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A Broken Stone Preserves a Heritage

By Judge Preston E. Grissom, NCHSC Board Member

Amidst acres of tall corn in a field off Blue Ridge Road in Fentress, lies what is believed to be the oldest surviving tombstone in Chesapeake. Mary Wormington Sanford, wife of Daniel Sanford of Great Bridge, was buried on her father’s farm, a site which long ago lost its recognition as the home of a prominent family of Norfolk County. The stone is inscribed: HERE Lies interred with her ancestors and many of her kindred, Mary, Daughter of William Wormington and Mary his wife. She was born at this seat, the 19 day of February 1748, was married the 10thday of September 1769 to Daniel Sanford of the Great Bridge, and died at that place in May 1788.

Mary survived to see the birth of a new country, but not without sacrifice. Daniel Sanford was a patriot and member of the Norfolk County Committee of Safety. In 1775, Daniel and Mary lived next to the Great Bridge Chapel near the present day site of Rite-Aid Pharmacy on Battlefield Boulevard in Great Bridge. On November 28, 1775, Virginia’s troops arrived in Great Bridge to challenge Dunmore. They occupied all dwellings and buildings belonging to Daniel and Mary from the time of their arrival until the following June, using and taking “sundry articles of property.” 


Mary was no doubt very proud of her husband, who was elected delegate to the General Assembly in the years 1782 – 1786. In 1783 he joined with others, including Patrick Henry, to bring in a bill “for cutting a navigable canal from the waters of Elizabeth River to the waters of Albemarle Sound.”  He favored the act that authorized the manumission of slaves.

Wallace Room Volunteer Sam Leary
and the Broken Headstone
for Mary Wormington Sanford

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