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Mike Watson: Vanished Silent City in Rice Addition

Author of Adair County Histories says it was remembered as "Caldwell Cemetery" and was on land once owned by first clerk. It may have been obliterated by Civil War encampments and might never have been restored after that. Last known burial was of Captain John S. Squires, who died in Mexico City on 20 March 1848. Additional information, below on Columbia City Cemetery
About: Comments re article 45520 JIM The mystery of Columbias Vanished Silent City

By Mike Watson

The following may be of help to Brother Jim and others interested in the lost Columbia "Silent City"

I believe Chris Cato is the closest to the location. On the bluff overlooking Russell Creek, now the Rice Addition, on land once owned by William Caldwell, was the location of an early cemetery. I have never been able to find any reference to a name for it, but common belief among historians Nancy Berley, Ruth Burdette and Randy Flowers was that it was known as Caldwell Cemetery and several of William's kinsmen were buried there. The cemetery was still used as late as 1848 as can be evidenced by the burial there of Captain John S. "Jack" Squires, a Mexican War casualty.


John S. "Jack" Squires organized Company B, Fourth Regiment KY Foot Volunteers at Columbia, Adair County in the month of September 1847. The company was then marched to Louisville where the men were mustered into service on 4 October 1847, and mustered out same place 25 July 1848. During the war, this company was located in Jalapa, Vera Cruz, Pueblo and Mexico City. Many of the members were natives of Adair County, many from surrounding counties.

Captain John S. Squires, born in Adair County, died while in service in Mexico City on 20 March 1848. According to a written statement in William Wheat's pension papers, "...Captain was Jack Squires, who died in the City of Mexico, Mexico, of yellow fever, we put his body in a lead coffin and it was sent home to Adair County, KY to city of Columbia--the coffin cost $400.00 and I helped pay the bill..."

It was common practice at that time to pack the bodies in salt, wrapped in blankets, and ship them home. Preservation for long distance removals was not well known nor commonly practiced until the Civil War. His men did not wish Captain Jack to suffer the fate of being salted down, so arranged for this elaborate procedure, which they felt would best preserve him for a return to Columbia for burial. Many of the Mexican War soldiers who were shipped back to Kentucky were interred in Frankfort.

Why this cemetery was obliterated cannot now be determined, but it may be noted that during the Civil War, thousands of soldiers camped in various locations around Columbia and it is a logical assumption they camped in this old, largely disused cemetery. Then after the War, it was never restored nor used again.

As for the current Columbia City Cemetery, many of the original stones were lost many, many years ago, some to weather and general deterioration and some to vandals and thievery. As late as the the 1920s, according to Mrs. Burdette and others, evidence of stones and formerly marked graves were seen all the way down to the present wall on Campbellsville Street and up to the Justice Center lawn. Mostly vacant now, the area appears to have never been used...but it was.

The oldest marked grave in the City Cemetery when I surveyed it in 1984 and 1985 was that of Anna Lobban, born 10 October 1810, died 17 January 1812. Because of the location of that grave in the old section, it appears it would not have been the first, so this cemetery was in use from early in the town's history--though it was then outside the limits of Columbia proper. --Mike Watson - Mike Watson

The writer, Mike Watson, is author of a two volume History of Adair County, An Adair County History, Volume 1 and An Adair County History, Volume 2, and numerous other books on Adair County genealogy and history. For more information on the books and to purchase them, go to the Adair County Library, 307 Greensburg ST, Columbia, KY or, online, click to Adair County Genealogical Society or please address all book order and correspondence to:ACGS, P.O. Box 613, Columbia, KY 42728


This story was posted on 2011-07-15 19:03:46
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