Two Catholic Cemeteries
While researching the Irish immigrants buried at the Catholic Cemetery in West Union, I kept finding death records for Irishmen buried at a different Catholic cemetery in Doddridge County on Long Run. After looking online for more information, I found that fellow researchers Danny and Barbara Nicholson had posted on Find-A-Grave the GPS coordinates to St. Ann Catholic Cemetery in Doddridge County. Barbara and Danny have done a fantastic job photographing and documenting over 15,000 burials at findagrave.com.
I visited St. Ann Cemetery, located along the North Bend Rail Trail, for the first time in September 2014. What I found was an abandoned cemetery in deplorable condition. Only a few headstones were visible through the overgrown vegetation. At that time, I had no idea if there had ever been a church there.
When I could not find any records on St. Ann locally, I called Jon-Erik Gilot, Director of Archives & Records at the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. The only information that he had on St. Ann was an excerpt from an unpublished parish history that reads:
“In 1870, part of the cemetery was sold directly to the railroad for the tracks. A Mr. Shaughnessy donated a place called Long Run Grade to the church and a very small church was built on the site and dedicated in October of that same year. Mass was celebrated on Sundays each month by priests traveling from Immaculate Conception, Clarksburg, and even the parishioners arrived at the church by the B&O rail car. Bodies to be interred in the small parish cemetery were also transported by the railroad. Most of the tombstones in Long Run Cemetery belong to immigrants from west Ireland – counties Donegal, Mayo and Galway and names such as Coyne, Conley, Murray, Shaughnessy, Conners and Maloney.”
From this excerpt we know that there was already an active cemetery there before a church was built and dedicated in 1870. The earliest readable headstone in the cemetery is that of John Kirk, who was killed by a falling tree in March 1865.
Honora Conley, the 3 year old daughter of Martin Conley and Bridget Kirk (sister of John Kirk), died in 1863 and is buried at West Union in the Catholic section of what is now Blockhouse Hill Cemetery. I have to believe that if St. Ann was an active cemetery in 1863, Honora would have be buried there instead of in West Union. So I think it’s safe to say that John Kirk is one of the first, if not the first, burial at St. Ann Cemetery.
One thing that is very unusual about St. Ann Cemetery is the extremely low number of infants and children buried there. Out of nearly 60 headstones, only four are for children under the age of ten. Since consumption, scarlet fever, diphtheria, pneumonia and other contagious diseases were common at that time, it is likely that there are several dozen unmarked graves of children buried at St. Ann.
Most births and deaths in the Long Run community were not recorded at the court house, so the exact number of unmarked graves will never be known. Through death records and obituaries, I have identified at least 13 adults buried there with no headstones to mark their passing.
I had asked several people if they had pictures of the church, but after several failed attempts, I had given up hope of ever finding one. That was until I met Nancy Beverlin from Paden City, WV. She came to West Union this summer to discuss her deceased brother’s research collection. When she told me that she had grown up on Long Run, I asked her if she had a picture of St. Ann Church. She told me that she thought her brother, Donald Ramage, had put one in a family newsletter and promised to send me a copy. True to her word, this August I received the newsletter in the mail. I was so excited to finally see and know what happened to St. Ann Church. The newsletter read:
“The church was located directly across the railroad track from the Upper Long Run School on Doddridge County Road 38. As the Upper Long Run Community made a transition back from the Irish railroad workers of the 19th century to the Protestant farmer and Salem glass workers of the 20th century, the Hurst Chapel was built in 1908. There were two churches on Upper Long Run for a time.
The haunting image of the St. Ann Catholic Church in this photo shows the church in its declining years. St. Ann was torn down and the lumber used to build a store building at Industrial. The worshippers joined the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Salem.”
Finally I had all the pieces to the puzzle. Last week my partner and I returned to St. Ann Cemetery to see if we could tell where the church used to sit. I was pleased to see an immaculate cemetery with all the excess vegetation removed. From the current photo, you can see exactly where the church was located and all of the open space where others are probably buried.
In the case of St. Ann Church and Cemetery, no one person had all the answers. I am able to tell you this story only because of the efforts of Danny and Barbara NIcholson, Jon-Erik Gilot, Nancy Beverlin, and the late Donald Ramage. I am grateful to all of them for their part in documenting our history and sharing it with me.
Another thing that I want to share with you is the reason Nancy Beverlin came to West Union this summer. She and a few family members were looking for a repository for her brother’s research material, most of which pertains to Doddridge County history and genealogy. They visited several locations in West Virginia, but I am very happy to report that they decided to donate the entire Donald Ramage collection to the Doddridge County Library. This collection is massive and will take the library staff a couple of months to catalogue. I am very much looking forward to reviewing his material and sharing Donald Ramage’s life-work with you.
And finally, I would sincerely like to thank the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Salem for their hard work in reviving and maintaining St. Ann Cemetery. It is a piece of local history we can’t afford to lose.
(NOTE: This article, written by Heritage Guild member Jennifer Wilt, originally appeared in The Doddridge Independent as part of her weekly column “Our Heritage: The REAL History of Doddridge County.”)
History of St. Ann Catholic Church and Cemetery at Long Run
Growing up in Sedalia, I went to school with kids from the Long Run community. Long Run Road starts near Sherwood, Doddridge County, and ends in Salem, Harrison County. I have fond memories of the families from Long Run. I remember Mrs. Law always talking about goin’ fishin’. My childhood friend Rondel Lattea’s parents were on the PTA with my mom and dad. Some other family names that I remember from that area are Starkey, Pratt, Hayes and Francis. It wasn’t until recently that I learned about the rich Irish history of that community.
Irish immigrants started pouring into Doddridge County in 1852 with the construction of the Grafton-to-Parkersburg branch of the B&O Railroad. In 1850 there was just one Irish-born resident in Doddridge County, but by 1860 their number had grown to 281.
Many of the Irishmen at Long Run in 1860 were the men who cut the trees, quarried the stone, dug the tunnels and laid the tracks that led to the opening of the Northwestern Virginia Railroad, later called Parkersburg railroad, in 1857. According to census records, the Irish immigrants living on Long Run in 1860 were the Boyle, Devaney, Flaherty, Francis, Gaffney, Kenna, Kiene, Kirk, Madden, Maloney, Moran, Shaughnessy, Waters, and Whalen families.
Many of the workers moved on as the railroad was being built, but some stayed behind to become the watchmen, repairmen, telegraph operators and engineers working on the railroad. The Irish families responsible for keeping the railroad running were the Boyle, Conley, Coyne, Farrahar, Flaherty, Gaffney, Hanafy, Hession, Hopkins, Kirk, Maloney, Moran, Shaughnessy, Welch, and Whalen families.
Photo from the Donald Ramage Collection