White Oak Mountaintop Graves of 176 years ago

On Wednesday November 27, 2008, the day before Thanksgiving, Bobby and I hiked up the north east side of the mountain from Pleasant Gap.  Loggers are cutting very large logs on the north slope of the mountain.  

At the top, probably about a half mile from the road we again reached the old “burying ground.”  By spreading the leaves we found many more head and foot stones which were either laying flat of sunk stright down.  We found dates and initials which were chiseled on some of them. 

The oldest marked grave appears to be a “W. M.” who died in 1832 at age 21. The Merricks later owned property, but not as early as 1832.  They may have lived here before they purchased the land. 

Cllick for many more phtotgraphs and infromation:

“Apr 1838 MM”  Who is it?

“1869 MGM Sept” – If you know who this is let us know.

The graveyard is 36 feet by 58 feet on level ground.  You can see the drop off to the valley northwest.  The mountains of Franklin County can be seen. 

We touched up the top of gravestones with a temporary orange for the photograph

This is a large cedar stump near the center of the cemetery.  All of the cedars have died. The long-dead cedar tree grew around one of the gravestones.

When we raked back the leaves we found a few small periwinkle sprouts.  The many years of deep leaves have destroyed most of the familar graveyard plants.

This old barn is across the road from the old mansion house where William Walton and Doctor Aaron Herndon lived.  The hand hewn logs are very old oak and may be chestnut.  Most of the barns built of pine have rotted.  There are horizontal tier poles inside about 30 inches apart.  Two or three large tobacco leaves are strung alternately on a tobacco stick and there are hung from the top of the barn to the bottom.  Large metal flues run thoughout the inside from two fireboxes to distribute the heat.  A continious fire is kept in the fireboxes on one side of the barn for most of a week to slowly cure the “bright leaf” tobacco.  Tobacco was important for the economy of this area for hundreds of years.  In colonial Virginia, even the preacher was paid in tobacco.  It was easily sold or bartered.  The fire box in this barn is different from all the other barns that I have seen in that there is an arch made of brick.  Most were mostly square with a cap stone.  Soapstone was mined in western Pittsylvania to be used for a cap stone.  Soapstone is crack resistant and easily shaped before it dries.

After descending from the mountain, we searched large outcroppings of sand stone for petrified wood.  In the foreground of this picture are some small pieces of the 200-million year old wood-now-stone. 

There should be dinosaur bones, but we haven’t found them yet. 

Here’s one that got away. 

I drew this sketch in 1965 after I was discharged from the Air Force.  I used this “Petrified Wood of 200 Million Years Ago” poster as a promotion to sell polished petrified wood from Pittsylvania County.  After 40 some years it is getting harder to find.

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