Thompson Family Cemetery – Fairfax, Virginia - Atlas Obscura

Thompson Family Cemetery

A graveyard that dates back over 200 years stands near a busy shopping center. 


Lee Highway is a busy road in northern Virginia. With traffic from commuters passing by and going in and out of the Pan Am Shopping Center in Fairfax, it’s easy to miss the gravestones on a small hill overlooking the parking lot.

The small cemetery predates the shopping center by nearly two centuries. Though its first burial was in 1792, it wasn’t officially designated as a cemetery until nearly a century later, when Lawrence Turner Thompson’s will made it official in 1886. The most notable occupant of the cemetery, Armistead Thompson, was a schoolteacher who fought for the Confederate Army and died as a prisoner of war in 1864. Members of the Thompson family were buried there at least through 1915, when Laura Virginia Tobin was buried. Their descendants continue to care for the site.

In 1979, the cemetery was almost destroyed when the road was widened. But after Alfred Thompson was arrested for stopping the excavators with a sledgehammer in hand, the cemetery’s fate was up to the courts. A judge ruled in Thompson’s favor, and the graves were preserved. Today the graves are well-maintained, and though at least nine family members are buried there, only two markers remain.

Know Before You Go

The cemetery stands on a rise in the western part of the shopping center's parking lot. There are no paths directly to the cemetery, but the easiest approach is from the sidewalk on the northern boundary of the shopping center.

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