Echoes From The Past

By JUDY MAUPIN *- Echoes From the Past
(A Column of historical and genealogical anecdotes, stories and family notes.)
Calloway County, Ky.

Trigg County Cemeteries Continued

January 26, 1980
After four years, my work on the cemeteries of Trlgg County has been completed. The field work was the most enjoyable part for me, since I like the challenge of hunting for long-lost family burial grounds.

It Is a lot like a detective mystery to go out knowing that somewhere in a stretch of woods or field there Is a cemetery - which may or may not have Stones marking the graves -and try to find exactly where this graveyard Is located. After awhile an avid hunter (of gravestones, that Is) Is guided by certain cues, because the people of the past generations had a tendency to choose their last resting places according to certain criteria. Probably 95 percent of the old cemeteries were located on a hill; there Is probably a very logical reason for this, but although I have a couple of theories, I really don't have an absolute reason. And most of the time, you will find the cemetery in the midst of Cedar trees. The cedar frees evidently also have some significance. Iris Crawford once told me, while discussing his family cemetery, the Asbury cemetery, that he thought Cedar trees were planted in cemeteries because their shade inhibited the growth of grass and made upkeep easier. Others have commented that they believed the reason was because Cedars were so long-lived and hence served as long-acting markers for the location. I have also learned to spot a place with a lot of ground cover, usually creeping myrtle, but sometimes honeysuckle. The creeping myrtle was most likely planted there as a ground cover for the sake of upkeep; the honeysuckle just has a tendency to take over any area that has been cleared. In fact, I have been fooled many times by a growth of honeysuckle which marked, not a cemetery, but an old house place.

Sometimes, after walking for a long distance and avidly searching a map. (the Geological Survey maps are excellent sources, by the way), I finally find the cemetery lain hunting for, only to find that there are no stones there. I have been asked how, in that case, I know that It is a cemetery that I have found. This Is pretty evident to anyone who has ever gone to an old cemetery; in the days before concrete vaults, the caskets were made of wood, and hence they disintegrated in time, leaving a clearly visible sunken place to mark the burial. And, too, many of the old graves were marked by chunks of rock at the head and the foot.

After doing the field work, my next job was compiling the records, both of the tombstones themselves, and of old Bible and family records. It was from these sources, as well as from County death records, that I could identify many unmarked graves. To me, this is a significant part of cemetery records; while a record of tombstones is valuable, It Is also important to find out who was burled In the many hundreds of unmarked resting places while there Is still some record of this. Every year that passes Increases the chance of these records being lost to posterity, and of fewer people being left who remember anything about these people.

L am always pleased, when I re-visit a cemetery in which I have been able to Identify some of these anonymous graves, to find that some member of the family has decided to put up a marker on a grave that has been previously unmarked. It Is a fine way of perpetuating a family's memory.

I couldn't write about my cemetery research without commenting on the many nice people I have met while doing this. When people find out what It is that I am doing, many times they will leave their work (one nice lady In Trlgg County, set aside her summer canning to get in the car with me and help me search out three or four cemeteries that she knew where on her farm) and help. This makes the work both more enjoyable and certainly much easier. Sometimes I would know that there was a cemetery in a certain area but have no Idea beyond that how to find It. After talking to the people who live there, asking If they knew of any cemeteries on their place, they would reply negatively. And then they would add, "but there's one old tombstone back of the barn (or in a corner of the garden)," but realizing that even one grave constitute. a cemetery.

The book will be back from the printer's in two weeks, hopefully, and If there Is anyone who would like to purchase a copy, they can do so from me. The price will be $15. There are over 400 cemeteries.

After catching my breath for a week or two, maybe I can get back to finishing recording all the cemeteries in Calloway County. But for this weekend, I guess maybe I had better do some housecleaning.

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