AmeriCorps Members Clean up Historic Cemetery

By Jennifer, Preserve WV AmeriCorps

On Monday, January 19th, thirteen AmeriCorps members and eight community volunteers worked together to clean the Seventh Day Baptist (SDB) section of the Blockhouse Hill Cemetery in Doddridge County, WV. Prior to our project, most of the headstones could not be seen through the high grass and brush. The cemetery had not received any regular maintenance for at least 20 years. We leveled and stabilized over 35 headstones and foot stones. Dozens of buried markers that had been hidden for decades were unearthed. Eight mounds of brush were cut and stacked for future disposal.

In preparation, the Blockhouse Hill Cemetery Association paid a contractor to mow the cemetery. They also bought the 20 bags of sand and gravel that were used to level the headstones. A local restaurant, the Bee Hive, and the Doddridge County Historical Society donated pizza, coffee and water for lunch.

The SDB portion of the Blockhouse Hill Cemetery is considered Doddridge County’s pioneer cemetery. A few of the more notable citizens buried there are Nathan Davis (founder of West Union and a captain in the War of 1812), Lewis Maxwell (Congressman), Judge Chapman J Stuart (responsible for naming West Virginia), George Revels (black civil war veteran), Samuel J Cupp (confederate soldier), William J Maulsby (union soldier), Captain John Carroll (union soldier) and Joseph Cheuvront (physician and merchant).

The cemetery sits on the site of the original SDB church that was built ca 1800. The DAR erected a monument in 1925 stating that the church was there from 1792 until 1832. I believe this to be an error, because after much research, the earliest I can place any SDB member living in Doddridge County (then Harrison County) is in 1802. The SDB Church in Salem, erected before the one on Blockhouse Hill, was not even built until 1796. A tornado in 1833 razed the hewed-log church and another tornado in 1837 killed a father and daughter, both who are interred at the cemetery.

Blockhouse Hill is a historical and cultural asset to the 8,300 citizens who currently live in Doddridge County. Not only are our foundering fathers buried here, but many of the families that live in Doddridge County today can trace their roots back to those resting in this long-forgotten cemetery. There is still a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done, but thanks to AmeriCorps’ help, we can now efficiently and safely assess what repairs need to be made.

Our endeavors uncovered many exciting finds:
• We unearthed a memorial slab for the Dawson family (5 children and the father) who died in a house fire in 1856. We knew that it was somewhere in the cemetery, because it was documented in Hardesty’s 1883 ‘History of Doddridge County’.
• We cut away the trees and brush that were obscuring the monument of Chapman J Stuart, the man responsible for naming West Virginia.
• We discovered the headstone of a union civil war soldier who was completely unknown to any genealogist or local historian.
• The most important improvement of the day was the clearing of Lewis Maxwell’s plot. He was a Congressman, the richest man in WV (in his day), a lawyer and the founder of Weston and Jane Lew. The area where Blockhouse Hill is located was once called ‘Lewisport’ in his honor. His monument was placed at the edge of the hill, overlooking the old Northwestern Turnpike.

Thank you so much to all the AmeriCorps members and community volunteers that helped.

Alicia Blake (The Education Alliance)
Ali Linville (Lifebridge)
Robert Wolfe (Preservation Alliance of West Virginia)

Kristen Richards (The Education Alliance)
Nicole Marrocco (Preservation Alliance of West Virginia)
Andrew Thomas (Preservation Alliance of West Virginia)
Joe Obidzinski (Preservation Alliance of West Virginia)
Chelsea Elliott (Preservation Alliance of West Virginia)
Raven Thomas (Preservation Alliance of West Virginia)
Carlee Dulaney (Preservation Alliance of West Virginia)
Crystal Wimer (Preservation Alliance of West Virginia)
Devon Scanlon (Preservation Alliance of West Virginia)
Ila Foley (Literacy Volunteers of Monongalia and Preston Counties)
Gilbert Neely (Doddridge County Historical Society)
Patti Harris (Doddridge County Historical Society)
Sherri Harris (Doddridge County Historical Society)
Rennie Brown (Doddridge County Historical Society)
Roxanne Fritz (Starting Points)
Raine Fritz (DCMS)
Eric Bee (Community member)


3 responses to “AmeriCorps Members Clean up Historic Cemetery

  1. What a great project. There are so many old cemeteries not being cared for and this is inspirational. If you can inform us how to develop s plan and get help for a project like this it would be so helpful. Thanks

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