West Virginia Day observed at Bluemont Cemetery

Wednesday, Jun 20th, 2012

GRAFTON – Wednesday, June 20, is West Virginia Day, and for the 18th annual Bluemont Cemetery West Virginia Day Observance, the City of Grafton is remembering, and bestowing homage to, prominent and notable citizens from Grafton’s historic past, who are buried in the cemetery.

The memorial remembrance for 2012, also identified this year as the second of five observances commemorating the Civil War: the War Between the States, Sesquicentennial (1861-1865 to 2011-2015) at Bluemont Cemetery, is to John W. "Logan" Keener, who was the last surviving member of the Letcher Guards, The Confederate States (Confederacy) Army.

Private John W. "Logan" Keener was one of approximately 55 privates, who enlisted in the Letcher Guards from the town of Grafton, the town of Fetterman, and Taylor County, Virginia, now West Virginia.

The (Letcher Guards) Confederate Army in Taylor County, was organized by Colonel John A. Robinson and Colonel Robert Hickenbotem with a full crew of officers and 55 privates, in Grafton, Virginia, now West Virginia.

The Letcher Guards were attached to the 25 Virginia Confederate Army, commanded by General Stonewall Jackson and General Robert E. Lee. This company participated in the engagements at Bull Run, Seven Days, Wilderness, Mines Run, Winchester, Chancellorsville, Mineville, Gettysburg, and Appomattox.

In an interview from March 28, 1921 between John W. Keener and Taylor County Historian Charles W. Brinkman, as published (February 15, 1946) in American Wars and Taylor County, Virginia, West Virginia Men: The late John W. Keener, the last survivor of the Confederate Letcher Guards, related this story of his part in the Civil War. I, John W. Keener, age 15, enlisted in the Letcher Guards at Fetterman, our company joined the 25th Virginia Confederate Army commanded by Stonewall Jackson. It was at Chancellorsville, May 2, 1863, General Jackson ordering my detail to let no one to approach our lines without the proper signal. General Jackson rode away to scout the enemy position and forces and after competing his mission, he rode rapidly toward our lines at nightfall, without giving the signal — not recognizing him, we opened fire. General Jackson was falling from his horse, as we rushed to him to discover with horror our awful mistake. We had shot and fatally wounded our beloved Commander. His arm was amputated in the vain hope of saving this gallant soldier’s life, but to no avail, he died May 10, 1863, and so, passed from the scene of action one of the most brilliant officers of the Confederate Army.

Mr. Keener was born on January 10, 1846, near the place where he lived and died, except for the duration of the Civil War. He was the son of William Nuzum and Margaret Poe Keener, and died on May 15, 1933, at the age of 87 years, four months, and five days.

His funeral was in the care of the Bartlett Funeral Home, and he was buried in Lot No. 430, in Bluemont Cemetery, next to his wife, Nancy Bailey Keener (January 16, 1849-December 24, 1942) and other members of his family. At his death, he was survived by his wife, Nancy Bailey Keener, daughter Laura C. Keener Lewis, and granddaughter, Lila G. Miller.

His grave is marked by a private family stone and a Confederate States Civil War Marker engraved with his Civil War military statistics, which is below the engraved Southern Cross of Honor.

Last year’s memorial recognition (No. 17 & Civil War Sesquicentennial No. 1), was to Private Thomas C. Nuzum, who was the last surviving member of the Grafton Guards, the United States (Union) Army, the Civil War, the War Between the States, 1861-1865.

Taking part in the observance were Civil War United States (Union) Army Re-enactors, Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Skaggs; Sergeant Mark Tennant; and General James Barnes.

The 2010 memorial tribute (No. 16) was to Le Roy Cofran, who in 1874 organized the first fire department in Grafton and Taylor County.

Taking part in the observance were former Fire Chiefs of the Grafton Fire Department: Charles Duckworth, Billy Workman, Dennis Peters, Sr., R. Wayne Beall, Craig E. Crimm, and the current Grafton Fire Chief, John Casey Jones.

Year 2009 memorial recognition (No. 15) was to Dr. Rachel Runner McKee, the first woman dentist in Grafton – Taylor County. Taking part in the observance were dentists Dr. Jodie Boyles and Dr. Chandra M. Knotts.

The 2008 memorial tribute (No. 14) was to Lawson L. Loar, who delivered the first Mother’s Day Proclamation during the first Mother’s Day Service, which was launched in Grafton at the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church (International Mother’s Day Shrine) on Sunday, May 10, 1908.

Participating in the 2008 observance were C. E. Paugh, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the International Mother’s Day Shrine and Marcia Malone Slaven, Chairman of the Mother’s Day Centennial Committee (1908-2008) of the International Mother’s Day Shrine.

Year 2007 memorial tribute (No. 13) was to Laura E. Miller (Jackson), the first girl (female) graduate of Grafton High School, graduating with the class of 1886, the first graduating class in the history of Grafton High School.

Participating in the observance were Kristin N. Duncan, Grafton High School Class of 2007 Valedictorian, a graduating class of 145 students, and Judy Teagarden Collett, Grafton High Class of 1966 Valedictorian, a graduating class of 188 students, the largest class to date to be graduated from Grafton High School.

The 2006 memorial recognition (No. 12) was to Major John G. Houston, the first caretaker of Bluemont Cemetery. Taking part in the observance were G. Thomas Bartlett, III, Mayor of the City of Grafton and Stanley K. Riley, Caretaker of the Bluemont Cemetery.

The 2005 memorial tribute (No. 11) was to Granville Eskridge Jarvis, father of Anna Jarvis who spent her adult life, establishing and promoting the international observance and holiday "Mother’s Day."

Participating in the 2005 memorial observance were Marcia Malone Slaven, representing the International Mother’s Day Shrine (Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church) location where the first Mother’s Day observance and Olive V. Dadisman, representing the Anna Jarvis Birth Place and Museum, the birthplace/home of Anna Jarvis, founder of Mother’s Day.

The year 2004 memorial tribute (No. 10) was to John Wesley Hull, who established the first exclusive Hardware Store in Grafton and Taylor County and served for 32 years as church school superintendent of the St. John’s Methodist Protestant Church.

Participating in the 2004 memorial observance were John McDaniel, owner of Taylor County Supply and Rev. H. Edgar Suite, minister of the St. John’s United Methodist Church (now part of the Church of the Good Shepherd United Methodist.)

The 2003 memorial tribute (No. 9) was to Dr. Alexander W. Shaw, who established the first permanent practice of Dentistry in Grafton and Taylor County.

Participating in the memorial observance were dentists: Dr. Charles E. "Chick" Bennett and Dr. William C. Nicholas.

The observance in 2002 (No. 8) was to Dr. Charles A. Sinsel, the only West Virginia State Senator from Taylor County having the distinction of being elected President of the West Virginia State Senate and with this position also becoming Lieutenant Governor of the State of West Virginia.

Participating in the observance were West Virginia State Senator Sarah M. Minear, Republican from Tucker County, the 14th District and Senator John Blair Hunter, Democrat from Monongalia County, the 14th District.

Year 2001 recognition (No. 7) was to Eddie McClintic Suddarth, the first women from Taylor County to be elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates and the first woman from Taylor County to be elected to a public office.

Taking part in the observance were Taylor County Circuit Clerk Elane M. Bennett, Taylor County Clerk Nancy Virginia Fowler, and Taylor County Assessor Judith L. Collett.

The year 2000 observance (No. 6) was to William A. Marsh, who between 1978 and 1994 extracted and published the 1880 Census of West Virginia, the first of its kind for the publishing of a completed census record for any census period.

Participating in the observance were Olive V. Crow, president of the Taylor County Historical and Genealogical Society and Erika Reed, Librarian of the Taylor County Public Library.

The 1999 observance (No. 5) was to Nancy Blue, first documented burial in Bluemont Cemetery.

Participating in the observance were Thomas L. Horacek, Mayor of the City of Grafton and Jeffery L. Tansill, Vice Mayor of the City of Grafton.

1998 recognition (No. 4) was to General George W. Brown, the first president of the First Community Bank (First National Bank) of Grafton.

Participating in this observance were Thomas Key, CEO of the First Community Bank of Grafton and Katherine Matthews, head teller of the First Community Bank of Grafton.

1997 tribute (No. 3) was to Elizabeth Cather, first woman appointed to serve on the Housing Authority of the City of Grafton.

Participating in the observance were Kay Harman, chairman of the Board of the Housing Authority and Ruth Lake (Gerkin), Executive Director of the Housing Authority.

The 1996 recognition (No. 2) was to two West Virginia statesmen, Judge Marmaduke Herbert Dent and Judge Ira E. Robinson. Both men served on the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.

Participating in this second annual observance were Circuit Judge John L. Water, Taylor County Magistrate Leonard Lucas, and Grafton Municipal Judge Lloyd W. Spring, III.

The initial observance in 1995, (No. 1) was in tribute to Grafton’s first woman Mayor, Cosma Darby Fisher. She served as Mayor from 1967 to 1971.

Taking part in this first observance were former Grafton mayors Edna "Peggy" Poe and Carole F. Klepfel.

Copyright 2012 News Media Corporation

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