Numerous families can track their roots to this serene locale tucked off the side of the road — it’s the final resting place for Hoffmans, Plantses and Taylors, to name a few. Some graves date back to the 1870s, while others were installed within the past 10 years.
And each grave, regardless of size or age, features a proper marker that acknowledges the person buried there.
That’s how the graves at Eddy Chapel Cemetery are now, but it certainly wasn’t the case a year ago when two local women took on a project to identify more than 100 graves that were without proper markers.
Mildred Whittington of Gallipolis Ferry and Betty Taylor, who grew up in Mason County but currently lives in Logan, Ohio, said they decided to research the graves and some local history because of their own personal ties to the cemetery and its neighboring church, Eddy Chapel. And despite initial discouragement from family members who said the two women would never be able to track down the information they needed, they persevered.
What they found quickly turned into a labor of love.
Taylor said the two originally discussed installing grave markers a couple of years ago, but financial constraints caused the project to stall. In February of 2008, however, they received some monetary support to begin purchasing markers from a supplier in Cross Lanes, and beginning last summer they spent several long hours transporting the markers to the cemetery and performing the manual labor required to properly install them on each unmarked grave, 118 in all.
They also did their research. Taylor and Whittington have books, lists, original deeds and a mountain of other material they used to ensure proper identification of the graves.
They were both quick to point out that the project would not have gone as smoothly as it did if it hadn’t been for the meticulous records kept by the late Nina Duff, whose hand-written notes became a vital tool in the women’s efforts. They described Duff as knowing everything about everybody — “Nina knew every time a grasshopper crossed the road,” Taylor said with a smile — and said her precise records of the burial plots quickly became their go-to guide for the project.
Other volunteers also helped, including Rick Mowrey, Lacey Taylor, Jesse and Alisha Taylor and Dale and Becky Taylor. Financial support to get the project moving came from Dale and Becky Taylor, Vernon and Bette Plants and the Plants Family Reunion Fund.
The overall goal, as Whittington pointed out, is to help preserve history.
“We know when we’re gone, the next generation’s not going to be interested in this or even know where (the graves) are,” she added.
Taylor agreed, saying that in addition to the contribution they made in terms of preserving history, she enjoyed the fellowship exhibited during the project.
“Everybody brought food, so when we finished (for the day) we sat on the church steps and (talked),” she said.
It’s a fitting sentiment for a church that was known for bringing families together. Taylor said Eddy Chapel Church, which is located along Ten Mile Creek Road in Leon, was built in 1871. At that time, it was the only church in that area, so numerous families attended it because of the central location. John Plants, Taylor’s great-grandfather, was one of the initial committee members when the church was established and now is buried in the cemetery. Likewise for many of Whittington’s family members, which is part of the reason the project was one so near and dear to the women’s hearts.
Whittington estimated that nearly 300 graves now are in the cemetery, and people continue to be buried there. In fact, she said the grounds have been expanded three times to allow for growth.
Both women agreed that the project was one they enjoyed and said they hope to generate interest among others to take on similar tasks. And in a county that has almost too many cemeteries to count — “There are little cemeteries on private properties all over the place,” Whittington pointed out — the amount of work could be endless.
Taylor said they also hope to drum up additional financial support, adding that the work they did was financed completely by private donations but more money will be needed in the future to maintain the cemetery and church. She said she’d be happy to offer information to others interested in similar projects in their own church cemeteries, and she’s especially interested in speaking to anyone with information regarding Mount Zion Cemetery, which is where her mother is buried.
Taylor can be reached at 740-746-8804, while Whittington can be contacted at 304-576-2242.