This past week my son and I traveled to Kentucky to visit my Mom. On this trip we did a bit of record hunting in some central Kentucky courthouses (a few bits found – but nothing groundbreaking). On Monday, April 21st we were in Danville, KY and decided to try to locate Benjamin VanHook’s (1768-1854) grave near Brodhead, KY. I was at this site over 30 years ago after it was initially located (by Charlie and Willard Hilton), and when the large monument was placed there by VanHook descendants in 1981. Here is the location of the cemetery on Google Maps.
The graves at this site are located on what once was a 100 acre farm in Rockcastle County, KY that was purchased in September of 1833 by Benjamin VanHook and his wife Susannah from John Chance. Their son, Henry Thomas VanHook, owned land adjoining it. Benjamin and Susannah were both buried here after they died – along with other unnamed family members ( it was probably in use as a cemetery before they bought the farm). After they died, the land passed to their children, the legal heirs, who transferred the property to James Harvey VanHook, one of the youngest sons, in 1865. He immediately sold the land to Morris J. Harris the next month.
This 100 acres was then sold by the heirs of Morris J. Harris in 1894 and then it passed through several people until Malachi Hopkins ended up with most, if not all of the land, along with an ajoining 56 acres that was the old Henry Thomas Vanhook farm. Malachi and Lizzie his wife transferred about 165 acres of land to
George and James Hopkins (their sons) in 1917. George Hopkins transferred about 150 acres of this land to his first wife Lula in 1936. George and Lula were divorced in 1944 and he then sued to get the land back. There were so many children involved that a defect in the title was introduced during this period. Eventually the title was cleared up and the land passed to Elihu Saylor in 1946, the husband of Retha Hopkins (George’s daughter and son-in-law), and then to Tony Saylor. Tony Saylor died intestate in 1947 leaving a widow, Delia Saylor, and 5 children. They sold the 150 acres to D.A. and Vivian Robbins in 1966.
In September of 1980 D.A. and Vivian Robbins deeded by gift to the VanHook trustees (Larry VanHook, Nancy VanHook Mullins, and Herbert L. VanHook) the land containing the old Benjamin VanHook family cemetery on their property (about 1/2 acre). It was on this site the VanHook descendents erected a monument in 1981. At the time, this was a cow pasture and rubbing by the cows was wearing the new stone – so a chain link fence was erected around the graves. The photo to the right is how the monument appeared in the early 1980’s. The only readable stone at that time was Benjamin’s (embedded now in the monument). A new stone for Susannah was also added (which can be seen on the left).
To access the cemetery, we had to park just off the Brodhead-Chestnut Grove Road just as it crosses Bowman Branch creek (the locals call this the “crawdad hole”). The gate there was locked as someone is farming the fields up on the hill and has quite a bit of farm equipment up there. We hopped the gate, and followed the dirt road winding by the creek and climbing the hill – first into a corn field, then through a slight break into a hay pasture. Since the chain link fence was installed years age, no one has been mowing near the gravestones, so a large amount of briars, tree shoots, bushes etc. has grown up around the graves. The fence has been flattened completely (it is still there – just on the ground) – but seeing and getting to the stones takes a bit of bushwhacking. You can see the view of the graveyard and the current view of the monument from the photos.
In addition to the additional “Susannah” stone – 2 more were added sometime (probably in the 1980’s also). One is for Henry Thomas VanHook, Benjamin’s youngest son by his first wife Francis. Henry Thomas died in 1847-1849 (the stone says 1849 with the note “killed by a horse”). It is likely Henry Thomas was buried here. Another stone for “Benjamin’s father” has also been added showing “Samuel VanHook 1733-1820.” This stone is probably wishful thinking.
It now appears from subsequent research that it is unlikely that Benjamin was the son of the Samuel VanHook who was born in 1733. There is no record of Samuel’s death (in 1820 or other year), and if he did move to Pulaski County with Benjamin in 1808 from Harrison County, KY – and did die in 1820 – he most certainly was not buried here. Benjamin did not own this land until 1833.
Unfortunately – there is rampant misinformation on the internet about Samuel (and Benjamin) based on stories, myths, etc. At the “Find a Grave” Web site – even Benjamin’s grave is misplaced!