Mysterious headstone tells of family tragedy

Recently, the city of Ronceverte was contacted by the WV Division of Highways of their discovery of a headstone while cleaning drainage ditches along Chesapeake. The unearthed monument was from the year 1887 and held the names of two infant brothers, Charles and Horace Leist.

Alexander Leist and his young wife, Mary, came to Ronceverte from Ohio sometime after their marriage in 1885. Alexander was a leather dealer and established a business in Ronceverte. The headstone was that marking two infant children, Charles and Horace, brothers who both died within months of their births. Charles was born July 14, 1885 and died Aug. 19, 1885. Horace was born Apr. 9, 1887 and died July 28, 1887. According to, the Leist has 12 children with five surviving to adulthood, Nellie, Howard, Stanley, Helen and Dorothy.

It is believed that once the sister of the two boys, Nellie Leist Burkholder, had the family markers redone at Riverview Cemetery, she had this headstone stored at her home on Chesapeake Avenue. Possibly a new owner of the property discovered the headstone stored at the house and, not wanting to keep a headstone, the marker was tossed along the front wall of the house as fill and has now been uncovered by recent excavation.

At the request of the Leist family, the city will restore the 130-year-old headstone to the family plot in Riverview Cemetery. Currently simple granite name markers show the locations of Charles and Horace. “We are glad to return this marker to the family site,” says Doug Hylton of the Ronceverte Historic Landmarks Commission. “It is a beautiful marker which tells a sad story of a young couple during the early days of the town’s founding and the loss of two young sons.”

The recently unearthed headstone of Charles and Horace Leist
The recently unearthed headstone of Charles and Horace Leist


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