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Wider W.Va. 9 means graves have to move

October 04, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - The graves of three Berkeley County, W.Va., children buried on a farm more than 80 years ago are expected to be relocated Friday to make way for the widening of W.Va. 9 to four lanes near Mt. Olive Road, a West Virginia Division of Highways official said Tuesday.

Chafin Funeral Home of Delbarton, W.Va., in Mingo County, was awarded the project after submitting a $5,600 bid, said Ivan Kapp of the DOH's right-of-way division. The funeral home was the only bidder for the work, which is set to begin at 8 a.m., he said.

The remains of the children, believed to have been stillborn in 1911, 1921 and 1923, will be moved to a Bunker Hill (W.Va.) Cemetery off Runnymeade Road, according to Goldie Cox, a family member who was finalizing arrangements for a graveside service Tuesday.

"To me, it means (our family) can have peace of mind and I know they won't have concrete over them," said Cox, 76.

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"We always knew that the babies were buried there," Cox said. But over the years, "we more or less just forgot about it."

The state's acquisition of property to widen W.Va. 9 between Martinsburg and Charles Town, W.Va., helped jog the memory of Cox's cousin, Charles Barrett, who brought it to her attention, she said Tuesday. Barrett, of Stephens City, Va., died in January 2005.

Cox's grandparents, Amos and Sarah Belle Brandenburg, operated the farm.

Their son, Fred, was the first to be buried there in 1911, Cox said. Two of their grandchildren are buried alongside the boy. Jacob B. May Jr. and Walter Lee May were Martinsburg resident Jane May Gawrys' older brothers.

"I just wish my mother could have been here to see they would have a proper burial," Gawrys said Tuesday.

Gawrys was one of seven children, but only four - all girls - survived infancy. A fifth sister, Dorothy Rebecca May, also was stillborn and is buried in Bunker Hill, Gawrys said.

"This is very emotional for me. I'm glad it's getting done," Gawrys said. "They won't have to be disturbed anymore."

Gawrys remembered the small cemetery at the farm having a fence surround it.

"No one was allowed to go near there," Gawrys said.

When Cox contacted her first cousin about the graves, Gawrys offered an extra plot for the reinterment of the remains in Bunker Hill. The state is providing a marker for each of the children.

"That'll save the state a little bit of money," said Cox, who has waited about two years for the relocation and took part in helping archaeologists conduct a preliminary investigation of the site near one corner of the farm property.

Though the relocation will allow the road construction to move forward, at least another two years are expected to pass before the new, four-lane route for W.Va. 9 is open to traffic between Martinsburg and Charles Town, according to DOH construction documents.

The first of three remaining sections of the highway project to be advertised - from Eastern Regional Jail to the Opequon Creek Bridge - lists a completion date of Sept. 30, 2009, according to bidding information posted for interested contractors on the Department of Transportation's Web site.

Bids for that work are expected to be opened by the end of October, according to Greg Bailey, director of the DOH Engineering Division.

Unlike the three sections now under construction in Jefferson County, the three yet-to-be-awarded projects individually include the paving work. That decision was made to accommodate traffic concerns, Bailey said.

"It's easier to pave the main line as you go along (there)," Bailey said.

Paving already is under way on at least one of the sections in Jefferson County.

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