Family Stories

The Mysterious Lewis Rose Cemetery On VanArsdall Farm In Mercer County

Photo taken by Roy VanArsdall in 1952.

I have mentioned several times since November the finding of the Rose Cemetery in the little town of Burgin, in Mercer County, where my mother lived for thirty plus years.  Her best friend and next door neighbors, Geneva and Roger Vanarsdall, owned a farm at the back of the two homes, along with his brother Roy.  I did not realize until I helped the Lewis family with research that the Lewis Rose family is buried on this farm.  Members of the Rose family married into the VanArsdall family, and the property eventually was handed down to the two brothers.

In November two members of the Lewis family, Patricia and Gerald, and I went to this cemetery.  The bodies of Captain Lewis Rose and his wife, Mary McMurtry Rose, and his son, Charles Rose, were moved to Memorial Acre in Fort Harrod, in Harrodsburg, in July of 1937, but the original markers were left on the farm.  When we arrived at the Rose Cemetery we realized that after the exhumation there was built a rectangular monument, about two feet high, eight feet wide and two feet deep, with the gravestones affixed on top, two rows of six, for a total of twelve stones.  As you can see from my photo above, a lot has changed in 64 years!

Charles Rose, October 6, 1778 – February 29, 1845.  Son of Lewis Rose and Barbara Thair.

When you realize how long the stones have been out in the elements you can understand that it is difficult to read much that is written on them.  Through additional research on those who visited the cemetery in the early days of the nineteenth century, Bible records and a couple of early photos, I believe we can determine who is buried in this small cemetery.

David R. Rose, died December 2, 1814, aged 21 years.  Son of Lewis Rose and Mary McMurtry

Roy VanArsdall wrote to the Harrodsburg Historical Society in a letter dated March 16, 1993, ‘There is an old cemetery on our farm (VanArsdall Brothers Farm) just west of Burgin.  Sixty years ago it contained three or four carved sandstone markers and one of marble.  In addition there were several markers of simple slabs of field stone set on end.  The distances apart indicated that most buried under these field stone markers were children.’  He names two people buried in the cemetery and describes another stone – David Rose, Jemima Rose McMurtry and a third stone with the dates February 4, 1779 – November 24, 1854, but no name.  This last stone is evidently that of Mary Lewis Rose, wife of Charles Rose.  When we visited I could also read the names of Captain Lewis Rose and Charles Rose, bringing our total to five.  In the cemetery books of the Harrodsburg Historical Society they list Samuel McMurtry, husband of Jemima Rose McMurtry, as buried in this cemetery.  And elsewhere is listed a Rebecca Rose McMurtry as also buried there – probably a granddaughter, who died at the age of sixteen.  And even though there is no actual proof, I’m sure Captain Lewis Rose’s two wives are buried there – Barbara Thair Rose, his first wife, who died about 1788, and his second wife, Mary Todd Hutton McMurtry Rose, who died after 1828.

Mary Lewis Rose, February 4, 1779 – November 24, 1854.  Wife, of Charles Rose, daughter-in-law of Lewis Rose.

Mary Lewis Rose, in back, and in front, possibly Mary Todd Hutton McMurtry Rose in front.

This is a very interesting family since Captain Lewis Rose and wife Barbara Thair had six children; and Mary Todd Hutton and husband Captain John McMurtry had eight.  The older children were grown when Lewis Rose and Mary McMurtry married in November of 1793, but they had six children under the age of ten living in the household.

In back, Charles Rose, and in front possibly Rebecca Rose McMurtry

In memory of Mrs. Jemima McMurtry, born October 12, 1782, died September 14, 1840.  Daughter of Lewis Rose and Barbara Thair.

Mrs. Jemima McMurtry – taken by Roy VanArsdall in 1952.

Jemima Rose married her step-brother, Samuel McMurtry.  Catherine Rose also married into the McMurtry family – her husband was John.

If you look carefully you can see the fourth stone over, in the back, is identical to the photo taken by Roy VanArsdall.  The name and most of the dates have flaked off, but it is definitely Jemima McMurtry’s stone.

Samuel McMurtry, July 18, 1776 – April 17, 1815.  Son of John McMurtry and Mary Todd Hutton, son-in-law of Lewis Rose.

Behind Jemima’s stone is the one for her husband, Samuel McMurtry.  Since they are similar I believe it must be so, although the top portion of Jemima’s stone has broken off.

Both of the fifth stones are foot stones – they are smaller than the other gravestones.  In front is David R. Rose, and the one in back is unreadable.

The sixth stones – the one in back is probably a foot stone and the one lying on its side is unreadable.

Patricia and Gerald were ecstatic at finding the cemetery where their ancestors are buried.  More on this family at a later date!

16 replies »

  1. So, some of the remains were moved to another cemetery, but others were left in place ? Why didn’t they move all? Or none?

  2. Really enjoyed reading this. What a feeling for them to see the place where their family had been buried after all these years.

    • Yes, always a thrill walking the same ground your ancestors walked and seeing roughly some of the same sights. Knowing in this case, Mary lived just a few miles east on lifts of Dix River near where it dumps into Kentucky River, Arriving there ca 1785. Probably traveling from NC thru Cumberland Gap, What adventure that must have been. Indians, wild animals and daily chores,
      Gerald Lewis

  3. I have eight children listed for Lewis and Barbara Rose. My g. uncle Leslie M. Rose was the one that took the gravestones out of the field and placed them in the wall he had constructed when he went on a trip to Kentucky. I don’t believe the bodies of Lewis Rose and Mary Todd Hutton McMurtry were exhumed, but Memorial Acre is just that a memorial. The memorial states Mary McMurtry’s b. and d. dates are that of Mary Lewis, wife of Charles Rose. Anyway, when I went there, I saw that the dates were incorrect. It was so wonderful to see the graves in the wall and know that my 5th g. grandparents stones were taken care of. My uncle could not find a stone for Barbara, Lewis’ first wife, but we know she died in 1792.

    • We knew that Mary Lewis, dau. of Alexander Lewis, was buried somewhere close to their 180 acre farm on the clifts of Dix River. I think that the only farm that was between Alexander’s farm and the Kentucky River was that of John Curd who operated one of Kentucky’s earliest ferrys.

  4. Strange thing about this Mary Lewis, dau of Alexander Lewis. she is living with John Burton. He married dau of Joseph Lewis. Why was Mary Lewis Rose living there?

  5. Phyllis Brown, Have you found anymore about this Lewis family? We suspect they may have come to Mercer from NC. Before that maybe Chester Co., PA. Just recently I discovered another Lewis in Mercer Co., KY in that time period from Chester Co., PA. His name was John Lewis. Do you have anything on him?

  6. Phyllis have you seen the Kentucky Kindred Genealogy article about Karl Mitchell Rose trip from Ashland, Oregon to Harrodsburg in1924? It lists the headstones found at J.W.VanArsdall farm at that time. Carrie VanArsdall and cousin Karl Rose recorded the names on these stones.

  7. WE know that Rebecca Jane Williams, granddaughter of Mary Lewis Rose was married to David VanArsdale. Was he the owner of the farm that Mary Lewis Rose buried on?

  8. We always wondered why Mary Lewis Rose and her husband Charles Rose were buried there. Now we know that before Burgin the burial spot was Lewis Rose Station. Lewis Rose lived there and son Charles Rose was given 200 acres where he and Mary Lewis Rose lived also. Lewis and Charles Rose also farmed 312 acres owned by heirs of John McMurtry. Even with all those slaves it must have been difficult to farm two properties several miles apart. There was a road that went east to where Cane Run empties into Dix River then north to Curds ferry. That road had to go right through Mary’s father Alexander Lewis farm on Dix river.

  9. Does anyone know who currently owns the land where this cemetery is and how to request access for a visit? (I am a descendant of Lewis and Barbara Rose.)

Any thoughts?

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