Monday, February 6, 2012

Peninsula Cemetery

Wheeling's Peninsula Cemetery has a history as fascinating and unique as those entombed within.  Located along the National Road, Peninsula Cemetery, sometimes referred to as Foundry Cemetery because of its close proximity with a WWII-era factory, opened on May 2, 1842.

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!

Find-a-Grave Listing

Photo from Mark Browning, Find-a-Grave contributor

3 comments:

  1. I believe very likely that the graves around the hempfield (tunnel green) tunnel could have been robbed. The tunnel literally runs right under graves. I discovered one grave in particular while i was walking yesterday. I have walked on the new bike trail several times and have noticed that if you are heading west-bound out of downtown wheeling, there was a trail to the right of the tunnel right at the entrance. So out of curiosity and trying to take in a breathtaking view of the city, I took this trail to the top of the hill. And at the top of the hill after fumbling through the thicket, i found an old and forgotten grave. It reads as follows:

    Butler R. Keyes
    Died
    Aug 28, 1885
    Aged
    27 Yrs 3 Mo 14 D

    It is after this discovery that I went to the local library to research about this because it was the only grave that I came across. Upon further research, i found that records do indeed show that Butler Keyes was buried in the Peninsular Cemetary. I believe that if you took I-70 out, the cemetery originally stretched from its current entrance, across the creek, and up the hill to this mans grave. I have no doubt that there are other graves in close proximity with this one that are unmarked or whose stones have been destroyed by man or time. Thank you for the lovely article, it was very informative.

    Sincerely,
    David M. Kehl

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  2. The graveyard above tunnel green is called Manchester Cemetery.. I myself am a medium and lots of your facts to the tunnel are true. The people above Tunnel Green are making their mark on the tunnel and sad that they have been forgotten. From what I can tell they were in a mental home that was once there across the street. They don't appear to be mentally ill though, I think back then, they were just mostly depressed.

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  3. Yea no. Actually when hempfield railroad company moved in they had to make arrangements for a large cemetery that was actually over populated so they downsized it. some bodies were moved to the mount wood cemetery the Manchester if I remember correctly 35 were moved all catholic, the rest remained and it became what we now know as the peninsula cemetery. The land that had bodies removed had factories built on them and there were reports through out the years until closures and still of hauntings and this could be why.

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