Searching for Great Great Grandfather & Grandmothers’ Grave

We gave up. After meandering up and down and around for several hours in the beautiful October hills of Marion County, West Virginia, searching for my great great grandfather and grandmother’s grave, my 80 year old Dad and I ran out of steam.

We had followed the directions to the Lake Cemetery that we had found on the Internet. They said to take the Pricketts Fork exit on I-79 and go 8.5 miles past Bunner Ridge Park on Russell Finch’s farm. But we came to several forks where we had no idea which way to turn, and ended up very lost. At one point we passed a guy who was mowing his lawn. He said there used to be a sign on the road by a path up to that cemetery, but he thought it might have fallen down. He gave us directions, and we got even more lost. We reached a gravel road that became increasingly narrow, changing into an even more narrow cinder path that dead-ended in a forest.

We held our breath as I tried not to get stuck in the dirt, driving forward and backward it seemed like 20 times, until we were headed back the other way.

That night at the Tygart Lake Lodge in Grafton, where we were staying, I found an unmarked green area on Google Maps that I suspected could be Lake Cemetery. So the next day we set out again.

When the lovely GPS lady said, “you have arrived”, there was no cemetery in sight. Only lots of trees on both sides of the rustic, rickety road. We drove by a driveway and saw a man walking. I said, “Excuse me, we are trying to find the Lake Cemetery. Are you Russell Finch?”

 

“No, he’s been dead for many years. But I’m his grandson.”

He pointed back behind the barn.

“The cemetery is up that way on my property, but sorry I have not had time to mow it. It’s pretty grown up. You are welcome to visit it. You have to drive down the road a ways and park by a gate. There used to be a sign but I think it might have fallen down. Go through the gate, and walk up the path quite a piece, and you will reach another gate, that opens into a cow pasture. Make sure you close that gate, so my cows don’t get out. The cemetery is in the middle of the pasture, inside a fence.”

I could sense my Dad was a little apprehensive about walking into a field of cows, which probably included a bull. I think Mr. Finch sensed it, too, for he said,

“You should be OK, I’m about to put them in for the day.”

“Thanks so much.”

We drove to the gate, and parked on the side of the road. My Dad took a good luck at the treacherous, steep path behind the gate, and decided that he would wait in the car while I went up and checked out the scene. So I ventured up the path, and finally reached that second gate, which connected a barbwire fence. Far beyond, in the pasture, I could see tombstones were peeking through some very tall grass! Let’s see, how do I open this gate? Tightly wound metal wires seemed to be holding it shut, but to unravel them without some sort of tool would be nearly impossible. I couldn’t figure out how to open it. Finally I decided to just climb through the barbed wire fence. There was just enough room to get through, and I ripped my brand new jeans on one of the spurs as I slithered through. On the other side of the gate, I had a better view and saw that there was actually a latch that was quite easy to open! I closed the latch, and headed into the pasture.

About half way over to the cemetery, I heard, “Tim!”

It was my Dad’s voice. “Dad?”

“Yes, it’s me. I fell.”

I thought oh no!

“Are you hurt?”

“Yes.”

“I’ll be right there!” I ran across the pasture back toward the gate, but by the time I got there, Dad was on the other side of the gate.

“Are you OK?”

“Yes, I fell, and poked myself with this stick as I was getting up.”

He showed me a bloody bruise, that didn’t look too bad. The big stick was to ward off a bull, just in case.

“So you decided to come up after all.”

“Yes.”

I opened the gate, and let Dad through. As he crossed the pasture, I snapped these photos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I remember wondering what he was thinking, 80 years old, walking to a peaceful graveyard-whether he was contemplating his own mortality.

 

We walked through another gate, and inside a much smaller metal fence, we could see around 30 tombstones, tangled in high grass, small trees, and brush. We uncovered the first gravestone we came to, and were very surprised to read “Boyce. Elizabeth and John.”

 

 

Dad’s great grandfather and grandmother, and my great great grandfather and grandmother!

I could tell Dad was really glad that he came up, despite the injury. I snapped this pic while Dad stood proudly by the grave with his bull-warding-off stick.

 

 

 

 

 

We suspected we had other relatives buried there, and I spent a few minutes trudging through the quagmire, uncovering family names we know that are on our family tree, such as Fast, Poe, and Boyce.  But before I could get to them all, Dad had reached his limit, so we had to make the trek back to the car. 

 

My Dad died about 15 months later, on New Year’s Day eve, but just about every time I saw him over the last period of his life he mentioned that epic search for John and Elizabeth Boyce’s grave!

 
 

 

 

 

 

Stay tuned for more tales of Grafton, West Virginia. We had many adventures there over the years!

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About Timothy Reed

Timothy Reed is a composer, pianist, singer, actor, writer, and piano and voice teacher. In 2010, he released a CD entitled ?Euphoric Owls?, which alternates between solo piano and piano with what he calls ?ethereal voices?. Imagine George Winston meets Schubert and Chopin, often with soaring vocals, with Tim and the amazing Brown Sisters.