For those who do not know of the Virginia origins of the Reasor’s, southwest Virginia, specifically Lee, Co. has been a home to Reasors since 1772. This is the first recorded date of a Reasor settling in VA. I found this fact and more on a genealogical vacation in August 1999.
Kim and I began our exploration of the Reasor ancestry driving into Big Stone Gap early on the morning of 9-Aug-1999. The ride from Abingdon through the winding mountain roads is spectacular. As the morning haze disappears, we are listening to ‘This Land is Your Land’ (the live version by Bruce Springsteen) on the car stereo. We were headed for the Southwest Virginia Museum, which we thought might be a good starting point for getting acquainted with the area. Although the museum is next door in Wise, Co., the video and displays offered a very clear picture of what life was like in the area during the early years, when farming turned to coal mining and the settlers thought this would be the next Pittsburg, PA.
What we need, is a Map
We then set out in search of cemeteries, hoping to find new information or verify some of the dates already collected. Driving down Alt. Route 58 towards Pennington Gap, we saw farm after farm but not many cemeteries. We stopped at a church with a few graves, no Reasor’s to be found. Getting frustrated, we decided a local map might have the cemeteries marked. After several shops we found a an atlas of topographic maps of the entire state of Virginia. Every back road, boat launch, museum, fishing hole, campground and waterfall was marked, but no cemeteries. At least it had the local street names and route numbers.
On the advice of the helpful staff at the museum we decided to check with the local historical society. Looking for the Lee Co. historical society in Pennington Gap, we came across the Lee Co. library. We walked in and stumbled upon a wealth of information. At the genealogy section we found not only large set of reference books and individual family histories, but several local citizens willing to help us with some tips and pointers. Looking in the ‘cemetery book’ I quickly found many Reasor’s along with the name of the cemeteries. ‘But I don’t know where any of these cemeteries are located’. ‘Well, the woman who put together this book used some maps which we have here at the library. I’ll get them for you.’. And so, the fellow researcher brings out a set of USGS topographic maps with, yes, each cemetery marked, and named. Pencil check marks on most of the cemeteries showed the tedious work of some dedicated genealogist. We soon discover that, disappointingly, the copier is out of order. The maps can be taken up to the bank to be copied, but unfortunately, the books will have to remain in the library, including one very nice picture of Dr. D. S. Reasor and family in the book ‘Early Settlers of Lee County Virginia and Adjacent Counties, Vol. II’. We quickly write as many notes as we can, and before we know it, the library is closing.
We head out again, in search of the Reasor burial grounds. This time, map in hand, with four sites marked ‘Reasor cem.’, and several other sites with possible relatives, all of them located in the Deep Springs area along Alt. Rt. 58, where we had just been searching earlier that morning. We find the first one just off Alt. 58 on Rt. 733. We drive off the road and out across a grassy field, and stop several yards from the roughly 25 foot square fenced in cemetery. The grasshoppers are jumping everywhere as we walk through the field. The second one is not so accessible. We park on Rt. 620 at the bottom of a steep hill crawl under a gate and walk up a steep field to the top of the ridge, where we finally see the chain link fence of the cemetery. Carefully climbing a barbed wire fence I untie the gate, and we start taking notes and pictures. We then climb down the hill dodging the cow pies and search for another Reasor cemetery located nearby, also on Rt. 620, but we do not find it.
The next cemetery is along Alt. Rt. 58. It is called Coldiron cemetery on the USGS map, but I think it is also known as the Richmond or Richmond-Coldiron cemetery. We spot the Confederate flag, flying on a flag pole at the corner of the cemetery. This is where we hope to find Abigail (Sturgill) Kelly, my great, great, great Grandmother. We are taking notes and pictures when a resident comes over to greet us. ‘Can you find what you’re looking for?’. It turns out he is a Kelly maybe a fourth or fifth cousin. As we are talking we look down and see a head stone fallen over and covered with vines. It’s Abigail Kelly! Cousin Kelly invites us inside to compare notes.
We call it a day and head back to B.S.G. To greet my father and company at the Country Inn Motel and Campground
Dr. D. S. Reasor Cemetery
The next morning my father leads us to the Reasor cemetery he knows of which is next to the old home of Dr. Daniel Sheffey and Elizabeth Pennington Reasor. According to Dad, this home was later lived in by Mart (Martin S.) and Lula Reasor, then by Everette (C. Everette) and Ruth. Ruth may be still living there but on the morning we arrive it seems empty. We take more pictures and notes and clean off the headstones in order to read the inscriptions for Dr. D. S. Reasor and Elizabeth Pennington Reasor. They are identical except for the substitution of he/she.
“Although he sleeps his memory doth live, and cheering comfort to his mourners give, He followed virtue as his truest guide, Lived as a Christian, as a Christian died”
The next stop is the old farm which at one time belonged to John Peter Reasor and family. His wife Rebecca Ann Kelley lived there after her husband died and later Rebecca’s daughter Mary P. (Reasor) Barkley also known as Aunt Perl. I had been there one summer when I was much younger. My father had visited this place many times as a child to see his grandmother Rebecca Ann Reasor, back then she was referred to only as ‘Granny’.
After a few wrong turns we find find our way to a closed gate at the end of a church driveway. We open the gate and start driving up, what turns out to be a very rough and steep road. At the end we find the house, with a minivan parked in the front and a dog chained in the yard. It seems no one is home so we take a quick look around, snap some pictures and we are soon on our way, four-wheeling back down the mountain.
Slemp Memorial Cemetery
We head out looking for one last cemetery. I have a note from the cemetery book indicating that my great, great, great, great Grandfather also called Daniel Sheffey Reasor is buried in the Slemp Memorial cemetery near Olinger. We are driving towards Olinger down Rt. 708 and we see some very large monuments at the top of a hill. The Slemps were very famous politicians, soldiers and citizens. There in the well kept cemetery, I find what looks like a very new set of matching head stones for my two g-g-g-g grandparents. A good way to end this very successful excursion.
Note: See the names and dates and other details that I found during this trip on this web site http://www.ancestry.reasor.com and on my Family Tree Maker Home Page.