Dawn Reed Times Columnist
March 7, 2014
When my family moved here years ago, I knew of two local attractions: Butcher Holler (birthplace of Loretta Lynn, Coal Miner’s Daughter) and Jenny Wiley’s grave.
Shortly after our arrival, we set out in search of Butcher Holler. We knew we were close, but when we couldn’t find it right away, we stopped and asked a farmer for directions. He was dressed in overalls standing in the middle of a hog lot. He told us exactly how to find the place. We literally turned left at a big rock and continued on the gravel road.
I read the heart-wrenching story of Jenny Willey several years ago. You’ve probably heard the story but I’ll tell some of it anyway. It’s a tear jerker. I’m sure Nicholas Sparks would love it.
Jenny Wiley was a strong pioneer wife and mother who was captured by Indians on October 1, 1789 while her husband was away at a trading post. Pregnant at the time, Jenny was caring for her children and young brother when the Indians burst into her home. Her children were killed and the cabin was looted and burned. Her only chance for survival was to keep up with her captors as they fled through the wilderness.
After many months of captivity, Jenny was miraculously able to escape. She made her way to a settlement called Harman’s Station (Johnson County) where she was eventually reunited with her husband Tom.
I think the saddest part of all is that the Indians actually had gone to the WRONG CABIN! They were looking for someone else!
The story absolutely tears at my heart. (I have my own copy of The Saga of Jenny Wiley by Harry M. Caudill.) Jenny Wiley is on my list of heroes I have to tell you. How she endured through tragedy!
My husband knew I was a big fan and offered to take me to her grave. I jumped at the chance.
We made our way to River, KY. As we neared the somber place many things I’d read came to mind. My heart was heavy as we approached the tiny cemetery.
I slowly exhaled when we reached the grave. An old headstone was there along with a newer one that gave a brief overview of her life. I savored each word as I read it. (Even now, I tear up when I think of it.)
I was very quiet as I stood there. My husband asked what I was thinking. “The tragedy, the deaths of her children, how afraid she must have been…being reunited with her husband…and on and on,” I whispered.
“What are you thinking?” I asked.
“I don’t think she’s really buried here,” was his reply.
I sucked in air…shocked that he would even think it! He shrugged and headed toward the car. I was dismayed!
So….no long after, we took our Haitian son, Emmanuel (a.k.a Foreign Exchange Student), to the state capital. He was wowed by everything and everyone we saw. My husband wanted to stop at the Frankfort Cemetery before we left town. He wanted to visit Daniel Boone’s grave.
As we stood over the grave he was quiet. I asked what he was thinking. He shared a few thoughts and then, just as I’d hoped…he asked what I was thinking.
With a smug look I answered, “I don’t think he’s really buried here.”
I should be ashamed.