Historical society proposes cemetery changes

PARKERSBURG – Proposals for changes at the Wood County Poor Farm Cemetery to make maintenance easier and improve burial recording-keeping were submitted to the Wood County Commission.

In 1864 the Overseers of the Poor purchased about 300 acres of the former Kincheloe property to establish a farm to care for the indigent of the county. Many of the burial records for the cemetery were lost when the infirmary at the poor farm was destroyed by fire in 1950. The county-owned cemetery is in the parking lot of West Virginia University at Parkersburg.

Bob Enoch with the Wood County Historical and Preservation Society told commissioners the society has attempted to document the poor farm burials.

“It’s been difficult because of poor record-keeping in the past,” he said. “We would like to bring in an expert to make some suggestions to improve record-keeping. Right now it’s basically just written down on a legal pad. It’s important this be done properly so it will last forever,” Enoch said.

County maintenance crews are responsible for maintenance/upkeep of the cemetery.

“In order to make their job a little easier, we are suggesting you make it a rule that new stones need to be at ground level so the mower can cross over them to reduce the need for time consuming weeding,” Enoch told commissioners.

Enoch also suggested signage be erected to let those placing flowers or flags on gravesites for special occasions know those items will be removed two weeks after the event.

“There have been white crosses placed on some of the gravesites since the 1970s and they require a lot of maintenance,” Enoch said, noting other graves are marked with upright headstones as monuments.

He proposed the commission consider having concrete stones, which Enoch said are relatively inexpensive, be placed as headstone markers instead of larger monument style markers, at least on the new graves. He showed the commissioners a sample of such a concrete marker. Enoch said the society is willing to cover the cost of some of some of the stones, and with the county’s permission, the group could apply for grant funding for the project.

“I can see merit in what you are saying,” commission President Wayne Dunn said.

“It sounds like a great idea,” Commissioner Steve Gainer said.

In the fall of 2012, a monument was erected to honor those buried at the cemetery. The historical society raised the funds for the monument.

County officials said for indigents buried at the county cemetery, the county pays about $250 for burial and the plot and the state pays about $1,250 to reimburse for interment.