Anyone who has ever engaged in genealogical research knows how many cemeteries are really out there, many more than you usually see on a day to day basis as you drive through town. Cemeteries abound in the oddest of places, tucked away in all sorts of corners, coves, and cloisters, on top of hills, in the middle fields, even on an island in Kentucky Lake.
Many of these hidden cemeteries have long since been abandoned as active burial sites, and quite a few of them are difficult to access, certainly by car but occasionally by foot too. If not for dedicated researchers and catalogers, as well as sites like findagrave.com, who knows how many of these resting places might get forgotten all together.
We bring your attention today to one such cemetery. It is a small area, serving as a resting place to just a few folks (16 according to findagrave.com). No one especially famous is buried there; the gravestones aren’t especially spectacular, if they exist at all; the grounds are hidden from the street; and there are no legends or ghost stories associated with any of the plots or inhabitants.
The graveyard, which has gone by upwards of four different names over the last century and a half, is significant because of its location. The Oliver/Riverview/Jones/Habeck Cemetery happens to lie at the foot of the Ledbetter Bridge on the McCracken County side just off of Camelback Road. And if you’ve seen the news reports about the bridge in the last couple of months, you know that it’s quickly collapsing because of land slippage. In fact, if you look at Google Maps, the bridge still exists in close up, but has already been removed from the wide view.
The demolition of the bridge is inevitable, yet what that means for this little cemetery is unclear. We in the Local and Family History Department make no claims to be either demolition or geological experts, but between the land slippage and the impending wrecking of the bridge, we didn’t think it would hurt to draw a little attention to this plot, if for no other reason than to let people know it’s there. While those interred are few and perhaps not especially notorious, they still have stories and legacies which deserve to be remembered.
The oldest stone belongs to Enoch Lagore (1820 – 1870), a Union soldier in the Civil War serving in the 131st Infantry as a surgeon. Not long before his death, he married a woman 22 years his junior named Temperance who, after widowed, married a man named Herman Habeck. Temperance, also known as Tempe, likely lent her new last name as one of the names of the cemetery. Three others with the last name Lagore were also buried here; their dates of birth and death are unknown.
Also, interred here is Flossie Blanche Nuckols Williams who was quite young when she died, only 23 years old. According to an 1897 article in the Paducah Sun, Flossie, then 15 years old, ran away from Eddyville, KY with her boyfriend Alonzo Williams, and came to Paducah to get married. Because she didn’t have parental consent, the Paducah courts refused to marry the couple. But as The Sun said, “Love laughs deeply at deputy clerks as well as locksmiths, and took the morning boat to Metropolis where they were married this forenoon.” Flossie died a few years later in 1904. Just twelve days out from delivering a stillborn child, Flossie began convulsing while talking with friends and died a short time later. The Sun reports that the “funeral took place at the Haybeck [sic] cemetery in the county.” Three others with the last name Nuckols are buried here; their dates of birth and death are unknown.
M.E. Craig, wife of PJ Craig, was buried here not long after Flossie. M.E. was either 58 or 18 years old at the time of her death; the numbers on the stone have faded to the point of questionability. The death of an Elizabeth Craig death was posted in The Sun on August 3, 1905 under the headline “Death from Fish Bone.” Two weeks before her death she pricked her middle finger with a fish bone, poisoning set in, and she passed in a fortnight. The Sun reported she was buried in Jones cemetery in the county on the same day of her death. Though we’re not 100% positive that Elizabeth Craig and M.E. Craig are the same person, the similar name and matching date of death indicate there might be a connection, plus the fact that we know the cemetery near the Ledbetter Bridge was once known as Jones Cemetery.
A couple was buried here. Under a single headstone bearing the words “Father” and “Mother” at the top, William Newton and Barbara Lane Levan rest in peace beside each other. Not much has been found about them excepting that William was a farmer and that once his wife Barbara was gored in the arm by a cow while milking it. The gash was apparently severe, exposing the bone. The goring was not the cause of her death, however. She recovered in due time. No, by known accounts, William and Barbara didn’t die by any particularly tragic means. Though dying in different years, both lived to be 71 years old.
Finally, a quick word about the last person to be buried here, also the person bearing the largest, most noticeable headstone…William Michael Oliver. Mr. Oliver didn’t pass until 1941, a gap of 30+ years since the previous burial. At the time, he owned the property (called Riverview then) on which the cemetery sat, which was why the burial place ultimately bore his name. William Oliver was a lawyer in McCracken County along with his brother George. The Oliver brothers not only shared the law practice, they also married sisters, Ruth and Inez Parker. Oliver was the oldest member of the McCracken County bar at the time of his death at age 75.
The future of the Oliver/Riverview/Jones/Habeck may be a little uncertain, but a least we a few records to keep its memory alive. Many thanks to fellow librarian, Eileen Smith, for bringing the news of this precarious little graveyard to our attention. If anyone out there has more information about this cemetery or the families within, please contact.
Except for the Google street view of the overgrown William Oliver headstone, the rest of the pictures come from the FindaGrave listing for Oliver Cemetery… http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gsr&GScid=2442235
To learn more about this and more, please visit us at the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library.