Vanceburg’s First Graveyard

A historic grave marker was recently unearthed by Jimmy Kenyon, son of Mr. and Mrs. Earl Kenyon in the rear of their dwelling at the end of Rowley Avenue, last week. The inscription read: “In Memory of Captain Joseph McDowell who died the 9th of September, 1806, in the 69th year of his age.”

Historic research reveals that Captain McDowell was a soldier of the young US Army who had come to Kentucky to guard the outposts from Indian raids. He is listed as one of the soldiers in the old blockhouse that stood on the high ground just east of Delbert Ash’s dwelling at the mouth of Quick’s Run.

He was a relative of John G McDowell, who lived on the site of the “Old Mill” in Vanceburg in the early 1800’s, and was interested in the Salt Works. He was also one of the first eight magistrates that composed the first Lewis County Fiscal Court in 1807, and was later sheriff. He was at that time granted a ferry license from Vanceburg to the Ohio shore. This license he renewed in the March term of 1813. The year before, Jonathan Kenyon, had received a similar license in Ohio to ferry from there to the Kentucky shore. It is indeed a coincidence that 153 years later, that the great-great-grandson of Jonathan Kenyon should restore to the world the grave marker of the brother of John McDowell, who operated the ferries a century and half ago, opposite his ancestor Jonathan Kenyon.

The first graveyard in Vanceburg was at the end of the present Rowely Avenue. In 1878 when Woodland Cemetery was opened, hundreds of pioneers’ remains were removed by their descendants and re-interred in the present cemetery, together with the stones, but according to old timers, hundreds of others, whose descendants had all moved elsewhere, still remain, some unmarked others with stones that have been lost or removed in the passage of time, in the old burying ground. Several houses in the vicinity are now standing in what was part of the old graveyard. 1

  1. Abandoned Graveyard Revives Old History. (1920, April 1). Lewis County Herald.