Thursday, May 13, 2010

Headstones And Cow Pies - Cleaning up the family cemetery

Wallen/Francisco Cemetery - Wabd, Rockcastle Co., Kentucky

Back in May of 1999 my Mother (then age 75) and I took nearly 2 weeks out of our busy lives to take a genealogical vacation to Kentucky where my dad's family was from and to Indiana where her family was from and where some still live. We stopped in Kentucky first and visited many of the more well known cemeteries in Rockcastle and Pulaski counties. Then we drove and drove and we backtracked and drove some more, but the most personal cemetery, the family cemetery, eluded us over and over again. We traipsed up hills and down, we climbed fences and crossed creeks....and we drove some more, and we got ticks! The Wallen Francisco cemetery simply was not where the book said it was. Severely disappointed, we finally had to give up and go on to Indiana where we stayed until it was time to start our journey home.

On the return trip, as we once again entered Kentucky and approached Rockcastle county I began to get we approached the Mt. Vernon exit, I simply couldn't resist one more last ditch effort. They were calling me, I heard their voices. At the last second I whipped off onto that exit with a heart full of hope. If my mother was ever bored or doubtful she never let me know. She was a trooper and a delightful companion the whole time.

We went back to the same area and retraced our steps. We knocked on doors and we got one "wall, I thank it might could be o'er yon", pointing a finger...and we got some folks that jus didn't know fuh sure, but thought they had heard tell of a ol' graveyard nearabouts. After a few more hours we were thinking it just wasn't meant to be. Then, my mother said "pull down that driveway, I'm going up to that door". Glory be, this time someone knew right where it was! The woman was happy to help and took us to her side yard for a better view and pointed to three trees off in the distance (the Walnut trees the cemetery book said to look for) and she said "you'll have to drive around and pull off the road and park and then you'll have to climb the gate because there's cows in there. After you get over the gate then just follow the fence line on up the hill to those trees." Oh boy, was I excited! My heart was pounding with anticipation!

Well, we got up to the gate and the darn thing was 5' high at least and we had to carry tools and camera; both of us had our hands full. Somehow we managed to get over it without a mishap. At the time, I wasn't even thinking about how old my mom was. She's always been an active and limber person and "75" just didn't enter my mind. 

Oh, what a glorious afternoon it turned out to be! Of course, many of the headstones were laying down and had thick dried cow pies on them, that part wasn't so glorious, but I didn't mind. We scraped those off and pulled some of the grass from around the stones before photographing each one. Every few minutes I had to stop and gaze in all directions. From this hill you could see all around for miles and miles; what a lovely peaceful spot and I could just imagine my great grandfather, his parents, his grandparents and other family members burying their kin and coming to visit and clean and reset stones from time to time. It almost seemed that I could feel their presence! We had honored them by our perseverance and tenacity and they cherished our visit, I just knew it!

My great grandfather was Oliver Morton Wallen. He left us a diary and in it he often wrote of the burials at the old family burying ground. His mother and most of his siblings were buried there, all having died fairly young. 

"December 23, 1904 - I finished up some work at the old family burying ground, which is about 3/8 of a mile from my present home and 1/4 mile from Wabd Post Office.  These are the relatives we have buried there:

Grandfather Wallen born Sept. 26, 1827, died Sept. 30,1877
Uncle Willie Sutton - Cousin Harvy Sowder, no dates
Mother Serena Susan born Mar. 20, 1851, died Jun. 28, 1886
Sister Mary Hayes born Jan. 31, 1872, died Mar. 27, 1895
Sister Emiline Wallen born about 1876, died about 1879 
Sister Lieuesa Wallen born Aug. 25, 1877, died Dec. 11, 1896
Sister Lucy Wallen born Aug. 15, 1883, died Mar. 15, 1901
Sister Mary's daughter, Ora born Oct. 15, 1891, died Jan. 6, 1893"

While we worked the cows decided to pay us a visit. The walnut trees offer the only shade in the pasture so I don't know if they came for the shade or came because they had visitors and were curious about us. Every time we looked up the line of cream colored cows was a little closer. Now, I'm a "wanna-be-farmer city girl" so my mother who was raised on a farm, assured me they meant no harm and wouldn't stampede us or anything...I had to ask just to make sure, you know. Kinda spooky how they just got closer without appearing to actually move....and how they just stared at us and chewed.

As we left for home I said a little prayer...."Thank you Lord for seeing that we found the family cemetery! The long and arduous hunt made it all the more precious!" 

More information on all known persons buried in the Wallen/Francisco Cemetery:

Jesse B. Wallen - son of William & Elizabeth Bloomer Wallen, md. Louisa Tyree

William R. Sutton - son of Uriah & Euna Delaney Sutton, md. Lucy Jane Wallen daughter of Jesse B. & Louisa Wallen

Harvey Sowder - son of Madison U. & Sibby Jane Owens Sowder

Serena Susan Sutton Wallen daughter of Uriah & Euna Delaney Sutton, md. William M. Wallen son of Jesse B. & Louisa Wallen

Mary J. Wallen Hayes - daughter of Wm. M. & Serena S. Wallen, md. James Luther Hayes

Ora Hayes - daughter of Mary J. & James Luther Hayes

Emiline Wallen - daughter of  Wm. M. & Serena S. Wallen

Louesa Wallen - daughter of Wm. M. & Serena S. Wallen

Lucy Wallen - daughter of Wm. M. & Serena S. Wallen

Sarah Elizabeth Wallen - daughter of Wm. M. & 
Serena S. Wallen

Sarah Jane Wallen - daughter of Isaac & Elizabeth Bloomer Wallen - Isaac was son of William & Elizabeth Bloomer Wallen, married his first cousin, another Elizabeth Bloomer.

W. Bloomer - I believe this to be Wisdom Bloomer, son of Nehemiah & Jane Payne Bloomer.

Thomas Graves - Husband of Sarah Matilda Grider, b. 1814 d. 1887

Sarah Francisco - Daughter of Jasper & Sarah E.
Graves Francisco, b. 1883 d. 1887

William T. Francisco - Son of Jasper & Sarah E. Graves Francisco, b. 1868 d. 1887

Eleanor Forgey, daughter of Archibald & Eleanor Roller 
Forgey, b. 1836 d. 1878, wife of William Tyree

Many others are certainly buried here but stones are missing or buried.



  1. What a fantastic adventure and a wonderful find! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Lisa, I wanted to thank you for visiting my blog, Wild Rhododendrons, and let you know I now follow you also.
    Your blog is wonderful. I had a wonderful time visiting the old churches on my recent trip to Maryland and still have to go through the pictures I took of stones there.
    I am just beginning to travel along my Cox line, it just goes on and on, doesn't it?

  3. What a wonderful day you had ~ I loved reading every word. I know your ancestors were pleased that you were determined and kept looking until you found the tiny cemetery. You have a great blog and I love all of your photographs. The ones in Tennessee are especially near and dear to my husband's heart.

    Thank you for following my blog, Genealogy Traces.

  4. Lisa, thank you! Deci..yes it does go on and on! I had almost forgotten my Cox lineage and when I saw your post I knew I needed to revisit that line and see if I could turn up anything new. Judith, finding that cemetery was a deeply moving experience for me. When my mother walked back to the van for work gloves I sat down by my great great grandmother's grave and had a "talk" with her. It was great!