James Cook, who worked for the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative, bought several tracts of land north of Amherst. One tract was near Tye River, Virginia, a small village on the banks of the Tye River, not far from its mouth into the James River.
The land had not been used for many years, so Cook decided the best way to clear the overgrown vegetation was to turn a herd of cattle loose and let them do what they do best, graze. It was only a matter of time when one of them uncovered a forgotten momument. Cook thought little about it supposing it to be a solitary tombstone. But the cattle were not done, for it wasn't long before a large graveyard had been uncovered.
In fact, as many as 200 graves were found on this isolated patch of land. Cook was surprised to discover it-most cemeteries are set aside and registered for preservation, but this one had escaped everyone's attention, because of it's remote location. It was also becoming apparent that this was a very old graveyard-some of the graves were before 1800.
He began to inquire through local authorities about the particulars of those buried there. Several names were found on the gravestones. Finally a school teacher from Lynchburg, Ruth H. Blunt, heard of the discovery. She went to the location and to her amazement it was the burial ground of some of her own kinsmen. Descended from the Mays family, she knew Joseph died in 1798, and this was located on a tract once in Joseph's hands. Could this be his burial ground? Though there were no marking with his name, it became clear that this was indeed the resting place of Joseph and many of his descendants.
The graveyard was probably started before his demise, because a place had been reserved nearby for Joseph's slaves. Miss Blunt was able to supply valuable information about Joseph and the way life of this era, 200 years earlier. From family tradition and old county records Joseph Mays, Sr. had many slaves, horses and cattle.
The slaves were used to work tobacco and wheat. She knew of the children of Joseph, too, which included John, James, Lydia, Joseph, Elijah, Jemima, Jesse, Charles, Robert, Moses and Lewis(the order they were mentioned in his will.) Joseph transferred portions of his land to his children before he died. One of the younger sons, Robert, remained to take over his father's homestead when Joseph died 1798. Robin, as he was known, would ferry tobacco down the Tye River until he reached the James River. From there he traveled all the way to Richmond, a long and arduous trip. In Richmond he was able to sell crop.
Many gravestones were either unmarked or no longer readable. One that was legible is the grave of James Spencer, who was united in marriage to Robin's daughter Sally. William Jefferson Spencer, their son, is also buried there.
The Spencers and the Mayses were closely knit from the time Joseph came to the Tye River area. James Spencer was a veteran of the War of 1812. The previously mentioned William Jefferson Spencer was born on Feb 4, 1835 and served with the 19th Regiment of the 8th Virginia Cavalry. He was wounded on Nov 12 1864 at Middletown, Virginia.
It appears that the last person to be buried in the long forsaken cemetery was Virginia Lee Spencer (how's that for a patriotic name.) Virginia, who was one of the daughters of William Jefferson Spencer, died on April 14 1942. According to the newspaper, The News-Virginian plans were being made to beautify the cemetery and preserve it for future generations to see.