Grave Coordinates: (37.4153414, -79.1555353)
Squire Higginbotham was born enslaved around 1820 just outside of Lynchburg. In 1823 his enslaver, Joseph Higginbotham, Jr., died, leaving Squire and his mother, Hannah, to an uncertain future. They could have been willed to a family member of their enslaver, sold locally, separated from one another, or sold further south.
Exactly what happened to Squire following Higginbotham’s death is unclear, and what happened to Hannah is unknown, but at some point during his early life, Squire was owned by wealthy tobacco planters and manufacturers James and Caroline Morgan. Although the Morgans owned several plantations in the Deep South, Squire remained in Lynchburg where many of those enslaved by the Morgans worked in local tobacco warehouses and factories.
Between first being enslaved by the Morgans and the summer of 1865, three important developments occurred in Squire’s life. The first was that he learned the skill of carpentry and worked in this capacity for Mrs. Morgan, whose husband died in 1847. The second was that he met his wife, Polly Ann, who was also held in bondage by the Morgans. The third was the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia just twenty miles away, which made President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation a reality in Virginia. With this final event, Squire, Polly Ann, and their first son, Lawson (b. 1848) were free.
Following Emancipation, Squire found work doing construction projects for the City of Lynchburg, such as repairing the Blackwater Bridge. During this same time, Squire also began helping George Diuguid in his undertaking business, perhaps by building caskets. Diuguid, whose father also began his undertaking career as a carpenter, encouraged Squire to establish his own undertaking business. By 1869, Squire had done just that, becoming Lynchburg’s first known African American undertaker. Over the course of his career, Squire buried many African Americans here at Old City Cemetery and was regularly commissioned by the Overseers of the Poor to bury the city’s indigent African American residents.
After seventeen years of freedom and a successful career, Squire Higginbotham died on February 13, 1882 and was buried just down the hill. One of his sons, McGustavus, took over and expanded the family business, which still exists as the Community Funeral Home, just a few blocks from here. Higginbotham’s success laid the foundation for a rich family legacy that includes doctors, college professors, and a Tuskegee Airman.
Baber, Lucy Harrison Miller and Evelyn Lee Moore, Behind the Old Brick Wall, The Lynchburg Committee of the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the Commonwealth of Virginia, 1968.
City of Lynchburg Council Minutes, 1867
Obituary of Squire C. Higginbotham, TDN, 2/14/1882