By Trish Turner
When Gerry Fischer asked me if I would like to go on a back road tour of the Meade County area, especially to see all the sites relevant to the Civil War, I jumped at the chance. I have been covering events at the Meade County History Museum for over a year and have learned so much about local history. I was eager to see some historical locations firsthand.
The first thing I did was get a copy of Gerry Fischer's book, Guerrilla Warfare in Civil War Kentucky and I read it in one week. I have lived in Meade County for three years and until reading that book I had no idea that so much Civil War activity happened in Meade County, particularly guerilla warfare.
I am no stranger to traipsing through the woods to visit historical sites. When I was about ten years old my parents took me with them on a jeep tour hosted by a local historical society in southern New Hampshire. We went down unrecognizable roads and got out and walked through the woods to cellar holes of once thriving communities. From then on I was hooked on history. Since that time, when I became involved in family genealogy research, I have visited many obscure graveyards and historical homes, mostly in Georgia.
Gerry Fischer is one of the founders of the Meade County Historical and Archaeological Preservation Society (MCHAPS) and is very knowledgeable about local history. He mentioned his idea of taking me on a back roads tour a few months ago but it was too cold and so rainy. We did want to make the trip before all the trees got their leaves because they would obstruct some of our views.
We settled on the date of Tuesday, March 17 to do our tour. Gerry picked me up in his truck in Payneville at 9 a.m. and the first place he took me was to the cemetery in the church yard of St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi Catholic Church. He pointed out the grave marker for Catherine Rhodes, 1851-1950. Catherine was better known as Catty Rhodes and she lived just off KY 376, not far from the St. Mary Church. Catty was a mulatto woman born as a slave in the household of Edward Rhodes, the Payneville postmaster. She stayed on with the Rhodes family even after slavery was abolished in 1867 and lived the rest of her life amongst their family members, always caring for them.
The Rhodes house still stands, although a lot worse for wear. The fields surrounding the house and barn are still cultivated. When we stopped at the Rhodes house I told Gerry that I wanted to get out and take a picture of the house and property. With a broad grin and twinkle in his eyes he said, "I thought you might!" Gerry was thrilled that I seemed as excited as he was to visit these historical sites.
After I took a few pictures we got back into the truck and rode down New State Road to Arnold School Road. There we slowed down as Gerry told me of the Coomes' Cabin Raid that had happened in that area. Captain John Bryant, a 20 year-old Confederate guerrilla, had heard that the Coomes men who were gunsmiths were either repairing or building a multi shot repeating gun. Captain Bryant wanted that gun and conducted a raid on the Coomes cabin in the summer of 1864. The raid did not end well for Bryant when one of the Coomes men shot him in the stomach and he rode off. Bryant's men were with him when he slumped over and fell off his horse. They gathered him up and took him to a cave down a bluff to hide him from the Union men who were now looking for them. Later that night his men took Bryant to a house nearby, where he died. Gerry stopped his truck and we got out and he pointed out the cave to me, which has been called Bryant's Cave for many years. Due to all the recent rain it was too treacherous to attempt to hike down to it, but I took some pictures.
We got back into the truck and drove from Arnold School Road to Fackler Road. Just before Fackler Road curves around to run into KY 376 we stopped at a spot where there was a sloped wooded area to our right and a farmland on our left. Gerry pointed out that the farmland on the left was behind the Rhodes house where Catty Rhodes had lived.
On our right and down the wooded slope was a spring where in the 1880's it was Catty's job to get water from the spring and carry it a half mile back to the house.
This is just the first part of the back road tour that I went on with Gerry Fischer. Next time I will share stories from a few more spots we visited in the Payneville area before we went on towards Ekron, Meadville, and points yonder.