Few grave stones remain in the Rippon Lodge burying ground, but many unmarked graves are beneath the ground. Blackburn and Atkinson family members were buried here for decades, but the locations of most individual graves are unknown. Enslaved African Americans who lived at Rippon Lodge were likely buried elsewhere on the property. The location of the slaves' burying ground is unknown.
Only two Blackburn graves are marked—those of Richard (d. 1757) and his wife Mary (d. 1775). Richard's tombstone lists his accomplishments. If Mary's tombstone was carved, the letters have eroded over time. While Judge Wade Ellis owned Rippon Lodge from 1924 until 1948, he had the words on Richard Blackburn's tombstone cast in metal to preserve them.
The quality of carving on a grave stone may reflect the deceased's social rank and wealth. Richard Blackburn's 1757 tombstone would have been costly. By 1901, Chauncey of Alexandra likely received a modest fee for carving George R. Atkinson's simple stone.
Historic Grave Sites
Before the 1850s, most people who died in rural areas were interred on or near the property they owned. Most urban burials occurred in church yards. By the 1850s, burying grounds became separate, park-like cemeteries. Most early burying grounds and
cemeteries were racially or economically segregated.
During the 18th century, the death rate among women of childbearing age was very high. Children often died of disease. Malaria (referred to as "ague"), small pox, measles, mumps and whooping cough took their tool on the unvaccinated population.
Right: Christian Scott Blackburn was married to Lt. Col. Thomas Blackburn. Thomas inherited Rippon Lodge from his father, Richard. Thomas died in 1807 and was interred in this burying ground. In her will of January 2, 1815 (Far Right), Mrs. Blackburn asked to be buried with her husband. Archaeology may identify the locations of the stone wall she requested and their graves.
It is my desire that at my death my body be removed to Rippon Lodge to be there interred in the family burying ground with my deceased husband and that a stone wall may be built with the stone that may be procured from the side of the adjoining hill without any opening to it, the experience of which is to be paid by my executor of my estate.
Mary Blackburn's death was announced in the Virginia Gazette on August 4, 1775.
A marker is visible at the supposed grave of Lt. Col. Thomas Blackburn (left), Richard's and Mary's son. The Army and Navy Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution installed the marker in 1973. The actual location of Thomas Blackburn's grave within the burying ground is unknown.