Thursday, October 27, 2011

A "New Yew" for Historic St. John's Church Cemetery

For almost two hundred years, a sprawling yew tree sheltered the grave of Elizabeth Arnold "Eliza" Poe, Edgar Allan Poe's mother, in the graveyard of historic St. John's Church.  In 2007, the tree was removed by the city, leaving a huge void in the landscape surrounding one of the burial grounds' most famous residents.  A new yew has now been planted and will be dedicated on October 30--though it is certainly much smaller than its more aged predecessor.

Yew trees can thrive for hundreds of years and are often found in cemeteries.  The yew that was cut down in 2007 possibly pre-dated the construction of St. John's Church, which was constructed in 1741.  "Eliza" Poe was a local actress who died in 1811 at the age of 24, possibly of tuberculosis.  Her son Edgar was not yet three years old.

She was buried at St. John's, although the congregation reportedly was not pleased about having an actress buried in their churchyard.  Acting was not considered a particularly worthy occupation at the time, so she was buried well away from the church on the outskirts of the property.  The precise location of Eliza's final resting place was not precisely known until The Raven Society of the University of Virginia determined that she had been buried within a few feet of the old yew tree.  The Raven Society erected a memorial marker on the spot in 1927.

The new yew tree will be dedicated at noon on October 30.  What better day to commemorate a graveyard location associated with the life of Edgar Allan Poe?  This year also marks the 200th anniversary of Eliza Poe's death.  St. John's Church is one of Richmond's oldest and most significant historic sites.  It is within a short drive of Maury Place at Monument.

Mac Pence and Jeff Wells
your Richmond Virginia Bed and Breakfast Innkeepers at Maury Place at Monument