The stars shine brighter in Halifax County, VA

Diamond Hill Cemetery

Diamond Hill Cemetery

Throughout the state of Virginia, one can discover scattered
burial sites that serve as reminders of the enslaved individuals who were an
integral part of the Commonwealth’s history. Among these sites is Berry Hill, a
former tobacco plantation that once stood as one of the largest and most
productive in the south. Even to this day, a mere glimpse at the mansion and
its surrounding grounds evokes consideration about the immense labor required
to maintain such a property. Historical accounts indicate that the Bruce
family, who owned Berry Hill, held ownership of more than several hundred
slaves. Upon their passing, the enslaved would find their final resting place
on the side of a wooded hill located at the southern end of the estate, forming
what is now known as Diamond Hill.

While the exact number of individuals interred at Diamond
Hill remains uncertain, there are more than 200 marked graves with headstone or
footstone indicators present at the site. It is believed that the cemetery
contains the remains of at least 300 individuals, encompassing both enslaved
people and those who gained their freedom following the Civil War. In terms of
scale, this burial ground stands as one of the largest known enslaved burial
sites within the state of Virginia. It is worth noting that due to their
enslaved status, the individuals laid to rest at Diamond Hill did not have the
means to purchase traditional headstones made of granite or marble. Instead,
their graves are marked by unadorned fieldstones found on the property, devoid
of any inscriptions. While it is conceivable that some of these stones may have
once borne carvings that have since weathered away, it is important to
recognize the enslaved would have taken great risks in openly displaying their
literacy or ability to write through such carvings. These modest grave markers
sharply contrast with the elaborate headstones found at the Bruce family’s
cemetery, located next to the mansion. Even in death, the segregation
experienced by the enslaved persisted.

It is said that Diamond Hill derived its name from the
shimmering appearance of the headstones after rainfall, as they sparkled like
diamonds in the sunlight. Geographically, Diamond Hill is a relatively secluded
location, situated at the southern edge of the property near the Dan River. The
cemetery can be reached through two possible routes. The shorter path involves
following a walking trail from Berry Hill, spanning roughly a mile from a
parking lot located before the hotel and dining area. After passing by a barn and
crossing a creek, walkers should follow the trail to the right toward the Dan
River. Alternatively, visitors can opt to use the Tobacco Heritage Trail from
the parking lot on Railroad Avenue. After approximately two miles on the trail,
hikers will see a sign marking Diamond Hill on the right.

In 2022, a monument was erected at the entrance of Diamond
Hill, serving as a tribute to the individuals interred in these hallowed

Contact Information

M3R9+3V, South Boston, VA 24592