Spring cleaning swings into action

PARKERSBURG – Volunteers from the Wood County Historic Landmarks Commission and the Julia-Ann Square Historic District were busy raking and cutting away weeds Saturday in the historic Riverview-Cook Cemetery.

Judith Smith, with the historic district, said the cemetery located at the end of Juliana Street near First Presbyterian Church is part of the neighborhood and is worth preserving for its historic significance with graves dating back to the early 1800s.

“This cemetery is part of the Julia-Ann Square Historic District and it is by several authorities, the most historic cemetery in West Virginia – not just Wood County but in all of West Virginia,” Smith said. “We have West Virginia’s first U.S. Senator, Peter VanWinkle; two governors; eight mayors and prominent people such as the Dils, Clark, Camden, Kincheloe, Stephens, Jackson and Van Winkle families.”

Smith said is is a goal of hers to see the cemetery cared for and well-maintained.

“This will be my last big project of life will be to make the cemetery the showplace it deserves,” she said. “Certainly Parkersburg has a vested interest and certainly West Virginia because of who is interred here and certainly Julia-Ann Square does because we live here.”

Smith said no one is expecting a quick fix for the Riverview-Cook Cemetery.

“We are going to partner with the trust left for the cemetery at United Bank and they are working with us to beautify it to make it the historic site it should be,” she said. “We see tourists combing the place all the time. A couple came by my house the other day and they said ‘It’s such a wonderful place but it looks so bad’ and I said ‘My sentiments exactly, it’s deplorable.'”

Smith said the caretaker shed was destroyed in the 2012 derecho and has not been replaced. Part of the chain link fence was also destroyed by felled trees and has not been replaced.

Smith the project will be done in small parts and the first step was Saturday’s cleanup. About 30 volunteers were part of the effort.

Judy Crichton, one of Saturday’s workers, said many of her ancestors are buried in the cemetery.

“My grandmother Dils was a Cook and the Cooks are buried at the top of the hill and my Dad, Edwin Dils, is buried here and he is near my Mom’s grandparents, Bob and Marian McDougle,” she said.

Karlyn Lowers, a member of the historical society and the rural cemetery association, said she was out with other members to help with the cleanup project.

“I’ve been taking care of the Dils Cemetery for four years. The historical society took ownership but I took over cutting the grass,” she said. “It was a challenge, we’ve restored a lot of cemeteries, cutting out the trees and the weeds with the hope someone would take over, but no one did.”