Tag Archives: Science Hill

Literally…The Latest James Family Dirt

“You want to see our new tombstone?” Barbara Lemaster James proudly invited me. The question echoed like a question from long ago, “You want to watch our home movies?” Back then, no one ever wanted to watch anyone’s home movies or learn about the family dirt, let alone inspect their pre-bought tombstone before they died.

Already I was biting my tongue, thinking of a million jokes. I restrained myself, though, severely reminding myself that I am the genealogist and historian in the family. There might be implications here I may need to know. Get serious, Eric. “Of course,” I replied. “Let’s go.”

Raymond Edward James displays his family story in Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. I, Behind the Family Wall of Stigma & Silence

Barbara’s husband, Raymond Edward James, had a rough time this past year.

Cousin, Mark New, who’s a funeral director, suggested they select a plot among their James cousins, now buried at Mt. Zion Cemetery in Science Hill, Kentucky. Mark also maintains the expanding cemetery that once was part of his Grandmother Adams’ family farm.

When we all gathered at our annual family outing over the weekend, Barbara issued me her invitation.

I could have guessed some irrepressible James family dark humor would cut loose.

Raymond & Barbara LeMaster James

With Mark’s guidance, Raymond and Barbara had put some considerable thought into their selection. Unlike the plentiful black tombstones, which I found among numerous James all across the country, Raymond and Barbara selected a Confederate gray with dignified black engraving. Around two wedding rings linking their separate burial locations, they engraved their wedding date.

Each side was flanked by a receptacle. “What goes in there,” I asked.

“Yellow roses in mine,” Barbara quickly replied.

“And in Raymond’s?”

“Ice cream,” Raymond interjected. Ice cream, it is, I noted.

On the backside of their tombstone, Barbara and Raymond thoughtfully had engraved the names of their children, even those of Barbara’s by her earlier marriage.

“See,” Raymond pointed. “There’s the genealogy. Right there.” Raymond looked for my reaction. “Well, Eric, you’re not going to be around here forever!” he added.

Any sense of decorum, if any existed at all, now was broken. “Have you both lied down here before,” I asked. “There doesn’t seem to be enough length.”

Barbara snapped, “Oh yeah. We fit.”

Then came Barbara’s zinger. “And look, Eric. You can have this space, right next door.” I was stunned. Literally, stunned. To urge me further, Barbara tried closing the deal. “And there’s room further down the row, for all your Facebook friends.”

We paraded around the tombstones of the other James family buried there. Ivadean James caught my eye. The one and only time I met and talked with her was about a year before she died.

Ivadean never knew what happened to her father, Mack Henry James. He abandoned her family when she was a child. But Ivadean did get to know what happened to Mack before I did. My research found him about a year after Ivadean died, too late to tell her myself, except to share our mutual discovery in prayer.

For the first time, I noted, too, that Ivadean’s estranged husband, Gid Elliott, had died the day after she died, but in a different hospital. Things like that leave you wanting to know a story never told.

Tombstone of Gid & Ivadean James Elliott

“Tombstones are important,” I said. They are good places to visit, and the best places to tell stories. No one seems to hold back when standing before a tombstone.

“What do you want on your tombstone,” Raymond’s daughter asked me.

“Easy,” I answered. “I want an electronic chip embedded in my stone. You dial a radio frequency and you can hear me personally greet you. “Hi, how are you? Nice of you to drop by. Did I ever tell you the story about…?”

“Yeah,” Raymond’s daughter shouted enthusiastically. “Let’s party!” I was assured I’d have my chip, on the condition I signed up for a party plot.

When we returned to the farmhouse, Mark had the tractor fired up with the hay wagon hitched behind. Every year, Mark drives a hayride full of kids up to the cemetery hill. They visit with their dead relatives, and tell stories.

Back at our table, I asked, “Is this one of those things where, if you get two others to sign up for a plot, you get your plot for free?” With that, we were off and running.

“Look at Mark,” someone said. “Come on, kids. Sign up now. Those old folks back there got theirs. You saw them come back. They’re trying to get others into yours.” From there, the jokes ran on and on.

I still expect to see Raymond and Barbara at next year’s annual gathering. And God forbid, if not…we’ll bring yellow roses, or ice cream, and plenty of stories.

Rita Coolidge Dedicates Cherokee History in Kentucky

Thanks to Cherokee descendant Rita Coolidge for signing my book, Jesse James Soul Liberty, for our James family cousin, Mark C. New. In addition to being a James cousin, Mark is also a 6th great-grandson of Cherokee Chief Doublehead and his daughter Princess Cornblossom. Rita signed the book to Mark “with love.”

Rita Coolidge in Stanford, Kentucky 2013
Singer & Cherokee Descendant, Rita Coolidge

On this chilly, drizzly morning of October 19, 2013, I was pleased to be among the two hundred or more. We warmly welcomed Rita Coolidge to Stanford, Kentucky. Here she dedicated an historical highway marker to the memory of her Cherokee ancestry. The Cherokee were among the earliest people to occupy this part of Kentucky together with the Shawnee.

The audience for Rita Coolidge in Stanford, Kentucky 2013

Coolidge recounted stories told to her by her Kentucky grandparents. In school, she recounted being taught how America was founded by Columbus. At home, she was taught a longer history of her own descent from Native-American people. They were present in America before Columbus. The two histories she learned couldn’t be more different. Her parents at home in Tennessee told her much more other kids never learned in school.

Rita Coolidge addresses the citizens of Lincoln County, Kentucky about her Cherokee heritage 2013
Rita Coolidge before the Lincoln County, Kentucky Courthouse

Rita sang us a Cherokee song she learned. Her ancestors chanted the song as they walked the Trail of Tears to their exile in distant Oklahoma.

Her friendship with today’s Cherokee Chief of the West in Oklahoma recently informed her, “If Andrew Jackson knew how pretty Oklahoma was, we never would have got it.”

Rita Coolidge dedicates an historical marker in Lincoln County, Kentucky to Cherokee heritage
Rita Coolidge Dedicates Historical Marker to Cherokee History

After the dedication, Rita Coolidge took some time to meet and talk with many of her admirers and many Kentuckians with whom she shares Cherokee heritage. She also signed a copy of my book for our James cousin Mark C. New, who also has Cherokee ancestry. Mark’s 6th great-grandfather is Cherokee Chief Doublehead

And guess whose camera batteries died right when it was time to have his picture taken with the beloved singer? I’ll never make that mistake again.

Rita Coolidge autographs Jesse James Soul Liberty for a James family member with Cherokee ancestry

Mark C. New was unable to attend with me. He is a funeral director in Burkesville, Kentucky, and had two burial services on the day of the dedication.

Among the family, Mark is best known for the annual family reunion he holds at his family’s homestead in Science Hill, Kentucky, every year on Memorial Day. The hayride to the nearby cemetery is a big hit with the youngsters who get to meet the ancestors in the cemetery about whom all the grown-ups were heard talking.


Chief Chuqualataque, “Doublehead” & Taltsuska, Cherokee

.. George Jacob Troxell & Cornblossom, Cherokee

… James William Vaughn & Elizabeth Troxell

…. Merritt Bergin Matthews & Elizabeth Vaughn

….. Dupree Denney & Matilda Matthews

…… John Perry New & Cecelia Jane Denney

……. Dellas E. New & Sarah Ethel Nevils

…….. Ernest Edwin New & Janice C. James


……. Janice C. James & Ernest Edwin New

…… Fred O. James & Hazel Adams

….. John Perry James & Lydia Crow

…. Judge John Thomas James & Patience Jenkins

… Rev. Joseph Martin James & Permellia Estepp

.. John M. James & Clarissa Nalle

Charles Columbus Whitaker III has died

Charles Columbus Whitaker
Charles Columbus Whitaker III, 1932-2010. Great grandson of Susan Harriet James 1843-1920 & Allen Custer Herrin 1838-1908

Charles Columbus Whitaker Jr., 77, of Ferguson, Ky., departed this life on Wednesday, March 17, 2010, at the Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital.

He was born on Oct. 11, 1932, in the Shopville community of Pulaski County, Ky., the son of Lum and Alma Herrin Whitaker. He was a U.S. Air Force veteran of the Korean War and a graduate of Shopville High School Class of 1952. Mr. Whitaker was a retired distributor for Southern Belle Dairy and a member of St. Mildred’s Catholic Church and the Knights of Columbus. He enjoyed golfing, fishing, sports, UK basketball, and the Cincinnati Reds.

Mr. Whitaker is survived by his wife, Wilda Higginbotham Whitaker. She married him on June 24, 1956, in New Iberia, La. Other survivors are a son, Church (and Tammy) Whitaker of Summerville, SC; four daughters, Patty (and Eddie) Casada of Science Hill, Ky., Charlotte (and Mike) Day of Somerset, Ky., Pam Schnetter of Ferguson, and Jenny (and Jeff) Bullock of Nancy, Ky.; two brothers, Clell (and Gladys) Whitaker of Somerset and Gene (and Sue) Whitaker of Somerset; 10 grandchildren; and 16 great-grandchildren.

Preceding him in death were his parents; a brother, Edwin Whitaker; and two sons-in-law, Barry Crow, and Jerry Pennington.

Visitation will be Monday, March 22, at six p.m. at St. Mildred’s Catholic Church in Somerset and then on Tuesday, March 23, at ten a.m. at the church until time of service.

Funeral Mass will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday, March 23, at St. Mildred’s Catholic Church with Father Michael Ramler officiating.

Graveside service will be Wednesday, March 24, at 11 a.m. at Mill Springs National Cemetery in Nancy.

The American Legion Post #38 Honor Guard will conduct military honors.

Arrangements for Charles Columbus Whitaker Jr. are entrusted to Lake Cumberland Funeral Home.

The family requests expressions of sympathy be made to the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, P.O. Box 50, Memphis, Tenn., 38101, and/or AIM Pregnancy Center, P.O. Box 1523, Somerset, Ky., 42502.

Commonwealth Journal, Somerset, Pulaski County, Kentucky

March 22, 2010

Susan Harriet James