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Look Back: Rural Cemetery Month coming to close

Historical newspaper excerpts from the Wood County Historical Society

Photo from WCHPS archives As was shared two weeks ago in the May 12 offering of Lookback, John A. House said “I know of no place more interesting to visit than a well kept, well shaded graveyard.” An act that might rival that feeling of interest could be the feeling of satisfaction one feels when looking back on a cemetery they have helped beautify. The photo above shows Preston Lewis from California, left, and Dave Perry from Pennsylvania. By sheer coincidence (or fate) they met on the same weekend at the McDougle-Lewis Cemetery near Lock Nineteen on the Ohio River in Washington Bottom; unbeknownst of each other, they had both come to clean the overgrown cemetery where their ancestry lay. At the end of their busy weekend, John House would have enjoyed visiting the cemetery; it now looked great! And though tired from an extremely busy weekend, Dave and Preston shared great pride for a job well done! Since the above mentioned cleanup, in the spring of 2012, the Washington Bottom Lions Club has maintained this historic cemetery.

As perhaps began with the California “gold rush” in the 1849 and continuing into the 1930s and 40s, when families relocated for employment or opportunity purposes, too often, entire families left this area. Their leaving left the care of early burial grounds to others. The “others” were soon overwhelmed with business concerns and cares of changing times; the cemeteries that were once revered, were soon forgotten, quickly becoming victims to the briars, brambles and brush of an ever encroaching Mother Nature. Unfortunately, this is still the plight of too many cemeteries in Wood County.

In 1878, early Wood County historian Stephen Chester Shaw penned the following: “The bold, hardy and venturesome pioneers who first immigrate and take possession of a country, and with labor, toil and privations, put forth strong and unwearied efforts to clear away the heavy primeval forests, and subdue the soil to cultivation, should be held in remembrance in the history of that country.”

The Wood County Rural Cemetery Alliance was created in an attempt to properly “remember” our ancestry. While we have identified and located most of these early burial grounds, we are seeking groups, organizations and families who will help maintain them. If you can help with this important situation, please call Paul Bibbee, chairman of the cemetery alliance at 304-482-1624.

Rural Cemetery Month for 2018 will close with the following poem:

This is a Cemetery…

Lives are commemorated,

Deaths are recorded,

families are reunited,

Memories are made tangible,

and Love is undisguised.

This is a Cemetery.

Communities’ accord respect,

families bestow reverence,

historians seek information,

and our heritage is thereby enriched.

Testimonies of devotion, pride and warmth are carved in stone to pay

warm tribute to accomplishments and to the life — not the death —

of a loved one. The cemetery is homeland for memorials that are

a sustaining source of comfort to the living.

A cemetery is a history of a people — a perpetual record of yesterday

and a sanctuary of peace and quiet today. A cemetery exists because

every life is worth loving and remembering — always.

–author unknown

***

Bob Enoch is president of the Wood County Historical Society. Would you like to help preserve our past for future generations? The society offers informative monthly meetings and an interesting, 20-page quarterly newsletter. Dues are just $15./year. Send to: WCHPS, P.O. Box 565, Parkersburg, WV 26102.

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