As early as 1906, Woodstock’s African American community was using this land as a burial site. Prior to this, most African Americans had been buried in the town’s slave cemeteries where many of their ancestors rested.
This new site, named Riverview, was selected in accordance with social norms at the time. It housed enough land to bury African Americans separately from white community members, was on unproductive land so no farm acreage was lost, and was isolated enough that the town’s citizens could avoid it without any difficulties. In the Jim Crow system, which Shenandoah County participated in, these factors were not unusual.
A comparison between this cemetery and Massanutten Cemetery, the white population’s burial grounds, shows a marked difference. Massanutten’s central location and numerous historic markers indicate it was designed as a community showpiece and place to be visited. In contrast, Riverview’s simple design and lack of elegant markers indicates the economic conditions in which local African Americans lived and the place their graveyard occupied outside of white society.
In 1919 William Twyman Williams deeded this land to the trustees of the newly formed Riverview Cemetery organization. This group, and their successors, continues to maintain and oversee the cemetery. Inside are approximately 100 graves. Thankfully most have these have been recorded and marked since burials began in a time when record keeping standards were more demanding. Many of these names are still defining members of Woodstock’s African American community.
Today, the cemetery is owned by the Mt. Zion Methodist Church, a historically black congregation in Woodstock. They have recently restored the cemetery an added a sign marking its location. However, it remains unnoticed by many members of the community.