My husband gave me a wonderful birthday gift this past week. We rented a houseboat for a few days and traveled around Lake Cumberland, specifically to see the area where John M. Smith and his family lived. Most of his land is now under the lake, but I had been able to map with pretty good precision one piece of land and we were able to tie our boat to a portion of that land and spend the night there. As I walked on the land that we were able to get onto, I picked up rocks and fossils and collected a few leaves to press and found I was surprisingly emotional about being there. John died in 1835, but to know that I was on land that he had to have worked so hard to obtain gave me feeling of closeness that I would not have expected to feel.

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We picked an excellent week to go! The weather was lovely – not too hot during the day (but hot enough to swim and float!) and chilly enough in the evenings to make wrapping up in a blanket feel extra cozy. I loved hearing the sounds of nature that John and his family would have heard. In the evenings, we would sit and look up at a gorgeous display of stars, unhampered by the lights of any town and wonder how often he and his wife had gazed up at the night sky. We heard owls and perhaps a fox yipping and it was almost too much to take in. Later in the week, we even saw 2 eagles flying over one of the channels as we cruised our way around the lake.

In the mornings, a gentle mist would rise from the water and my husband was able to do a little fishing as the sun came up. It was so peaceful, I never wanted to leave!

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It was a beautiful area, but I was amazed at how steep the hillsides were. How would you farm such an area? At the end of the trip, we drove a little to find a couple of cemeteries and I noticed that unlike where we live, which is flat…flat…flat, the corn fields we saw were smaller and were almost like puzzle pieces to try to fit into areas that were flatter.

At the Jamestown Cemetery (where most of the cemeteries that were below the the water line of the Lake had been moved) I was able to find the grave stones for my ggg-grandparents – George and Talitha Smith.

img_2843George was the oldest son of John M and even though I had seen pictures of the stones on Find-A-Grave, it was even better to be there and to touch the stones. There were a couple of “empty” spaces next to George and I have to wonder if that might be where John M. and perhaps his wife were moved to – without a stone. George was the longest surviving child of John M’s. I think I have glossed over him in my research because of my zeal to find the parents of John M. I will be expanding my research for George now.

The trip had been promised on my birthday in July, but it was a last minute decision to hit the road. Being late in the season, we just about had the lake to ourselves – at least, that’s the way it felt. But how I wish I had taken the time between my birthday and the actual trip to think about things I would want to do while there. I would have taken time to look at the Russell County library website to see if there would books that I could have taken a look at. I would have used the addresses I had found for my great-grandparents in the later census records and driven out to see that area. I would have done more mapping of land parcels to see what I could find. I would have created a database on cemeteries to visit – especially now that I know how incredible if feels to be there rather than just to see pictures that others have taken. Looking back now (a whole day after returning home!) I see that I could have done those things while there (we did have internet access through our phones) but it just didn’t occur to me!

I will certainly begin creating that list now as we are in love with the area and will certainly be back!

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