By Annie C. Tanks
From: A Town Of Grandeur
"Why are the Zanes buried in Martins Ferry, Ohio, when they founded Wheeling, West Virginia?" is a question which many visitors familiar with the area's history must have asked. "Progress," the reason for removing or altering so many landmarks, is the answer.
Wheeling's first cemetery was naturally on the bluff where the Zane brothers built their cabins and the necessary fort. Indians and whites were buried together in a convenient spot near the little settlement. Soon after 1810, as more settlers arrived and the group of cabins became a busy town where west-bound travelers stopped to rest and re-fit, the burying ground was in the way of construction. A second cemetery, East Wheeling, had already been opened at McCullough St. for the use of Wheeling residents who had spread over the level land around Fourteenth to Sixteenth Streets. The aging Zanes chose a more convenient site for riverfront families, locating it on the bank of Wheeling Creek where West Virginia Northern Community College now stands. Bodies of white settlers, if they could be identified, were transferred to the new cemetery. Over the years more than 4000 bodies were interred, and the area became known as Old Burial Ground.
Wheeling was a natural terminal for a branch of the B & O Railroad as it pushed through the Virginia hills to the Ohio River at Benwood. The railroad agents selected Old Burial Ground as the best location for a passenger and freight complex. The proposal was not as brash as it seems to us. East Wheeling cemetery was already slated for evacuation so that more building could proceed, and the Peninsula cemetery was being readied to receive the old coffins. In spite of fervent protests from some citizens, including the Zanes, the cemetery was sold to the railroad on May 1, 1854, and the bodies had to be moved.
Prominent families among the later arrivals in Wheeling opened Mt. Wood cemetery for their new plots. Unclaimed bodies were taken to the new Peninsula. Others were removed by friends and families to a more suitable spot.
Who chose Walnut Grove in Martins Ferry for the Zanes' resting place is not recorded among the skimpy reference, but it was a logical selection. Ebenezer Zane's son-in-law, Absalom Martin, was one of the first to be buried there, and his daughter, Catherine Zane Martin, must have been there as well. Ebenezer's son Daniel, who owned the lower part of Martins Ferry, and Daniel's family were also there in an enclosure set aside by Grandson Ebenezer Martin for his relatives.
The graves of Ebenezer Zane, his wife Elizabeth and a son named John are still marked by memorial slabs laid across other slabs of sandstone. Two of Jonathan Zane's descendants -- one if whom lived two doors from Walnut Grove - said that Jonathan Zane was buried next to this monument beneath a similar tablet, but that vandals destroyed the slabs as they broke up other stones in the enclosure. His wife, Hannah, should have been there, but there is nothing to mark such a grave, only empty ground.
The Zanes are probably comfortable in their Ohio resting place. The east bank of the river was too small for them. Their names and those of their children are scattered across the Ohio map from Bridgeport to Lancaster and points between.