In The News

29 June 2013 - WVGazette.com:

Microburst Slams Putnam Cemetery
Lydia Nuzum
Staff writer, Charleston Newspapers

See video here

HURRICANE, W.Va. -- A.J. Nicholas was born July 22, 1822, and died Aug. 12, 1897, and is buried next to his wife, Lydia, in Mount Vernon Cemetery in Teays Valley.

More than 115 years later, Nicholas' gravestone -- the oldest marker in what was once a small family cemetery -- now rests on its side, toppled by the microburst that caused severe damage to a small part of Putnam County two weeks before.

The damage to the cemetery grounds includes several displaced headstones and two toppled trees, as well as other damaged trees in danger of creating more problems, according to Ramona Erwin, a member of the Mount Vernon Cemetery Association. That's why the association has paid more than $7,000 so far to clear the debris and repair the plots impacted by the storm.

"Over the years, storms have taken down trees and we've had to have them taken care of," Erwin said. "This is the worst we've ever had."

The association is in a unique situation -- the land the cemetery occupies doesn't belong to any individual or church, and upkeep of the cemetery was left to individual families before the cemetery association was formed in 1985. The group's five trustees have worked since then to maintain the cemetery and, in recent years, repair damaged cause by severe weather. 

"This is almost a family cemetery for us, too," Erwin said. "Moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles -- they're all buried here."

Joanne Smith, who has worked with the association for 19 years, said the fallen and splintered trees posed a danger to nearby houses, but a local contractor was able to clear the worst of the damage before Memorial Day.

"I'm just thankful we had the money to do it," Smith said. "It just seems like we're having a lot of storms around this area now."

According to Smith, the association has had problems with severe storms in the past, most recently in 2011, when two major storms forced the association to clear other trees. The damage caused by the microburst -- a small, but intense storm -- is the worst Smith or Erwin have witnessed, and it has drained a large part of the group's funds.

"It hasn't exhausted our existing funds yet, but it's dipping in a lot," Erwin said.

The microburst caused extensive damage in a small part of Teays Valley on May 23, destroying two mobile homes and injuring two people. According to the National Weather Service, the storm was reported to be 150 yards wide and roughly a third of a mile long with winds of 70 to 80 miles per hour -- comparable to those of a tornado.

The Mount Vernon Cemetery Association is a volunteer organization. Donations for the care and upkeep of the cemetery can be made through checks payable to the MVCA and forwarded to Joanne Smith, 4129 Teays Valley Road, Scott Depot, WV, 25560.

Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nu...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.


2 July 2010 - Charleston Daily Mail:

Mount Vernon Baptist church celebrates its 167th anniversary
Charlotte Ferrell Smith
Daily Mail staff

TEAYS VALLEY - A Putnam County church is celebrating its 167th anniversary on Sunday with the dedication of a new sanctuary that can seat 750.

"Our church has worshipped in three centuries," said the Rev. Jeffrey Johnson, senior pastor of Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Teays Valley. "On Sunday we will celebrate our nation's birthday and our church's birthday."

Johnson, a history buff, can recite numerous details of the history of the church.   

The original structure was 400 square feet in size, and the current facility is 40,000 square feet, Johnson said.

The original church was torn down long ago. A new brick structure built in 1859 remains the oldest portion of the current facility and is used as the historic sanctuary. The church has expanded throughout the years to accommodate the growing congregation.

Church records indicate that two of the founding members were slaves named George and Milly with no last names listed. They had to sit in the hayloft of the first church because slaves were not allowed on the main level with the rest of the congregation.

"The church closed its doors during the Civil War and was used as a hospital for both sides," Johnson added. "Between 1861 and 1865, our church records are silent."

The congregation has been gathering in the gymnasium for the last decade.

"In 1999 we constructed a congregational life center with a gymnasium, auditorium, offices and classrooms," he said. "Up until 30 years ago, the congregation was small. With growth of the community has come growth of the congregation."

The latest addition will include a large welcome center and spacious sanctuary with 55 pews capable of seating 750. The ceiling is 22 feet high with large windows that permit the area to be flooded with light. A new baptistery is located in the front. A pipe organ will soon be installed. A member of the community has donated a concert grand piano.

A downstairs youth area is yet to be completed as well as landscaping and finishing touches. 

Drawings for the latest project began in 200 4. The cost is $3.5 million, with one-third of that amount already paid.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is set for 9:30 a.m. Sunday with longtime member Floyd Stricklen doing the honors. The building will then be open for tours, and brunch will be served.

A processional will then include all 50-year members along with those who joined this year. They will walk from the knoll where the original church stood and into the historic sanctuary. They will proceed through the church into the new sanctuary where a worship service will be held.

The pastor pointed out a page in the historic church records that refers to "George, a man of color" and "Milly, a woman of color." While they were not permitted to sit on the main floor of the original church in 1843, two front row seats will be reserved in their honor in the new sanctuary. These seats will be used "for anyone who feels displaced," the pastor said.

The church address is 2150 Mount Vernon Road. For more information check out the Web site www.mvbaptistchurch.org or call 304-757-9110.

2 April 2010 - Parkersburg News and Sentinel:

Phelps' grave marker found Among pioneers who settled Parkersburg more than 200 years ago
Jess Mancini
Staff writer, Parkersburg News and Sentinel

PARKERSBURG - Another discovery was made Wednesday at the Tavenner Cemetery where historians found the grave stone of Hannah Phelps and possibly her famous husband's, Hugh Phelps.

The Phelpses were among the pioneers who settled Parkersburg more than 200 years ago.

The stones were found next to the original resting place of Capt. James Neal, dubbed the Father of Parkersburg, who died in 1821, said Bob Enoch, president of the Wood County Historical and Preservation Society. Enoch discovered Neal's original grave cover, called a ledger, in August, buried there as was the custom when Neal's remains were moved to Mount Olivet Cemetery in 1915.

Hannah was Neal's daughter. Hers and Phelps' remains remain at Tavenner.

The location of the stones had been known for a while, but nothing was done to disturb them for fear of damage, Enoch said.

Both stones apparently had been lost for many years, Enoch said. Historians knew the stones were there, but didn't know to whom they belonged.

"They were so fragile, we were afraid to fool with it," he said.

Her stone, albeit worn, was identifiable, Enoch said. The other stone suspected of being Phelps' was far too worn to identify it, but it was near Hannah's and around the same dimensions, he said.

"We know we found the wife's stone," Enoch said. "We don't know for sure about Phelps' and I don't think we ever will."

Hannah's stone was face down, avoiding the weather over time, and stayed in good shape, said Jeff Little, a member of the historical society. The stone suspected to be Phelps' was face up and suffered the effects of time, he said.

The face of the Phelps stone flaked off and is cracked in numerous pieces.

The engraving on the stone was similar to Hannah's, another clue that makes Little and Enoch believe they have Phelps' tombstone.

Christy Little, Jeff's wife and a cataloger and assistant curator at the Blennerhassett Museum, enhanced a photo of the stone and highlighted the engraving, which showed she died Sept. 15, 1824. Phelps died the year before, possibly during a epidemic.

An urn is engraved at the top of the Phelps stone.

Hopes are to replace the tombstones with new markers, Enoch said. The historical society will accept donations for that project, he said.

"If we can raise the money, we'd like to replace those two stones," he said.

Hannah was born on Nov. 15, 1768, in Green County, Pa. The Phelpses arrived at Neal's Station, established by her dad in 1785, soon after they were married in 1787.

Phelps is prominent in the history of Wood County, Little said. Besides being a sheriff of the county, he was a colonel in the Virginia Militia and led the mission to Blennerhassett Island in December 1806 to arrest Harman Blennerhassett and Aaron Burr on suspicion of treason.

Among those taken into custody was William Robinson Jr., the son of rich parents in Pittsburgh, who was with a party of other Pittsburgh residents hoping to join Burr. Robinson later married Mary Parker, the daughter and heir of Maj. Alexander Parker, for whom Parkersburg was named.

Phelps' house was used as the first courthouse in Wood County. A house he later built near Neal's Station in 1808 is the oldest residential home still in use in Wood County and is visible from the cemetery.

19 March 2010 - Charleston Daily Mail:

Cemetery moving to make way for W.Va. expressway
By The Associated Press

BECKLEY, W.Va.(AP) - A family cemetery along the Raleigh-Wyoming county line is being moved to make way for a section of the Coalfields Expressway.

West Virginia Division of Highways Cemetery Coordinator Ivan Kapp says the project is scheduled to begin Monday but weather could delay it.

The DOH has contracted with Chafin Funeral Home of Delbarton to relocate the remains.

Moving the cemetery is needed to make way for construction of the highway's Sophia-to-Mullens section.

Kapp says the DOH plans to move the remains to a new site it will build called Allen Creek Cemetery. He says all families have been contacted and the agency is waiting for a judge to approve the plan.

19 February 2010 - Saturday Gazette-Mail:

Putnam plan to locate, rebury Confederate soldier OK'd
By Veronica Nett
Staff writer for Gazette-Mail

WINFIELD, W.Va. - Putnam County judge agreed Friday to let developers exhume and rebury the body of a Civil War soldier.

Circuit Judge Philip Stowers approved the motion from R&D Development to exhume the body of Capt. Philip James Thurmond, a Confederate officer who was shot and killed in 1863 in Winfield, and rebury him near the historic Hoge House.

Thurmond was buried in an unmarked grave near what is now the county courthouse complex. The property was then owned by James W. Hoge, the county's first resident lawyer, and is now owned by R&D Development, Neely R. Arthur Jr. and David Jennings.

Larry Frye, an assistant Putnam County prosecutor and a member of the Hoge House Foundation, said Friday that Thurmond's body is buried near the shelf of a hill that is starting to slip.

The move will keep the body from sliding over the hill, and also keep the history of the Hoge House together, Lee Casto, vice chairman of the Hoge House Foundation, said last week.

The foundation moved the Hoge House in 2003 from its original location near W.Va. 817 to a new site behind the county courthouse.

Thurmond, from Monroe County, was part of a group called Thurmond's Raiders, although he wasn't the group's namesake. His brother was a Union soldier and also was fighting in Winfield when Philip Thurmond was shot in the stomach, Casto said.

When word got to Thurmond's brother that he had been fatally shot, a cease-fire was called so the brothers could be together, Casto said.

Philip Thurmond died the next day, and Hoge agreed to bury him on his property with the understanding that, when the war was over, Thurmond's family would claim the body, Casto said.

To honor that agreement, the Hoge Foundation ran several ads in the past few months in The Charleston Gazette and in the Monroe Watchman, a newspaper in Monroe County, to notify any family members who might want to claim Thurmond's body.

No one has come forward, Frye said Friday.

The next step is to locate the grave, then exhume the body and rebury Thurmond "in a very civilized manner," Frye said.

The foundation has a general idea of where Thurmond is buried from records, and verbal accounts from surviving members of the Hoge family, he said.

Cultural Resource Analysts Inc., a regional company with an office in Hurricane, has volunteered its services and equipment to locate Thurmond's grave.

Casto said last week the state Department of Veterans Affairs has donated a marker for the new burial site, and Chapman Funeral Home will donate a casket and steel vault for the body.

Several local organizations, including the Sons and Daughters of Confederate Veterans and local American Legion Post 187, will take part in the reburial services, he said. Local Union and Confederate re-enactors have volunteered to accompany the casket to its new burial site, Casto said.

20 January 2010 - News and Sentinel:

Historical society talks about tombstone repairs
By Natalee Seely
News and Sentinel staff

PARKERSBURG - The Wood County Historical Society held its quarterly meeting of the cemetery committee Tuesday evening to discuss the repair of damaged tombstones.

Paul Bibbee, committee chairman, said the group has located close to 300 cemeteries in Wood County, some dating back to the Civil War.

"Our goal is to find every cemetery in Wood County. So far we have GPS coordinates on the ones we've located," said Bibbee. "When it comes to major repairs and maintenance of cemeteries, you would need a conservationist to come out, but there are some simple, basic repairs people can make to the small family cemeteries that might be on their property."

The hope of the historical society is to one day form a sub-committee to carry the cemetery project further, by locating graves, measuring, mapping and identifying the people buried, said Bibbee.

"The cemetery committee was formed about a year ago, and so far we've had about 25 people showing up to meetings who are really interested in cemetery preservation," he said.

To educate the committee on preservation, the society will hold meetings throughout the year on tombstone repair and cleaning, cemetery landscaping and mapping.

"The important thing is to maintain the historical fabric of the cemetery. The people who lived during that time had their own idea of what that cemetery should look like, what kinds of stones to use and how to arrange them," he said. "Our goal is to preserve the original look of the cemetery."

Over time, tombstones deteriorate with the help of acid rain, moisture, plants and human damage. In cases of cracks and broken stones, proper care must be taken to preserve the stone and prevent further damage, said Bibbee.

"Sometimes we do see cases where groups of individuals deface stones or vandalize cemeteries by knocking the stones over, but we don't find this a lot," he said. "There are many cases where cattle and deer, or even lawn mowers, will accidentally cause damage."

Wood County resident Jeff Smith relayed his experience of repairing the broken stones found in William C. Smith Cemetery in Wood County in 2002.

"I found the gravestone of my third great-grandmother and other relatives in a small family cemetery. Her gravestone was broken in three places," said Smith. "It really saddened me, and I felt it just wasn't right. I got started with preserving the graves by doing research online, reading and just asking people who have done this before."

Smith attached the 150-year-old broken gravestone slabs with a strong adhesive made for stone and filled in the gaps and cracks with a mixture of sand and insulator. The stones were cleaned and reset in their original positions.

"I know cleaning the stones to the original white color looks nice, but they won't stay that way for long," said Smith. "I wouldn't bother trying to clean them too hard. I think the natural discolor due to age is part of the stone's character. It represents someone's life that we don't want to forget."

The next meeting of the cemetery committee will be April 22 in the Judge Black Annex on Market Street. The meeting will focus on tombstone cleaning.

1 January 2010 - Charleston Daily Mail:

Man says he'll leave numerous burial sites on his land undisturbed
By Jessica M. Karmasek
Daily Mail staff

LETHERBARK - Ralph Carpenter knows to leave well enough alone.

Carpenter claims there are a number of American Indian burial mounds in the hills above Henry's Fork and the West Fork of the Little Kanawha in Calhoun County.

One, in fact, sits in the middle of his garden, covered in trees.

Carpenter said he makes sure to plow around it.

"I don't have trouble sleeping at night, and I'd like to keep it that way," he said of not disturbing the mound.

Carpenter, 65, and his wife of 47 years, Nancy, live year-round at the top of a wooded hollow between Letherbark and Henry's Fork in a rustic log cabin he pieced together from secondhand wood, metal and stone.

He owns 180 to 190 acres. Most of the land is wooded and open for hunting.

"I can go out back here and bring back a deer any time I want," he said.

Carpenter also farms a small portion of the land, raising much of his own fruits and vegetables.

He said often that's where he finds American Indian arrowheads - further evidence in his mind that the mound on his property could hold Indian remains.

Among his other finds is a piece of flint crafted into what he believes was an auger used to drill into materials.

Carpenter said his wife also managed to find a spearhead - it was too large to be an arrowhead, he said - along one of their ridges.

He said he usually returns from gardening or walks with at least one or two small arrowheads or slivers of flint. While he throws out many of them, he still is left with many plastic bags full of the tiny artifacts.

"Some are pretty crude," he said. "Others you can really tell someone took some time to make them."

Carpenter points to another piece of evidence. It's what some call a bear wallow hole further behind his log cabin home.

He says Native Americans dug earth to cover their dead in the mound and left behind the hole. He explored the hole once and discovered what he described as burned dirt.

While he's never had any experts examine the mound, arrowheads or the wallow hole, Carpenter seems fairly confident American Indians inhabited the area at one time.

It's clear Carpenter, a man deeply connected to the area and to living off the land, is respectful yet somewhat fearful of the burial mound on his property.

And rightly so. Anyone who has seen the 1982 horror movie "Poltergeist" knows not to disturb - or build over - burial mounds or any other final resting places.

Carpenter doesn't believe in disturbing the mounds, including his own.

He remembers watching the opening of a burial mound site on Egypt Ridge, just across the valley from his property now, when he was about 12.

"I've never dug in one," Carpenter said. "I didn't feel comfortable and I still don't."

There used to be at least a half-dozen mound sites in the area, and most have been plowed down, he said.

While a number of people have asked to dig up the mound in his backyard, Carpenter said he always declines.

"We had a bulldozer up here once, and some people thought it would be a good time to see what's in there, and I said no.

"I have no intentions of destroying it or letting anyone do so," he said.

But it looks like someone has tried - before he owned the property, of course. One edge of the mound appears as if it has been dug away some, he said.

"Maybe they found something they didn't like - at least that's the looks of it - and they quit," he said.

Unlike some preserved mounds in the Mountain State, Carpenter's mound is not registered as a federal and state protected site.

A few mounds in the state are protected, including the Criel Mound, the largest of about 50 conical type mounds of the Adena culture, in South Charleston. It is said to have been built between 250 and 150 BC. It entered the National Register of Historic Places in October 1970.

The Grave Creek Mound, which entered the National Registry of Historic Places in October 1966, is in Moundsville.

Meanwhile, Carpenter, who recently retired from Burke-Parsons-Bowlby Corp. after 42 years, spends most of his time deer and coon hunting. The company, founded in 1955 and based in Ripley, produces wood products such as railroad ties and timber fencing.

Carpenter also produces his own corn meal, usually in January. In the fall, he makes his own molasses and in the spring he makes maple syrup.

His wife handles most of the canning - stocking up the hand-built cellar with berries, tomatoes, jams, jellies and other vegetables.

It's a simple, rustic way of living, but Carpenter said he wouldn't have it any other way.

"I just love it up here," he said.


28 October 2009 - The InterMountain.com:

Vandals damage Beverly Cemetery
By Anthony Gaynor
Staff Writer, InterMountain.com

The oldest public cemetery west of the Allegheny Mountains has been struck by vandals.  The Beverly Cemetery is the final resting place for former West Virginia Gov. Herman Guy Kump, architect Lemuel Chenoweth and numerous veterans from every war except the current conflicts in Iraq and Afahanistan.

According to Beverly Cemetery Association Vice President Harry Marson, this is not the first time vandals have left their mark on the cemetery. Recently, they have tipped over headstones, spray painted "DRB" on the entrance and stolen tops off the fence posts.  Marson said he has heard that the DRB stands for Dotson Run Boys.

"We hope anyone with any information will call the Randolph County Sheriff's Department tip line," Marson said. "We are trying to come up with money to fix some of the old headstones, but it does not help when vandals come through."

The Beverly Cemetery Association has worked through private donations striving to make it like a traditional Civil War cemetery. Marson said it has become a very sentimental place to many people in the area.

"If the person who did this will come to us and make it right, we will consider it," Marson said. "We could have them do some work around the cemetery."

Marson said the association is offering a $500 reward for any information that leads to the vandals being caught. Anyone with any information can call the tip line at 304-636-TIPS (8477).

19 October 2009 - Charleston Daily Mail:

Uncovering family mysteries, genealogy exciting process
By Evadna Bartlett
for the Daily Mail

We are still uncovering family mementos and mysteries from the boxes we packed when cleaning my parents' home in Michigan.

Among them: a grain sack stamped, stained and somewhat worn, with some small holes and a larger one crudely but adequately darned.  "E.C. A  Boott Mills Seamless" is stamped on the front, under more faded stenciled lettering "E. C. Smith, Devils Lake, Mich."

I brought out the family genealogy my daughter gave as a Christmas gift nine years ago. Sure enough, Clay was the middle name of my paternal grandfather, Ernest Smith (1866-1943), who had farmland in the Devils Lake area of southern Michigan.

Thanks to Trina's research, I have a handy reference for solving family mysteries. Genealogical research itself is something akin to detective work.

Visitors to our local public library's genealogy room at times can't contain their elation when they make discoveries, an excitement I'm glad to share.

So is Marietta Moles, a board member and volunteer at the West Virginia Genealogical Society's library next to the Blue Creek post office in Elk Valley.

Individuals sometimes arrive after fruitless searches elsewhere for information on their forebears and have little expectation of success, she said.

"They will say, 'I know I won't find anything  'cause I never have.' When they do, it just excites them," Moles said.

It's been 15 or 16 years since her then ninth-grade granddaughter had a school assignment to do a family tree. That started Moles, now 70, on a quest for more information about her ancestors.

"I have never done anything I enjoy more," she said.

Volunteers, including Moles, keep the genealogical society's library open from 10 a.m. to 7 pm. Mondays and Wednesdays and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.

"Some days it's a mad house. Other days it's quiet. We get people from all over the United States and we get a lot of local people," Moles said.

The society has no extra funds to buy family histories, but individuals donate many. And another group, apparently unable financially to continue its genealogical library in the Nitro Community Center, recently donated materials to the Elk Valley group.

Organized in 1983, the society does not have a staff of researchers. But volunteers will answer requests for information from materials at its library for the cost of printing or making copies (15 cents per page) and postage. The address is West Virginia Genealogical Society Inc., P.O. Box 249, Elkview, WV 25071, and the phone number is 304-965-1179.

While the society has no Internet service at the site, most county libraries have public computers.

And the Family History Center of Latter Day Saints on McClure Drive, Sissonville, is open to public use of its computers. The center has microfilm and family histories in addition to computer access to the church's renowned genealogy resource, said volunteer Gerald Brennen, 68.

"That's what we are all about," he said.

Hours at the center are 5 p.m. to 9 pm. Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 9 pm. Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 3 pm. Saturdays. The phone number is 304-984-9333.

And the Internet is loaded with sites for genealogy research, many of them free.

The West Virginia State Archives has county birth, death and marriage records at www.wvculture.org/vrr (click on type of record and county).

The West Virginia Cemetery Preservation Association has a number of features and is continually adding more detailed information and photos of cemeteries by county. The website is www.wvcpaweb.org.

A guide with links to some of the above sites, a number of societies and county sites and other resources is accessible at www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/.

Contact writer Evadna Bartlett at eva...@dailymail.com.

Thank you, Evadna, for the mention in your column!


Logan Co. Break-Ins: Vandals Cost Cemetery Millions
By Elizabeth Noreika
Eyewitness News

Some brazen bandits are showing off for surveillance cameras in Logan County.

Surveillance video at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Logan County has captured a group of masked men vandalizing the cemetery and stealing from the maintenance shed.

They've done everything from smash out windows....to dump tractors in lakes, to put a gator on a railroad track......to even trying to smash these surveillance cameras with a pvc pipe... their total tab of destruction? More than 100 thousand dollars.

If you recognize any of these suspects from the surveillance video, or if you have any information on these break ins, you're asked to call the Logan detachment of the State Police at (304) 792-7200.

[Click on the news article title to go to the Eyewitness News web site and view the video they have of the suspects -
if you can help identify the suspects or have any information that may help in the investigation,
 definitely contact the State Police at the number indicated in the article]

18 August 2009 - Charleston Daily Mail:

Grave marker of Parkersburg settler leader found
By The Associated Press

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (AP) -- A local historian has found the marker for the original grave of the leader of Parkersburg's first permanent settlers.

Wood County Historical Society President Bob Enoch says he found the grave marker for Capt. James Neal on Saturday while mowing at the Tavenner Cemetery. Enoch says he had mowed over the sandstone marker numerous times but didn't unearth and examine it until then.

Neal was a soldier in the Revolutionary War who led a party of settlers to Parkersburg from Pennsylvania in 1785. Enock says Neal's remains and those of his family were moved to another cemetery in 1915.

Historian Ray Swick with the Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park says the discovery is a major find in terms of Parkersburg's history.


1 August 2009 - YouTube/email:

The battle over Cook Mountain - Mountaintop mining vs. pioneer family cemetery
written by WVCPA staff in response to emails from several of our viewers

Boone Co., WV -- A little family cemetery hangs in the balance, just a handful of yards from the man-made cliff where a mountaintop coal mine inches closer and closer to the ancestral lands of the Cook family. The Cook family's rights to access to the cemetery to tend to it and visit the graves of their ancestors is also slipping away as the mine takes more and more of Cook Mountain away forever. Now only able to access the cemetery on foot, after the mining company dug trenches and piled high burms to prevent access by even four-wheeler, the family wonders if it will be there next year, let alone for the next generations. Despite WV law that was written to protect their rights to access their family burial ground and imposing penalties on companies or individuals that desecrate any burial grounds, there has been no indication that the mining company is even the slightest concerned over the matter. It appears that, yet again, the almighty coal dollar has taken precedence over morality. Sadly, this is not the only cemetery or historic site in the state of West Virginia that has, is, or may yet be threatened by mountaintop removal mines. As a non-profit organization, the West Virginia Cemetery Preservation Association is not legally in the position to bring an end to such threats to our age old cemeteries, but you, the people of West Virginia are. Make your elected officials aware of what's going on... make your voices heard to those that can make a difference for the future. 

See the videos at the following links - and we caution you, the commentaries posted by those obviously in opposition to preserving a family cemetery are filthy at best and at times downright vulgar:





http://climategroundzero.org/2009/08/protecting-the-cook-family-cemeteries/#comments and


If you would like any more information about the efforts or have anyone who would like to work with the Cook Mountain group or interested in helping in any way you can, please contact Robin Blakeman  directly at (304) 840-4877 or by email at robin(at)ohvec.org.  They certainly need all the support they can get from those who value protecting the final resting places of those buried on Cook Mountain, and preserving the cultural heritage of that area. 

28 July 2009 - Charleston Daily Mail:

Little church on the hill survives as it nears 200 years
by Charlotte Ferrell Smith
Daily Mail staff

ORMA -- A little Methodist church situated on a hill in this Calhoun County hamlet has housed worshippers for nearly two centuries as amenities have gone from coal stoves and oil lamps to gas stoves and electricity.

Orma United Methodist Church is now in the process of switching from outhouses to indoor toilets and getting a building addition.

A brief and sketchy history says the church was dedicated in 1812 when it was located on the banks of the West Fork, not far from its present location. It was situated along a country road near the stream that made it convenient for baptisms. When the country road was moved to a higher elevation, the little church was left somewhat isolated.

"Most churches in our area are around 100 years old," said the Rev. David Weaver, the church's pastor. "It was a surprise to me that this church was that much older. It was over 100 years old when they moved it here."  

In 1919, the church was loaded on skids and six oxen pulled it across a wide field and up a hill to its current spot next to the Orma Cemetery, which has graves dating back to the 1800s. Over the years, coal stoves and oil lamps were replaced with gas stoves and electricity. The separate entrances for men and women were united into one entrance for everyone. New windows and siding were installed. The late Johnnie Alfred, a former pastor, built 21 handmade pews in his home woodworking shop for the little church several decades ago.

As the years have melted into decades and the decades into centuries, the church has withstood many changes, including a dwindling congregation.

Weaver, who has served the church since 2002, is also pastor of Beech United Methodist near Arnoldsburg. He is also property manager for Bramblewood Village.

Orma United Methodist has 10 to 15 people in the pews on an average Sunday.

But don't let size fool you. The small and dedicated group gets things done.

Fundraisers over a couple years have raised about $6,000 that has been spent on materials for an addition that will house a multipurpose room, kitchen and bathrooms. Public water is expected to come to the area, but no date has been set for that improvement.

"We don't have any water now," Weaver said. "We discussed digging a well but the health department said we are too close to the cemetery."

No indoor toilets and a lack of water impede church growth, he said. He believes the building addition and indoor plumbing will boost attendance and make it possible to hold a vacation Bible school.

"We hope to get enough funds to get the addition under roof before winter," said Weaver, who added donations of roofing, siding and two-by-fours would help.

Members of the community have been chipping in with volunteer labor.

Weaver, of Grantsville, was working as an electronics technician before he decided to become a pastor.

"I had been a lay speaker for many years," he said. "I felt God was calling me to do more. I feel a real call in my life to serve small churches that otherwise would not have a pastor. I feel there is a definite need to fill pulpits in these small churches. So many churches have closed over the years for that reason."

He and Sandy, his wife of 28 years, are the parents of Caitlin, 21, and Heather, 24, who married Phillip Perkins last summer.

"I walked her down the aisle and did the ceremony," he said. "It was a wonderful day."   

Aside from working in their own church, those who attend Orma United Methodist reach out to do mission work.

They join with other United Methodist churches in Calhoun County to run the United Methodist Mission at Minnora where new and used clothing is sold or given away to assist low-income people. They also contribute to the united goal of area churches to supply scholarship money to a senior at Calhoun County High School. Members even manage to send a little to Mountain Mission in Charleston.

They have two fundraisers scheduled to raise money for their building project. A bake sale will be held at the Speedy Mart in Arnoldsburg 9 a.m. Aug. 3. At 9 a.m. Aug. 4 and 5, they will hold a yard sale at the home of church secretary Sharon Settle of Orma. Any donations to the building fund may be sent to Sharon Settle, HC 73 Box 7, Orma, W.Va. 25268.

Those who attend the little white church on the hill believe anyone who enters the church would feel welcome.

Edna Zwoll said the church now sits on land that was in her late husband's family for generations. The Rev. Oliver Zwoll, who sometimes filled in as pastor, once told her he recalled standing room only in the church when he went there as a child.

Clara Nicholson enjoys attending church where "I don't have to dress too nice and everyone is friendly. They don't act like they feel like they are better than I am. They are equal."

Zwoll said at Orma United Methodist she feels "closeness and the love of God."

Worship service is 10 a.m. each Sunday followed by Sunday school at 11 a.m.

[WVCPA thanks one of our viewers for bringing this article about this historic church to our attention! If you see an interesting story related to cemeteries or historic churches in West Virginia that you think might be of interest to our viewers, please send us a copy (or better yet a link) to the article so we can post at least a portion of it here and direct folks to the original article online. As for the Orma Church featured in this article, if you have the opportunity to contribute to their building fund, we encourage you to do so to help preserve one of West Virginia's historic churches and help keep it in the service of the community of Orma. Follow the instructions for donations described in the article above, and let them know that you found out about their project by way of the West Virginia Cemetery Preservation Association!]

14 June 2009 - Charleston Daily Mail:

W.Va. cemetery leans on Bill Withers
By The Associated Press

BECKLEY, W.Va. -- If, as Bill Withers famously sang, we all need somebody to lean on, some Beckley natives restoring a prominent cemetery are glad they can count on the Raleigh County native.

Withers, who was raised in Beckley, has donated $5,000 to help restore Greenwood Memorial Park, where about 3,000 people are buried, including many Civil War veterans.

Doris McCormick, president of a group working to restore the cemetery, hopes others will follow Withers' example. She estimates the work will cost $250,000 for landscaping and a new road.

Withers, a Grammy-winning singer and songwriter, is famous for songs like "Lean On Me'' and "Ain't No Sunshine.''

[What a great example, Bill Withers is!]

9 May 2009 - Charleston Daily Mail:

Words of Civil War soldiers found on wall of small church
By Charlotte Ferrell Smith
Daily Mail Staff

BUNKER HILL, W.Va. -- As workers scraped layers of paint inside Morgan's Chapel in Bunker Hill, the walls of the little Berkeley County church began revealing bits of history.

Writings and drawings done by soldiers during the Civil War had been hidden for decades.

One notation dated 1864 said, "Excuse me for writing on the walls of the house of God. For I should not have written on these walls had it not been all marked up."

Other writings say things like: "Treason, Traitors and Copperheads." "We ate dinner on the other side of the creek." "I write my name here the first day of June, 1863."

"We are ecstatic about this find," said the Rt. Rev. W. Michie Klusmeyer, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia.

The bishop said when he arrived eight years ago, he was told about the state of the church.

The little brick church has two rooms. The sacristy had been vandalized by arson in the 1990s. Klusmeyer said it was known that Civil War writings were in that room. However, it apparently never occurred to anyone there could be writings on the walls inside the main portion of the church.

Klusmeyer had the roof replaced after it was damaged by high winds, and he searched for contractors willing to do historic preservation work.

In November 2008, Klusmeyer hired workers to clean the inside of the church, which had not been used for several years. As the workers began removing layers of paint, they were stunned by what they found and called the bishop to say, "I've discovered something you need to see."

West Virginia became the 35th state of the union on June 20, 1863. Created in the midst of the Civil War, West Virginia provided troops to both the Union and Confederate armies in a war that pitted brother against brother.

Morgan's Chapel provided housing for both Confederate and Union soldiers at various times during the Civil War. Among the notations is one dated as early as March 5, 1862.

Klusmeyer has sought the guidance of experts and historians and is dedicated to making sure the voices of the past are not lost to the future. He wants to carefully restore the historic graffiti so that it can be appreciated by generations to come.

Morgan Chapel, Bunker Hill, Berkeley Co., WV - click to view larger photo from Charleston Daily Mail article of 5/9/2009Morgan's Chapel was erected in 1740 by Colonel Morgan Morgan, whose descendants founded Morgantown. The current building housing Morgan's Chapel, constructed in 1852, is the third built on the site. Morgan is buried in the cemetery next to the church.

The church has no indoor plumbing and is rarely used, Klusmeyer said. Initially, plans called for refurbishing so it could be used for weddings and various events. However, the discovery of the writings puts a whole new light on things. Precautions now must be taken to keep fingerprints off the walls. However, the building will be restored, preserved and open to those who would find its history important, Klusmeyer said.

"I have a feeling this will be a work in progress," he said.

He said additional writings and drawings may be uncovered in the balcony, but a lack of railings makes it too treacherous to work in that area right now.   

The Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia includes 67 churches in all 55 counties. Many of the churches are old, but nothing of such historical significance has been discovered in them, he said. However, the recent discovery sparks a desire to "start digging deeper," the bishop said.

He said the historic treasure discovered on the walls of Morgan's Chapel is important to Berkeley County, the state of West Virginia and the Episcopal Church.

[How cool is that! If you have a news story to share about a historic church or cemetery in your corner of
West Virginia, send us a copy by email or a link to the article, being sure to include the writer's name,
contact information, and newspaper/magazine it was published in and when.] 

2 May 2009 - Charleston Gazette/Mail:

Teays Hill Cemetery raises funds to improve security
By Veronica Nett
Staff Writer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Vandals will have a harder time disturbing the peace at Teays Hill Cemetery.

The Teays Hill Cemetery Association has begun installing a chain-link fence on the West Main Street side of the cemetery.

An anonymous donor donated $12,000 worth of fencing to the association earlier this year in response to repeated vandalism.

Over the past eight years, vandals have caused more than $10,000 worth of damage to headstones and grave markers in the St. Albans cemetery, said Philip Smith, president of the Teays Hill Cemetery Association.

Every year, five to 20 monuments are broken, knocked over or stolen from the nearly 200-year-old cemetery, Smith said.

Last Halloween alone, vandals knocked over or broke 18 monuments, he said.

The majority of theft and vandalism reported at cemeteries across the state can be traced back to drugs and alcohol, he said.

The root of the problem at Teays Hill, however, is a lack of security, he said.

Teays Hill shares an access road with a private home near the property. At night, the cemetery's gates remain unsecured so the residents can get to and from their home, he said.

The only foreseeable solution to the problem is to buy the house and start locking the cemetery at night, he said.

In December, the association began a campaign to raise between $40,000 and $60,000 to purchase the property.

So far they have collected about $10,000.

The association is starting another campaign this summer to raise more funds toward the purchase of the house; they are also asking Putnam County residents or families who have loved ones in the cemetery to make a donation.

Volunteers began setting up overturned monuments Monday. Sears Monument donated labor and equipment to set up the larger monuments that were pushed over. 

The 30-acre cemetery is the final resting place to more than 7,000 people dating back to 1813. Those buried include local residents in addition to some of the area's early doctors, judges, senators, mayors, bankers, housewives, slaves and veterans from the War of 1812 through the Vietnam War.

There are still more than 3,000 gravesites available at the historical cemetery, and about 25 to 30 people are buried there each year.

The Teays Hill Cemetery Association, a nonprofit organization, is responsible for all upkeep and repairs to headstones and markers.

Donations to the Teays Hill Cemetery Association can be sent to P.O. Box 824, St. Albans, WV 25177. For more information, visit www.teayshillcemetery.org.

[Our thanks to WVCPA volunteers for bringing this article about our friends in the
 Teays Hill Cemetery Association and their current projects to our attention!]

24 April 2009 - The State Journal:

Cemeteries dot the landscape of West Virginia
Provided By Amber Myers
Production manager/copy editor
The State Journal

Many have been well kept, while nature has reclaimed others. But there is an organization dedicated to documenting and preserving the state’s cemeteries. Joel and Donna Duprey of Leon in Mason County run the West Virginia Cemetery Preservation Association. They maintain the Web site www.wvcpaweb.org, which has information about their nonprofit organization and information about hundreds of cemeteries around the state.

The organization started as a hobby when the Dupreys lived in Colorado, according to information on the Web site. They started researching their family history, which led them to cemeteries in Mason and Putnam counties. Today, they live on a farm in Leon.

The Web site contains information and photographs from cemeteries around the state. The “West Virginia Cemeteries” link on the main page takes visitors to a list of counties. Each county link connects to a list of cemeteries.

Some of those cemeteries have links of their own, which take the visitors to lists of names of the people buried there. Many of those names have links to pictures of the headstones.

Another link on the main page is for “Adopted Churches.” That page leads to information about how to help restore and preserve historic churches in West Virginia. 

The Web site even has a link to the Duprey’s favorite headstone inscriptions. One listed there is “She Shopped Til She Dropped,” which is from a stone at the Judson Baptist Church Cemetery in Putnam County. Another reads, “I Told You I Was Sick,” which was found at Walker Chapel Cemetery in Putnam County.

[Our thanks to WVCPA volunteer Alice Click for tracking down a copy of the above article for  us!] 

20 April 2009 - Point Pleasant Register:

Preserving history: volunteers identify unmarked graves at Eddy Chapel Cemetery
By Nicole Fields

LEON — Rows of graves line the hillsides of the cemetery, some with tall monuments, others with simple headstones.

Numerous families can track their roots to this serene locale tucked off the side of the road — it’s the final resting place for Hoffmans, Plantses and Taylors, to name a few. Some graves date back to the 1870s, while others were installed within the past 10 years.

And each grave, regardless of size or age, features a proper marker that acknowledges the person buried there.

That’s how the graves at Eddy Chapel Cemetery are now, but it certainly wasn’t the case a year ago when two local women took on a project to identify more than 100 graves that were without proper markers.
Mildred Whittington of Gallipolis Ferry and Betty Taylor, who grew up in Mason County but currently lives in Logan, Ohio, said they decided to research the graves and some local history because of their own personal ties to the cemetery and its neighboring church, Eddy Chapel. And despite initial discouragement from family members who said the two women would never be able to track down the information they needed, they persevered.

What they found quickly turned into a labor of love.

Taylor said the two originally discussed installing grave markers a couple of years ago, but financial constraints caused the project to stall. In February of 2008, however, they received some monetary support to begin purchasing markers from a supplier in Cross Lanes, and beginning last summer they spent several long hours transporting the markers to the cemetery and performing the manual labor required to properly install them on each unmarked grave, 118 in all.

They also did their research. Taylor and Whittington have books, lists, original deeds and a mountain of other material they used to ensure proper identification of the graves.

They were both quick to point out that the project would not have gone as smoothly as it did if it hadn’t been for the meticulous records kept by the late Nina Duff, whose hand-written notes became a vital tool in the women’s efforts. They described Duff as knowing everything about everybody — “Nina knew every time a grasshopper crossed the road,” Taylor said with a smile — and said her precise records of the burial plots quickly became their go-to guide for the project.

Other volunteers also helped, including Rick Mowrey, Lacey Taylor, Jesse and Alisha Taylor and Dale and Becky Taylor. Financial support to get the project moving came from Dale and Becky Taylor, Vernon and Bette Plants and the Plants Family Reunion Fund. The overall goal, as Whittington pointed out, is to help preserve history.

“We know when we’re gone, the next generation’s not going to be interested in this or even know where (the graves) are,” she added.

Taylor agreed, saying that in addition to the contribution they made in terms of preserving history, she enjoyed the fellowship exhibited during the project.

“Everybody brought food, so when we finished (for the day) we sat on the church steps and (talked),” she said.

It’s a fitting sentiment for a church that was known for bringing families together. Taylor said Eddy Chapel Church, which is located along Ten Mile Creek Road in Leon, was built in 1871. At that time, it was the only church in that area, so numerous families attended it because of the central location. John Plants, Taylor’s great-grandfather, was one of the initial committee members when the church was established and now is buried in the cemetery. Likewise for many o f Whittington’s family members, which is part of the reason the project was one so near and dear to the women’s hearts.

Whittington estimated that nearly 300 graves now are in the cemetery, and people continue to be buried there. In fact, she said the grounds have been expanded three times to allow for growth.
Both women agreed that the project was one they enjoyed and said they hope to generate interest among others to take on similar tasks. And in a county that has almost too many cemeteries to count — “There are little cemeteries on private properties all over the place,” Whittington pointed out — the amount of work could be endless.

Taylor said they also hope to drum up additional financial support, adding that the work they did was financed completely by private donations but more money will be needed in the future to maintain the cemetery and church. She said she’d be happy to offer information to others interested in similar projects in their own church cemeteries, and she’s especially interested in speaking to anyone with information regarding Mount Zion Cemetery, which is where her mother is buried.

Taylor can be reached at 740-746-8804, while Whittington can be contacted at 304-576-2242.

[Our thanks to local WVCPA volunteers for sharing the above article with us! Visit our Eddy Chapel Cemetery page

23 March 2009 - Charleston Daily Mail:

W.Va. Civil War veteran's grave moved for mining
By the Associated Press

OSAGE, W.Va. - A Civil War veteran whose grave was moved to make way for coal mining has been reburied at Bethel Cemetery near Osage.

The remains of Job Lawlis were honored Sunday with a flag-folding ceremony and gun salute by VFW Post 9916.

Descendant Clarence "Buddy'' Lawlis arranged the event for his great-great-uncle, who died in 1907.

Job Lawlis and 20 others were originally buried in a rural cemetery near Cassville United Methodist Church.

But a judge approved Patriot Mining Co.'s request to move the remains so it could get to an estimated 7,000 tons of coal underneath.

Patriot argued that with buffer zone and blasting laws, it would have lost up to 100,000 tons of coal worth at least $5 million if the graves hadn't been moved.

10 March 2009 - Marietta Times:

Graves go missing as coal expands
By Brian Farkas
Associated Press Writer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Walter Young can't find his great-grandmother's grave. The coal company that had it moved doesn't know where the remains ended up.

"It always looked like a safe, good place nobody would bother," the 63-year-old retiree said of the cemetery along Pigeon Creek where Martha Curry was buried. "It was up on a hill."

But that hill was in West Virginia's southern coalfields, and over the years, it changed hands. The land around and under the cemetery passed from one coal company to another as mines grew up around it. Now, no one is sure where Young's great-grandmother was ultimately laid to rest.

The loss is a problem that resonates across West Virginia as small family cemeteries and unmarked graves get in the way of mining, timbering and development interests.

Advocates are asking state lawmakers this year to enact regulations that would require better tracking of the graves and protect families who believed that their loved ones wouldn't be disturbed.

"We just keep hearing about more and more cases of it," said Carol Warren, a project coordinator with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

Young hadn't visited his great-grandmother's grave regularly since the 1970s, but wanted to check up on it when he realized the cemetery, near Delbarton in the southwestern corner of the state, was near a site being built to store coal waste. When he called for permission to cross company property, he was dumbfounded by the response. The company that operates the site didn't know where the grave had been relocated.

"I wanted to secure in my mind that this cemetery was OK. I found out it wasn't OK. It was gone," Young said.

The graves get lost sometimes when families have trouble gaining access to burial grounds because of nearby mining activity. Sometimes, companies don't give proper public notice before removing or disturbing the graves.

One measure being pushed by the coalition would triple the no-disturbance buffer zone around cemeteries from 100 feet to 300 feet. Another would delete seemingly contradictory language in a law intended to protect human remains, grave artifacts and markers. Currently the law says it isn't meant to "interfere" with normal activities by landowners, whether they are farmers, developers or coal operators.

The law is vague and allows individuals to waive any responsibility, said House Health and Human Resources Chairman Don Perdue, a co-sponsor on two measures.

"The more vague a law is, the less likely it is to be enforced," said Perdue, D-Wayne. "I really believe that we have to make sure that hallowed ground is not hollowed ground or harrowed ground."

A third proposal would require coal companies to explain ahead of time how proposed surface mines would affect nearby cemeteries. And a fourth would allow West Virginia University's extension service to use Global Positioning System markings to map and plot small cemeteries near mountaintop removal mines.

"Let's begin the process of trying to document where all these small cemeteries are located," said Delegate Robert Beach, D-Monongalia.

The legislation was prompted by a flight Beach took last year over mountaintop-removal mines... ...Many living near the expanding surface mines are afraid family cemeteries are "just going to be covered over and become nonexistent," Beach said.

Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, says coal operators follow the law and try to be sensitive when cemeteries get in the way. However, he can't say how often such disputes arise.

International Coal Group's Patriot Mining Co. is in court in northern West Virginia, seeking approval to relocate a cemetery where the last burial occurred more then 70 years ago. Patriot received permission last year to move a nearby cemetery.

Patriot estimates 7,000 tons of coal are beneath the 22 graves it now wants to move. Because of buffer zone and blasting laws, Patriot technical services manager Tom Jones said 80,000 to 100,000 tons of coal would be lost if the cemetery isn't moved. At today's spot market prices, the coal would be worth at least $5.2 million.

Patriot says it will treat the remains with respect and move them to a public cemetery with perpetual care where descendants can visit. Eight of 12 descendants have agreed, but one is challenging the move.

Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition organizer Robin Blakeman doesn't know how much coal is beneath her family cemetery in Brier Branch Hollow. The Harless-Bradshaw Cemetery had been used by her family and the nearby community since the mid-1800s, and contains the grave of a Civil War cavalry corporal. The last burial was in 2001 and the area is now overgrown by trees.

In the past five years, Blakeman has watched Ravencrest Contracting encircle the cemetery's knoll, part of a former farm that passed out of her family's hands more then 50 years ago.

The family now relies on state law and an agreement with the coal operator to reach the cemetery on a gravel roadway used to haul coal out of the mine.

On a recent Saturday, Blakeman planted gladiolus bulbs near several of the stones. As she worked, the sound of heavy mining machinery and trucks drifted across the narrow valley.

"Sometimes in the midst of all this destruction, sometimes the only thing you can do is try and add a little bit of beauty," she said. "I'm also thinking these flowers will at least alert somebody to the fact that somebody cares."

[Our thanks to WVCPA volunteers Angela Harkins and Alice Click for sharing the above article with us!] 

14 January 2009 - The Dominion Post:

W.Va. Cemetery could be moved for strip mine
By the Associated Press


To make way for a surface mine, Patriot Mining Co. wants to relocate 22 graves in a family cemetery that might date to the late 1800s.

The subsidiary of International Coal Group Inc. is headed to court Feb. 18 in Monongalia County, where Circuit Judge Susan Tucker will hear objections. The Scott Depot-based company wants to rebury the remains in Morgantown's Bethel Cemetery.

The small family plot has been owned since 1903 by Cassville United Methodist Church. It has 17 headstones, nine of which remain legible.

Trustee Bill Strakal said many of the church's younger members didn't know the church owned the cemetery, which he said is overgrown and barely noticeable.

"It would probably be for the best to exhume the graves and put them in a cemetery with a new marker so you know where they are," he said.

No one has been buried there since 1930, and Patriot wants permission to move the graves from 12 possible descendants of the Lawlis family. Eight have agreed.

Frederick Elliot, however, plans to contest the move.

"Some things are better off left alone," he said.

Strakal said the church would be paid an unspecified amount, depending on how much coal is recovered.

ICG spokesman Ira Gamm said the descendants will not be compensated.

Patriot will hire Dering Funeral Home for the exhumation and reburial. It will also pay for some new headstones and burial containers.

To view "In the News" entries from 2008 and earlier, Click Here 

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