Op-Ed: Learn from the Past Through Inclusive, Informed Dialogue

By Jim Diehl and Ben Trittipoe, Commander & Adjutant, Clinton Hatcher Camp 21, SCV

         As an organization criticized by a source in your article “After Pastor Resigns, Hillsboro Church Works to Commemorate Slave Graves,” Clinton Hatcher Camp 21 would like the opportunity to respond.

         In this article, statements by recently retired Hillsboro United Methodist Church Rev. Mark Jagoe painted the local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans as a group that influenced local Boy Scouts to place Confederate symbols against the wishes of the majority of the HUMC congregation during a restoration project at the church’s graveyard.

         The accusation by Rev. Jagoe could not be further from the truth, and Clinton Hatcher Camp 21, the local chapter of the SCV in Loudoun County, would like to set the record straight.

         In the article, Rev. Jagoe expressed his dissatisfaction with a portion of the current congregation at HUMC which “refused to acknowledge 72 graves on the church’s east lawn—the final resting places of slaves and black freedmen.” He further stated his concerns were heightened because some congregation members supported efforts to place Confederate markers on graves of Civil War veterans in the church’s white cemetery. Rev. Jagoe said that push was evidence “structural racism” exists within the Hillsboro church.

Later in the article, Rev. Jagoe stated Boy Scouts worked to place iron crosses and Confederate battle flags in the all-white cemetery through the help and direction of the SCV and United Daughters of the Confederacy. He said he opposed this and accused the two organizations had “hoodwinked” the Boy Scouts into completing the project.

         “It’s right or wrong – this is wrong,” he said.

         Rev. Jagoe is wrong on several points of fact. A full account of the cemetery restoration proves this, and the account is documented online at arnoldgrove.weebly.com.

         In 2011, the Craig family from Sterling discovered they were not the first members of their family to reside in Loudoun County. During a visit to North Fork Baptist Church (near Lincoln), the family found graves from earlier generations dating back to the 1700s and 1800s. This inspired Jack Craig to plan an Eagle Scout project where he would upright and restore several headstones which had fallen over and become buried themselves under the ground. After he approached North Fork Baptist Church and planned part of the project, the church decided to decline the project during the summer of 2012.

         Young Mr. Craig then learned of a similar situation at Arnold Grove Cemetery (as the stone wall-enclosed cemetery is known) in Hillsboro, where there was a need to restore graves that included those of veterans of America’s early wars. He contacted Rev. Philip Brumback at Hillsboro United Methodist Church and was welcomed by the congregation to improve the graves of veterans at the cemetery. A total of 22 veterans from three wars – one from the American Revolution, six from the War of 1812 and 15 Confederates from the Civil War – are interred there and many of the graves were in great need of restoration.

         For several months, Craig and other members of Boy Scout Troop 572 from Potomac Falls worked to restore the graves with the assistance of many supporters (all noted on the website), including several who donated valuable equipment and materials. By the time the project was completed, 45 graves in all had been restored, with a marker placed noting the appropriate war in which each veteran served.

On May 11, 2013, a ceremony was held to honor the 22 veterans. The living history event included participants from several heritage societies and re-enactors representing all three wars.

         At the time, the Board of Directors for HUMC gave its complete blessing to the project and urged that each veteran’s grave be marked with appropriate symbols. Clinton Hatcher Camp 21 was among the groups assisting with costs, including the UDC sponsoring a luncheon, and Camp members assisted with the actual restoration of graves and the placement of Southern Crosses of Honor on the graves of the Confederate veterans.

         So, yes, Clinton Hatcher Camp 21 did assist young Mr. Craig and his colleagues in completing this project, but it was not done to “push an agenda” or extend “structural racism.” The graves of veterans from several wars in the infancy of the United States of America were cared for, in addition to more than 20 other graves which needed care.

         The pastor at the time and the congregation at HUMC supported the complete restoration and refurbishment of their decaying cemetery, which was done at no cost to the church. Rev. Jagoe was not serving HUMC when this action was performed, arriving later that fall. 

         Clinton Hatcher Camp 21 wishes to commend reporter Patrick Szabo for his balanced reporting in the article. His interview with current Interim Pastor Larry Thompson refuted much of what Rev. Jagoe had stated. Interim Pastor Thompson noted the congregation was seeking federal grants to help fund a Memorial Wall to honor the 72 slaves and black freedmen buried there, and he said he has experienced no such “structural racism” as purported by Rev. Jagoe.

         Clinton Hatcher Camp 21 wishes to support the funding of the Memorial Wall at Hillsboro United Methodist Church, just as it would support the establishment of a memorial to Loudoun slaves, U.S. Colored Troops and the Loudoun Rangers on the courthouse lawn in Leesburg. In July 2018, the Camp made a significant contribution to the funding for an architectural survey to help the village of Willisville be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

         Let us learn to accept the past, respect the growth and advancement of the people here in Loudoun County and across these United States. Let us continue to learn from the past through inclusive, informed dialogue. It can be done.

One thought on “Op-Ed: Learn from the Past Through Inclusive, Informed Dialogue

  • 2019-12-31 at 1:48 pm

    Of course there was more to the story. Thank you writers for revealing it to us.

    Seems to me ole’ “pastor” J needs to brush up on his ten commandments.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: