Many of the larger cemeteries in Mason County date to just before the American Civil War (1861-1865). Of course, we’ve had people here for much longer than that. The Roush family, as just one example, has been here since the 1790s. However, in the early years, many people were buried in small cemeteries on the family farm. Some of these are still in use. It wasn’t until the 1850s, when the towns really began to grow, that larger community cemeteries started forming. During this time, we see the first burials at Beale Chapel in Gallipolis Ferry, Lone Oak in Point Pleasant, Odd Fellows in Mason, and Brown in Hartford. Capehart Cemetery in New Haven is no exception.
Based on the name, you’d think that this was the Capehart family cemetery. I’ll admit that I was fooled at first. There’s certainly a lot of Capeharts buried there. Among the other last names are Bumgarner, Cundiff, Fields, Graham, Lee, Nicholson, Roush, and Turley, with a few others scattered throughout. We all know the joke that everyone in the upper half of Mason County is a Roush somehow or another, so it could easily seem like a big family cemetery. However, some more digging showed that I was wrong.
Before the town of New Haven was formed, a guy named Henry Capehart owned most of the land. The Capeharts, originally spelled either Gabbert or Kephart, were another of the German families that came to our area from the Shenandoah Valley. His land was bordered to the north by the Siegrist and Weaver families, to the east by the Bumgarners, Roushes, and Zerkles in the Dutch Flats, and by the town of Hartford to the south. As Hartford expanded, the salt industry sought more land on the upper side of Sliding Hill. They bought that land from Henry Capehart, who also realized that a new salt furnace would require a new town. He began developing his land, building houses and attracting merchants. Soon enough, the town was booming. However, for our purposes, the most important detail is that he also set aside the land for a cemetery on the hill overlooking his town. Because it was his land, the Capehart family would always have their own free plots, but other families could buy their own plots if they wished. Brown Cemetery in Hartford operated under the same setup.
The first known burial in the new cemetery was Margaret Rogers on June 14, 1854. She was only 16 when she died and was followed only six months later by her older sister, Rozetta, and mother, Sarah. It isn’t known how they died, but because the dates are so close, it’s likely that disease struck the family. The final burial, Margaret Capehart, was three months shy of 90 years later.
The oldest person buried there is Henry Capehart himself, born in 1800. He lived through the War of 1812, the Civil War, 19 presidents, the formation of West Virginia, and so much more. Not to mention, he was essentially the founder of New Haven. The same can be said for his wife, Mary Hogg. She was the granddaughter of Revolutionary War veteran and original Mason County land grantee Peter Hogg.
There’s also quite a few veterans buried in Capehart. During the Civil War, Calvin Bumgarner served in the 2nd and 4th West Virginia Infantries, John Nicholson and John Stephenson both served in the 13th West Virginia Infantry, and Sam Findlay served in the 103rd Pennsylvania Infantry. Norman Ellsworth Lee is another veteran buried there. He enlisted in the 72nd Infantry during World War I, but he was killed by the Spanish Flu while en route to France. He died thee days before my three-times great uncle, Jerry Dailey, who served in the same regiment and was buried at Brown Cemetery.
Altogether, there’s roughly 100-150 graves and nearly 200 years of history represented at Capehart Cemetery. We plan on giving this cemetery the respect that it deserves through an upcoming cleanup, starting on July 5 if the weather cooperates. As you can see from the photo, the undergrowth isn’t bad. It’s mostly trees. So, if you have a chainsaw and could help, or know someone that could, please help us clear out this historic cemetery! The town of New Haven has already agreed to maintain the cemetery for Memorial Day each year once we finish the initial cleanup, so we are ready to go.
The next meeting of the Mason County Historical and Preservation Society will be at 6 p.m. on Monday, July 16, at Roseberry Plantation in Point Pleasant. We will be discussing ongoing projects, potential upcoming projects, and our future location before ending with a tour of the historic home.
Information from Mildred Gibbs’ “History of New Haven” and Volume 1 of the Mason County Cemetery Inscriptions.
Chris Rizer is president of the Mason County Historical and Preservation Society.