Documenting my family's past for future generations. My family tree includes the Smith/Mansell families of Alabama and Oklahoma, the Castle/Day families of Kentucky and Oklahoma, the Wheat/Ming families of Texas and Oklahoma, and the Bell/Roberts families of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Oklahoma.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Genealogy on the Road: West Liberty, Kentucky

Three years ago my brother and I visited West Liberty, Kentucky.  I wrote about that trip in the blog post, “My Old Kentucky Home.”  One of the objectives of that trip was to find the graves of our great-great-grandparents, Goldman D. and Rachel (Sargent) Castle.  Unfortunately, after visiting at least a dozen cemeteries, we failed to find them; we finally gave up and went home.

Within a couple of weeks of returning home, I corresponded with a Castle cousin who told me that the graves we were seeking were in a part of Morgan County near West Liberty that had been called Panama.  When my brother and I started planning a trip for this summer, I used Google Maps to locate Panama.  The location was on Centerville Road before it intersects with Homer Gevedon Road.  I was pretty sure this was an area we had searched before, but we were going to give it another try.

As soon as we turned off Highway 460, I knew this was the same road we had traveled three years ago.  In fact, soon we passed Day Branch Road where we had stopped to take photographs in 2010.  We had been following another Castle cousin’s instructions when we passed a barn close to the road and looked to the right to see a cemetery on a hill.  My brother had charmed a pack of dogs and climbed the steep hill to find that this was not the Castle cemetery. 

This time someone was home at the house next door, and my brother went up to talk to the homeowner.  He told Tim that he knew the cemetery we were looking for; it was further down the road near an old barn.  He had recently remarked to a young neighbor that the cemetery was really overgrown; the neighbor had replied that since it was the Castle cemetery, there was no one left to take care of it.  Who would have thought there would be another cemetery on a point near a barn on the same road? 

So—we drove down the road, found another old barn, and my brother climbed the hill to look for the cemetery.  No luck.  This was getting old.  Driving farther down the road, we found another man working in his garden.  Tim got out and walked down to talk to him; pretty soon my brother started back to the car, followed by the man, who turned out to be Mr. Gevedon.  Mr. Gevedon stopped at his barn to get a 4-wheeler, I hopped on the back, and Tim followed in the car.  We went a short way down the road and then up a very steep gravel track.  Tim followed as far as he could in the car—which wasn’t very far—and walked the rest of the way up.

Graves were under the pine trees to the right

Tim had walked the right hill.  It’s no wonder he couldn’t find the graves.  They had fallen down and couldn’t be seen from the road.  They were covered in leaves, thorny vines, and a small pine forest.  We would never have found them without the help of someone who knew exactly where they were.  But we were in the right place—because there was a headstone there, still standing, that made this cemetery unique.  It said DONIA’S FOOT.

Caladonia was my grandmother’s cousin, the daughter of James H. and Elizabeth (Nickell) Castle.  According to my grandmother, when she was a young girl, she fell off the porch and hurt her leg.  Eventually, her foot had to be amputated, and it was buried in the Castle cemetery.  I’m not sure if that’s the whole story, as Caladonia didn’t live long.  She died when she was 16.

The cemetery also holds the graves of Caladonia’s father, James, and her mother, Elizabeth.  (James was the brother of my great-grandfather, George Turner Castle.  His wife Elizabeth was the sister of George’s first wife, Frances.)  We also found a headstone for Caladonia’s brother, Goldman, named for his grandfather.  We found the headstone of our great-great-grandmother Rachel, and finally, fallen from its base, the headstone of our great-great grandfather, Goldman Davidson Castle.  Tears came to my eyes as I remembered my grandmother talking about brushing her grandfather’s silver hair.

G. D. Castle

Rachel Castle

We wished we had known in what bad shape the cemetery was.  We could have brought tools to clean it up.  Honestly, though, it would have taken a chain saw at the very least.  What do you do in that situation?  We are probably the only descendants that have visited the graves in years, and no telling when we will be back.  It’s sad to leave them in such a condition, but having to work so hard to find them at all gave us a sense of accomplishment that we had shown them what honor we could.   


  1. My grandmother, Ida (Castle) Elam, Donia's sister, I believe. Jerry Stone, Lexington KY

    1. I think my grandmother corresponded with your grandmother. I believe I have some old letters and photos she sent to my grandmother. My grandmother never went back to Kentucky after she left at age 10, but when she was older she really enjoyed writing letters to all the cousins she remembered back home in Kentucky.

    2. Jerry were you at the dinner Aunt Ida through when my and my dad Rondle Castle came down in 1978 ? His father was Henry Preston Castle, son of James Castle.
      We went over to Winchester to see your brother. Dolly and her husband went also.
      Sorry for my memory we are still looking for notes from that visit :-(
      Victor Preston Castle

  2. Anyone know who owns the property or if it is for sale?

    1. I'am sorry I don't think I have the name down. We were there after my dad died and Virgil told us how to get there and the cemetery above.
      It was suppose to be torn down before spring but the people who bought the two big 2 story fire places hadn't removed them.
      I took pictures and then went back to her house and asked if I could buy a cap stone from one of them that had fallen. I got one.
      Virgil and Nettie were so gracious. He even took us over to introduce us to cousin Georgie. Who took us to the Nickell cemetery near her house.
      Sincerely ,
      Victor Preston Castle