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Meade County area back-road history tour, part 3

By Trish Turner



 As I continued on my back road tour with Gerry Fischer, he took me to the area off Hill Grove Road in Ekron to the long forgotten town of Meadeville. From the 1850s until the early 1900s, Meadeville was a flourishing town. At one time there was a stagecoach stop there where the driver changed horses and travelers stopped to rest. A saloon, store, hotel, blacksmith shop, and a school all thrived there next to a natural spring.  In the 1860s most of the citizens in the Meadeville area were southern sympathizers and several of the men joined the Confederate forces. It was also a hotbed of Confederate guerilla activity. On April 29, 1863, a battle occurred in that area near the Shumate School. A Union force led by Captain Christopher Hare encamped in Brandenburg on April 28. On April 29 Hare and his men, numbering a little over 100, rode into Meadeville. They caught some of the Confederate guerillas in an area called the Sheep Shed. Several of the guerillas were killed, including local residents Billy Shacklett and John Wimp. School was in session at that time under the tutelage of Susanna Willett and the children witnessed the fight. Following the battle the children were asked to assist in helping to find the bodies.  Gerry parked his truck alongside the road and we hiked through the woods to find the Shumate School. Thomas Shumate granted permission for Jack and Frances Scott and Gerry to visit the site, a while or so before the book “Guerilla Warfare in Civil War Kentucky” was released. Sadly, since that time, Thomas and Jess have passed away. The road up to the schoolhouse was overgrown and strewn with fallen trees, so we walked parallel to it in the woods. Gerry kept looking at me to make sure I was able to make the trek, but I was up to it.  My walking stick that I had used while hiking mountain trails in Utah a couple of years ago came in handy. We had walked quite a ways in, dodging brambles and low branches, when suddenly amidst the trees I saw the shape of a building loom in front of me. “Oh, is that it?” I exclaimed. Gerry nodded, and we pressed forward. The outside of the building is in disrepair but when we walked into the schoolhouse I was amazed at how sturdy the floor was. I could see on one side of the wall that a large chalkboard had once been mounted there. I looked out the windows into the woods and could just imagine the horror that the teacher and her students felt that day in 1863 when they heard the battle raging outside, and then helped to gather the bodies of the victims, who were their neighbors and friends.  Our next stop just down the road was the Meadeville Cemetery, which is located on a hill amidst the farmlands. This cemetery is the final resting place for many of the early settlers of Meadeville and surrounding areas. There were several stones bearing the names of Shacklett, Willett, Albright, and Hayden. The first sheriff of Meade County, Benjamin Shacklett, is buried there. He was born January 21, 1774 in Pennsylvania and died May 24, 1838 in Meade County.  His marker states that he was a Major in the 3rd Kentucky Militia in the War of 1812. William “Billy” Shacklett and John Wimp, Jr., who were killed at the Battle of Sheep Shed nearby are buried there. The Shumate schoolteacher who witnessed the Battle of Sheep Shed, Susanna Willett, is also buried in that cemetery. She was 25 years old at the time of the battle, and lived to be only 36 years old.  Amongst the older headstones, set apart a ways, is a very modern, large stone with two bronze tablets mounted on it. There is an interesting story about the man who lies beneath this marker. The tablet on top reads: “James Irvin Newton, Pvt Co C, 12th KY Cavalry 1819-1865.” The tablet on the side reads: “October 1998, In commemoration of James Irvin Newton, Husband of Elender Rhodes Newton, Shot and killed in July of 1865 by the Nightriders at his home across the road from this Meadeville Cemetery.” James Newton was an oddity in the Meadeville community where the majority of his neighbors were Confederate sympathizers. He was loyal to the Union and joined the 12th Kentucky Cavalry, which was a unit that was used to hunt down Confederate guerillas. When he was discharged from the Union Army on May 29, 1865 he returned to his home in Meadeville and resumed his occupation as a blacksmith. On the night of July 9, 1865 Newton was eating supper with his family when he was called to answer his door. As he stepped onto his porch he was shot dead, presumably by someone who had supported the Confederate Cause. His family hastily buried him in the cemetery across the road from their home and did not place a marker on his grave for fear of his body being desecrated. It was not until 1998 that a proper marker was placed on his grave by his descendants. His murder was tragic, but one has to wonder why James Newton, a Union man, did not move with his family after the war to an area that was not so full of Confederate supporters who may not have taken kindly to his Union service.  The Meadeville Cemetery was not kept up through the years and a lot of stones were upturned and some were broken. It always makes me sad to see a cemetery in that condition.  Many of the descendants of the families buried here moved on to Kansas and other parts of the country, and the once thriving town of Meadeville vanished. With very few descendants left in the Meade County area to tend to it, the graveyard was overlooked.  Not far from Meadeville was Stith Valley, which is one of the first areas settled in Meade County. It is still a beautiful area with rolling hills and picturesque farms. We came off Stith Valley Road onto US 60. I wanted to see Big Spring, where several residents of Meadeville had gone to enlist as Confederates, so Gerry drove from US 60 to 313 and then took Big Spring Road. The town of Big Spring is still thriving, and some of the buildings there look like they could have been around during the Civil War. We then turned onto Guston-Bewleyville Road, which came out onto US 60.  Part IV of my Meade County back roads tour with Gerry Fischer will cover the location of the capture of Confederate guerillas Sue Mundy, Billy Magruder and Henry Metcalf at the Cox tobacco barn off US 60.  Gerry has such a passion for local history that when he describes historical events his eyes light up and he becomes animated. He makes history come alive!

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