting foliage.  The first burial is their newborn grandchild, 0 days old, on June 21, 1882.  Years later, the local The Staunton Spectator newspaper publicly announced their deaths in 1892: “In Nelson, on the night of Saturday, February 20th, Samuel Balsley and his wife both died and were buried in the same grave on Monday, February 22nd, united in death as in life.” There may be two other unidentifiable children buried there additionally.

Seeing this special place firsthand reminds us of the hardships they faced and the challenges they overcame.  Within the bounds of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the small Balsley family cemetery will remind visitors of their presence and spirit for generations to come.

 

 

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