ABOUT WARD CEMETERY
The precise details surrounding the establishment of Ward Cemetery are lost to time, but at some point during the very early years of the community's existence, a plot of land was set aside to serve as a burial ground for the community's coal miners and their families. The oldest marked burials identified in Ward Cemetery are those of Morgan Proctor and Victoria Elswick. Both headstones are inscribed with a death year of 1896. There may be older unmarked burials in Ward Cemetery, but since the original burial records were lost in a fire, there is no information available for unmarked burials.
As the Ward community grew, the Ward Funeral Fund And Accident Association was established in the early 1900s for the coal miners and other employees of Kelly's Creek Colliery Company and their families. The purpose of the "Fund" was to help offset the cost of burials and to help with maintenance of the cemetery. The coal miners paid into the fund on a regular basis through payroll deductions, while some other members of the fund contributed through direct payments. During that time, the burial fund was managed by the coal company and at one time the cemetery had a few paid employees.
In the 1940s, new burials were initiated in the area now located to the left side of the drive-in gravel path. The first persons to be buried on the left "newer" addition were all WWII servicemen killed in action:
- Mason W. Mounts - Killed In Action in Italy on March 4, 1944
- Ralph Slate - Killed in Action in Italy on September 21, 1944
- James E. Akers - Killed in Action in France on March 11, 1945
An unrecorded deed exists that shows this "newer" section of Ward Cemetery was deeded to the Ward "Burial" Fund and Accident Association as an expansion of the existing cemetery. It is a logical conclusion, therefore, that the older section of Ward Cemetery was also deeded to the Ward "Funeral" Fund and Accident Association at some point in time, since the newer section was viewed as an expansion to the existing cemetery. However, this is only speculation and any records confirming this were probably lost in the fire of the Kelley's Creek Colliery main business offices and company store in 1947. According to newspaper reports at the time, virtually all business records of the coal company were lost in the fire.
Despite speculation that may be found on the internet and elsewhere regarding presumed owners, Kanawha County records show no owner on record for Ward Cemetery. Over the years, the county records have been researched extensively by numerous people, including several cemetery caretakers, county courthouse staff, a state archivist, and an attorney, and nothing confirming an owner of the property has ever been identified. No person has ever come forward and claimed ownership or taken responsibility for the care of Ward Cemetery.
Kanawha County records show that Ward Cemetery property and the Ward Church of God property have been surveyed off separately from the surrounding property. The property surrounding Ward Cemetery and Ward Church of God is owned by the heirs of Dr. Ward and another commercial interest and is identified as Parcel 1, with Ward Cemetery surveyed off and identified as Parcel 1.1 and the Church of God surveyed off and identified as Parcel 1.2. No owner is shown for Ward Cemetery.
INFORMATION FROM THE KANAWHA COUNTY ASSESSOR PARCEL DATABASE
ParID: 03 21000100000000
Owners: WARD D ESTATE ETAL
2493-54/100A SURF M/L LES 1/3 TIMBER INT & 2517-75/100A MIN
ParID: 03 21000100010000
Comments: WARD CEMETERY
9.21 ACRES (CALCULATED)
ParID: 03 21000100020000
Owners: CHURCH OF GOD
LT 200X230 KELLEYS CREEK
With the passing of time, the mining operations eventually shut down, the land leases ended, and families of Ward were forced to move out of their company-owned houses and relocate to other towns. That was the beginning of the end for the town of Ward and eventually, the end of the burial fund due to the ceasing of payroll deductions, the expense of maintaining the cemetery, and the decline in contributions to the fund over time. With the coal mines and the mining town now gone, and the burial fund exhausted, the care of Ward Cemetery now depends upon volunteers and donations.
Ward Cemetery is not a perpetual care cemetery, it is not operated for profit, and there are no deeded plots. Ward Cemetery is still an active burial ground. The grounds keeping is currently under the care of volunteer caretaker Sherry Smith and the volunteer members of the Ward Cemetery Advisory Committee. The cemetery has been cared for by volunteers for many years now.
NOTABLE HEADSTONES OF WARD CEMETERY
Coal camps such as Ward were giant melting pots of different races, nationalities, and ethnic groups. Ward Cemetery has never been segregated along racial, ethnic, or religious lines. Many headstones in Ward Cemetery tell the story of the immigrant workers who came to West Virginia to work in the mines. Coal miners, railroad workers, veterans, civic leaders, union organizers, homemakers, educators, descendants of pioneer families and religious leaders of different faiths all worked together in building the community and all rest together in Ward Cemetery. (Click on photo thumbnail to view larger photo. You may need to disable any ad blocking software or popup blockers.)
The William Morris family was the first white family to permanently settle the Kanawha Valley (Walter Kelly was killed by Indians several months before the Morris family arrived). In 1774 William Morris settled at the mouth of Kelly's Creek. Descendants of this pioneer family continue to live in the area & some are buried in Ward Cemetery. Some descendants claim that Virginia's Chapel in Cedar Grove was built over the grave of William Morris & the DAR has placed a marker there in his honor.
Hungarian miners were second only to Italians as the most numerous immigrant group to work in West Virginia coal mines after the turn of the 20th century. There are several headstones in Ward Cemetery inscribed in the Hungarian language (Magyar). Translated from Magyar to English, the above headstone reads:
Mrs. Steven Antal,
Born 1887 May 8
Died Nov 30, 1919
Many of the Russian born coal miners came to West Virginia from the coal fields of Pennsylvania. Gregory Chirokoff was a coal miner born in 1876 in Moscow, Russia to Mr. and Mrs. Constantine Chirokoff. Gregory
immigrated to the U.S. in 1906. At the time of his death in 1930, he had been living on Seng Creek Road in Garrison, Boone County, WV, and was working as a coal loader for Anchor Coal Company. He died from injuries sustained in a mining accident.
Many veterans are also buried in Ward Cemetery. One of the most notable veteran's headstones is this Union Civil War headstone for Sergeant John D. Martin. John D. Martin was a Confederate soldier who served with the 44th Battalion, Virginia Cavalry, (Thurmond’s Partisan Rangers), so we are unsure as to why he was issued a Union headstone.