Romney's Oldest Cemetery

Located on East Main Street in Romney under the Bank of Romney and its parking lot.


 

Excerpt from Chapter XXXVII, Cemeteries Of Romney by Hu Maxwell.

So far as can be ascertained from extant traditions, the first burying place for the dead of Romney was situated on the public square on which the court house was afterwards built, but the graves were between the present court house and the Kellar hotel, and the site and in the rear of the present bank of Romney. It is probable that the first dead of the town were laid to their last rest in that old cemetery. How many sleep there, no one now knows. But there were many; for there is evidence that is was still used as a burying ground after the beginning of the present century. Old people a few years ago could remember when the graves could be distinguished, one from another. But the land was occupied by houses and gardens; and the plow finally obliterated each.

“Mouldering heap,
Where, in his narrow cell forever laid,
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep”

It is related that, after the ground ceased to be used as a burying place, and was appropriated as a garden, a person in walking through the high grass and rank weeds would sometimes stumble into the deeply sunken graves. No stone now marks the sight of a single tomb, and the name of a single person who was buried there cannot now be ascertained. In their day they no doubt believed they were filling a place in the world of the living which would entitle them to, and secure for them, at least a gravestone to mark their narrow house in the realm of the dead. But, such has not been the case. No doubt, in that old cemetery lie the men who saved from the tomahawk of the savage many a frontier home in Hampshire; and who, in their lives, were looked upon as the protectors, defenders, and saviors of the people and their homes, when the cruel Indian and his no less cruel white ally made wide desolation along the frontiers. But, alas, how soon the children forget the debt of gratitude which their parents are owed! How applicable to the dead here are the verses written of the neglected grave of Simon Kenton, the defender of Kentucky in its earliest years:

“Ah, can this be the spot where sleeps
The bravest of the brave!
of Simon Kenton’s grave!
His ingrate country gave
Her hearths and homes to save!”

In the old cemetery in Romney there remain not so much as the “broken palings” or the “rude slab.” All have passed away, and nothing is left but the memory, and that, being the most immaterial and ephemeral of things, will soon pass into nothingness, and the shadow of oblivion will settle down forever.

[History of Hampshire County, West Virginia, From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present; by Hu Maxwell and H. L. Swisher; A. Brown Boughner, Morgantown, WV, 1897 (reprinted by McClain Printing Company, Parsons, WV, 1972) ]


 

An article in the Hampshire Review of August 31, 1994 reads in part:

Romney - Construction at The Bank of Romney site took an interesting turn on August 16 when a worker uncovered what appeared to be a human bone.

"The first thing we did was to notify our attorney," said Bank President Lawrence Foley.

The Hampshire County Sheriff's Department was also notified, and sheriff's officials, in turn, notified the prosecuting attorney's office.

Ultimately, the State Historic Preservation Office in Charleston was contacted and Director Bill Farrer then sent two survey archeologists to examine the site.

Fred McEvoy and Lora Lamarre appeared at the site on August 24 and what they found was a decomposed coffin, well deteriorated, lying in an east/west direction, according to Foley. "The coffin appeared to be about four feet in length." said Foley.

Considering the location of the find and the fact that it was on the outer perimeter of the construction site, officials from Charleston elected not to disturb the coffin any further.

In a letter sent to foley from Lamarre in Charleston, she noted that, "because the coffin was in an extremely fragile condition, actual excavation into it was avoided."

Cemetery Listing:

We do not know the names or even the number of individuals buried here. We have titled this cemetery as Romney's oldest, but, in fact, we have no dates for it.
 

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