23 August 2015

Samuel Carter Cemetery - Part I

Location, Location, Location

Sherry unearthed twelve to fourteen Find-A-Grave photo requests for a "Dempsey Cemetery" which had accumulated multiple cemetery entries, each with the same name but different locations. Tangled among the requests was rhetoric about the exact location of the cemetery, members debating between Raleigh County and Fayette County as the most likely site. After reviewing the burial data and list of possible interments, a Fayette County location seemed reasonable, even with one entry proclaiming a Raleigh County burial.  The mystery heightened and the search for the "Dempsey Cemetery" began.

She found a note in Rootsweb which says:
Samuel Carter Cemetery on Dempsey Branch (Laurel Creek) behind Doggett Chapel, Fayette County, West Virginia
The ones we found in the database were:

One death certificate included in the search stated "Epperly Cemetery", which after a documentation review hinted to Kanawha County being a more likely spot.

We found coordinates for Doggett Chapel on an old list of churches:
and at least according to Google maps, the community of Dempsey is centered right across the street.

So our updated directions to the chapel are:
Take US-19 (N) to Fayetteville. Turn left on Laurel Creek Rd, Route 8. Go about 4 miles. Right where Rt 8 takes 110 degree right, stay straight on Dempsey Rd/Wriston Rd/Rt 81. The church should be 50 feet on left, and the cemetery hopefully nearby.
We found an opportunity to explore the whereabouts based on the data found.   Without error, we drove to the Doggett Chapel UMC, however when we scanned the area around the church  the cemetery wasn't in sight. We talked with a neighbor, and after securing his attention and letting him calm his guard dog, he said it was about 250 yards up a rutted road, but we couldn't get there in our truck.

Pinpointing the cemetery looked to be more involved than the original indication that the cemetery was behind the church.  We were in for a mountainous hike and would need a full day commitment.

Take Two

We set out Sunday to try again. The boys were reluctant to go until we explained the part about a hike in the woods. Our plan was to park at the bottom of the washed-out road, near the church, and walk up the 300 yards or so to the cemetery. Samuel asked how long it would take, and I estimated 5 minutes to get there.

At the 5 minute point, we got to a house, the one of which we had been told. One gentleman was outside with his dogs, and we talked to him. He said the cemetery was up at the end of the road. When we looked where he was pointing, we could see that the road we'd walked up kept on going, sort of, up the hill. At this point it was less of an old washed-out road and more of a couple ruts through the woods.
Road to Carter Cemetery

We went on a couple hundred more yards and came to a fence line and a gate, with pastureland on the other side. This was a venerable pasture, with large bushes and trees grown up in it, and out of sight from any houses or roads. And posted with No Trespassing signs we could not miss.

Feeling like America's Most Wanted, we climbed over the gate and kept following the road. It went up the west side of the pasture along the fence, and just kept gradually climbing up the hill. We didn't see any farm animals, but there was plenty of evidence of them on the path.

Sherry spied a likely spot for a cemetery off to the left of the trail, so she and Joseph went to investigate while Samuel and I continued following the fence line.

Sam and I passed a couple of gates in the fence on our right, and when the road started to go downhill a bit (in our experience, rarely are WV family cemeteries located in a valley), we thought we needed to return to the last gate we had passed, which had a promise of a short distance up to the summit.  So we scaled another gate, and followed what was now a deer trail through the brambles.

Sherry and Joe were unsuccessful in their pursuit and began backtracking. They report that they heard a bear knock over a rotted tree below them, and they hightailed it up the trail. They spotted the muddy footsteps on the gate that we scaled when we detoured off the main trail, so they were able to follow behind.

The trail widened back into a rutted track when it got to the trees, and we kept going with a little more confidence. We could see that some force of nature had felled some mighty big trees, and we had to scramble under one that blocked the path. Just after we crossed that obstacle, though, we saw a small clearing and some gravestones.  Success!

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