CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- What do Mark Twain's grandfather, frontier scout Mad Anne Bailey, American Indian leader Chief Cornstalk, female star of early television Dagmar, Titanic survivor Eloise Hunt and one of the Civil War's youngest boy soldiers have in common?
Answer: All of their graves -- except for Twain's grandfather -- may be visited in either Cabell or Mason counties, although you might need a machete to get to some of them.
You'll learn some of this "grave history" of West Virginia if you tune in to Jack Crutchfield's "Obscurely Famous" series (for more, visit obscurelyfamous.net), which airs at 7 and 11 p.m. June 24 on West Virginia Public Television.
The roots of the series can be traced to a hobby the 53-year-old Barboursville man has long pursued.
"I've always been a history buff. I had a hobby that I like to hunt famous graves like Bonnie and Clyde, Robert E. Lee or John Wilkes Booth," said Crutchfield, who by day is co-owner of Lee Graphics Printing and Office Supply in St. Albans.
His son, Matthew, suggested he document on video some cemetery searches in West Virginia, and he would eventually aid in the shooting, editing and designing map animations for the series. Weekends may now find Crutchfield and son scouring cemeteries across the region, both well-tended city cemeteries and lost-in-the-outback family ones overwhelmed by weeds.
"So, it went from a hobby to a passion," Crutchfield said.
He spent a year researching the graves of formerly famous or somewhat famous people buried in the Cabell County hills. There is, for instance, Cooney Ricketts, who at the tender age of 13 joined the Border Rangers (the 8th Virginia Cavalry) as a Confederate private.
In Mason County, Crutchfield used a machete to cut deep into the woods and weeds to get near the grave of World War I Medal of Honor recipient Howard Chester West. His tombstone is now buried beneath a fallen tree in a cemetery long reclaimed by nature.
West served as a first sergeant on the brutal battlefields of France. In a battle at Bois de Cheppy, he stormed a German machine-gun nest, clearing the way for his unit to advance. In 1918, West was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Crutchfield hopes his series will lead to some historic preservation, cemetery style. "That, to me, is the quintessential reason I do this," he said.
Consider West, one of two Medal of Honor recipients buried in Mason County. Out of about 4.5 million soldiers who served in World War I, only 119 received the Medal of Honor, Crutchfield said.
"And that guy is out there completely lost in the middle of nowhere. I thought I'd do my little part to preserve something of his story."
Crutchfield's Cabell County episode aired in July 2011. Part of it will be seen June 24 along with all of his new episode on Mason County, at 7 and 11 p.m.
West Virginia Public Television has asked for eight segments in all, Crutchfield said. He said he would love to do all 55 counties of West Virginia "If I would have time. I don't know realistically if I'd be able to get that many finished. That's the goal, though."