Cemeteries Under Threat! Help Us Protect Them
Surface mining is expanding around Wise County, threatening more mountain and ridgetops including Ison Rock Ridge, located between the communities of Inman, Derby, Andover, and the Town of Appalachia. The Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards (SAMS) is hurrying to clean up and register neglected and forgotten cemeteries so they can be protected from mining.
Virginia law states that cemeteries must be protected from mining with a 100 foot buffer zone in order to preserve Virginia’s heritage, but many cemeteries have not been officially registered and thus, are currently not being protected by this mandate. As families have moved away from the area the cemeteries have fallen into disrepair and are now threatened by mining. In some areas, such as that within the bounds of the Ison Rock Ridge permit, this summer may be our last chance to find and register cemeteries before they are lost forever.
Why Protect Cemeteries?
So far SAMS has identified four overgrown cemeteries to be cleaned up and registered in Wise County around Appalachia. All of these cemeteries tell stories about the history of this region. One cemetery across from the sawmill on the way between Appalachia and Norton has many children’s graves dated between 1918 and 1920. These graves tell the story of the impact the influenza epidemic had on the region. By getting together and identifying and registering these cemeteries we can ensure our heritage isn’t lost forever.
What is the process?
- Initially SAMS is looking to collate information on cemeteries known to folks in the community.
- Over the summer SAMS will be organizing workdays to clean up the cemeteries we identify.
- The final step is to register them with the DHR (Department of Historic Resources) and alert the DMME (Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy) if they sit within the bounds of a mine permit.
We are hoping to find and register many cemeteries by the end of the summer!
How can you help?
Please share any information you have on the location and history of cemeteries you think might be threatened by surface mining! When you’re chatting with your neighbors ask them if they know of any! Someone from SAMS can come around and help you locate the cemetery on a map or where possible we can go out and look at it together.
We will be announcing the dates for cemetery clean-up days soon. If you’d like to help out or have tools like brush cutters that we can borrow please let us know!
If you would like to help ensure this project extends beyond the summer we’d love you to get more deeply involved in the project by helping register the cemeteries, organize work days and visit people to find out what they know about local cemeteries.
Ison rock cemeteries 2 in a larger map