Saving History Saturday: Historic West Virginia Family Cemetery To Be Restored

Nestled near the historic communities of Leetown and Kearneysville, West Virginia, sits an old family cemetery. If you are familiar with some of the counties in the Eastern Panhandle, such as Jefferson and Berkeley, you know the area is scattered with prominent historic structures and cemeteries. Some of the most notable structures include the homes of General Horatio Gates and many members of the Washington family.

With historic structures and cemeteries galore in the region, restorations and rehabilitations are frequent projects, especially for the Jefferson County Historic Landmarks Commission. Just announced this week, the Landmarks Commission received a $5,000 grant to restore a local family cemetery, which has a Civil War veteran buried there.

The sad condition of the Coyle Family Cemetery shows the importance of quickly restoring the grounds. Courtesy of Danyel VanReenan.

The Eastern West Virginia Community Foundation donated the $5,000 to fund the Coyle Cemetery Stone Wall Rehabilitation Project. According to the Landmarks Commission, the cemetery’s historic stone wall’s structural integrity had been compromised by none other than groundhogs. They hope to repair the stone wall, realign headstones, level the ground, and provide better access to the cemetery.

This charcoal portrait of Joseph Coyle is shown here. Courtesy of the Coyle Family.

The cemetery’s past is representative of many small, slave-holding families in the region. Over thirty members of the Coyle family are buried there, including three slaves. One member of the family served in the 12th Virginia Cavalry. Joseph C. Coyle served in Company A until 1864, when he returned home to tend to the family farm. Soon after, as members of Mosby’s Rangers rode near the Coyle homestead, they recruited Joseph to assist them in locating Federal cavalry in the area. Near Bunker Hill, West Virginia, the detachment was ambushed, leaving Joseph with a mortal head wound. He died that same day, on March 27, 1864. Another member of the family buried there is Joseph O. Coyle, who served in the Mexican War.

Hopefully, the funding is able to save and preserve the Coyle Family Cemetery in this historic region. There may not be presidents or generals buried there, but this cemetery show the importance of saving local history – and local stories. In the words of the Landmarks Commission, “This is a family cemetery with local people buried here. We should preserve local people and memories or else the community will forget about it.”

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