Down a narrow, winding road in Augusta County, Virginia, near Middlebrook, lies a very special place called Dutch Hollow Cemetery. There, on a hillside overlooking meadows and farms, is the final resting place of some of my earliest Hanger Ancestors. The landscape has changed little in the more than 200 years since the first graves were established.
I learned of the cemetery and visited it for the first time in the summer of 2022 as part of my trip to the Valley for the Hanger reunion. My Hanger relatives all live in neighboring Rockingham County, Virginia and my husband’s Hanger relatives all live in Augusta County. (more on that interesting connection can be found in my Visiting with My Ancestors blog post!)
My great-grandfather, Franklin Bismark Hanger was the first of the Hangers to leave Augusta County and settle in Rockingham County sometime in the 1900–1910. The Hanger reunion has always been just the folks descended from him in the past. This year we decided to open up the reunion to include all descendants of Frederick Hengerer, our immigrant ancestor, and my six-times great-grandfather.
As part of this year's reunion, we took a field trip to the cemetery to share what we had discovered with our extended family. We could not have asked for a better day. The weather was beautiful with just enough of a breeze to keep us comfortable.
For about a hundred years, the cemetery lay in ruin, forgotten and overrun by trees, brush and bramble. You can see from the photo below just how overgrown it was. It is only due to the herculean efforts of my cousin, Glenn Hanger, that we are able to visit there once again and learn of our ancestors’ final resting place.
When Glenn learned of the cemetery that lay just across the road from his home, he took it upon himself to clear it out and bring it back to life. He spent many hours there, carefully removing what nature had taken back in those last 100 years.
He has painstakingly dug out tombstones that were barely visible and put broken tombstones back together. The tombstone of my four-times great-grandmother, Catherine Wehrle Hanger, was beyond repair. Glenn had an exact replica of the stone made and put back in its original location in the cemetery.
He has had a professor from James Madison University perform multiple surveys with ground penetrating radar and cadaver dogs, and have located 29 more gravesites that hopefully still have tombstones that can be uncovered in the years to come.
And he didn’t stop there! Glenn has researched the names on the tombstones he uncovered and all of the information he has for them can be found on his website: The Dutch Hollow Hanger Cemetery. Other researchers, including myself, have also contributed documents and research information and it continues to grow. It is an invaluable resource for anyone researching the Hanger family of the Shenandoah Valley!
For those of us who have ancestors buried there, we owe Glenn Hanger a huge debt of gratitude for uncovering this beautiful cemetery and bringing it back to life. We can once again commune with those who came before us.
If you have Hanger family in the Shenandoah Valley, definitely check out The Dutch Hollow Cemetery website. If you need more help with your Hanger family research, I’d be happy to help!