Historic Brooke Cemetery receives a boost

WELLSBURG – A series of unfortunate incidents has befallen Brooke Cemetery in recent years, but the historic site has received a boost through a grant from the George-Bowers Trust Fund.

Bill Konkle, president of the cemetery’s nine-member board, said a strong wind caused a large tree to fall onto the cemetery’s storage building, destroying it and much of the equipment inside.

While the building was insured, much of the equipment was used when it was purchased, he said.

Recently, the cemetery board was awarded a $12,500 grant through the fund that enabled it to purchase a pre-fabricated steel garage with a security system and lighting and two tractors to mow the cemetery.

Konkle said the trust fund has been a godsend, as an earlier grant from it enabled the cemetery board to restore tombstones at the site.

Konkle said Michael Hart, the cemetery’s part-time groundskeeper, poured new concrete bases or supports for hundreds of tombstones that had shifted or sunk into the ground.

Konkle said more than 500 monuments were re-set last year, and he hopes to secure additional funds to do more.

He said he’s received many positive comments about Hart’s work, not only with the tombstones but in the overall maintenance of the grounds.

He said steps have been taken to deter vandalism and illegal dumping, which have been a problem in recent years.

A gate at the cemetery’s entrance near Pleasant Avenue is locked each night and re-opened in the morning and lights have been added to increase visibility for Wellsburg police who have increased patrols there.

Konkle said recently police found three carloads of teens at the cemetery and ordered them on their way.

He said the George-Bowers grants have helped the cemetery board to make improvements, but it still depends on private donations for the cemetery’s general maintenance.

Konkle said because of the cemetery’s name, people sometimes assume it is funded and operated by county officials, but that’s not the case.

“We are not a county cemetery. We get no money from the county or city. We operate only on donations,” he said.

Konkle said the cemetery receives half the donations it once did, largely because many of the descendants of those buried there have died themselves.

Its oldest grave dating to 1875, the cemetery is on the National Register of Historic Places and it is the burial site of many distinguished individuals.

They include Sgt. Patrick Gass, a participant of the Lewis and Clark Expedition; Brooke County Sheriff Harding Duval, who was shot and killed in the Cliftonville mine riot in 1922; and several officers in the American Revolution and Civil War.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com)