FORT GAY - The final resting place of some of Wayne County's first European settlers is now unmarked and encircled by a freshly poured school bus driveway.
There are at least two documented graves on the property of the brand new Fort Gay K-8 School, but there could be more. In fact, the cemetery's trustees say five people are buried at the site.
But the trustees say they aren't happy with the way Wayne County Schools proceeded with the school's construction concerning the location of the cemetery.
"I'm 75 years old; I'll say it like it is," said John Peters, a member of the Wayne County Genealogical and Historical Society and a cemetery trustee. "They have desecrated that cemetery."
The cemetery sits on a small hill near the front of the school. The headstones were lost decades ago and only exist in the memories of older residents.
Two couples are buried there, the trustees say - John and Nancy Wellman and Samuel and Elizabeth Short. It's also likely John Wellman's mother is buried there, Peters said.
John Wellman is considered the "father of Wayne County" for his role in having the Virginia Legislature partition the county from Cabell in the 1800s.
"It's an awful lot of history," Peters said. "I've worked on this thing for some time."
For years, the cemetery sat undisturbed, save for the few times a car was inadvertently parked on top of a grave during games at an adjacent football and soccer field.
However, when Wayne County Schools announced plans to combine Fort Gay's elementary and middle schools in the late 2000s, concerns were raised about the site.
Originally, the county board of education had agreed to put a fence around the area, but had not done so as of this week.
The school board denied requests from the historical society to be involved in protecting the cemetery, saying the society had no authority over the cemetery, Peters said. The board has owned the 8.5-acre property since 1947. The cemetery, only 1/8 of an acre of the total property, is mentioned in the deed.
"They have never wanted to acknowledge there's even a cemetery there," Peters said.
So, he rounded up a group of Wellman and Short descendants and they became trustees for the cemetery by the authority of a county judge.
But the group's status as trustees didn't improve communication, Peters said. In building the school, the area around the cemetery was graded and landscaped, and the trustees were never informed.
"They just shut us out and won't even talk to us," he said.
They've tried to communicate with the school board since February 2012, before groundbreaking even started, but have gotten the cold shoulder. Even registered letters have been ignored, he said.