Unlce Tom wondering the same thing I was
August 28, 2006
Today would be my last day in Ashland. I think I was most looking forward to this part of the trip. I would be getting out and exploring a cemetery. Sounds boring to most, but until you get out there you just don’t know what you might find. Especially if you are dealing with a family cemetery. There could be many generations of names on those stones, just waiting to be discovered. It could have the maternal side of the line, opening up whole new avenues of research, just by discovering a new surname.
There could be children who died very young; giving you a whole person that history may have no other record of. Or you could find nothing. I had my hopes up, because Mr. Keyes had visited this cemetery before and had gotten me some names and dates to me, via Aunt Ellen. They all attend the same church, and Mr. Keyes is actually a cousin. His mother was the sister to my great-grandmother on that side.
The Akers Cemetery
As we shared a common ancestor, Burrell Akers, his grandfather and my 2nd Great Grandfather, I brought him a present. I had ordered a copy of Burrell’s Civil War pension file from the National Archives. I made him a copy, bound it for easy viewing, and added a basic cover. To qualify for a pension you had to provide the US government with much information.
There could be affidavits from friends and relatives, plus doctors reports, and personal testimonials. Sometimes there is even a picture. When the soldier passed away, and his wife wanted to claim that pension, she had to provide proof that she was his wife. This could repeat a lot of the same things. Names and dates creep into that blizzard of paperwork that is gold for the genealogist. It makes for interesting reading even if family history ain’t your thing. Mr. Akers was thrilled.
The remains of the fence that surrounded a grave
He was also as spry as my Aunt Opal. Both of my Kentucky Uncles are his age, and both have slowed down considerably. They still get along fine, even better than just fine, but not every soon-to-be octogenarian is even ambulatory, much less read to go traipsing around the hills of Kentucky.
I climbed into Mr. Akers’ truck and Uncle Tom, and his son, my cousin, Tommy, were in another vehicle. It was about a 30 minute drive to the private property where the Akers cemetery is located. I had only the roughest of ideas on what to expect. Hill top cemeteries are the norm, for this sort of thing. The flat land was reserved for buildings and farming. When we arrived, and after Mr. Keyes had talked to the property owner, we started down an overgrown path into the woods. Then after about 20 yards we stopped. We were there! I was not expecting the area to be overgrown with not just brush, but actual trees. This cemetery was completely abandoned, and nearly lost to all. Worst of all there were no, zero, zip, nada tombstones in sight.
The only tombstone we found, lying flat on the ground.
That sinking feeling you get that is inevitably accompanied with the words “Oh Shit” quickly announced itself.
But, I didn’t come half a continent away to go home without at least trying to find the stone. While there were no stones visible, perhaps they had just fallen down. That would be infinitely preferable than that they were gone. We search the whole area, the four of us for half an hour. In all that time we found one tombstone. It was of a person with the surname DEAL. This was the name of my grandfather’s second wife, so it suggested we were in the right spot. I asked Mr. Keyes how sure he was this was the right spot. He was positive. That was good enough for me. His mind seemed as sharp as mine, so I considered laziness and theft had robbed us of this day, rather than any mental deficiency. He all came to the conclusion that someone decided that they needed the stones to level a trailer house. Stealing a tombstone is not only illegal, it is despicable. You are robbing someone of the one legacy that is supposed to last the ages. Long after memories fade, records are lost; your tombstone testifies that you lived.
M. Deal, age 77
You mattered. Very sad, but there was nothing that could be done.
The likely resting place of my Grandparents
Mr. Keyes had other business, so we parted company. He expressed his disappointment at not being able to help me, and as this was his grandfather’s grave we were searching for, I suspect he was more disappointed then I was. Uncle Tom, Tommy, and I all got into the car and headed back home. We made a short pit stop in Grayson, to visit the shop of another cousin, but it was closed on Mondays. Oh, Well. It did continue the streak of disappointment. Soon we were back in Ashland. I spent the rest of the day and evening as I had the prior two day; visiting with my Aunts and Uncles. Soon it was time to say my good byes. As I drove away, I actively wondered when or if I would ever seen any of them again. The cliché “Only time will tell” seemed appropriate.