Saturday, September 24, 2011

Wandering in Southern Kentucky Cemeteries

Tom and I are in Wildcat Country (Lexington, KY) to cheer on the Gators tonight. Since many of my ancestors are from this area, I decided to fill some of our free time by exploring the rolling bluegrass hills and countryside before the 7 pm game (tonight).

One of my quests was to locate the gravesite of my American Revolutionary War ancestor, Capt. Charles Gatliff. Captain Gatliff was an early adventurer in Kentucky and led a colorful life. Born in Pennsylvania, after fighting in the American Revolution, he settled in Kentucky. But apparently, defending his country, family and adopted state was in his blood as he continued to fight in numerous wars against Indians for many years. He was also a spy in several campaigns. His wife and children were abducted by Indians and held for four years until they somehow escaped. According to historical records, the Indians viewed him as a deadly enemy whom they could never surprise. "He was of a penetrating mind, manly, hospitable and kind, and died as he had lived, much esteemed." 

After learning all that, I couldn't pass up the chance to seek him out. I had a general idea of his whereabouts since I knew my family (on my mother's mother's side) could be traced to Corbin, KY and Whitley County. Research I gathered using and told me that his grave is in Williamsburg, KY, about 101 miles of south of Lexington. I had the name of a cemetery but no address, and a spot on a Google map to guide us. So off we drove early this morning to search for the final resting place of a hero who died in 1838 when he was 90 years old.

The Google spot and Find A Grave information led us to Maple Creek Cemetery, located on a narrow, hilly  country road, behind an old wooden white church, outside of Williamsburg, KY, near the Tennessee border. What did we do without Google?!

We trampled up and down and around the wet cemetery grass for over an hour, searching for the grave - with no success. My records show at least three Gatliffs are in this cemetery, but we couldn't find them. Reluctantly, we finally gave up and decided to try the other "spot" we had on an map that was even more vague (direction-wise) than the Google map.

Heading slowly back down that hilly, country road...we spied some headstones in a field behind a house...clearly private property. Did we dare trek in there to search? While we were considering this, a man came out of his house so we eased up to ask permission. "Y'all look lost," he said before I could speak. "What are you looking for/"

I explained our quest, and after thinking for a moment, he told us how there are isolated historical graves all over the place, but he thought the ones we were looking for were in the back of a field that his brother cuts for hay....about a mile or so away. He kindly drew us a map to get there and gave us his phone number in case we got stuck so he could come pull us out. Renewed with hope, we waved goodbye to our Kentucky Angel and took off to search again. 

This white pole used to hold a historical marker for Capt. Charles Gatliff. 

Our Angel told us thieves had stolen the sign to sell for scrap metal. I had a picture of the marker but no idea where it was. He recognized the picture and told us the story. We turned left here...

And drove as far as we could, passing dilapidated houses and sheds. The road changed from gravel to mud after about 300 yards. We parked and headed across this field to the edge of the woods that he'd mentioned.

Tom circled around and said, "It's in here!"

And there they were!
Just the two of them, Charles and his first wife, Christina.
 Surrounded by this clump of trees. 
No one would ever find them without knowing exactly where to look.

A look back at our way we would drive through there...

Mission accomplished! I was so excited!
And so happy our Kentucky Angel (maybe the soul of Charles Gatliff) appeared to help us out. 
I called and thanked him...and told him we didn't get stuck!