Old Lick Burial Ground
On November 30, 1895, the land now called “Old Lick Burial Ground,” the oldest African American cemetery in Roanoke, was deeded to the care of the Board of Trustees of First Colored Baptist Church, later First Baptist Church, Gainesboro, for $250.00. The old cemetery was near the congregation’s church built in 1876 and formerly owned by a white Episcopal church. The cemetery property purchased in 1895 also contained a city-owned parcel.
In the late 1950s, a new interstate connector (I-581) and interchange at Orange Avenue were planned to connect downtown and the redeveloped urban renewal areas with the U.S. Route 220 Corridor and Interstate 81. At the time, the Old Lick Cemetery extended to Lukens Avene, near what is now the old Booker T. Washington Jr. High School.
Relocation to Coyner Springs Cemetery
Attempts to reroute the interchange around the cemetery were unsuccessful. Ultimately, 933 bodies were removed and re-interred in the newly purchased Coyner Springs Cemetery in Botetourt County. Only 28 of the 933 bodies had legible gravemarkers. The 933 bodies were placed in a mass grave there in compliance with City Ordinance No. 14568, dated September 18, 1961.
Efforts are underway by First Baptist Church Gainsboro and Friends of Old Lick to restore the remnant of Old Lick Burial Ground and to identify the names of those buried there and those re-interred at Coyner Springs Cemetery.
Roanoke Public Libraries. (n.d.). Cemeteries, Roanoke, Old Lick [Vertical File]. Roanoke Public Libraries, Virginia Room. Roanoke, VA. United States.
Roanoke Public Libraries. (n.d.). Interments in Old Lick, First Baptist Church, and City Farm Cemeteries, 1912-1960 [Collection]. Roanoke Public Libraries, Virginia Room. Roanoke, VA. United States.
Chittum, M. (2019, Aug 3). Help us tell the stories of those moved from Old Lick Cemetery. The Roanoke Times.