Category Archives: Cemeteries

Melcenia Fields; the Hermit of Beury

When Melcenia Fields failed to retrieve her groceries, railroad workers knew something was wrong. Fields, inexplicably to all but herself, lived in the ruins of Beury, WV, one of dozens of company towns in the New River Gorge that residents completely abandoned when the adjacent coal seams were mined out. Fields lived there alone for … Continue reading

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R/V Arctic Discoverer; The Sad Remnants of a Golden Find

The listing and rusted vessel is what you’d expect to see at a scrapyard. What’s not readily apparent, though, is that beneath the cracked paint and broken windows lies an epic tale of disaster and riches, disappearance and discovery, greed and justice. And the story is far from over. The Research Vessel Arctic Discoverer was … Continue reading

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Buffalo Springs; The Nectar of Eden

To hear William Byrd II tell it, these springs made wet dreams, allowing his exploring party’s “appetites to mend, our slumbers to sweeten, the stream of life to run cool and peaceably in veins, and if ever we dreamt of women, they were kind.” The water, Byrd said, was “what Adam drank in Paradise.” What … Continue reading

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Shaker Communities; The Remnants of Kingdom Come

Three remain. Not three villages, but three people. That’s of thousands who once counted themselves among the believers, scattered in two dozen communities from the Deep South to New England to the Midwest. Now just two women and a man–the last of the Shakers–live at Sabbathday Lake in Maine. If you’re still a good stretch … Continue reading

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Fort Hancock; Coastal Defense Through the Nuclear Age

I’m often asked for tips by folks who want to find and explore abandoned history, and the discussion always circles around to trespassing. “Do you ever ignore ‘No Trespassing’ signs?” they ask. My answer? No. There’s no reason to, especially when there’s so much to see on public property nearby major cities. For instance, few … Continue reading

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The Smallpox Hospital, or, Renwick Ruin; An Abandoned Symbol of How Far We’ve Come

New York City has its share of abandoned history, but none quite like the Renwick Ruin on Roosevelt Island. With its Gothic facade, the Smallpox Hospital, as it was once known, looks like some forsaken castle lost in time, better suited for the rolling terrain of rural Europe. Indeed, the Renwick Ruin does represent another … Continue reading

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The Shaw Monument; A Testament to Folly

A word to the wise: if you’re going to erect a monument to one of world history’s watershed moments, don’t do it like “Old John” Shaw did. Otherwise critics might similarly pan your work. “A monument crude and unsightly,” one observer said of his masterpiece. “A dishonor to beauty and art.” Another called it “an … Continue reading

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A Keeper of Shenandoah National Park’s Forgotten Memories

The wreckage of a remote plane crash. An old carbide gas reservoir. A vanished gristmill. And lots of forgotten family burial plots. These are a few traces Sue Eisenfeld has teased from the wilderness of Shenandoah National Park. The physical changes wrought by humans’ hands will soon vanish from the landscape of one of the … Continue reading

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Pilgrims to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Grave; The New Poe Toasters

Most folks figure that the Poe Toaster is stone, stone dead. It’s getting on three years now he’s been a no-show for the macabre middle-of-the-night tributes to Baltimore’s most famous decedent. If the idea toasting tortured authors is your thing, though, you can still find literary pilgrims making clandestine visits to an urban cemetery, leaving … Continue reading

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The Forgotten Mass Grave at Harpers Ferry; A Strange Trip for Eight Raiders

Three feet down, the men struck something: a pine box. Waterlogged and rotting, yes, but a pine box nonetheless–exactly what they’d come looking for. They pried off the lid. A man’s spine was stuck to it. They closed the coffin, refilled the hole, placed a couple crude headstones, knowing all the while there’d soon be … Continue reading

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Richard Baynham Garrett and the Unwanted Celebrity of an Assassin Come Calling

You’d not think to look for traces of John Wilkes Booth in Portsmouth, Virginia. Sure, the city has witnessed its share of extraordinary episodes, but the bustling port town is a long way from Washington D.C. and the quiet, rural community where the most famous manhunt in U.S. history came to a violent end. For … Continue reading

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Slabtown; A Community that Gave Its Existence for the United States

It’s easy to appreciate sacrifice at Yorktown Battlefield, where Americans secured their independence. Visitors there find historic fortifications, artillery and cemeteries containing the remains of hundreds of soldiers who fought and died for a cause. But sometimes folks render service to their country in less visible ways, and in an out-of-the-way quarter of the battlefield, … Continue reading

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Capeville’s Train Depot; Passing Time on the Passing of an Era

When photographer Meredith West and I arrived at the train depot in Capeville on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, an unexpected visitor had gotten there ahead of us. Meredith and I were on assignment for another article and made the brief detour to get a firsthand look at the ramshackle building I had driven by a hundred … Continue reading

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The New River Gorge; A Natural Wonder, Take Two

Every October, tens of thousands of spectators show up in Fayetteville, West Virginia to watch several hundred brave souls leap from the 876-foot-high New River Gorge Bridge. Just as stunning as the parachutists’ courage on Bridge Day, however, is the scenery at the gorge. It’s breathtaking on the scale of the Grand Canyon. Lush forests line the … Continue reading

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Centralia, Pennsylvania; A Time Capsule Left Behind

Centralia, Pennsylvania is readying for its swan song. The cursed borough’s dramatic saga is coming to a close and media giants no longer come calling as they once did. But time’s approaching for an event that’ll be a measure of how deep a meaning the lost town has in the hearts of the people forced … Continue reading

Posted in Cemeteries, Ghost towns, Industry, Mines | 46 Comments

Wash Woods; A Community Beholden to the Merciless Atlanic

If ever you wanted a taste of our forefathers’ hardiness, you’d find it at Wash Woods. There, in thickets of low-slung evergreens, far from any human population, are the hidden ruins of a community that had no roads in or out. That remoteness was responsible both for the village’s existence and for its undoing. Even … Continue reading

Posted in Bay Islands, Cemeteries, Ghost towns | 6 Comments

The Ruins of Rosewell; Rescued from the Cruel Hands of Nature and Man

There are 50 keystones missing. Perhaps some adorn nearby mantles. Others maybe are forgotten, collecting dust in attics or as doorstops. Regardless, they’re gone, likely for good, wrenched from a once-palatial mansion that now shows just how cruel a curator man can be. Long ago Rosewell was the seat of a sprawling plantation in Gloucester … Continue reading

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The Church Hill Tunnel; Two Portals a World Apart

The western end is an attractive backdrop for a trim, brick patio. The opening 4,000 feet east hides beneath jagged terrain and tangled thickets. These are the portals of the Church Hill Tunnel, ten blocks distant but a world apart. There is a train buried under Richmond’s Church Hill neighborhood–the steam engine Locomotive 231 and … Continue reading

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First Landing State Park and the Last Trace of a Vanquished Nation

There are 64 people buried at First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach. 64 souls in a small circle of sandy ground maybe 20 feet across.  This is no grown-over, out-of-the-way country cemetery so common on the rim of the Chesapeake Bay, though. The people resting there are the last trace of an annihilated tribe. … Continue reading

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Deal Island, Maryland and Better Days Gone By

A news report I read recently quoted a local calling Deal Island, Maryland a dying community. That image was a potent siren call. I had no choice but to investigate, particularly since Deal Island is an icon of Bay culture, and losing it would be a significant blow to a 400-year-old heritage. Deal Island dangles mid-Bay … Continue reading

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