West Virginia Trip
Bird's nest in berries

West Virginia October 2006

Robert Helfer ~ Lisa deGruyter

Almost Heaven

phillippi_bridge.JPGWe had a great trip to West Virginia to see the leaves and
Phillippi, West Virginia
family.  We took the old highways going south from Pittsburgh to Charleston - Philippi, where we admired the covered bridge;  down to Buckhannon, which took us past Hodgesville and Peeltree (McVaney and Greathouse ancestors lived there), French Creek, Rock Cave, Gassaway, Flatwoods, Falls Mill (where the old store we used to stop at for drinks and picnic lunch when we were kids going to French Creek Game Farm with our parents has been replaced by a roadside park),
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and down Elk River through Clay and Corton (Hill and Taylor ancestors lived there), to brother Eric's in time for dinner.
suzannes_view.JPG Friday we visited Suzanne's house (sixth cousin and Eric's friend) - a historic farmhouse with lots of neat old stuff.  We had a tour of the "loom room" and the Christmas room from Georgia Sergent, who turns out to be a 6 th cousin, too. This is a view from her front porch.  Suzanne laid out a beautiful lunch table, with homemade bread, peach jam from Eric's tree, blackberries they had picked up the hollow, and an assortment of cheese and fruit. Wish I had taken a picture - tasty and beautiful too. 
It was grey and rainy, but we went on up Johnson Creek and over to Stringtown,rocky_branch_1.JPG which was an oil-boom town now dwindled to a few farms, where Suzanne's father grew up. That was the first ford. With the help of the topo atlas, we found our way north from there to Walnut Grove, where Grandaddy deGruyter was born, before Otto and Jane Hill deGruyter moved to town. We drove on in to Spencer, which isn't looking as prosperous as some places farther north - just driving through West Virginia, things look much better than the last time we were there.
Saturday, Suzanne and Eric came with us down to Babcock State Park - Robert and Suzanne hadn't been, and Eric and I couldn't remember when we had - sometime in the 60s with our parents. We stopped at several scenic spots, including Hawk's Nest, along the way. Going back, we drove up through Mt. Nebo and Summersville, where we had no ancestors at all ;-) but it was a lovely drive through Nicholas County mountains. We had a late lunch at Fran's Restaurant just off the courthouse square in Summersville, where there has been a restaurant in the building continuously since 1885. Real home-made hamburgers, onion rings, and french fries - best burger I had had in years (including at home - ground beef in our stores seems to be completely tasteless these days). We went back down the Gauley River through Swiss and Dixie to Gauley Bridge and back to Charleston.

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Saturday night we went to cousins Mike mike_conley.JPG and Janice Conley's for supper and a get-together with cousins Fred and Anne Giersch anne_fred_giersch.JPG- great barbecue and food too numerous to mention. Mike and Fred didn't rib me too much (they're a few years older and still think of me (at 55) as one of the baby cousins - not to mention I left WV and they stayed).
Hebron_sunset.JPGSunday Eric, Robert, and I went up to Corton, where the Hills are buried in a private cemetery - the directions said "take the gravel road around behind the house", and since we were already up the road marked private, none of us had the nerve to just drive up (or walk) and ask. We couldn't see any gravestones from a distance, so we gazed longingly and went back through the country to Osborne's Mills, where the Hills and Taylors lived, and then up to Hebron, to take pictures of Hersman stones. (See pictures here).  We went on up Missouri Fork to Lick Fork and all the way up Lick Fork (where Eric and I had not been since some teenage parties on the Hardman farm out there).

Monday Eric, Robert, and I went up to Gilmer county and poked around the back roads in Duskcamp, Cedarville, Sand Fork, Truebada, where the McVaneys, Snyders, Brannons, etc. lived. Visited the Otterbein Church cemetery where Nancy Brannon Snyder, a g-g-g-grandmother, is supposed to be buried.  There was a large Snyder plot in the back corner, but most of the stones were slate that had been 

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