SUMMERSVILLE, W.Va. - History doesn't have much to say about Roosevelt Singleton.
We do not know where he was born or where he lived before moving to Gauley Bridge to work in the Hawks Nest Tunnel. We do not know his parents' names, his marital status or his religious affiliation.
There are a few things history can tell us, however.
His death certificate indicates he was 31 years old when his lungs stopped working on May 14, 1931. He pulled his last shift at the tunnel less than two weeks before, on May 2.
Dr. Wilkerson at the Coal Valley Hospital in Montgomery listed pneumonia as the cause of death, although it was most likely acute silicosis caused by high levels of silica in the ground and unsafe drilling techniques.
When Singleton died, his body was taken in the dark of night to a farm owned by the local mortician's mother. He was buried alongside about 80 other African-American workers who died from working in the tunnel.
But the graveyard was only a temporary resting place.
In 1972 the state decided to widen U.S. 19. Singleton's body was exhumed with the rest of the fallen workers, transported a few miles down the road and reburied in unconsecrated ground, in a lot that would later be used to dump road kill carcasses, old tires and broken washing machines.
Now, 40 years later, some Summersville residents are striving for a better ending for this tragic story.
Charlotte Yeager Neilan moved to Summersville from Charleston in 1990, where she and her late husband, Charles, became editor and publisher of the Nicholas Chronicle newspaper.
About 10 years ago, Neilan heard rumors of a lost cemetery for Hawks Nest tunnel workers. The story piqued her interest but no one wanted to talk about it.
"People just kind of said it in whispers," she said.
She started searching for the graveyard with the help of a few friends, but to no avail. She spent about five years looking but was never able to locate it.
"People did not want the truth," she said. "I don't know why."
Finally, in 2009, she heard about Richard Hartman, a West Virginia State University history professor. He also was haunted by the story of the lost graveyard but, unlike Neilan, had actually located the plot.
Hartman first learned of the site in 2000 while working on a master's degree in history at Marshall University.
He was writing a paper about tunnel contractor Rinehart and Dennis when he came across a passage about black workers buried on the White family farm.
Union Carbide, which owned the tunnel, hired local undertaker Hadley White to bury workers who died at the Hawks Nest Tunnel.
White's services were certainly in demand. Workers were dying by the dozens from what doctors then diagnosed as "pneumonia" or "tunnel-itis."
Experts now agree the men actually died from acute silicosis. While silicosis usually is a slow-moving disease, destroying victims' lungs by building up scar tissue, Hawks Nest workers ingested much more dust than usual because of the tunnel's high silica concentration and the unsafe drilling techniques.
Rinehart and Dennis refused to employ "wet drilling," which calls for water to be sprayed at the drill site to suppress dust in the air, because Union Carbide planned to use the silica in metal alloys.
Workers including Singleton quickly paid the price. They ingested more and more silica with each breath, inflaming and scarring their lungs and causing them to fill with fluid.
"People got sick very quickly, within a matter of months rather than five or 10 years," said Dr. Marin Cherniack, a professor of medicine at the University of Connecticut Health Center.
Although no one has reached a definitive death count, Cherniack estimates more than 700 people died of acute silicosis while building the Hawks Nest Tunnel.
Hadley White, whose descendants still run a funeral home in Summersville, set up an additional funeral parlor in Gauley Bridge to handle the demand.
Hartman said some bodies were shipped home to loved ones, but that was impossible for many workers.
"You had a lot of people back during the Great Depression going from one place to another looking for work. There was no record of where they were from, so there's no place to send the body," he said.
That left White to find graves for many men.
Jim Crow laws at the time prevented blacks from occupying cemeteries alongside whites, so the undertaker buried some workers in an old slave cemetery at the Summersville Presbyterian Church. He quickly ran out of room so he began burying the workers - unembalmed, in wooden boxes - on his mother's farm a few miles outside town.
The arrangement worked out fine until 1972, when the state Department of Transportation decided to widen U.S. 19. The proposed road project cut right through the White farm and Hadley White's makeshift cemetery.
The state paid Howard White, Hadley's son, to oversee the exhumation. Howard later told Hartman that a contractor placed the skeletal remains in 3-foot wooden boxes and took them away for reburial. White said he did not know where that took place.