|my Great Grandparents
|Rev. William Garrett & Tabitha LITTLE Barnett -Hayters Gap, VA. (Cr:Polly Counts)
|Rev. W.G. Barnett monument
|Barnett Cemetery, Hayters Gap,Va.
Lately the wind seems to have blown me onto a much different trail....or,
perhaps there was a "guiding hand" at work ?
I have found
myself off on a new tangent and become deeply involved with and immersed in same. It all began in May 2008 as I
was doing some genealogical research at the Historical Society of Washington County, VA , (HSWCV),located in Abingdon. While
perusing a book I noted there was a " Barnett Cemetery" in Hayter's Gap. Having never heard of such a cemetery
through my parents, I was curious to see this cemetery as my Great grandparents, Reverend William Garrett & Tabitha
(Little) Barnett were buried there , as was a Great Uncle, Carliss Barnett. Next chance I got, I drove
to Hayters Gap and located the cemetery by asking some locals about it. In the process I learned that this "Barnett Cemetery"
wasn't the one noted in the book High On A Windy Hill Vol.1, as #73, but was a stone's throw
away from the former.
GGgrandparents ,Reverend Alexander & Mary Ann Polly (Helton) Little and members of their family were buried in
#73, as well as my Great uncle Philip Snead Barnett's first wife Ella (Helton) and Chloe Dye -the
daughter of my GreatAunt Ritty (Barnett) Dye.
I went to what I call, "the WmG
Barnett Cemetery" first and noted it had recently been cleared off and fenced by members of the Counts Family,
but weeds had begun to take over again. Lynn (my wife) and, Sonya Jones ( my sister), and I went there and using weed-eaters
, cleaned the cemetery, and leveled up a few graves. We also planted some flowers and replaced a few wooden crosses placed
there by the Counts, as well as made several more , to mark other graves. We have continued to keep this small cemetery cleaned.
The other Barnett Cemetery
, ie #73, was a mess. Small trees had grown allover, limbs hung down and obscured the view, rotten limbs lay scattered
upon the ground and graves, weeds ran rampant, a large cedar tree had fallen across Ella (Helton) Barnett's and Chloe
Dye's graves, many graves were sunken, with honeysuckle vines, periwinkle, and yucca plants running riot. Lynn &
I began by cutting limbs, picking up fallen limbs, cutting brush and small trees, and generally opening up the cemetery -
which was quite large once one could view the overall picture.
Then we broke out the weed-eaters
and went to work. Several hours later we had uncovered many more graves marked only with fieldstones. I noted that Margaret
Jane Hayter's marker was the oldest in the cemetery and, close to it were many of these fieldstone marked
graves...all on the southern end of the cemetery.
The Littles were mostly buried on the western side
and other families were scattered about. Again, there was an area, to the east portion, that was marked mainly by fieldstones.
Lynn & I have continued to keep this cemetery cleared as well, and we have repair work yet to do on the fence that
defines its boundaries.
I soon found out about
another cemetery just up the ridgeline from #73. It had been numbered as #74 in HOWH and buried there
were two Dyes and two Counts. I hiked up there and Ellen M.Dye's marker had fallen over. I
broke my potato rake getting it pried up and eventually got it reset on its base. The cemetery was in deep woods and except
for a few scattered fallen limbs there wasn't much to clear off.
But this is not the end of
my story: it is only the beginning....
I began looking for
and photographing other cemeteries. At first, I merely took pictures of marker names that were in my lines and markers I considered
as interesting. Later I began taking pictures of all markers, if the cemetery wasn't too large. Often this
entailed raking through vines, weeds, brush, and even probing down in sunken graves for fallen markers. I always re-set what
markers I could find and get up, and after a while I began carrying a crowbar so as to pry them up from the ground. When I
had visited about 100 cemeteries I made CDs of the pictures and gave them to the Historical Society.
I continued in my quest for
family members. A quest that often took me on hikes over a mile back in the woods to small overgrown plots established on
high knolls. Having a 4-wheel drive truck was required for some I went to ,which was an adventure in itself. One thing I noted
in common with the majority of these cemeteries: they were in a sad state indeed. Not only unkempt, but markers had been knocked
over, broken, and scattered, usually by a farmer's roaming livestock. At those few that had been fenced, the fence had
given way and allowed cattle in to wreck havoc. Elaborate wrought iron fencing and gates didn't deter them either. Through
the ravages of time and perpetual butting by cattle attempting to scratch an itch, even the wrought iron had fallen. Another
problem also exists: in many cases the roads that once led to these cemeteries are washed out, grown-over, or non-existent,
making it difficult for anyone to have access to them and attempt to maintain their appearence.
The quest for family located in
cemeteries has taken me into neighboring Smyth and Scott counties in VA., as well as Sullivan & Unicoi Counties in
TN. I made another CD and gave it to the Historical Society. By then I had visited 160+ cemeteries. Currently my total stands
at 234 , and I have many more to yet locate and photograph.
Update Jan 2010...400+ cemeteries.
One day a couple of months ago,(April
2009), while at the HSWCV, one of the volunteers, Jane Oakes, said she wanted me to meet John Gregory, who had
assisted with compiling the cemetery readings for High On A Windy Hill, Vol2. Volume
2 was intended to correct errors in Volume 1 and also add additional unlisted cemeteries. In the process some more errors
were made and John was currently involved in the immense project of reprinting/republishing Volume 2, with corrections and
additions, and placing all information into a new volume. John asked me if I would assist him in this undertaking and without
pause I said," yes". I was already hunting cemeteries and taking pictures, the only difference now was - I would be hunting
any & all cemeteries and transcribing the markers' names/dates to paper. It hasn't been that often that I have had
to return to a cemetery to reshoot a marker, so having a picture as a back-up source was a plus.
Which brings me up to today....over a
year has passed since I found one small cemetery that enticed me/inspired me to seek out more. And I have enjoyed every minute
of the search. In the interim I have photographed old houses,barns, mills, animals, plants, creeks, rivers, waterfalls,
icicles, insects, and anything else that demanded bytes on my digital camera. I have met many great people, made new friends,
discovered relatives, and learned my way around most of Washington County, VA.
The downside is the
deplorable condition of so many of these isolated and forgotten cemeteries. Those who rest in these cemeteries were the scribes
of the history of our region and should be afforded more respect and attention.
Then there's the
saddening fact that several cemeteries noted in HOWH Vol.1 no longer exist. In the dark of the
night, someone erased all signs. A mobile home sits upon one and another is someone's grassy front yard. Yet another is a
bed of weeds along I-81 and not a marker can be found. These thieves of our history need be be stopped.
A means needs
to be found to ensure these sacred places are taken care of and barricaded against livestock. It is not the landowner's responsibility
to take care of these cemeteries and ,as in my case: surviving family members may not even be aware of where their ancestors
are buried. Or they are unable due to health reasons , distance, or may not have the means to do so. Perhaps too, there are
no survivors. Whatever the case may be...it is a problem that begs a solution.
|W.G. & Tabitha Barnett Family - Hayters Gap,VA.
|cr: Norma Hite - Gdaughter of Ritty Barnett Dye
l-r back row: Alexander Glytton, Benjamin Anthony, Phillip
Snead, & Thomas Warren
l-r front row: Tiny, Ritty, Caldonia or Cordelia,W.G., Cora
Hessie, Elige, & Tabitha