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West Virginians Urged to Register Family Cemeteries

August 20, 2007

West Virginians who live near coal mining operations are being urged to register family cemeteries with the state after relatives say a mountain top removal mining operation plowed under at least five graves at the Stover Cemetery on Kayford Mountain. Larry Gibson, who has ancestors buried at Stover, says he was shocked to see mining rigs and gear on site.

"I saw them going through the cemetery and setting up drilling rigs, dynamite, and I lost it.”

Gibson says it’s not the first time a family cemetery has been damaged by coal mining operations.

"I call it the systematic genocide of Appalachia. In other words, they're wiping out all of our history; not just destroying the land, but wiping out the history of the people, too.”

The State Historic Preservation Office has since marked most of the site off-limits, but Gibson says only 11 of the 21 graves he found are recognized by the state. Gibson is encouraging people who know about family cemeteries to contact the State Historic Preservation Office right away and have the sites documented.

Deborah Smith/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WV