Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Research Trip to Brown County, Ohio

Spent last weekend with my mom on a trip to the Brown County, Ohio area where her Wright and Wardlow families originated.  My plan was to visit the Brown County Genealogical Society library in Georgetown and if possible, visit a couple of family cemeteries.

The trip to Georgetown is about three hours and we left early in the morning with plenty of time to spare before the museum opened at noon.  Not knowing how long I might need at the museum, I hoped to see if we could locate the Wardlow and Wright cemeteries in Washington Township, Brown County, Ohio and see what shape they were in.

Both of these pioneer cemeteries are already posted on FindAGrave, so I had already seen the tombstones of the family, but I wanted to get a feel for the area.  Looking on topographical maps, I programmed by Google Maps to take us straight to the Wardlow cemetery first, where my 4th-great grandfather, John Wright (1814-1890) was buried.

As we came into Ohio and were nearing our destination, I saw the sign for historic Williamsburg and we made a slight detour to check it out.  I knew that our Wright family had been in Williamsburg from some of the early deeds in Clermont County.

Driving around, we found Harmony Hill, where William Lytle had his home and land office.  He was an early surveyor and settler in the area.  Their museum wasn't opened yet, but we took a few pictures and planned to come back if we had time.

We headed towards the Wardlow cemetery first, which I knew was near Sardinia and with the GPS we were able to get into the general area.  Then it became a game of watching the road for the cemetery.  We found a few roads that had familiar names, including Wardlow Road,  which we turned down and found an abandoned house that looked like it was not somewhere we wanted to be stuck.

We didn't find the cemetery until mom pulled it up on her phone and Google maps was telling us to turn on "Cemetery Road", except the road didn't have a sign.  There was man outside at the house next door, so we stopped and verified that the cemetery was down that gravel road.  He told us we should be ok to go down there, but did tell us that the owner might come down and see what we were doing.

We headed down the gravel road to the cemetery, went through the gate, and began to look for the graves of John & Anna (Wardlow) Wright.  We found them pretty easily, as their marker was one of the tallest in the cemetery, and the only Wright buried there.  I was able to get a couple of good photographs of mom with the markers and took some video.  We were there just before noon, so the shadow effect on the marker wasn't the best.

Mom next to inscription for John Wright

Mom next to inscription for Anna (Wardlow) Wright
Just as we were leaving the cemetery, a lady came up on a Gator and asked us what we were doing.  Fortunately, she could tell we weren't there to cause trouble, and I gave her one of my genealogy calling cards and explained our relationship to the Wardlow clan.  She was not a Wardlow, but her sorority sister, who lived across the road, was a Wardlow descendant and the owner of the property.  Unfortunately, she wasn't home, but her friend was able to tell us a bit about the land and the history of the place.  Seems they had to take down the "Cemetery Road" sign as they were having too many people 'partying' and dumping trash, etc. on the property and the cemetery.  Such a shame because the property was so peaceful.

I was able to take a brief video of the cemetery that will give you a feel for the place.  A nice final resting place for my ancestors.

We spent some time talking and the lady showed us a tour of the Wardlow barn, which had been on the property since 1805.  The barn had been moved from its original spot closer to the road, and obviously had been refurbished, but some of the original hand-hewn beams were present.  We signed our names on the wall of the barn, where other guests had done.

We were invited to come back by later in the day, but explained that we were heading to Georgetown to the museum, and depending on how our day went, we might not be able to visit.  We mentioned that we were also going to see if we could find the George Wright cemetery, which we also knew was on private property, and she was familiar with it and able to give directions.  Apparently, enough of our distant cousins have visited in the past and had asked for the same directions.

We headed down the road and around to try to locate the Wright cemetery, again using GPS.  Fortunately, I had already checked it out on Google maps with a satellite view, so when I saw the property that I was sure it was near, we were able to stop.  Once again, we were fortunate as the owner of the property was home and was willing to talk to us about the family plot.  She was not a Wright descendant, but told us a story about how when they bought the property some 30 years prior, an old woman came knocking on their door and told them they would be cursed if they didn't restore the iron fence around the Wright family plot!  She said there were a lot of snakes back there, and that her husband would be home shortly and that he could take us back.

Her son actually came by after a few minutes, and was gracious to take us back to the woods where the family plot was in his Gator.  As we walked back through the woods and the deer trail, it was obvious that very few people had been back there in some time.  The son told us that one of the markers had disappeared and was across the creek and on another property now.  We were able to find George Wright and his son Samuel's tombstone standing upright.  Samuel's was broken and leaning against a tree.  Mom was clearing some leaves and found Elizabeth's tombstone laying down and partially buried.  We did not find the marker for Rebecca, Samuel's wife.  The iron fencing was partially visible though the brush.

George Wright (1780-1853)

Samuel P. Wright (1816-1859)

Elizabeth (Robins) Wright (1781-1857)

Condition of Elizabeth's stone

How the cemetery looks in the woods
We were so thankful for the kindness of these strangers who now owned the family farms of our ancestors and were willing to allow us to view their final resting places.  After later looking at the maps of the pieces of land, it appears that the George Wright farm and the Wardlow farm butted up against each other in a triangle type pattern - which helps explain why George's son, John, married the neighbor girl - a Wardlow.

It was just getting close to noon, and we'd already had an outstandingly productive day.  Not knowing how long we'd need to be at the museum, I was taking a chance by looking for the cemeteries early and was able to strike pay dirt.  These visits made the trip worthwhile.

We went into Georgetown and visited the Brown County museum and spent some time looking through their vertical family files.  Searching the Wright family file, I found a copy of a letter that I had written to them back in 1990!

It is good to know that they keep materials!  I will have to send some updated research notes to them to add for future researchers.  I was able to make a few copies of some of the files on the Wright, Wardlow and other families I knew of in Brown County.  Being my first time at the museum, my research plan was not as well thought out as I would have liked. Now that I have a lay of the land, I will be able to plan a return trip and do more digging.

On our way back towards Indiana, we stopped back in Williamsburg at Harmony Hill and spoke with their museum folks and the Clermont County Historical Society as well.  I purchased a book on the Virginia Military District land grants that contained some information on Robert Wright, and picked up some materials for future research.

While at Harmony Hill, I mentioned that our John Wright was an early settler in Williamsburg with William Lytle, and the lady mentioned that the local cemetery had a marker to all of the Revolutionary War veterans.  Not knowing for sure that John was a veteran, nor knowing where he was buried, we took a chance and went to the cemetery on our way out of town.  We searched the old section but didn't find any markers that had the Wright name.  We did find the marker placed by the local SAR, that did not list any family names of ours as veterans buried there.

Not only did I have a good time researching mom's family history with her, but visited some beautiful areas of southwest Ohio.  I'm already planning to make a return trip to do more research.