The book, "Cemeteries in Calhoun County West Virginia," was compiled by the Calhoun County Historical & Genealogical Society in 1985. This was a daunting task but an invaluable legacy.
THANKS to all who participated in the project in 1985 and THANKS to the present society for so generously sharing the contents of the book on the Internet.
The following is the FORWARD from the book. It describes the project and names those to whom we are indebted for this wonderful gift.
Members of the Calhoun County Historical and Genealogical Society recognized early in the life of the organization that a part of our heritage was in danger of being lost unless effort was made to collect and record the location, and insofar as was possible, the names of persons buried in all the cemeteries in the county. Of the two hundred or so cemeteries in the county, more than half are inactive. By that I mean that people are no longer being buried in them. It is this group that is the subject of most concern. They are of interest to fewer people and for the most part are not being maintained. Many are already unrecognizable as graveyards and are in varying stages of returning to a forest situation. With the passage of another generation or two information as to location and who is buried in many of them will be lost.
Saving the information contained in the cemeteries was the primary concern but it soon became evident that there was a present demand for this information from people who were interested in tracing their ancestoral lineage. Almost as soon as information gathering was begun the word was spread abroad that information was available and requests began to come in from folks from all over wanting information about grave locations and dates of birth and death of their ancestors. This continuing interest in information available only from graveyards pointed out the need for collecting and placing in usable form all the information available in the county's cemeteries.
In 1975 the Society acted to make the creation of this work a viable project and assigned a priority to the project that seemed likely to effect its completion in a relatively short time. The field work was begun and progressed rapidly at first, but as is the case so often, that first burst of enthusiasm waned as other more interesting and glamorous subjects came on the scene.
I seemed to be the only member who actually enjoyed going to these places, battling burrs, snakes, wasps, ants and briars of several species in order to get information. I actually went to and recorded or re-recorded information from all the cemeteries listed in this book except 16. Robert and Hazel Knotts, Robert and Joy Stevens, Martha Hall and Mary and Web Carpenter all contributed to the gathering of data for this book.
I say that I enjoyed doing this because to me it was an interesting study of Calhoun County history. I went to all the places where our ancestors settled, struggled with and tamed a wild land. Of course in the doing they all died and were put in the earth, many of them on or near the same farm on which they struggled. I looked at the places where they were put and found it interesting. I often wondered where the method we use in disposing of our dead and the rituals and ceremonies we use in doing so originated and how it has come down to us today.
Disposing of the dead is a problem common to all times and all people, but a little world travel shows us that different cultures use different methods and employ different rituals and routines in their treatment of the dead. It is surely safe to assume that our forefathers' ideas about a proper disposition of the dead came to them as a part of the Judo Christian ethic and that he brought it with him when he came to the new land. It is also a safe assumption, I am sure, that he adapted the procedures to accommodate conditions in his new environment. Of all the new freedoms he found in the new world, not the least was freedom to bury his dead wherever he chose. If a man was a sizable land owner and a family man, establishment of a cemetery on the farm for use of the family was prudent behavior. We don't know what criteria he used in selecting the location for a burial plot but we can see the results of his choice. Almost invariably he went up the hill and in many instances he was not forwarned of the limitations of modern vehicles of conveyance. Horses pulling sleds or wagons were not seriously inconvenienced by steep grades. So he went uphill until he came to a broad flat with an eastern exposure, or lacking that, he went on to the top of the hill or prominence. That is the location of many of the family cemeteries described in our book.
So it seems that high ground with direct exposure to the rising sun and in a grave facing the east was the most satisfactory place to leave the dead. Easy digging in soil free of stones is surely of importance as anyone who has ever assisted in digging a grave will attest; but is of lesser importance than the other qualifications. You can usually spot the location of a cemetery from considerable distance by the presence "Of trees of the Eastern Red cedar species. Eastern Red cedar and the common century plant are present in most cemeteries. I have not heard any specific reason for the planting of these species in graveyards but their commonness in these locations is probably not accidental.
It would seem that when all the information is gathered and assembled in one unorganized stack that most of the work is over, and it is time for "Happy Hour". This is far from the truth. Typing and organizing the records into something resembling a book that the printers will accept is a Hurclean task and one that appears impossible to the average man. Fortunately the expertise of two women came my way at this time of dire need. Norma Kime of Fort Myers, Florida, typed the Washington district material and thereby convinced me that it was possible to bring order out of that unorganized mess. Joy Stevens of Grantsville, a Society member, took over from there. She finished the typing and organized the material into the form you are seeing now. Without their help this work could not have been completed. My gratitude for their efforts is unbounded.
We recognize and accept the fact that in all likelihood we have missed some small burial plots in the county. Although the recording of names and dates was done with care, errors have no doubt crept in. This work represents our best effort and we make no apologies for it. Reports of plots that may have been missed, along with names and dates of persons therein will be welcomed by the Society. It is hoped that persons may want to make additions to the lists of persons not now included in many cemetery lists; particularly persons in unmarked graves.
It is further evident that we have not made it very easy for you to find a specific person or cemetery. There seems to be no simple efficient way of organizing this sort of material. An alphabetically arranged index of all persons in the book is beyond our present capabilities. So we settled on an alphabetical arrangement of cemeteries by Magisterial districts. Knowing the district of a cemetery of interest to one will limit the search for information to a considerable degree. It will certainly require less energy than climbing a hill to the cemetery.
If our efforts result to some measure in the preservation of the knowledge of the location of our cemeteries and the persons buried there, we will have made a significant contribution to the establishment and preservation of the history of Calhoun County.
RONZEL L. BAILEY
U. S. Navy Retired
Joanna Vannoy - President
L. C. Hamilton, Jr. - Past President
Ronzel Bailey - Honorary Chairman
Forrest Vannoy - Treasurer
Robert Stevens - Vice President
Joy Stevens - Secretary
Martha Hall - Archivist
R. J. Knotts and Sue Hamilton - Advisors
Virginia Williams - Newsletter
Joy Stevens and Mary Ann Barrows - Proofreaders