by Arthur Pines, Outpost Staff
The dramatic landscape of this expansive resting ground makes for a great outing, especially if you are looking for something to do besides eating and shopping in Virginia City.
"It's not just a cemetery," says Nevada Historical Society curator Phillip Earl. The Virginia City cemetery is actually a series of cemeteries side by side, divided along ethnic, religious, professional and fraternal lines, Earl says.
University of Nevada, Reno, graduate student Cindy Southerland says, "People were segregated in society, and they were segregated in death as well."
Southerland says the Virginia City cemeteries were well kept up in the mining days with gardens and everyday visitors from the community. But the cemetery has lost some of its luster as people have moved onward.
The Virginia City graveyard shows how in a short time everything changes. The land reclaims the unattended remains. Dust covers the stones loosened by the dry air, hovering in the wind and settling on many stones of the cemetery.
Still the cemeteries offer a window to the city's past. "Life was hard in these small towns," Earl says. But people "just died of ordinary things."
The most notable grave is that of Captain Storey for whom Storey County was named. Storey was born in Georgia in 1828 and died in the Pyramid Lake Indian War in 1860, Earl says. Storey's monument juts skyward, a pinnacle on top of the hill behind the Masonic Brotherhood Gate.
Another pretty site sits to the right before reaching Storey's monument. Southerland calls the grave of the Noels her favorite. She likes the flower carrying angel standing on clouds carved from marble. Catherine Noel died at 48 in 1896. Her husband, Solomon, who shares the grave, died a year earlier at age 58.
Mary E. Dunlop's grave, near the entrance, is rich in symbolism, Southerland says. The marble marker is shaped like a tree trunk because her husband belonged to the Order of Woodcraft. The cropped branches symbolize life cut off, according to Southerland. She died in 1896 at age 38.
This cemetery, or more correctly cemeteries, is large and stretches many acres. Southerland says thousands of graves are here.
The Virginia City cemeteries are accessible from Reno via U.S. Highway 395 south to Nevada 341 east. As you descend into the north end of town, the cemeteries become visible. Take the first left and then another left. Park anywhere on the dirt lot outside the Masonic Gates.
copyright 12/10/97 Nevada Outpost http://www.jour.unr.edu/outpost