Past meets present at a local gravesite

Take a trip down Johnson County Road 400 and you’ll see the road split.

Straight down the middle, the road divides to make room for a grave.

The resting place belongs to Nancy Barnett, who died in 1831. During her lifetime, she was married, at the age of 14, to William Barnett.

Legend has it, William Barnett was a distant relative of Pocahontas and John Rolfe.

Together, the Barnetts were married 23 years before Nancy died.

When she passed away, her only wish was to be buried in one of her favorite places—a hill that overlooked Sugar Creek.

Over time, that hill became a local road. Construction for that road began in the 1900s.

In 1905, the past met the present.

When workers started construction on the road in 1905, they came across Nancy Barnett’s headstone and, to their surprise, they also discovered a man guarding the grave with a shotgun.

The man, named Daniel Doty, was Nancy’s grandson. Until the construction was finished, Doty guarded his grandmother’s grave to ensure her grave was safe, according to a WISH-TV article.

It’s said he camped out and shouted, “Over my dead body!” when the workers first arrived.

To ease the tension, they built the road around her grave. In 1912, the grave was given a historic Indiana marker.

And all was quiet—until recently, when the road needed to be repaired.

Throughout the years, the road around Nancy’s grave had been beaten by cars and rubble. A plan was created to refurbish the road, including digging deeper into the ground.

And to the construction workers’ surprise while repairing the road, seven additional bodies were found around Nancy’s grave this past summer.

Luke Mastin, the Johnson County highway director, said finding a solution that worked for road safety and the importance of the bodies was difficult.

“We worked with the family [of the bodies], the museum and the community,” Mastin said. “We wanted to make sure everyone had input and had an idea of what it would be like moving forward.”

Little is known about the bodies other than that they belong to a man, two women and four children, according to an Indianapolis Star article.

An archeology team from the University of Indianapolis came to excavate them and decided not to do DNA testing on the bodies.

When the newly discovered bodies and Nancy Barnett were buried, they were put in new coffins that were made to look like they were made in the 1850s.

David Pfeiffer, Johnson County Museum director, said the museum helped the team with historical information once the bodies were discovered.

“The museum helped with coordinating efforts and providing historical background,” Pfeiffer said. “The family created new coffins, and the museum paid for them.”

Pfeiffer also said that, due to this discovery, the museum will be adding a new piece over the grave in the road. Along with the original historic marker, there will be a new marker, pictures from the excavation process, and the original headstone placed on the site.

There has not been a set date yet for when this new site will be completed.

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About Matthew Brown 13 Articles
Matthew Brown is a news writer for The Franklin. As you can tell from his column, Matthew likes to write a lot about science, but is a huge fan of writing as well. Matthew hopes to graduate with a double major; a biology one and a journalism one. This is Matthew's second year as a staff writer for The Franklin.

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