Noteworthy Burials at the 18th Century Burial Ground of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House

The Early Days: Presbyterian Meeting House Burial Ground

The churchyard burial ground, situated north and west of the Presbyterian Meeting House, served as the primary resting place for Alexandria’s Presbyterians from the town’s beginning until 1809. Even though the formal Presbyterian congregation was established in 1772 and the original house of worship was completed in 1775, the oldest grave in this burial ground is from 1761, belonging to Sarah Fairfax Carlyle. She was the fifth child and the first to live past infancy. Sadly, Sarah died on January 22, 1761, shortly after giving birth to her seventh child, Ann. Her gravestone is among the most ancient in the Meeting House burial ground.

Table of Contents

Sarah Fairfax Carlyle (December 31, 1730 – January 22, 1761) The Oldest Gravestone in the Cemetery

Sarah Fairfax Carlyle (December 31, 1730 – January 22, 1761)
To the memory of
Mrs. Sarah Carlyle
Wife of Coll John Carlyle, Merch in Alexandria
and Daughter of the Hon W Fairfax, Esq.
Coll of his Majesty’s Customs on South Potomack
President of the Hon Council of Virginia
Who died in Child-bed of her seventh Child
the 22 of Jan 1761
Aged 30 Years 22 Days
She was amiable thru Life as a
Dutiful Child Loving wife
Affectionate Parent Indulgent Mistrefs
Faithful Friend Sincere Christian
and is thence justly lamented
by All who knew her
Our Life is short but to extend that span
to vast eternity in virtue’s work
Nigh her lie Five of her Children
Rachel Ann William George-Fairfax and Hanah
G:4, unreadable tablet – No. 10 on map note: What appears to be an ‘F’ is actually a medial ‘S,’ also known as the ‘long S’, which is an old form of the lowercase ‘s.’

Shift to a New Site: The Presbyterian Cemetery on Hamilton Lane

1809 a significant turning point occurred due to an ordinance from Alexandria’s Common Council. This decree prohibited further burials within the city limits. In response, the congregation took action by establishing the Presbyterian Cemetery on Hamilton Lane, which remains operational to this very day.

Inscriptions of the Past: Notable Individuals and Resting Grounds

The Meeting House church records unveil an intriguing historical narrative. Over roughly fifty years, during which the Presbyterian Meeting House Burial Ground served as the primary burial site for congregation members, approximately 396 individuals from Alexandria’s colonial and early national periods found their eternal rest here, most of them in unmarked graves. Among these individuals, prominent figures from the town’s founding families, such as the Alexanders, Carlyles, and Ramsays, rest alongside the Rev. William Thom, the congregation’s inaugural minister, his mother Mary Thom, and members of the family of the Rev. Dr. James Muir, the congregation’s third minister.

18th-Century Meeting House Burial Ground Map.

Honoring Heroes: Veterans and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The burial ground serves as a hallowed ground for veterans of significant conflicts, including the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War. Most notably, it houses the Tomb of an Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution, commemorating an unidentified patriot discovered during the construction of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in 1826.

Transitions and Challenges: Changes to the Burial Ground

Over time, challenges and transitions impacted the preservation of the burial ground. The expansion and reconstruction of the Meeting House during the 1830s and 1840s led to the covering or loss of some burial sites. Furthermore, the shifting of the northern property line necessitated the sacrifice of certain graves, with the final demarcation established through a brick wall in 1932.

Eternal Legacy: Continuing Preservation Efforts

Today, the burial ground bears witness to around 40 gravestones, a seemingly modest count in comparison to the potentially hundreds of burials that took place here. This discrepancy can be attributed to various factors, including the interment of infants without formal names, resulting in unmarked graves.

A Monument of Reverence: The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution

In 1929, the National Society of the Children of the American Revolution erected the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution. This monument serves as a tribute to an anonymous patriot whose remains were discovered in 1826 during the construction of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, now known as The Basilica of Saint Mary. Situated adjacent to the Meeting House, the Basilica provides further insights into the historical context of the era.

For additional information about The Basilica of Saint Mary, you can explore this [link].

To delve into the details of the burials in the 18th Century Burial Ground of the Meeting House, access the brochure [here].

Nestled within the burial grounds of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House in Alexandria, Virginia, lies the solemn and revered Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from the American Revolutionary War.
Here lies a soldier of
the revolution whose identity
is known but to God
He was an idealism
that recognized a supreme
being that planted
religious liberty on our
shores that overthrew
despotism that established
a peoples government
that wrote a constitution
setting metes and bounds
of delegated authority
that fixed a standard of
value upon men above
gold and lifted high the
touch of civil liberty
along the pathway of
In ourselves his soul
exists as part of ours
his memory’s mansion/

J:12, table No. 18 on map

Historical Contributions and Commemoration: Mary Gregory Crauford Powell

Mary Gregory Crauford Powell (January 12, 1847 – December 18, 1928) – A Historian’s Legacy

Mary Gregory Crauford Powell left an indelible mark on the Meeting House community and the historical landscape. Her dedication extended to her pivotal role within the Mount Vernon Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), where she made significant contributions. Notably, her efforts played a crucial role in the establishment of a memorial at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from the American Revolutionary War.

A Cherished Tradition and Familial Bond

Recollections of Mary Gregory Crauford Powell’s father, William Gregory III, remain vivid. He brought attention to an unmarked grave adjacent to the Meeting House following Sunday services, a poignant gesture that would shape Mary’s path. In her youth, she lovingly adorned the grave with flowers, fostering a touching tradition that she continued to honor throughout her life.

An Enduring Legacy

As her journey ended, Mary Gregory Crauford Powell found her final resting place beside her father in the historic Presbyterian Cemetery on Hamilton Lane. Her unwavering commitment to history, patriotism, and community lives on through her remarkable contributions and the cherished traditions she upheld.

Read more about the Presbyterian Cemetery at this [link].

Richard Arell (1719-1796) Donated Land for the 18th Century Presbyterian Meeting House Burial Ground.

Richard Arell, a pivotal figure in Alexandria, Virginia’s early history, hailed from Pennsylvania and established himself in Alexandria by 1768. He owned a thriving tavern on King Street, frequented by luminaries including George Washington, who recorded his visits from 1768, prior to Arell’s tavern being officially licensed in the early 1770s. Other esteemed patrons included John Carlyle, George Mason, and William Ramsay. Phillip Alexander, associated with the founding family of the town, notably backed Arell’s ventures.

Arell’s influence extended beyond his business; he owned significant real estate, including properties on Duke and Royal Streets, and his family was deeply integrated into the community, evidenced by his wife’s attendance at George Washington’s final birthday celebration in 1799.

The Arell legacy was furthered through his children, particularly his son David, a Revolutionary War officer who later became an influential lawyer, councilman, and mayor in Alexandria. Both father and son were members of the esteemed Alexandria-Washington Masonic Lodge N. 22. Richard’s daughter, Christiana “Kitty” Arell, also played a role in the town’s social circles.

Richard Arell’s enduring impact includes his and his wife’s 1773 land donation for the Presbyterian Meeting House, on parts of which the town’s Presbyterian burial ground was established. Although the exact location of Arell’s grave within this historic burial ground has been obscured by time and urban development, his and his descendants’ societal contributions and philanthropy remain a testament to his lasting influence on Alexandria.

Judith Bogue

Died of dropsy (heart failure) at 40.

To the memory of
BOGUE of Alexandria who died
3rd September 1799, Aged 40 Years.

Her turn induftrious and her maternal care;
enhanced to me her worth, and to the four fhe bore.
In all her dealings just & in her friendship firm;
She died in peace & hope unaw’d by death tho grim.

Take warning of your end & live not as the throng
Knowing that time is short, eternity how long;
Our friend has baid [sic] the debt we owe & all muft pay.
Peace guard the hallow’d place where now her afhes lay.
Memento Mori.
F:4, Tablet. No. 9 on the map. note: What appears to be an ‘F’ is actually a medial ‘S,’ also known as the ‘long S’, which is an old form of the lowercase ‘s.’

John Carlyle (1720- 1780) Founding Trustee and first Overseer of Alexandria

Born in 1720, John Carlyle was the second son of a prominent British family with strong Scottish connections. He began his career as an apprentice with an English merchant firm and in 1741, he ventured to Virginia as a representative for William Hicks.

Carlyle amassed substantial land holdings in Virginia, including three plantations and an iron foundry in Shenandoah. He engaged in import and export activities with England and the West Indies, solidifying his reputation as a respected merchant in Alexandria.

In 1747, he entered matrimony with Sarah Fairfax, a member of the esteemed Fairfax family. Sarah Carlyle, laid to rest beside her husband in the Meeting House burial ground, bore seven children. Among them, Sarah Fairfax Carlyle, the fifth child, was the first to survive infancy. Tragically, Sarah passed away on January 22, 1761, shortly after giving birth to their seventh child, Ann. Her gravestone is among the oldest in the Meeting House burial ground (see picture above).

Subsequently, on October 22, John wedded Sybil West, the daughter of Hugh West, a prominent figure in Alexandria who established the village of West. Located west of Alexandria near Hooff’s run along Duke Street, this village eventually evolved into the present-day Carlyle neighborhood and the site of the United States Patent and Trademark Offices. Over the course of their decade-long marriage, Sybil and John were blessed with four children, yet only George William survived. Following Sybil’s demise in 1769, John Carlyle chose not to remarry.

In 1775, Carlyle’s daughter Ann joined in matrimony with Henry Whiting but tragically died during childbirth in 1778.

John Carlyle’s name was among the notable signatories of the Fairfax Resolves, adopted on July 18, 1774. These resolutions, primarily authored by George Mason at George Washington’s urging, rejected the British Parliament’s authority over the American Colonies.

Additionally, Carlyle played pivotal roles in the community, being a founding member of the Sun Fire Company in 1777, overseeing the construction of the original Meeting House sanctuary at 321 S. Fairfax Street, acting as a commissary for the Virginia regiment in the French and Indian War, serving as a trustee of Alexandria, and functioning as a Justice of Fairfax County during the Revolutionary War. Notably, he was also a slave owner, owning 67 slaves at the time of his passing.

Carlyle House at 121 N. Fairfax Street. Photo from Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

Carlyle erected a stately Georgian-style stone mansion in 1753, which still stands at its original location, 121 N. Fairfax Street. In April 1755, this mansion served as the headquarters for General Edward Braddock for three weeks. During this period, Braddock meticulously strategized his mission to expel French forces from Fort Duquesne, situated at the juncture of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers in what is now Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

While occupying the mansion, Braddock assembled a conference of five Royal Governors. The focus of their deliberations was the financing of the impending campaign against the French. The outcome of their discussions led to the decision to impose taxes on the colonists to fund the war effort. This consequential choice ultimately paved the way for the emergence of the American Revolutionary War.

Tragically, Braddock met his end due to mortal wounds sustained at the Battle of the Monongahela on July 9, 1755. Amidst this engagement, George Washington, who served as Braddock’s civilian-military aide-de-camp, rallied the defeated British and American troops under his command, guiding them to safety. Of the 1,459 men comprising Braddock’s expedition, 977 were either wounded or killed, including sixty-three officers. Washington’s heroic actions in preserving the remnants of the army garnered him acclaim and marked the initial steps toward his eventual prominence. This trajectory culminated in his appointment as the Commander-in-Chief of the American Revolutionary Army by the Continental Congress in 1775.

Washington the Soldier. Circa 1834. In this painting, General Edward Braddock is carried by two soldiers after being mortally wounded during the Battle of the Monongahela. A young George Washington is rallying the troops to lead them to safety. Painter not known. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

In 1780, John Carlyle passed away, bequeathing Carlyle House to his young son, George William, who was only fourteen. Tragically, George William’s life was cut short at the age of fifteen when he lost his life during the Battle of Eutaw Springs in South Carolina on September 8, 1781, amidst the turmoil of the Revolutionary War.

Honoring John Carlyle: Gravestone Amidst the Old Presbyterian Meeting House 18th Century Burial Ground
Here lies the body of
son of
born in Dumfriesshire, Scotland, 1720.
died in Alexandria, Virginia 1780.
One of the first trustees of Alex
andria 1748, appointed Commissary
of the Virginia Forces, 175
Erected by the
Alexandria Chamber of Commerce
G:3, table with a metal plaque – No. 11 on map

Dr. James Craik (1730 – 1814) Surgeon General in the Continental Army; Close Friend of Washington

Dr. James Craik. Image courtesy of George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

Hailing from Dumfries, Scotland, he was born and later embarked on a journey that led him from the shores of Scotland to the vibrant West Indies and, finally, to a settled life in Virginia. In 1754, he took up the mantle of a surgeon within Colonel Fry’s Virginia regiment, an assignment that would shape his life. With Colonel Fry’s untimely passing, he continued his medical service under the leadership of George Washington.

To read more about Dr. Craik, please visit this blog [Dr. James Craik: George Washington’s Lifelong Friend and Physician | A Tale of Commitment and Friendship]

In Memory
Chief Physician and Surgeon
of the Continental Army
Born ….. 1727
Near Dumfries, Scotland
Died February 4, 1814
Near Alexandria, Virginia
T:11 New gravestone. The initial tombstone vanished amidst the turbulence of the Civil War. Pippinger highlights that the resting place of Craik abuts the wall of a “dwelling house adjacent to the” Meeting House cemetery.

Lara Ann Gilman (Died August 18, 1807)

August 18th, 1807
Nine Months & 18 Days
S:9, with footstone. No. 36 on the map.

Mary Halloday (c.1729-1786)

Mary Halloday was believed to have been born in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, as the daughter of Charles and Rosanna Penny McAlister. She lived a life that spanned 57 years before being laid to rest in the Meeting House churchyard.

In Memory of Mary
who died the fecond of
July 1786, Aged 57 years
Fhe was a loving wife, a kind
mother, mistrefs and neighbor
B:9 No. 2 on the map – note: What appears to be an ‘F’ is actually a medial ‘S,’ also known as the ‘long S’, which is an old form of the lowercase ‘s.’

Capt. John Harper (1728 – 1804) Built Captain’s Row and Gentry Row on Prince Street

A merchant who, during his youth, took charge of a schooner in the bustling West Indies trade, Harper orchestrated the workings of “Harper Wharf,” strategically positioned at the base of Prince Street. Among his ambitious exploits was the transformation of Prince Street into the esteemed Captain’s Row and Gentry Row. However, the location of his final resting place remains a mystery.

Captain John Harper built Captains Row.

Agnes Hepburn (1727-1814)

The Legacy of Agnes and William Hepburn

Agnes Hepburn lived a fulfilling life and passed away at 87 due to old age. Her life was intertwined with her husband, William Hepburn, whose legacy is vast and intriguing.

William Hepburn: The Merchant and Community Leader

William Hepburn (1730-1817) was a prominent merchant, collaborating in business with his son-in-law, John Dundas. Their business was prominently located on King Street. A significant chapter in his life unfolded in 1777 when William and another Presbyterian, Wales, were wrongfully arrested and accused of being Loyalists who sided with the British.

Beyond business, Hepburn was deeply rooted in his community. He attended a congregational meeting in March 1817 but chose not to become a member of the Second. His stature was such that he even visited George Washington at his residence, Mount Vernon, in April 1775.

Entrepreneurial Ventures

On the entrepreneurial front, Hepburn, in collaboration with Dundas, built a mill near Backlick and Indian Runs, approximately six miles from Alexandria, in 1788. He also had ownership and managed another mill in Northern Virginia.

His ventures weren’t limited to milling. Hepburn owned a rope walk, a place that even the esteemed George Washington frequented. His influence was further solidified when he signed the 1785 Memorial and Remonstrance.

Public Service and Personal Life

Hepburn’s commitment to his community was evident as a councilman for the City of Alexandria between 1783-84. He was also an active member of the Sun Fire Company from 1777.

After his demise, there remains a mystery surrounding his final resting place. It’s unclear if he was buried next to his beloved wife, Agnes, or in the Presbyterian Cemetery.

A Complex Personal Life

William’s life had its complexities. He had a relationship with an enslaved woman named Esther David, often called Esther Hepburn. Esther, an African American Black woman, was initially under William’s ownership, having been purchased from Benjamin Dulany. She was later sold to Hannah Jackson, who freed Moses, Letty, and Juliana. Together, William and Esther had four children.

Moses Hepburn: A Legacy in His Own Right

One of the children William had with Esther was Moses. Moses carved out his legacy, becoming a trustee of the Methodist Church’s Davis Chapel. Recognized as a “prominent free black business leader,” he voiced concerns about the retrocession’s adverse effects on Virginia’s black community. Moses was politically active despite not having voting rights.

For his education, Moses traveled to Philadelphia. He later became known as Rev. Moses Hepburn and settled in Chester, Pennsylvania. His achievements were many, including being recognized as the wealthiest African American in Alexandria. Eventually, he moved to Pennsylvania, where he raised his five children.

Erected in memory
AGNES the late wife of
who departed this life
7th June 1814.
She was distinguished for simplicity of
manner and unfeigned piety. Having lived
in the fear of the God she died in peace,
in her eighty seventh year.
L:8, Table – No.20 on the map above

William Hunter (1731 – 1792) Mayor of Alexandria; Founder of the St. Andrew’s Society

William Hunter, hailing from Gaston, Scotland, where he was born on January 20, 1731, ventured to the Colony of Virginia in his early years. Settling in Alexandria, he became a prominent merchant, fostering a thriving trade with London and Liverpool. His civic engagement was evident as he served as the mayor of Alexandria twice (1787-1788), where he played a pivotal role in the town’s governance. His dedication to community was further manifested in his establishment of the St. Andrew’s Society around 1760, reflecting his commitment to social bonds.

As an esteemed citizen, Hunter also contributed to the spiritual fabric of Alexandria as an Elder in the Presbyterian Church and was actively involved with the Alexandria-Washington Masonic Lodge. His domestic life is remembered at 501 Duke Street, the residence that marked an important period of his life. William Hunter passed away on November 19, 1792, at the age of 61. In honor of his legacy, the St. Andrew’s Society, which he had founded, erected a monument in his memory.

Relieve the Distressed
Nemo me impune lacessit
Sacred to the Memory of
Born Gafton, Scotland.
January 20, 1731
The Characteriftics of his life were
Unbounded Benevolence and Friendship.
He Died in Alexandria
November 19, 17792
Beloved Efteemend and Lamented
Whofe Founder he was an Among
whom he Rifided Until removed by
Death Erect this Monument Af a Tribute
of Gratitude and Refpect
M:6, lot marker 10 tablet. note: What appears to be an ‘F’ is actually a medial ‘S,’ also known as the ‘long S’, which is an old form of the lowercase ‘s.’

Margaret Janney (Died February 9, 1810)

She died of bilious cholic (gallstones) at the age of 49 years. Abel Janney (1755-20 September 1816) was a prominent shipping merchant from Pennsylvania who later settled in Alexandria. He married Margaret Wilkes (1764-14 May 1810), the daughter of Samuel and Rebecca Wilkes. The couple was blessed with nine children: Elizabeth, Samuel, who tragically died at sea; Cosmelia, Rebecca, Cynthia, and Maria (who lived for only a year); another daughter named Maria, Nancy; and a son named Abel who passed away in his early years. Despite the May 1, 1809 stoppage order, an exception was made to allow Margaret Janney to be buried in the Meeting House burial ground, where he is buried. His burial location is not known. Abel Janney’s legacy is remembered through his descendants and his contributions to the shipping industry.

In memory of
who departed this life
February the 9th, 1810
S:11. No. 37 on the map.

Dr. James Muir (1757 – 1820) Third minister of the Meeting House; Chaplin of Washington’s Masonic Lodge

In 1788, the congregation extended an invitation to Reverend James Muir, D.D., who dutifully served until 1820. Much of the Meeting House’s initial church records can be attributed to Dr. Muir’s meticulous documentation.

Additionally, Muir held the position of Chaplain at Washington’s Masonic Lodge and was entrusted with leading prayers during the ceremonial laying of the South Cornerstone of the District of Columbia on April 15, 1791. It’s worth noting that while George Washington did not attend the event, he had visited the site a month earlier.

The Reverend James Muir, D.D. (1757-1820). Photo courtesy of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House.

Led Local Funeral Services for George Washington

On Wednesday, December 18, just four days following his passing, the remains of George Washington were laid to rest at Mount Vernon, where his body found its final resting place. Many mourners from Alexandria embarked on a journey early in the morning, spanning over nine miles, to reach Mount Vernon. The interment ceremony, arranged by Alexandria’s Masonic Lodge No. 22, occurred from three o’clock until sunset.

The Meeting House also played a pivotal role as the venue for public funeral services held in honor of Washington. If you’d like to learn more about these commemorative services, you can explore a dedicated blog post as this [link].

Member of a Peace Delegation that attempted to surrender to the British on August 25, 1814.

Muir found himself at the forefront of a “peace” delegation with the audacious task of offering the surrender of Alexandria to British Admiral Cockburn on August 25, 1814. This event occurred during the tumultuous War of 1812, marked by the burning and pillaging of Washington. Interestingly, Cockburn had taken shelter from a violent thunderstorm; some sources even claim it was a derecho that had engulfed Washington that afternoon.

While conversing with the homeowner, an unexpected turn of events unfolded. The house’s main door swung open abruptly, and four drenched individuals entered, bearing a white flag.

Among these individuals was Dr. Elisha Cullen Dick (1762-1825), who had tended to Washington in his final moments. Initially aligned with the Presbyterian faith, Dick became a Quaker in 1812. His final resting place lies in Alexandria’s Quaker Burial Ground, which now houses the Kate Barrett Library (you can read more about the Quaker Burial Ground and Dr. Dick at this blog [Discover the History of the Quaker Burial Ground in Alexandria, Va: from Sacred Space to Modern Landmark]).

Their presence was to ascertain the terms under which Alexandria could surrender. The Admiral, however, hesitated to provide a definitive response and instead directed the delegation to surrender to Commodore James Gordon’s squadron, which was en route up the Potomac and headed toward Alexandria. Ultimately, the town yielded to the Potomac Squadron on August 28, 1814, taking this action before any engagement with American militia forces. To read more about the Potomac Squadron and the surrender of Alexandria, read the blog [Battle of the White House].

Terrified residents of Alexandria, Virginia, begrudgingly acknowledge a series of demands by “John Bull” in this satirical illustration by Charles William from 1776-1820. Image sourced from the Library of Congress.

Buried under the North Aisle of the Meeting House

Following Muir’s passing, his final resting place lies beneath the surface, thirteen feet beneath the northern expanse of the Meeting House sanctuary. This location is near where the initial pulpit once stood. A commemorative plaque adorning the north wall is a lasting tribute to Dr. Muir. This plaque was carefully repositioned to this spot during the reconstruction in 1837, a deliberate choice to bring it into proximity with the burial site of Reverend Muir underneath the original pulpit along the northern boundary.

Ann Nancy Russell December 17, 1772 – March 26, 1807)

Ann died of consumption (tuberculosis).

In Memory
born 17th December 1772
died 26th March 1807
by her surviving Husband
To re__
his affection & rest[ect]
In her ___ was the law of ___
She looked well to the ways of her
household, and ate now the bread of ____
Her children arise up and called her blefsed:
her husband also, and he praises her
Favor is deceitful and beauty is vain
bu at women that dearth the Lord
she shall be praised
E;12, tablet. No. 8 on the map. note: What appears to be an ‘F’ is actually a medial ‘S,’ also known as the ‘long S’, which is an old form of the lowercase ‘s.’

Mary Smith (Died February 1, 1797)

Erected to the memory of
MARY the wife of
who departed this life
Feb. 1st 1797
in the 29th year of her age
and to MARY ANN
their only child who died
Octr 2d 1798
aged 21 months.
Near to this place are also interred the remains of THOMAS WILLIAM the eldest son of
who died Octr 21, 1801 aged 3 years
and of Mary their daughter
who died Aug 11th 1807
aged 1 year.”
R:11, boxtomb. No. 35 on the map.

Hugh Smith (1769-1856) was a prominent figure in Alexandria’s history, known for his wealth, enterprise, and contributions to the community. Born in Knutsford, England, he immigrated to the United States, bringing a rich heritage from the Church of England. Despite his reservations about Presbyterian doctrines, he attended the congregation of Rev. James Muir, D.D., alongside his wife.

Smith’s influence in Alexandria was evident in various capacities. He was a Trustee and member of the Church Committee by January 1816. In 1813, he signed the deed purchasing land for the Presbyterian Cemetery. His generosity was further showcased when he donated a significant sum of $200 in 1819 for an organ.

His civic duties were manifold. During the War of 1812, he served as the First Sergeant in the First Regiment of the DC Militia and was a member of the City Council. Smith was also an official of the Washington Society of Alexandria and later became the Director of the Alexandria Canal and the Potomac Bank. His leadership skills were further highlighted when he took on the role of President for the Fire Insurance Company of Alexandria.

In the realm of business, Smith was a prosperous merchant specializing in imported glass and china. His store was strategically located at the corner of King and Water streets or possibly Ramsay’s Wharf. He was also the Commissioner of the Domestic Manufacturing Company, which later became the Mount Vernon Manufacturing Co. Furthermore, from 1825 to 1841, he operated the Wilkes Street Pottery, and his company, Hugh Smith & Co., was renowned for earthenware, glass, and china merchandise.

Smith’s wealth was evident not only in his business ventures but also in his assets. He owned 81 acres atop Stump Hill along the road to Leesburg, a part of which later became the Ivy Hill Cemetery. Records from the 1810 census indicate that he owned five slaves. However, in a commendable act, Hugh Smith, along with Hugh C. Smith, manumitted over twenty-eight slaves of African descent.

In recognition of his contributions and stature, he was made a member of the Society of the Cincinnati. Hugh Smith’s legacy is a testament to his entrepreneurial spirit, civic duty, and commitment to the betterment of Alexandria.

Smith and his second wife, Elizabeth Watson Smith, are buried in the Presbyterian Cemetery on Hamilton Avenue in section 41:30.

Rev. William Thom (1750-1773)

Rev. William Thom (burial location not known – but maybe B7) was the inaugural minister for Alexandria’s Presbyterians, having come from Philadelphia in 1772. He succumbed to yellow fever in August 1773. His mother, Mary Thom, who had traveled with him to Alexandria, also passed away in the same outbreak.

Margaret “Peggy” Vowell (1773-1806)

Burial site 33. A native of Alexandria and the daughter of Captain John Harper. In 1795, she wed John Cripps Vowell. She passed away from consumption and rests under a tablet stone behind the sanctuary, alongside four of her children who tragically died as infants. John Cripps Vowell is interred in the Presbyterian Cemetery.

A monument raised by
the afflicted Husband of the
departed worth of
daughter of JOHN HARPER, ESQ.
Born August 20th A.D. 1775
DIED July 25th A.D. 1806
The same lot contains the dust of four
Children who died in infancy
the eldest in her fifth year.
Her characteristic was an ardent mind
which, having received early impressions of
the religion of Jesus was zealously bent, by
example and precept to promote this glorious
Here lies the heir of heavenly bliss,
Whose soul was fill’d with conscious peace;
A steady faith subdued her fear,
She saw the happy Canann near;
Her mind was tranquil and serene;
No terrors in her look were seen;
Her Saviour’s smile dispell’d the gloom
And smooth’d her passage to the tomb.
Let Faith, like her’s in joys to come,
Direct my walk, though dark as night;
Till I arrive at heaven, my home
Faith be my guide and faith my light.
Q7 tablet. No. 33 on the map

Mary Vowell (1772-1805)

She hailed from Philadelphia and was the daughter of Captain John Harper. As Peggy’s elder sister, she wed Thomas Vowell in 1794, the brother of John Cripps Vowell. Mary succumbed to consumption at 33, a year before her younger sister’s passing. She is laid to rest in a box tomb close to Peggy, accompanied by the remains of her four infant children who sadly passed before her. Thomas Vowell’s eternal rest is within the Presbyterian Cemetery, within the Wilkes Street Cemetery Complex.

Under this stone
are deposited the rains of
late wife of THOMAS VOWELL, junior, & daughter of the late Captain JOHN HARPER
who was born 28 of February 1772
and died 19 August 1805
aged 33 years, 5 months and 19 days
In the same plot are deposited four infant children
This Monument
is erected
by the surviving husband as a tribute of
love and afflicting remembrance
Her, in the just hope above the stars to rise,
The mortal part of MARY VOWELL lies;
In whom those beauties of a spotless mind,
Faith and good works were happily combin’d.
Unblam’d, unequaled in each sphere of life,
The tenderest daughter, sister, parent, wife.
Sure in the silent sabbath of the grave,
She tasted that tranquil peace she always gave.
They death, and such, oh reader, wish thine own,
Was free from terrots and without groan.
Thy spirit to himself th’ Almight drew
Mild as the sun exhales th’ ascending dew.
P:7 box tomb. No. 32 on the map

Elizabeth White (c.1772-1795)

In Memory
the wife of
who died the 23d
of July, 1795
in the 23d year of her age
B:6 No. 4 on map. Gravestone moved in 1999 to install a bench adjacent to the Education Building.

James Wilson (1766/67-1805) – A Merchant, Ship Owner, and Civic Leader

James Wilson, a prominent figure in the late 18th century Alexandria, was born in Glasgow and embarked on a life that would leave a lasting mark on the city. In 1777, at the tender age of 10 or 11, he made the transatlantic journey to Alexandria, Virginia, a place that would become his home and the center of his endeavors.

James was not alone in his journey; his brother, William Wilson, shared his adventures and aspirations. Together, they became integral members of the community.

One notable event in James Wilson’s life was his involvement in the estate of Reverend William Thom, a respected clergyman in the area. James posted a bond for Reverend Thom’s estate, demonstrating his sense of responsibility and commitment to his community.

In the annals of history, James Wilson’s name can be found in James Muir’s 1805 Diary, a testament to his enduring presence in the records of his time. Furthermore, he served as an executor alongside James Hendricks for Reverend Thom’s will in 1773, a position that reflected his trustworthiness and dedication.

James Wilson was a landowner and held the property known as Bush Hill, which he shared with Josiah Watson. This property was significant in the local landscape.

Bush Hill: A Captivating Illustration by Christine Youngbluth. Discovered on Page 62 of Roberts, J.’s ‘Lost Alexandria: An Illustrated History of Sixteen Destroyed Historic Homes in and Around Alexandria, Virginia.

His commitment to civic life was evident in his signing the congregation’s incorporation papers in 1786. He also played a role in the advertisement and lottery for the church steeple project in 1791, showing his support for community initiatives.

Beyond his civic contributions, James Wilson was a prosperous merchant and ship owner. He resided at 124 South Fairfax Street, living a life that blended business and family. His residence featured two entrance doors, one leading to his shop, where he offered an array of goods, including fine woolens, women’s shawls, cashmere, Gloucester cheese, and more. The other entrance led to the family residence on the upper floors.

James Wilson’s business ventures extended to a warehouse on King Street, demonstrating his active role in trade and commerce in Alexandria.

His involvement extended to establishing the Bank of Alexandria, where he signed a petition on October 9, 1792, contributing to the region’s financial development. Additionally, James Wilson held land in Fairfax County, adding to his diverse holdings.

James Wilson was a man of business and civic engagement and a member of the Society of the Cincinnati, a testament to his involvement in esteemed organizations of his time.

As a man of his era, James Wilson also owned slaves, with two in his possession in 1790 and four by 1800.

Tragically, James Wilson’s life was cut short at 38. Nevertheless, his legacy lives on in the historical records of Alexandria, where he left an indelible mark as a merchant, ship owner, civic leader, and participant in the vibrant community life of his time.

The location of his burial site remains unknown.

John Wise (DOB- Unknown – July 3, 1790)

Here lie the Remains of
Son of John & Elizabeth Wise
of Alexandria;
who, in the 13th year of his age,
was Fuddenly Fummoned,
from this world,
to an infinitely better on,
on the 3rd day of July A. D. 1790.
Weep not, found Parents, all you grifts difmifs:
I live, inmormortal, in the Realms of bills.
M:9, tablet No. 27 on the map. note: What appears to be an ‘F’ is actually a medial ‘S,’ also known as the ‘long S’, which is an old form of the lowercase ‘s.’

Sources of Information

Dahmann, D. C. (2022). The Roster of Historic Congregational Members of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House. Unpublished manuscript.

Moore, G. M. (1949). Seaport in Virginia: George Washington’s Alexandria. Richmond, Virginia: Garrett and Massie, Incorporated.

The Alexandria Association. (1956). Our Town 1749-1865 at Gadsby’s Tavern Alexandria, Virginia. The Dietz Printing Company.

Lord, W. (1972). The Dawn’s Early Light. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Pippenger, W. E. (1992). Tombstone Inscriptions of Alexandria, Virginia: Volume 1. Westminster, MD: Family Line Publications.

Powell, M. G. (2000). The History of Old Alexandria, VA, from July 13, 1749 – May 24, 1861. Index by Pippenger, W. E. Westminster, MD: Willow Bend Books.

Old Presbyterian Meeting House. (Year). Old Presbyterian Meeting House’s Visitor’s Guide to Alexandria’s Historic Old Presbyterian Meeting House Trifold pamphlet.

Old Presbyterian Meeting House Churchyard Burial Ground Trifold pamphlet.

The Presbyterian Meeting House. (n.d.). Church history. Retrieved May 2022, from [URL]

Boundary Stones of the District of Columbia. (n.d.). Additional information. Retrieved May 2022, from [URL]

Carlyle House. (n.d.). John Carlyle. Retrieved October 2022, from [URL]

George Washington’s Mount Vernon. (n.d.). Battle of the Monongahela. Retrieved September 2022, from [URL]

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