Laura Ratcliffe Hanna Family Cemetery - Atlas Obscura

Laura Ratcliffe Hanna Family Cemetery

Across from a hotel parking lot, a Confederate spy rests under a large tombstone with her Union Veteran husband behind a copse of trees in a small, well-maintained cemetery. 


Laura Ratcliffe first met J.E.B. Stuart while serving as a nurse during the Civil War at his headquarters, Camp Qui Vive, in Fairfax, Virginia. As their friendship grew, Stuart introduced Ratcliffe to Lieutenant John Mosby, leader of a group of Rangers who conducted raids across Northern Virginia. Ratcliffe proved to be a valuable ally for Mosby, spying on his behalf and providing copious details on Union troop movements. Ratcliffe even let Mosby use her home as a secret headquarters for his operation. 

After the war ended, Ratcliffe lost much of her wealth, but she was befriended by a neighbor, Milton Hanna of New York, who had served in the Civil War fighting for the Union cause. He offered to build her a home where he and his mother could care for Laura and her invalid sister. Ratcliffe accepted and the two were married in 1890.

Seven years later, Milton Hanna died in a farming accident. Ratcliffe inherited a great deal of wealth from Hanna and used the money to support the local community, including donating land used to build the Floris Presbyterian Church. In 1914, Laura Ratcliffe Hanna fell while feeding her chickens and, having broken her hip, spent the rest of her life in bed as she was too modest to allow a doctor to examine her. 

Laura Ratcliffe Hanna was buried in a small family cemetery under a large granite headstone that sits within the boundaries of a black wrought iron fence. The plot was initially on farmland about 700 yards from the Hanna family’s home, but now resides in the shadow of the Marriott Washington Dulles Suites hotel, sandwiched between the hotel parking lot and the heavily trafficked intersection of Centreville and Elden roads. 

While it is uncertain who exactly is buried in the graveyard, family friend Gladys Utterbuck states that Laura and Milton Hanna are buried there along with Laura’s mother (Ann McCarty Lee Ratcliffe) and sister (Ann Ratcliffe Coleman). It is believed that other members of the Ratcliffe and Coleman families are buried there as well.

Know Before You Go

Laura Ratcliffe Hanna expressed in her will:

"I wish to have put up in my own graveyard a neat gray granite stone with the names Ratcliffe, Coleman, and Hanna cut on it."

She would almost certainly be pleased to see how this was executed exactly as she had asked, and to see how nicely her final resting place has been kept.

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March 22, 2024

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