Finding Joshua Damron’s Grave
An experience at the Dameron-Damron Family Association Reunion,
Cabwaylingo State Forest, WV, 2000
by Paul L. Damron
I’m a newcomer to genealogy. I’d heard my dad talk about various family and ancestors for years. Despite my general fascination with history, I never picked up on it. As the years have gone by, however, I have found myself increasingly fascinated. A few years ago, Dad told me about his linking up with the Dameron-Damron Family Association and having made the connection between our family and the larger body of research done by others. He was thrilled.
In 1996 Dad asked me to take him to the Cabwaylingo Reunion. He and Mom are retired now in Reno, Nevada, and he was visiting Ohio and Kentucky. He had corresponded with several Association members but had not met them in person. We had a great time. In 1998, we joined the reunion again and had an even better time. We knew people in the group, and the camaraderie was wonderful.
Dad has been unable to travel the last couple of years and I decided to return to the Dameron-Damron gathering on my own. I still did not have a real grasp on how this genealogy stuff works.
This year I got it! It really started with Dad’s last trip to Kentucky. We went back to his hometown, Catlettsburg, in Boyd County, Kentucky. He had wanted to find his grandfather’s grave. Dad told me about his memories of his grandpa. He had last seen him in 1941, just before he went off to Washington, D.C., to seek adventure and see the World. Dad had just graduated from college and he and his grandpa were living at the Haywood Hotel in Catlettsburg. The hotel was owned and operated by his aunt Mary.
He said that he remembered as a child playing near the family cemetery along Cannonsburg Pike. We drove up and down the road and even talked to several people looking for the small cemetery. He remembered it being a short way up from the road but as we drove around it was evident that the many years which had passed had brought too many changes, old landmarks gone and new homes and businesses where there had been none. He was disappointed, as if a man in his eighties ought to remember the hills as they were in his twenties and again find his way among the trees and rocks he left behind so long ago.
I thought there ought to be a way to find my great-grandfather’s grave on that hill.
I got lots of ideas about how to go about finding Joshua Damron’s grave. My adventure began at the Boyd County Library in Ashland. There, I looked through the microfilm record of the Ashland Daily Independent. I found a front-page notice of his death in the Wednesday Evening Edition of April 5, 1942: “ Death Claims Rev. Damron Wednesday, Widely-Known Clergyman Succumbs At Catlettsburg.”
The news account told of the funeral and burial plans, “Funeral services will be conducted from the United Baptist Church, Hampton City, Catlettsburg, Thursday afternoon at 2 o’clock with burial following in the Stevens cemetery on the Cannonsburg Pike.” At the library, I looked at some topographical maps of the area but these were not much help at all. I found that the library had a spacious rooms devoted to genealogy and next, I looked there.
I found a number of books and monographs on cemeteries. I was fortunate to find Boyd County, Kentucky Cemeteries, Locator, Teresa Martin Klaiber, Marcella Rye, and George Wolfford, March 1999. There I found a concise but useful description: “STEVENS: Catlettsburg. Cannonsburg Rd. Near mouth of Damron Branch, Johnson Fork. Latitude 38 24’25”N; Longitude 82 37’30”W.” (I also found that there are three Stevens Cemeteries in Boyd County.) By this time the library was closing, so my research would have to wait till the next day.
Having no GPS equipment, I decided to go to the Boyd County Library branch in Catlettsburg for information. Again I asked for maps, hoping to find one with greater detail than the others. The librarian offered that she might be able to help me find the place more quickly than we could find it on the map. She called a friend, working at the library where I had been the day before. Her friend told her to call her parents who live on Cannonsburg Pike; they might know the place. A moment later she had Eloise Robinnette on the phone and handed the phone to me. She told me that there were several cemeteries near by and that her husband knew how to get to at least two behind their home. She volunteered Mason to show me the way.
June 3rd was a hot, humid day. I had already changed from sandals to socks and sneakers when I pulled up the drive to pick up Mason. I was a bit intimidated to see him wearing heavy pants tucked into tall rubber boots. He explained that the cemetery was pretty overgrown in weeds when he last went up there. We drove only a few hundred yards and turned on Johnson Fork. We turned again at a sign for Hampton Dr. It was steep and deeply rutted. I thought for a moment that my 2WD Toyota might have trouble making the steep grade. (And how flat my world is in Central Ohio!) A moment later we were in a dirt driveway of a home with a broad neatly trimmed lawn. Mason indicated that the cemetery was just beyond the fence below the lawn. I stopped at the house and asked permission to park and cross the yard to the cemetery.
Once over the fence there are grave markers of all sorts, both scattered and, in places, in small groupings. The weeds had been cut recently and most graves easily accessible. We found many family names represented. Some markers were so worn as to be illegible. Some graves were simply marked by a few rocks, placed deliberately. Of particular interest to me were the following:
James Damron, 1888 – 1945
Lucinda A. Damron, 1885 – 1975
Bessie Lee Damron, 1918 – 1919
Rev. Josh Damron, 1853 – 1942
Margaret Damron, 1853 – 1932
As I took pictures and made notes, I thought of Dad and how we had looked for this spot together. A bit of pleasant research and the generous help of several people and I was finally at my great-grand father’s grave. I was honored and humbled as I walked that ground. I was filled with my own sentimental thoughts and memories of family. I got genealogy.
This article originally appeared in The Damron-Damron Family Newsletter, Volume 32, Spring 2001.