By Don Silvius
High on a hill northeast of Route 55 between Strasburg and Lebanon Church is a beautiful little cemetery encircled by a black old-style wrought iron fence. This cemetery is known as Boehm Cemetery. To me it is as close as I can get to the genesis of my family.|
From the vantage point of the little cemetery, one can see the tops of the hills to the West as they verge upon the Allegheny Mountains. On my memorable visit to this site, in the late summer of 1994, a thunderstorm had just crossed the valley, and clouds still clung to the top of North Mountain.
The oldest known burial here is Elizabeth Boehm, who died May 10, 1783, but certainly some of the other field-stone marked graves are older. By the discernible names on the stones, this was a burial ground for, among others, German, Scots-Irish, and English families. At least one Revolutionary War veteran is buried here, John Bly, a sergeant in the 8th Virginia Regiment is memorialized with two markers. There could be several Civil War veterans buried here, since the mid-1800's seem to be the pinnacle of use for this burial ground.
One of the families that called this area home during this time was the Supingers. Descended from the Zuppinger family of Switzerland, the earliest established burial from this family was Conrad Supinger, who died October 30, 1813. Beside him is Mary Supinger, most likely his wife, who died January 30, 1817. These graves are marked with inscribed field stones bearing their names. A Supinger family member worked hard to memorialize his lost loved ones. At least one other generation of this family is buried here, William Supinger (2-April-1803 - 16-March-1881), could have been Conrad and Mary's son.
Bakers and Stickleys are also buried here. The intertwining of these two families is well documented. Abraham Baker and his wife Tirzah, whose maiden name was Boehm, share a modern style headstone. The Stickley family is one of the pioneering families in this area. They are descended from the Stöckli family of Switzerland. Descendants of the Stickley family currently own the property surrounding Boehm Cemetery.
The most common surname in this cemetery is Mowery. At least four generations of Mowerys are buried in this picturesque cemetery. Fred R. Mowery (16-September-1788 - 4- April-1866) is the earliest with a marker. I would surmise that, since they owned property nearby, Fred's parents, Frederic and Elizabeth (Rosenberger) Mowery, and his wife Catherine (Supinger) Mowery also lie in Boehm Cemetery. Fred and Catherine's sons Cornelius and John F. Mowery were interred here as were their wives. Cornelius was a Confederate veteran who died 11-December-1861 after being listed as absent sick from his regiment 22-November-1861. There is no indication of the nature of his illness or the cause of his death. Another brother, Ephraim is said to have been captured as a prisoner of war on his own property during the Battle of Fisher's Hill. Ephraim Mowery died in 1864 at a prisoner of war camp in Elmira, NY, where he is buried. The wives and children of these three brothers were also laid to rest in Boehm Cemetery. The early deaths of some of their children is evidence of how life-threatening the process of childbirth was in the past for both mother and child.
My trip to Boehm Cemetery in 1994, with emotions still running high from the birth of my first child, was akin to Alex Haley's search for Kunta Kinte. Only I didn't have to travel to Africa, just 40 minutes south on interstate 81, to be able to stand in the same place so many generations of my forebears stood. I could see the same countryside they saw and experience some of the same emotions they felt. It was as though I had traveled back in time.
If you have become disconnected from your roots, maybe you should try to get back in touch with them. The moment of re-connection is a great joy. The ties that bind us are eternal ties. They contain such power, force and influence, that once you are disconnected, the rejoining is like lighting up a city. For me, this day was like lighting up the world. Each person buried in Boehm or any other cemetery has a story to be told. Whether they were kings, soldiers or dirt farmers, all their stories are equally important.
Don Silvius works as a computer programmer, has been involved in genealogical research for about five years and has written approximately 150 songs, including all of the music for his wedding. A descendant of three families (Silvius, Campbell and Mowery) who have been in the Valley since at least the early 1800's, Don lives with his wife and two children near Inwood, WV on part of the property once owned by his great-grandparents. He's a graduate of Shepherd College in Shepherdstown, WV, and is active in his local Little League Baseball organization. Don can be reached by e-mail at DSilvius@bibfile.com .|