By Terry Newell
Just off Old Trail Drive is a cemetery surrounded by a low stone wall. The “Historic Cemetery” sign says nothing about who is buried there. The most visible marker is an obelisk for Joseph Warren Rothwell, whose date of death is listed as June 1863. That date is wrong, just one intriguing fact about this burial ground for five generations of the Rothwell family.
Records suggest that Claiborne Rothwell, Joseph’s grandfather, was the first to settle on the land that is now part of Old Trail after purchasing 238 acres in 1799. Claiborne was born in 1740 in Louisa County. In 1763 he enlisted and served in the Company of Volunteer Rangers of Col. William Phillips in the French and Indian War. He moved to Albemarle County in 1777, after marrying Judith Ann Hamilton Watts. Their youngest child, William Hamilton, would become Joseph’s father.
The Rothwell family home stood on a slope along what today is Welbourne Lane. The home was destroyed in a fire in the early 1900s, but the stone chimney remains.
Judith died about 1799 and may be the first Rothwell buried in the cemetery. Claiborne, who died in 1828, is also believed to rest there, though only small stones jut out in the older portion of the cemetery.
Rothwell Home Chimney
In his will, Claiborne stated that “my son William Rothwell shall have the tract of land whereon I now live…”
William Hamilton “Buck” Rothwell
William, born 1793, was a farmer. In 1813 he married Nancy Bois Gillum. They had nine children, the seventh of whom was Joseph. William died in 1858 and is believed to be buried in the cemetery along with Nancy, who died of cancer in 1857, because the cemetery was active until 1923, the last date that can be found on a legible gravestone.
Joseph Warren Rothwell
Joseph was born November 30, 1830, and grew up about one-half mile south of the C&O Railroad, directly south of Wayland’s Crossing. He most likely saw the railroad being built.
He married Lucinda Catherine White on February 20, 1855. Her parents lived in “The Quaker Cottage” on Fox Ridge Farm, which still exists off Route 678 between Mechums River and Moormans River. Joseph and Lucinda lived at Nelly’s Ford until he entered military service in Company D, 56th Regiment, Virginia Infantry, which was mustered from Nelson County in September 1861. He fought with the Army of Northern Virginia. It’s possible he was at the battle of Cold Harbor from May 31-June 12, 1864, since he died of typhoid fever in a military hospital in Gordonsville.
He died in August 1864, as recorded from the Application of a Widow of a Deceased Soldier for a Pension, filed by Lucinda. The obelisk honors her, too, and was constructed years after his death, most likely after she died in 1898, which is probably why the date of his death is wrong.
Alberta Betrand Rothwell
Joseph and Lucinda had four children. Their third child, Alberta Bertrand, was born in 1860. She married Elisa Robertson in1878. He ran Piedmont Nurseries from their farm home. Her second marriage was to John Farrar Yancey in 1897. They lived at Hillsboro, Yancey Mills. Alberta died in 1927 and is buried in Hillsboro Cemetery just outside Old Trail.
William Hamilton Rothwell
Joseph and Lucinda’s son William was born in 1858. According to an article published in 1959, “he grew to manhood amid the rolling hills and timberland of his native state, engaging at various times in the care and feeding of livestock, particularly good horses.” The article notes that in 1880, he became an apprentice and then later general manager of the Free Union store “about eight miles from Charlottesville, where he resided until he moved to Nebraska.” In 1884, he married Jennie May Weed, a descendant of George Rogers Clark. After moving to Nebraska, he took a pre-emption claim (the right to buy federal land at a pre-set price) of 3,000 acres and raised cattle. The family business grew under his sons to 22,000 acres. William died in 1942 and is buried in Hyannis Cemetery in Nebraska.
Fielding was Joseph’s older brother, born in 1820. He married Sarah F. Tilman in 1842. Three of their children – Eliza J. Rothwell, Annie E. Rothwell Woods, and a son, Mannis R. Rothwell, are buried in the cemetery as is Ada Estell Wood Parrish, one of Fielding’s granddaughters. Fielding died from a fall at Greenwood in about 1855 and is also believed to be buried in the cemetery.
Mannis Rothwell Gravestone
Mannis, the youngest of Fielding and Sarah’s children, is the last family member known to be buried in the cemetery after his death on March 5, 1923. He passed in the Western State Hospital in Staunton, where he was being treated for erysipelas, a serious skin infection that most likely led to sepsis.
There may have been other burials in the cemetery but no records exist. Nor do we know the burial location of the Rothwells’ enslaved population.
For those visiting the cemetery, the rough sketch below may be helpful.