Brick Union Church, originally known as the Howerytown congregation, once stood near Troutville but was lost to Interstate 81 construction many years ago. The Brick Union congregation was started in 1796 by the Rev. John George Butler. The church is believed to have been constructed around 1837, around the same time that the land the church was built on was deeded by Christian and Eva Housman. The church was mainly used by Lutherans, Dunkards (now Brethren), and Methodists, giving the church its “Union” name. Bricks from the original church building were used by Fincastle Presbyterian Church to expand its educational space in the 1950s. Eventually, the Lutherans built their own church near Wheatland and the Dunkards constructed a church in Troutville, leaving Brick Union Church abandoned.
However, the church’s cemetery is still existent and contains approximately 200 graves of many early Botetourt residents, including the Raders, Campers, Kesslers, Naces, Shays, Sniders, among many more. The earliest known burial on the site is that of Elizabeth Kesler, wife of John Kesler; she died on September 30, 1822. There is also a section that has the graves of enslaved people that worked on the properties of some of the residents buried there. Many graves are without markers.
Burials stopped at Brick Union around the 1920s. Before her death in 1939, Lou Rader, wife of George Rader, had collected money from the relatives of those buried at Brick Union as well as from citizens to help maintain the property, enough so that visitors could still access the cemetery. After her passing, weeds, trees, and groundhogs took possession of the cemetery grounds.
In 1967, the trustees for Brick Union Cemetery were appointed as follows: Robert Murray, Jr., John (Jack) Rader, Sr., Jacqueline Rader, Dorothy Hughes, and Neville Brugh. This group helped to get the cemetery accessible once again and created a list of all legible headstone inscriptions and people known to be buried without markers. Presently, John (Jack) Rader, Sr. is the only surviving trustee for Brick Union.
Much of the ongoing maintenance, for many years, has been tended to and funded by the Rader family. A fund has been established to help with the ongoing upkeep of the property. Through the generosity of an anonymous donor, any contributions to Brick Union Cemetery will be matched up to $10,000.
The Botetourt County Historical Society acknowledges the importance of the Brick Union Cemetery and has agreed to be the pass-through organization for contributions to help with its continued maintenance. Please make checks payable to Botetourt County Historical Society, Inc. with Brick Union Cemetery in the memo line.
For more information, contact John Rader, Jr. at email@example.com or 540-580-9707. A list of persons buried in the cemetery is available by request.
In the 1960s, Jacqueline Hundley Rader wrote a poem titled “Abandoned Cemetery” to honor Brick Union cemetery. The final verse reads:
The busy world goes rushing on –
Few know this place exists –
Our fields we’ve tilled, our voices stilled,
Now weary bodies rest –
Where weeds have killed the daffodil
Till just a few survive,
And boxwoods raise their ragged arms
In homage to the sky.
Relentless vines now slowly climb
O’re broken, fallen stones –
While some still stand, a ghostly band,
To guard last earthly homes.
~ Botetourt County Historical Society