Cemetery Lot Sale at the
Confederate Soldiers Memorial Historic Site.
|See updates below!
The Desecration of a Sacred Site
October 23, 2017, will go down as a sad day for Hampshire County's heritage. It is not enough that we are faced with the recent vandalizing of our Confederate Soldiers Monument; now we see the Town of Romney considering the historic soldiers burial lots as just a piece of commercial land to be used to enrich their coffers.(the site) The city has sold two choice burial slots in the space just east of the Confederate Soldiers grave sites to Royce Saville for his personal use. This is an egregious conversion of part of a 150 year old historic site to personal use by someone. Now the rest of the burial places in those two family lots should be available for sale to whoever wants one.
In February 2016 by motion the Romney City Council rescinded an earlier vote and voted to not sell to Mr. Saville part of the historic site (see background links below). Since then the town's attorney had fought Mr. Saville's attempt to force sale of the lots. For over 150 years this ground has been a sacred burial place for Hampshire's Confederate soldiers. We now know that
One important point of note is that no one knows if there are any burials in this location. We know that the cemetery contains more burials than we have markers for, and during the Civil War more soldiers could have been buried here! One of the points in the long range plan submitted for this area (see Preservation Plan at bottom of this page) is to have ground penetrating radar and other modern technologies used to investigate this area. The sale would preclude that. It should be noted that there are 12 unknown soldiers buried in the Town's plots. This tells us that burial of soldiers during the war was problematic.
The ordinance of the Romney Historic Landmarks Commission which should hold title to the cemetery lots (although no action was ever taken to properly file a deed), states that the Commission can not dispose of property unless they "insure the proper preservation of the landmark in question"[Article III, Sec 14, A(6)]. To convert a sacred historic burial ground to private use is totally contrary to the spirit and the letter of the law. The Town of Romney has, in our opinion, broken the law! As it stands now we assume that the other burial slots in those two family size lots (10 burials each) are also for sale! View toward lots.
By this sale the Romney City Council has also broken a sacred trust since past generations had expected their descendants to safeguard and pass on to future generations what they made sacred by their sacrifice.
We will endeavor to have this decision reversed, but it is fighting against the "old boy system" and trying to right numerous bad decisions and misrepresentations made along the way. It is also fighting a mentality that places dollars far above our heritage and traditions. We will keep you informed of the progress. However, we do request that you support this effort and let the Mayor of Romney, Beverly Keadle, know how you feel. The Town office's phone number is (304)822-5118. We also hope that many people will show up at City Council meeting to be held Monday, Nov. 6th at 7 p.m. in the Town office. Get involved and let the town government know how you feel.
1st Update: On Monday, November 6, 2017 the Romney Town Council passed a motion to affirm the direction that had been given to the town's attorney to conclude an out-or-court settlement with Mr. Saville. There is still a motion for dismissal that is pending in the case and will be heard on December 21st at 2:30. We hope the judge will hear our arguments and dismiss the settlement and direct the primary parties to go back to trial. Please check back for further information.
2nd Update: On December 7, 2017 a suit was filed in Hampshire County Circuit Court against the Town of Romney contending that the out-of-court settlement agreed to by the Town of Romney and Royce Saville violated what are referred to as the Governmental Proceedings Act and the Open Meeting Act and West Virginia Code §8-12-18(b). The suit seeks injunctive relief prohibiting the transfer of the lots and such further relief as the court may deem appropriate. The law provides that the court may find that any person who willfully and knowingly violates the ... [Act] is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not more than five hundred dollars. We will keep you posted on the progress of this suit.
3rd Update: On August 17, 2018 documents are due to Judge Williams on the request to set aside the settlement and to consolidate our two cases. We will post an update when the judge responds. We assume he will set a hearing date in September or later.
Location of lots sold to an individual for personal use4 lots owned by Town of Romney, Lots in suit are #10 & 11
Grave decoration ceremony showing where Mr. Saville's personal lots will be. They will be just behind the kneeling soldiers blocking the way from the cemetery gate where the soldiers are standing in formation.
Area of sold lots from Google maps
Aerial view of lots
Click to enlarge photo
Map images taken from the map of Indian Mound Cemetery in Hampshire County Map Book 1, Map 22:
Background of lawsuit and Legal References
Mr. Saville's lawsuit stems from his attempt to be buried next to the Confederate burials in the historic Confederate Soldiers Memorial in Indian Mound Cemetery. Below are two articles from the Hampshire Review outlining the origin of the lawsuit he filed in Hampshire County Circuit Court on 9/8/16, Case No. 16-C-70. In this lawsuit Mr. Saville is trying to force the original decision and negate the Council's reversal made after it realized the historic significance of the site.
In the second article below the newspaper made an error in discussing the history of the lots. They mistook Mr. Hall's example of how many cities in America hold historic property in trust for future generations as does our Federal government in the case of National Parks. The example he used was our nearby neighbor Winchester which holds title to several historic sites in that city. Our County also holds title to Camp Walker, the old Confederate Veterans' reunion park near Augusta deeded to the county by the Sons and Daughters of Confederate Veterans.
The last four links are to court documents or ordinances related to the case.
Hampshire Review article of Jan. 6, 2016
Hampshire Review article of Feb. 3, 2016
*Dismissal of suit-ref Ref. Code: 17T42TOH pdf file from https://efile.courtswva.com/ - West Virginia court efile system.
City Ordinances - Click on "Planning and Zoning Ordinance." The Historic Landmarks Commission is covered in Article III. See Sec 14, A (5) & (6) which cover the ownership and sale of historic property.
WV Open Governmental Proceedings Act note §6-9A-4 and §6-9A-7
WV Ethics Commission summary of the Open Governmental Proceedings Act; note "EXECUTIVE SESSIONS" and "ENFORCEMENT and PENALTIES"
Executive Sessions motions & agenda requirements
Rules for speaking at a meeting
Romney Municipal Boundary, 1909Deed Book drawing of Town boundary see Cemetery in lower right just outside of the municipal boundary; this means this historic Hampshire County memorial site is not located within the Town of Romney. (use back button to return here)
Link to Preservation Plan for the SiteAbove preservation plan in pdf format. Right click to save to your computer.
Note: Item #2 deals with these lots. If this had been done, the sale could never have occurred in the first place.
survey for new lot
If you have any documents or photographs concerning the Indian Mound Cemetery or the Confederate Monument which would be of help in our getting this important Hampshire County site on the National Register of Historic Places, please contact us or the Hampshire County Historic Landmarks Commission (304-822-7018)!