Monday, February 6, 2012
Before the cemetery opened, many of the area's dead were buried in the East Wheeling Cemetery, including the Zanes family, founders of the city of Wheeling. However, westward expansion was in full bloom, and the area was prime real estate for the railroad. Despite protests from the town, the location of the East Wheeling Cemetery was sold on May 1, 1854 to make room for a B&O railroad right of way. Bodies from the cemetery were spread out to a number of different places. More prominent families seemed to choose the new Mt. Wood Cemetery, while the Peninsula Cemetery readied itself to receive the bulk of the unclaimed bodies. Unclaimed bodies were reinterred in the upper end of the cemetery, which became a Potter's Field.
The potter's field area of Peninsula Cemetery saw much more action over the years. In the 1890s, a smallpox epidemic swept through the area, and many of its victims were buried in the potter's field. Then, in the 1920s, the old Sixteenth Street Cemetery fell out of decomission, and again, bodies were reinterred here.
At 22 acres, the Peninsula Cemetery was at one time the third largest cemetery in the city. However, according to a 1946 newspaper article, at that time, all available spaces in the cemetery were full, and although a caretaker worked dilligently to keep up the newer section, the potter's field was severely neglected.
Perhaps it was this neglect that caused the initial manifestation of the cemetery's ghostly inhabitant. Visitors to the cemetery have witnessed a woman wearing a black cape, standing over a grave which is presumably her own. She is only seen in the older section of the cemetery, and has been known to chase visitors out. Is she upset that the city let her grave fall into disrepair, or is she simply trying to keep vandals from causing further damage to her final resting spot?
There is some confusion with the name of this cemetery, beyond its simple Peninsula vs. Foundry Cemetery monikers. Some sources say that the nearby Tunnel Green (formally, the Hempfield Tunnel) runs under a section of this cemetery, or a different cemetery with the same name. The bodies were SUPPOSED to have been moved, but never were, and railroad men perhaps even robbed some of the graves during construction of the tunnel right of way. Please see my entry on Tunnel Green or this listing for a Tunnel Green geocache for more info, and if any locals have any information to clear this up, please let me know!
*Note: The link to the newspaper article above mentions an interesting tombstone inscription for a unique slave burial. Check it out!
Photo from Mark Browning, Find-a-Grave contributor