Sunday, July 8, 2012

Gone But Not Forgotten

Back in October 2009, on Halloween as a matter of fact, my wife Sandi and I searched through a cemetery in the middle of massive cornfields in Herndon, Kentucky. We were assisted by my nephew Neil and his friend Richard, both of whom supplied the muscle required to cut through tree branches, wait-a-minute vines, and thick underbrush that had flourished and essentially saturated the entire graveyard where my fraternal great grandparents are buried. We found the headstones of both George King and Mary "Polly" King after extensive cutting through the vegetation. In all we identified about eleven grave markers, mostly Kings and a few other neighbors buried there. 

The local historical society named this cemetery as "McKnight Cemetery # 2" and listed all burials of record, including my grandparents and some of their children. One name listed but not found was my great grandmother's mother, Mary "Polly" Wills. (Polly was a popular nickname frequently used for females with the given name of Mary in the 1800's). So recently the four of us returned to McKnight Cemetery # 2 to see if we could find Polly's mother, Polly Wills.

The cemetery is situated among cornfields and in the center of a copse of trees. 

We never found the other Polly. According to the historical society she's there but we could not locate a stone with her name. With the temperatures rising over 100 degrees and the real threat of ticks we called the search off after an hour and a half. We did find some McKnight family headstones that are pictured below.

The McKnight stones are newer than the Kings' and, therefore, in much better shape and easier to identify. As the last family buried it appears last buried, first named is the rule for naming the graveyard. One of my Kentucky cousins tells me they've always thought of this cemetery as the King-McKnight Cemetery. But unfortunately, any King descendants in the area are too elderly to maintain the cemetery grounds. Hence, the dense foliage we found almost three years ago has returned in spades (no pun intended) and the stones we uncovered in 2009 have been reclaimed by vegetation. I didn't want to leave without saying goodbye to my great grandparents so with Neil and Richard's help clearing a path for me I was able to revisit their markers for a brief farewell prayer. 

My Kentucky cousins helped me find another family cemetery located about three miles west of McKnight #2.  One drew me a map and the other gave me more detailed directions over the phone. Both are in their late eighties, one in a nursing home, and despite their age have strong interests in genealogy and clear minds and memories. This second cemetery was referred to as "The Old Moss Cemetery." But as the photo below proves, the Kings have a claim to this burial ground right along with the Moss family.

Moderately overgrown with field grass and weeds, the Moss-King Cemetery, established 1851, is a lot easier to inventory than the McKnight. I took photos of all Moss and King stones and others as long as I could decipher the names and dates. I will try to catalogue all the interned in order to update my files on and, as much as I can on the FindaGrave website.  

My grand uncle, Jacob Love King and his wife are buried here. As far as I know their marriage is where the Moss-King connection started.  Also here is the headstone for Jacob's son, George William King and his wife. George would be my 1st cousin, 1 x removed.

These stones are in pretty good shape. Partly because, like the McKnights, relatively new. George William & wife in the 1930's and Jacob & wife in 1907 (wife, Martha). Both are so similar in appearance of aging I wouldn't be surprised if both stones were engraved and mounted at the same time. I'll have to ask my cousins if they know (one of them has a stone there ready for when he passes on). The county historical society has no published record of this cemetery as there are numerous "family" cemeteries unlisted. But along with being fresher stones it appears some maintenance was performed at this site. Maybe not in recent years but only the one large tree in the center as opposed to the out of control tree growth in McKnight. I think both started around the same time period and more than likely in the middle of cornfields. 

One stone grabbed my attention with the lament engraved at the bottom of a child's grave marker. Gone But Not Forgotten. It's always sad when a child dies. In these older cemeteries I've seen a lot of children's markers, often easily identified by carvings or engravings of a lamb. If the cemeteries are untended, who is going to make sure those gone are not forgotten? Maybe genealogy nuts like me have a higher purpose than just satiating our curiosity in old graveyards. Hopefully we can help ensure those babies are not forgotten.