(The following is included in a Family History written by Joan Mohr Stripe & Gloria Mohr Fast. Donated copies were given to various local libraries). In September of 2000, Gloria and Joan went looking for Sarah Hall Glover’s tombstone in Jefferson County. The family  made a trip to the courthouse and found a ledger of old WPA maps, showing where the Piney Fork Cemetery was supposed to be located. They were told no roads were leading to the cemetery. They were given the names of the township trustees and wrote letters asking them for help in finding the cemetery. All three trustees, Ray Amoroso, Ron Malin, and Bill Cermak responded. Several months later Ray contacted the sisters and Joe Rayburn had located the cemetery.

The family, including Joan and Gloria’s mother, who was ninety years old, a brother Byron, another sister Janice, and Joan’s husband, Bob traveled to the cemetery. When they finally arrived at the top of the hill, which entered the cemetery, they spotted the foundation and bricks of the Piney Fork Church. Ron Malin drove his truck with their mother down the hill to the entrance of the cemetery. Everyone else walked down over the hill, through the field to the cemetery. They state that the word “entrance” is not at all descriptive of how they got into the cemetery! It appeared to be nothing but a heavily wooded area with overgrown wild grapevines, multi-floral bushes and weeds.

They were armed with a copy of the ONLY tombstone reading done by Esther Powell back in 1967. In Esther’s book she states that it was so heavily grown over that she couldn’t even enter it and asked the property owner, Mr. Hess if he could help. He had a son crawl in the cemetery and read what stones he could see! When the Mohr family took out their copy of the tombstone inscription pages, they assumed they would follow along the list to locate the tombstone of their long lost ancestor, Sarah Hall Glover. The list didn’t match the tombstones they saw! They spent a lot of time tapping the ground to feel for buried or sunken stones. Any one of them could be actually walking on countless moss, sod and weed covered stones and not even know it! Well, the first trip they made was not successful and they left without finding Sarah’s stone. 

The next trip and attempt to locate Sarah’s tombstone was made in June and Joe Rayburn met the family team. The team had a chain saw, lopping shears, pry bars, clippers and stakes. They marked the way with the stakes and the weather forecasted “thunderstorms” but they decided to continue searching.  Now if that isn’t perseverance, what is? They worked their way through the cemetery once again, being very careful, but were beginning to get discouraged. They were chopping and clipping just to be able to get a glimpse of the fallen and broken tombstones that were on the ground everywhere they looked. Joe went up the hill and about an hour later yelled, “Here she is!” Sure enough he had found the tombstone of Sarah. The stone was in a heavily covered brush and weed area but was still standing. It was in good shape and they could read it. Joe was the family hero. Her tombstone reads, “Dear Mother Sarah, Wife of Josiah Glover, Died March 9, 1858, In her 75th year, she was a tender Mother and in her life the Lord did fear to trust our loss will be her gain and that with Christ she’s gone to reign.” 

When they walked back to the car it started to mist and they thought it would be a good idea to head back to Van Wert. As Joan and Gloria state in their book, “Our mission had been accomplished!”

{Piney Fork photo taken October 2004}
Mother sitting at Piney Fork once Sarah Hall tombstone 

By Flora L. VerStraten

     When cleaning the Piney Fork Cemetery in October, a beautiful ornate tombstone buried about six feet deep was found. Once the Obelisk stone was unearthed, it took all of the volunteers to manhandle it on top of its two bases. One foundation base was made of concrete and the other was marble.  One can only imagine how heavy the foundation and base weighed.  Once the Obelisk tombstone was put in position on top of the two bases, it was cleaned, and revealed two names. One was the name of a husband, Hugh Thompson and the other was that of his wife, Elizabeth Thompson.  (Refer to early deeds of Piney Fork Church. Hugh Thompson was an early Church Trustee and land owner. ) This was quite a find! We hope to find other early pioneer tombstones in the lower portion of the cemetery as we clean and probe. This HUGE tombstone was obviously buried and therefore wasn’t read or included in Mrs. Powell’s tombstone inscription book back in the 1960’s! 

This is what the cemetery looked like the first time I crawled in the cemetery. I couldn't stand upright, with weeds, wild grapevines, large trees and vines hampering all of my movements. A large groundhog had built a mound of dirt in the middle of the cemetery where lies a large tabletop tombstone. Mr. Hess references that he saw that ground hound hole  back in the 1960's.

I could feel what felt like "rocks" under my feet with every step that I took. Of course, they weren't rocks - they were tombstones, everywhere under my feet. I remember Ray Amoroso {now deceased} asking me, "how many burials do you think are here, about 50?" I remember my reply, "I don't think so. There are probably anywhere from 150 to 200 burials here." The trustees just couldn't believe it!

Piney Fork photo taken by Flora L. VerStraten, Summer 2003

First trip in the cemetery            

     {Below photo} Look what a year can do in the life of a cemetery! Many large trees were cut and removed from the inside of the cemetery. Many ornate, large obelisk tombstones where dug up and the area began looking like a pioneer cemetery once again.

The chapter posted "No Hunting" sign at the corner of the cemetery. John E. Borkowski even tried to plant some small shrubs, but when we came back to check on them, it appeared the deer may have eaten most of them. The deer stand was removed, and it appeared no hunting was going on in the cemetery. Several tombstones had been shot at over the years. Our goal was to remove the lush, thick foliage so that the deer wouldn't have a place comfortable to live. We removed all the brush, so the deer had to hide somewhere else! It worked and the hunters moved to the adjoining property, deer stand and all!     

As of March of 2008 we have probed the cemetery, cleared all large debris, trees, and brush and read the tombstone inscriptions. The restoration project continues, with so many tombstones buried, broken and down on the ground. We will need to take digital photos of the tombstones.

A sign was installed by the Smithfield Township Trustees at the entrance of the cemetery. We will have to continue to  mow the cemetery  regularly so we can get it in and continue the restoration process.

We've had many picnic lunches and plan to have more! We always have a good time in the cemetery, and even the inmates enjoy the fresh air and the ability to get out and use their muscles. This project has been ongoing now for 5 years.

We've had Township employees, township trustees, Belmont County inmates, Jefferson County inmates, community service workers, chapter volunteers and members - all have had a hand in the cleanup and restoration. John E. Borkowski won't be happy until he can get his riding lawn tractor in there and mow it. We've removed so many trees, stumps, vines, and ROOTS - ROOTS from the entire cemetery!  When I look around, I can't believe all the progress that has been made. It seems almost impossible this cemetery could have been completely covered with brush, weeds, vines and large trees and branches.

So, if you want to know anything about the Piney Fork Church, or Cemetery, or it's pioneers,  me and John are the people to contact. It is literally "our baby."  We have unwillingly become the experts on this cemetery merely due to the fact of all the time we've spent in the cemetery and working in the community. Of course, John grew up near this area, so that of course helped a great deal!

Piney Fork Cemetery - Looking Good Fall 2007

Photos were taken prior to any clean ups

{Dorothy Webb Mohr tombstone of her ancestor, Sarah Hall Glover}

{Joan Mohr Stripe, Bob Stripe, Gloria Mohr Fast,
Byron Mohr & Janice Mohr Lichtensteiger- Piney Fork}

Photo courtesy of Byron Mohr, taken at the Piney Fork Cemetery. Byron took the GAR shield and painted it red, white and blue. When we returned a few months later, Byron put the marker in the ground, had a new flag and put it in the holder and we all stood quietly as he installed the shield, place the flag and saluted the fallen Union Soldier.  This tombstone marks the grave of  Civil War Soldier, Thomas Hervey killed at the battle of Spotsylvania. Thomas was 20 yrs. old.

History of the Piney Fork Clean up and Plans to Restore the Cemetery will begin in the spring of 2008. It's been a long process. This cemetery was the worse we'd seen in the entire county. Due to it's remote location (which can be good or bad!) it was forgotten and severely overgrown. Read more about the clean up below:

  • Piney Fork Cemetery Clean-up plans began in the early spring of 2004 with the assistance of the township trustees and employees. Flora L. VerStraten,  along with the help of Ed Minteer, George Ruch, Broc Beebout, Rena Glover Goss, and two township employees (Rick and Denver) were the first volunteers into the cemetery. We believe it was the first time anyone has reclaimed this cemetery in over a century since signs of the last burial were about 1902. We began clearing the top portion of the cemetery by cutting up large fallen trees, huge wild grapevines, multi floral rosebushes etc. We made several trips to the cemetery during the spring and the top portions of the cemetery were completely cleared and ready to be probed for sunken tombstones, but the weeds soon took over again.
  • Piney Fork, continued The next trip to Piney Fork was in late September. The only road leading back to the cemetery was washed out due to heavy rains and flooding just the week before. The only way into the cemetery was a long back woods drive in a four wheeler and a four-wheel drive vehicle with permission from the neighboring Hass farm.  We had a willing and able crew to volunteer with the clean up.  Brothers John & Tom Borkowski, Bob Maffit, John Pastre, Ed Minteer, Don McHugh, Byron Mohr and his sisters, Gloria Fast and Joan Stripe joined me. In the lower portion of the cemetery we removed all large vegetation, small and large trees were cut down and removed, large grapevines cut down and cleared. A large groundhog mound was present which caused many tombstones to sink several feet deep in the ground and many other stones to fall forward and backwards and break.
  • Piney Fork final clean up continued on October 25th and 26th.  The road leading to the cemetery hadn’t been repaired yet so John Borkowski decided to go around the backside where the local coal mining company was located and see if we could get in from that direction.  John met up with a gentleman (names will not be given to protect the innocent!) and he asked John what time we were arriving to get back to the cemetery. John explained that we would be arriving in about an hour.  He got on his radio and told John that a road would be made and ready for us back to the cemetery in 30 minutes!  When John gave all of us the news, we could hardly believe our ears!  This visit proved very fruitful with 14 hard working volunteers.  Some began downing large rotten trees and branches, others carried them and put them in a large wooded area.  Some cleaned tombstones while others probed and dug up sunken stones & reset them.  We worked from sun-up until sun-down the first day and gave it all we had left on the second day.  Those volunteers along with Flora were organizer, John Borkowski & his brother, Tom Borkowski, Bob & Joan Stripe, Byron Mohr, Bill & Gloria Fast, Larry Webb, Bob Maffit, Ed Minteer, Frank Delgreco, Gene Zifzal,  wife Rita, Anita Carson, and Claudia Cline. One more scheduled clean up as of November 11th, 2004.