At the top of a hill, this muddy track lured me. There was no mailbox, but I spied a stone wall, much overgrown. An old homesite?
As it turned out, it was a final homesite--a graveyard for the most part abandoned. A few graves, like these, were being cared for, but the rest of the cemetery was a tangle of vines and weeds too thick to even be able to tell if there were other stones under them.
The name on one of these stones was Gonzalez, and I wondered at that. In this predominantly Scots-Irish-English state, a Hispanic name, although not so rare anymore, would have been unusual in the days this graveyard was established.
Or perhaps not--that got me wondering about the heritage and history of this particular area around Red House. Were there Hispanics here many years ago? Why? What trade did they bring? In some places in the states, there were communities of Italian, Spanish, German, Swiss, even Russian, Chinese and Croatian. In all these cases, the immigrants brought a specific trade--tile-making, ceramics, tin, glassblowing, railroads, steel-making and coal mining. So what did this Gonzalez bring to Red House hill? A question without a quick answer, but offering many possibilities for the writer and storyteller.
In the woods below the graves, wildling daffodils brightened the drab woods that still show only hints of green. There was one lone daffodil blooming in the cemetery itself, but these escapees were blooming profusely.
One of the many overgrown stairways leading from the dirt lane (used to be gravel, I could see bits of it here and there) into the graveyard. I admired the craftsmanship of the stoneworker who constructed the walls. Was it a CCC project? Possibly, since they did many such community projects. Or was it one of the Italian stonemasons who were responsible for so many fine walls and buildings in West Virginia? Was Gonzalez a stonemason, perhaps?
Far below, the mighty Kanawha River winds its way through the valley. The river was actually the reason I found the graveyard. I was looking for a place to take a clear shot, without trees and bushes in the way. I didn't find one; instead I found a forgotten place of peace and rest.
These stones were below the road, and obviously well maintained. Someone still visits here to mow and renew the flowers of remembrance. The name on one of these stones was Ice. Those resting in these graves have a lovely spot, shaded by the pines and overlooking a deep valley.
I left the graveyard regretfully. I want someone to come back and care for this place with its circular drive, stone walls and stairwells and rampant daffodils. I want the families to come back, to remember their ancestors, to care for the past. I was but a stranger passing through and yet the place spoke to me.
High on a hill, hidden behind weeds and brush, lies the heritage of many people. Where are they now? Why do they not come here to clean the graves, take time to remember?