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.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Linda and Becky's Excellent Adventure, Part 2: The Castles

We got up on Sunday morning with plans to find a popular breakfast buffet in Berea. It was not to be. My car wouldn't start. We called Triple A and waited about an hour for someone to come jump the car. He suggested we drive for a while to build up the battery, so we headed out of town. I can't imagine that the buffet in Berea would have been any better than the brunch buffet we found in Winchester, Kentucky. I think it's the best fried chicken I've ever had. The car started just fine after we rolled our full selves out of the restaurant.

After about an hour and a half through fairly scenic highway, we arrived in West Liberty. Now you have to give me a break here, because I was never the driver when we visited West Liberty before. I was a little lost, and it didn't help that there was a major tornado there in 2012, and a lot of the town doesn't look the same. After wandering around a while, I finally found the road out of town and then the turn on Centerville Road to the cemetery.

Linda was thrilled to see the same sign that thrilled my brother and me--the one that says "Day Branch Road." 

Again, I knew that "our" cemetery was up a hill off of this dead end road. I just couldn't find the right place. I had the right hill in my mind's eye, but there were at least three hills that could have been it. (I wrote about our first attempt to find the cemetery in the post, "My Old Kentucky Home." Our successful second attempt was described in the post, "Genealogy on the Road: West Liberty, Kentucky.") We drove until I knew I had passed the place I was looking for, and I turned around and drove back up the road. At the exact moment that we drove by a house, a man and woman walked out of it and started to get into their car. 

I stopped the car, and Linda leaned out to shout, "Could we ask you a question?" We all got out of our cars and met in the driveway. Linda asked, "Would you happen to know where the Castle cemetery is?" The woman replied, "I think I do. I'm a Castle." In two previous trips to West Liberty, my brother and I had never met a Castle. A lot of people we talked to remembered Virgil Castle, but he had passed away long before. On our first trip we talked to Linville Castle on the phone, but I had heard that he had since passed away. We had no idea that any Castles were still living in West Liberty, and here was one standing in front of us! What were the chances that at the exact moment we passed her mother's house, our cousin Jeneen would be getting into her car??

Becky, Linda Castle Hess, Jeneen Castle Roach

Jeneen and her husband Tommy were helping her mother move that day. We visited for a few minutes, trying to find our family connections. (Our common ancestors, we determined, were Goldman Davidson and Rachel Sargent Castle. My great-grandfather, George Turner Castle, and Jeneen's 2nd great-grandfather, James Harvey Castle, were brothers. Virgil Castle was Jeneen's grandfather.) Tommy took our picture, we exchanged addresses and emails, and then we followed Jeneen and Tommy up the road, so that Jeneen could point out her window at the right road to the cemetery. 

We turned the car up the road, and I thought almost right away that this was the wrong road. It was only the width of the car but still far more accessible than the path to the cemetery that I remembered. Still, we kept driving to the top, where we found an abandoned house. Now I knew it was the wrong road. 

We got out of the car and looked around, just to be sure, surprising a cute little family of deer that seemed almost tame. I was positive we were in the wrong place, so we got back in the car. It wouldn't start. We were down a country road, up a hill where no-one lived, and we were stuck. But we didn't even have time to panic, because a car drove up behind us, honking its horn. It was Jeneen and Tommy to the rescue! She had realized it was the wrong road and had come back to tell us. 

We now had help but still didn't know how we were going to get the car started. We eliminated ideas one by one: no jumper cables; a car couldn't get close enough to jump us anyway; automatic, so we couldn't just put it in neutral and back down; the closest Triple A serviceman was a couple of hours away. Tommy and Jeneen's friend John came up on his four-wheeler, and he had tools. Of course, I couldn't have a battery that was easy to get out, but the guys finally removed it. Our only option was to drive back into West Liberty and buy a new battery, which we did. 

Now this might sound like a bad thing, but having car trouble turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We got to spend a lot more time with Jeneen and talked a lot more about the Castles; we learned things, and so did she. She wasn't even certain who was buried in the little Castle cemetery plot on the hill. Four of the headstones were for her 3rd great-grandparents, Goldman Davidson Castle and Rachel Sargent Castle, and her 2nd great-grandparents, James Harvey Castle and Elizabeth Nickell Castle. She didn't even know about Donia's foot! (See "Genealogy on the Road: West Liberty, Kentucky").

In turn, she pointed out the original home place of her grandparents, Virgil and Net Castle, and her mother's home on original Castle land. 

Eventually we said our good-byes again, and Jeneen pointed us to the right road to the cemetery. "Path" is a better word. We had to park the car on Centerville Road and walk up the hill to look for the headstones. They were not easy to find. Linda and I peered through the little pine forest in several places before we finally saw the stones. Of course, the little family plot was more overgrown than the last time I was there, and Linda spent several minutes cutting thorny vines away from the fallen stones while I cleared moss from Grandma Castle's marker. The shade of the tall trees surrounding the plot made it hard to even take photos of the stones, but we did the best we could.

We finally left West Liberty and started our 12-hour drive home to Oklahoma. We were glad to see this sign on our way out of town. 

Today had definitely been an excellent adventure.

The Castle coincidences don't end there. I came home and looked through a box of my grandmother's things, looking for a map she had drawn of the West Liberty area 75 years after she lived there.  I've known about the map since before the last time my brother and I were there, but I don't know why I keep forgetting to take it with me to Kentucky. I found the map, but I also found a letter to my grandmother from Virgil Castle's wife, Net, dated March 8, 1982. Virgil had been sick, and Net had been doing a lot of the farm work. Then she wrote this: "Aunt Fannie, watch in the next week's paper (The Licking Valley Courier, to which my grandmother subscribed). My granddaughter's picture will be in the paper. She won 2 big trophies for speech making and her picture is in the paper. She is a real smart little girl. She is 12 years old." Guess who she was talking about? Jeneen!


  1. I am related to Mahala Castle, B.knight of Pataskala, Ohio ...

  2. I think I teared up when you said you were at James Harvey and Elizabeth nickell's graves. I am so looking forward to getting back up there this year. I haven't been to Kentucky since my grandmother passed in 2005. Jeneen would be my 2nd cousin. I didn't even have her grandfather on my tree. I am so enjoying going through your blog and filling in missing people. Thank you for all your energy and effort and love for these people.

  3. Thank you for your comments! I certainly enjoy writing about my family and hope that sometimes it's helpful to others. I'm pleased to know that you are enjoying it!