Historians seek origin of "The Little Graves" on a West Virginia ridge

Historians seek origin of
Publisher David Sibray peers inside the encloser at the Little Graves on Barker's Ridge in southern West Virginia.

BASIN, W.Va. — Sharp-eyed motorists traveling Barkers Ridge in southern West Virginia may have noticed a faded sign that commemorates the burial of what appears to have been three children.


But the origins of "The Little Graves," now a local historic landmark, is a mystery yet to be recorded, according to two historians searching for answers.

An upright stone stands within the enclosure at "The Little Graves" on Barker's Ridge.

"Someone may know the full story, but we haven't found anyone yet who knows for sure," says David Sibray, the publisher of West Virginia Explorer Magazine.

"I fear that whoever might have known has passed, and so we may never know for sure, though the site is still tended, and that's a blessing."


David "Bugs" Stover, a West Virginia Senator and historian, is equally baffled by the riddle of the origin of the graves but is working to determine the truth of the matter.

"I've been up to see the graves before, but I don't know that I ever heard the story, and whoever took me up there couldn't remember it," Stover said.

"There are a lot of older folks up on Barkers Ridge who have passed away, and I wonder whether those who know the true story are still with us."

Sibray says he believes that the graves were dug in horse-and-buggy days around the turn of the last century when the road along Barkers Ridge was the main travel route between the valleys of the Bluestone and Guyandotte rivers.


"Before coal mining commenced in the late 1800s and early 1900s, people mostly lived on the upland ridges rather than down in the bottoms along the creeks," he said.

The graves were interred along an essential historic route, Sibray added.

A 1902 map of Barkers Ridge designates Basin Spring on Barkers Ridge and Old Bluff on Flat Top Mountain.

"What's now Stevenson-Basin Road was part of a wagon road from the Bluestone River over Bluff Mountain and along Barkers Ridge to the Guyandotte River near what's now Itmann.

"It was over this old road that many of Wyoming County's first settlers traveled, notably McKinneys and Shrewsburys, though there were Lusks, Walkers, and Millses, of course."


One legend claims that the graves were that of the children of travelers, or gypsies, who passed through the area following the old road along the mountain's summit.

A search of newspapers and the have turned up no answers either, Sibray said. Google coordinates for the site are 37.552919, -81.311273.

The gravesite is one of several cultural and natural landmarks that Sibray has supported developing as a tourism resource in the Barkers Ridge region of Wyoming County and adjacent Raleigh County.

Stover and Sibray have asked that anyone with information on the graves reach out to them on social media. Sibray also requests that they call or text the West Virginia Explorer office line at 304-575-7390.


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