Several University of Kentucky students spent a weekend cleaning up and identifying grave sites in the “Lost Cemetery of Mullens,” along with local volunteers and staff from the Mullens Opportunity Center.

“Perched on a hillside across Slab Fork Creek from the former coal camp of Nuriva, the cemetery is now a part of the city of Mullens,” explained Dewey Houck, Rural Appalachian Improvement League (RAIL) director.

The RAIL Culture and Heritage Team is currently researching graves in the cemetery, Houck said.

During a recent visit, team members discovered the graves of three African American veterans from World War II.

“In addition, several unmarked graves were uncovered, buried under fallen leaves, branches and other debris.

“Some believe the Chinese workers, who died from the Caloric tunnel collapse while the Virginian Railway was being constructed, are also buried in the cemetery,” Houck said.

The Mullens Opportunity Center and RAIL have hosted several spring break teams and other volunteers during the past year, Houck emphasized. “Teams from Duquesne, Ohio State, Northwestern, Connecticut, Baltimore, Christopher Newport, Elon, Kentuck, and Madonna High School ...” are among them.

“Weirton committed more than 4,000 hours of volunteer service this past year,” he said.

“Wyoming County volunteers committed over 2,000 hours planning, supervising and assisting the volunteers,” Houck noted.

“University spring break teams account for about half of RAIL volunteer efforts,” Houck said.

These community projects are possible due to support from Wyoming County Schools, which provides the MOC facilities to host volunteers during their stays, according to Houck.

“Volunteer hours are completely dedicated to projects that enhance the community.

“For example, a high tunnel and gardening complex was built at the MOC,” Houck said. “Flood debris was cleared along the Guyandotte River. Raised beds were also installed at local schools for gardening.”

In September, more than 50 people participated in a cleanup project at the historic Itmann Company Store building.

In addition, the Guyandotte River Park was cleaned up and a boat ramp was installed with the help of Wyoming County East High School students.

“A trail was also built along Milam Creek, and building repairs and other projects were completed, all helping to make Wyoming County a better place to live and attract businesses,” Houck said.

Five spring break teams are booked for the 2016 season, which begins the last week in February and ends the last week of March.

“RAIL is considering an AmeriCorps NCCC team that would arrive in May, with a team of 10 and stay for six to 10 weeks.

“Since 2000, RAIL has averaged over 10,000 (volunteer) hours per year and looks to exceed the average in 2015 and 2016,” Houck emphasized.

— Email: mcbrooks@register-herald.com

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