My great-great-grandfather's third wife, Nancy Pool Maness, had a bit of mystery about her. Her son-in-law, the informant on her death certificate, didn't know her date of birth and she's missing in the 1900 and 1910 censuses. Despite her dramatic death — having been killed by a train — I couldn't find any mention of the accident or an obituary in the regional papers. Perhaps her tombstone would at least fill in a date.
Nancy's death certificate clearly states that she was buried in Brown Cemetery. I found modern transcriptions online through Find A Grave and RootsWeb, but no Nancy. Although there are several hundred graves listed, I couldn't find a management office for the cemetery. So I added the cemetery to my Virginia itinerary, hoping it wouldn't be so large that I couldn't find anything.
Directions and GPS led me north of Radford, along a winding road in the low mountains with glimpses of a parallel railroad track.
As I turned into a steep drive, I laughed at myself, realizing why I hadn't been able to find an "office." Brown was a family cemetery that grew into a community cemetery. On top of a hill in the countryside, the stones stand out in dramatic outline against the evening sky. The cemetery looks down on the railroad track to the east and a large pasture with cows to the west.
The sun cast a burst of rays through the clouds as I walked, row after row, reading the names. I never found Nancy, or Fannie (who was also buried there), or Nancy's parents. A few stones were completely obscured by a black mold. Patterns in the grass told me there are many unmarked graves. Sadly, I saw a few from this century that still have temporary markers – future unmarked graves for those either too poor or too alone to afford a permanent gravestone.
At least I saw the cemetery, in some way paying my respects. Perhaps there's a book or a file somewhere that has an older list, including stones that aren't there anymore.
After a good dinner and a night's rest in Radford, I returned to the courthouse in Pulaski to finish looking through the chancery file. Before heading back to North Carolina, I stopped in the old courthouse and then the Ratcliffe Transportation Museum. The latter has a scaled model of the town of Pulaski in the 1950s, as well as a museum of local history.