Thursday, February 24, 2011

Find A Grave

Locating the burial places of ancestors

Graveyard, location unknown. Image source:

Due to my recent obsession with family history, I've become a frequent visitor to Find A Grave, a free online repository of over 57 million grave records. Obviously, they don't have a record for everyone  -- there have been an untold number of us humans! -- but I have found burial information and even a few tombstone photos for some of my ancestors there.

The Scotten Cemetery, found

Emery Scotten was Great-grandmother Emma Hart's grandfather -- in other words, my 3x-great-grandfather. He was born in 1792 in Maryland and died in 1867 in Franklin County, Indiana.  I typed his name, places, and dates into a Find A Grave search and learned that Great-grandfather Scotten is buried in the Scotten Cemetery in Franklin County, along with his wife Mary S. and a dozen other family members and in-laws.

The Scotten Cemetery is described as "marooned in a cornfield on 200 North about 3/4 of a mile west of 600 West. The burial ground is recognizable only by a wooded area on the south side of 200 North, and the stones can only be seen during the winter months when foliage is gone." The last burial there was in 1878.

I can almost see the Scotten Cemetery in my mind, because there's an old graveyard like that, marooned in a pasture, just a mile from my house. When I hiked out there to look at it, on a winter day some years ago, I could hardly see the gravestones under all the fallen tree branches and tangled vines.  I would have been afraid to go there in the summer because of snakes!

It is sad to think that the Scotten Cemetery is not tended at all, but I do feel closer to that family, now that I know where they are buried. It should be quiet there most of the time, except for the birds and squirrels and rabbits -- and the snakes. I hope the wild violets and roses bloom on their graves. Maybe there are even a few daffodils that still come up in the springtime.

Helping Find A Grave

Find A Grave works because of volunteers -- people who donate their time and effort to research, key, and upload burial information. In many cases, the volunteers have gone to remote graveyards themselves and recorded the names and dates on old tombstones. The site is funded through advertising, donations, and a gift shop. You can read about the founder and staff on the "whois" page.

I've visited quite a few old graveyards in Christian County and I have a few dozen or more photographs of tombstones that interested me. I can't upload them to Find A Grave unless I know the names of the cemeteries where I photographed them -- and I don't remember.

However, I could go through my gravestone photos and search for those people's names and dates on Find A Grave. Then, if any of them were already listed in some cemetery in Christian County, KY, I could add my tombstone photo to the burial record. I know that someone, sometime, would be really happy to find it.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Lost and Found Cousins

The extended family

As I wrote a few weeks ago, I've become engrossed in family tree research since I joined, and I've learned more about my family tree than I would have ever imagined possible.

Some of the family lines that I expected to trace back through many generations are surprisingly barren in information. And some family lines that I expected to be short and dull have turned out to be the longest and most interesting branches of all.

When you research a family tree, there is no limit to the branches you can add to it. For example, you may intend to find out who your great-grandparents' mother and father were. But soon, you find yourself researching their brothers and sisters (your great-aunts and great-uncles), whom they married, and where they ended up -- and on and on it goes.

When you search for your aunts and uncles and cousins on, related family trees are suggested. That has led to some interesting contacts with various cousins.

Eaton and Hart Cousins

My great-aunt Almira's son Don is one of the various cousins with whom I've been e-mailing, recently. I remember Don from my childhood. My mother liked to visit Aunt Almira, and sometimes she brought my sister and me with her. Don was a teenager at that time, and I didn't talk to him much because I was shy, and he was scary!

A decade later, my entire immediate family moved from Nebraska to Missouri, and a few years after that, Aunt Almira passed away. I didn't have any idea what had happened to Don, but when I happened to see his family tree on, I knew it had to be him. I sent him a note, and he replied in a friendly way, and I have enjoyed renewing contact with him. He's living in Juneau, Alaska.

I've also contacted a Hart cousin who lives in Arlington, Texas, through If I have it straight, Bob's grandmother Lutie and my great-grandmother Emma were sisters.

Bob has a lot of Hart family information, and he is generous about sharing. He sent me a wonderful photo (above) of the entire Marcus Eaton family in about 1924. My mother is the baby in her mother's arms, and my grandfather is the man at far left. Great-grandfather Marcus Eaton is second from left in the back row, and Great-grandmother Emma Hart is second from right in the front row. The rest of the people are my great-aunts and great-uncles.

A cousin from the Hill and Mapes lines

Linda, a cousin who grew up on the West Coast, e-mailed me when she saw on that I'd been researching some of our shared ancestors. She has lived in Argentina for the last ten years, due to her husband's employment.

The family relationship between Linda and me is interesting. We share Charles Lesley Hill as a great-grandfather. Our great-grandmothers were sisters. In the late 1800s, Charlie Hill married Lillie Mapes. Twin daughters were born. Then Lillie died, following the birth of a third child. Charlie then married Lillie's younger sister, Lana Mapes.

Linda, the cousin who contacted me, is descended from one of the twin daughters of Charlie and Lillie, and I am descended from a son of Charlie and Lana. Linda said she has been researching her family history for 30 years. She wondered if I know where Almus Hill, our mutual 2x great-grandfather is buried. Regrettably, I do not have that information.

Fishers and Clarks

I've also emailed with a Fisher cousin who has an extensive family tree website with my Fishers in part of it,  and with a Clark cousin who has a lot of family photographs of my great-grandfather Clark's brothers and sisters on his website.

While is certainly a wonderful place to research family history, there's a lot of genealogy in other places that you don't have to pay to find. I found these Fisher and Clark websites just by running the names and dates for some of my ancestors through a Google search.

All this family history has been sitting around for who-knows-how-many years, waiting for me to get interested in it. I'm glad that time of my life has finally come. And I'm glad that the internet makes family tree research so much easier than it used to be.

I can't write about my cousins and the family tree without mentioning my cousin Alta on the Sees side of the family. She doesn't fit into the "lost and found" category, but she has given me some nice photos of the George Sees family, including one I wrote about a while back.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Snowy Barn

Photo from early February

Nearly all of my photos for January and February of this year have been snow scenes. Here's one from a couple of weeks ago that I missed posting. I hope I don't have the opportunity to take any more photos like this one until next Christmas or thereabouts!


For every stereotype, there is someone who fits it all too well. I overheard this amazing conversation in the line at the grocery store:

Lady 1: How's your oldest son doing?

Lady 2: Oh he's doing a lot better now that they have him locked up.

Lady 1: Well, that's good, I guess. And how's Bobby? Where's he at?

Lady 2: Bobby's in Louisville. He's doing all right.

Lady 1: Do you have any grandbabies?

Lady 2: (laughing) Oh, my goodness, yes. Bobby's got ten kids.

Lady 1: TEN kids?!

Lady 2: Ten kids in eight years. He had two girlfriends pregnant, most of the time.

Lady 1: (sputtering)

Lady 2: Oh, he's paying for it now. His child support bill is $800 a month.

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The words "moral decay" come to mind.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

An 1886 Visit to Fairview, KY

Fairview, birthplace of Jefferson Davis

The following passage is transcribed from the Kentucky New Era, July 23, 1886 (page 3). I have preserved the original punctuation, but divided the long paragraphs to make them easier to read. Jefferson Davis (1808-1889), mentioned in the article, was elected the President of the Confederate States of America on February 9, 1861, and served until the end of the Civil War in 1865.

Saturday morning two NEW ERA men hired a buggy and went to the speaking at Fairview. The drive was delightful amid the sloping hills and rich fields of grain. The country never looked more beautiful and the magnificent crops give promise of a bright and prosperous future for the planters.

We arrived at the pretty little village just in time to partake of a good dinner at the hospitable board of Esquire Richard Vaughan.

After dinner Mr. G. S. Brown very kindly assumed the duty of showing us the town. He conducted us to the spot where the great Jefferson Davis was born. The old house with its many memories has been torn away and over the historic spot is being erected a Baptist church.

The church when completed will be one of the handsomest in the county. Rev. E. N. Dicken who served the old Bethel church so long, is the pastor. He is one of the best pastors in the land and as a preacher is second to none. He lives in the parsonage half a mile east of the church. The church will probably be dedicated in October and Mr. Davis will be present on that occasion.

Fairview lies in two counties. The county line runs through the store of Mr. W. B. Brewer, who can stand behind his counter in Todd, and sell goods to his friends in Christian.

About 2 o'clock the candidates began the oratorical contest. Judge Winfree led off and the other fellows said their pieces in order. The boys gave the Todd county candidates some of their time. Col. Milt. Brown made a short address and Mr. D. S. Watson was shaking hands with the boys who do their voting in Todd.

Fairview is a thrifty village. The residences are handsome and the stores are well kept. Mr. John Yancey will soon build a fine brick store house at a cost of $2000.

Jefferson Davis in 1853
We were presented with a walking cane, made out of the flooring of the room in which Mr. Davis was born, by Mr. Brewer. Most of the candidates got one of these sticks to hobble through the campaign on.

The New Era representatives were kindly treated by the generous citizens of Fairview and after half a day of pleasant commingling with these good people, they turned their faces toward Hopkinsville. The drive home through the moonlight was delightful and the pleasure of a day at Fairview will be the chief object of interest in our minds for many days.
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Check the Prairie Bluestem posts tagged "Fairview KY" for some modern-day images of Fairview.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Winter, Continued

Spring has not sprung -- yet.

The view from our side porch, about 7 AM Thursday

This photo of our snowy landscape is for the folks who live far away and wonder what's happening in Christian County. If you live here, you should ignore this post! You already know that it snowed again and again this week. (Yes, two significant snows.)

The schools were in session for most of Monday, and that was the only day of school for the week. The school buses had a little trouble on the slick roads, Monday afternoon,. According to the Kentucky New Era, a bus went off Highway 800, somewhere near Crofton.  A Christian County Schools spokesperson reported about a half-dozen other minor accidents. No one was hurt.

I've been pondering why our buses have trouble in ice and snow when, in some states, the school buses travel in ice and snow without incident, day after day. Part of the problem surely is that our drivers aren't experienced with such conditions. But some of the problem, I think, is the roads our buses travel. Even in good weather, narrow, winding, hilly backroads are challenging for a big vehicle. Taking a bus on those roads when they are slick with ice and snow is just asking for trouble.

In central Kansas where my brother lives, many of the rural roads are straight as an arrow. From the air, they must look like lines on a piece of graph paper.  In Christian County, our backroads are like the C. W. McCall song, "Wolf Creek Pass".
Well, from there on down, it just wasn't real purdy:
It was hairpin county and switchback city.
One of 'em looked like a can full'a worms;
Another one looked like malaria germs...

I'm exaggerating, but only to make my point.

I am so ready for spring. Next week, we are supposed to have much warmer temperatures -- in the low 60s on a couple of days. If we have a few days like that, the daffodils will start blooming.

About 2 PM on Weds. as I drove home from work

Friday, February 04, 2011

Camp Alcorn Memorials in Hopkinsville, KY

Graves of Confederate soldiers in Riverside Cemetery

Cemetery and census records at the Christian County library

Recently, I received an email from a gentleman with Christian County (KY) roots who works at a Hong Kong university. He asked some questions about the Camp Alcorn Confederate graves in Hopkinsville, which he is researching. I didn't know the answers, but I looked up some things at the Christian County library and sent him the information that I was able to find.

Two memorials to Confederate soldiers

While finding the information this gentleman wanted and corresponding with him, I learned more about the two Confederate memorials at Riverside Cemetery. Those memorials are:
   1) The Latham Confederate Monument to unknown Confederate soldiers, erected during the 1880s by John C. Latham, a wealthy New York banker and Hopkinsville native, and
   2)The Camp Alcorn Cemetery, where 293 Confederate soldiers are memorialized with individual gravestones.

Latham Confederate Monument imagined and realized

The Latham Confederate Monument has an interesting history. Mr. John C. Latham was a Hopkinsville boy who went to New York and became wealthy but never forgot his hometown. He gave many donations of land and money to make Hopkinsville a better place, even though he no longer lived here.

The booklet, The Story of a Monument: Memorial of the Unveiling of the Monument to the Unknown Confederate Dead, May 19, 1887, at Hopkinsville, Ky, tells the story of the Latham Confederate Monument. In 1886, John C. Latham visited his father's grave at Riverside Cemetery. A friend pointed out an overgrown area in the old part of the cemetery where the Camp Alcorn soldiers were buried.  Mr. Latham, a Confederate Army veteran and a good-hearted man, was troubled that their graves were unmarked and untended.

The Latham Confederate Monument
With an admirable spirit of reconciliation, Latham proposed to donate a monument honoring all unknown Civil War soldiers buried at Riverside Cemetery. However, the unknown Union soldiers had already been moved to the military cemetery at Fort Donelson. Thus, Latham dedicated the monument to unknown Confederate soldiers.

Latham bought a large triangular site, on a high spot in the new part of the cemetery. The graves of the Camp Alcorn soldiers were opened, and such remains as could be found were moved to the new site. A large granite monument with four bronze plaques was made in Maine and shipped to Hopkinsville. It was dedicated and presented to the City of Hopkinsville on May, 19, 1887.

Discovery of the notebook

Another decade went by. Then, in 1899, Mr. Harry C. Gant, president of the Bank of Hopkinsville, was going through an old desk at the bank. In it, he discovered a notebook that had belonged to George K. Anderson, a Confederate soldier from Cotton Gin, Texas. It contained 213 deceased soldiers' names, and for each, the location in the cemetery where he was buried. Also, the record included 15 unnamed soldiers of Camp Alcorn and their final resting places. Apparently when Anderson's unit left Hopkinsville, the notebook was placed at the bank for safekeeping -- and there it stayed, forgotten for almost 40 years.

Of course, by the time the notebook was found in 1899, the remains of the soldiers had already been moved from their original graves. They had been reburied together in a circle around the Latham Confederate Monument, making it impossible to assign a name to any gravesite or set of bones.

Tombstones erected by Sons of Confederate Veterans

John C. Latham's goal of giving these fallen soldiers the dignity that they deserve was completed by the Camp Alcorn Cemetery memorial, erected by a local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. It honors 293 Confederate soldiers who died at Camp Alcorn with individual markers that give their names, military information, and dates of death if known.

Gravestones at the Camp Alcorn cemetery memorial

I don't know all of the sources the Sons of Confederate Veterans used in ascertaining the names of the 293 soldiers. (According to a newspaper report at the time of the discovery of the notebook, it revealed the identities of 101 men. This report seems to be in error because the notebook actually contained the names and burial sites of 227 men.) I also don't know if the tombstones were erected on the site of the original cemetery.

When I looked through the Camp Alcorn information in the Riverside Cemetery book. I was saddened to see that many of the dead Kentucky soldiers had enlisted in Hopkinsville. I suppose they were local fellows who came to town and signed up with the Confederate Army. They moved into the camp, and soon thereafter, fell ill and died from one of the several deadly diseases that were circulating through the troops that winter.

Note: On 3/15/2011, corrections were made, regarding the number of names in the notebook.

If you're interested in Camp Alcorn, you might want to look back at these Prairie Bluestem posts:

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Late Light on a Wet Day

Uneasy skies

In Hopkinsville, late yesterday afternoon, the sun pierced the clouds and spotlighted the elevators. After a dark, wet day, the sudden light was dazzling.  Half an hour later, the sun slipped below a dark bank of clouds. Darkness came quickly.

The blizzard is passing north of us. Here, we are supposed to get rain, high winds, and colder temperatures. We have a wind advisory until 3 PM today. Wind gusts may reach 40 mph.

I am worried about friends and family who live in areas that are feeling the storm's full force. Despite the weather, some people have to work outside -- the farmers and ranchers have to feed their livestock, for example. I hope the travelers all got off the roads and found refuge.

In my mind, I just heard my mother say that I should pray for people, instead of worrying!

Is the storm passing through your area? Please tell us about it.
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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.