Lee Chapel Cemetery – Virginia, and the county’s grisliest murder
The Lee Chapel was a Methodist Episcopalian church that sat at the intersection of the former Pohick Road and Mill Road (now Fairfax County Parkway and Lee Chapel Road). It was built in 1871 to replace Mt. Carmel Methodist Church, which had stood about a block to the south and was burned during the Civil War. Property for the church was donated by John Mahon, a prominent landowner of the day, and it is surrounded by a cemetery where the oldest grave is reported to date from 1887.
The church, named in honor of General Robert E. Lee, also served as a local hub for community activities and worshippers from Burke, Virginia, and other neighbouring countries.
Sunday worship was an all-day affair, with lunch brought by parishioners and served on the grounds surrounding the church. There was also the Epworth League, a young adult association for individuals aged 18-35 and formed to promote intelligent and vital activity among the young people of the Church, met on a weekly basis.
Lee Chapel was attended by some of Fairfax County’s most prominent community members, and the cemetery is dotted with gravestones listing their names, incouding William Halley, for whom Halley Elementary School in Lorton is named.
The church flourished until attendance dwindled around the 1920s. Thus the chapel fell into disrepair, and with no funds or transportation on impassable roads to the church available, it eventually closed. However a key was left on a ledge above the vestibule door for the convenience of cemetery visitors, and some families began attending other churches in the area.
An increase in population in the area and a desire by former members led to the church’s reopening in 1939. It once again became a hub of activity for the community and, with the improvement in roads and use of the automobile, transportation was no longer a problem. The church made it through the 1940s hosting regular services, weddings and funerals, but its story appeared to be ended when plans for Burke National Airport were revealed during the 1940s.
However, when residents began to protest the plans, the new airport was relocated to nearby Chantilly and is now known as Dulles International Airport. Despite the successful relocation, the damage had already been done in terms of the church congregation: many of its regular members and surrounding families had already left the area after their land was purchased by the government for the airport. Lee Chapel finally closed in 1951 and important artifacts from the church were distributed among its remaining long-time members.
The church stood empty for several years, but vandalism prompted a drastic decision that it be used for a controlled burning. All that remains are the cement church steps and metal hand railing and parts of the cement foundation.
Today an old cedar grows next to the chapel steps, and a stone set in the ground near the building is inscribed “Lee Chapel Erected 1871.”
Lee Chapel’s cemetery is the oldest in the community, is still used for burials today while also containing over 40 headstones and an unknown number of unmarked graves.
It also houses the remains of Burke’s mysterious murder victim, Eva Roy (September 21, 1903 – August 6, 1918).
Eva was a young girl whose father, Peter Roy, was an active member of the Lee Chapel Methodist Church and lived in Burke during the early 20th century. Peter Roy was a Danish immigrant who had come to Fairfax County from Minnesota in 1912, widower, and with him resided his eldest daughter Caroline, her husband William K. Jerman, and his younger daughter Eva.
He was a prosperous farmer whose farm was located near the intersection of Old Keene Mill Road and Sydenstricker Road.
On the morning of August 6th, 1918 Eva, who was 14 at the time, was sent out by her father to tend to their cows. When she didn’t return, her father became worried. Her body was discovered the next morning tied to a small tree with a rope around her neck, sexually assaulted, strangled, with strips torn from her clothing.
The murder caused a huge stir around the community and her story made headlines across the country. After a botched crime scene that resulted in 10 different suspects, including Lou Hall, a local man who was tried twice and acquitted of the crime, the murder of Eva went unsolved. She was buried not long after her murder in Lee Chapel Cemetery.
The cemetery is currently utilized and maintained by Burke United Methodist Church, and they hold their annual Easter Sunrise Service on the site. A marker with a brief history of the church stands near the fence near the cement steps which face the Fairfax County Parkway.
Images from web – Google research