Former Harlan Countians Alfred Kelly and his sister Bobbie Poisson, now of Michigan, have released a new book titled “Cemeteries on the Clover Fork: Southeastern Harlan County, Ky.”
Raised in the Ages area of Harlan County, both left to find work up north in the 1960s.
“Although we worked and raised families far from Harlan County, this is the place we called home and loved to come back every chance we could,” said Kelly.
Poisson said she began researching their family history records and that search eventually led she and her brother to look for their relatives in the cemeteries on Clover Fork. The search eventually broadened out to all of Harlan County.
“Exploring cemeteries in Harlan County has been quite an experience,” said Kelly. “Over the past eight to ten years, our travels through this county have taken us to some of the most remote places with fantastic views of the area. We have climbed these mountains in search of cemeteries and have been rewarded with great finds.”
Kelly said one of the hardest cemeteries they located on Clover Fork was one above Highsplint Lake. He said it took them six different times to finally find it.
“We’re not sure what the official name of the cemetery was, but there are Brewers buried there,” said Kelly. “It’s on the mountainside above the lake and not easy to locate. After we did find it, we visited with Lewis Bianchi to tell him what we had found and, of course, he knew of the cemetery and remembered the last person that he had buried there. He had a great memory and was very helpful to us.”
Kelly said another cemetery they found was on coal mining property at Childs Creek. He said they had to watch a safety video on mining and mine security had to take them to the cemetery high on a ridge overlooking the coal mines.
“On Clover Fork, we have located and documented 130 different cemeteries,” said Kelly. “We have exhausted all our leads for the Clover Fork area. Since we have expanded our search to include all of Harlan County, we have located a total of 550 cemeteries, although we haven’t yet documented all the other cemeteries we have found. It will take several more trips to Harlan County over a few years to complete the rest.”
Kelly said while for him the “thrill of the hunt” is talking to area residents and making new friends, his sister, Bobbie’s desire is to document every grave they find.
The 349-page book includes directions to each cemetery in the Clover Fork area with GPS readings and a photo of each cemetery. There is also a database of the people they have found in each cemetery. The cost is $39.95 and is available, locally, at Kilgores in Evarts and on Amazon.
To purchase the book, you may also contact Poisson by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 313-381-0049.
“Although we think we have located all the cemeteries on Clover Fork, we’re sure someone out there knows of one we haven’t found yet,” said Kelly. “If you know of a cemetery that is not in the book or in another area of Harlan County that you think we might be interested in, please contact me at email@example.com and I will try to find it.”
Nola Sizemoremay be reached at 606-573-4510 or on Twitter @Nola_hde