Peaceful, Bucolic Woodlawn park
Above: Peaceful Bucolic Woodlawn Park, an Oasis in the Center of Fairmont

Conditions at historic Woodlawn Cemetery continue to show vast improvement

Times West Virginian
May 27, 2011

"As Memorial Day weekend approaches, the Times West Virginian is happy to report that conditions at Fairmont’s historic Woodlawn Cemetery continue to show vast improvement.

"It was just three years ago that the cemetery grounds were in deplorable condition. Two sides were fighting bitterly to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals over control of the cemetery, which was established in 1875. Families venturing to visit graves of their loved ones in many cases were forced to walk through unmowed grass and waist-high weeds to reach sites that were virtually obscured.

"When the new trustees took control of the grounds in 2008, improvements began. Those laid to rest there and their families started to get the respect and dignity they so richly deserve.

"A visit to Woodlawn Cemetery’s 42 acres today shows a significant portion of the grounds freshly mowed and neatly trimmed right up to the hundreds of grave markers and monuments. Preparations are clearly under way to continue the work in other parts of the cemetery. There are no signs of the total neglect that was so rampant in the not-too-distant past.

"Hats off to all responsible — and it has been particulary impressive job on the rolling hills of the cemetery this very wet spring.

"The Father of West Virginia is buried there—Francis Pierpont, the governor of the Restored State of Virginia... His wife, Julia, who is credited as the founder of what is now Memorial Day, is buried at his side.

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A few of our woodland friends
We accept ALL help!
Three deer browsing
These little guys try, but they're just not very efficient. They are cute, though.


More Questions?

Q: When are you going to mow?
A:  Generally we begin mowing in late March or early April, and continue to mow Monday through Friday until late September or early October. We have 42 ½ acres and part-time grounds-men. There is also a good amount of close work around the stones and on the banks and other steep places where we can’t use a riding mower

Q:  I sent you a donation. Why isn’t my lot mowed?
A:  Thank you for your donation. If we mowed only those lots of people who sent in a donation, we would have a giant patchwork quilt and some sections of the cemetery would never be mowed. While you are concerned with only your lot, we are concerned with over 10,000. We can’t guarantee your lot will have been mowed on any given day you happen to stop by the cemetery. However, it will be mowed. If you want a dedicated staff to mow just your lot, perhaps you should consider hiring someone. You are always more than welcome to come in and mow or clip it yourself.

Q:  When are you going to pave the roads?
A:  Mowing is our first concern. Our money and our energy are concentrated on keeping the grass down over the mowing season. The worst spots on the roadways have recently been paved as part of our ongoing restoration of the cemetery.

Q:  How can I find my relative?
A:  If you provide some information, we will be happy to help you look. There is a $25 charge for this service. We have maps of   every section and we have handwritten ledgers beginning in 1886. We have compiled over 7,000 names into a database and have uploaded the information to You could start there. If your relative died prior to 1920, they may not have made it into the database yet. We are continuing to add names to the data base and will upload a revised database when we have made significant progress.

Q:  How can I get a picture of my relative’s headstone?
A:  Check and  If your relative’s stone is not on either site, let us know and we will get a picture for you.

Q:  How can I find the grave of a baby who died and is buried there? Why don’t you know where they are?
A:  Young infants are problematical. We have Babyland, areas of the cemetery which are not big enough to accommodate full adult burials. Infants and toddlers are usually buried in these areas. Marking the graves of young infants doesn’t always happen. A young family may not have the means to purchase a stone. The family may move out of the area. The painful loss may be too much for the family to bear, so they put it out of their minds. Some infants are buried on family lots and are recorded simply as Infant of (their father’s or parents’ names).

Q:  I have relatives entombed in Woodlawn Abbey. How can I get in?
A:  Keys can be borrowed from their Trustee at WesBanco in downtown Fairmont. Some members of the Board of Trustees also have access to keys. If you call ahead, we can have the Abbey opened for you.

Q:  How can I help?
A:   If you live in Fairmont or the immediate area, you are welcome to bring a mower or weed eater and pitch in to help with the mowing. If you are a student, check with your teachers to see if you can do community service for a class. We always need help picking up sticks and other trash on the grounds. You can adopt a grave or a lot. It doesn’t have to be a family member or a relative. In our historic district, many of the graves have no family in the immediate area. All their relatives have died out or moved away. Headstones become loose from their bases, may need a new foundation, have fallen over, or been broken into several pieces. Some have sunk into the ground. It costs money to have these repaired. We have one church group that has undertaken the clearing and care of an entire section. Perhaps your church, school, club or scout troop would be interested in helping out. Our schedule is very flexible. 

Q:  What are you going to do about the old building at the gate?
A:  This "old building" is the original chapel and residence of the caretaker. We are in the midst of restorations. Final useage plans are incomplete. We need corporate donations, grants, fundraisers, and other methods to raise the capitol to complete the many projects.          


Additional Questions?
David Smith, Board President 304.612.4317
Nancy Bickerstaff, Board Member 304.366.3231

> Join the Friends of Historic Woodlawn Cemetery <

"According to the Marion County Historical Society, the Pierponts stayed in what is now known as West Virginia during the Civil War from 1861 to 1865. They then moved to the Governor’s Mansion in Richmond, Va., where he served as governor from 1865 through 1868. While in Richmond, Julia was part of an effort to decorate the graves of the Union soldiers buried in Hollywood Cemetery, overlooking Richmond. These graves were dismal and neglected — just as those at Woodlawn three years ago...

"The [Pierpont grave] site is recognized with a Civil War Marker. Three of their children also lie buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, which is on the Register of National Historic Places.

"Boaz Fleming, who established what is now Fairmont, is among the other leaders buried there, including Gov. M.M. Neeley and Gov. A. Brooks Fleming. Coal magnates James Otis Watson and Clyde E. Hutchinson, who owned the predecessors of Consol Coal Co., are interred at Woodlawn.

"Proper maintenance of cemeteries—from Woodlawn to community and family graveyards—is a way of honoring and preserving our past. We salute the strong effort by everyone from top officials to community volunteers that continues every day of the year.

OUR OBLIGATION: We are all in agreement that our burial grounds deserve respect and maintence to honor those who came before us. We don't believe that any family should have to walk through rough waist-high weeds to place flowers on a grave hidden from plain sight. And that was the situation only several years ago.

Cemeteries are a physical manifestation of our past—who we were, how we came to be, how far we've come. Honoring and preserving our past is an obligation we have as a society.

We applaud those who roll up their sleeves, whether it be at Woodlawn or some other community or family graveyard, and put in an enormous amount of effort to maintain burial grounds in honor of families and their lost loved ones. It is a commitment that many volunteers take on every day of the year. And Woodlawn welcomes any volunteers. Maintaining this vast park is an enormous project and a huge responsibility.

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