Historians in West Virginia baffled by strange cemetery monuments

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Historians in West Virginia baffled by strange cemetery monuments
David Sibray visits the peculiar graves of the Garrett family in Oak Hill, West Virginia, near the New River Gorge.

OAK HILL, W.Va. — Historians in West Virginia say they're baffled by a strange arrangement of monuments in a cemetery near the New River Gorge. They hope to discover why the graves are interred under remarkable wedge-shaped concrete forms.

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"Something very unusual has gone on here," says David Sibray, the publisher of West Virginia Explorer Magazine. "In all my years exploring cemeteries in West Virginia, I've never encountered anything like these graves."

A Garrett father and son were buried the same year and were the first two burials in the plot.

Renowned for bringing public attention to unusual landmarks in the Mountain State, Sibray contacted fellow preservation consultant Joni Morris after visiting the site.

Morris, who regularly directs cemetery repair workshops across the Mountain State, agreed the graves were unlike anything she'd encountered.

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"The oddity of these grave covers is somewhat puzzling to me," Morris said. "In all of the cemeteries I have been to—hundreds on this side of the Rockies!—I have never seen grave covers like this. Sure, I have seen flat grave covers, but concrete isosceles triangles? Never."

Joni Morris visits the Mount Calvary Cemetery near Cedar Lakes at Ripley, West Virginia. (Photo courtesy Allan Morris)

Morris said she questioned whether the shapes were practical or ceremonial.

"Triangles themselves have many different meanings. Spiritually, they can mean a connection between the physical and spiritual worlds. Is that what these are for? To create a connection between the living and the dead?

"Or is it something as simple as the shape was meant to help keep water out of the graves? Or did it have something to do with the Shriners symbol on the Garrett main family stone and the Masonic connection that implies?"

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Sibray agreed there could be a ceremonial connection but noted that millions of Freemasons exist in the U.S., but they're not interred in such graves.

The J.E. Garrett House stands along Main Street in Mount Hope, West Virginia.

"I've spoken to several about the graves, but it doesn't seem to be associated with their traditions," he said. "They appear unique."

Sibray said the Garrett family was influential in the area in the 1900s. The late Patrick Garrett, whose brother was buried in the plot, was the mayor of the nearby city of Mount Hope, West Virginia, known for his eccentricities.

"Garrett reported an and built a monument and time capsule on his property to memorialize that event," he said. "Perhaps it was he who had the graves covered."

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Morris said she'll continue to look for information on the graves and similar grave structures.

"They are extraordinary and unique for sure," she said. "It makes one wonder what the family or the deceased thought when they requested these odd monuments to mark their burial place."

The Garrett plot is located in the Oddfellows Cemetery in Oak Hill at Google coordinates 37.981959, -81.143777.


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