While I was back visiting my old Kentucky home a couple weeks ago, one of my goals was to search out some ancestor graves. I had researched where they were buried but finding an old cemeteries and grave stones can be a daunting task in the hills of Kentucky. The sparsely populated county of Lewis County listed 29 known cemeteries, many of them small family or no longer used plots on private land.
On a beautiful October day, I set out with my cousin Allen to find our great grandfather's grave on Pleasant Ridge in Fly Branch. Well, Pleasant Ridge wasn't even one of the 29 listed and Fly Branch wasn't on any map. Even having been to the cemetery once before, Allen wasn't quite sure where was this obscure burial ground. He did know, though, to leave behind his yellow vintage Mustang and we took his wife's car, knowing it might get beat up a little.
We found Fly Branch, we found the gnarly, rutted little road up to the ridge, from there we had no idea. It was one of those another door opens moments when we came across a young man repairing his deer blind. Who knows what deer hunters use those for, just a little house on stilts, like a tree house without a tree. I say the deer is already handicapped by not having a gun, why do hunters need to build a place to hide.
On to the story - Allen, of course, knew the man, Dane, one of those blue eyed Scotch-Irish-German Appalachians, good looking, long haired, and friendly. He owned much of the property on the ridge and was raising his family miles away from any civilization. Hosting and guiding hunters on his ridge was one of his several businesses. Yes, he knew the cemetery. Said his cousins went there to be "spiritual". Allen said this meant to smoke marijuana, another one of our young man's businesses on the property. As most Kentuckians would, he offered to guide us as far as we could go with a vehicle. From there, we'd be on foot.
We made our way along the ridge,
until we came to a clearing that was clearly the cemetery site. It was indeed a peaceful place. I could see why they came here to be "spiritual". I had asked Dane why the cemeteries seemed to be up on ridges. "They wanted to be closer to heaven", he said.
This was the final resting place for Abraham Dillow, our great-grandfather, descendant of Revolution and War of 1812 veterans, and a veteran of the Civil War himself. He buried first on this ridge two young adult children in the late 1890's, Willard and Sarah "Dolly", who very likely died from tuberculosis but searching those death records is a task for another day. He buried a wife, Sarah, who died from "brain trouble", likely a stroke, and three years later he was laid to rest here, marking his grave with his rank and infantry regiment, the West Virginia Fifth.
The four boys from Lost Creek, Kentucky, joined the Union Army at the beginning in 1861, three of the boys going to the eastern campaign with the West Virginia Fifth and the fourth south with the Kentucky 14th into Georgia. Abraham and his brothers, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington Dillow, fought at Cross Keys, Second Bull Run, and through Shenandoah Valley with General Sheridan.
This summer I went to Manassas where the Second Bull Run was fought and traced the footsteps of "Milroy''s Brigade" over the three day battle where 10,000 were killed or wounded on the Union side alone. I tracked the "Deep Cut"
other troop movements where the brothers went up against the forces of Stonewall Jackson and James Longstreet, and found the little muddy stream called Bull Run where the first shots were fired that started this conflagration.
We have a family photo of Abraham in his uniform.
Abraham returned to Lost Creek after the war, married Sarah Ann, and named his first two sons Ulysses S. and Alfred Sheridan. All the brothers survived the war. Two of the brothers married sisters of Sarah Ann.
"War is hell", Sherman said. Our four lucky brothers came home. Many do not. I called my favorite veteran today, Allen, great grandson also of Abraham, glad that he came home from his four years in Vietnam.