Showing posts with label Sexton Cemetery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sexton Cemetery. Show all posts

30 May 2010

Paper, Flowers, Rocks & Trinkets

compiled by Teresa Martin Kaiber Memorial Weekend 2010

Paper, flowers, rocks and trinkets all are part of remembering.

Today I visited three cemeteries in northeastern Kentucky. All were full of people tending their loved ones graves. Best of all, I saw older family members talking to the children telling them stories about loved ones so they will also remember.

Some reading this post will recognize portions of this article as threads that I have posted on a social network the past week, as the United States Memorial preparations have gotten under way.

Let me make this clear, I love God's natural flowers. This weekend the cemeteries are beautiful with thousands of flowers gracing loved ones earthly resting place. Because I am a trustee of a cemetery, I sometimes think beyond the immediate emotional moment. Within a few days the artificial flowers will fade, wires will rust and mowers will be damaged when little pieces get caught in the blades. I tend to think about the cost of maintaining the equipment, gravel for roadways, fences that need mending, trash removal and in smaller cemeteries the fact that animals can be seriously injured and even die from the wires if tossed into the fields.

Having said that, placing items, whatever they may be at graveside is a show of respect for those we love. It teaches those small children about love and giving and remembering. It gives the living a sense that they are doing something and sharing something with those that have left us. This is one of the reasons that folks in Eastern Kentucky tend to call it Decoration Day.

Our first official Memorial Day was in 1868 following the Civil War and was actually created because of Southern Ladies honoring Confederate deceased soldiers. A Hymn was published in 1867, Kneel Where Our Loved Ones are Sleeping. The sheet music was published in New Orleans and the top reads "To the ladies of the South who are decorating the graves of the Confederate dead." Memorial Day honors all our American Soldiers. In Eastern Kentucky we honor our military and all our loved ones. It is truly Decoration Day.

Burial rituals and traditions have existed for thousands of years. For some reason, possibly knowing that I have Jewish heritage, I love the tradition of placing a pebble on the tombstone. It is small, natural and will go back to the earth. When I place a stone I feel like I am saying "I am honoring you. I have been here." However, being raised a Christian, I decided I would like to know a little more about why this is a traditional Jewish custom. I found a wonderful article "Question: Why do we place pebbles on grave stones?" by Rabbi Tom Louchheim. The Rabbi gives several theories and practices that led to the tradition of placing the stone. But what struck me in the article was a quote by Louchheim's colleague: "Ritual is a way of expressing our emotions and spiritual needs. We need physical acts to express these things for us, to make them concrete."

Today I expressed my emotions and spiritual needs. I placed pebbles on the graves of my loved ones. When I grew up I did not realize that the street I lived on in Ashland, Kentucky was predominately Jewish. My neighbors were the Josselson family, Polinski's, Stones, Metzlers, and Koros family among others. As I drove around Ashland Cemetery today, I stopped and remembered my childhood, and left a few pebbles for them as well.

When I stopped to visit my great uncles and my great grand parents I smiled as well. Live flowers had been carefully planted and tended by another family member. It flooded me with more memories. When probing for downed tombstones I often find a bit of glass from a fruit jar or a piece of crockery. Older family members told me that they would cut flowers, fill the fruit jar with water, and with trowel in hand dig a small hole so the jar would not topple and place it at the grave. Around Memorial Day the day lilies, roses, daisies and peonies are in full bloom in Eastern Kentucky.

My mother-in-law talked to me about crepe paper flowers. Live cut flowers would droop so quickly. It took hours to create crepe paper flowers. There were even detailed booklets on how to create them. All of them were made with love and with a special person in mind.

Besides multiple colors of crepe that could be purchased at the 5 & 10 cent store, you needed thread, paste and water and some old wire which most farm houses had available. The problem was that the dew would cause the crepe paper dye to run. Rain ruined the creations immediately. By the late 1920's people discovered that you could dip the creations in paraffin wax and they not only looked more realistic, they lasted for a longer period. Plastic flowers soon evolved and in the 1970's new machinery allowed silk flowers [actually polyester] to become the rage.

Over the years I have photographed, repaired and documented thousands of graves in New Jersey, Ohio and Kentucky. There is nothing so frustrating as to find a photograph of a loved ones grave, only to have the valued dates blocked by flowers. I have moved and replaced many flower containers to get a good photograph. I am careful to dust grass clippings from the flowers before replacing them exactly where they were prior to the photograph.

I think the most moving tributes I have seen standing at an Eastern Kentucky graveside are the tiny toy cars, or a small toy soldier. I have seen glass boxes built with memorial items placed inside and marbles embedded in homemade gravestones.

It is a privilege, as a genealogist, to also be the trustee of an active cemetery in Eastern Kentucky. It has been one of the most moving experiences of my life. Yes, it is the 21st century and there is modern equipment. But I have seen graves dug by hand with simply a pick and a shovel in the 21st century in Eastern Kentucky. If you were to ask why, the answer would be simple "to pay respect." There is nothing more moving than to see a whole neighborhood gather to help. This evening I sat and watched car after car climb the gravel hill to pay their respects and place their tributes on loved ones graves.

Family reunions used to be held at the cemetery. Picnic baskets were packed with wonderful foods and wagons filled with tools to clear and clean the cemetery. One lady described Memorial weekend as a child on Clay Jack, Boyd County, Kentucky. She said the wagons were like a parade when the Vanover family went down the road each year to their cemetery. She wished she was a member of that family because they had such a big party.

Today I saw so many visions. Families gathered for pictures at loved ones graves. I saw an elderly gentleman artistically arranging flowers, stepping back to make sure they were placed just so. One tiny boy and his father knelt by a grave while the little boy worked very hard to push the wooden flag into the ground beside a soldier's grave. I placed my peebles and shed a few tears. Then I smiled because I remember.

Sexton Cemetery, Pigeon Roost, Boyd County, Kentucky

The type of ritual item or way we honor our loved ones is a very personal, emotional action. A tiny toy, a giant floral arrangement or a tiny pebble all are saying "I am honoring you. I have been here."

May Memorial Day live in our hearts every day.

24 April 2010

Anna Sanders McBrayer, The Rest of the Story, Rest In Peace

compiled by Teresa Martin Klaiber 2010

No research project can be attributed to one specific researcher and the puzzle about Anna Sanders McBrayer's Tombstone is no exception. I blogged about the discovery of her missing tombstone several weeks ago. Since then the story has unraveled with sincere thanks to Carl McBrayer, "Jim" [James Franklin] McBrayer and "Bob" [Robert Lewis] McBrayer.

I will take the reader through the steps it has taken to unravel the problem of the missing tombstone. Sometimes things are just not the way they first appear.

Shortly after writing the story I carefully went through the many pages of Sexton Cemetery records I have collected over the years. Sexton Cemetery is in Boyd County, Kentucky. Besides the picture posted in the last blog I discovered that I had a 1997 35mm photograph, along with a map showing the specifics of all the graves in Sexton Cemetery for that year.

Comparing the 1997 photograph with the 1970's photograph you can see that someone has repaired and uprighted the stone in Sexton Cemetery, Boyd County, Kentucky.

With map and probe in hand we spent two afternoons searching for the tombstone at the specific grave site and around the edges of the cemetery in woods and weeds without results. As we came down the hill my husband wondered out loud if the stone had been moved to Rowan County to be next to her husband. Both of us seemed to vaguely remember James Earl McBrayer talking about it many years before but had thought the issue dropped.

Carl McBrayer is the "keeper" of all things McBrayer. A wonderful telephone chat and search of his records showed that at a McBrayer Association meeting in 1978 the subject had been broached but he had no other information or follow up in the notes for her.

If the stone was moved I could now surmise that it had happened between 1997 and 2004 when James Earl McBrayer had died. Carl called Jim McBrayer and I quickly had a picture of her tombstone in Hoggtown Cemetery, Rowan County, Kentucky. You will note that when reset they removed the broken section without damage to the writing. The stone has been placed next to her husband who did die in Rowan County, Kentucky.

But then Boyd County Coroner pointed out this presented another problem. He did not remember any paperwork crossing his desk and he was concerned that just the stone had been removed. Since Sexton Cemetery, Boyd County still receives burials could this now be an unmarked grave that could be disturbed unknowningly with a new burial.

According to Kentucky KAR when there is a disinterment a permit is to be filed with the State Registrar of Vital Statistics and the local cemetery authorities be notified. The unofficial family caregiver of the cemetery was Harold Sexton, now deceased. The removal must be done by a certified funeral home. We were sure caregiver Harold Sexton would have told us had he been aware as we live very close and visited often. And I applaud Vital Statistics. Melody did a two day search year by year including 2001 without result. She did not locate the proper form.

This lead several of Anna's great great grandchildren to start talking about getting a new marker for the grave in Boyd County where she died. Remember I said not all things are as they appear even when you have followed the paper trail!

On the 22nd Bob McBrayer wrote that James Earl McBrayer's nephew Arthur had shared the information and photographs of the removal of not only the tombstone but the remains of Anna Sanders McBrayer. Bob wrote: "I remember him saying noone from the family was present when the exhumation took place. The remains were put in a box and placed next to James."

Every good researcher knows to document any historical event. By providing the date in 2001, Carl was able to go back through files of the McBrayer family newletter In Defiance and quickly sent me an article along with photographs that were taken by the funeral home Northcutt & Sons in Morehead, Kentucky. Thank goodness for family newsletters!

Anna Sanders McBrayer is now at rest in Rowan County, Kentucky next to her husband of many years, James R. McBrayer. The unmarked location in Sexton Cemetery can be utilized for future burials without disruption. The Boyd County Cemetery Board has been notified so that the county cemetery database and records can be updated for future researchers. A notation will be placed in the comment field showing the date of exhumation and location of the new site.

A final research comment. The last reading of the Hoggtown, aka Turner, Aka Elliottville Cemetery was made prior to 2001 as well. Future researchers may have to puzzle over this again. If a new researcher or younger descendent comes across Anna's burial site in Rowan County they may assume that she died there. There are no Kentucky death certificates for 1889. That tombstone is the only recorded "document" of her death. As we older researchers hand over the reins and records we hope they pass down the story and "the rest of the story" to their children.

Anna had come back to Boyd County where she had lived with her husband for 45 years before moving on to Rowan County. She died while visiting family in Boyd County in April when a wagon trip back to Rowan would have been difficult. She laid at rest for 112 years in Sexton Cemetery, Pigeon Roost, Boyd County, Kentucky before being reunited with her husband's grave in Rowan County. May she rest in peace.

28 March 2010

Anna Sanders McBrayer & The Missing Tombstone

Compiled by Teresa Martin Klaiber 2010

Yes for the moment Anna Sanders McBrayer's tombstone is classified as missing. It proves the extreme importance and value of all those volunteer hours to document row by row readings of cemeteries and the power of the photograph.

In the late 1960's I was utilizing polaroid film. It was in the early years of my genealogical quests and I did not date the photograph. But we estimate that it was taken between 1968 - 1974. I clearly remember standing in Sexton Cemetery on Pigeon Roost, Boyd County, Kentucky when I took the picture of the stone. We commented that someday it would be nice to repair the stone as it lay on the ground. We were visiting from out of state and time ticked on.

In the mid 1970's the Kentucky Historical Society organized a state wide cemetery reading project. Evelyn Scyphers Jackson spear headed the project in Boyd County, Kentucky. She and her volunteers did a row by row reading of cemeteries in Boyd County, Kentucky. Her field notes for Sexton Cemetery are dated 1976 with updates dated 1977. Anna Sanders McBrayer's tombstone appears on the list. Thus the tombstone was still in the cemetery in 1976.

Working in the genealogy department of the Boyd County Library, in 1999, I created a master cemetery database with the goal to put it on line to assist patrons. With the wonderful help of Michael Fleming and Carol Lovitt we entered all of the recorded cemetery data from the 1970's project. That alone was a daunting task. Anna Sanders McBrayer's entry from the 1977 reading is in the database.

In 2004, as part of the Boyd County Fiscal Court Cemetery Board, we were facing another daunting and now ongoing task. With the advent of digital photography I was able to start photographing each and every stone in cemeteries without the cost of film development. One of the first cemeteries to be digitized was Sexton Cemetery. You now can access the Master database online at the Boyd County Library or visit the library to view any of the digitized cemeteries at the computer stations located in the genealogy department.

While I explained to anyone that listened the importance of updating the cemetery database including new burials, I also pointed out the importance of the new project because of damaged or lost stones. Never did I dream that the lost tombstone would involve my children's 3rd great grandmother.

With recent new genealogical discoveries about the McBrayer family, I turned to the digitized 2004 Sexton Cemetery photographs to provide a descendant a copy. Anna is not there! Thus between 1977 and 2004 something may have happened to the stone. My team methodically shot each stone in the cemetery but mistakes do happen. The cemetery lays on a point surrounded by woods. It is maintained by boys incarcerated at the Hack Estep Home each summer. Thus the stone may have been moved or because it was broken grass and time could have embedded it. It is time to pay the cemetery another visit, taking along a probe, BarPak and base frame. I am optimistic that we will find the stone.

Anna aka Anne and Annie in records was born 6 March 1807 in Kentucky. She was the daughter of Jacob and Sarah Sanders. Anna married James R. McBrayer 7 July 1823 in Floyd County, Kentucky. Sometime between 1839 and 1842 they settled in Lawrence County, Kentucky. In 1844 they purchased land from William C. Carter on what is known as Four Mile. The deed is filed in Carter County, Kentucky. The land is now part of Boyd County, Kentucky.

The McBrayer's had at least 10 children. Three of her sons served in the Civil War. William Parks McBrayer was with Company G, 45th Mounted Infantry and Solomon served in Company D of the 39th Kentucky Infantry along with brother Lewis Parker McBrayer. In August 1863 her husband, James R. McBrayer signed the Oath of Allegiance stating that he would support the constitution of the United States and the constitution of Kentucky and would not give aid to the Rebellion or against the government.

The family moved to Rowan County, Kentucky after 1875. James R. died 5 January 1880. He is buried in what is called Hoggtown Cemetery aka Turner Cemetery. Hoggtown became a part of Elliottville. The family states that Anna was on a visit in Boyd County when she died 25 April 1889 and because the wagon trip would be long & the roads were muddy, she was buried in the county where she died.

This pioneering lady was a child during the War of 1812, saw the formation of 3 separate counties, survived the Civil War and raised 10 children.

08 February 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - The "Bethlehem" Star

Over the past decade there has been a renewed interest in the stone cutters and carvers that were masters at their trades and artists who dedicated their talents to honor the dead. Digitizing and recording the cemeteries of Boyd County over the past 10 years I have become increasingly aware of many unique individual stones. But none have made me more curious than the ones that I have come to dub the "Bethlehem Star" or the "Cookie Cutter" tombstones for lack of a better description.

My first encounter with the handmade stone was many years ago in our own Klaiber Cemetery. The stones are all identical in height and shape. They stand in hand poured bases which are inscribed "At Rest" or "Gone but Not Forgotten." Each stone has an identical cookie cutter stamped 7 point star. The placement of the birth and death dates are in an unusual arrangement. There is no doubt that all these stones were made by the same person.

Among my travels I have encountered the stones in Coalton Cemetery, Lawson Cemetery on Strait Creek, Sexton Cemetery on Pigeon Roost and even Catlettsburg Cemetery. Most of the stones are for those deceased in the 1930's. The earliest, I have discovered to date, is for two year old Ida Sexton in 1904 in Sexton Cemetery at Pigeon Roost.

The example above is the grave of Joe Deskins 10 July 1916 - 7 July 1929, in section O of Catlettsburg Cemetery, Catlettsburg, Boyd County, Kentucky.

There is always more to a story. Did the person who made these stones charge less than the professional carvers? Were these donated stones given out of neighborly love? Did the maker devise the star stamp or utilize one similar to those wonderful cookie cutters in collections today?