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Music on the Hill

The Cronin Family of Pleasants County

By Betty Leavengood

Cronin family about 1940
Several members of the Cronin family brought their instruments out into the snow for this photograph in about 1940.
From the left, they are Emma, Harl, Grace, Michael “Jiggs,” and Blaine. Photographer unknown.

My friend Millie and I were on what we call a “cemetery tour,” looking for the grave of her great-great-great-grandmother, Druzilla Oliver Snodgrass. “It’s up this road, I think,” Millie said as we drove up yet another steep country road near St. Marys, Pleasants County. It wasn’t there. Frustrated, we asked a man mowing his yard if he knew about an old cemetery nearby. “Keep going,” he said. “There’s one about a mile ahead.”

As we topped the hill, we found a small cemetery on the right. We climbed up the steps, hoping to find Druzilla’s final resting place. Instead, we found a small graveyard decorated with miniature guitars, fiddles, and mandolins carved out of wood and hung from shepherd’s hooks.

Our eyes widened with amazement. Millie knew immediately this wasn’t the right cemetery. A quick look at the headstones told us this was the Cronin family cemetery. The oldest stone, that of Andrew Cronin, was dated June 15, 1902.

Back home, I searched the Internet and located a Keith Cronin living near Harrisville, Ritchie County, a few miles from the cemetery. I got in touch with Keith, and he agreed to meet with me. I found out that he is a retired schoolteacher and administrator. I asked him about the cemetery and its wooden decorations. “We’re definitely a musical family,” Keith told me. “I grew up playing the guitar and singing. Maybe it’s because we came from Ireland,” he said, referring to his family’s history.

You can read the rest of this article in this issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.