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1830s children's graves relocated
March 13, 2008

Contributed by Nancy Perry.

Hiram M. Alderson was only 6 months old when he died on New Year's Day 1833. In August 1834, a 2 1/2-year-old boy named Andrew Jackson was buried next to the Alderson infant.

Long forgotten by the modern world, the two little boys were remembered again during a ceremony Wednesday morning to move their graves to Maple Grove Cemetery in Nicholasville.

The graves had remained relatively undisturbed for more than 170 years until last August, when they were excavated to make way for the growing Brannon Crossing shopping center in northern Jessamine County. The graves were on farmland behind what is now Hobby Lobby.

State law allows county fiscal courts to declare private cemeteries abandoned for purposes of relocation, and the court passed a resolution in 2006 authorizing the excavation and relocation. But Bellerive Development, the company that developed the shopping center, wanted to do a little more for the two boys.

“We just wanted to do this so they could have their final resting place,” said Andrea Lear, development associate with Bellerive. “We felt that would be respectful and appropriate.”

“They have gone the extra mile for doing this,” said Diann Cundiff of Hager and Cundiff Funeral Home in Nicholasville.

During the ceremony, the minister of music at Edgewood Baptist Church said a few words over two white, 19-inch-long coffins. Each “cherub” coffin bore a label that read, “Loved and cherished.”

“We just want to give the honor due them,” the Rev. Bob Blankenship said at the cemetery's committal shelter. “When these babies left the world, there was a lot of grief.”

He read the 23rd Psalm, then concluded: “May this be our prayer for these two precious children and their families.”

Then, one by one, funeral director James Farley carried the two small coffins to his truck, and they were moved to a section of the cemetery's north side, where many children are buried.

There, Farley handed each coffin down to James Hubbard, a cemetery employee standing in the 31/2-foot-deep grave. Hubbard gently placed stones that were found in the original graves into the new grave. Soil that had come from the graves was put around each coffin.

Then, as he shoveled topsoil back into the ground, Hubbard remarked that the hardest part of his job is to bury an infant.

“You take that home with you,” he said.

No clothing, personal effects or even skeletons were found in the original graves, said Alexandra Bybee, an archaeologist with Cultural Resources Analysts Inc., the Lexington company that Bellerive contracted to do the excavation at Brannon Crossing.

“I think they were buried without coffins,” Bybee said. “I think they were probably wrapped in a shroud or something like that. When they're infants like that, the skeletal formation hasn't happened and the teeth haven't developed enough to be preserved.”

Bybee couldn't find any archival information about the Jackson family. The Jackson boy might have been named for the U.S. president at the time, or he might have been named for a relative.

Hiram's father was a blacksmith, and the Alderson family moved to Missouri shortly after he died, Bybee said. It's not known whether the Alderson and Jackson families were related.

For reasons that aren't known, Andrew's headstone was moved from his original grave to a property south of Ashgrove Pike in northern Jessamine. Those involved in Wednesday's reinterment hope to get permission from the property owner to move that headstone to the Nicholasville grave site.

Ernestine Hamm, a member of the Jessamine County Historical and Geneaological Society, suspects that the Aldersons and Jacksons were well-to-do families, because it was unusual for young children to have such nice headstones. “Usually they would just put initials and a date on a rock,” Hamm said.

She said the ceremony was a nice gesture, one that she hopes other developers will follow.

“It sets a good example,” she said.