Dils Cemetery

Located in Parkersburg, Wood County, W.Va.

Situated behind the Parkersburg branch of the Williamstown National Bank, 3002 7th Street, Parkersburg, W.Va.

With its first known internment, that of Philip Dils in 1801, the Dils Graveyard ranks as one of Parkersburg, West Virginia’s earliest community burying grounds. As with most early graveyards it began as a family burying ground; in this instance, of the Philip Dils family, the largest landholder in that section. As the Dils family grew and the area became more populated, the cemetery developed into a small community graveyard. Even though the land was well outside of city limits (Parkersburg was then the newly established town of Newport, western Virginia), it was situated along a busy thoroughfare, later to become part of the great Northwestern Virginia Turnpike. The cemetery is near Worthington Creek, a tributary of the Little Kanawha River. Historian John Albert House [1854-1938] describes the graveyard as follows: "The Old Dils Graveyard lies over two miles from the uttermost limit of the Parkersburg of one hundred years ago, yet it is now inside its eastern suburb. The southwest corner has the oldest graves, dating back to the [eighteen] Twenties and Thirties (and earlier). The surface of the ground is smooth, sloping gently from east of the middle to the western line. The southern half is cleft by the two steep hollows, at the junction of these hollows is a spring." A deed describes the cemetery as "being one acre, more or less". In 1857 the Roman Catholic Church also established a graveyard in the area. It abutted the Dils Cemetery property on the east side.

In 1870 the Dils Graveyard, then owned by Philip Dils descendant James McNeil Stephenson, was deeded over to trustees, namely David H. Dils, William M. Evans, Andrew Murdy, and R.B. Stephenson. James McNeil Stephenson, however, did retain the rights to a small portion of the cemetery (adjoining the Catholic Cemetery) as a plot for his own family. This large family plot was sometimes referred to as the Stephenson Cemetery [not to be confused with the Stephenson Cemetery that is located behind the old Corning Glass Works]. James McNeil Stephenson, his wife, and possibly three infant children were buried there but were later disinterred and relocated to Mt. Olivet Cemetery.

Until perhaps ten years ago, the oldest original headstone remaining at Dils was a monument to Captain James Foley, an American Revolutionary War soldier. It was replaced by one of his descendants with a durable marble veteran's marker.

Dils Graveyard is the final resting place of many soldiers who served in the United States Civil War. Years ago, every Decoration Day (Memorial Day) soldiers' graves were tended to and adorned with fresh flowers by members of the G.A.R. and other fraternal groups.

One of the most interesting events associated with this cemetery was the March 6, 1868, public hanging in, or near, the cemetery of the convicted murderer Joseph Eisele, alias John Schafer. (<--- Click on name for more information)

Only a small portion of the original headstones remain intact ~ some have been destroyed or removed by vandals, some fell over decades ago are now concealed by layers of sod, while most of the earliest sandstone markers have merely weathered away.

Since neither the City of Parkersburg, the County of Wood, nor the State of West Virginia have laws set in place for the perpetual care of defunct cemeteries, the maintenance of the Dils Graveyard has, over the course of time, been sporadic. City workers, Governor's Summer Youth Program participants, and others have, from time to time, tried to get a foot-hold on the upkeep; however, the elements and vandals always take their toll. In August 2002 the Wood County Historical and Preservation Society (www.wchps.com), through the urging of Karlyn E. "Karlie" Lowers (direct descendant of Civil War soldier Samuel L. McHenry), began the monumental job of restoring the then-neglected cemetery. Brush was cut, litter picked up, grass mowed, and over time, fallen headstones set back into place. The Society is currently raising money to establish a perpetual maintenance fund.

In 2010 a decorative entrance arch was installed from funds obtained from the Oakland Foundation. A dedication ceremony for the arch was held May 22, 2011.

Although there is no known sexton's register listing all burials, readings of the graveyard's headstones have been recorded several times, such as John House's 1913 notations, the Historic Records Survey funded and conducted by the Works Progress Administration in 1931, and readings conducted by the Old Bible and Cemetery Records Committee of the West Augusta Genealogical Society in 1964. Below is a "new" list of burials, compiled from the above headstone readings, newspaper obituaries, family records, etc. Each entry contains the following information (if available): decedent's name, date of birth, date of death, parents' names, spouse's name, military service, headstone notation, source notation, and obituary information. The "headstone" or "footstone" notation indicates the presence of a gravestone for that individual as of 2011. The source notations (the numbers following each entry) correspond to the sources used. A complete list of the sources appears at the end of this list.

All remaining gravestones have been photographed and can be viewed here. Names that are underlined are linked to a photo. To see the photo, just click on the name.

Known Burials


1. Some Early City, Village, and County Burying Grounds, by John A. House, "Dils Graveyard"
2. 1931 WPA's Historic Records Survey-"Cemetery Readings," The Guy Tetrick Papers [on microfilm]
3. Wood County Cemetery Inscriptions, "Dils Cemetery," recorded by Mrs. Shirley H. Bee, Chairman, Old Bible and Cemetery Records Committee (Parkersburg, W.Va.: West Augusta Genealogical Society, 1964)
4. Wood County, West Virginia, Court House Death Records
5. Wood County Board of Health Death Certificates, 1913-1921
6. Genealogical information submitted by Richard Dils on Internet site "Ancestory.com"
7. Obituary from local newspaper (most obtained through use of Russell Roy’s Wood County, West Virginia Obits index)
8. West Virginia Vital Research Records (online through W.Va. Division of Culture & History)
9. Information from Edward "Ed" McHenry, Parkersburg, W.Va.
10. "Memorial Day-Graves Decorated: at the Dils Cemetery," Parkersburg Daily State Journal, May 25, 1885


DSJ = Daily State Journal
PMN = Parkersburg Morning News
PS = Parkersburg Sentinel
PSWS = Parkersburg Semi-Weekly Sentinel
PWS = Parkersburg Weekly Sentinel
WSJ = Weekly State Journal
WVWT = West Virginia Weekly Times