May is Remember a Rural Cemetery Month. It is safe to say that many families residing in Wood County have ancestry buried in a Wood County cemetery. If a member of their family has died within the past 100 years, their remains may be in a cemetery in perpetuity, or perhaps in a cemetery maintained by a church. But, for family members, especially in rural areas whose deaths occurred in the early, mid, or late 1800s, their remains were likely placed in a rural cemetery.
I recently revisited an ancient burial site above the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike, just beyond Walker Creek. Situated in an open wood are the graves of six and possibly seven early settlers, possibly all members of the same family. The graves are neatly arranged in three rows, with footing stones. There are no names on these stones as they are only field stones, probably from the early 1800s. It is unlikely that the identity of these people will ever be known. Yet they have been painstakingly marked as a memorial to loved ones.
Leaving this cemetery and returning towards Parkersburg, I chose to visit the Robinson cemetery. Located on a ridge just east of Kanawha and overlooking what was once known as Kanawha Station, it is reached by a long uphill walk from the Pike. Unfortunately, this cemetery is a perfect example of what has happened to many rural cemeteries. The first burial was probably that of its namesake, John W. Robinson, who died in 1895. His burial site is on the highest part of the narrow ridge and is surrounded by an iron fence. I was told that years ago his remains were disturbed by grave robbers or members of an occult group. There are stone remains of several more on either side of the steep ridge. Unfortunately, due to time and gravity, there is only one small obelisk stone left standing. Fortunately, someone maintains this small cemetery. To anyone, THANK YOU!
Again on the pike, I took a detour to hike what was part of the original Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike, taking me across “Kanawha Station”, a narrow section of the turnpike located between the railroad and the Little Kanawha River. Just a short distance before reaching the current Rt. 47, still on the original turnpike, is another old cemetery known as the Pickering Cemetery. Four or five burials had been found on two small flats on the hillside. The stones of William Pickering, his second wife Margaret and a son, Charles, are at the bottom but legible. At one time, William Pickering owned this property and owned the Kanawha Station Hotel.
The only standing stone is that of Civil War veteran James Shingleton, related by marriage to the Pickerings. Overtaken by brush and brambles, this cemetery was recently cleared by a concerned local resident. She hopes to continue to maintain this cemetery.
Returning to Parkersburg on the Pike and just west of Kanawha is Kanawha UM Church and Cemetery. It is an excellent example of a church continuing its responsibility to maintain the grounds where many of its early congregations now rest.
Bob Enoch is president of the Wood County Historical and Preservation Society. If you have any comments or questions about Look Back articles, please contact him at: [email protected], or by mail at WCHPS, PO Box 565, Parkersburg, WV 26102.