Dart leads to unusual road and cemetery in Aid Township full of stories

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 9, 2003

Editor’s note: Each Monday beginning today, The Ironton Tribune will run a feature called "The Dart," which involves a reporter throwing a dart at a map of Lawrence County and finding a story where the dart hits.

Gravel roads wind through the thick, green forests in Aid Township on another rainy June morning.

A turkey, chipmunks and even a cow are among the wildlife that crosses the road in front of us.

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We were searching intently, but did not know exactly what we were looking for. As we crested the top of Tipton Knob at an elevation of 1,030 feet, we find our pot of gold without even knowing it. We see a small family cemetery that had dozens of stories to be told.

It is hard to believe this all began the day before with the simple flight of a dart.

I was the lucky one to draw "The Dart," one of The Ironton Tribune's new standing features.

It is an unusual idea that uses fate and blind chance to see what stories can be unearthed in all corners of Lawrence County. Wherever the dart lands is where a story must be found.

Standing in front of a map of the county, I toss the dart at nowhere in particular.

As my dart sticks out of a northern section of Aid township, I wonder what I can find in that barren quadrant of the map.

Then I see it -

Gum Stump Road. An unusual name that probably has a story behind it.

After a little research, I talk with Aid Township Trustee Garold Herrell who was unsure why the rural road got its name.

"It has been called Gum Stump ever since I can remember," the 65-year-old Herrell said. "I have lived (in Aid) all my life and I never did think anything about it."

Still not quite sure what a gum stump was or even where it was,

Tribune photographer Howie McCormick and myself, Michael Caldwell, set out to find this story.

Figuring we are getting close enough to where the dart hit, we decide to give up on Gum Stump and see what we could find.

We ended up turning off of Waterloo Etna Road onto an unsigned gravel road and then turning again onto a likewise unmarked roadway.

As we pulled atop the knob, on what we later found out to be, in fact, Gum Stump, the cemetery seemed like what we were looking for.

After a few minutes of walking through the partially overgrown grass and examining the faded gray headstones, we knew this was our story.

Much of the cemetery is filled with members of the Dean, Neal and White families. Each group of stones tells a story itself.

Virginia Mae White was born in 1937 and passed away in 1991. She must have had a terrible burden because she was buried beside her three infant children, each of which did not live more than a year.

Two stones mark the resting place of two of the 46 victims of the March 6, 1900,

Red Ash Mine disaster near the small town of Thurmond in Fayette County, W.Va.

Eighty-four-year-old Catherine Neal has eight or nine members of her husband's family buried there. She used to go up there often to help keep it clean. She made a return visit last week to reminisce.

"Not very many people come to that old cemetery anymore," she said. "There has not been a burial out there in a long time."

Numerous graves are dedicated to soldiers that served or fought in the Civil War.

To wrap up the last loose end of the enigma, I researched the name of the road some more. Seventy-eight-year-old Kenneth Kingrey supplied the best answer as to where the unusual name came from.

"Quite likely in the old times, there were probably sweet gum trees growing in the area," he said. "Someone cut one down and left a stump."

The issue was further clarified in a book at the Briggs Lawrence County Public Library entitled "Places Located in Lawrence County, Ohio: How Some Got Their Names," researched by Sharon Kouns.

It stated that the road was named for a very large stump which was marked up and stood near where the road begins.

Regardless, the dart had led us to the cemetery and it told us some of its tales.

Small family cemeteries like this can be found all over Lawrence County, and just like Dennin Cemetery, each has dozens of stories to tell if you listen.