By SETH LITTRELL, CJ Staff Writer Commonwealth Journal
Pulaski native Jackie McGowan was trying to complete his family tree when he stumbled upon a nearly-forgotten piece of the county’s history: The County Farm Cemetery.
Located off North Ky. 1247 in a field belonging to the family of Steven Hieronymus, a dentist in Somerset, the cemetery once belonged to a poor house Pulaski County ran from the late 1800’s until the 1930’s. The people living at the poor house could not afford funerals or burial costs, so they were buried on a small plot of land nearby. According to McGowan, two of his uncles and one aunt, who died when they were children, are buried somewhere in the cemetery.
“My grandmother had 16 children,” McGowan said. “Eight died young and eight survived.”
After McGowan’s aunt, the last of the 16 siblings, had died in 2002, he set out to try to piece together a family tree. He said when he unearthed obituaries putting the location of the people buried at the County Farm Cemetery, a place he didn’t recognize, he was confused and began searching for his relatives’ graves, eventually finding the cemetery’s location.
The County Farm Cemetery is located in a small grove of trees on a hill near the edge of Hieronymus’s field. There is no sign denoting its location to the public. There is also no direct access route to the cemetery. The quickest way to get there is by passing through the yard of a residence on Ky. 1247, going through a barbed-wire fence, and crossing a cattle field to get to the grove.
“There should be some kind of gravel road or something where people don’t have to go through a barbed-wire fence to get there,” McGowan said. “I’ve got a couple of cousins who are 60 and 70 years old that want to look at the cemetery, but they can’t even get to the cemetery.”
The cemetery itself has approximately 50 graves, marked with small, crude gravestones or rocks that have no writing on them at all. However, many graves have begun to sink in over time, and 11 unmarked dips in the ground suggest there may be a greater number of bodies buried there.
The cemetery appears to have seen limited care in recent years. While the grass there has been kept cut, small pieces of trash and sticks have begun to collect on the graves, and evidence suggests cows may have been in the area at one time.
Hieronymus said while he owns the land, the county has always taken care of the burial ground. According to Hieronymus, county officials installed the fence and gate that currently protect the grounds approximately 10 years ago.
Babe Hughes of the Pulaski County Cemetery Board said, while she knows about the County Farm Cemetery and has been there before, the board does not have any funding to care for it.
“We don’t have any money to do anything,” Hughes said. “The county makes signs for markers for cemeteries and guys from the jail clean them up.”
Hughes said the clean-up usually happens once a year ... if it happens at all.
McGowan said he and other volunteers that have contacted him on Facebook have offered to clean up the cemetery, but county officials have declined the offer, saying they will get the jail to work on it instead.
“I want to put up a stone,” McGowan said. “If nothing else I’ll find an open spot and put a stone up with the three kids names on it.”
McGowan said a similar stone is being planted at another cemetery, where the other five members of the McGowan family who died as children are buried.
The Commonwealth Journal attempted to locate a roster with the names of those buried at the County Farm Cemetery on it, but was unable to find one. According to Pulaski County Coroner Richard New, the coroner at the time the poor house was operating, Kenneth Gibbs, kept his personal records upon retiring. Because of this, public records revealing the individuals buried in the cemetery are few in number. However, The Commonwealth Journal has found the following names, courtesy of the Pulaski County Historical Society.