History

Owned and operated by the Town of Bridgeport (now the City of Bridgeport), this cemetery, which covers approximately thirty-two acres of land, was established as a municipal enterprise in 1939 through the acquisition and consolidation of three existing cemeteries (the Old Baptist Brick Church Graveyard, the Old Masonic Cemetery, and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Cemetery), along with 20 additional acres of land.

Old Baptist Church

The Old Baptist Brick Church Graveyard, located on the right of the entrance roadway, is of considerable historic interest. This section, originally known as the "Baptist Meeting House Graveyard," was acquired from David Davisson in 1770, and in the same year John Sutton, together with five others whose names are now unknown, founded and erected the first church to be built west of the Allegheny Mountains. The site of the old Meeting House is now marked by a bronze tablet on which is inscribed the history of the Church.

The old Masonic Cemetery adjoining the Old Baptist Brick Church graveyard on the north was established in 1895 by Late Lodge No. 63, A.F. & A.M. Immediately to the east is located the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Cemetery which was established in 1913.

Those buried in these grounds now known as the Bridgeport Cemetery are especially representative of the history of our country, for among them are many pioneers and early settlers and veterans of

Governor Johnson Headstone

all our wars since and including the American Revolution, seventeen known veterans of the Revolutionary War, at least one veteran of the War of 1812, many Union and Confederate veterans of the War between the States, World War veterans, and also The Honorable Joseph Johnson, State Legislator and Congressman and the only Governor of Old Virginia to come from that part of the State which later became West Virginia. The first burial in this graveyard of which there is now any knowledge is marked by a hand hewn stone bearing the date January 18, 1782 - five years prior to the adoption of the Constitution of the United States. Perhaps the most interesting headstone is that of James (Peg) Clemens, 1857-1940, which states: "Rider of Pony Express; Buffalo hunter of the Old West; Pioneer railroader of Texas; Member of the Sioux Indian Tribe by adoption; Cousin of Mark Twain."

The original Bridgeport Cemetery Committee appointed by the Bridgeport Town Council in September 1939, was composed of Dr. W.M. Davis, chairman, Dana H. Gawthrop, secretary-treasurer, Miss Sophie Benedum, Mrs. Jessie Barnes, Carl Workman, J. Dunkin Lodge, J.A. Deegan, H.R. Lawson, George Camp, W. Frank Stout and J.R. Jones. This committee, which was charged with the responsibility of planning and establishing an impressively improved and enlarged facility, then retained Frank C. Harris, a landscape architect, to supervise the work.

Philanthropist Michael Late Benedum, a native son of Bridgeport, desiring to express his interest in the welfare of his former hometown, offered to furnish the necessary funds for this ambitious cemetery project, and it was only by reason of his generous contributions that it was possible to transform this historic site into a beautiful, lasting memorial.

Since September 20, 1939, when the task of improving and enlarging the cemetery facilities was commenced, paved roadways providing access to all sections of the cemetery have been constructed. The grounds have been graded to provide proper drainage. As a result of extensive cultivation, the rolling hills of the cemetery are covered with thick, green turf. All sections have been landscaped, including the generous use of evergreens and flowering shrubs. A wall of native fieldstone has been constructed across the front of the cemetery, and the entire boundary has been enclosed with a strong fence. Adequate water has been assured by lines connected to the town's supply. Also, as completely as possible, accurate records of lot owners and burials have been compiled. Many of the hand-hewn tombstones in the old Baptist graveyard section, the inscriptions on which were becoming illegible, have been reset in concrete bases, together with bronze tablets on which the inscriptions have been fully reproduced, thus insuring their permanence.

More history of the Bridgeport Cemetery...