Last year my hometown newspaper carried an article highlighting a local man whose hobby was uncovering old burial sites lost in the dusk of time. The article told the story of his “discovery” of William Ward and his wife and how he carried a new marker to the site as the words on the old stones were fading away. My mother was a Ward and we knew the family had been in the county for many generations. Plus her grandfather was named William – not the same William, but a descendant it turns out. He gave two ways to get there – one by land and another by water as the area had become adjacent to a Corps of Engineers lake built in the early 1980’s.
The location of the graves is about five miles from where I grew up, but we did not know of their existence or of this ancestor. The story of William included his service during the Revolutionary War and at Valley Forge and his subsequent move to Elbert County, Georgia where he became a farmer. He lived a long life of approximately 90 years before he died in 1850.
Last Saturday I carried four kayaks to Lake Russell and met my brother and his two daughters. We paddled the 3-4 miles up Coldwater Creek to the site. We found the two graves, plus old stone walls and other signs of a long habitation of the site, now long wooded and overlooking Lake Russell. The site is on Corps land, and was marked when they surveyed the lake in the 1980’s.
So here is history lost but found, an ancestor who fought to create a new country and set down roots in northeast Georgia nearly 200 years ago. It serves to remind me that history is all around us and that we only have to look to find great stories.