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Descendents of plantation owner say ancestors buried in old cemetery

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By John Barnhart

    An old graveyard on U. S. 460, just east of the Applebee’s restaurant, was the subject of a court hearing in Bedford County Circuit Court Monday morning.

    Bank of the James has acquired the site and it wants to move the graves to a graveyard associated with Shiloh Church. Some people who believe their ancestors are buried there came to court to seek a delay.
    “We don’t know the dimensions of the cemetery, said William Walker, who is representing David Lowry, who believes he has at least one ancestor interred in the graveyard.
    According to Will Berry, the attorney representing Bank of the James, the bank acquired the property through a foreclosure sale. Berry said that no burials have taken place in the cemetery for more than 25 years, and the graveyard has been allowed to grow over. He said there may be as many as 12 graves.
    Lowry requested time, which Judge James Updike ultimately granted, to have an expert examine the site with ground-penetrating radar. The device is mounted in a cart which is pulled over the ground, and this requires the land be cleared.
    There was also some discussion as to whether proper notice concerning the moving of the graves had been given. Berry said they had complied with the notice requirements required by state code. However, Judge Updike noted that new legislation that took effect on July 1 provide for additional procedural requirements, which include posting a sign at the cemetery. Judge Updike said that, while substantive changes to the law are not retroactive, procedural requirements are.
    Both sides agreed that a hearing on moving the graves will be delayed until Oct. 1 to give Dr. Charles Boyd, of Radford University Forensic Science Institute, a chance to examine the site. Lowry, who is paying for Dr. Boyd’s work, said the examination will determine the extent of the graveyard and the number of graves.
    According to Lowry, the Lowry family owned 12,000 acres in Bedford County in 1865. The Lowrys operated five plantations, ranging from the current village of Lowry to the Peaks of Otter. Three of the plantation houses are still standing. Hundreds of slaves worked the plantations. All the plantations went broke shortly after the War Between the States.
    Lowry said these holdings were part of a much larger royal land grant given to his ancestor, William Lowry, for espionage services against the French during the French and Indian War.
    Not all of William Lowry’s descendants are white, and some of them were present in court. Jerald Lowry, Charles Lowry, Alfred Lowry, Pearl Lowry Robertson, Anna Lowry Sutton, Ruby Lowry and  Sherree Sutton O’Brien all say an ancestor, J. W. Lowry, is buried in the cemetery. David Lowry said he has a family Bible with the name J. W. Lowry in it. He believes this is the J. W. Lowry buried in the cemetery.
    Lowry also believes an ancestor named Marshall Lowry is also buried there. A realtionship between him and a slave named Somerville was the subject of a piece published in the New York Times by Brent Staples, a descendant of one of the children this relationship produced.