Pen Park Cemetery is also known by variations of the Gilmer Cemetery, the Craven Cemetery, and the Hotopp Cemetery.
A cemetery on the current golf course of Pen Park has graves from several local families, the Gilmers (1777-1800), the Cravens (until the Civil War), and the Hotopps, who grew grapes on the land for their winery into the early 20th century. The Gilmers seem to have the most significant presence in the old graveyard. Dr. George Gilmer and his family owned Park Mill (later called Cochran’s Mill), the 18th-century miller’s house on Meadow Creek still standing.
In 2019, an investigation uncovered unmarked burial sites outside of the Gilmer cemetery. Ground-penetrating radar has identified about 43 unmarked graves just outside the walls of the established cemetery, probably for people enslaved by the Gilmers and the Cravens. Preservationists came to the specific conclusion that they were graves for enslaved persons based on the location of the graves in relation to the rest of the cemetery. They are on the opposite side of the graveyard to the entrance, outside of the defined boundaries. The size, depth, and east-west orientation aligns with historic local burial practices. In addition, there is an oral tradition of those who died while enslaved by the Gilmers and the Cravens were buried outside of the "family plot." This is known to be common practice among families who enslaved people. John Werner, the leading preservationist on this project, reported this to City Council on November 2, 2020.
History of the Land
Lynch -> Harvie -> Gilmer -> Craven -> Hotopp (Monticello Wine Company) -> Wayland -> city (info doc has details)
Members of the Gilmer family and likely those they enslaved are buried in Pen Park Cemetery. Gilmer family history enslaved/"hired" people (gilmer research doc) Still have a presence in cville (info doc)
Still have a presence in Charlottesville. (info doc) "typical conditions" (in plan doc)
The Rivanna Archeological Services and the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society (?) have been working on a plan to assess, identify, preserve, and maintain these graves. The plan includes sections for conservation standards, vegetation and erosion control, fixing old repairs, and guidelines for new additions. plan doc
- Web. Ask Ace: Tee to tomb, What's up with that cemetery?, C-ville Weekly, Issue #21.16 :: 04/21/2009, retrieved 28 Sep 2009.
- Web. City to examine possible slave graves at Pen Park, Nolan Stout, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, December 10, 2019, retrieved December 14, 2019. Print. December 10, 2019 page A1.
- Web. History course: Unmarked graves, likely belonging to enslaved, found in Pen Park, Hitchcock, Ben, C-VILLE Weekly, Portico Publications, November 4, 2020, retrieved June 3, 2021. Print. November 4, 2020 .
- Web. Pen Park, Rainville, Lynn, Website, African American Cemeteries in Albemarle & Amherst Counties, 2011, retrieved June 3, 2021.