The Trace of Private Lewis Smith Sr.

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Henderson County, Kentucky

The Trace of Private Lewis Smith, Sr.

By Carolyn L. Warfield


I followed the clues my collateral ancestor left for posterity when no death certificate existed for him. It made good sense to extract the land deed Lewis Smith negotiated for burial purposes before his transition to prove intention as indirect evidence.1 Genealogical conclusions based on indirect evidence can be as solid as answers found in direct evidence. “Within regular land deeds you can sometimes find where family plots were located.”3 Civil War veteran Lewis Smith passed on 27 November 1910,2  however, Kentucky did not register vital records in local health offices until 1911. The big mystery remains, where is Lewis Smith buried? “A mystery cannot be answered; it can only be framed by identifying the critical factors and applying how they have interacted in the past.”4

 Lewis Lines (aka Lewis Smith (1825-1910), and my paternal great-grandfather George Beverly (aka George William Warfield (1837-1919), were soldiers in different companies of the 118th United States Colored Regiment.  It is conceivable that they knew each other before and during the war, yet I cannot say truthfully. They both returned to the Border state locale of Henderson County, Kentucky when the war ended, and became in-laws when several of their children intermarried.

 ”Union commander Stephan A. Burbridge issued General Order No. 34 in April 1864, extending recruitment to slaves with owner’s authorization.” 5 “Congress allowed slaveholders to file claims against the Federal government for loss of the slave’s services: $300 for slaves who enlisted or $100 for slaves who were drafted.”6    In Henderson, Negroes brought an average of $232.50. The evidence of Lewis Lines being a Private in Company C of the 118th U.S. Colored Infantry is abstracted among the thousands of Civil War Records at the website. Lewis Smith’s discharge document confirms he “enrolled 24 August 1864 to serve three years; under Captain Charles B. Randolph, Lines was honorably discharged 6 February 1866, at Whites Ranch, Texas.8   Through the years, Private Lines and Private Beverly received service and disability pensions, and chose the surname of preference based on personal slave experience.  Cousin Bonita Smith-Wood’s great-great grandfather Lewis chose Smith, and my great-grandfather George chose Warfield.  As freedmen, our ancestors were eager to claim their rights and privileges.

A deed of land purchase was agreed upon and witnessed 16 February 1892 by Jack McGuire (the father of John McGuire) and Lewis Smith, as follows:

“This deed between Jack McGuire, colored Grantor and Louis Smith colored Grantee, witnessed that Grantor in consideration of ten dollars, the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged, do hereby transfer and convey to Grantee, his heirs and assigns the following property:  one lot of land for burial purposes situated on my farm as follows -- thirty feet on the North side of the present burying ground situated on the West side of my farm upon which I now reside, beginning at a stake in the line of the old burying ground North 30 feet to a stake, thence West 30 feet to a stake, thence South 30 feet to a stake in line of old burying ground, thence East 30 feet to the beginning.

To have and to hold the same, with all the appurtenances thereon to the Grantee, his heirs and assigns forever, with covenant of General Warranty, Grantor relinquish all right of homestead and Grantor release all his contingent right of Dower therein. A lien is retained for unpaid purchase price.

Witnessed by hand of Grantor this  16 day of February, 1892.

Jack [X] McGuire

Attest C.C. Simpson       

This legal instrument was recorded by the Clerk of Henderson County Court, J. H. Hart on 23 February 1894.”9

Upon examination of this deed, more questions surfaced. Exactly who were the McGuire’s, and how large is a 30 foot by 30 foot burial site? I discovered that black farmer and landowner John McGuire, Sr., owned 80 acres below Green River in Section 63 of Precinct 8 in Spottsville, adjacent to Charles Green, where the McGuire family had set aside a small area for a cemetery off of Old U.S. Highway 60.10   Moreover, John McGuire was one of George Beverly’s Union Army comrades in Company H. of the 118th U.S.C.I. From an informant at the Lansing municipal cemetery I learned that a grave is 4 feet by 10 inches, a lot is made up of several graves, and a 30 foot by 30 foot lot would accommodate about 14 graves.  Actually, a 30 foot by 30 foot lot can be compared to the size of a standard two-car garage with ample storage space.11   A Deputy Clerk in the Henderson County Clerk’s Office “was unable to find a plat map for the deed” and told me “not all property in Henderson County has a plat recorded.”12

The 1910 Federal Census enumerated Lewis Smith at age 85, living in Spottsville, Henderson, Co., Kentucky, with his third wife Caroline, to whom he was joined in holy matrimony 2 May 1882.13   The 1921 death certificate for Mrs. Caroline Smith led me straight to the McGuire Cemetery where she was interred.14 Is Mrs. Smith near the unmarked grave of Lewis, her husband? Even the Smith’s Ewing son-in-law and grandson were buried in the McGuire Cemetery.   A total of 15 grave sites comprise the survey county historian James Blue did of the McGuire cemetery15   however, there is no trace of Lewis Smith among them. Neither is John McGuire, Sr.’s grave among Mr. Blue’s findings according to his death certificate 4 April 1916.16 While it seems likely that the clues for Lewis Smith have been exhausted, this is not true until I search for a “burial permit or certificate of disposition of remains required before a body can be buried or cremated.” 17


1          Donn Devine, What Do We Do When There’s No Answer? Ancestry (January-February, 2009): 62.

2          Mrs. Caroline Smith, Survivor Pension Application #953689, Certificate #724049, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

3          Sharon DeBartolo Carmack, Your Guide to Cemetery Research (Cincinnati, 2002), 57.

4          Gregory F. Treverton, Risks and Riddles, Smithsonian (June, 2007): 98.

5          Darrell Meadows, Beyond the Log Cabin, Kentucky’s Abraham Lincoln, Chronicle.

6          Due Compensation? Ancestry (November-December, 2008): 54.

7          Growing Feeling for Enlistments and Compensated Emancipation, New York Times (13 March 1864).

8          Lewis Smith Full Pension File #323908, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

9          1892 Henderson County Kentucky Real Estate Conveyances, Book 21: 36, 37.

10         An Illustrated Historical Atlas of Henderson County Kentucky (Philadelphia, 1880), 18; Doris Chaney, 1890 Henderson County Kentucky Tax              List (Henderson, 2002), 157; James Blue, Gone But Not Forgotten: Cemeteries of Henderson County Kentucky (Henderson, 1996), 105.

11         Administrator, Mt. Hope Cemetery, Lansing, Michigan.

12         Correspondence dated 2 April 2009 from Henderson County Clerk’s Office.

13         Commonwealth of Kentucky Certificate of Marriage.

14         Commonwealth of Kentucky Certificate of Death #19533.

15         James Blue, Gone but Not Forgotten (Henderson, 1996), 106.

16         Commonwealth of Kentucky Certificate of Death #10527.

17         Sharon DeBartolo Carmack, Your Guide to Cemetery Research (Cincinnati, 2002), 13.