Trinity United Methodist Church Cemetery: Notable Burials

A directory of individuals interred in the historic Trinity United Methodist Church Cemetery, established in 1808 in Alexandria, Virginia, is provided below. Please note that this list is not exhaustive and will be updated periodically. If you know a notable story or individual that should be included, we invite you to contact Gravestone Stories.

Trinity United Methodist Church, initially known as the Methodist Episcopal Church, was founded on November 20, 1774. The inaugural Meeting House was constructed in 1791, located on Chapel Alley near Duke Street and just north of Fairfax Street. In 1803, a new church building was erected on the eastern side of the 100 block of South Washington Street. By 1810, the original property was sold to what is now recognized as The Basilica of St. Mary, formerly St. Mary’s Catholic Church. In 1941, Trinity moved to its present location at 2911 Cameron Mills Road.

On December 15, 1808, congregation members purchased the land now occupied by the cemetery for $340.00. This cemetery is home to the graves of more than 550 people, including eight veterans of the Revolutionary War, one veteran of the War of 1812, a former Mayor of Alexandria, early pioneers from the free Black community, and numerous other former residents of Alexandria.


John Wesley Hollensbury (July 11, 1803 – November 8, 1876): The Man Behind Alexandria’s Iconic “Spite House”

John Wesley Hollensbury, the man behind Alexandria’s iconic “Spite House,” lies buried in Trinity Cemetery. A brickmaker and city council member of Alexandria, Virginia, Hollensbury resided in a Queen Street home built in 1780 adjacent to an alley. He purchased the alley lot at 523 Queen Street for $45.65 to prevent damage to his walls and reduce noise. In 1830, he erected the Spite House, a 7 feet 6 inches wide and 25 feet deep structure. Despite its modest size of 350 square feet, the Hollensbury Spite House has garnered international attention, even appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Its distinctive design, featuring a slim front door and petite furniture, has transformed it into a tourist attraction. While it’s widely accepted that Hollensbury built the house out of spite, alternate theories suggest neighborly disputes or perhaps a gift for his daughters. The Spite House remains a celebrated local landmark regardless of its origins.

“Spite House” on 523 Queen Street, Alexandria, Virginia.

John Hollensbury and his two daughters, Francis “Fannie,” who succumbed to Tuberculosis, and Harriet, who passed away from Dropsy (an archaic term for edema or tissue swelling), rest in peace in A:5 of Trinity Cemetery. Another sister, Julia, is interred at the Washington Street United Methodist Cemetery (Union) at the end of Hamilton Avenue, within the complex.

Another sister, Charlotte Hollensberry Sherwood, is also buried in Trinity Cemetery. Her spouse, Joseph Thomas Sherwood, found his final resting place in The Presbyterian Cemetery.

Sept. 16, 1816
Nov. 8. 1876.
A:5, with footstone “J.W.H.”


James W. Lugenbeel: Bridging Continents – A Life of Service in America and Liberia

James Washington Lugenbeel (1819 – September 22, 1857) was a pivotal figure in the intertwined histories of the United States and Liberia, known for his contributions as a physician, humanitarian, and writer.

Born in Virginia, the son of Moses Lugenbeel and Ari McDaniel, Lugenbeel graduated from Columbian University in the District of Columbia in 1841. He married Martha Alice Abercrombie in 1846, and they had a daughter named Emily. The family lived in Alexandria, Virginia, often with Martha’s family.

Professionally, Lugenbeel’s work was primarily associated with the American Colonization Society (ACS). In 1843, he was appointed the colonial physician for Liberia and an agent for the U.S. Government for Recaptured Africans. Significant medical and humanitarian efforts marked his tenure in Liberia. He notably kept a journal during the Liberian constitutional convention in 1847, which later became the only surviving record of these proceedings.

Lugenbeel’s literary contributions include his detailed work, “Sketches of Liberia: Comprising a Brief Account of the Geography, Climate, Productions, and Diseases of the Republic of Liberia… To Which is Added… of the Customs and Superstitions of the Native Africans.” Published in 1850, this book offers a comprehensive view of early Liberian society and remains a valuable resource for understanding the country’s history.

After returning to the United States, Lugenbeel continued his association with the ACS, contributing significantly until he died in 1857. His obituary in the Alexandria Gazette underscored his deep Christian faith and invaluable contributions to the ACS and society.

His dedication to medical service marks Dr. James W. Lugenbeel’s legacy, his humanitarian work in Liberia, and his role as a chronicler of a crucial period in African-American history. His work and writings continue to provide insights into this significant historical era.

The gravestone of Dr. James W. Lugenbeel at Trinity Methodist Cemetery, part of the Wilkes Street Cemetery Complex, shows signs of aging. The once precise carving of an open book on the tombstone has faded over time. This open book imagery traditionally signifies a life ended prematurely, as in Dr. Lugenbeel’s case, who passed away at the age of 38.
Sept 22nd 1857
Aged 38 Years
But God will
redeem my soul from
the power of the grave:
for he shall receive me.
Psalm XLIX. XV.
Plot R:5


John A. Muir (December 6, 1807 – August 22, 1865): A legacy of Craftsmanship

John A. Muir (December 9, 1807 – August 22, 1865) served as the Mayor of Alexandria from 1853 to 1854. He hailed from a distinguished lineage of Muirs, many of whom found their final resting place in the nearby Presbyterian Cemetery. To read more, click here. Alongside his brother, James F. Muir, they continued the family’s proud furniture business tradition, a legacy prominently featured in the Alexandria Gazette in 1876.

The craftsmanship of the Muir family endures to this day, with valuable furniture pieces from John A. Muir’s workshop highly sought after. When they occasionally appear in the market, these pieces command substantial prices and are cherished by collectors and historians for their exceptional quality, aesthetic appeal, and historical significance.

The Muir family’s narrative took a dramatic turn during the Civil War, as they found themselves divided in their loyalties. While Stephen Shinn, who had wed Mary’s younger sister, sided with the North, James Green, Jane, and their children leaned towards the South. This familial schism was later depicted in the PBS miniseries ‘Mercy Street,’ set in the Mansion House Hospital in Alexandria, providing a window into the complexities of that era.

Resting beside John A. Muir is his wife, Lydia Robinson, born in 1811, who passed away on April 29, 1853, at the age of 43, as indicated on her tombstone. Sadly, two children are also buried with the Muirs. Nannie Roszel, their daughter, died on June 5, 1854, and Eleanor Johnson, born on October 6, 1864, and died on July 10, 1865.

In memory of
Born December 9, 1807
Died August 22, 1865
Born October 6, 1864
Died July 10, 1865
In Memory of
consort of JOHN MUIR
Mayor of Alex.
who died
April 29, 1853, aged 43 years.
For 27 years
a member of M.E. Church
She could say as life ebbed space
I would not live away
No welcome the tomb.
Since Jesus hath lain there
I dread not his glory

daughter of J. & L. MUIR
died June 5, 1854
Plot D:7


Edgar Snowden, Sr. (December 21, 1810 – September 24, 1875) Owner and Publisher of the Alexandria Gazette

Edgar succeeded his father at 21 and assumed ownership and publishing responsibilities of the Alexandria Gazette. Between 1839 and 1843, he held the position of Mayor of Alexandria. After Alexandria’s retrocession to Virginia in 1847, he represented the city in the State Assembly.

He wed Lucy Grymes (March 30, 1814 – April 25, 1897), the great-niece of Lucy Grymes Lee (1734 – 1792). Lucy Grymes Lee, who lay to rest at Leesylvania Plantation Cemetery in Woodbridge, Virginia, was married to Henry Lee (1729 – October 1787) and interred at Leesylvania. They were the parents of Henry “Light House” Harry Lee III (January 29, 1756 – March 25, 1818), whose final resting place is the Lee Chapel Museum in Lexington, Virginia.

The Snowden family lived at 619 South Lee Street, often known as the Snowden House or Mansion, until 1912. 1937 Hugo L. Black (1886-1971) acquired the house. Black, a U.S. Senator from Alabama from 1927 to 1937, later served as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1937 until his passing in 1971.

Upon Edgar’s retirement, his son, Edgar Jr. Snowden (1833 – July 29, 1892), continued the family legacy by taking over the Gazette, holding the position until 1911. Edgar Jr. and several family members are interred at Christ Church Episcopal Cemetery.

Souces of Information

Lee, Jr., Cazenove Gardner. Lee Chronicle Studies of the Early Generations of the Lees of Virginia. Published for The Society of the Lees of Virginia by Thomson-Shore. Dexter, Michigan. 1957.

Pippenger, Wesley E. Tombstone Inscriptions of Alexandria, Virginia: Volume 1, Family Line Publications, Westminster, MD, and Heritage Books, Inc., Bowie, MD. 1992.

Dahmann, Donald C., Archivist, Old Presbyterian Meeting House member. The roster of Historic Congregational Members of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House. Updated 2022.

Gibson, P. & Gibson, T. (2023, June). Personal communication on Snowden family memories and selected notes.

Trinity United Methodist Church. (n.d.). Homepage. Trinity Alexandria. URL

Share on Social Media
Verified by MonsterInsights