Friday, September 18, 2020

 A Cherished Trip Anchored on Genealogy (Part 2)

I left off in my last blog entry after visiting Dayton, Ohio to meet a second cousin on a trip planned by my 89-year-old Aunt Marilyn. The trip would include four states and meeting five relatives I had never met before.

After leaving Ohio, we set out for Ashville, Kentucky where we’d meet a distant cousin for dinner. Karen’s father and my grandfather were cousins, I learned, and then Karen and Aunt Marilyn pulled out old photos and talked about relatives I’d never heard of. She was delightful and sweet and I was so glad to meet her. 

The next day was wide open as Marilyn liked to always spend two nights in one place so there was a full day in between places and a hotel room waiting for an afternoon rest. The area seemed to be heavy in the coal industry with not a lot in the way of tourism, but we headed to the nearby Ashland/Boyd County Convention & Visitors Bureau to see what we could do that day. We learned that Billy Ray Cyrus was from that town and filmed his “Achy Break Heart” video at the nearby Paramount Arts Center. 

A mural in downtown Nashville, Kentucky.

We gathered brochures on the area and one was a self-guided tour of Ashland with a very detailed map to help get you from one stop to another. Marilyn suggested we do the tour. Much of it could be seen from the car and it wouldn’t require a lot of walking, but would help us learn some of the local history. It turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the trip. If traveling with my family, my kids never would have had the patience to complete the route, which included roughly two-dozen stops. So, off we went. I was behind the wheel. Marilyn was the co-pilot. At each stop she read aloud the paragraphs from the brochure with background on each location. Several spots were historic mansions, some were businesses, one was a park with Indian mounds. It was a lovely way to spend a couple of hours and so nice to take it all in without feeling rushed.

We viewed a number of mansions on our self-guided tour of downtown Ashville, Kentucky

We learned that Billy Ray Cyrus was from Ashville and filmed his Achy Breaky Heart video at the downtown Paramount Theatre.

When we left Ashland, we headed for Frenchburg, Kentucky. This was a part of the trip I was really looking forward to. We would meet Grant, whose grandmother was a cousin of my grandfather. Grant was also close to my age with kids close in age to mine, whereas the other cousins I was meeting were a bit older. Instead of staying at a hotel, we’d be staying at his home and meeting his wife and one of his two sons. 

Grant’s father, who had passed away a couple months earlier, had lived on the Oldfield Family Farm. The farm dates back to around 1830  - where my great, great, great grandfather and his siblings farmed. It was amazing to learn that it is still in the family. This is what Marilyn most wanted me to see - the farm where my grandfather (her father) was born and raised and lived before coming to Illinois and settling in central Illinois in the mid 1910s in Charleston where farming conditions would be better.

After leaving Ashville, we headed to Frenchburg to meet a cousin named Grant for lunch at a Cracker Barrell. He knew I was a food blogger and was so hospitable, making sure I got to try some good food during out stay at his home. He introduced me to Ale-8 soda at lunch that day.

We first met up with Grant for lunch at a Cracker Barrell just off the expressway and then followed him back to his place. He knew I was a food blogger and thought long and hard about where to go for dinner that evening. We ended up quite off the beaten path and drove into the Red River Gorge to eat at the Red River Rockhouse, an eclectic cafe that focuses on using ingredients from local farmers and artisans. The drive there was beautiful and the grass-fed beef burger I had was delicious. That was also the day I was introduced to Ale-8-One soda, one of Grant’s favorite beverages. It’s a regional favorite and kind of ginger-ale/lemon-lime hybrid that is tasty and refreshing. We also drove through a cool one-lane natural tunnel to get to the restaurant and also took a little side trip to a scenic area nearby, Broke Leg Falls.

The natural tunnel we traveled through on our way to dinner in the Red River Gorge.

Fog rises as we drive through the Red River Gorge at dusk.

The thing Aunt Marilyn most wanted me to see on our trip was a farm in the community of Maytown, Kentucky where her father was born and raised.

The next day Grant took us on a tour of three cemeteries. In each, I recognized some names from conversation and others I had never heard before, but I was fascinated by scanning gravesites and seeing clusters of headstones with graves of several family members situated together. When we travel, I do find it very interesting to visit cemeteries. I marvel at how short lives were when you go back a couple centuries and I feel a sense of gratitude and grief at viewing stones of veterans or those who never returned home when called to serve.

In a small family cemetery that sat up on a hill on the Oldfield Farm were headstones marking the graves of relatives going back five generations.

Grant also took us to visit a scenic area called Broke Leg Falls in Eastern Kentucky.

Aunt Marilyn and I at Broke Leg Falls where trees were toppled in a tornado that had ripped through the area.

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