Vienna resident finds cemetery photo

VIENNA – Vienna resident Jeff Smith, 64, local historian, has discovered the only known photograph of the old Spencer Cemetery, found in the personal effects of his late aunt, Mildred R. (Smith) Sands.

If you were living in Vienna in 1927 around the area of Jefferson Avenue and Selden Street, you would have passed by the old private Spencer Cemetery and noticed it was not very well maintained. This was the original resting place for two prominent Spencer families. This area was at one time known as the Selden S. Stone farm.

This cemetery was the original resting place for Samuel Selden Spencer (Senior), 1778 – 1832, and his wife Prudence (Cook) Spencer, 1788 – 1877, along with their son, John Cook Spencer, 1825 – 1904. On one side of their headstone are the names Samuel S. and Prudence C. Spencer and on the other side is son, John C. Spencer.

Samuel Selden Spencer (Junior) 1822 – 1892 and his wife Lucinda Amelia (Smith) Spencer 1827 – 1895 were interned in this Spencer cemetery as well as their daughter, Elizabeth Cook Spencer (1847 – 1911.

Samuel Selden Sr. and Samuel Selden Jr. were the son and grandson of Vienna’s founder, Dr. Joseph Spencer and his wife Deborah (Selden) Spencer.

John A. House, author of “Some Pioneer Cemeteries of Parkersburg And Wood County,” wrote he had visited this cemetery on Nov. 15, 1926. He noted there were a small number of grave markers and little more that a half dozen graves. He also made reference the cemetery was in a dooryard and was neglected but not over grown with weeds and brush. A dooryard is a yard or garden near the door of a house.

It was the desire of the Spencer family heirs, due to the neglected condition of the cemetery, to have all the bodies of the Spencer family disinterred and moved to Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Parkersburg and the bodies of slaves Nellie Brown, 1810 – 1882, and her son Abram Brown, 1837 – 1918, moved to the Spring Grove Cemetery on Sayre Avenue in Parkersburg.

Laura E. Spencer was chosen to represent all of the known descendents of the Spencer family buried in the cemetery as of 1927. On Nov. 22, 1927, she became attorney-in-fact, granting her legal status to represent the heirs. Laura was the great-great granddaughter of Dr. Joseph and Deborah (Selden) Spencer, the founder of Vienna, in 1794.

The bodies of Samuel Selden Spencer Jr., Lucinda Amelia Spencer and Elizabeth Spencer were disinterred on May 14, 1928, from the Spencer Cemetery and reinterred the same day at the Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Parkersburg.

The bodies of Samuel Selden Spencer Sr., Prudence C. Spencer and John C. Spencer were disinterred on June 12, 1928, and reinterred the same day in the Mt. Olivet Cemetery.

The date for Nellie and Abram Brown’s disinterment and reinternment was not noted in courthouse records. It did occur in the same time frame as the others. Nellie and Abram have a nice headstone marking their grave site at the Spring Grove Cemetery.

On July 28, 1947, almost 20 years later, the old Spencer Cemetery was deeded to Jeff Smith’s grandparents, George K. and Laura E. Smith and signed by attorney-in-fact, Laura E. Spencer.

A story was told to Jeff Smith by his grandfather, George Smith, that when the Spencer graves were being dug up, one of the coffins had a glass window in it. Below the window was an old man with a long beard. The glass window was accidentally struck with a shovel cracking it. Either the crack in the window or the shock of the shovel hitting it, caused the elderly gentleman’s beard to disintegrate to dust.

The dimensions of Spencer Cemetery were 113.4 feet by 80.5 feet and the deed of sale noted that 25 feet of the east side were to be reserved for widening Sixth Avenue from 25 feet to 50 feet.

When Samuel Selden Spencer Sr. died, his estate had to be inventoried and appraised. Wood County Courthouse records indicate that Tillinghast A. Cook did in fact inventory and appraise Mr. Spencer’s belongings on August 28, 1832. Things were very different in the 1800s. His property did not automatically become his wife’s, it had to be offered for sale at public auction.

Everything had to be inventoried and appraised a value, such as household items like sheets, pots, dishes, furniture and all farm items like livestock, plows, wagons, brace of pistols, etc. Also included was the hay in the barn, the corn in the field along with the wool in storage.

A brace of pistols means there were two of them in perhaps a holster or box. These pistols may have been dueling pistols!

The inventory and appraisement were completed by Tillinghast A. Cook and signed off by Robert S. Smith, Edward Johnson and Presley Woodyard. Mr. Cook submitted the document to the Wood County Court, State of Virginia, June term, 1833, and made a motion to the court to record the inventory and appraisal. It was ordered to be recorded by John Stephenson, CWC.

All of Samuel Selden Spencer’s property was sold at public auction on Sept. 11, 1832. His wife Prudence bought $267.62 of her husband’s effects. At least 15 other people bought the remainder of his estate. D.B. Spencer claimed the brace of pistols belonged to him, not Samuel Spencer.