Russell Cemetery

In 2001, the Jessamine County Historical Society helped to restore a historic family cemetery located in the county near the intersection of Highway 68 and KY 169. There are five identified graves in the cemetery according to the Society’s records.

Russell Cemetery. Author’s collection.

The Remains

There are five headstones identified at the Russell Cemetery:

  • Elizabeth McClanahan PREWITT (Dec. 13, 1787 – June 13, 1833)
  • Harvey PREWITT (1786 – May 1840)
  • Elizabeth Featherston RUSSELL, Age 80 years, Wife of Hezekiah (Unk – May 26, 1863)
  • Hezekiah RUSSELL (April 10, 1790 – October 24, 1872)
  • Lucy Ann SALE, wife of John (Feb. 15, 1822 – Sept. 2, 1858) [1][4]

The (Short) Backstory

The cemetery near the intersection of the two highways contains not just the Russell family remains, but it is a tangible reminder of history itself.

Russell’s Tavern at Russell’s Cross Roads

Hewitt’s 1861 Topographical Map. Library of Congress.

The map above shows a busy intersection at the onset of the Civil War. Near H. Russell’s Tavern was a tollhouse and scales where tolls were collected for those passing along the Lexington-Harrodsburg-Perryville Turnpike which was also known as Old Curd’s Road.

H. Russell’s Tavern was, of course, the tavern owned by Hezekiah Russell whose remains were buried at the Russell Cemetery following his 1872 death.

An archeological study conducted in the spring of 1999 uncovered “Hezekiah Russell’s mid-19th-century tavern and scales were also identified.” [2] The crossroads was historically referred to as Russell’s Cross Roads after the tavern.[3]

At some point before his death in 1840, Harvey Prewitt “operated the tavern at Russell’s Cross Roads.” Harvey Prewitt was born in 1786 in Halifax County, Virginia. His first wife, Elizabeth, is buried in the Russell Cemetery; they were wed in 1821. [5]

A Veteran of our Nation’s Independence

Harvey’s father, Byrd Prewitt, served in the Revolution, enlisting in Virginia “as a private in Capt. Henry Terrill’s Company, Col. Josiah Parker’s 5th Regiment.” [5] Byrd Prewitt served at the battles of Brandywine and Germantown. [6]

When he applied for a pension in the latter years of his life, he swore that he was “by occupation a farmer but from old age and infirmity can do but little that his wife is dead and that he now lives with his sons-in-law.” [7]

On July 4, 1794, Byrd attended a celebration at the nearby plantation of Colonel William Price; it was a gathering of veterans in the first celebration of our Nation’s independence to occur west of the Allegheny Mountains. [5]

Russell Cemetery. Author’s collection.


[1] Russell Cemetery. Rootsweb. [Online] Rootsweb. [Cited: May 7, 2020.].
[2] Society for Historical Archeology. 1999. Current Research. [ed.] Norman F. Barka. SHA Newsletter. 1999, Vol. 32, 3, p. 14. [Online].
[3] Hudson, Karen E. 1999. Canewood Farm, Jessamine County, Kentucky.: National Register of Historic Places, 1999. #99000494.
[4] Russell Cemetery. Find A Grave. [Online].
[5] Prewitt, Richard A. Prewitt-Pruitt Records of Virginia. Des Moines: 1996 [Online].
[6] Bunch, Clyde N. 1999. Known Revolutionary War Soldiers of Jessamine County, Kentucky. [Online] January 11, 1999
[7] Prewitt, Byrd. 1828. Pension Application of Byrd Prewitt. [trans.] Will Graves. Southern Campaign American Revolution Pension Statements & Rosters. Lexington : 1828. [Online].

A Day Journal: Lexington by Bike

For those that have followed this blog for some time, you know I think that Lexington is an amazing city. Whenever my sister comes to visit, I love taking her on a bike ride to show her what has changed in the city where we spent so many years growing up. So we did Lexington by bike.

We ventured recently on a 5-hour, 10.4 mile tour (no-destination-style at an ultra-leisurely pace) with just a couple of targets in mind: we wanted to enjoy a couple brews from stops on the Brewgrass Trail. I wanted to show her what’s going on in the Distillery District and we wanted to pass our old Kentucky home.

We pulled our bikes off the bike rack where we parked on North Limestone in front of LTMS. We passed the old the old Episcopal mission on Fourth Street before cutting through the campus of Transylvania University and beside Old Morrison.

Gratz Park until Second Street when my sister declared she wanted to pass her favorite house in Lexington, the Thomas January House.To Jefferson Street where, upon cresting the viaduct, I showed my sister how the Lexington Center would expand and the beautifully proposed Town Branch Park would overtake the area.

In, through, and past the Distillery District, we turned right onto Forbes Road and discussed the fire at the stockyards. Her mind raced as she considered the potential reuse for that 10 +/- acres.

Down Leestown Road and into the Lexington Cemetery where I told her the stories of King Solomon, of John Hunt Morgan, and of Henry Clay. As we left the cemetery and with five miles behind us, we began to think about that first beer. To Blue Stallion!

The Hefeweizen was the perfect beer on that hot day! We filled our waters and immediately embarked for pint #2 at West Sixth (and for a bite at Smithtown Seafood!) We journeyed down Smith and Willie Streets before taking in the rainbow colored shotguns on Bourbon Street – the highlight of what remains of historic Smithtown for which the seafood restaurant takes its name!


I, of course, gave her an update on the Old Courthouse as we passed it. Then to our old Kentucky Home in the Historic Western Suburb, the iconic mural of Abraham Lincoln by Eduardo Kobra, and the new Henry Clay mural on Vine Street.

We learned that East Second Street Christian Church is contemplating a new site (according to the “Future Home Of…” sign) before admiring their circa 1875 church building.

Brochures obtained from the Visitor’s Bureau

Another stop during the day was a new one for me: The Lexington Visitor’s Bureau which has relocated to The Square (formerly Victorian Square). If you are visiting Lexington for the first or fifty-first time, stop at the Visitor’s Bureau. You’ll discover something new!

Of course, isn’t that always the case with Lexington? We certainly did during our 10.4 mile ride. #sharethelex

A post shared by Peter Brackney (@kaintuckeean) on Jul 20, 2017 at 12:10pm PDT

NoD: Old Family Graveyard Not So Rural Anymore

Cemetery - Nicholasville, Ky.
Aaron Farra Family Graveyard – Nicholasville, Ky.

As Kentucky’s landscape changes, old farmhouses and barns are often torn down. The same goes for churches, post offices and general stores. Entire communities are consumed by an ever-growing suburbia.  But what of the cemeteries?

In Kentucky, state law charges cities and towns with preserving burial grounds within the city limits. A perfect example is in Nicholasville where local ordinances about a decade old mandate specific treatment in cases of cemeteries within areas of development. In February 2003, the Aaron Farra Family Graveyard was removed from its original location.

With the aid of developers and the Jessamine County Historical Society (JHS), great detail was taken in exhuming all of the bodies and caskets. The arrangement of bodies and headstones was carefully documented so that the new cemetery location would mirror the original internment site. Today, the cemetery is immediately adjacent to Kohl’s Drive off U.S. 27, but it was originally 921 feet southwest of its current location. If it had been left alone, the Farra Family Graveyard would be underneath Sam’s Club! (There’s also a Starbucks within eyeshot of the cemetery.)

Aaron Farra and his wife, Sally Neet Farra, once owned this land. Aaron and Sally passed this world in 1859 and 1861, respectively, an 1861 map of property owners in Jessamine County identifies a large area of land – on both sides of the Nicholasville Turnpike as it was once called – controlled by different members of the Farra family. Yet, it seems little is known of the family.

Sally’s parents, George Neet (born in Germany in 1767, his headstone is pictured above with the Kohl’s Department Store in the background) and Sally Neet, are buried here. As are a few of Aaron and Sally’s grandchildren. The earliest burial in this family graveyard was in 1826 and the most recent in 1866.

The graveyard is surrounded by an iron fence which was also transplanted from the original site. It is a well-maintained, small cemetery in what many now find an ‘odd’ location. But remember, they were here first!

Cemetery - Nicholasville, Ky. Cemetery - Nicholasville, Ky. Cemetery - Nicholasville, Ky. Cemetery - Nicholasville, Ky.

more photos are available on flickr

Sources: 1861 mapJHS Cemetery Listing; JHS Newsletter; Rootsweb

EV: Resting Place of Henry Clay (Lexington Cemetery, Part VII)

Tomb of Henry Clay – Lexington, Ky.

When most people think of the Lexington Cemetery, they probably immediately think of the Henry Clay monument. And for good reason. It dominates the skyline of this area of Lexington. Though, as a curious aside, it’s really tough to see the monument from the cemetery below. It takes up an entire section (Section M) of the cemetery and is surrounded by a dense group of cherry trees.

When Henry Clay died in June of 1852, the ensuing ten days of memorials and mourning were national news. The day after he was buried, a group met at the courthouse in Lexington to begin planning “a national monument of historic proportions.” They certainly achieved their goal.
The monument was completed in 1861, but because of the Civil War, Clay’s body was not laid to rest there until 1864, when both he and his wife’s bodies were placed there. The monument stands on a small hill, and Clay faces east, towards his home – Ashland.
Curiously, the monument has had a rather rough time over the years. In 1909, a storm knocked the head off the statute, necessitating a new statue to be built at the cost of $10,000. Then in 1910, the replacement statue was struck by lighting and lost its right hand and leg. The statue was once again repaired for another $10,000.
By the time the 1970s rolled around, the statue was a mess, as technically, there was no group responsible for its upkeep. The Cemetery had long ago deeded the land to the Henry Clay Monument Association, a group that no longer existed. To remedy this issue, the orphan monument was vested to the city by the Fayette Circuit Court. The monument saw a complete restoration at the hands of the city in 1976. The city transferred ownership to the Lexington Cemetery in 1999.

EV: Confederate Memorials (Lexington Cemetery, Part VI)

Ladies Confederate Memorial – Lexington, Ky.
When the Civil War concluded, battlefield were littered with Kentucky soldiers who had lost their lives on both sides of the conflict. Some of the fallen were buried in the Lexington Cemetery. In total, 102 Confederate soldiers were buried in the Lexington Cemetery during the conflict. The Confederate plots, which are separated from the fallen Union by a small paved drive, were turned over to the Confederate Veterans Association in June of 1891 for the token payment of one dollar. In February of 1892, the CVA bought the adjacent 510 square feet for $50, and eventually the CVA purchased an additional two lots totaling 853 square feet.

The Confederate lot is highlighted by two sites on the National Historic Register.

First, the Confederate Soldier’s Monument (pictured at left). The Soldier’s monument was built with donations from four particularly wealthy residents of Lexington. Built in Carrara, Italy, and ordered from a catalog, the Soldier’s Monument was erected in 1893. It contains the names of 160 veterans.

The nearby Ladies’ Confederate Memorial (pictured at top) is much more striking in its appearance. It was erected in 1874. Instead of being about southern patriotism, the Ladies Memorial represents the grief of those lost in the war. The Ladies Memorial and Monument Association was founded by the wife of John C. Breckinridge. The monument features a marble cross adorned with a broken flag-staff. It was designed by George W. Ranck, a Lexington historian. Frank Leslie’s Weekly, a popular national magazine at the time, described the Ladies Memorial as “probably the most perfect thing of its kind in the South.”

I would agree. It’s truly unlike anything I have ever seen in a memorial.

EV: Lexington National Cemetery (Lexington Cemetery, pt. V)

As I mentioned in an earlier post, there are three national historic sites within the Lexington Cemetery. The largest of these is the Lexington National Cemetery. It is one of eight national cemeteries in the state.

During the Civil War, 965 Union soldiers were buried in the Lexington Cemetery. Confederates were buried in an adjoining lot. After the war, the Union lot was donated by the cemetery company to the federal government, which also purchased an adjoining 16,111 square feet in 1867. The whole area was designated a national cemetery and federal soldiers from several surrounding Kentucky counties were brought there to be buried. By 1932 the area was filled, and an additional adjacent lot was eventually purchased.

EV: Jim Varney (Lexington Cemetery, Part IV)

Jim Varney’s Grave – Lexington, Ky.

James Albert “Jim” Varney Jr. was born June 15, 1949 in Lexington, where he was raised before heading off to Murray State University, the Pioneer Playhouse in Danville and eventually stardom. Varney, who starred a multitude of movies and TV shows, is probably best remembered for his character Ernest P. Worrell, or his portrayal of Jed Clampett in the remake of The Beverly Hillbillies.

Ernest made his first appearance in an advertisement for Bowling Green’s Beech Bend Park in 1980. Ernest was just one of Varney’s many characters that usually found their way into Ernest movies or TV specials, of which there were more than a dozen. I absolutely LOVED Ernest movies as a kid, and while back I watched a couple of his movies again. I was shocked to discover that they’re still pretty funny as an adult.

Varney was also good friends with country music legends like Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristopherson, with whom he would appear on TV and variety shows in the 1970s and ’80s. He starred in movies up until his death, and kids today would probably best recognize Varney most as the original voice of the Slinky Dog in Toy Story and Toy Story 2.

A life-long smoker, Varney was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1998, and died February 10, 2000. He was only 50 years old. Curiously, Varney’s grave is covered in pennies. Anyone know what this is about?

EV: King Solomon (Lexington Cemetery, Part III)

The Grave of King Solomon – Lexington, Ky.

There are a ton of famous people whose final resting place can be found within the walls of the Lexington Cemetery. Confederate war generals, statesmen, basketball coaches, etc. We’ll get to those folks, but I wanted to cover a few of the less-known residents who are equally famous in their own right.

If you stray south upon entering the grounds, signs will direct you to the grave of King Solomon. William “King” Solomon was Lexington’s folk hero of sorts during the cholera outbreak of the 1830s. John Wright describes this outbreak in great detail in Lexington: Heart of the Bluegrass. Cholera, a disease originating in India, was brought to the U.S. through New York in 1832, and spread through shipping lines quickly. It made it to Maysville in 1833, and quickly spread to Lexington. In Lexington, it started along Water Street behind what became the Lafayette Hotel (roughly in the location of the current city parking garage). The town’s water supply was dependent on springs and wells and was therefore vulnerable to contamination from floods. A downpour on June 3, 1833 did just that. The overflowing Town Branch spread disease to High Street and then the rest of downtown. The whole town shut down – a third of the population fled the city, and bodies started piling up at the few organized cemeteries the town had in place. Cholera was a horrible affliction – extreme diarreah, vomiting and muscle cramps, which led to dehydration and eventually death. There were few gravediggers to handle the enormity of the job.

King Solomon (Source: Wilson

Family Photographic Collection

Which is where King Solomon comes into the story. Solomon, a once-reputable member of the community, had been driven to drink and vagrancy by the circumstances of life. His services had been purchased at auction by a free black woman just prior the plague. Something seems to have clicked in Solomon during the crisis, and he worked day and night digging graves for the dead. He rarely drank water, which was said to have protected him from infection by the disease, and as stated by Wright “if any stray bacillus had entered his bloodstream it would have died immediately from the alcohol content.”

Following the plague of 1833, Solomon became a town hero. He sat for his portrait and was honored at a special ceremony at the courthouse. He was later memorialized by the short-story writer James Lane Allen. When he died in 1854, he was buried in Lexington Cemetery. The monument marking his grave pictured above was dedicated in 1908.

This is part 3 in NRK’s Lexington Cemetery series. Read Part I: Introduction and Part II: Flora & Fauna. Some of the above text quotes or paraphrases of Wright’s Lexington: Heart of the Bluegrass. Quotation marks have been omitted for the sake of readability.

EV: Lexington Cemetery (Part 2)

EV: Lexington Cemetery (Part 1)

The Cemetery was chartered in 1848. Prior to the establishment of the Cemetery, early settlers were buried on “First Hill” – near where Main and Vine meet currently in Lexington – or in family graveyards. This was not a terribly sanitary practice, so to avoid contamination of the water supply and other sorts of problems, the Cemetery was established. Among those who were a part of the group that chartered the Cemetery were Benjamin Gratz (namesake of Gratz Park) and David Sayre (of the Sayre Female Institute). The area that is Lexington Cemetery was known at the time as Boswell’s Woods, and had been hunting grounds for Thomas Boswell. The cemetery board paid $7,000 for the land, and a small family graveyard on that original site remains.

The grounds were laid out by Charles S. Bell, a Scotsman and horticulturist whose goal it was to create a park-like, landscaped cemetery. Bell – known as a perfectionist, would not open the cemetery until the grounds were finished. The first burial took place on October 2, 1849, when A.B. Colwell, a community businessman who had died of cholera, was laid to rest with his infant son.