Jacob Fain Cemetery
By Beverly Belcher Woody
Tucked away in the woods near the old Greasy Bend Road is an antiquated cemetery that is full of history. The Jacob Fain Cemetery is the ancestral cemetery of all the Fains in Patrick County. Ironically, Jacob is not the first person buried there. Jacob’s grandparents, Richard and Jane Harris Fain are both buried in this cemetery. Richard Fain (1785-1872) is the earliest Fain settler in Patrick County. On 26th March 1816, he married Jane Valley Harris (1780-1876) who is purportedly a descendant of Pocahontas.
The cemetery’s namesake, Jacob William Fain (1846-1945), is the son of Henry Bennett Fain (1821-1900) and Nancy Hylton (1822-1870). Jacob married Elamanda Boyd in 1869 and after her passing in 1897, he married Lydia Vipperman.
Queenie Fain, age 14 and Olive May Fain, age 12, daughters of Elijah Preston Fain and Sarah Ellen Lawson Fain, are buried there beside their father. They lost their lives on the 8th of December 1924. The scene of the tragedy was near Central Academy on their way home. Queenie, Olive, and their little sister Annie were returning from school. To reach home, they had to cross a footbridge over a creek badly swollen by recent rains. Olive first negotiated the crossing carrying the school bags and after depositing them safely on the other side, retraced her steps to carry over seven-year-old sister Annie. Queenie remained on the bank while the two younger sisters made their way across the bridge. The girls lost their footing and slipped into the swirling water. Without hesitation, Queenie jumped in to rescue her sisters, but the current was so swift that all three were quickly swept away.
Sparrell Lynn Walker, age 26, lived only three hundred yards away from the stream. When he heard children screaming, he raced to the water followed by his parents, Abraham and Mary Williams Walker. Sparrell jumped into the icy stream and managed to pull little Annie out of the water. Some of the onlookers observed Queenie and Olive being swept into a whirlpool where they disappeared. Search parties found their tiny bodies a quarter mile away from the crossing.
These are just a handful of the remarkable people buried at this cemetery. There are a dozen marked graves, and at least fifty graves, marked with crude field stones at this burying ground.
In 2008, Brandon Mizelle cleaned up the cemetery and erected three signs denoting the cemetery as his Eagle Scout project. He worked long, hard hours to transform what appeared to be a wilderness into a historic cemetery filled with loved ones. The Patrick County Genealogy Society sponsored Brandon and his father, two brothers, Fain descendants, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints assisted the young man in this most worthy project.
In June of the same year, the Stuart Wharton Camp 1832 Sons of Confederate Veterans rededicated the grave of Jacob Fain, who served in Company D of the 12th Virginia Infantry and Company J Confederate Reserves of Patrick County.
The time has come where the cemetery, located at the foot of Lover’s Leap Mountain, may need to be rescued again. A descendant reached out to me to share what she discovered when she went to visit the cemetery. On the 13th of March 2021, she arrived at the cemetery to find a worker conducting soil tests. She saw signs of grading there and asked if he knew about the cemetery. He replied that his company had no record of a cemetery located on the site. He called his project manager who told him to follow the relative and take photos of the graves. The great granddaughter discovered there were two rows of stones missing and the gate had been run over.
When our society does things in the name of progress, it is important to consider not only what we may gain, but what we stand to lose.
(Thank you to Linda Oxendine, Geneva Pendleton Crawford, Joanne Shirley, Sarah Jordan, and Gene Fain for assistance in preparing this column. Woody may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)