This old cemetery sits tucked away behind a black wrought-iron fence in a grove of cedar trees across from the former workhouse prison complex.
With the establishment of the Lorton Reformatory (also known as the Lorton/D.C. Workhouse Prison Complex) in 1910, a small patch of land was set aside for the burial of male and female inmates who died while imprisoned at the complex and had no friends or next-of-kin to oversee a proper burial. Some of the earliest burials are believed to be men who succumbed to disease, fatal injuries, drowning (those who worked at the brick kilns located near the dock area), and even the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918.
The graves were typically hand-dug in a day and laid out in north-south rows. The digging was usually done by a single inmate or another trusted patron of the prison. The inmates were buried in coffins that were merely a pine box that had been fashioned within the prison’s carpenter shop. Burial ceremonies were attended by fellow incarcerated friends and overseen by a local clergyman, while later burials would be led by the prison’s personal chaplain.
It is estimated that somewhere between 50 to 100 inmates are buried beneath the small plot of land, with the last burial taking place sometime in the 1960s. All records regarding the prisoners who were laid to rest there have long been lost, and today all that remains on the site is a black wrought-iron fence surrounding the area, a small pile of bricks, depressions in the ground, and a few cement slabs.
Know Before You Go
We currently advise against trying to visit this cemetery. We've heard from members of the Atlas Obscura community that it is nearly impossible to access without trespassing on private land. Hopefully that changes one day, but in the meantime, our best advice is to obey all posted signs if you find yourself near this location.