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Victorian Memoires at Ivy Hill Cemetery

A cache by kusunflower Send Message to Owner Message this owner
Hidden : 04/24/2019
1.5 out of 5
2 out of 5

Size: Size:   small (small)

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Geocache Description:

The cache is not at the posted coordinates, but is placed on the grounds with the permission of the Ivy Hill Cemetery.  The cemetery was established in 1856, and it is still an active cemetery.  This cache is open sunrise to sunset—no night caching.  You will tour Victorian sections of the cemetery to find clues to the actual cache location, noting along the way a few of the Victorian symbols of the cemetery stones.

Cemetery etiquette:

--Be respectful of mourners and avoid blocking access to an interment if you visit on a day that such occurs.

--Be cautious around tombstones.  Don’t lean on them.  Some could be loose, causing serious injury or death if they should fall on you.

--Be aware of the surroundings.  Fox and deer live here, and there occasionally are nesting bees and hornets.  The grounds are home to burrowing animals, so watch out for large holes in the ground.  Avoid visits during violent weather, as huge trees have fallen during severe storms.

--Dogs on leash are welcome; please pick up after your pet.

--Parking is available on the roads throughout the cemetery; please keep vehicles on the roads.

The posted coordinates will bring you to an obelisk memorial near the King Street entry to Ivy Hill Cemetery.  The memorial honors seven firefighters who lost their lives in one of the worst fires in Alexandria history, on November 17, 1855.   The fire started by arson at the Dowell China Shop in the 100 block of King Street.  Five hours after the blaze started, the west wall of the warehouse fell, destroying the first and second floors and killing 7 firefighters.  Local legend has it that the collapse was caused by the explosion of dynamite in the basement.  Four of the firefighters were buried on November 19, 1855, after a procession passed through the streets of Alexandria and stopped at the homes of each of the firefighters.  One account claims that the procession and services had between 4,000-5,000 mourners.

Before the memorial is a granite fountain that has a fire hose nozzle as the water source.  This fountain was dedicated in 2001 to honor fire and EMS personnel who lost their lives in the line of duty on September 11, 2001, at the Pentagon and in New York City.  Every year on the Friday of Fire Prevention Week in October, the Alexandria Fire Department conducts a memorial service here, complete with ladder truck and flags.

Nearby, is the grave of Frank and Emma Stringfellow.  (N38º 49.025 W077º04.435)  Frank Stringfellow was a Confederate officer in the Civil War and a spy on the Union forces.  At the end of the war, there was a $10,000 bounty on his head.  He refused to take a loyalty oath after the war and moved to Canada.  In 1867, he returned to Alexandria, married his high school sweetheart, Emma Green, and enrolled in the Virginia Theological Seminary (about 2 miles west of Ivy Hill Cemetery).  He became an Episcopal priest, serving in a variety of locations, mostly in Virginia.  According to Wikipedia, unlike the plot line of the PBS drama “Mercy Street,” he was not involved in any attempt on the life of President Abraham Lincoln.  On the gravestone, note Emma’s day of birth (B) and last digit of her day of death (G).

A short distance north (N38º 49.029 W077º 04.434) are two stones commemorating the Green family.

The cross was used by the Victorians to indicate the deceased had a strong faith.  The circle behind the cross represented eternity, and the holes between the circle and the cross were the way for the spirit to transit from the grave to heaven.  The columns of the right stone indicate strength and firmness. They are connected by an arch, indicating the husband and wife were joined as one in death as in life.

The door to the receiving vault can be seen at 38º49.032 W077º04.418.  A picture of the interior of the vault is above. In Victorian times, when the ground was too hard for a grave to be dug by hand in the winter, the receiving vault was used as a temporary storage location to hold coffins.  The coffins were interred later when the ground had warmed enough for the burial site to be dug. Note the number of straps holding the door in place (K) and the number of “buttons” on each strap (J).

Emily Wheat’s gravestone, N38º49.019 W077º04.368, has a figure with clasped hands.  In Victorian times, this represented a farewell to earthly existence and God’s welcome into heaven.  Note the last digit of Emily’s day of birth (D).

Marion Beach Johnson died as a teenager. N38º49.019 W077.04.366.  The gravestone has sculpted calla lilies, which were a Victorian symbol of beauty and marriage.   Note the second digit of the day of Marion’s death (E).

The upside down urn on the stele for Ann Cornelia Chamberlain was a Victorian symbol used by the family of the deceased to indicate that, although the deceased was forever at rest, the living were not happy she had died. N38º48.999 W 077º04.350.  Note the third digit of date of birth (H).

At N38º49.019 W077º04.330 is the gravesite of Hugh C. Smith.  After he died, his estate sold two parcels of land totaling about 23 acres to the city of Alexandria to be used as a local cemetery, which became Ivy Hill.  This grave is located in the oldest portion of the cemetery.  Note the last two digits of the year of Smith’s birth (A).

Coordinates of the cache:  N38º AB.CDE  W077ºFG.HJK

A = sum of the last two digits of the year of Hugh Smith’s birth

B = day of Emma Green Stringfellow’s birth

C  = B minus D

D = last digit of Emily Wheat’s day of birth

E  = second digit of day of Marion Beach Johnson’s death

F  = H minus E

G = last digit of day of Emma Green Stringfellow’s death

H = third digit of year of birth of Ann Cornelia Chamberlain

J = number of “buttons” on the metal straps that hold the door of the receiving vault.

K = number of metal straps on the door of the receiving vault.


Update Oct 2020: Due to danger of dead trees falling close to the final coordinates, I have moved the cache to a nearby safer location. Once you have worked out the coordinates, add 0.011 to North and 0.008 to West to find the new GZ. The location should be obvious to experienced cachers. The revised hint is a spoiler, so only peek if you really need it. Parking is available close to revised GZ.

Congratulations to Serrabou on First to Find.

Best Historical Cache Nominee

Additional Hints (Decrypt)

Haqre fgehpgher.

Decryption Key


(letter above equals below, and vice versa)

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