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Destroying Mountains, Destroying Cemeteries: Historic Mountain Cemeteries in the Coalfields of Boone, Kanawha, and Raleigh Counties, West Virginia

James N. Maples and Elizabeth A. East
Journal of Appalachian Studies
Vol. 19, No. 1/2 (Spring/Fall 2013), pp. 7-26
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/42635924
Page Count: 20
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Destroying Mountains, Destroying Cemeteries: Historic Mountain Cemeteries in the Coalfields of Boone, Kanawha, and Raleigh Counties, West Virginia
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Abstract

Researchers have previously examined the environmental costs of mountaintop removal but have often overlooked the cultural loss caused by MTR, including the plight of historic mountain cemeteries (or HMCs) that lie directly above coal seams in Appalachia. We find that MTR activity is a very real threat to HMCs, a threat culminating in the damage or destruction of multiple cemeteries. In this paper, we explore the discordant relationship between MTR and HMCs. We summarize the meanings and purposes of cemeteries in our society and explore how Appalachian funeral and burial mores create cemeteries (namely, HMCs) that differentiate them from modern cemeteries. We discuss how cemeteries might come to be damaged or destroyed, including how MTR blasting, bulldozing, and valley fills can impact HMCs. We then identify eighteen HMCs of interest in Boone, Kanawha, and Raleigh Counties in West Virginia's coalfields to document the scope of MTR's threat to HMCs. We conclude by examining the greater forces that propel cemetery damage and destruction in MTR regions (access to cemeteries, depopulation, and lack of legal protection) and offering directions for future research and activism.

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