Remains of people from mid-19th century laid to rest in Madisonville

Remains of people from mid-19th century laid to rest in Madisonville
Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 6:59 PM CST
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MADISONVILLE, Ky. (WFIE) - Before the sun rose on Thursday morning, genealogists, a local funeral home and business people in Madisonville were recovering the remains of 10 bodies from the mid-19th century.

When a group of businesspeople in Madisonville looked a little more into their deed, they realized that within it was a grave plot.

Not just any grave plot, but graves dating back to the 1840s.

“There’s many times graves are paved over, built over, or just totally ignored,” said Steven Ray, program chairman for the genealogy society in Hopkins County.

This time would be different though.

“And these business people said we can’t do that,” Ray said.

In accordance with the law, they put an ad in the newspaper that these graves were going to be moved, and got in touch with genealogists to try and track down a descendant. That’s where Ray and his wife come in.

“My wife, along with some other researchers, found a fifth great-granddaughter, and she gave permission in writing for these remains to be moved to this cemetery,” Ray said. “They were out in an industrial development. So this morning, we went out and removed what we felt like were the remains after 1840 and 1848.”

In total, the remains of 10 people from the mid-1800s were recovered. Only two could be identified, Johnston Cook and Delillah Stafford Cook, the fifth great-grandparents of the descendant those genealogists discovered. It was a complicated process, but one that Ray says is worth it, and not common.

“You know, there’s right and wrong, and there’s never a wrong time to do the right thing,” says Ray, “at the end of the day, this just shows there’s still good people around.”

“The graves are being dug two at a time and refilled and backfilled, and by this afternoon, they’ll all be reburied with proper respect,” Ray said.

The business owners who had the remains removed bought new and better caskets, and Harris Funeral Home donated their services to ensure that the Cooks, along with the eight others buried beside them, whether they were family, enslaved people, or complete strangers, can now rest in peace.

Ray says this spring, the direct descendant will be in town to wish Johnston, Delillah, and the remains of the eight unknown others one final farewell.