Commissioners hear National Rural Cemetery Month presentation

The Phelps-Tavenner Cemetery on Camden Avenue is among local cemeteries maintained by the Wood County Historical and Preservation Society. May is National Rural Cemetery Month. Wood County has around 300 local and rural cemeteries, some with under 10 graves. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

PARKERSBURG — Local historians are drawing attention to rural cemeteries and the need for their upkeep.

Bob Enoch of the Wood County Historical and Preservation Society appeared before the Wood County Commission this week to discuss local cemeteries as May is National Rural Cemetery Month.

“We are trying to draw attention from the community and the county on our rural cemeteries,” Enoch said.

The Wood County Rural Cemeteries Fund recently commemorated its 15th anniversary through the Parkersburg Area Community Foundation. The county and the City of Parkersburg originally contributed money to it and the Historical Society also gets a portion of the hotel-motel tax revenue to help fund projects.

Enoch took a moment and thanked the commission for providing the money to make up for lost revenue from the tax due to the pandemic.

Money from that fund has helped reset gravestones, put signs up and do other projects.

“After 15 years, we are not much further along,” Enoch said.

Around 95 percent of the local cemeteries have been recorded, including small ones with two or three stones on a hilltop.

Around 300 such graveyards are in the county with around 100 that have fewer than 10 graves. Some of the larger ones are on Camden Avenue and behind Astorg Motors. The county maintains one near West Virginia University at Parkersburg.

“Thankfully, they are listed on the Assessor’s website,” Enoch said. “That is a tremendous asset.

“There are mistakes on it that need to be corrected and that is something we can help with.”

Enoch and others with the society have been working to take care of many of these cemeteries, doing mowing and upkeep.

“There are still many more that are not being taken care of,” he said

Enoch said it is not just Wood County, but a statewide problem after talking with state historical officials in Charleston.

“Funds are few and the labor is hard and you just don’t get a lot of interest,” he said. “These graveyards should not be forgotten.”

Enoch wants county officials to start thinking about possible solutions. One person asked him if there were any tax breaks or incentives that would help people in taking care of these properties.

“These people who take care of these cemeteries, it would be nice to have something for them or others,” Enoch said.

Commissioner Jimmy Colombo said he was thankful for people who do the work as many people visit local cemeteries to visit loved ones and so on.

“Thank you for what you are doing,” he said. “You are bringing out the best to make this special.”

Many people have been doing this work for years, Enoch said.

“Those of us who are taking care of them are getting up there in years,” he said.

The Historical Society is looking for ideas on how to continue this work. County officials said it may be something that can be taken up by the West Virginia Legislature.

Enoch wanted to see what could be done.

“The need is still there,” he said.


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