More than 100 years after the Dooley brothers died, a Confederate soldier in butternut brown bugled a solemn “Taps” over their new graves that overlook the Southern town and way of life they fought to defend.
The remains of William J. Dooley and James Dooley, who died in 1911 and 1887, respectively, now rest in a place of honor in East Hill Cemetery in Salem, along with 21 other adults, children and babies from their family.
William served in the 36th Infantry, and James, in Griffin’s Co. of the Virginia Light Artillery. They are remembered with white marble markers etched with the Confederate Army’s Southern Cross.
The original gray granite family marker notes the Dooley and Blankenship Cemetery, established 1789. For Memorial Day last weekend, the circle of stars version of the First National Flag of the Confederacy were placed on each grave, too.
All that remained of the family – dark-colored soil and some trinkets – were reburied in 2-by-2-by-1-foot boxes. William and James rest in one of those.
The family members almost wound up in anonymity after the Virginia Department of Transportation began digging up the Dooley-Blankenship Family Cemetery next to the Park-and-Ride lot at Hanging Rock at Interstate 81’s Exit 140 late last year.
That shocked and dismayed Lindsey Bolling “Bo” Hagen who lived nearby and frequently paid his respects at the graveyard over the years. Despite VDOT’s belief that there were no descendants left in the area, Hagen plugged doggedly away to find the men’s relatives. He came up with 300.
“My wife says I became obsessed,” he said at the cemetery dedication ceremony on Memorial Day, May 29.
At the dedication, Carter Gill played “Taps” on his bugle, after Kim McDonough, in full-skirted cotton and lace gown with a matching bonnet and lace parasol, placed a wreath on the combined graves.
McDonough is a member of the Southern Cross Chapter 746 of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which organized the ceremony.
Chapter members Sharon Rose and Dottie Francisco laid red roses on the graves.
In spite of all of Hagen’s research and knocking on family members’ doors, there were no Dooley or Blankenship descendants at the ceremony Monday afternoon.
In recognition of his work in preserving history, Chapter President Dolores Smith surprised Hagen with the highest honor the UDC can bestow, the UDC’s Jefferson Davis Award. Chapter Historian Carolyn Boley pinned on the medal with its red-and-white ribbon, overseen by Historian General Suzie Snyder, a national UDC officer.
Chapter members Avis Hunt and others assisted with the ceremony. First District Chairman Lynn Reed was there, as well, along with Alex Burke, assistant director of the Salem Historical Society. Burke noted the activity was helping to preserve the history of Salem for future Salemites and Americans in General.
Hunt, Smith and Rose had spent hours the day before placing the First National Flag of the Confederacy on 299 graves in East Hill Cemetery, as well as two smaller private cemeteries.
Although Smith and Hunt have placed flags on Confederate graves for years, since they are both octogenarians, Smith said they might not be able to do it much longer.
William Dooley served in Co. A of the 36th Virginia Voluntary Infantry. His brother served in the 9th Virginia Artillery and transferred to the Salem Flying Artillery.
Hagen’s research which quoted the Salem Times-Register noted that James Dooley had been employed by the Town Council and his duties were “to keep clean and in repair the streets of the town. No man was ever more faithful in the discharge of his duties…and had the interest and welfare of Salem more at heart than he.” At the time of his death, James Dooley was reported to be destitute.
William Dooley was on medical leave at Montgomery White Sulphur Spring Hospital and was preparing to return to duty when Gen. William Averell charged into Salem to disrupt the rail service of the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad. Dooley was captured and spent the rest of the war as a POW at Fort Delaware.
He was visiting family in Bluefield, Bo Hagen had found, when he died. His obituary in the Salem Times noted William Dooley’s remains were escorted by the Hupp-Deyerle Camp of Confederate Veterans to his resting place in the Dooley burying ground near town.
The Blankenship part of the family came about when the two soldiers’ sister, Lucy Ann Dooley, married Henry Washington Blankenship, and another daughter, Sarah, married Henry’s brother, David Blankenship.
According to Hagen, “I found that many children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren remained in this area and over 150 descendants still live, love and work in the valley.”
More info from his research can be found at dbcemetery.familyfiles.info