Sweet Briar Burial Ground

Association: Sweet Briar College (formerly a plantation)
No. of Markers: 61 (View)
No. of Individuals: 0 (View)
Location: Sweet Briar, Amherst Co.

The Sweet Briar Plantation was owned by Elijah Fletcher and his family between the 1840s and 1900. In 1900 his daughter, Indiana, died and gave the plantation and a generous cash donation to found a college for women in honor of her own daughter who died at the age of 16 in 1884. Elijah Fletcher arrived in Virginia, travelling from Vermont, in 1810. He slowly amassed land and resources and in the 1840s he and his wife, Maria Crawford, purchased a plantation called Locust Ridge, soon re-naming it "Sweet Briar" after Maria's favorite rose. The success of Fletcher's farm relied on the labor of enslaved individuals, both African American and Native American (from the nearby Monacan Confederacy). Although initially opposed to the "peculiar institution," Elijah owned over 110 slaves upon his death in 1858. In 1858, his daughter Indiana inherited Sweet Briar (his other children inherited nearby plantations).

Many of the Sweet Briar slaves were buried on the plantation. To date, several burial locations have been located on the lands owned by Fletcher. One of the largest cemeteries is the "Sweet Briar Burial Ground," recently re-dedicated by the College in honor of the people who labored and died on the plantation. This cemetery contains several dozen graves and is located about half-a-mile from the "big house." None of the gravestones are inscribed, but archival research (discussed on the 'burial details' page) suggests names for some of the individuals who may be buried here. See also the "Fletcher Cemetery," the "Broady Cemetery," and the "Coolwell Baptist Church Cemetery" in this database.