Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday--Sarah R. McElroy VanGilder

I have wanted to find this cemetery and locate my ggg grandmother’s burial site for years. Back around 1997, another VanGilder sent me a note listing Sarah’s cemetery site. Another researcher, in March, 1982 found the information while working in Kingwood County Count House, Preston County, West Virginia1. Well, it took me until last summer, July 2008, while vacationing in West Virginia, to finally make it to Union Cemetery in Preston County.

The Union Cemetery is located on a hill between Independence and Gladesville in the Lyon District of Preston County, West Virginia. It appears that a family member added the current tombstone as there is a smaller one with
the initials SRV directly in front of the newer marker.

Thank goodness for modern technology and my brother, Ken’s, Garmin. It directed us to the cemetery without any mistakes. Once there, the search was on. It was my husband, Ted, who first located Sarah’s marker. My husband indulges my cemetery wanderings for a brief amount of time, so his finding the marker quickly meant I could get the photos and be on our way! Although on this trip my two brothers were also along and they had more than a passing interest in the find.

Sarah R. McElroy was born on June 11, 1797,2 in Maryland to Thomas and Elizabeth McElroy (sometimes written Muckleroy). From early Monongalia County tax records, it appears that the McElroy’s removed to the Morgantown, (West) Virginia area between 1800-18043. They lived at the Forks of Cheat near Cheat Lake (which is exactly where we vacationed!).

Sarah married Jacob VanGilder on April 25, 1825 in Monongalia County4. The Van Gilder’s had four children: Eliza J., John Oliphant, Mary Isabel, and Rebecca A. VanGilder.

Jacob died before 1840, leaving Sarah to raise and provide for the four children. Once her children were married, Sarah lived with her daughter, Eliza J., who married Frank Jenkins. Their home was in Grafton, Taylor County, West Virginia.

Sarah died on February 8, 1881 from a fall on the ice in Grafton5. She was 84.

Since she died in Grafton, the question came to mind, why was she buried in this small cemetery, in rural Preston County? Perhaps the answer is that her youngest daughter, Rebecca VanGilder Church lived in the Lyon District and Sarah chose to be buried there. I did not look to see if Rebecca Church was buried in that cemetery…perhaps on another visit.

Sarah VanGilder's tombstone is located under a tree near the top of the hill on the left hand side of the cemetery. The burial markers surrounding Sarah are broken and illegible. Perhaps her daughter's marker or other family members are among them. There was also a broken gravemarker sitting on top of Sarah's.


1. "Preston County Journal," Kingwood County Court House, Kingwood, West Virginia.

2. Tombstone of Sarah McElroy VanGilder, Union Cemetery, Preston County, Lyon District, West Virginia.

3. Monongalia County, (West) Virginia 1804 Tax List, page 124.

4. Monongalia County, West Virginia Marriage Records, page 70.

5. Taylor County Death Record, Volume 2, page 19, line 165.

References Used

-1850 Virginia Federal Census, The Eastern District Number 36, Monongalia County, page 263.

-1870 West Virginia Federal Census, Prunty Town, Grafton, Taylor County, page 23 (166).

-1880 West Virginia Federal Census, Grafton, Taylor County, ED 81, page 23 (311).

1 comment:

  1. What a neat looking cemetery - it appears to have quite an incline.