Gravestones hold history lessons for Crab Orchard elementary students
PVA David Gambrel talks to fourth- and fifth-graders from Crab Orchard Elementary School as he gives them a tour of the city's cemetery, where Civil War veterans are buried. (Katelynn Griffin / firstname.lastname@example.org / May 8, 2012)
Lincoln County Property Valuation Administrator David Gambrel gave a Crab Orchard Cemetery Civil War tour to the fourth and fifth graders to complement their history studies. Numerous people buried at the cemetery fought in the Civil War — some for the Confederates and others for the Union.
Some student weren’t even aware that the cemetery existed and teacher Emily Manier said the experience allowed the children to learn about the town’s history.
Gambrel told the stories of important historical figures in a way the students would understand. He compared George Ellsworth, a Confederate telegraph saboteur who intercepted Union messages during the war, to a computer hacker.
“If he was around today, that’s what he would do,” Gambel said.
Located in the back corner is the black section of the cemetery. A year and a half ago, Moses Fish and William Tucker, two Civil War veterans, had received military grave markers.
Gambrel said black soldiers were very brave because they risked their lives escaping slavery, going into battle and facing the possibility of being recaptured.
Gambrel told the story of Thomas Napier, the only Lincoln County Sheriff to be killed in the line of duty. Napier had fought in the Mexican War and the Civil War before he was shot and killed by an intoxicated teenager behind the Stanford Presbyterian Church on Sept. 18, 1869.
The tour ended at the Confederate Monument, which is recognized on the National Register of Historic Places. Several students asked if Gambrel knew any of their own families' histories, and while he was able to answer some of their questions, he said finding out answers for themselves would be better.
“I encourage you to research your family history,” Gambrel said, adding that they could search the public library and the courthouse for historical information.
Gambrel has been giving tours since 2001, but his passion for Civil War history goes back much further. In the 1990s Gambrel was the editor of the Lincoln Ledger newspaper and he interviewed Stanford resident Joe Grimes.
Grimes was the nephew of Sterling Grimes, who served in the sixth Kentucky Confederate Calvary. During Gambrel’s interview, Grimes shared some of the war stories that his uncle had told him.
Gambrel said many people concentrate on the county's pioneer history rather than its Civil War history.
“The Civil War is an untold story because we were divided and we don’t like to talk about it,” Gambrel said. “I want to honor them by telling it from their perspective and not bring 2012 politics into it.”
Gambrel hopes to use GPS to set up a self-guided tour of the cemetery people can take on their own time. He's also continuing to search for the unmarked graves of Civil War veterans.
Gambrel said it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get VA markers due to recent abuses of the system over the last few years.
There are 50 graves that have been marked in Lincoln County; four of those are in Crab Orchard Cemetery.