Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Grave in the Middle of the Road

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

Two years ago, on our way to photograph in North Carolina, Ruth had planned a surprise for me – to visit “The Grave in the Middle of the Road.” We also had plans to have dinner with our friend, Stevie, in Kentucky that first evening. Unfortunately, due to car trouble before we left, we had to skip the grave and were still late for dinner with Stevie. A couple weeks ago, on our way to the Ohio River Valley, Ruth made sure we didn’t miss it this time.

Nancy Kerlin was born May 14, 1793. In 1808, at the tender age of 14, she married William Barnett, the great, great, great grandson of Pocahontas and John Rolfe. Nancy and William had 11 children and they lived in a log cabin near Sugar Creek in Johnson County, Indiana.

Nancy loved Sugar Creek and told her family that, when she died, she wanted to be buried near the creek. In 1831, at the age of 38, Nancy died and her family buried her on a small rise overlooking Sugar Creek. As time went on, other settlers were buried near Nancy, forming a small pioneer cemetery.

As the years went by and traffic increased on the little country lane that passed the cemetery, the county decided to build a modern road, which meant that the graves had to be moved. According to the historical marker near the gravesite, Nancy’s grandson, Daniel G. Doty, sat at the gravesite with his shotgun to protect his grandmother’s grave.

The historical marker, which was erected in 1982 by Kenneth F. Blackwell, Nancy’s great, great grandson, and his son, Richard Blackwell, says the following:

Born May 14, 1793 - Died Dec. 1, 1831
Married to William Barnett, Feb. 29, 1808. He was born Sept. 27, 1786, drowned in Ohio River Sept. 24, 1854. William was the great, great, great grandson of Pocahontas and John Rolfe. Daniel G. Doty, 1846-1934, protected his grandmother's grave by staying here with his gun, while the county relocated this cemetery in order to build the road. A concrete slab was placed over the grave, to protect the marker, Aug. 8, 1912."

As Ruth and I approached the grave in the middle of the road, we weren’t sure where to park our car because there were no shoulders and no designated parking anywhere. So we pulled up to the little mound and parked our car in the middle of the road, assuming that was somehow appropriate.

Happy Shunpiking!


  1. Very interesting! Ruth sure finds unique and interesting things for your shunpiking trips!

    1. Thanks, Phyllis, she sure does. The internet makes it so much easier, but she usually works at least a year, often two years to prepare for our 10-day trips. So there is always way more to photograph than we can possibly handle, but it gives us options, especially when we have to re-route due to flooding and unexpected road closures, etc.