Wayne County family is bringing historic cemeteries back to life for loved ones


Wayne County,W.Va. (WOWK) There are a number of small, rural cemeteries across West Virginia, and many of them date back to the 19th Century. Over time some have become forgotten and overgrown,  but one family is trying to bring some dignity back to a few in Wayne County, and in the process the family has uncovered some hidden history that they hope attracts some volunteers along the way. 

The Fairview Cemetery in Wayne County has a long and storied history. It is the final resting place of war veterans and others that dates back to the 19th century, but the Rowe family said just a few months ago, no one would’ve known it was a cemetery.

“There were probably small trees and stuff that were 15 -20 feet high. . .all growed in and just couldn’t see anything down here,” said Paul Rowe. 

He also said the poor conditions were not only causing the headstones to be hidden, but also damaged, including a more than ten foot tall 19th Century headstone belonging to Milton J Ferguson that he repaired. 

“We brought it back up and glued this last piece on, and just put it all back together,” said Paul Rowe. 

He said along with cutting down overgrown trees and bushes , and cleaning up leaves, he has probably repaired about six headstones at the cemetery. 

Robin Rowe said in the process of cleaning up the cemetery they found her great, great, great grandfather Solomon Rowe. 

“I had walked around this cemetery for two years looking for this, and finally my aunt[Carolyn Rowe] found it, and that is when we started cleaning it up,” said Robin Rowe. 

The Rowe family has been cleaning up the Fairview Cemetery since October, and in the process of cleaning it up, they were able to uncover some family history they didn’t know they had. 

Robin Rowe said of the 220 graves that are at the cemetery, she has found out that more than 170 trace back to her family, and she has been doing research on them to learn more about them.

Carolyn Rowe said the process of them cleaning up the cemetery started with their own frustration on not being able to find their own relatives due to the poor conditions. She said Fairview does have a caretaker but the conditions might of been overwhelming for the person, so they started helping out.

Outside of Farview the family also cleans up six other cemeteries that are in need of help: Wellman, Thompson, Beaire, Webb, Loar, and Frank Rowe. 

Carolyn Rowe said she hopes their work allows other families to visit loved ones without obstruction, and it encourages others to help out and volunteer. 

“There have been people that have reached out to me from all over the place. . .  and saying ‘thank you for finding my my relatives’ and ‘we had no idea where they were buried here’,” said Carolyn Rowe. 

Paul Rowe said they do the work out of their own generosity and don’t ask for anything in return, but he said some people have offered donations to help them cover their out-of-pocket costs. 

Anyone interested in learning more about the Rowe’s family work or wants to help out can contact Carolyn Rowe on the Wayne County WV Genealogy Facebook page.

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