Clarksburg Stories and Tips

DAR Cemetery, Missing Links, and Genealogy

Daniel Davisson DAR Cemetery on West Main Photo, Clarksburg, West Virginia

A sure sign of their European past, early residents of Clarksburg buried their dead in town and lived among them. (Perhaps they were inspired by their greatness!) Their old cemeteries aren’t elaborate or whimsical, like those of the French, for early settlers here weren’t wealthy. On the frontier, they were busy repelling Indian attacks until the Treaty of Greenville in 1795 and hadn’t time for whimsy or creating new burial customs, and so they carried on with life as they had known it in the old country. Founded in 1785, ten years before the Treaty of Greenville, the early city interred their notables in church yards or family plots.

We find Daniel Davisson DAR Cemetery on W. Main Street beside Go-Mart. After circling the block twice, we see the sign.

Several dozen graves are scattered about what used to be the yard of Hopewell Baptist Church, first church in Clarksburg, now gone. Most markers are natural stone with names and dates scratched in them, long ago faded and unreadable, but I learn at Waldomore that the old Baptist church kept and preserved good records! In the book there, I see that Forbes Britton, first newspaper man in Clarksburg, is buried here. Some markers have been supplied by the Veterans Administration and are like those we see in national cemeteries.

Here is Daniel Davisson, one of the first recorded settlers.

I learn at the genealogy research center at Waldomore that DAR (or Veterans Administration?) has got details wrong. Davisson was never sheriff or in the Revolutionary War! He was awarded the title of "Major" in 1799 because he had lived on a dangerous frontier where homesteaders were attacked by Delaware Indians--encouraged, of course, by the British (following the lead of the French in the French and Indian War). Nobody here fought Redcoats. As colonists in the East complained to England about taxation without representation, Harrison County, Virginia expressed to Richmond their indignation about the meager help they got from any central government to repel Indian raids! With the patronage title of Major, Davisson was given the paid position of sweeping the courthouse floor. One other interesting tidbit concerns his being accused of stealing chickens.

David Houchin, Secretary of Harrison County Genealogical Society, regrets that he can’t prove whether Davisson was a chicken thief: "But he was in the chicken house!" He confirms that most of Clarksburg’s downtown--Main St. and Pike St.--is on property that Davisson donated. I am impressed with the knowledge available about early settlers and with the amount of frustrating work needed to verify details. Even so, Houchin stresses, you can never be sure. He adds that his head is so full of details that he longs to retire so that he can empty his brain and "find out if I still have one." Working on Civil War research, I can empathize, but I must consider myself lucky. When research won’t give up the missing link, who ya gonna call? Genealogy.

Another marker in the cemetery is almost accurate.

Major Thomas Preston Moore was a legitimate participant in the War of 1812, but not in the American Revolution. His daughter, Harriet Moore, who married Waldo Potter Goff, lived in the antebellum mansion of Waldomore, built in 1839.

That’s where Harrison County Genealogical Society is housed on the third floor--where I am sitting when I discover this link to the markers I have found in the graveyard.

Eighty-five years after its charter as a city in Virginia, Clarksburg was hardly even a town with only 895 residents in 1860, just before the Civil War’s preliminary skirmishes in West Virginia. Although this is a Revolutionary-era graveyard, I find clues here about the appearance of the town as it existed at Stonewall Jackson’s birth. From the tombstones I can read, I gather that most of the luminaries here now were here before 1824 and certainly before the Civil War. This Baptist church and graveyard were on Main Street near the courthouse in the isolated frontier village in Virginia. Bragging rights included operating more grain mills than any other settlement around, so land was dedicated to farming.

The Army Corps of Engineers and West Virginia University have been dismantling and moving some of those mills that are still in existence. We’ll see two of them later today at Jackson’s Mill, Stonewall's boyhood home. An effort is also being made to preserve early farming, logging and woodworking methods. I see folk heritage sites in the making all along the Civil War Heritage Trail. Everywhere I go, guides explain what has been saved, moved, restored and, more interesting to me, what I can expect to see when I return.

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