POINT PLEASANT — To date, with your help, the Mason County Historical and Preservation Society has documented over 120 cemeteries across our county.
Some are quite large, such as Lone Oak Cemetery in Point Pleasant or Kirkland Cemetery near Lakin. Others are quite small, such as the Clendenin Cemetery in a little-traveled corner of the TNT Area. However, most fall somewhere in the middle, like Brown Cemetery in Hartford and Bruce Chapel Graveyard near Gallipolis Ferry. But no matter their size, every cemetery contains the graves of men, women, and children who were once important members of their community. I always say that every grave has a story, but this applies to entire cemeteries as well. Let’s use Brown Cemetery in Hartford as an example.
Beginning in 1858, the cemetery began as the private burial ground for the family that owned the surrounding land, the Browns. I’m sure that the head of the family, Major Brown, chose the site for the view, as it overlooks his entire property. Major Brown, his wife, most of their children, and a few grandchildren were eventually buried in the family plot. However, families come and go. As the younger Browns decided to leave Hartford, so went their need for the family cemetery, and it was opened to the community. For the next 100 years, Brown Cemetery was one of two cemeteries for the town of Hartford, with the other being Welsh Baptist Cemetery on Hartford Hill. Almost everybody who lived and died in town was buried in one of these cemeteries. Here are just a few of the burials at Brown Cemetery.
Morgan J. Banks (1866-1906) was a mail clerk for the Ohio River Railroad.
William Coleman (1844-1904) was a soldier in the Civil War, serving in the 4th WV Cavalry, and worked in the local salt furnace.
Charles Eggenschwiller (1825-1892) was a Swiss immigrant who worked as a clerk for the Hartford Salt Company. He’s buried next to his wife and son.
Jonas Pearl Gibbs (1915-1918) was only 3 years old when he was killed by the Spanish Flu. His younger brother, James, was also killed by the flu and is buried nearby.
Cecil Hall (1909-1918) was only 9 years old when he was struck by a train. He’s buried next to multiple family members.
Laura Knight (1860-1940) was a school teacher, and she’s buried next to her parents.
Harry Smith (1892-1948) was also a soldier in World War I, but was killed by a mine collapse at the Hartford Mine. He’s buried next to his parents and multiple siblings, many of whom just have a simple concrete marker.
Gladys Stone (1894-1899) was only 5 years old when her dress accidentally caught fire while playing with matches. She’s buried next to her father, steamboat captain Nicholas Stone.
All of these people were somebody’s husband, wife, son, daughter, neighbor, or co-worker, and they all tell us something about life in their town. The Brown Family, Morgan Banks, William Coleman, Charles Eggenschwiller, and Harry Smith tell us that some of the
largest industries in the area were the salt furnaces, coal mines, railroads, and steamboats. In addition, Eggenschwiller tells us that immigrants lived and worked in Hartford, attracted by the work guaranteed by the salt industry. Cecil Hall tells us that in 1918, there was little regulation surrounding the railroads. In fact, just after his death, the speed limit for trains in Hartford was lowered. Laura Knight reminds us that prior to WWII, female teachers were expected to remain unmarried in order to give more time to teaching. Jonas and James Gibbs tell us of a time before vaccines when anyone was vulnerable to diseases that seem little more than a nuisance today. Finally, Gladys Stone tells us that in the late 19th century, fatal accidents were a semi-regular occurrence.
If you ever want to learn more about the history of your town, spend some time in your local cemetery. You’ll be surprised at what you can find.
Information for this article, from death records and headstones. The next meeting of the Mason County Historical and Preservation Society will be Feb. 17th at 6:30 at the New Haven Library.
Chris Rizer is president of the Mason County Historical and Preservation Society.