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Washington & Lee students help with family cemetery cleanup

Published: Oct. 25, 2021 at 4:59 PM EDT
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ROCKBRIDGE COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - Out on a country hillside, not exactly forgotten, but neglected, there’s an old family cemetery, holding in its stones centuries of history.

“You know, I’ve driven by it a hundred times,” said Washington & Lee University Prof. Don Gaylord, “and I had no idea it was here.”

“Well, when I saw it 50 years ago,” said family member McKee Dunlap, “it was a well-tended, you know, hand-mowed stones showing everywhere. So I knew what it used to be.”

“These are the pioneers that were buried here,” family member Pauline McKee said. “Settled here, some moved on to Kentucky, but the pioneers are buried here. They were in these mountains.”

McKee has spent 30 years looking at the genealogy of her family.

“One of my bucket lists was coming down here to Virginia and finding the original cemetery,” she said.

And she, along with some other family, is getting some help from Washington & Lee archaeology students.

“We’ve been going around and finding places that seem to have you know hard surfaces where a headstone may be just inches below the ground,” explained Gaylord, their professor.

They marked them with flags, and made accurate measurements to build a detailed map for later work.

“These places form a landscape of you know the afterlife for the people who lived here in many ways that their houses did or that their churches did or that their places of businesses did as well,” said Gaylord.

Or, as McKee said, “It’s a piece of history.”

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