Saturday, November 21, 2020

The Campbell's Hollow Slave Cemetery

For nearly all of my 30 years I have lived in the third house on the right on Campbell's Hollow Road in Charleston, WV (not to be confused with Campbell's Creek - two very different places). My father grew up in the house next door to ours, and my grandparents lived there for many years before he was born. My grandfather lived just up the hill on Oak Ridge Drive as a boy, before moving to Campbell's Hollow. And although my family has lived here for the better part of 80 years at least, they were not the first family to live on this little road.

The Campbell family moved to the place that would later come to be known as Campbell's Hollow in 1915. They claimed to be the first family to set up permanent residence in the hollow, although some evidence that has come to light recently would seem to debunk that claim. It was the oldest surviving member of this family, Mr. Danny Campbell, that casually told my father about something while he was out walking the dog one afternoon that would instantly pique the interest of any genealogist - he said that only about 100 feet off the road, up behind what is now a small paddock for a horse, there was an old slave cemetery. He and his siblings had found it after hearing about it from some older folks when they were children, but he hadn't been there in decades.

Once I heard about this, I of course had to know more. Where was the precise location of this cemetery? Had the people buried there really been slaves, or were they free African-Americans? And if they really had been slaves, whose slaves had they been?

In search of answers, I went down to the records room of the Kanawha County courthouse to see if I could figure out who had owned the property in the mid-1800s. If I could find the answer to that question, I might be able to figure out a little bit more about who might be buried there. I traced the deed records for the closest house to the location of the cemetery, and found that almost all of the land in this area had once been owned by the Quarrier family, who was a founding family of Charleston. The Quarriers were certainly very wealthy, and census records, wills, and slave schedules show that they did own many slaves. The will of the progenitor of this family, Col. Alexander Quarrier, names "Judy, Julia, and her six children," and gives specific instructions for them and their descendants not to be sold out of the family. Although only eight are mentioned here, Alexander died in 1827 and had 16 children, all of whom where also wealthy. They undoubtedly obtained many more slaves between them.

I had now established that the family who owned the land in the mid-1800s had indeed owned slaves, but I still wanted to know more. My father remembered someone telling a friend of his who used to live in the neighborhood that there had once been many African-American people who lived on Campbell's Hollow before it was ever named that; the road was only a set of tracks, the land was not yet filled in so it was damp and swampy, and the people lived in houses that were really just shacks. They also said that before the Campbell family settled here there was an illness that went through this little community, and everyone who lived there died. No one was entirely certain when the African-American people had lived here; only that it was before the Campbell family. Assuming that it was after 1863, these people were probably freed slaves who had previously been owned by the Quarrier family.

Now that we had more confirmation that people who were likely freed slaves had lived here and that the land had been owned by a slave-owning family, I wanted to find the cemetery itself. My father and I set off up the road, and soon came to the horse's paddock. We walked along the border of the paddock and up the side of the hill, following the directions that Danny had given us. And sure enough, about 100 yards from the road on the side of the hill, we found a place that someone had attempted to make more level, and found several large stones that had clearly been set into the ground. Large stones like these do not usually occur naturally on the sides of hills, particularly in an area that tend to be dense in foliage. 

There were maybe 15 stones of various sizes altogether, all of them in the flattened-out area, and all of them set in fairly regular intervals. It was a solemn experience to walk through this little cemetery whose existence was barely remembered, and whose inhabitants were likely not remembered by name by anyone alive. I decided then that I had to write this post about the cemetery, in order to preserve its location and as much information as I was able to gather about it for posterity.

My great-great-aunt's ethnicity estimate showed that about 3% of her DNA contained markers that originated in Africa, likely meaning that within about 6-8 generations of her birth, we had an ancestor of African descent who was likely enslaved. I hate to think about how my own ancestors' names have been long forgotten, their places of burial long forgotten, and even how exactly I am descended from them long forgotten. I am closing in on finding my African ancestor through DNA testing and research, and I hope that one day I might be able to find at least an approximate location of their burial, so that I can go and pay my respects. It is my fervent hope that someone who is descended from the people buried in this little cemetery will one day be able to find their connection to their ancestors, and be able to visit their final resting place.





  1. My maiden name is Campbell my great great uncle's name was Daniel Campbell but don't know to much about him

  2. I'm a descendent of Alexander Quarrier's and stumbled on this blog post. I knew of the will and them mention of Julia, Judy, and family and have wondered what happened to them. Thank you so much for finding this land and preserving it's story. I've not been to Charleston yet to continue my research but hope to someday. I would like to visit Campbell Hallow when I go.

    1. Please send me an email at if you are ever able to come to Charleston! I would love to show you were it is.



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