Wednesday, January 9, 2013
QUEST FOR THE HIDDEN CEMETERY
On a day back in early fall, I was standing in the yard of Granny Kilgore’s place, after repairing the front door of the old house. The door had been damaged in yet another break-in at the house. I called my cousin, Jimmy Kilgore, to ask a favor. I knew he came down often to hunt on the property. I called to ask him to walk around the old house and check it out when he came down to hunt on the property. During our conversation, he mentioned a memory he had of going with his dad into the woods behind his home and searching for some graves of our relatives. He thought that they were the graves of Granny Kilgore’s grandparents on her mother’s side. Granny’s mother was Martha Jane King. I alluded to these facts in one of my blog postings when featuring the family graves throughout the state.
During the last months of 2012, Jimmy and I have been doing some searching on foot for the Kings’ graves. During that time I was on two excursions with Jimmy. Also during that same time, Jimmy took one additional search by himself.
Our first excursion was on Wednesday, October 31. Jimmy and his wife, Sandra, arrived at Mother’s house about 10 AM. We three got into Jimmy’s truck and traveled on Winston County Road 21 toward the county line. Near the line on the right traveling toward Nauvoo is a logging road where we began our journey. A few yards off County Road 21, we saw some large trees cut down over the path. One of the trees was posted with a sign that read “Doe Branch Hunting Club”. We climbed over the trees and began our trek. Not far in, we a crossed a small stream in a ravine. Then we began our climb up a steep ridge. When we reached the top of the ridge breathless from walking up such a steep incline, the path came to a T split in the road. We had a decision to make whether to go left or right.
I knew our cousin, Trish McKeever Phelps, had made a similar journey some years ago in search of the hidden cemetery. When I called Trish on my cell phone (can you believe we had service out in the remote woods of Winston County), she told me that she remembered crossing a stream, going up a ridge, and turning left at the top. So Jimmy, Sandra, and I did just that. We were looking for a tree that looked like it belonged on an old home place. We soon discovered that there were multiple logging roads going through the woods. We eventually did find some large old oak trees surrounded by numerous pines and undergrowth. It did look as though it could have been an old home place of by-gone years, but there was no sign of any graves.
Not sure of the location, Jimmy mentioned that a friend of ours, Jerry Prestridge, had also been to the lost graves in the woods. Jerry was related to those buried in the woods in some way. We called Jerry and found his information was very similar to Trish’s. We walked back and forth on the logging trails and in the woods, but to no avail. By 12:45 PM, we gave up for the day. Our adventure had failed to accomplish its goal, but the day had been very enjoyable. The weather was perfect, and the woods were a wonderful escape from the city.
A week later, in the middle of the week, Jimmy came back to do more inquiry and searching. He had contacted Trish again, and she came over to Mother’s house with pictures she had taken of the lost graves almost over 25 years ago. These photos may be found in the photo album by going to the following address: www.facebook.com/groups/kilgorecousins
Jimmy had also contacted Jerry Prestridge. Jimmy found out some helpful information from Jerry and also by going to the Winston County Archeological Library across the street from the county courthouse in Double Springs. He discovered that the graves are actually a registered cemetery in Winston County. The cemetery is simply called the King Cemetery. Jimmy took a look at a map and the location of the cemetery to discover that in our initial search we did not go far enough into the woods. He did not follow the hunting and logging roads. Instead, Jimmy decided to go into the woods walking up and down the ridges themselves. When he did, he eventually came out on another logging road two ridges over from where we were on our initial trip. Jimmy followed the road around using his knowledge of the map he saw and where he thought the county line was. He did not find any graves.
On Saturday, November 10, Jimmy and I met again and began another look for the hidden graves. We entered the woods in the same location as we did the first time. We followed the logging trail, went over the same small stream, up a ridge, to the T-split in the road, turned left and followed the path of the road, This was the same path taken before, but this time we took the longer road to the right which wound around the ridge and circled down into another ravine where a larger stream was located. I have discovered since then that this stream is called Indian Creek, and it flows into Black Water Creek. We crossed the stream by tiptoeing across an old plank, and up another steep ridge. When we got to the top of the ridge, it leveled off into a plateau.
Continuing on the path, we passed a path with the number 32 beside it. There were numbers beside different roads to aid the deer hunters who had access to the land to hunt. At one point, the logging road would take a sharp curve to the right with a side road going off to the left much like a Y in the road. We kept to the right going to the area that Jimmy had visited a few weeks before. We began looking in the woods off the path knowing that everyone who had been to the graves previously said they were not far off the road next to the big tree. We did not find any graves so we headed back out of the woods. Pictures of that second trip can be also found in the photo album on the Kilgore Cousins group facebook site.
During the search for the hidden graves, Jimmy, with the help of his wife, Sandra, contacted a relative of Jerry Prestridge to obtain any additional information. Sandra forwarded the information to me, and I include it now.
From: Jessie Hearle <email@example.com>
Date: November 16, 2012, 8:27:22 AM CST
To: Sandra Kilgore <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Information on King Family, relatives
On 11/12/2012 7:38 AM, Sandra Kilgore wrote:
I am sending this email for my husband, Jimmy Kilgore. His friend, Jerry Prestridge gave him your name and email address. Jimmy's grandmother was a niece to H.W. King, her name was Sarah Noles. Jim and his first cousin, Johnny Kilgore have been in the woods west of hwy 21, north of the Walker county line. They are searching for the graves of Henry Wilson King and Mary Jane. Would you have any information that might help them find these graves? You can call Jimmy at home, (256-xxx-xxxx) or cell (256-xxx-xxxx). If you would prefer to email us, just reply to this.
Thanks, Sandra Kilgore
Sorry to be so late replying, I have a new computer and my email was different to what I was used to.
So happy to hear from you. Unfortunately, I can't help much with the cemetery--I have never been. The best contact may be some of the Noles family who lived by Old Union Church. One of his sons or sons-in-law told me several years how to get in from the Old Union side. It has been over a year since I was at Old Union, but because of the stripping in that area, Ii think it would be hard to find without a GPS--some cell phones and digital cameras have GPS.
Peter J Gossett and the Winston county Genealogy society has the GPS points for it, and picture.
There is ANOTHER cemetery near there that has the grave of Henry Wilson King and Martha Jane King Noles parents and some siblings. It has been a LONG time since I was there, 25-30 yrs, and I have never been able to find the place back. It was on Oscar Bailey's farm, his widow walked us back behind her house and pointed into the woods. She remembered "Uncle Will King". There are also some Stewart's buried there.
I have a copy of the King family Bible, and some pictures of the Kilgore family will send separate email.
Thanks so much,
Jessie Prestridge Hearle
During the early part of December, as I was returning to Birmingham from my mother’s home, I had a most providential encounter just before hitting the Winston and Walker County line on County Road 21. I noticed an SUV parked on the left side of the road. I looked and saw no one in the vehicle, but I slowed down to look in my rear view mirror. Suddenly, I saw a man appearing out of the woods. Looking back on the situation, I probably should not have done this, but I turned around and headed back, with the purpose of finding out who the man was and what he was doing there. I introduced myself. He identified himself as Gary Edmondson from the Doe Branch Hunting Club. We began talking about the situation with the coal mining in the area. I told him that my brother, Mike, and I owned the land next to the state land. He mentioned that his club had received notice that they did not have access to the land for hunting this year because the land had been bought up or leased for coal mining. He was there to retrieve some equipment the hunting club still had there. I mentioned that there were some graves in the forest that my cousin, Jimmy, and I were trying to find, without success. I told him we had already made two trips trying to find the King Cemetery to no avail. He said he knew exactly where they were and that he could draw me a map. I got a pen and a note pad and he drew me a map as he identified what he was drawing.
I was glad to know that we now knew where the graves were located. We had gone to far into the woods on our second excursion. The marked trail number 32 was the key. I e-mailed Jimmy about my encounter with Gary Edmondson, knowing that the next trip in we would find the graves.
It is now January of 2013, and the quest to find the lost graves is complete. The King Cemetery has been discovered once again. On Saturday, January 5, Jimmy Kilgore, my brother, Ricky, and I returned to the woods behind Mother's home off of County Road 21, taking the very same trek Jimmy and I took previously. But this time we had a map indicating when we came to the path marked number 32, we were to turn left on the side path.
We crossed the first small stream, went up the steep ridge coming to a T in the path, turned to the left path of the T, traveled down a ridge in a semi-circle to Indian Creek. There had been a lot of rain a few days before, and the creek was really very high and swift. We saw a long old plank next to the creek that Jimmy and Ricky moved to a narrow part of the stream. We crossed side stepping on the plank cautiously, and then walked to the path going up a second steep ridge eventually reaching the plateau, We got to trail number 32 and turned left, walked a little over an eighth of a mile, and there the graves were, right on the path next to a very large oak tree.
We cleaned the graves off as best we could and placed some artificial flowers on the two graves. There is also supposedly a child’s grave on site also, but we could not determine where it might be. There was a large rock near the two headstones, which could have possibly indicated the child’s grave. Jimmy and I were extremely happy because we had finally found the graves of some of Granny Kilgore’s ancestors. I had previously written that the graves were those of her mother’s parents, but that is not the case. The graves are of Granny Kilgore’s uncle and aunt--in other words, Granny's mother's brother and his wife. Jimmy marked the entire area off with bright orange tape. Photographs of this successful third excursion in may also be seen in a photo album on the Kilgore Cousins group facebook site. The address is www.facebook.com/groups/kilgorecousins
Our goal was accomplished. Through investigation and determination, Jimmy and I were successful in discovering the graves hidden in the woods. We now can guide any interested parties to the missing graves. It might even be an excursion for those interested in a two-hour walk when we meet up for the next Kilgore Cousins reunion in May 2014. In the meantime, may this narrative and pictures found on the Kilgore Cousins Facebook group site facilitate the journey in your mind as you read this blog-- QUEST FOR THE HIDDEN CEMETERY.