Princeton’s Carolyn Traum catalogued a ton of information about people buried in part of Cedar Hill Cemetery, and decided to put it together for a book.
“Cedar Hill Cemetery ‘The Beginnings’ Sections 1-19 Compiled and Researched by Carolyn Hay Traum, BS, MLS” is available with a $60-plus donation to the Caldwell County Genealogy Society, and copies can be found at the Glenn Martin Genealogy Research Center, while supplies last.
Traum began her journey to publishing this book while doing research to classify Cedar Hill as a Pioneer Cemetery. Among other requirements, this designation requires a cemetery to contain graves of people who were living in Kentucky prior to 1800. According to Traum, the oldest grave in the cemetery is that of William Prince, who died in 1810.
It was Prince’s family land that the cemetery was started on, and he was the first laid to rest there. “One of the books (used for research),” said Traum, “said he was buried in a grove of cedars.”
Prince’s family began to fill the space around him, but an outbreak of cholera widened the cemetery. In doing her own research, Traum began to uncover the richness of the local history.
“In doing research on a family member, I discovered that a person by the name of John Adamson was in here,” Traum explained. “He was a stonemason, and I found records where John had done these box tombs for a Frasier, and I had already found records where he had done window sills for the first courthouse.”
“So,” she continues, “I’m working with another person who’s in California — another distant descendent — and she says there have to be markings on that stone that he made that would indicate his work.”
This was at the beginning of her journey, so Traum didn’t have all her resources yet. So, she went straight to the source.
She went to the city of Princeton and explained she was trying to find a specific grave. Phillip Franklin, assistant superintendent for Public Works, was able to take her right to the Frasier graves. Franklin would become instrumental in Traum’s work.
Box graves are built with the box structure above ground, but the body is still buried beneath the ground.
“I’m actually trying to poke inside to see,” she recalled, “not even really knowing what I’m going to see. I can’t find anything.”
Traum was looking for the initials of Adamson — some kind of signature to indicate his work. After not finding any evidence, Traum discovered that the design on the tombstone itself was actually Adamson’s way of signing his work. She is now able to recognize his handiwork at any local cemetery.
In working to get the designation for the Pioneer Cemetery, which she did, Traum compiled so much information that to her, it just made sense to organize it into a book. She decided that she would organize all of her information, bind it, and use the donations to help rebuild and repair gravestones at Cedar Hill.
The situation with the Frasier graves isn’t the only time Traum found herself digging for her research cause.
“People saw me digging up there, digging up stones,” Traum said, “and I had one gentleman to say he knew Phillip (Franklin), and that he kind of kept an eye on the cemetery and let Phillip know if he saw unusual things. I said, ‘Well, I have Phillip’s number on my phone, and he knows I’m up here. Would you like for me to give him a call?’ He said no, but I discovered that Monday that the gentleman had called Phillip to see if he knew there was somebody up there digging.”
Traum ended up finding several fragments of stone, and upon piecing them together, discovered the gravestone of a Revolutionary War soldier. A member of his family has since put up a headstone for the man.
One of the most difficult parts of the research was also one that Traum found the most compelling. In some instances, it was evident that a grave had been used because of the sinking of the ground, but there would be no marker. So, what did she do?
“Well, maybe looking at the records, you see that Mary Smith was married to Thomas, and Thomas has a tombstone, but Mary Smith dies a few years later and there’s no gravestone,” she explained.
“Now you start looking at anything you can find that the city might have that says she’s buried at Cedar Hill. Once you’ve acquired that, if you’re really lucky, it might tell you the year that Mary was buried. So, now we’re narrowing it down.”
Traum also relied on the research of those who had come before her, something she was extremely grateful for.
The Work Progress Authority has done a lot of work on African American graves in the cemetery, and Traum is pleased with the number of documented Union soldiers in the old African American section of the cemetery. There are also several who were born into slavery and died after emancipation.
Once Traum officially sent her book off to be published, she felt a sense of relief, but worry quickly crept in. “You start worrying about all the things
I did wrong, and now it’s too late,” Traum said.
Even with all of her research, Traum still admits that people have found errors. In fact, she received a call from the very first woman to buy the book, who informed her that it included neither her mother nor her father-in-law, both of whom had tombstones at the cemetery.
Traum realized that one reason for these errors was because it had been very common for tombstones to be double-sided.
They would have names of the family on either side with footstones at the base of every grave. However, the grave in question did not have footstones for all those buried, so Traum had not realized that there were additional people buried there. Still, she hopes people see the value in the book.
“I hope that they recognize their family,” said Traum, “and I hope that they see what major contributions some people made in the early years to the development of this community.”
Traum is already working on the second book, which will cover more sections of Cedar Hill Cemetery.