Tennant Chapel Cemetery struggles with road maintenance

By Tiffany Morgan, The Dominion Post

W. Va. — Family is the last thing holding it together. The Tennant Chapel Cemetery became a business in 1993, and since then, the road up to the cemetery has not been kept up.

Bonnie Wilson, secretary of the Tennant Chapel Cemetery Association, said she contacted the West Virginia Division of Highways (DOH) several times about the issue.

The cemetery was incorporated by Consol Energy Inc., in 1993, when the area underneath the cemetery was mined, and Wilson said the cemetery received money just in case anything was to happen. During the same year, the mine also took care of the road, but with time and weathering, the condition and ability to use it became difficult.

Wilson said the only way to drive up to the cemetery is to use an all-terrain vehicle (ATV).

Wilson has relatives buried in the cemetery, so it’s important to her to keep it in good condition.

“My great-grandparents are buried here; my mother’s little sister is buried here. There are five generations of Tennants buried here. Everyone in this cemetery is either a Tennant or married into the Tennant family,” Wilson said.

“For years, volunteers took care of this cemetery, but they’re all gone now, and since we’ve been incorporated, it’s up to us to take care of it. And I think we have a duty to keep up this tradition of cleaning up this cemetery and keeping it nice for future generations because we do still have burials here.”

More than 100 people are buried in the cemetery, and Wilson said there are people who want to be buried there, but she worries the road condition will prevent that. Wilson said the road is in “bad shape” and in need of ditches, culverts, grating and gravel, but when she contacted the DOH, all she asked was for it to be grated.

Wilson added that, in Pentress, the needed materials to  fix the road to the cemetery are available, but the DOH told her it won’t happen time and time again.

“All we asked for was just to please grate it so we can get to the cemetery, and if someone dies, they can get the body up here,” Wilson said. “I don’t understand it because Pentress has two graters … they’d only have to come less than 10 miles to grate this road.”

Jill Tennant, president of the Tennant Chapel Cemetery Association, said the group looked into getting a permit to get the road graded but was told that it could take up to a year, if not longer.

“Most of these people here are our ancestors. We do this mostly because we feel we have respect, and we have an obligation here to keep this going,” Tennant said. “We are in desperate need of help; we are looking for any options that are out there.”

Tennant added that it’s frustrating to get main roads taken care of, so a long-forgotten back road is even more difficult to get the fixed.

“Most people think ‘we can’t get our main road taken care of, how are we going to get a back road like this taken care of?’ And we have an obligation — we have a responsibility to our ancestors,”

Tennant said. “It’s a shame, and it’s tough when we can’t even get a response from the DOH.”

DOH did not respond in time for this report.