Daughters of Zion Cemetery

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The Daughters of Zion Cemetery (DOZ) is located at the corner of Oak and First Streets on a hilltop site of approximately 2 acres. Founded by a charitable society for African American women of the same name in 1873, it has been known by many names including Society Cemetery, Zion Society Cemetery, Old Oakwood Society Cemetery, Oak Hill Society Cemetery and Samaritan Cemetery. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register, this burial ground is in the process of being renovated.

The cemetery contains graves that are mostly in family groupings. Throughout the years, numerous notables have been laid to rest within the cemetery. Those who have significantly influenced the course of history of the area due to their actions or opinions include Benjamin Tonsler,[1].

Daughters of Zion (DOZ) Cemetery
The Preservers of the Daughters of Zion Cemetery held a dedication for the Memorial to the Unknown on December 16, 2017.

A geophysical analysis of the site using "hyperbolic velocity calibration" uncovered many more grave sites than had been anticipated. [2]

Cemetery overview

  • Association: Charitable Organization, The Daughters of Zion.
  • Other names/site number: Zion Cemetery; Society Cemetery; Old Oakwood Section; VDHR ID #104-5153 or the "Church Hill Cemetery"
  • No. of Markers: 179
  • No. of Individuals: 196
  • Location: City of Charlottesville; corner of First and Oak Streets.
The approximately two-acre burial ground was established in 1873. Significantly, the cemetery adjoins the larger, circa 1863, 14-acre municipal Oakwood Cemetery located across Oak Street to the southwest. Nearby, is a private Jewish cemetery belonging to the Charlottesville Congregation Beth Israel.

Commemoration and recognition

A group called the Preservers of the Daughters of Zion has been working to raise awareness of the cemetery. In 2016, City Council allocated $80,000 to restore the cemetery. [3]

Part of the work will include trying to discover the identities of some 160 graves that no longer are marked. So far, 136 have been identified.

In 2010, the cemetery was listed in the National Register of Historic Places[4] , which is the U.S. government's official list of places considered important to preserve. The National Register is a part of the National Park Service, U.S. Dept. of the Interior

A Decoration Day was held on May 28, 2017. [5]


While many of the sections are not enclosed, several family plots are bounded by fencing or demarcated by grade-level, poured-concrete footers. These include the graves of the Allen, Massie, Tonsler, Heiskell, Coles, Lewis, Flemming, Goodloe and Wayland families.

List of notable interments and their families


  • Benjamin Tonsler (1854-1917), prominent African-American educator and leader.
  • Dr. Robert Leo Whittaker
  • J. Penny Fleming
  • Edward Watts Fleming
  • Compton E. Tonsler (1882-1939)
  • Rev. M. T. Lewis
  • Rev. Jesse Herndon
  • Jessy Cary
  • James Goodlow
  • Kenneth Walker Allen
  • Dorothy Murray Allen
  • Anthony T. Buckner (father of George W Buckner)
  • Geneva Tonsler Buckner (wife of George W Buckner)
  • Eileen Woods Buckner (daughter of George W Buckner and Geneva Tonsler Buckner)
  • Horace Tonsler (father of Geneva Tonsler Buckner)
  • Pocahontas Tonsler (mother of Geneva Tonsler Buckner)
  • Priscilla Ragland (mother of Homer Ragland)
  • Margaret Lewis


  1. Web. NPS biography of Benjamin Tonsler
  2. Web. Geophysical Data Analysis Report Daughters of Zion Cemetery Charlottesville, Virginia, NAEVA Geophysics Inc., Study, NAEVA Geophysics Inc., July 2020, retrieved August 27, 2020.
  3. Web. Council holds last budget work session, Sean Tubbs, News Article, Charlottesville Tomorrow, April 7, 2016, retrieved January 2, 2017.
  4. Web. NPS Registration Form
  5. Web. Daughters of Zion Cemetery Preservers Host Decoration Day, Taylor Gleason, News Article, NBC29, May 28, 2017, retrieved May 29, 2017.

External links