A section of the Grace Church Cemetery is reserved for Nelson family members, in particular, those of ‘Scotch Tom’ Nelson, President William Nelson, and Governor Thomas Nelson, Jr. Each corner of the section is marked with a block having ‘N’ embossed.
‘Scotch Tom’ Nelson, born on 1677 in Penrith, England, died on 1745, in Yorktown, Va. Merchant and planter. He made two trips to America (1696 & 1698) prior to settling in Yorktown in 1703. He married Margaret Reade, the only daughter of the well-to-do family of John and Mary Lilly Reade, the granddaughter of Colonel George Reade and Elizabeth Martiau, both buried nearby after relocation. Also buried nearby is Elizabeth Martiau’s father and family members whose graves were found on Buckner Street in 1936 and moved to the this cemetery. She is buried in an unmarked plot in this grave yard. He was an extremely successful merchant and built the Nelson House. The Latin epitaph on his monument reads, “Here lies in certain hope of resurrection in Christ, THOMAS NELSON, gentlemen son of Hugo and Sarah Nelson of Penrith, in the county of Cumberland. Born February 20th AD 1677, he well fitted the fold of a merry life died October 7, 1745 aged 68 years.” The stone cutter’s mark “Sanders Oliver Cannon Street London” is inscribed on the upper edge of the monument’s left side. Burial site is Vault E30.
William Nelson, son of Scotch Tom, born n Yorktown, Va., born in 1711, died on November 19, 1772 in Yorktown, Va., a long time member of the Council and for a short time President of the Council. The elevated monument, designed for appearance only, does not imply above-ground interment. In the late 18th century coffins were buried below grade and overlaid with brick arches to support the stonework. In the early 1990s the monument required restoration and carved stone side and end panels and bases were replaced with cast concrete. The nearly indecipherable top legend was overlaid with a small stone table inscribed with the legible portion of the epitaph. The remainder was added later, thanks to Helen Keller, who had read the inscription by touch. Burial site is Vault E34.
Thomas Nelson, Jr., born in Yorktown, Va., December 26, 1738, died on January 4, 1789 at Mount Airy, Hanover, VA Signer of the Declaration of Independence, 3rd governor of Virginia, and Brigadier General in charge of the Virginia Militia. The son of William Nelson, he was sent to England at age 14 to attend Eton and later Christ College, Cambridge University. In 1761, he returned to Virginia and became a member of the House of Burgesses. He married Lucy Grymes the following year and fathered eight sons (six survived to adulthood) and five daughters, all of whom married. Lucy Grymes is buried at Fork Church, Hanover County, Va. He was a very active leader in the movement to separate the colonies from England, and as a Virginia delegate, signed the Declaration of Independence. He contributed large amounts of money to the colonial cause, among other acts raising, clothing, and paying the Virginia Militia. He died a pauper in Hanover County at Mount Airy. Between 1913-1920 the present day stone was placed to mark the grave of Thomas Nelson, otherwise we know of no stone marking his grave. The birthday day and death is incorrectly cut and hopefully can be fixed once a method is determined and agreed upon by the cemetery committee. The current marking of birth and death days are incorrectly inscribed. Burial site is Vault E36.
William Nelson IV, born in Yorktown on April 25, 1845 and died in St. Louis, Mo. on September 10, 1877. He is a New Market Cadet of the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) Class of 1865. His grandparents were William Nelson, son of the Thomas Nelson, Jr. (Signer of the Declaration of Independence) and Sarah Burwell Page, of Rosewell in Gloucester County, Va. His father was William Nelson, Jr. (Burial Site E28) was born in Yorktown on January 17, 1801. After the Civil War, he studied for law and practiced for several years in New York City. He married Molly Duval but had no children. He later moved to Austin, Texas. After he died in St. Louis, his body was brought to Oakwood Cemetery, Austin, Texas, with a certificate on the box, and buried in lot Number 304. He was buried on September 14th, 1877. There is no information on the date or reason for stone placement of Yorktown’s William Nelson, IV, in this Cemetery. Burial site “Memorial” is E35.
William Nelson, Jr., (17 Jan 1801-24 Mar 1849) grandson of Thomas Nelson, Jr., was the second son of William Nelson (b-August 9, 1763) and Sally Burwell Page (b-17771). William Nelson, Jr., married twice and both wives (Catharine Maria Moss & Martha Bryan Shield) are buried here in the cemetery. Burial site is Vault E28.
Catharine Maria Moss (1801-4 Nov 1840) First wife of William Nelson, Jr., in 1827. Who was a Mrs. Catherine Fox. First married to John R. Fox on 21 Dec 1821. She is the daughter of John Moss & Dorothy Hewitt. Burial site is Vault E27. The footstone (‘CM’) is leaning against that of her husband’s (‘WN’) at E28.
Martha Bryan Shield (Oct 7, 1818-Oct 9, 1881) Second wife of William Nelson, Jr., about 1844. Who married first to Whiting. She is the daughter of John Shield. Burial site is Vault E26.
Some children of both marriages are buried in the cemetery.
Of Catharine Maria Moss (two children, Lucy Thomas Nelson and Sally Burwell Nelson not buried here). Three of the children are purposely buried in a row in order of birth (E31, E32, and E33) below their parents’ graves.
- Catharine Maria Nelson (4 Jan 1832-1833) – unnamed child grave. Burial site is possibly Vault E29 to the right of her father Willliam Nelson at E28. No headstone or a footstone is present for this child. It would seem reasonable for her to be buried at E28 since the next row available starts with E31 her sister Catharina. See remarks for Mary Berkeley Nelson below.
- Catharina Nelson (11 Aug 1835-30 Jul 1896) – she was single. Catharina or “Kate” is the last Nelson to live in the Thomas Nelson House. Burial site is Vault E31.
- Mary Berkeley Nelson (30 Apr 1839-7 Jan 1911) – Her headstone is in the ground at E29 but should be attached to the base of Vault E32. The headstone at E29 perfectly matches that of the base at E32, to include width and marble age patterns. The foots stone at E32 is ‘MBN’ the burial vault for her.
- Elizabeth Page Nelson (18 Aug 1840-10 Aug 1918) of New York City – Burial site is Vault E33.
Of Martha Bryan Shield:
- William Nelson IV (25 Apr 1845- 11 SEp 1877) See description above. – Burial site Memorial is E35.
- Fanny (Frances) Burwell Nelson (16 Jul 1848-12 Jan 1932), wife of Corbin Waller Mercer (2 Apr 1845-20 Nov 1910 – burial site Vault E24). Married November 1886. Her burial site is Vault E23. Corbin Waller Mercer is the great-grandson of General Hugh Mercer, who was killed at the battle of Princeton, NJ, in the American Revolution. William Nelson Mercer (27 Sep 1888-2 Apr 1889), infant son of Fanny Burwell Nelson and Corbin Waller Mercer – Burial site is Vault B25.