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Gate caper at historic Virginia cemetery is 'really unfortunate,' family says

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Posted at 12:21 PM, Aug 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-13 18:37:17-04

DINWIDDIE COUNTY, Va. -- Authorities are asking folks to be on the lookout for an iron gate deputies said was recently stolen from a historic Central Virginia church.

The gate disappeared from the Butterwood United Methodist Church cemetery at some point between Friday, Aug. 6 and Sunday, Aug. 8, when it was discovered missing, according to deputies with the Dinwiddie County Sheriff's Office.

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Gate stolen from cemetery at histroic Butterwood United Methodist Church.

John Prosise, whose uncle and aunt are buried in the family's plot where the gate disappeared, called the caper "really unfortunate and unnecessary."

"Yeah, it’s upsetting," he said. "It’s a sacred place."

Prosise said his great grandfather, Pat Thomas, purchased the gate and installed it around 1905.

“The monetary value of the gate is not as much as important as the fact that it’s been here for over 100 years and it’s our family's," Prosise explained.

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Prosise said that the company that created the gate is still in business, but said replacing it would be expensive. In fact, a new one would cost $5,734.

The family begged whoever stole their gate to do the right thing.

"Please, bring it back," Prosise said "It’s not going to be worth as much to you as it is to us."

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Gate stolen from cemetery at histroic Butterwood United Methodist Church.

The church, which was built in 1863 and located on Route 40 in Darvills not far from Fort Pickett, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.

The original church dates from 1763, but was replaced by the current Carpenter Gothic building in 1863, according to the National Park Service.

"The original handmade benches, doors, and pulpit are still in use," a NPS entry reads.

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Gate stolen from cemetery at histroic Butterwood United Methodist Church.

In addition to the original burial ground, nearly nine acres of cemeteries surrounding the church were added when the government seized lands to create what is now Fort Pickett on the eve of World War II. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reinterred bodies moved from two churches and many farms that were on the land that became the 41,000-acre military installation.

"About a thousand graves from white cemeteries were moved to land adjoining Butterwood’s original cemetery, and about 2,000 from African American cemeteries to a separate parcel off Route 613. Butterwood Cemetery symbolizes a homefront sacrifice made by this rural community to the war effort," according to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

Deputies urged anyone with information about the theft to call the Sheriff's Office at 804-469-4550 or Petersburg/Dinwiddie Crimesolvers at 804-861-1212.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.

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