Today I took my first “real” genealogy field trip! I met fellow Koonce researcher John & his wife Nancy today and we ventured down to Lincoln County, TN to do some cemetery searching and hopping. I am absolutely exhausted this evening, but it was a great day.
John has been doing Koonce research for many years now and I contacted him a few months ago after learning about the Koonce to Koonce newsletter – he and some other Koonce researchers published it for about 4 years in the 90s. He happened to be in town this weekend and it worked out that I could go with them down to Fayetteville, TN where John had helped secure a new headstone for Revolutionary War Soldier, Phillip Koonce. We spent in all about 6 hours in town and thought it was raining off and on, we still were able to do quite a bit. John was able to share with me information that he’d learned from previous discussions and time spent with a Fayetteville native, Robert Allen Gray. The Koonce families of this county are not related to me. They do descend from the same ancestors as the Koonce families I have as candidate slaveholders of my families, but since I’ve developed an interest in Koonces all over, it almost makes no difference to me 🙂
Stewarts Cemetery — When we arrived, the first cemetery we went to was Stewart’s Cemetery. This is a pretty large cemetery and we saw several Koonce’s buried there. There was one corner of the cemetery that Robert Allen had told John had slaves and we saw a few headstones. Unfortunately, I did not remember to put my camera card in the camera so the pictures I took are on my camera’s internal memory and I don’ t know where my transfer cord is. I took a picture of a couple of Koonce family members and saw the headstones of a few others.
Kelso-Koonce-McCartney-McGee. Cemetery – We then went over to the Kelso-Koonce-McCartney-McGee Cemetery where Phillip Koonce is buried. John described how about 7 years ago, Robert Allen took him here and showed him a piece of a wall. They knew there must be a cemetery there, but it was completey overgrown. John and Robert started searching through the brush and found headstones and from there, the work was begun to clear it. There is now an open space where you can see about 50 markers and the area is kept up by a local resident. John ordered a govt headstone for Phillip and a nearby church had a refuneralization of sorts when it was placed. Though they don’t know for sure Phillip is there, his wife and daughter’s headstones are there and there was an empty spot in between – likely spot for him to be.
Koonce Lane — then, we went down the road to Koonce Lane in search of the Grills-Koonce cemetery.
This was a gravel road for the most part and along the way we passed this big pink house. This used to the the home of Robert Manley Koonce, a descendant of Phillip and the home and land remained in the Koonce family until the 1950s.
We kept driving a ways, but never found the cemetery; though from a map John had, we knew it was pretty far off the road. The rain kept us from really investigating further.
Lunch @ Marvin’s Family Restaurant – Then, we went back to town to have lunch with another Koonce descendant, a Mr. Frank Kelso and his wife Landess. Turns out that Mr. Kelso had quite a distinguished Naval career before retiring ; he is the former Chief of Naval Operations, the highest-ranking office in the Navy, and a 4-star Naval Admiral. He and his wife bought us all lunch and we spent some time talking about the Koonce family history. Frank’s grandmother was the daughter of Robert Manley Koonce. Frank then told us that the Lincoln County Genealogical Society, which we’d passed on the way into town, was open on Sunday afternoons, so we planned to stop there before we left.
Rose Hill Cemetery – after lunch, Frank and Landess took us over to Rose Hill Cemetery and showed us where his great-grandfather was buried. The rain began to pick-up again, so we didn’t take too many photos, but I got a few of the headstones. It was at this point that we said our goodbyes to Frank and Landess – they were so nice!
Lincoln County Genealogical Society — I couldn’t believe our luck that the Society held regular hours on Sunday afternoon. We stopped in and the staff helped us locate a burial list for the Grilles-Koonce cemetery we never found; as well as a list of people buried at Stewart’s Cemetery and the cemetery where Phillip Koonce is at. They also had a research binder that used to belong to another Koonce researcher, Alice Koonce of Refugio, TX and in the front of the binder was John’s old business card w/ his own handwriting on it. That was a coincidence. They also had a family file folder with obituaries and other notes on various Koonce family members. We made a few photocopies and then headed back out. The society has an online prescence, so I’ll be sure to be making future contact with them again.
After lunch we went back to Phillip Koonce’s grave and that is when I actually took some of the pictures of that plot. Then, we headed back to Nashville. It takes about an 90 minutes to make the drive so it was not a bad trip. I had a great time getting to speak with John & Nancy and talk shop about the Koonce families. Being on the actual land where these people lived and being at their gravesites makes them so much more real to me now. I hope to have a chance to make a trip back; I’d love to learn more in the future.
Thanks John, Nancy, Frank & Landess – I had a great day! However, I am now thoroughly exhausted, I’m not sure I’m completely over my cold 🙂