Thursday, July 13, 2017

Those Places Thursday - Mount Vernon ME Church and Cemetery

Mount Vernon ME Church and Cemetery, Fort Spring, Greenbrier County, West Virginia

Set in a lovely pastoral area, the Mount Vernon Methodist Church and Cemetery have long been a standing symbol of the longevity of a rural community in West Virginia.

The Reverend Samuel Perkins, along with his loving wife, Elizabeth Tuckwiller Perkins, started this church in 1846. And, as luck, or the Lord, would have it, Reverend Perkins was the first member of the church to be buried in the consecrated cemetery.

The cemetery has grown immeasurably over the years. If you look closely, you will see a white fence behind the church. That delineates the boundaries of the "old" cemetery. It is here, the reverend Perkins and his wife are buried. Along with several of their children.

In the foreground you will see another white wooden fence. This marks the beginning boundaries of the "new" cemetery, for it didn't take too many years for the old cemetery to fill up.

Reverend Perkins was born on April 21, 1778. His wife, Elizabeth Tuckwiller, was born on November 8, 1779. The couple, both born in the Virginia wilderness, were married on September 15, 1812.  They went on to have 9 children. Of those nine, they had a daughter, Margaret Smith Smith Perkins, who was born May 03, 1826.  (It is unknown why Margaret received such a strange middle name as "Smith". Some believe her father must have thought highly of someone with the last name.)

On August 26, 1852, Margaret married William M. Bean (Jr.) (b. 26 Aug 1832 - d. 14 May 1890) from Monroe County. By that time, Margaret's father, was 75 years of age. On 19 January 1854, the Reverend Samuel Perkins died. (Unfortunately, I have been unable to obtain a copy of a death record, and can only go by tombstone for verification.) His cause of death is unknown. His wife, Elizabth lived on in Fort Spring, until her death on 28 July 1867, thirteen years later.

When you are researching your ancestry and cannot find a death certificate, try using alternate spellings for the name. In this case, much like my Bean ancestor's, a variety of spellings has been used: Parkin, Parkins, Perkin, Perkins. Using a Bolean search should give you a better chance of locating your ancestor (it will search for names by the way they sound, which will usually account for the various spellings), if it is available. Indexes, like those used in county records, are usually less forgiving, and you will need to check by date. However, this might be more time consuming than you think! While a tombstone might reveal an exact date of death, a death might not be registered for months in the county records, as often when a person died at home in the country, a death was not filed until someone made their next trip to the county seat and reported the death. (A family member or coroner would have to file the report.) So, while someone may have died, for example, in November of 1850, their death may not have been reported until May of 1851, due to a very bad winter. Therefore, you would need to check the death records for both 1850 and 1851 to locate the correct record.

Also, take into account, that tombstones are not always accurate. For instance, I have an uncle who died at the tender age of three. His tombstone has him dying a year later than he actually did, making those who visit the grave believe he was 4 and not 3 on his death. If not for my grandmother pointing this out, I would not have known to press for a death certificate to get the correct date.

As in the case of the cemetery above, founding members were buried in the "old" cemetery, giving us an idea of when the cemetery was started. (However, Reverend Perkins tombstone alerts us to the fact that he was the first buried in the cemetery.)

Oh, and just in case you were wondering? Reverend Samuel Perkins was my great-great-grandfather. His daughter, Margaret, was my grandfather's mother. So I have walked this cemetery several times in the past few years. And look forward to seeing it yet again in August.

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