Celebrating Fairmont’s 200+ Years of History

front cover of a book

Woodlawn Cemetery is celebrating Fairmont‘s 200+ years of history with two events on Friday, September 3rd.

Remembering Clarence E. “Ned” Smith

A local history publication entitled “Good Morning” provides a selection of 21 columns written by Clarence E. “Ned” Smith, long-time editor of the Fairmont Times. The columns began in 1926, and for 30 years, Mr. Smith wrote his observations on past, present, and future thoughts about Fairmont, which Smith describes as a ‘small town with a big history.’ Edited by Raymond Alvarez (FSH 1969), the publication is available through Woodlawn Cemetery for $5. Proceeds support ongoing preservation efforts of the cemetery. 

Smith wrote many poignant columns about the loss of his son Bud in World War II. On Friday, September 3rd, from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., Dr. Raymond Alverez will be on hand for a book signing at the Marion County Visitor Center. Smith’s granddaughters, Lisa Rose and Ann Rose, will be attending. Light refreshments will be available as well as a display about the life and times of Mr. Smith. 

Smith’s family traces back to early Fairmont settlers such as the Barns, Flemings, and Pinballs.  

Newburg Mine Disaster

This event follows a noon dedication of a memorial honoring the six Fairmont men who lost their lives in the 1886 Newburg Mine Disaster. The memorial dedication is being held at the cemetery at 335 Maple Avenue in the historic district. This monument honors members of a family who came to Fairmont around 1881 from England. The coal company purchased lots at Woodlawn for their burials, but the gravesite was unmarked for 135 years until 2021. The Newburg Mine Disaster in Preston County was the first significant coal mining disaster in West Virginia. The Woodlawn Board raised funds for this project. The victims included Richard Birtley (52), his son Nicholas (15), and stepsons Joseph, Harry, and Thomas Guy. Birtley was also stepfather-in-law of John Byer, Jr. All these men perished in the mine disaster. 

Woodlawn had only been serving as a cemetery for ten years at the time of the disaster. Since Fairmont had been their home longer than Newburg, the company most likely chose this location for their burial. 

According to published reports, a funeral service was at “The Rink” on Madison Street, and a large number of Fairmont citizens attended.  

 It was a tremendous loss for the families, and in addition, there was no provision for a monument or grave marker. Richard was survived by his wife Mary, and three small children. Harry Guy was 29 years old and had a wife and child in England. Joseph Guy was 25 years old. His wife told reporters that the women and children had no one to turn to in Fairmont, and she chose to go back to England. Thomas Guy, another brother, was 19 years old and unmarried. John Byer, Jr.,24, was married to Birtley’s step-daughter. What became of their families is unclear. Although according to newspaper accounts of the day, a relief fund was established. 

Woodlawn Cemetery welcomes visitors to Marion County to view the beautiful vistas of Fairmont and discover many persons who contributed to local, state, and national history. 

Find an app for Woodlawn Cemetery (android only) here

 “Good Morning” was made possible through funds available from the Convention & Visitors Bureau of Marion County. 



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