Mount Hebron Cemetery is a unique community institution. It is a complex of four adjoining burying grounds embraced within a common enclosure.
The one and one-fourth acre section in its northwest corner (at Woodstock and East Lanes) is the cemetery that surrounded the old Reformed Church. It contains marked graves dating from 1769. Inasmuch as the church (of which no trace remains) is believed to have been erected about ten years earlier, we may conjecture that this spot has been a burying place for more than two centuries.
Adjoining the Reformed section is the Lutheran Cemetery, an acre and a quarter lying just north of Mount Hebron’s entranceway. In its center stands the east wall, all that remains of the ancient limestone Lutheran Church whose cornerstone was laid in 1764. This church building was not completed until 1793, and it burned in a spectacular blaze in 1854.
By 1842, both the Lutheran and Reformed congregations had abandoned their old churches on the hill in favor of newer houses of worship they had just completed down in the town, but their burying grounds were not abandoned. In 1843 twelve citizens of Frederick County petitioned the General Assembly of Virginia to be chartered as a non-profit organization “to establish a public cemetery.” This charter was granted in February 1844.
Five acres of land, adjoining on the east of the old Reformed and Lutheran cemeteries, were purchased and Mount Hebron Cemetery came into being with elaborate ceremonies marking its dedication. It was named after Hebron, that city of refuge where Abraham, the patriarch, the father of the faithful, purchased from the sons of Heth the cave of Machpelah for a “possession of a burying place.” There he buried his beloved wife, Sarah, and there generation after generation of his family brought their dead for burial. (Genesis 23 and 49:29-50:14)
The original five-acre plot has been expanded by successive purchases of adjoining land until today the Cemetery enclosure extends to fifty-six acres. It includes all the land eastward from East Lane to Pleasant Valley Road between Woodstock Lane on the north and Cork Street on the south.
“To finite vision,
this marks life’s earthly sunset,
To the eye of faith,
sure hope of eternal dawn.”
Twenty-two years after the establishment of Mount Hebron Cemetery, a fourth contiguous burying ground was dedicated in 1866 amid solemn and impressive ceremonies. Stonewall Cemetery is the last resting place for the bodies of 2,576 Confederate soldiers who died in the fields and hospitals of this locality. Handsome monuments have been erected here by various States and individuals, and every year since 1866 the graves are decorated and appropriate memorial ceremonies held. It was the exploits in this vicinity of these valiant soldiers and their leaders and the location here of this cemetery which first attracted Judge John Handley, of Pennsylvania to Winchester and resulted in his generous benefactions to this city. Although he had never lived in Winchester, he sought and obtained a plot as close as possible to Stonewall Cemetery for his own last resting place
In 1891, as a result of the generosity of Charles Broadway Rouss, a handsome iron picket fence was erected to enclose the four cemeteries and in 1902 the limestone tower gate, containing the superintendent’s home and office was erected.
These hallowed grounds have now for more than a hundred years been cared for with reverent attention by the Board of Managers of the Mount Hebron Cemetery. The members of this board have served always without pay or preferment of any kind. In this task they are assisted by the official boards and interested individuals of the Lutheran and Reformed Churches and the ladies of the Stonewall Memorial Association and the Turner Ashby Chapter, Daughters of the Confederacy. Funds for the beautiful care with which the Cemetery is kept come from charges for current services, the sale of lots, and from income derived from the Perpetual Care Trust Fund which has been accumulated through the years.
This and other invested funds of the Cemetery are constantly being augmented as new lots are sold and by contributions from heirs of many of the earlier lot holders.
Lying close to the heart of the town which now surrounds it on all sides, Mount Hebron Cemetery is a place of honor, affection and inspiration. Here, as the poet says, “the rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep”: our generals and parsons, our senators and teachers, our mothers and babes. This fact has never been overlooked by the living citizens of the community. To these grounds they come year after year to bring their honored dead and here year after year they come to cherish by a thousand votive acts the memory of those who rest in this place of quiet beauty.
Not only by ones and twos do they come, not alone the aged and infirm who cling to fond recollections of those who lie buried here. On May 30 and June 6, National and Confederate Memorial Days, on Mothers Day, at Easter time and at Christmas, this beautiful old cemetery is adorned with flowers because the living remember the dead. Their memory is ever green like the boxwood, the yews and the cedars which grow in profusion here.
Magnificent trees and shrubs - poplar and maple, crepe myrtle and smoke bush, elm and ash - by their recurrent life, from spring to spring give assurance and hope of eternal life for those who rest here. How applicable to this place is that creed inscribed on a marble cross over a grave on Mount Hebron’s eastern slope:
Most visitors to this part of the Cemetery are intrigued by the German-language inscriptions and primitive art showing skull and crossed bones on some of the gravestones. The earliest marked grave here bears a date of 1777.