Located directly across the street from St. Joseph’s Catholic Cemetery on South Street, is Old Norbourne Cemetery. It’s the oldest cemetery in the city of Martinsburg and belongs to Trinity Episcopal Church, which was part of Norbourne Parish. West Virginia, as we know it today, was part of Virginia prior to the Civil War. Virginia was one of the thirteen colonies and was under English rule. The dominant religious influence prior to the American Revolution was the Anglican Church, the Church of England. By an Act of Assembly, in the year 1769, Norbourne Parish and Berkeley County were taken from Frederick County. The original parish included all the territory now embraced by the counties of Jefferson and Berkeley, and contained within the limits, probably three churches. The first Episcopal Church in the valley was built in Bunker Hill by Morgan Morgan about the year 1740. A short time before the parish was formed, a chapel was erected in Hedgesville. The other was erected in Shepherdstown and built by Van Swearingen. The original parish included these three churches. The first Episcopal Church in Martinsburg was built at about the close of the Revolution and was erected by Phillip Pendleton, Esq. The original 1779 map of the town shows the English Church, as it was also known, located at the southwest corner of Lot 108, which was part of Old Norbourne Cemetery. The land for the cemetery was donated to the Episcopal Church by General Adam Stephen and was established by law in 1778. Upon the formation of Jefferson County, the territory was cut off from Norbourne Parish. The old English Church became unsafe for use and the decision was made to tear down the old structure to build a new place of worship in 1835. A lot was donated and the present structure on West King Street was commenced in 1838 or 1839.
The parish cemetery contains the final resting places of many of the city’s ancestors, and there is at least one member of every important family from Martinsburg’s early history interred in these hallowed grounds. Military veterans from the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Civil War, and World Wars I and II all are buried in this historic burial ground. The cemetery is surrounded by a stone wall. The monuments and tombstones of varying age and decay, some fallen, some standing, make up the landscape of the cemetery. New Norbourne Cemetery was established much later and is located behind Martinsburg High School on Queen Street. The original deed at the Berkeley County Courthouse shows that Alexander Parks deeded the property to William B. Colston, et als., Trustees of Norbourne Cemetery on March 23, 1909.
Some of the notable burials in Old Norbourne Cemetery include the Faulkner family, one of the most prominent and important families in the history of Martinsburg. Elisha Boyd, who built the magnificent Boydville mansion in 1812, is laid to rest here. He was a general in the War of 1812, lawyer, judge, member of the Virginia House of Delegates and the Berkeley County attorney for the state. Charles James Faulkner was a very prestigious attorney, successful politician and a minister to France during the Buchanan administration. Charles James Faulkner, Jr. was a lawyer and a senator. Charles James Faulkner III also practiced law and became a judge. The Faulkner family has a burial plot located in the center of the back wall of the cemetery. A separate gate provides access to members of the family visiting from the Boydville estate, located on the other side of the cemetery property.
Two brothers by the names of Holmes and Tucker Conrad are buried in Old Norbourne as well. They were the sons of Holmes Conrad, Esq., an esteemed lawyer of the town. They were both killed by the same volley in the first battle of Manassas, Virginia along with a cousin, Peyton Randolph Harrison. It is said that the two brothers, sadly, died in each other’s arms. Fittingly, the brothers are buried together in the same tomb.
Edmund Pendleton Hunter also is interred in this cemetery. He was a lawyer as well as proprietor and editor of the Martinsburg Gazette, Martinsburg’s first newspaper. He replaced General Elisha Boyd as county attorney and was also elected to the Virginia House of Delegates. He was Colonel for the 67th Regiment of the Virginia Militia and rose to the highest Masonic order in Virginia. He died during a fatal Cholera epidemic in 1854.
The daughter of General Adam Stephen, Ann Stephen Hunter is also memorialized within the weather worn stone walls enclosing this hauntingly beautiful burial ground.
These are only some of the many interesting people and contributors to Martinsburg’s legacy whose final resting place is the quiet spot just a few blocks from the center of Martinsburg’s historic downtown. The monuments and the tombstones feature a vast array of intricate carvings, sculpture and Victorian symbolism. Shrouded urns, obelisks and wilted roses are just a few of the classic Victorian symbols found here. An outstanding life size angel holding a wreath was one of the most visually arresting features of the cemetery. Sadly, it was toppled over and the head removed by vandals many years ago. A tree stump, representing a life cut short, is another splendid work of art from this era at home in Old Norbourne. Our historic cemeteries are important landmarks in the town. Every stone has a story to tell, and layers of fascinating history can be discovered by educating one’s self on the lives of those that lie in the soil beneath those beautiful markers and gravestones.
Aler’s History of Martinsburg and Berkeley County, W.V. Written by F. Vernon Aler
History of Trinity Episcopal Church and Norbourne Parish: Martinsburg, Berkeley County, West Virginia, Diocese of West Virginia; 185th anniversary, 1771-1956 Written by: Lorraine Minghini, Thomas Earl VanMetre
(Photo Credits: April King)