Friday, March 9, 2012
Riverview Cemetery, Parkersburg
The land on which the cemetery now sits once belonged to a 2400 acre holding belonging to the founder of Parkersburg, Captain Alexander Parker. By the year 1802, Joseph Cook was deeded a 200 acre parcel of that holding, and sat aside a small section for his family cemetery. Because of this, the cemetery is still sometimes referred to in history books and by locals as the Cook Cemetery, although a Cook wasn't the first person buried on this land. Records indicate that the first burial in what is now known as Riverview Cemetery belongs to B.W. Jackson, who died in 1801.
By 1843, Cook's children had inherited the property and set aside one acre encompassing the family plot, to be used as a public burial ground. During this time, the cemetery picked up its name of Riverview Cemetery. By 1925 that one acre plot grew to 2.5 acres, but has since then not grown in size anymore. However, there are reports that slaves were buried in unmarked graves outside of the cemetery proper, and when new development hit that area of Parkersburg, homes were built directly atop of those graves. Some believe that the alleged paranormal activity in nearby buildings is a direct result of former slaves who have had their final resting spots disturbed.
Nevertheless, the recognized 2.5 acres of Riverview Cemetery is home to plenty of ghosts and spooky goings-on itself. Popular legend states that the memorial statuary found within the cemetery has a habit of getting up and walking around on Halloween. The most notable of these statues is the Weeping Woman statue, which watches over the Jackson Family plot.
The Weeping Woman doesn't need Halloween to walk around...all she needs is a full moon at midnight in order to awake from her solid slumber and walk around the cemetery, wringing her hands in mourning for those souls lost during the great War Between the States. If you don't catch her walking around, fear not...the Weeping Woman has another, more uh, verifiable legend surrounding her. It is said that if a woman who is pure of heart comes to the Weeping Woman with a truly unselfish wish, that wish will be granted. I know anecdotal tale of no less than 4 women who claim that touching the Weeping Woman statue resulted in the births of their children less than a year later.
Personally, I plan to stay well away from the Weeping Woman and all her magical powers, lol. I prefer the legend of the Captain's Ghost. Many times during broad day light and even well after the gate is locked for the evening, witnesses have reported seeing a man in a black overcoat hunched over the grave of Captain George Deming, whose former residence is a short walk from the cemetery and another stop on the ghost tours.
Deming was a sea captain, as evidenced by both the style of his home, and the carvings on his tombstone. He was originall from the New Haven area, but in 1861 built himself and child a home in Parkersburg. The Captain died the following year. Directly beside the Captain's grave is a smaller, weathered stone believed to be that of the Captain's young son who possibly died during one of the area's typhoid fever outbreaks. The gentleman in black is believed to be none other than the Captain himself, mourning the loss of his child.
More information on this wonderful cemetery can be found in Susan Sheppard's book, Cry of the Banshee!
The beautiful photo above of the Weeping Woman is from the Haunted Parkersburg website.
Theresa's Note: I've visited this cemetery several times while on the Haunted Parkersburg Ghost Tours. When I went, the cemetery was unfortunately closed because of the large number of trespassers and vandals, and we did not actually enter it. However, the cemetery gates remain open during daylight hours for visitors. I strongly recommend visiting this cemetery if you enjoy ghost stories, but also if you appreciate the rich history of WV. There are many historical figures interred in the cemetery and all but two wars are represented.