On a misty morning last week, I got up at the crack of dawn to check out a graveyard I’ve been driving right by for, oh, about 30 years now. Well, I finally managed to visit said graveyard, and it was very much a treat to do so.
The Clover Creek Presbyterian Church and its adjoining graveyard are located approximately six miles south of McDowell, Virginia, in a magical little valley that does a great job of showcasing how truly beautiful the Commonwealth State is. The graveyard rises up on a hill overlooking the McClung Farm nestled below. Built in 1844, the McClung Farmhouse is a large brick home that anchors the McClung Farm Historic District, a pastoral patch of land made up of a small cluster of buildings, fields, fences, and headstones. The Clover Creek Presbyterian Church and graveyard reside within this quaint historic district.
Speaking of graveyards, did you know there’s a difference between a graveyard and a cemetery? I didn’t! At least, not until very recently. So, what’s the difference? Well, it turns out that a graveyard refers specifically to a burial ground that adjoins a church. A cemetery is just a burial ground with no physical church attached. However, a cemetery can have a church inside it. I think. Ok, I’m not entirely sure what the nitty gritty details are, but if anyone reading this would care to clarify, feel free to leave a comment below! ☻
I’ve traveled through this valley a good hundred times during my lifetime. Just a stone’s throw from here, my dad used to take me fishing on the banks of the Bullpasture River when I was a child. While driving by with our fishing gear in tow, I would look up from the passenger seat at the church and graveyard and wonder if ghosts really existed. If they do exist, they definitely live up in that graveyard, I thought.
Over the years, I have continued to drive down this winding road when visiting my family in Virginia, always slowing down just a little to peer up at the chiseled stone markers dotting the Clover Creek hill. Last week, standing on that hill after finally having made the pilgrimage, I was faced with those existential thoughts that tend to pop up when one is standing in a burial ground, literally surrounded by death. I thought about this beautiful valley, where I’ve returned to throughout my entire life. I thought about the strange passing of time, and how I was once a little girl standing on the riverbanks with my dad, totally grossed out at the task of having to hook a live worm to use as bait. I also tried to imagine some of the lives of the folks buried here in this graveyard, and how interesting their stories must be. All the things they must have seen and experienced. Many of these headstones mark the graves of people who lived and died in the Civil War era, and it’s pretty wild to think that really wasn’t that long ago. Only a handful of generations separate us from such a vastly different time.
If you happen to be in the area of McDowell, Virginia anytime soon, do consider stopping in for a little graveyard stroll at the Clover Creek Presbyterian Church. The view from the hilltop is pretty incredible early in the morning. I think you’ll love it.
Happy trails! ♡