Welcome to our Alexandria, Virginia, cemetery tour photo archive. Our collection showcases captivating historical guided tours focused on the Wilkes Street Cemetery Complex from the past few years. These tours delve into the history of this landmark cemetery complex spanning back to its 1796 founding.
We also spotlight memorable talks presented to groups like the Daughters of the American Revolution, Sons of the American Revolutionary War, Colonial Dames, and local museums. These talks encompass many of Alexandria’s historic cemeteries, highlighting broader histories beyond the Wilkes Street Cemetery Complex.
Our archive includes prominent ceremonial events held at the Wilkes Street Cemetery Complex, such as Wreaths Across America and Flag-In Day, which honor veterans laid to rest there. We proudly chronicle our efforts to connect enthusiasts and organizations with Alexandria’s past.
A Snowy Day Conversation: Dr. James Craik and George Washington’s Lifelong Friendship
On a snowy January day in Northern Virginia, David Heiby, the owner of Gravestone Stories and a Public Historian, shared an enlightening discussion with a local chapter of the Colonial Dames of America. The topic of conversation was Dr. James Craik, a lifelong friend and physician to George Washington, with their enduring friendship spanning 45 years. Dr. Craik rests in the Old Presbyterian Meeting House’s burial grounds, next to the historic 19th-century sanctuary.
From Alexandria to Arlington: Tracing Civil War History in America’s National Cemeteries
The photograph captures a Gravestone Stories guided tour in the Alexandria National Cemetery, established in 1862. This cemetery is recognized as the second oldest National Cemetery in the United States. In May 1864, when it reached capacity, Federal authorities began interring war casualties at what is now known as Arlington National Cemetery, situated just a short distance north of the Alexandria National Cemetery.
Wreaths Across Alexandria National Cemetery 2023
On a chilly winter Saturday, December 16th, 2023, nearly 2000 people gathered at the historic Alexandria National Cemetery for the annual Wreaths Across America wreath-laying ceremony. Volunteers of all ages, bundled up against the cold, carried evergreen wreaths and spread out across the cemetery’s 145-year-old grounds. With heartfelt reverence, they placed remembrance wreaths at the headstones of over 4200 service members buried there, paying tribute to their sacrifices.
While the cemetery’s primary residents are Union soldiers from the Civil War, hailing from loyal northern states, it has also become the final resting place for around 500 individuals, including veterans from later conflicts and their spouses, after the war ended.
This event continued Alexandria National Cemetery’s longstanding legacy. Since its establishment in 1862 as the nation’s second oldest national cemetery, it has served as a place for reflection, remembrance, and the honorable recognition of our military veterans and their service.
Unveiling History: David Heiby’s Presentation on The Wilkes Street Cemetery Complex to the Daughters of the American Revolution, September 2023
David Heiby, a Public Historian, presented to a local DAR chapter in September 2023 about Alexandria’s historic Wilkes Street Cemetery Complex – in active use since its 1796 founding.
The photo shows Heiby’s slide highlighting Sydney Smith Lee’s grave in Christ Church Cemetery, where Lee’s brother-in-law, James Murray Mason, is also buried. Smith Lee rests alongside his wife Nannie, James Murray Mason’s sister.
Honoring the Fallen on Flag In Day at Alexandria National Cemetery
On Flag In Day, May 27th, 2023, the Alexandria community honored those laid to rest at the historic Alexandria National Cemetery. Participants placed flowers at gravesites across the burial grounds, which serve as the final resting place for veterans spanning decades of service from the Civil War to the present day.
Established in 1862 as the second oldest federal military cemetery in the United States, Alexandria National Cemetery contains over 4,200 gravesites holding Union soldiers who perished during the Civil War’s Eastern campaigns. The cemetery conducts a solemn flag placement ceremony each Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. Flag In Day offers members of the Alexandria community an opportunity to continue this powerful tribute in advance of Memorial Day, decorating headstones with bouquets as a token of remembrance and gratitude for the sacrifices made.
Connecting Past and Present: Gunston Hall Docents Uncover Mason Family History at Wilkes Street Complex
On May 11, 2023, George Mason’s Gunston Hall docents visited the Wilkes Street Complex. Their tour included a deep dive into the Christ Church Cemetery, where they learned about the final resting places of over two dozen Mason family members—a memorable moment occurred when Gravestone Stories owner David Heiby met his 11th-grade history teacher after 47 years. During the tour, Heiby shared the history of James Murray Mason, the grandson of George Mason. James was notably involved in drafting the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act and played a significant role in the Trent Affair of November 1861. This event nearly escalated into a war between Great Britain and the United States.
Journey Through History: Arlington Neighborhood Village Explores the Wilkes Street Complex
Members and friends of the Arlington Neighborhood Village embarked on a tour of the Wilkes Street Complex to uncover the histories of those laid to rest there. The tour guide narrated the life of Thomas Tretcher, a capable seaman who took part in Captain Cook’s Third voyage, leading to the discovery of the Hawaiian Islands and the Bering Strait. In his later years, Tretcher commanded merchant ships based in Alexandria.
Honoring Alexandria National Cemetery Heroes: Wreaths Across America 2022
These photos capture scenes from the annual Wreaths Across America event held in December 2022 at the Wilkes Street Cemetery Complex. Over 1500 attendees gathered on a chilly Saturday morning to pay respects and place ceremonial wreaths at the more than 4,200 grave sites in the Alexandria National Cemetery. Wreath sponsors and volunteers alike braved the cold as they solemnly adorned headstones of veterans, honoring those who served our nation to protect our freedoms. The wreath-laying ceremony unites the community in remembering Alexandria’s military heroes throughout the ages who now lay at rest in this historic burial ground dating back to the Civil War.
September 2022: Uncovering History at Wilkes Street Cemetery – The Lee-Fendall House Story
Friends of the Lee-Fendall House Museum and Garden embarked on a tour of the Wilkes Street Cemetery Complex, exploring the resting places and uncovering the real-life stories of those connected to the historic house built in 1785 by Phillip Richard Fendall I. The tour highlighted individuals like Phillip Richard Fendall II, who grew up in the house; the family of Edmond Jennings Lee, residents of the 1840s; Louis and Harriot Cazenove, who renovated the house in 1850; and the Fleming and Downham families, who inhabited the house at different periods. Accompanying the narrative is an image of the Gravestone Stories guide at the John Fowle monument, marking the resting place of a Cazenove family member who perished in a devastating steamboat explosion on the Ohio River on April 25, 1838.
A Walk Through History: Celebrating 250 Years of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House – June 25, 2022
Members and friends of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House commemorated the 250th anniversary of their congregation with a walking tour of The Presbyterian Cemetery. This event highlighted the final resting places of numerous notable individuals, including acquaintances of George Washington, heroes from the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, former pastors spanning two centuries, and other significant figures who had once frequented the historic sanctuary in Old Town.
Rainy-Day Resilience: Exploring the Wilkes Street Complex in Challenging Weather
On May 1, 2022, despite the downpour, a tour of the Wilkes Street Complex took place. We try to conduct our tours even when the weather doesn’t cooperate. On this particular tour, over 15 attendees bravely endured the elements. During the tour, Gravestone Stories’ owner and tour guide, Public Historian David Heiby, shared the intriguing tale of the Female Stranger. Her grave is among the most visited in Alexandria.