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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Wait, Wait -- Follow the What to Where?

I snapped this photo on June 16 of this year. It's a lonesome dirt road on a 171-acre farm in rural north-central Kentucky. 

For years I have known about the private Easley Cemetery on this farm. It includes the graves of my third great-grandfather Joseph Easley Sr. (1764-1849) who established the farm, my second great-grandfather Joseph Easley Jr. (1805-1883), their respective wives and many of their offspring.

I wrote a little more about them in this blog post last week.

These are photos of Joseph Easley Jr. and his wife, my second great-grandmother Elizabeth McWilliams Easley (1818-1894). I love the spectacles resting on her forehead.

My bucket list has included a visit to the cemetery if I ever got an opportunity to travel to Kentucky. That opportunity presented itself at last during my Freedom Tour last summer.

I found driving directions to the Easley Cemetery on the Church and Cemetery Locator online:

"Go to Harrisonville. Just before entering the town from the west turn right into the farm owned by Thomas Lewis. Follow gravel farm road for 600 ft.  Cemetery is in a grove of trees about 30 ft. south of this point." 

I looked on Google Maps and saw that Highway 395/Waddy Road, in the middle of nowhere, leads to Harrisonville from the west. Off I went! So far, so good.

But then everything changed.

"Just before entering the town": As it turns out, there is no town anymore. It hasn't been an incorporated community since 1908. There is just a smattering of houses, farms and a church. No businesses. No Main Street. 

Just the little backwoods Highway 395/Waddy Road.

So which gravel road was I supposed to look for? And on which side of Waddy Road? And which farm belongs to Thomas Lewis? I drove up and down...and up and down...and up and down Highway 395/Waddy Road. Finding this needle in a haystack was impossible.

I did find the church I knew my Kentucky Easley ancestors attended. Joseph Easley Sr. was among a council of elders that on March 12, 1825, founded the Pigeon Fork Baptist Church, which is still in operation to this day. 

And this church that was abandoned long ago (click on it to see the cool windows):

I never found a gravel road based on the driving directions to the Easley Cemetery so I did the next best thing: I followed my amateur genealogist's nose to the Shelby County Public Library in Shelbyville, about 20 miles northwest of here.

It's a stately, historic building constructed in 1903 with a $10,000 grant from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

I had a nice conversation with J.D. Stucker, a professional genealogist who volunteers in the local history section, and with Shana Schack, the librarian in charge of Reference Services. 

Sure enough, J.D. was familiar with some local Easley family history and showed me some files, and Shana pulled a 1939 reference book for me that has details about every cemetery in Shelby County. 

The book included directions to the Easley Cemetery!

"Go to Harrisonville. Just before entering the town from the west turn right into the farm owned by Thomas Lewis. Follow gravel farm road for 600 ft.  Cemetery is in a grove of trees about 30 ft. south of this point." 

Yep, they were the same, clear-as-mud directions I had found online.

Neither J.D. nor Shana had any idea where the farm is, and Thomas Lewis's name didn't appear in local history books. 

So my next stop was the Shelby County Courthouse in the hopes of learning who owns the farm now and what the actual property address is.

Stewart Shirley is the deputy administrator in the Property Valuation Office. I told him this was my last best shot and I didn't know where else to turn.

He kindly took me to his office and began a search of county property records in a database that required a lot of work on his part since the only ways to search are by (1) property address, (2) parcel number and (3) current owner's name -- none of which I had, and the database doesn't include historical property records. 

I couldn't provide him with a thing except the 77-year-old driving directions. 

He finally started pulling up aerial images of farms on Highway 395/Waddy Road, looking for anything that might even remotely fit the description in the driving directions. After about half an hour he was sure he had a hit! He had me look at his screen, and I, too, decided this had to be the one. 

He gave me a printout with everything I needed to know for finding the farm and then some.

The next morning, after I returned to the middle of nowhere from my hotel in Louisville 45 miles away, I entered 7651 Waddy Rd. into the GPS on my phone and drove along slowly until the magic voice on the satellite said, "Your destination is on the right."

There was a farm, all right, but there wasn't a gravel road in sight. In fact, there was no entrance of any kind in sight, A property of 171 acres is vast. So I drove farther, slowly, down Highway 395/Waddy Road, looking for a mailbox on the right side of the street or anything else that would indicate an entrance of any kind to 7651 Waddy Rd.

And then I saw it: The mailbox is on the opposite side of the street from the farm, and more than half a mile from where the GPS lady's voice told me I had arrived.  

And it was right across from a narrow, private road that starts out as asphalt and then becomes dirt -- not a speck of gravel anywhere.

I turned in and followed the dirt road (I was on that road when I snapped the photo at the top of this post). I followed it quite a long way until it curved to the left. 

And there, on the right, set back in a grove of trees, were headstones surrounded by fencing. 

There wasn't a single living soul in sight. I drove past the cemetery and continued down the dirt road in hopes of finding a farmhouse where I could ask permission to visit the cemetery. I finally backed the car up and set about exploring this incredible family treasure.

Joseph Easley Sr. and Catey Deatherage Easley's (my third great-grandmother, 1767-1850) graves are marked simply with rough-hewn stones. I suppose at one time there may have been discernable markings on them.

Joseph Easley Jr.'s is more elaborate (click on it to see detail).

The inscription reads:

Joseph Easley Jr.
Born Mar. 18, 1805
Died Feb. 28, 1883
Not lost, blessed thought.
But gone before
Where we shall meet
To part no more.

I'll leave you with this one: Col. Merideth Hieatt (1785-1868), one of Joseph Jr. and Elizabeth's sons-in-law. 

The cemetery is just a short walk across a field from the narrow dirt road (that's my car). I stayed outside the fence the entire time.

Kenneth and Linda Pratt, the current owners of the farm, are not related to the Easley family. After I returned home to Pasadena from my Freedom Tour I wrote them a note thanking them for maintaining the Easley Cemetery so beautifully. 

As the current keepers of this hallowed ground, I appreciate their dedication to this Easley family treasure. I was sorry I didn't find their house.

May the Easley Cemetery continue to be honored and respected for many generations to come.

All photos were shot by yours truly.


  1. What an incredible adventure, Ann -- a veritable Freedom Tour and celebration of life -- and what a storied life your family has. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I love this so much. I find myself trying to find it on satellite (Google maps). No luck! Thanks for your story and pictures.

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