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Feature | March 5, 2014

Hidden history at JBLE: Tombstones between the tees

By Senior Airman Teresa J.C. Aber 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Having been purchased in 1918 by the U.S. government, Fort Eustis may be young in relative history. However, the land it lies on is rich with history.

Hidden beneath an unassuming group of trees lays one piece of American heritage; the burial plot of a doctor of the Confederate Army.

Doctor (Capt.) Humphrey Harwood Curtis Jr., along with members of his family, were laid to rest between what is now the third and fourth hole of the Pines Golf Course.

According to Michael Moore, Lee Hall Mansion and Endview Plantation historian and curator, Curtis and his wife, Maria, raised their family on the Harwood Plantation in Warwick County, later renovating and renaming it Endview. Along with his medical practice, Curtis raised crops and livestock on his farm. Shortly after the birth of their son in 1860, the Civil War began.

Curtis and other Warwick County residents answered the call to arms by the Confederate States of America to fight in the Civil War. In May 1861, Curtis organized a volunteer infantry company called the Warwick Beauregards on the grounds of Endview.

Shortly after Curtis was elected captain, the Beauregards joined the 32nd Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment on May 27, 1861, and became Company H, serving the Confederate Army. The Beauregards fought in 13 battles during the Civil War, and helped establish the Confederate Army's defensive lines in the local area.

The Curtis family offered many services to the Confederate Army outside Humphrey's military service. Their farm provided resources and Maria nursed the sick and wounded Confederate Soldiers.

After the end of the Civil War, Curtis continued to practice medicine and manage the farm. Curtis passed away in October 1881. After the U.S. government purchased Mulberry Island, now known as Fort Eustis, the burial sites of Curtis and many other Confederate Soldiers were lost, due to a lack of records or individuals able to identify locations. Many historians believed his grave was on the golf course, but didn't know for sure until May 2001.

Darcy Terry, Warwick County Historical Society president, believes patrons of the Pines Golf Course may find the gravesites to be an unusual site at first, but hopes they take a second look to see the meaning behind them.

"Having come across the markers of our Confederate officers and Soldiers, one may get the notion that the stones are out of place, strangely located on a golf course," said Darcy Terry, Warwick County Historical Society president. "On further reflection, one may momentarily envision a time before fairways and greens and realize that there was an entirely different world on these grounds.[Perhaps instead], the golf course is strangely located on a cemetery. It challenges perceptions and expands one's thoughts about time and place; the result being enlightenment."

Employees of the Pines Golf Course maintain the gravesites, ensuring the area remains free of debris and the tombstones are not damaged by the elements of nature.

Dr. Christopher McDaid, 733rd Civil Engineer Division installation archaeologist, believes it is important to maintain records of the gravesites and take care of them for generations to come.

"It reminds us we aren't the first people to live on this land and we won't be the last," said McDaid. "We are part of a larger story of the history of Fort Eustis, the military and America."

Members of the Fort Eustis community who golf may catch a glimpse of a grave marker as they move through the course, and remember the Soldiers who fought in generations long since passed.