The only trace of Screamersville's existence is the few remaining stories and the gravestones of its former inhabitants.
One of the oldest black neighborhoods in Chesterfield County, it was settled shortly after the Civil War by freed slaves. At its peak in the 1940s, the isolated village was home to about 80 residents.
The community, along State Avenue in the Enon area, began to disappear when Interstate 295 cut through it in the 1980s, taking many of the homes. At that time, many of the aging residents were dying, and younger ones began to move.
"It's been so long I don't remember much to say," said Evelyn Walker, a former resident who lives in Hopewell. "All the older folks are dead, and I'm the younger one and don't remember much."
What was once Screamersville is now Rivermont Station, an upscale apartment complex, and the under-construction Rivermont Landing, which will add town houses and condominiums.
David Rudiger, president of Boyd Homes and developer of both as part of a 100-acre mixed-use project, said all of the residents and most of the homes were gone when construction started two years ago.
Developers have been careful to preserve what was salvageable, including four small cemeteries, three of which contain most of Screamersville's former residents.
In the Walker family cemetery, hidden in the woods off State Avenue, handmade gravestones jut from the ground at all angles, embellished with pebbles and etchings and marking the resting places of Walkers, Flournoys and Charleses.
Many others have no markings, apart from flowers.
"It's a sad thing when we close the book on the past," said Diane Dallmeyer, president of the Chesterfield Historical Society. "But you can't guard against progress."
Dallmeyer said there are three major theories on the settlement's name:
- "It was the souls of the departed crying out from the grave."
- "They were partying, and they were noisy."
- "There were no telephones, so they would sit on the porch and holler back and forth and share the news of the day."
It also has been suggested that the village may have gotten its name from a Union hospital at nearby Point of Rocks during the Civil War where soldiers' limbs were amputated without anesthetic.
But with most original residents gone, and little more than word of mouth legend, facts are few and far between.
"It was just a group of little homes and shanties," recalled Harold Jinkins, whose family operated Jinkins Store at state Route 10 and Enon Church Road from 1935 to 1955.
As children, Jinkins and his brother brought hot meals each night to resident Albert Brown, who lived in a tiny wooden shack on 12 acres in the woods.
Brown, who told Jinkins he tended Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's horse, left his property to Jinkins' brother when he died in 1944, but the state took it when the highway came along.
Dallmeyer said the fate of Screamersville points to a need to better document living history.
"We're actively trying to start an oral history program while there are still a lot of indigenous Chesterfield residents since we are such a transitory county," she said.
Contact Wesley P. Hester at (804) 649-6976 or firstname.lastname@example.org.