History In Site: Ghosts of Brandermill Past

Old gravesite in the woods of Brandermill, VA.

One of my main themes with this website is that any place can be fascinating, if you pause to look at it from a different perspective. That most definitely applies to wherever you happen to live!

We recently moved to Brandermill, a sprawling community in the vicinity of Richmond, Virginia. Brandermill as it exists today dates to the 1970s, but of course the land had a history well before that, from native Americans through colonial times and onwards. Some of that history remains, tucked away in the form of gravesites and cemeteries scattered around. I thought Halloween would be a great day to try to find some of them!

I know what you might be saying. Cemeteries? Graves? You WANT to find those? Absolutely! I’ve always adored cemeteries in general–they’re quiet places, filled with things I adore: nature, art, and history. And memories. Every gravesite, every marker, represents a story. Some are long forgotten, but all are surely fascinating in their own way. I think it’s proper to pay some respect to those memories, even if we have no personal connection, you know?

NOTE: I’m not giving exact locations for these, so as not to provide easy fodder for those who might disrespect these sites. But feel free to reach out if you need a pointer.

Commodore Point

Headstone and bench in forest, Brandermill VA.

First stop: The lone grave near Commodore Point. This one is just off one of the neighborhood’s walking paths, with its own little path to the grave and a small bench some kind soul added. The headstone is simple: Unadorned stone with the initials AJ, and the year, 1883. And alas, that’s as much as I can tell you about it. Possibly the grave of a former slave, due to its simplicity? Like I said, some stories seem forgotten.

Old headstone in forest, Brandermill VA.

Clay Family – Litchfield Bluff

Next stop: The Clay family plot. This one is also a short way from one of the walking trails, near Litchfield Bluff–and that connection will shortly become clear.

Forest path to overgrown cemetery, Brandermill VA.
Old burial vault through trees, Brandermill VA.
Old burial vault in forest, Brandermill VA.

The main thing to see here is Phineas Clay’s burial vault. Mr. Clay was a Baptist minister who died in 1855 at the age of 74–you can read his obituary here. He was interred in this above-ground vault which he’d prepared for himself, but apparently it became a target for vandals, so in 1958 his remains were moved to a Richmond cemetery. A plaque on the vault indicates this, and that the empty vault was re-sealed in 1980 by the Brandermill Community Association.

Broken headstone on the ground covered in fallen leaves, Brandermill VA.

I couldn’t make out much on this shattered marker, but I believe it was for Mr. Clay’s wife, Frances Wilkinson Turpin Clay, who died in 1853 at the age of 57.

Old headstone in forest, Brandermill VA.

There are a few other graves and markers near the Clay vault. Most prominent is this one, for Dr. Alfred W. Hall, who passed away in 1846 at the tender age of 27. His obituary can be found here. Dr. Hall was the son-in-law of Phineas and Frances Clay, and (according to the obituary) had only been married about a month when he grabbed the wrong bottle and accidentally poisoned himself, resulting in his death. Like I said–fascinating stories everywhere!

Stone memorial on the ground in forest, Brandermill VA.

I mentioned that this cemetery is near Litchfield Bluff, and here we find a namesake of the street: A memorial to Mollie Q. Litchfield Adams. Apparently she’s actually buried elsewhere, however, next to her husband.

Old Tomahawk Cemetery

Old headstones in cemetery, Brandermill VA.

On the edge of Brandermill, and not so hidden, is the Old Tomahawk Baptist Church Cemetery, at the corner of Genito Road and Old Hundred/Charter Colony Parkway. The Tomahawk congregation dates back to 1776, and still exists. The cemetery is fenced-in next to the CVS store, and contains around 40 graves, most of which date to the late 19th and early 20th century.

Old headstone in cemetery, Brandermill VA.

I think this was the oldest marker to be found–Junius Archer Ellett, who died at the age of 30 in 1881.

Old headstone in cemetery, Brandermill VA.

Several of the markers indicate service in the Confederate army, like Artemus Clay (no direct relation to Phineas, as far as I can tell) who served as a Private in the 9th Virginia Infantry regiment and died in 1913 at the age of 65. The 9th Virginia fought with the Army of Northern Virginia in a number of battles, including Gettysburg, where more than half of its members were killed or wounded.

Old grave marker in cemetery, Brandermill VA.

One thing that always stands out for me in old cemeteries are the children. We generally assume these days that our children will survive to adulthood–old cemeteries remind us that was not always the case.

A number of graves in the cemetery are from the Morrissett family, who apparently owned a good bit of property in the area. I didn’t find much information about those interred here, but I did find a gruesome story about one Martha Morrissett, who was murdered by two of her slaves in 1806 and was likely an ancestor of these Morrissetts.

Old grave marker in cemetery, Brandermill VA.

This one is a mystery, since it provides no dates or details–I found some references to a Gladys Grim on Ohio newspapers around 1930, but I’m guessing that’s someone else. The “Our Little Darling” inscription suggests maybe Gladys was a child?

I looked for a couple more of the graves and cemeteries I’ve seen on various maps of Brandermill, but they were either too overgrown, or not enough remained to be obvious. Maybe I’ll give them another try sometime. Do you happen to know of any others? Feel free to share!


  1. Great work, Kelly! Beautiful images and fascinating history!

  2. nancy svoboda

    I live in brandermill and would love to see the gravestone at commadore point. Could you give me a hint where it might be i walk the trails there frequently

    • Hello Nancy, sorry I just saw your comment! At Commodore Point, if you’re walking from the parking lot past the boat racks, take the left-hand path where the trail splits. Shortly after that, you should spot a path into the trees on the right, where you’ll find the gravestone and little bench. It’s a nice spot!

  3. Hi Kelly–I live in Brandermill and would love to know where the Phineas Clay tomb is. I just heard a historian talking about it, but she didn’t know the exact location (Mary Miley, the woman who wrote the lovely Brandermill book!). Thanks!

  4. Hey can I have some more info on the clay family site? I’m a descendent, I also have a cemetery near our childhood farm on newbys bridge.

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