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Historical sites affected by new freeway

February 25, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Construction of a new four-lane W.Va. 9 will call for some careful digging as construction crews pass through historical sites.

A section of the freeway will cut through a small cemetery in the Baker Heights area, and a special crew will have to be at the burial ground when construction begins to make sure no graves are disturbed, said Timothy G. Zinn, an architectural historian who is working for the Division of Highways on the W.Va. 9 project.

The James VanMetre graveyard is located near the Liberty Business Park along W.Va. 9. The six-acre cemetery, which dates back to 1892, contains seven graves and the graves of two pet dogs, said Zinn.

There also are three tombstones near a campground where W.Va. 9 crosses Opequon Creek, and there is a possibility that the graves will have to be moved as highway construction begins, highway officials said.

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If construction crews were to uncover a grave, the person's immediate family would be notified. Then a contractor who specializes in grave relocations would be called in to move the casket, highway officials said.

"That's not uncommon. That was done for the Charles Town bypass," said Zinn.

During the construction of the Charles Town bypass, several graves were uncovered, forcing highway officials to move the graves, said Zinn.

The Eastern Panhandle is rich with history, and one of the concerns with the new road is that it not have an impact on historical sites.

But several historical sites will be affected.

The Thomas Turner house, a two-story brick home built around 1814, will have to be torn down for the road, said Zinn. The house, west of the intersection of W.Va. 480 and W.Va. 9 in Kearneysville, was originally part of the Traveller's Rest tract.

Traveller's Rest was the home of Horatio Gates, an American general in the Revolutionary War.

Some residents have expressed concern about a sharp turn that leads the new highway through the area around Traveller's Rest.

The road also will cut through a portion of the West Virginia University Experimental Farm, said Zinn.

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