One of the most important—and certainly among the oldest—fixtures in the Blue Ridge community lies on a sloping hillside between Webster Road and Colonial Road not far off US 460.
Brick pillars on both roads mark the entrances to this community treasure that is simply called Glade Creek Cemetery.
It is the final resting place for the ancestors—recent and distant—for many families that call Blue Ridge home.
But, despite its deep roots in the community, it is a treasure in trouble.
“It’s a community cemetery. It started as a community cemetery. It’s non-profit. It’s not part of the (Glade Creek Baptist) church,” Shelby Leonard explained.
She is secretary of the volunteer committee that oversees the cemetery operations. That group is the Glade Creek Cemetery Corp., the non-profit entity that was formed in 1946 in an effort to establish perpetual care for what was already a long-standing community cemetery.
“The committee,” as the members call themselves, is trying to put enough money in the cemetery coffers to be able to maintain upkeep of the cemetery.
The committee’s problems are related to the economic downturn and a sense that not enough people in the Blue Ridge community realize there is a community cemetery available for families of all faiths and denominations.
Committee members want the community to know family members can be buried in Blue Ridge. They don’t have to have burial plots in private, for-profit cemeteries in Roanoke or elsewhere.
And the cemetery has plenty of room for family plots or single graves.
One thing that may cause some confusion is the cemetery’s location. It joins Glade Creek Baptist Church; but it is not part of the church.
The cemetery location makes sense, though. When the “new” Glade Creek Cemetery was opened in the mid-1800s, it was on property that joined what was then a Union church—one that was used by several denominations.
Part of the Union church is still used by the Glade Creek Baptist congregation.
Like the Union church, the cemetery was a community endeavor.
Leonard said families took care of their own plots during the early history of the cemetery. There were shrubs and fences around some family plots.
But times changed, families moved or there was no family left to care for the plots.
So, in 1946, a group of local citizens met to incorporate the Glade Creek Cemetery Corp. as a non-profit community organization to establish and provide perpetual care at the cemetery.
The first fund-raiser was an ice cream supper that raised about $90.
Committee and community members cleaned up the cemetery, established guidelines for upkeep and set about collecting money for perpetual care.
Committee members believe only one family in the cemetery at the time never contributed to the perpetual care.
After the committee was formed, a percentage of the sale of any plots sold went into the perpetual care fund. Only the interest from that fund can be used for upkeep.
And that’s the first part of the dilemma facing the committee. The economic downturn has created historically low interest rates, which in turn have cut interest payments the cemetery committee uses to pay for mowing and other upkeep on the property.
Committee treasure Tom Davis said the cemetery funds are invested in CDs, what he called the most secure investment. But interest isn’t keeping up with the cost of mowing grass on the cemetery that covers 18 or so acres.
Committee President Teddy Spickard said each mowing costs $450.
Davis said the committee is spending about $7,000 a year on mowing.
As four members of the committee gathered on the porch at the neighboring Baptist church, a welcome rain fell across the region. James Swortzel had three inches in his rain gauge.
But Davis called it a mixed blessing. The dry weather meant the cemetery committee didn’t have to have the grounds mowed as often this summer. The late-September rain would likely mean another cutting before frost.
Leonard has handled selling graves and plots for quite a few years (most of the committee members can be considered longtime volunteers). In recent years, the sale of plots has been erratic.
The committee would like to change that.
She notes the grave sites sell for just $750—among the most reasonable in the area, and a fee that includes perpetual care. Davis points out the view from the cemetery is quite pleasant, too, with the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains.
The cemetery also is home to a community sunrise service on Easter Sunday.
Plenty of plots are available in the new part of the cemetery, plus the committee has several acres that haven’t been divided into plots. About 70 percent of the 2,532 graves in the four older sections of the cemetery are in use.
The original Glade Creek Cemetery is across Webster Road. The committee also takes care of that small parcel.
The headstones in the newer cemetery are sprinkled with the names of some of the county’s earliest settlers.
Among the families buried in Glade Creek Cemetery are the Flukes. The community known as Blue Ridge got that name officially in 1920. County records indicate the community was first named “Flukes” after Peter Fluke (or Flauk or Flooks), a German immigrant who settled in the area in the late 1700s.
The name changed in 1874 to Blue Ridge Springs because of a famous spa and hotel. That name was shortened in 1920.
Committee members pointed out that Captain Phillip Brown and his wife are buried in the cemetery. Brown took over the Blue Ridge Springs hotel in the late 1870s and has been credited with turning around the fortunes of the Blue Ridge Springs.
Family names from other early settlers are also in the cemetery—Cook, Luck, Spickard, Kessler, Kent, Hutchins, Murray, Henderlight and Zimmerman family members are among those buried there. Leonard said 18 Confederate veterans are buried there, too.
Now, the committee members hope newer Blue Ridge area families will consider making Glade Creek Cemetery their cemetery.
To do so, or for information, they can call Shelby Leonard at 977-9764.
Anyone wanting to make a contribution to the cemetery upkeep can send donations to Glade Creek Cemetery Corp., c/o Tom Davis, 2343 Sourwood St., Roanoke, 24012.