July 12-25, 2002
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Research goals on track, despite roadblocks
Medical Center realigning work force
Iliescu’s art is metaphor for democracy
Great-granddaughter helps uncover mystery

Q&A -- Zelikow relishes Miller Center’s role

‘Ceiled’ up: Old photos found at Miller Center
Greece and Denmark are the destinations for the Human Resources’ annual employee travel programs
Drug combination knocks out colds
In Memoriam
Hot Links -- A&S Online
U.Va. Bookstore bringing Ethan Hawke to Grounds
Grainger’s year as Faculty Senate chair yields fruit in research, other key areas

Great-granddaughter helps uncover myster

headstone for George S. Ford and Amanda Wood By Carol Wood

The great-granddaughter of George Sidney Ford and Amanda Wood Ford may have helped to solve the mystery that has shrouded an apparent 19th-century grave shaft on the site of a planned U.Va. parking garage.

Alice Norris, 62, who lived on the property until she was a teenager, came to Charlottesville last month to clear up the theories of just who was buried in that family plot.

Norris said that her great-grandmother, who with her husband owned a farm near the corner of Emmet Street and Ivy Road, was buried at the site in 1895. But, she said, her great-grandmother was exhumed in the mid-1950s when Norris’ parents sold the property. Not wanting to leave Amanda behind, Norris’ mother, Ruth Ford Norris, had her moved to the cemetery at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Ivy where George Sidney had been buried in 1911. 

On June 22, Norris, armed with stacks of family documents, led several University officials — including Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Leonard W. Sandridge — out to St. Paul’s to show them the stone marker at George Sidney Ford’s and Amanda Wood Ford’s final resting place.

Despite this new information, U.Va. asked archaeologist Benjamin Ford (no relation) to continue his excavation of the grave shaft, Sandridge said. “We are grateful to Mrs. Norris for the important information she has provided,” he said, “but we want to be 100 percent sure about this.”

The University hired archaeologist Ford in late May to begin exploration of a 32-by-32-foot area designated as a cemetery on an 1895 deed. After finding signs of a grave shaft, Ford and his colleagues unearthed evidence of a coffin on June 14. They included five nails, some with small wood fragments attached, and a U-shaped piece of what appeared to be a coffin handle. He previously had found one nail with wood fragments.

Earlier this week, Ford returned to the site to complete excavation of the grave shaft and recovered four additional nails and pieces of two ornamental fittings. On Wednesday, only one foot of soil remained to be excavated.

At about the same time Ben Ford was making his discoveries, Norris received news clippings from a friend in Charlottesville relating what she calls “some inaccuracies” about Norris’ Ford ancestors. “I didn’t want my great-grandparents’ names to be used to mislead anyone,” she said.

Norris believes there was a pragmatic reason that records from the 1954 sale say that no burials had taken place at the family cemetery, although she acknowledges she doesn’t know that as fact. “The realtor probably thought it was not a good idea to talk about it,” she said, “as it could have hurt the sale.”

She would like to see a small remembrance garden, in honor of George Sidney and Amanda, worked into the plans for the public space in front of the parking garage.

Nothing big,” she said, “just a bit of a Victorian garden where students and neighbors could sit and reflect. He had been a dedicated employee of the University for 30 years, and Amanda loved her gardens. I think they would have liked that.”


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