Whenever visiting my maternal grandparents's home in Chesapeake, Virginia, I would always go across the street and play in the Corprew Family cemetary. I would look at the very old headstone of March Corprew and wonder, "Why is this grave so close to my relatives's homes?" In Houston, Texas we did not have graves within the neighborhood. No one in my family ever sat me down and told me about March Corprew, who is my great-grandfather. My mother, Mable Corprew Jarmon, died when I was a teen, so there were a lot of things we never had the chance to discuss and my great-grandfather was one of those lost conversations. My other disadvantage to my maternal family history was that I lived in Texas. I had not been attending our family reunions and when I did talk to cousins, aunts and uncles...we had too little time to talk about too much.
I decided to start attending my maternal family reunions on the East Coast. I was so elated to discover that my cousin, E. Curtis Alexander, had traced our family history. He had documentation that showed my great-grandfather March Corprew was a United States Civil War Veteran. March's brother Daniel also served in the United States Colored Cavalry.
On November 11, 2000, Mayor William E. Ward signed a Certificate of Recognition for March Corprew and it states, "A native of old Norfolk County, Sgt. Corprew enlisted in the Army as a member of Company I, 2nd United States Colored Cavalry. At the end of the Civil War, in which he bravely fought in numerous battles, achieving the rank of Sergeant, he returned to his native Virginia to settle with his family in the Bell's Mill section of Norfolk County. A strong believer in education, he donated land for the first colored school in the Bell's Mill community. The City Council proudly recognizes the many achievements, sacrifices, and contributions of March Corprew to Norfolk County, the forbear of the City of Chesapeake".
After learning of my great-grandfather's military service and filling in the pieces of the puzzle on how I inherited land in Bell's Mill after my mother's death...I had a deeper sense of family legacy. I have traveled to Washington, DC to visit the African American Civil War Museum because of the knowledge of family history. I have also joined the Daughters of Union Veterans of The Civil War (1861-1865), which is the only Civil War lineal descent women's organization. I wanted to honor and preserve my great-grandfather's life and this was one avenue that allowed me to do that.
I am so thankful that my cousin E. Curtis Alexander dedicated himself to the countless hours that it takes to research old family records, vital statistics and oral history and then he organized and documented the info in a family history book.
Sgt. March Corprew Family Cemetery was listed in the 2005 Chesapeake, VA visitor's guide as an African American Historical and Cultural Site.
My son Bronwyn Leroy Sweeney unveiled the street sign for March Corprew Place (1043 Bells Mill Rd.) which is the only private street in Chesapeake to be named in honor of an Afro-Virginian Union Army Civil War Veteran (March is Bronwyn's maternal Great-Great Grandfather). I was so proud watching and listening to him recite his lineage before unveiling the street sign, as many family members watched. This also was due to the efforts of my cousin, Dr. E. Curtis Alexander.