[Editor's note: idiot math. In the hurry to post, I miss added and wrote that the cemetery was at least 130 years old. It is, at least 122 years old, based on the available records. --Steve Thurston, Wednesday 11:15a.m.]
The stones at a church cemetery on Lee Highway tilt at odd angles, or they are half-buried. They are not in neat rows. The headstones are west of each body, and the feet of some of the sites nearly touch the church’s driveway. In one or two places, bushes have overgrown the stones. In some cases the burial mounds are clearly visible, but any marker that may have existed is not.
The cemetery at Calloway United Methodist Church, 5000 Lee Highway, in the High View Park neighborhood is squeezed between the church’s driveway and the parking lot of the Sport Fair swimsuit store.
But the graveyard, as graveyards do, carries a history. And the county tonight will make that history official.
The Historical Affairs and Landmarks Review Board is set to nominate the cemetery as an official historic site, during this, the church’s 145th year. After the vote tonight, the nomination moves to the Planning Commission and Arlington County Board for final approval; county staff does not expect complications in the process.
“Collectively, we are extremely excited,” said Calloway United Methodist Church Pastor Sonja Oliver. She said the cemetery touches many families in the surrounding community.
According to the county report, “Hall’s Hill,” the original name of the High View Park neighborhood, is named after Brazil Hall, a Southerner who owned over 300 acres and several ill-treated slaves, but who voted against secession and remained loyal to the Union, according to county documents.
Freed slaves who settled there called the area Hall’s Hill, according to the county’s research. The neighborhood remains one of the few surviving predominantly African American neighborhoods in Arlington. A. Saundra Green, a church historian, said that youngsters from the church were the first to integrate Arlington's schools.
Four other cemeteries are designated historic, according to county documents: the Ball-Carlin Cemetery, the Old Ball Family Burial Ground, the Travers Family Graveyard and the Lomax AME Zion Church Cemetery. The Calloway cemetery will join the Lomax cemetery as the only African-American cemeteries on the list.
The process started in 2008 when county historians asked the church about a different matter. As it happens the cemetery had been recently vandalized, and the trustees were trying to learn how best to protect it, said Green, the chair of the Church History Committee. Since they had the county’s ear on the first matter, they started the process of historic designation in an effort to help protect the cemetery.