That bothered Hartman. He was working for the state transportation department at the time and wondered if the bodies were not lost, but only misplaced.
"I knew what they did with cemeteries when they were relocated for highway purposes. There were records kept," he said.
He visited the Division of Highways office in Greenbrier County to review documents from the widening of U.S. 19 and discovered a map of a cemetery from where the bodies had been moved. According to the map, the Department of Transportation purchased a plot of land near the highway as part of the road construction project and moved the bodies there.
Hartman drove to the site.
"There was nothing there. Just trees growing up, and trees that looked like they had been growing for some time, before 1972," he said.
Dejected, Hartman headed home to South Charleston.
A short time later David Smith, a GED teacher at the Friends-R-Fun Child Development Center in Summersville, contacted Hartman. Smith said he, too, was looking for the lost cemetery and had a general idea of its location.
"I'm on the phone here in Charleston, and he's down there on Whippoorwill Road, and I'm leading him with the map I've got in my hand as he's walking up and down this road," Hartman said.
Soon, Smith came across something. He described what he saw over the phone: a small clearing off Whippoorwill Road with only a few small saplings growing on it. There appeared to be multiple depressions in the ground.
"I said yes, that may be it," Hartman said.
He jumped in his car and headed back to Summersville.
The lot was filled with trash, including old tires and washing machines. Highway workers also were apparently using it as a dumping ground for road kill.
But Hartman and Smith found several temporary markers, like the ones funeral homes leave on a grave until a proper headstone is delivered.
The pair counted dozens of depressions in the clearing, a volume that seemed to correspond with the remains that would have been relocated from the White farm.
A community responds
"It was such a revelation. When I finally found it, I sat down and cried," Charlotte Yeager Neilan said.
She cried not only because the cemetery had been discovered, but also because the property had been so neglected in the years following the workers' reinterment. She decided the men deserved better.
Neilan and her husband, George, applied for and received a $10,000 community participation grant from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's office to fix up the cemetery. Soon, they had the rest of the Summersville community on board.
Summersville city employees helped the Neilans clear trash, and members of the West Virginia National Guard hauled in gravel to create a parking lot.
New River Community and Technical College's welding class constructed a gate for the front of the cemetery. Neilan said future classes will complete the fence, wrapping it all the way around the cemetery.
The Stone Masons Yard in Birch River donated and installed stone steps and a wheelchair ramp leading from the parking area to the graves.
George estimated the project might have cost $60,000 without all the donations.
Nicholas County High School's Future Business Leaders of America chapter also pitched in, helping to clear debris and raising money for the historic marker that now stands at the mouth of Whippoorwill Road.
Today the students will return to the cemetery for a reading of the workers' names, culled from death certificates George found. Three ministers will be on hand to consecrate the ground.
Charlotte said these men deserve a proper funeral service, even if it's 80 years overdue.
"It's important because they were treated so shabbily during their lives. These poor men had a horrible life and they were treated no better in death," she said.
Work on the cemetery is far from complete.
There are 48 gravesites, and most are now marked with small orange flags.
She said there are probably two or three sets of remains to each grave because some were combined when reburied. She plans to have a stone monument inscribed with each worker's name made for the site and eventually a permanent marker on each grave.
That way, if the descendants of the Hawks Nest workers want to visit West Virginia and pay their respects, they will see more than a clearing a few hundred yards from the highway.
"We need to make it right. It was a wrong, and we need to make a wrong right," she said.