Organization History of the Waterford Union of Churches Cemetery

The cemetery has been In use as a burial ground since the 1820s. It was jointly established by local churches excluding Quakers who had their own cemetery. Sometime during the first half of the twentieth century, the cemetery fell Into disuse and disrepair, becoming overgrown with scrub trees, brush and weeds. In 1958 a local citizens group began efforts to clean up and maintain the cemetery grounds at Its own expense, but there was no one then in authority to approve burials and otherwise to administer the cemetery. In 1964 a group of local citizens petitioned the county Circuit Court for the appointment under Virginia law of cemetery trustees, and five cemetery trustees were then appointed by the Court to hold title to the property and administer Its affairs.

The cemetery has been continuously administered by these unpaid trustees, including their court appointed successors, since 1964.

In 1986, only two trustees were still living of the original five appointed by the court in the 1960s: George Bentley and John Divine. At that time, John Divine had moved to Leesburg and George Bentley was doing all the maintenance himself with help of volunteers and groups such as Boy Scouts of America. Ownership of both the black and white cemeteries was not clear. Both George Bentley and John Divine were fearful that when they passed away, the cemetery would return to the condition it had been in twice before, in 1960, and again in 1978. They reasoned that if the cemetery was designated a Virginia Historic Landmark, that would give it standing, and might protect it from abandonment. Accordingly, in 1986, they attempted to place an easement with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (VDHR) with the help of the Waterford Foundation; however, the court ruled that they could not request this easement, since they were not the owners of the cemetery. A letter exists in the cemetery records to this effect.

Later, George Bentley did bring a suit for a quiet title and to establish ownership. It was handled pro bono by Dean Worcester (before he became a judge). The court suspended the suit until the trustees could provide a survey describing the boundaries of the cemetery. They had only the location of the fence lines. Since the cemetery had no funds to pay for a survey, the survey could not be done, and after five years the suit was retired without any action. The request for an easement died with that ruling.

George Bentley passed away in 2000 and John Divine 1n 1996. While George was still alive, he petitioned the court to appoint additional trustees: Paul Rose, Linda Landreth, Robert Thompson, and the Waterford Foundation, Inc. On his death, George Bentley's family requested that donations be made to the cemetery. These donations were then used to hire Ken Erickson, a surveyor, to make an official survey of the boundaries. Most of the title work to substantiate that survey was donated by Jeff Ball and Louisa Hutchison. It turned out that George Bentley, by his passing, accomplished his dream with the reopening of the suit to quiet title. Eventually, the cemetery's ownership was awarded to the trustees .

When the court order was drawn up, it included the individual trustees: Paul Rose, Robert Thompson, Linda Landreth, and the Waterford Foundation, Inc. In its wisdom, Loudoun County chose the Waterford Foundation as trustee owner. Since the other trustees were individuals, no attempt was made to change that decision. Now that the cemetery was protected by the court through the ownership of the trustees getting an easement from VDHR was not important, and no further action was taken.

At the time of the suit to quiet title, the cemetery did not have an organizational structure. Through the work of the Waterford Foundation representative, Bruce Cleveland, the Waterford Union of Churches Cemetery Association] was created under the Code of Virginia section for cemeteries (similar to a corporation or LLC). As an organization, the Association now became an IRS 501(c)13 charitable entity.