Sunday, September 9, 2012

Genealogy Road Trip | McVay Cemetery

My sister Courtney joined me for a three-day genealogy road trip in June 2012. I am writing a series of posts that shared the stories and sights of our adventure. This is Part 9.
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Once Courtney was comfortable with the temperamental four-wheeler, we were ready to set off. We had shared the copy of the map my cousin had provided that showed the path she had taken to find the cemetery with Mr. Burkhart and he told us that it would be easier if we cut through the pasture and then followed the horse path that went to the top of the hill and to the McVay Cemetery (as he called it).

We took his advice and Courtney drove us across the pasture through the tall grass that was swaying to the wind. It was a peaceful ride and all too soon we were slowing down so that we could dip down into the nearly dry creek bed. After navigating through the creek, we started to climb higher and higher up the trail.

Click on photo above to view a larger image size.
The higher we climbed, the steeper it got. So steep in fact, that I was caught off guard while enjoying the view and as a result started slipping off the back of the four wheeler. Acting quickly, I gripped the tie-down rack with all my strength and Courtney gunned it. Thankfully, our actions worked and I refused to release the rack even after the trail started to level into a more gentle slope. Even after nearly falling off, I was still thankful for the four wheeler, as it would have take much longer to make the journey on foot.

After we crested the hill, it felt like we were in a different world. The forest surrounding us opened up to a mystical space that was surrounded by a sun-soaked canopy of trees. Courtney parked the four wheeler along the fence line and disembarked. My eyes first settled on the larger stones at the back of the cemetery before quickly drifting towards the shards of stones that lay at my feet. Everywhere I looked, there were broken and illegible headstones. Some were in the open and easily visible, while others were tucked next to saplings or laying broken in the uneven terrain. It took my breath away and broke my heart.

Click on photo above to view a larger image size.
I had so many questions swirling in my mind as I carefully walked to through the broken down remnants. Who let it get into this state of disrepair? What happened to the descendants of those laid to rest on this hilltop? Why wasn't something done to clean it up before my cousin made it her mission?  I took pictures of several of these stones and have included them below.

Click on photo above to view a larger image size.
Click on photo above to view a larger image size.
Click on photo above to view a larger image size.
Once the initial shock of the condition of the stones wore off, I started making my way towards the back of the cemetery towards the stones that were still standing. The closer I got to the back of the cemetery, the better the condition of the stones. Even with that in mind, some of them were still in really bad shape and were slowly being eaten away by mother nature.

Click on photo above to view a larger image size.
Click on photo above to view a larger image size.
It probably took a good 10-15 minutes for me to snap out of the the instant sadness the condition of these stones put me in. So long that, Courtney had already located the stones of our fourth great-grandparents and had moved on to other members of the extended family. It was easy to find there resting place as their new stone was easily identifiable, even at a distance.

Click on photo above to view a larger image size.
The new stone looked like exactly like the one I had seen in photographs at our family reunions. The only difference was that instead of the two slabs of illegible stone I had viewed in the photos, I was able to see the engravings on the stones in person. Sadly, due to the state they were in, I was not able to ready anything on Jacob's original stone and I was really only able to read Rebecca's name and a few partial bits of dates and words on her original stone.

Click on photo above to view a larger image size.
Click on photo above to view a larger image size.
Even with the limited details on their original stones, I was happy I had made the trek. I know many of my maternal family members would love to see them in person and I am one of the lucky ones who has.

As we walked back to the four wheeler, I couldn't help but think that the majority of the headstones around us were lost as they had no visible identifying markers and would most likely remain unidentified moving forward. I am so thankful that my cousin took the time to not only find, but took the time to coordinate the initial clean-up of this cemetery. If it weren't for her efforts years ago, the location of our ancestors stones might have also been lost to time and mother nature.

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Note: To make the path we took even more clear, I've created a map (shown below) to help others searching for the cemetery. Please make sure to leave time to stop in and see Mr. Burkhart on your way.  If you click on the image below, you will be able to see a larger version and can print it from there if desired.

Click image above to view/print a copy of the route to the cemetery.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder how the cemetery ended up in that particular spot - perhaps there were buildings there or a farmstead nearby or maybe even a church?

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