With the support of the city and a newly appointed Board of Trustees, the Pointer Cemetery in Lewisburg will be the site of a restoration project beginning in September of 2017. On Sept. 27 at 1 p.m., the Trustees will conduct an initial cleaning of the headstones in preparation for a more intensive restoration in the spring of 2018.
The Pointer Cemetery, which is located behind Carnegie Hall on Church Street, is one of several historically significant cemeteries in the town of Lewisburg. With burials dating back to at least 1867, the cemetery is the final resting place of many of Lewisburg’s African American citizens from the reconstruction era to the 1930’s. Among the people buried there are Sarah Page and Eliza Bolling, the wife of E. A. Bolling, a prominent West Virginia educator. Among the people thought to be buried there are Frank Page, who trained Robert E. Lee’s war horse Traveller, and Nancy Perkins Calender, who operated a popular bakery and restaurant in downtown Lewisburg in the 1890s. Research is currently being conducted to establish biographical information for the known interments.
This cemetery is named for Dick Pointer, enslaved African American who was the acknowledged hero during the Shawnee attack on Fort Donnally, just west of Lewisburg. The Shawnee Chief, Cornstalk, had been murdered when he entered Fort Randolph to sue for peace following the battle of Point Pleasant. Fort Donnally lay in the path of the war party bent on revenge and intent on destroying Lewisburg. For his bravery Pointer was granted a life lease to two acres of land close to Lewisburg and citizens helped him to build a cabin. In 1795, friends of Dick Pointer helped him petition the Virginia Assembly for his freedom and a small pension, but this was refused because he was a slave at the time of his heroic act. Dick Pointer was purchased and freed in 1801 and died in 1827. In 1976, a stone in his memory was placed in the historic black cemetery. Although his actual burial place is not there, this cemetery in Lewisburg is known as the Pointer Cemetery.
As well as being a repository of genealogical information, the Pointer Cemetery is also a cultural landscape that embodies the material culture and customs of its period of use. A wide variety of materials and shapes are represented among the monuments, ranging from hand-carved fieldstone to granite obelisks with ceramic portrait inlays. The approximately 80 extant headstones mark only some of the burials within Pointer Cemetery. These headstones will be sprayed with D/2, a National Park Service tested and approved biological growth inhibitor that is non-toxic and non-damaging to all types of stone. In the spring, the cleaned headstones will be repaired and reset as necessary and the ground will be probed to find stones that may have been toppled and grown over with grass.
The Pointer Cemetery is located on Church Street and bound by McElhenney Road and Carnegie Hall. An initial gravestone cleanup will take place on Sept. 27 at 1 p.m. Toni Ogden, curator and education director at the North House Museum in Lewisburg, and local historian and Greenbrier Historical Society board member Janice Cooley are leading the cleaning workshop as well as generously providing supplies. The public is invited to stop by the cemetery during the cleaning to ask questions and learn more about the cemetery’s history and the restoration process.