The Old Groton Cemetery

Drafted by Robert L. Ellis and edited by Henry Martin and Joanne Watson Percy. Web page design by Pamela J. Donaldson.

Introduction: The Old Groton Cemetery is the resting place of four generations of the Eastern Shore ancestors of certain family lines of the Groton and Watson families. The purpose of this report is to provide some background on the cemetery and those buried there for the benefit of cousins known and unknown who may be interested.

Buried there are: William D. Groton and his first wife, Susan Watson; their daughter Tabitha Ann Maria Groton and her husband, Thomas Robert Kellam; their daughters Annie L Kellam and Susan Elizabeth Kellam, along with Susan’s husband James Alfred Watson; and all of the children of James Alfred and Susan Elizabeth Kellam Watson except Oscar Duncan Watson, who is buried at Edge Hill Cemetery.

The Full Story

Location and History

The cemetery is located on part of what was William D. Groton’s property in Whitelaw’s A64 patent plot. Col. Edmund Scarburgh, another ancestor, appears to have been the original English owner of the land. He left it to his son Charles, who sold the part pertinent to this paper in 1702 to his daughter Tabitha, the wife of John Bagwell (another ancestor.) Bagwell in turn left 250 acres to his grandson John Wharton, who left the land to his son John. When this person died intestate, his extensive land holdings were divided among relatives, and the area in question went to his sister, Tabitha Wharton, who was married to Ephraim Watson. In 1821, Ephraim and Tabitha Watson gave the eastern half of their land to their daughter Susan and her husband, William D. Groton.

The cemetery is located off Route 605 between Locustville and Daugherty, VA. Until the recent construction of an elementary school, it sat in the midst of cultivated farmland. Now it is about 100 yards beyond the new school’s recreational area.

While the restoration work is not complete, progress is being made. The trees have been cleared through the efforts of Accomac resident and honorary cousin Barry Lane, whose children, Barry Lane. Jr. and Sheryl Lane White are also Groton, Kellam and Watson descendants. Next to come will be a fence to protect the tombstones and herbicide so that we can eventually plant a more suitable groundcover. We also want to carefully clean the tombstones and also prod the ground to see if there are more graves there than we know.

Graves Placement

Please click on a name to view the tombstone and life history. Cemetary diagram.
The cemetery is circular in shape, with the graves placed in the typical east-west orientation. The 1967 clearing of the cemetery was done by my uncle, Reverend Wilkes B. Watson and his wife Rebecca, along with my aunt, Mae Watson Grinstead, and my mother, Marie Watson Ellis. My mother drew a map of the graves and made note of the wording on the tombstones when they were perhaps more easily read than they are today. This graphic reflects the placement of the graves as shown on that map.

The Life Stories As We Know Them

Grave 1: William D. Groton was born on January 25, 1790 in Onancock, Accomack County to Zorobabel Groton (Groten) and Anne Smith. He died December 12, 1862, and was the second person buried in the cemetery.
William D. Groton
Jan'y 25, 1790.
Dec'r 12, 1862. William married Susan Watson on December 23, 1816. Susan was the daughter of Ephraim Watson and Tabitha Wharton. After her death in 1835, William married Lovey Bull on March 20, 1839.

William and Susan had four children: Tabitha Ann Maria, who married Thomas R. Kellam; John L., who married Margaret Amelia Wiley of New York; William T., who married Mary A. Miles, and James Purnel, who married Matilda E. Garrison.

William and Lovey had seven children: Catherine E.; Edward F.; Mary A.; Henry C.; George C.; William Thomas; and Emory J. Groton.

William also had a child born out of wedlock. The Accomack County Court records reflect:

At a court held in May 1860 ...

"The overseers of the Poor of Accomack County, Plaintiff on a charge of bastardy with Nancy W. Chesser against William D. Groten.

This day came the plaintiffs, by Benjamin T. Gunder, attorney for the Commonwealth, and the defendant appeared in proper person and by Louis C. Finney, his attorney, and the said Nancy W. Chesser, and sundry other witnesses having been sworn and examined as well for the defendant and the plaintiffs, and the argument of council fully heard, the court upon the circumstance of the case, doth adjudge the said William D. Groten to be the father of the said bastard child, doth charge the said Groten with the payment, for the maintenance of said child, of the sum of fifteen dollars ($15) annually, for the term of five years, from the birth of said child, to wit for five years from the 9th day of February, A.D. one thousand eight hundred and sixty (1860)."

William D. Groton died less than three years later, and the child, Sylvester, drowned August 30, 1872 at the age of eleven.

William inherited a license to keep an "Ordinary" or tavern from his father. He also inherited substantial land through his first wife Susan-in 1821, Ephraim and Tabitha Wharton Watson gave them the eastern half of the tract that Tabitha had received in the division of the John Wharton settlement. He must have been a poor money manager because he started selling off his property to pay off debts, including one to his father-in-law Ephraim,

The 1860 census reflects that Lovey was still residing with him, but she is not buried in the cemetery. Our speculation is that she left him as a result of the Chesser affair. In a Kellam-Groton cemetery about ½ mile away, there is an unmarked grave next to those of Lovey’s two sons George and Henry that may be hers.

Susan Groton
Dec'r 25, 1796
Feb'y 11, 1835.Grave 2: Susan Watson Groton was born on December 25, 1796 in Accomack County to Ephraim Watson and Tabitha Wharton. She died February 11, 1835, and was the first person buried in the cemetery.

Susan married William D. Groton on December 23, 1816. They had four children as stated above.

Whitelaw reported that in the 1815 division of John Wharton's land, the James Taylor Part of A64 went to Tabitha Wharton, the wife of Ephraim Watson. In 1821, Ephraim and Tabitha gave the eastern half to Susan and her husband William D. Groton. Ephraim may have been aware of the financial perils ahead for his daughter. His 1822 will included the following provision:

A Section of Ephraim Watson's 1822 Will

"I lend to my daughter Susan Groten her equal share after deducting what she is charged with when she was married & since, and after paying whatever my estate may be in debt with what I paid have paid by being Wm. D. Groten's security, and at her death I give said estate, if there should be any, to be equally divided between all her children" Also: "My will is that Susan Groten shall not be disturbed by my Executors in the plantation where she resides that was deeded to her on the account of my having a deed trust for the said plantation for Wm. D. Groten's life estate, provided Susan Groten don't refuse to make over her interest in the Niblet Land whener it is sold..."

Grave 3: Tabitha Ann Maria Groton Kellam was born December 9, 1817 in St, George's Parish, Accomack County to Tabitha A.M.
wife of
Thomas R. Kellam
Born Dec'r 9, 1817.
Died Sept'r 3, 1886.
'For me to live is Christ 
and to die is gain.' William D. Groton and Susan Watson Groton. She died September 3, 1886. She was the eighth person to be buried in the cemetery. Her tombstone includes the phrase "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain."

She married Thomas Robert Kellam on March 16, 1844 in Accomack County. The couple had four children: Robert W. T., who married Emma L. James; Annie L.; Bettie, and Susan Elizabeth, who married James Alfred Watson.

The August 14, 1886 issue of Peninsula Enterprise reported in its column about Locustville: "The dwelling of Captain Thomas R. Kellam of our town, is being remodeled and enlarged." Tabitha did not get time to enjoy the remodeling-she died three weeks after the article appeared.

Grave 4: Thomas Robert Kellam was born September 15, 1815 in Accomack County to Robert W. Kellam and Leah Elliott. Thomas R. Kellam
Sept. 15, 1815
Nov. 9, 1896 He died November 9, 1896 in Locustville. He married Tabitha Ann Maria Groton on May 16, 1844, and the couple had four children as reported above.

Thomas was a sailor in his early life, and later farmed for a living. He is shown in the 1850 Census for Accomack County as a 32-year old sailor. As noted above, the August 14, 1886 issue of Peninsula Enterprise reported in its column about Locustville: "The dwelling of Captain Thomas R. Kellam of our town, is being remodeled and enlarged." Ten years later, the November 14, 1896 issue of Peninsula Enterprise carried his obituary:

Obituary of Thomas Robert Kellam; Peninsula Enterprise, Nov 14, 1896

"Capt. Thomas R. Kellam, one of the oldest and best known citizens of the county, died at his home at Locustville last Monday, aged 80 years. He was a man of high character and had the esteem of all who knew him. His son, Mr. R. T. W. Kellam and two daughters survive him. Funeral services held over him at the M. E. Church, South, Locustville, Tuesday, conducted by Rev. L. T. Hitt."

Annie L
daughter of 
T.R. & Maria Kellam.  
Born July 23, 1852 
Died March 16, 1876 Grave 5: Annie L. Kellam was born July 23, 1852 in Accomack County to Thomas R. Kellam and Tabitha Ann Maria Groton Kellam. She died March 16, 1876, four months shy of her 24th birthday.

The remains of her Bible (covers missing) with her signature on the first page was found among my mother's possessions after her death in 1999. There was no other handwriting in the Bible, but the needlework shown here was tucked in among its pages, and may be her work.

Page of Annie's Bible. Signature in front cover of Annie's Bible. Needlework found in Annie's Bible.

Grave 6: James Alfred Watson was born on November 9, 1847 in Accomack County, Virginia. He was the son of J.Alfred Watson
Born November 9, 1847 
Died September 29, 1883. 
The Righteous shall be in 
ever-lasting remembrance. Joseph C. Watson and Elizabeth Bull. He married Susan Elizabeth Kellam on December 19, 1867 in Accomack County. They had six children, four of whom died in infancy. The children were: Urbanny Vassa, born May 18, 1869, died Feb 1870; Florence Crippen, born June 20, 1871, died July 16, 1871; Alpheus Hill, born September 30, 1872, died October 20, 1872 of cholera; Willianna Olive, born November 9, 1873, died June 2, 1893 of typhoid fever in North Carolina; Oscar Duncan, born February 19, 1875, died September 7, 1966; and Jimmy, born 28 May 1876, died 4 Jul 1876.

Although census data list his name as James A., he apparently was known in the family as Alfred. His tombstone, for example, gives his name as "J. Alfred," and Susan's obituary referred to her as the widow of the "late Alfred Watson." He was a farmer. The 1880 census has him in the Village of Craddockville, which is near the Accomack-Northampton County line.

James Alfred died at age 36 (actually, "35 yrs 10 months 20 days") on 29 Sep 1883 at Belleview near Locustville, Virginia at the residence of Capt. Thomas R. Kellam, his father-in-law. James Alfred, his wife and all of his children, with the exception of Oscar Duncan Watson, are buried in the Old Groton Cemetery. His tombstone reads: "J. Alfred Watson, Born November 9, 1847, Died September 29, 1883. The Righteous shall be in ever-lasting remembrance."

Grave 7: Susan Elizabeth Kellam Watson (tombstone missing) was born February 18, 1845 in Accomack County to Thomas R. Kellam and Tabitha Ann Maria Groton Kellam. She was a sister of Annie L. Kellam. James Alfred Watson and Susan Elizabeth Kellam Her marriage to James Alfred Watson and their children are covered above.

Although her husband died in her parent's home, from what we understand from what little oral tradition we have is that Susan's family provided minimal support to her in her widowhood. She took her eight year-old son Oscar out of school and put him to work in the fields to earn money to support the family. At least one family story suggests Susan moved in with her brother, Robert W. T. Kellam, for an extended stay. Susan allegedly developed tendency to "visit" relatives, staying until she was "invited" to visit some other relative.

Unknown to living descendants is how she, a life-long Methodist, ended up in Richmond, Virginia in the care of the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Roman Catholic charity. She died there on January 15, 1927. She was suffering from general paralysis and senility, according to the death certificate. She was brought back to Locustville, where funeral services were held at the Locustville M. E. Church on January 16th, and buried "in the family burying ground," according to the Peninsula Enterprise. Her pallbearers were listed as H. C. Watson, Fred Beasley, Lit. Shield, Thomas Walker, Robert Walker, and Charles T. Groton.

Grave 8: Willianna Watson was born on November 9, 1873 and died June 2, 1893 of typhoid Willianna Watson's Tombstone fever in North Carolina, where she had sought employment. Her tombstone reads:

Willianna Watson "Willianna Watson
daughter of
James Alfred & Sue Watson
Born Nov. 9, 1873
Died June 21, 1893
Age 19 years, 6 mos. & 23 days
A precious one from us has gone
A voice we love is stilled.
A place is vacant in our home
Which never can be filled."

Graves 9 & 10: James Alfred and Susan E. Kellam Watson lost four children in their infancy: Urbanny Vassa, born May 18, 1869, died Feb 1870; Florence Crippen, born June 20, 1871, died July 16, 1871; Alpheus Hill, born September 30, 1872, died October 20, 1872 of cholera; and Jimmy, born 28 May 1876, died 4 Jul 1876. There were tombstones for these children, and now-deceased ancestors had commented about or made note of them. However, by 1967, the markers were gone, believed to have been plowed under accidentally by whoever was cultivating the field around the cemetery. The notations made by my mother suggest that the locations marked 9 and 10 are where she and her siblings believed the children's graves to be.

This picture, taken in 2001 prior to the restoration of the cemetery, shows the proximity of the new school.
Until the recent construction of an elementary school, Groton Cemetery sat in the midst of cultivated farmland. Now it is about 100 yards beyond the new school’s recreational area.

William D. Groton Susan Watson Groton Tabitha G. Kellam Thomas Kellam Annie L. Kellam J. Alfred Watson Susan K. Watson (no tombstone) Willianna Watson Children's graves (probable) Children's graves (probable) © Copyright by Bob Ellis, Henry Martin, Joanne Watson Percy and Pamela J. Donaldson. Used by permission.