Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on June 23, 1974 · Page 68
Get access to this page with a Free Trial
Click to view larger version

Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 68

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, June 23, 1974
Page 68
Start Free Trial

Page 68 article text (OCR)

They Came Home to Die It's an old "graveyard," long out of use and now grown up in brambles. When I visited it, a dogwood was in bloom denoting another spring. Nearby, two huge pine trees were putting on some greenery. Underneath them was an accumulation of dead leaves, fallen branches, and creeping vines. A touch of pathos was there, too. Side by side in the old graveyard are two young soldiers--brothers. They have lain there in the now- forgotten cemetery since 1865. Before they died, they were POWs in far-off Richmond. The old graveyard is on the property of Mr. and Mrs. Ralph McCpllum in Petroleum, Ritchie County. With the bodies of the two sol- 'diers, there are six other, long-forgotten graves. The young soldiers were Edward and Robert Smitley. Their story is a,little reminiscent of the return of POWs from Vietnam, except Edward and Robert Smitley's homecoming was almost unnoticed. They dragged into their parents' home with no fanfare- starved, -sick, more dead than alive. » Two coincidences brought the Smitley brothers' graves to my attention. The first was how they were accidentally found. The McCollums had heard there was an old graveyard .on their property,.but weren't too interested in local By Brooks Pepper history. They did wonder where it was. One day. when Catherine McCollum was cleaning and raking across the road from her home, she unearthed two head stones. She had found the old cemetery. The second coincidence was that Mrs. Pauline Crimmel of South Charleston came to Petroleum searching for genealogical traces of her ancestors. Specifically, she wanted to find the last resting place of two of her great uncles--Edward and Robert Smitley. Mr. Mrs. Crimmel had only one clue in their search for her relatives. In some records of an older brother, Charles W. D. Smitley, also a Civic War veteran, Petroleum was mentioned. » Did the Smitleys once live in that community? They had, but a search of the records at the Harrisville courthouse divulged no information. Like dozens of other families, the Smitleys had moved in, stayed for a while, and moved on without official notice. The Crimmels wouldn't give up. They came to Petroleum and after explaining their quest, were directed to the existing cemetery for the village. There were no Smitleys in this well-cared- for spot. They were directed to the McCollum place, where "some people were buried long ago." When the Crimmels met Catherine McCollum, she told them she believed their search was at an end. When the dirt and mold was scraped away from the old headstones Catherine McCollum had accidentally found, the names of Edward F. and Robert P. Smitley were plainly discernable. » The Smitleys were a sizeable family and before the outbreak of the Civil War lived in Marion County near what is now Boothsville. Later, they moved to Cherry Camp--now Bristol--in Harrison County. The father and the older brother, Charles, were carpenters. They engaged in building houses with the two younger brothers helping as they grew older. Charles W.D. Smitley enlisted in the Union Army at the very outbreak of the conflict. The two younger boys, envious of the deeds of their older brother, looked forward to the time they could also enlist--and "soldier." In 1864, when they were 17 and 19 years old, the yuunger brothers left home and enl, isted in the 6th West Virginia Cavalry. After a few weeks training at Wheeling, they were sent by train to New Creek--now Keyser--where they were given mounts and assigned to guard the B 0 Railroad's bridges and other properties. Their tour of duty was short. In what was one of the last forays into the North in the early summer of 1864, a force of Southern Cavalry, made a nuisance raid, overran the posts where most of Co. G. was located. Edward and Robert, plus a number of their fellow cavalrymen, became prisoners of war. With Union troops in close pursuit, the Confederate raiders retreated from Keyser without giving their prisoners time to catch up their mounts. The Rebels rode and the prisoners walked as they pushed south over back trails. It was a grueling or- deal traveling from Keyser to somewhere in southern Virgina, but it was an ordeal that became worse when they ended their long trek at infamous Libbey Prison near Richmond. History has graphically .described life in the POW camps during the Civil War--on both sides. Survival was difficult, often impossible, but for almost a year the , young Smitley boys did survive. The war wore on. Before they had spent quite a year in prison, Edward and Robert Smitley were paroled to go home. Home? Where were their parents and home? The boys had received no word since they had been captured. Somehow they learned the family was following the railroad--the Northwestern of Virginia--and were thought to be at Petroleum about 25 miles east of Parkersburg. Weak and sick, Edward and Robert set out on foot. How they were able to survive the long, almost impossible trip from Richmond to Petroleum is not known, but they did. At least, they arrived at their parents' home in March, 1865, almost too weak to take another step. The joy of the reunion was tragically short. - · On March 29, Robert, the younger of the two boys, died. He was 18 years old. Edwaru, 20, died six weeks later, on May 15,1865. They were buried together--as they had lived. There are stories that for a few years after the war, a veteran would lead the children of Petroleum out to the little graveyard to honor the young soldiers with flowers on their graves. That has been long ago. Times change. Families move away. Strangers move in, stay for awhile, and they, too, move on. Little burial plots fall into disuse, become overgrown with brambles--are forgotten. And that, as near as,! can piece it together, is the story of Edward F. and Robert P. Smitley, who enlisted in Co. G, 6th West Virginia Cavalry, April 18,1864--and a year later came home to die. ,*suhrw$u$ ofwsh *ggyoiks and the snap of CKterwnegar with a gentfe wnt-, v * ^Mv6r»«p!cfcs...nal«aHyrfch and creamy. Bet if II make 8»flWtf ; -"^(fciitfaaa^yoVvefi^tasted^^ ' " " · - · - - ' - ' spark up dozem of bttwr tWhes. State Magazine, June 23,1974 XLK.-r,.,v vV -, y;;.\.;v,j-J VV,J V» 3 \ i , jwchisJB ^$p -??.-i?? " : ^ oTliarzetti Slaw Dressing. - _ : -; ;·:.·,-.. - -. T ^WWR^^-'^ .--MR.-6ROCEH:""Marzem"*ill redeem this coupon lor IOC plus 3C handling ttt. if you receive-· *^S«iW ^-' v l ll on th « M* °* Mirzetti Slaw Dressing (16 oz or 24 oz jar) Invoices proving purchase, within KBlky «*,V j "the last 90 days, of sufficient stock to cover coupons presented for redemption must be avail- . ··^S? , 1 ; able upon request:Void when presented by outside agency, broker or others who are not retail · ··^£/-TM " '\i'f distributors of this brand, or. who are not specifically authorized by us to redeem this coupon. '**"·*-'" ' ' " "'* Coupon value 1 100 cent."Customer.,must pay any sales tax. Void where prohibited, taxed or restricted by law. .. For redemption mail only to 1. MARZETTI COMPANY. BOX 29163. COLUMBUS. OHIO 43229. COUPON EXPIRES SEPTEMBER 30.19/4 ^ ,, ·-,,., MARZETTI MAKES IT GREAT! ·'V- v', ,,,»""/· I V A^ v I STORE COUPON- j CHARLESTON, W. VA, 3m

Get full access with a Free Trial

Start Free Trial

What members have found on this page