The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

April 24, 2013

Our Readers Speak — Wednesday, April 24, 2013


The Associated Press

— While everyone is in a rage arguing over the budget, gun control, religion and everything else under the sun, I can think of several things to put energies toward.

Item No. 1 — It’s ironic that 2013 is the year the National Scout Jamboree is coming to the area and it was in 1913 that the first Boy Scout Unit was organized in Beckley — 100-year anniversary, haven’t heard anything about it.

Item No. 2 — Raleigh County has an abundance of history that has never been truly explored and much that has been forgotten. Years ago I made contact about getting all of our old cemeteries on the National Register and was told “we are not going to fool with those.” Forty-five years later, I continue my search and catalogue and document them for the next generation who might someday continue the interest in preserving the sacred ground.

So many have been destroyed by the big industry. What brought this to mind was an obituary I ran across on March 24, 1936, when John R. Pack died at his home on Johnstown Road in Beckley of pneumonia. Burial made by Foster Funeral Home in the “Guntower Cemetery” near Raleigh. That 100-year-old cemetery stretches out all across the mountain above the old town of Raleigh with hundreds of graves and is one of the forgotten ones. Pack is in a family plot with a chain link fence which needs much attention. There are many family plots there.

Know why it was named the “Guntower Cemetery?” In 1903 the coal company placed a machine gun on the high point and allegedly planned to mow down striking miners or organizers who planned “mob action.” They tried it out and shot 1,000 rounds of ammunition and mowed down hundreds of trees. One of the graves was a union organizer, who was shot and killed. That gun was left on that hill intact for several years before a wind storm came along and knocked it down the mountain.

I know there are thousands of descendants of those buried in the old cemetery, who are able-bodied and can clean it up and give it perpetual care. It’s your heritage, don’t lose it.

Item No. 3 — In the Thomas (Elijah) Lilly Cemetery at Ghent is a grave which is marked “Unknown Man, killed on 19-21 Bypass, Known Only to God.” I’ll give you the particulars and maybe “mystery seekers” can help to identify him. He was a young man with dark red curly hair, who was hitchhiking from the “Chicago area” where he was reared to Bluefield to acquire his birth certificate to enter the Army.

He was picked up in the northern part of the state and let out on the bypass because that was as far as the driver was going. He had walked not far when a drunk driver knocked him over the guard rail. They found no identification in his pockets and perhaps his billfold was tossed out due to the impact and someone found it later and never knew where it belonged. ... They kept his body in the morgue for nine days and Rose and Quesenberry gave it a good burial in the Ghent Cemetery. Now that there is so much communication there just has to be a cousin, some relative that missed this young man. Let’s try to give him a name. It was July 26, 1972 when he died.

Pauline Haga

Crab Orchard