ELKINS, W.Va. (WBOY) — Tucked about 10 minutes behind the campus of Davis and Elkins College, sits 22 and half acres that reflect West Virginia’s deep-rooted history of devoted patriotism.
The history behind the Little Arlington Cemetery goes back to before the cemetery was even established on Dec. 31, 1935.
According to Post 29 American Legion, a man named Charles Purkey worked in the Elkins Flower Shoppe after serving in World War II.
Purkey told those close to him that he would be going on a two-week-long vacation by himself in the woods with about three gallons of moonshine. Before his departure, Purkey claimed, “I am going out along a stream to fish some, lay in the warm sun, do my own cooking and drink some liquor.”
It wasn’t long after Purkey’s return to work, that the flower shop owner, Mr. Johnson, found Purkey dead, face down on the office desk.
Mr. Johnson contacted the Post 29 Legion Commander at the time, Commander Arnold R. Morton, and requested that Purkey be buried in a cemetery designated for veterans.
“Well, the only military graveyard was up in Grafton, and at that time, it was closed—no more veterans in there,” said Mike Cardinal, Past Commander and current Adjutant of Post 29 in Elkins in a recent interview with 12 News. “‘Then there’s no other place’, Johnson thought about it for a minute, he says, ‘yes there is, there is a grave place for veterans here in Randolph County’ and he donated 22 and a half acres of land.”
With the donation from Mr. Johnson, Charles Purkey was the first veteran to be buried in Little Arlington Cemetery. Now, approximately 640 individuals are laid to rest in the cemetery, including close relatives of veterans.
Little Arlington and Post 29 American Legion honors those within its grounds by keeping an alphabetized list of names in the center of the cemetery. On holidays like Memorial Day, Flag Day and Veterans Day, members of the legion and those of the community go to Little Arlington to pay their respects with a proper service.
The importance of Little Arlington Cemetery holds true today for the same reasons it was established 88 years ago.
“For their dedication to their service, to their country, and everything, it’s the least we can do. I mean they put their lives on the line,” said Brent Workman, a member of Post 29 and groundsman of Little Arlington.
“When we go to other graveyards to render honors at the funerals, they’re in with everybody else, and nobody pays a lot of attention to them. They’re just another gravestone out there. Here, you know that everybody is veteran-related. This is private to us, you know, and it’s an honor to be out here among our brothers and sisters. It’s that simple,” said Cardinal.
The cemetery is located off Cravens Run Road in Randolph County.