Old cemeteries are markers of human history and possible links to family we never knew.
They are monuments to the people who once inhabited our communities; they hold valuable resources for historical and genealogical research as well as historical assets that tell about a community’s past.
Yet, these sacred remnants of the past are often abandoned or neglected and are in much need of being restored.
In doing so, we all regain a sense of our own place in time and history.
In my hometown of Sharpsburg is an old abandoned grave yard known as The Old Sharpsburg Cemetery.
As a child in the early 1970s I remember the Carl House and the old Black Smith Shop that occupied the grounds adjacent to the cemetery. Even back then I remember how the cemetery was hidden by thick brush and undergrowth.
Last year I learned that someone had taken an interest in the old cemetery with headstones dating back to the 1700s.
I was thrilled to know such an important piece of our local history was going to be preserved. The goal of this project is to identify, protect, restore and preserve as many graves as possible.
According to history on the 9th day of August in the year 1849 Robert F. Caldwell sold Lot 51 in the City of Sharpsburg for $25 for the purpose of a burying ground to the Trustees of Sharpsburg including J H Camplain, William Peck, J. Allen, Joseph Stephens, William F Matholias, HE Guerrant, DF Tidings and JP Mc Nary. Of these trustees, JH Camplain, JP Mc Nary, and Joseph Stephens along with family members are buried here.
The Old Sharpsburg Cemetery history is found on pages 363-4 in 'History of Bath County' by John A. Richards, Southwest Printers, 1961. According to Richards, the cemetery was established in 1832 during the cholera epidemic.
The first recorded burial was Mrs. Jonathan Camplin with her body interred by her husband in the lot that he then owned. We have found the first burial to be in 1818. Burials continued here until 1958. These burials include prominent citizens of the time and Veterans of the Civil War.
• Dr. Wright is listed as one of the first burials, a victim of cholera.
• Joshua Barnes a Physician born in Bath Co.
• Elijah E Webb first cousin 1x removed of Daniel Boone. James Webb, Elijah’s father, and Daniel Boone were first cousins and neighbors through childhood, with visits between the families documented in Daniel Boone's remembrances.
• Childs Wren, son of Jon Wren, prominent land owner.
• Harvey Ashby a veteran of the Civil War. US Colored Infantry
• James Gray Boyd and wife Elizabeth Perkins Boyd with children William A. (innkeeper) and Mary Jane from KY.
• Joseph and Jane Caldwell, relatives of Robert F Caldwell, owner of the land.
• JP McNary, Esq. A lawyer from PA. His wife Elizabeth C. from KY. Both age 41.
• Benjamin Ogden, tailor from KY and his wife Eliza J from KY. Children: Virgil, William (Willie), Benjamin F, Lucy, and Henry. Willie found in cemetery with no dates is age 5 in 1850.
• William S Sharp a physician from KY and his wife Mary also from KY. Children: Howard age 4, Joshua age 1, and William age 3 mos.
• Sara Sharp age 17 probably daughter of Mariah Sharp.
• Thomas Summers MD, farmer from KY, and his wife Margaret I from KY. Children Mary, Elizabeth, Virginia, Paulina, Thomas and James Eli, also a dau born in 1851 Margaret Ann. Possibly another child Lea Allen born in 1855.
• Margaret Potts Smathers consort of Andrew Smathers and Andrew Smathers. Children: Emma who married Hezekiah Crouch, Amelia Matilda “Mary” who married Nicholas A. Dimmitt. Andrew Smathers is a Freemason.
• Hugh Little from Ireland. Age 50 worked as a clerk for Mr. Ashby.
• Samuel McMichael was a hotel keeper in Sharpsburg. His wife Mary A Boyd is buried here. She is the daughter of J G and Elizabeth Perkins Boyd who are also buried here.
• Harriett McCarty Ashby- dau of George McCarty and Patsy Thompson McCarty. Housewife and Fancy domestic Cooking. Mother of 12! Wife of Harvey Ashby, veteran of the Civil War.
• Mary Polly Moffett sister of the Reverend James Moffett.
• Joseph Darrell veteran of the Civil War. Civil War-US 13th U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery
• Joseph Stephens, postmaster and veteran of the Civil War Regiment: 7th Cavalry Regiment KY
and his wife Elizabeth.
• James Johnson member of the Independent Order of the Oddfellows.
There are many others buried here, marked and unmarked, prominent in their own right.
In early April of 2010 John Small and his wife Michelle began the restoration process to clean up what is believed to be the towns original cemetery.
John and his wife’s interest in the old cemetery began with the search for the burial site of John’s great, great, great grandfather, George Small.
“We have been told that it was the original cemetery in Sharpsburg. After the new cemetery was deeded, then this cemetery became primarily a cemetery for African Americans,” John said. “We are in the process of trying to uncover headstones and grave markers. We are documenting the placement and, of course, leaving the stones where they are found. Hopefully, we will eventually restore it to a suitable resting place for those buried there. Maybe George will be here.”
Johns love for family history was passed down to him by his father.
“Our lineage can be traced to George Small and John Caughey, who both fought in the Revolutionary War and, along another branch, to John and Pricilla Alden, who were among the original Pilgrim,” John said. John Caughey settled in Nicholas County as did Lottimore Hayden, an ancestor and descendent of John Alden. George Small, whose father emigrated from Germany (Schmahl) settled in Bath County in what is now Sharpsburg. His son, Moses, and many of his decedents settled in Nicholas County and later moved to Tipton, Indiana and Tipton, Iowa.
Johns father,Herbert William Small was born at Ruddell's Mills in Bourbon County on November 20th, 1918, the eldest of six, reared on the family farms in Needmore and Crayton, Nicholas County, and settled in Carlisle, county seat of Nicholas County. He served in the US Army during WWII, stateside and in the Pacific Theater from 1939 thru 1945. He married Mary June Thompson January 20, 1943 and reared a family of four. Herbert joined his father-in-law, Luther Thompson, in the floral business in 1946, now Small's Florist and Greenhouses, Carlisle, KY. He died at Central Baptist Hospital, Lexington, KY, May 1st, 2008, due to complications following a fall at home two days previously.
He was predeceased by his father and mother, Elva and Nona Small, brother James and Edward, and daughter Susan Lewis, wife of Joe Lewis. He was followed a month later on June 10, 2008, by his wife, Mary June Small. He is survived by two sisters, Robbie Jenkins, Indianapolis, and Peggy Harris, Milford, OH and one brother, David Small, Louisville. He is also survived by one son, John Small, Campton, KY and Arlington, TX and two daughters, June Tincher, Carlisle, KY and Cathy Mathis, Lawrenceburgh, KY.”
In the past year John and Michelle along with Sharpsburg Mayor Dorothy Clemons, Charles Jones, Chairperson of the Old Sharpsburg Cemetery Task Force, Councilwoman Thelma June Gulley, and several volunteers who are residents of Sharpsburg, restoration efforts are well underway.
To date over 700 graves have been staked out, 100 headstones recorded and lots of dense undergrowth has been cleared away.
For a more thorough list and photographs of the restoration in process please go to http://www.pbase.com/jtsmall/old_sharpsburg_cemetery
Family Names found so far at the cemetery are as follows:
Sharpsburg and Bethel have lots of wonderful history just waiting to be uncovered.
Each week I hope to bring our readers even more tidbits of local history as well as interesting feature stories about the citizens who live and work in the little town I will always be proud to call home.