“This marker commemorates the indigent and unknown once interred on this site. Provided by the City in 1816 and once called the Colored Cemetery, it was the final resting place for former slaves and free blacks. Long barren and unused, in 1920 this site became the location of the City’s new high school after the recovered remains were reinterred in other cemeteries.”
Where this building once stood was once a Potter’s field. Potter’s field, or a pauper’s grave, were individual or mass graves that were used for the impoverished or those who were strangers to the community. Sometimes, pauper’s graves were used as a temporary means of burial until the family or acquaintances of the deceased could afford a private burial site. Strangers and the unidentified were buried in these graves due to the inability of anyone to claim ownership of the deceased.(1) From 1816 to 1850, this potter’s field was used as a cemetery for both enslaved and emancipated African-Americans.
In 1920, the bodies of those laid to rest were exhumed and transferred to Shiloh Cemetery. Replacing it was the Fredericksburg High School, later renamed Matthew Fontaine Maury School.(2) This building was used as a high school, a middle school, a Police Academy, and a homeless shelter. In 2007, the site was converted to condominiums.(3)
During March of that same year, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.(4) On December 19, 2011, a plaque was placed on the building, dedicated to those that were buried there. The plaque was paid for by City Councilman Fred Howe III and proposed by City Councilman Matt Kelly.(5)
Lakelyn Wiley, “The Barton Street Potters Field Site Fredericksburg, Virginia,” 2018.
(1) Julie-Marie Strange, “Only a Pauper Whom Nobody Owns: Reassessing the Pauper Grave C. 1880-1914,” Past & Present 178 (2003): 150. accessed April 19, 2018, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3600760.
(2) “Marker placed at Maury Commons to commemorate cemetery,” The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, VA), December 19, 2011, accessed April 19, 2018, http://www.fredericksburg.com/news/local/fredericksburg/marker-placed-at-maury-commons-to-commemorate-cemetery/article_26f2a7c9-1961-5afc-b46a-4cd4b7ff9266.html
(3) Emily Battle,“Maury School’s midterm look Work continues on conversion,” The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, VA), January 2, 2007, accessed April 16, 2018, http://www.fredericksburg.com/local/maury-school-s-midterm-look-work-continues-on-conversion/article_aa7401a6-46ff-5889-ae45-93e376f9782e.html
(4) “Matthew Fontaine Maury School” (PDF), National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, United States Department of the Interior; National Park Service, accessed April 12, 2018, http://www.dhr.virginia.gov/registers/Cities/Fredericksburg/111-0009-0014_MaurySchool_2007_NRfinal.pdf
(5) The Free Lance-Star; Fredericksburg, Virginia, “Marker placed at Maury Commons to commemorate cemetery.”