John M. Smith case study #4

I enjoy being part of the “Casey, Clinton, Pulaski, Russell and Wayne County Ky History and Genealogy” group on Facebook. I posted a question for the group and asked if anyone had any information on Smith Bottom, hoping to find a map with the area labeled so I could see if it was close to John’s land.

A  fellow researcher and “Coffey cousin”, Teresa, told me that there was a mention of Smith’s Bottom near Horseshoe Bottom (which you can see on this map near the upper right corner) in the Nov. 3, 1904 edition of the Wayne County Outlook. Sadly, the newspaper was not included in the Newspapers.com site where I have a subscription, so I didn’t think I’d be able to read it.

As I continued to pull together all of my information for John M’s children, I came across the Findagrave memorial for Mary Jane (Smith) Simpson[1] that I discussed in this recent post. I could see the biography on the Findagrave site for her daughter, Martha (Simpson) Bell,  but I wanted to find out if the final sentence of the biography had been included in the original obituary. The biography indicated that the obituary was also in the Wayne County Outlook. So again, I turned to my group on Facebook and asked if anyone knew who might have a copy of the newspaper.

Another cousin from my Stephens line, Arlus, responded and told me that the Wayne County library has digital versions of the paper available on their website! He told me that the Russell, Pulaski, and Adair County libraries also have their own local papers available online. What a goldmine!! His hint solved the Mary Jane Smith mystery for me. But even better, I now know where to look to be able to read local papers without having to go to a library in another state!

Back in the Facebook group, another researcher shared a newspaper clipping from a 1980 Louisville newspaper[2] that talked about 57 old graves at Smiths Bottom being exposed when the Lake Cumberland water level dropped. Now if Louisville was talking about it, what were they saying in Russell County newspapers?

I started by going to the Russell County Library site and found the newspaper for August 14, 1980[3] and there on the front page was the story. The focus on this article was to question whether or not the remains had actually been moved.

As I continued to search the newspapers on the website, I found another front-page article from August 21, 1980[4] indicating that the graves had not been moved, or at least not totally moved.

Wondering if these could have been my ancestors, I kept digging. On page 2, the paper indicated that “Vance Smith accompanied the group to the site as the cemetery was near the Smith farm prior to the formation of Lake Cumberland.” Now I wondered if I could figure out where Vance Smith had lived just before the lake was formed in the early 50’s. I decided to look for Vance Smith in the 1940 Russell County census[5] and I found him living on…Smith Bottom Road! But there are Smiths everywhere and I would certainly expect to find some Smiths on a Smith Bottom Road. Were they “my” Smiths?

Vance’s parents on the census were Ira C. and Hulda Smith. Those names sounded familiar to me, so I went to my tree on Ancestry and sure enough, they were there. Ira Cleveland Smith was the son of James Meadows Smith and the grandson of Elias Smith and Elizabeth Meadows. Knowing that Elias had eventually purchased all of the land owned by John M. Smith from his siblings before his death in 1853, it seems pretty likely that the land had passed down through the family.

A side note – Hulda’s parents were George Washington Smith and Rebecca Jane Hall. GW’s father was yet another John Smith!

The census page showed that the enumeration district was 104-5. You can find a map of the enumeration districts on FamilySearch[6]. Here is a small part of that district. Notice how close Lula is to Beaver Creek. John M’s land included a tract near the mouth of Beaver Creek and was part in Russell County and part in Wayne County. Notice the 2 symbols to the right of the word “LULA”. All of the maps I’ve seen with legends show that the square with the flag is a school and the square with the cross is a church. This is probably Smiths Chapel. The legend for this map shows that cemeteries are marked with a dotted border, which I do not see in this area. Does that mean that this church did not have a cemetery?

It does seem likely to me that if Elias and Elizabeth Smith were buried in the Lula area, then perhaps others in his family were buried there as well, maybe in a family cemetery.

Once again, my Facebook friends helped me out by pointing me to a Digital Book called Graves of the Lake Cumberland Basin[7] that is available on FamilySearch. The beginning of the book has a great map showing where all of the cemeteries were, but it is a little difficult to read. But I can see that there are 2 cemeteries – Smith (cemetery 29) and Lula (cemetery 30) – right in the area that I am looking at. The book tries to give the names and locations of the plots that were moved and where they were moved to, but MANY of the graves simply say “unknown”.

On page 1, the book states that “According to the records of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, 123 cemeteries and the bodies of approximately 2800 persons were relocated, in preparation for the establishment of Lake Cumberland. Most probably there were other private, unmarked cemeteries that did not get moved, but hopefully not many.”

On page 3, there is a list of Smith graves that were moved from “Smith Cemetery” (#29) to Elk Springs Cemetery in Monticello. These include Sarah J. Smith, James M. Smith (this is James Meadows Smith, son of Elias Smith and Elizabeth Meadows and his wife, Sarah Coffey), Edgar Smith, Jimmie C. Smith, Buddie Smith, Pearl Smith, Mary C. Smith and “son of J.M. & S. Smith. These were all children of James Meadows Smith and Sarah Coffey. The map on page 3 indicates that there were 27 graves stakes with 12 monuments moved. This family would comprise 8 of those graves.

Also from that cemetery (page 7) – Emerine Smith, Infant Smith, Mazie Smith, Raymond Smith, Elias Smith and Elizabeth Smith were moved to the Jamestown Cemetery. Emerine was the daughter-in-law of Elias and Elizabeth who died at age 25. She was the wife of their son, George A. Smith Sr. The other names are unknown to me. That makes 6 more graves from the Smith Cemetery of the 27 that were staked. (Page 43) 12 additional “unknown” graves were moved to Piney Woods Cemetery. Infant of Irene Jones, Dick Jones, Irene Jones Cook and Pearl Price were moved from the Lula Cemetery to Piney Woods.

Elias and Elizabeth Smith Stone currently located in Jamestown Cemetery
George A and Talitha Smith Stones currently located in Jamestown Cemetery
Here you can see all of the open space next to George and Talitha. I believe these were graves of Unknowns who had no stones. I have to wonder if one of these spots was for John M. Smith? Elias and Elizabeth’s stone is located between the “Henry” stone and the blue SUV in the picture.

From the Lula Cemetery, the book (p7) shows Louise and Samuel Piercey were moved to the Jamestown Cemetery. Andrew and James Meadows were moved from Cemetery 32 to the Jamestown Cemetery.

I thought it might be helpful to create a table of all of the burial locations that I knew. I wrote about that in the post titled, Just Make a Table.

So while I don’t have actual proof, it does seem pretty likely to me that my ancestor remains were probably not moved, but their stones were. However, to be realistic, coffins and burial procedures were not the same back then as they are now, so I have to wonder if there really were any remains left to move.


[1] Findagrave – Mary Ann “Polly” Copenhaver Simpson – ID 67815762, Simpson Cemetery.

[2] The Courier Journal, Louisville, Kentucky, August 15, 1980, page 4.

[3] https://russellcounty.advantage-preservation.com/viewer/?i=f&by=1980&bdd=1980&bm=8&bd=14&d=08141980-08141980&fn=times_journal_usa_kentucky_russell_springs_19800814_english_1&df=1&dt=10

[4] https://russellcounty.advantage-preservation.com/viewer/?i=f&by=1980&bdd=1980&bm=8&bd=21&d=08211980-08211980&fn=times_journal_usa_kentucky_russell_springs_19800821_english_1&df=1&dt=10

[5] Ancestry, 1940 Federal Census, Kentucky > Russell > Other Places > 104-5.

[6] United States Enumeration Maps for the Twelfth through the Sixteenth US Censuses, 1900-1940, FamilySearch film #007325787, image 183.

[7] https://www.familysearch.org/library/books/records/item/612000-graves-of-the-lake-cumberland-basin?viewer=1&offset=1#page=1&viewer=picture&o=info&n=0&q=