I left off last time mentioning that I was visiting Frenchburg, Kentucky, near where my grandfather was born on a trip with my 89-year-old aunt through four states to meet five new relatives I never knew existed. I should insert that I never met my grandfather. He died in the mid-1960s of a heart attack. He was in his late 60s. I wasn’t born until 1972. So, beyond my father and his siblings, I didn’t have much of a connection to that side of the family or know much about them.
We were visiting a cousin named Grant. His paternal grandmother and my paternal grandfather were cousins. My grandfather was also born and raised on the Oldfield family farm just outside Frenchburg in a tiny community called Maytown that Grant’s family still owns. On day two of our visit, Grant took us to three cemeteries. One was a modern one with many current gravestones, including that of his father, who has just passed away three months earlier. Another cemetery was mid-sized and it looked like it had been decades since anyone was buried there. Grant pointed out some land in the distance and I think he said a relative resided near there took care of the grounds.
The third cemetery was utterly fascinating. It was on the Oldfield family farm. It sat high on a hill far from the house and barns. We couldn’t even make it up there in our car. We had to jump into Grant’s 4-wheel drive truck to get up there. No one was living on the farm at the time and the cemetery had gotten a bit overgrown with foilage. It was surrounded by barbed wire fencing. From the outside I could only make out the last name of Oldfield on two headstones. Grant squeezed through some fencing to take a photo, scraping up his leg in the process. The photo showed that one was Dennie Oldfield (1886-1915) and the other was Martha Oldfield (1830-1913).
While Grant’s family headed out to a football game for their son, Jaxson, Marilyn and I had lunch on our own at a cute spot called the Cornbread Cafe not far from there house where I had one of my favorite southern meals, country fried streak with gravy and mashed potatoes. And I couldn’t go to a place called Cornbread Cafe and not have some cornbread. Everything was delicious.
Later that day, Grant shared a little bit of his family history and pulled out some family photos that we watched while cuddled on the sofa with their dog, Duke. His wife, Ashley, prepared a nice meal of spaghetti and salad and sweet tea for us that evening.
The next day before heading out of town we joined them for a service at the Means Miracle Church, where I also met a local World War II veteran. It had rained heavily overnight and many spots in the hilly area had flooded. The Cornbread Cafe where we’d eaten the day before was under water. In fact, we weren’t quite sure we’d be able to make it out of the valley and back to the interstate because a lot of roadways were washed over. But we did make it out of town that morning and it was on to the state capitol of Frankfort to spend a night there before the next leg of the trip.
The original plan was to drive straight from Frenchburg to Vincennes, Indiana. I suggested we break it up and spend a night in Frankfort and Aunt Marilyn was sweet and flexible. It cut that day’s driving down from 6 hours to 2. We stopped for some pictures at the Kentucky State Capitol and relaxed a bit before heading out the next day for Vincennes, Indiana.
We weren’t meeting any relatives in Vincennes - none that were living anyway. I did, however, get to learn a lot about someone who I’ve been told is one of my ancestors, George Rogers Clark, at the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park, which is part of the National Parks Service. My maiden name is Clark and I always loved hearing stories from my aunts and my dad about the family tie. Somewhere along the way I seem to remember hearing that we were 28th cousins to him, but I don’t even know how to go about tracking that to verify it. It was always a fun story to hear, though. The memorial is beautiful and we watched a short movie about Clark, an American Colonel during the Revolutionary War. His younger brother, William Clark, was half of the explorer duo of Lewis & Clark who set out on a two-year expedition west of the Mississippi River in 1804.