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Moser: Graves Exhumation at High School Site Leaves Trust Issues


My Grandpa said, “Trust has to be earned.” I believed him because I believed everything he told me. Today, though, I’m not sure that was accurate. I think we all start life trusting. Just picture the joy when you toss your toddler in the air! That child trusts you to catch him/her. If you missed, that child may develop mistrust, but it is not an inherent, natural part of childhood.

TRUST: noun: trust
1. firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.
“relations have to be built on trust”

What happens to change that trust? Does trust begin to erode when children discover there is no Santa, no Easter Bunny, or no Tooth Fairy? Do we stop trusting when Dad says he’s taking your dog to “The Farm”, when what he really meant was he was having your elderly friend euthanized?

Is trust something you lose all at once or is it bitten off a piece at a time when you look at the photo of the food you ordered and are faced with the sad imitation when it arrives on your tray? Does your trust diminish when you open a package that you think should be full and it looks half empty? There’s a caveat on the box that reads, “Contents may settle due to shipping.” Are you satisfied with that explanation?

So, perhaps it becomes our nature to be skeptical about people we should trust or used to trust. Certainly, when we read, “Canada says 386 Kids Rescued in porn bust” and discover among those arrested are teachers and doctors, our trust is tarnished. When we read about pedophiles in the Catholic Church or trusted child care providers abusing children in their care, it is no small wonder we have become jaded.

Add to the mix CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) Photoshop, magicians, and optical illusions.
Is it any wonder when we hear some declaration like President Obama vowing to eliminate homelessness for the current 62,000 veterans sleeping in the streets by 2015, we doubt? (It seems especially doubtful after the debacle.)

So, when Prince William County Schools contract to exhume 13 graves, without investigation by our top notch experts on the Cemetery Committee of the Prince William Historical Commission, and after posting the most minimal of notice in the Washington Post Classifieds, is it any wonder we feel mistrust?

What could possibly be the big rush to move these remains? Why couldn’t this be delayed until adequate public notice was given? I have been told the state only received two objections to the exhumation. I don’t think that is surprising, since practically no one knew about this in time to take any action to delay the proceedings. Why is there no attempt to alter the plans, fence the cemetery and show respect to the dead as we have done in so many other locations in Prince William County?

There are quite a few of us asking questions now. We’re asking the School Administration, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, our School Board Representatives and we’re asking our elected officials. To date, I have received a response from Prince William County Executive Melissa Peacor stating the county’s School Board is ultimately responsible for school projects.

Peacor’s response was polite, but not satisfying.

School Board members have asked that we just be patient until Prince William schools officials respond and another told me she shares our concerns and will be seeking more information.

Unfortunately, since exhumation began on Veteran’s Day, we may all be too late. 

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  • Kudus to Delegates Lingamfelter and Anderson for investigating this issue on behalf of their constituents. While Ms. Peacor’s response may be “technically correct”, a Commonwealth Agency had to approve this exhumation, and PWC residents pay for it via revenue collected by PWC Government,

    Those who control the purse strings always have a legitimate interest in how taxpayer dollars are spent. Those of us who pay those taxes deserve better answers.

  • Waiting for permission to share more pertinent information, but definitely want readers to know this much:

    The identity of those buried in the cemetery is close at hand. At the suggestion of a great great granddaughter of one or more of those buried in the cemetery, Don Wilson and Charlotte Cain have located the land records, census reports, and chancery records that clearly identify persons buried in the cemetery.

  • Shirley Collins

    Doesn’t PWC Government have any regulations on cemeteries in the county? If so, does this not apply to PWCS property? If not, why not?

    • Shirley,

      I believe this information is required:

      The records documenting the need for the action, including what attempts have been made to adjust the site plan to avoid disruption of the graves.

      Survey and archeological reports,

      Information documenting the identity of persons burried in the cemetery and
      their decendants..

      Other information that has a bearing upon the proposed action

  • Lynda

    I’m glad to hear relatives have been found and they will be part of the process. I saw flags in the woods about 22 years ago where Port Potomac is now. I didn’t know what they meant until I saw they were dug up. I called Mr. Turner, who has been involved with identifying cemeteries in the county. He told me it WAS a cemetery and how he identified it; direction of graves and field stones and cedar trees. It wasn’t until much later that I added another piece to the puzzle. there is a slave cemetery from the Lee family on the maps of the county in our PWC history books. That cemetery never should have been disturbed in my opinion. I have asked for information regarding who/what/how someone got permission to disturb the ground and I still have not gotten an answer. I may have to legally ask for a FOIA, I thought I could get the info by just asking the county historical organization. I am not against progress but feel our history should be preserved.

    • Hi Lynda,

      Thanks you so much for your comments. If you could email me directly at, with your email and/or phone, I’ll be glad to see that your concerns are expressed to the correct people who can get your answers.

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