Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Tales of Nessly Chapel Cemetery Near New Cumberland, WVA

 Nessly Chapel was built in 1826.  There are many stories associated with this area, though the church seems to be the strong mainstay of the area.  It is made of cut stone and looks like castle.  the sign above the door says Built 1826-Rebuilt 1905.  For any one who loves historic buildings, this one is a feast for the eyes.
 There is a little cemetery that lies above the Church, on the hill.  It would seem that it is surrounded by stories of mystery, the Under Ground Railroad, family loyalty, Indian Burial Grounds, and witch craft.
A real Ghost Hunters Treasure Trove!
 For instance, some insist this mound of dirt and stone is a witches altar.  Others have told me it is a pile of old cemetery stones.   I think it looks more like the latter. 
Then there is this stone that simply states "The Unknown Dead".  Another stone near it tells that in this area is the mass grave of 20 to 25 people whose identity is unknown.  That is a lot of people to not know who they are. 
 I could understand it if this was a huge city with many indigents.  But this is a rural area, all farm country.  Down the road about a half mile is a sign that says this area was a haven for early mills like grist mills.  Why would there be so many unknown people in a place like this?
 Yet another stone on the other side of the small cemetery proclaims the area around it to have about 60 unmarked graves.  With all the snow around right now, it is hard to tell.  I usually look for divots in the ground to show where there is someone resting.  One story I heard was that African Americans were not permitted to be buried in the original cemetery, so they were buried outside of it.  That could explain the unmarked occupants.  There is also the tale of an under ground tunnel used in the Underground Railroad that was full of slaves escaping from the south when it collapsed, killing them all.  Supposedly they were left buried there.
 An old wrought iron fence remains below the cemetery. What is left of the gate that once graced the entrance hangs precariously, sideways, surrounded by tall fir trees.  It is slowly rusting away.  There is what looks like a family crest at the top of the gate.   Battle axes, and the heads of swans that have the bodies of snakes are in the design.  If it is a family crest of some sort, which family? 
Yet another mystery we walked away wondering about were these large piles of black stones.  I have three theories so far to explain them.  All together there are about 6 piles, and they look something like old burial mounds of some sort.  Are there people buried inside?   Do they mark the Indian Burial Grounds?  Or are they simply the remains of the rebuilding of the church in 1905? 
I was enchanted by this cemetery and church and the legends surrounding them.  We are working with the Tri-State Genealogical & Historical Society to uncover some of these mysteries.  You have to know the history to find the ghosts.  Discovering the real events behind the legends makes it all worth while.