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
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
A downstairs youth area is
yet to be completed as well as landscaping and finishing
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.
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,
The Phelpses were among
the pioneers who settled Parkersburg more than 200
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
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 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
"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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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.
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.
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.
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
"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
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
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.
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
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
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
"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
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
It's a simple, rustic way of living, but
Carpenter said he wouldn't have it any other way.
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
"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
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
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.
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
"I have never done
anything I enjoy more," she said.
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
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
While the society has no
Internet service at the site, most county libraries have
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
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
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
A guide with links to some
of the above sites, a number of societies and county
sites and other resources is accessible at
Some brazen bandits are
showing off for surveillance cameras in Logan
Surveillance video at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Logan
County has captured a group of masked men
vandalizing the cemetery and stealing from the
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]
PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (AP)
-- A local historian has found the marker for the
original grave of the leader of Parkersburg's first
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
1 August 2009 -
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
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
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.
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
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
As the years have
melted into decades and the decades into centuries,
the church has withstood many changes, including a
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
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
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
He and Sandy, his wife
of 28 years, are the parents of Caitlin, 21, and
Heather, 24, who married Phillip Perkins last
"I walked her down the
aisle and did the ceremony," he said. "It was a
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
Zwoll said at Orma United
Methodist she feels
"closeness and the love of
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
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
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
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.
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,
"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
[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.]
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
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
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
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
[Our thanks to WVCPA volunteers for bringing this article about our friends
Teays Hill Cemetery Association and their current projects to our
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 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!]
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
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
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
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
Taylor can be reached at 740-746-8804, while
Whittington can be contacted at 304-576-2242.
Graves go missing as coal expands By Brian Farkas
Associated Press Writer
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
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
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
"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,
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
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!]
W.Va. Cemetery could be moved for strip mine By the Associated Press
W.Va. (AP) -
To make way for a surface mine, Patriot Mining
Co. wants to relocate 22 graves in a family cemetery that might date to the
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
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
"Some things are better off left alone," he
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
To view "In the News" entries from 2008 and