Abstract

This article focuses on several cemeteries and graveyards in the upper Monongahela Valley of West Virginia, stretching from the confluence of the West Fork and Tygart Valley Rivers near Fairmont and extending to the confluence of the Monongahela and Cheat Rivers at Point Marion, Pennsylvania, just across the West Virginia-Pennsylvania state line. The authors conducted a mapping project of cemeteries and religious centers from December 2019 until July 2020, focusing on burial grounds that were accessible by automobile. Documenting grave markers, common surnames, and flora on graves or in the cemetery more generally, the authors noticed patterns of flora—particularly the presence of yucca and red cedar—that were closely associated with European settler-colonists and their descendants but that have documented connections to Indigenous and Black burial traditions. Noting that Black and Indigenous burial sites are largely hidden from public view in this region, the authors consider the ways that plant life in cemeteries might shed new light on how settler-colonialism shapes understandings of Appalachian death and burial practices and, in turn, Appalachian history and culture.

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