Reader Marathon Memorial Monument Blocked by Gas Meter
READER – Wetzel County resident H. John Rogers is upset over Mountaineer Gas Co.’s decision to install a gas meter directly in front of a local memorial.
The meter was placed just a few feet in front of the Reader Marathon Memorial Monument, which honors two young men who died during a road race more than 50 years ago.
“It’s terribly tacky,” Rogers said. “They (Mountaineer Gas) have a totally absolutist position – they can put their meters anywhere, anyplace, anytime they want to and there’s no remedy whatsoever.”
The monument was created in 1961 by the Reader Marathon Association in honor of Dennis Stoner of Aliquippa, Pa., and Barry VanEmburgh of Youngstown, Ohio, who died during the third annual “marathon” – which actually was a 10-mile race, not a full marathon. The monument was moved from its original location to what Wetzel County residents refer to as the “runaway slave graveyard” in the early 1970s.
The graveyard is an unofficial historical site consisting of several graves.
Locals say these graves date back to times of American abolitionists and, according to Rogers, may have ties to the Underground Railroad.
“It’s a tiny slice of West Virginia that tells a lot about the whole state,” Rogers said.
The marathon monument was at that location for about 25 years when Mountaineer Gas relocated a meter less than three feet directly in front of the monument. The meter in question services a trailer behind the graveyard, which is owned by Joey Smith.
“I take care of (the monument) and try to keep it nice, but I don’t think a lot of people know it’s there,” Smith said. “I think the monument should be moved to Reader Park where people can see and acknowledge that it happened.”
While the monument is a cenotaph – an empty tomb or monument erected in honor of a person or group of people whose remains are elsewhere – it is located within the Runaway Slave Graveyard. Rogers claims this puts Mountaineer Gas in direct violation of state code, which states, “No desecration shall be made of any grave or monument within the enclosure of any burial mounds.”
The issue of relocating the meter has been in litigation nearly a year and a half.
“Mountaineer has spent far more on this case than it would cost to move (the meter),” Rogers said.
Mountaineer Gas officials did not respond to a request for comment.