Friday, July 15, 2016

The Mystery of Mt Zion is Solved

For over 5 years I have trundled back and forth along Rte 50 and passed a small building near Aldie, VA, with a sign out the front, Mt Zion Historic Park, home of the Old School Baptist Church. I've seen the occasional school bus park up there and also spotted a police car hiding behind the dense foliage, but this morning I decided to stop myself. It was about 6:15am on my way to work and the sun was just peaking over the horizon, bathing everything in a warm yellow light, a time known as The Golden Hour by photographers. I stepped out of the car and immediately put the sound of the constant traffic to the back of my mind and immersed myself in the history and presence of this hallowed place.
The church was built in 1851 and the first interment in the cemetery behind it was in the following year. Being on high ground and at the junction of two roads, it became a hub during the Civil War for 4 years from 1861, used as a hospital, barracks, prison and as a rendezvous. There are boards placed outside explaining the battle that took place, starting in the afternoon of July 6, 1864 between Mosby and Major Forbes, and resulting with Forbes being trapped under his horse and captured with his men. The battle must have made an impact on the two men as their families began a friendship that spanned more than 30 years.
 The church has been beautifully restored. I walked all around, noticing the clean bricks and the stone foundations visible along the base. The church closed in 1980 and was unused until its restoration in 2007 and 2008. It's now open to the public on the fourth Sunday of the month, except winter months, whichever those might be...
I walked through to the cemetery, passing a commemoration marker that has caused some controversy since it was placed here, click here.
I did look up on Google to see what Wayd's sketches were like and was impressed. Some are here.
 There are over 300 graves here and the cemetery is still in use today. A veteran from the 1812 War, Robert Coe, is buried here, 13 confederate soldiers, and in a corner are 12 markers honoring Union soldiers, all from the 1964 battle that took place here on July 6.
I came across a list of the transcripts here. but I couldn't find little Annie J. Cockbill, who was tucked under the tree root.
 What I thought was an engraving on the back of a stone caught my eye until I looked closer and discovered it to be a huge cicada. He had only recently emerged from his cocoon, which is still attached to the side of the stone. I got down on the ground for a few minutes, careful not to frighten him, and marveled at this amazing creature, who's been underground for years. What a beautiful morning he'd chosen to surface into his new world.
 There are also about 60 graves outside the cemetery wall which are believed to be African American, some possibly slaves. It really saddens me that these are left outside the cemetery. I wish somehow a holy man could bless this ground or a small wall could be built around these markers, some of which are now just broken pieces of stone.
I managed to peer through the windows of the church which reminded me of an old schoolhouse inside.The church can be rented for weddings, funerals or baptisms.
There's a two minute video here with a brief history of the grounds.
I also discovered this link with some really interesting information about the church and the Baptists. Apparently there's a dinosaur imprint in the cemetery wall, and baptisms were carried out in the nearby Aldie Mill pond as a full immersion was required.
After an hour of exploring I had to think about getting to work, but I was really reluctant to leave. So many commuters whizz past here on a daily basis and they have no idea of the interest and history that this little corner of land holds. I'm glad to say that I'm no longer one of them.

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