The rusted iron gate opened to the worn and broken tombstones of the Seaton Family cemetery, the dozen or so stones still standing no accurate predictor of the number of people actually buried under the long green grass within its pitted concrete walls.
The old cemetery, located just off Seatonville Road on land now owned by 21st Century Parks, dates back to the early 1800s. Among its residents is a Kenner Seaton who was born Feb. 7, 1797 and died Aug. 26, 1872.
It seemed a good, long life for those times until you read his weathered epitaph – which told a larger story:
AFFLICTION SORE FOR YEARS I BORE
PHYSICIANS WERE IN VAIN
AT LENGTH GOD PLEASED TO GIVE ME EASE
AND FREED ME FROM MY PAIN
Pioneer history viewed from a distance must always be read between such epitaph lines; the details missing; the larger meaning gleaned or imagined from the most spare of phrases and tombstone poetry.
History as written in “The Ohio Falls Cities and Their Counties” – 1778 to 1882 – say Kenner Seaton’s father, Radham Seaton, was the first of his family in Kentucky – but many others would follow.
Radham Seaton had 14 brothers and two sisters. His wife’s mother had a sister scalped by Indians near Linn Station in the Chenoweth Massacre of 1789. Radham Seaton died in a logging accident at age 40.
The history gave no details of Kenner Seaton’s “affliction,” but said he had seven children with his wife Mary, “four of whom are living.” Kenner Seaton died in 1872 in the same room in which he was born. Four years later – in October, 1876 – his wife was buried next to him in the Seaton Family cemetery near a one-room log building that served as the local Baptist church.
We would all do well to remember these people, the incredible hardships of their lives, as 21st Century Parks preserves the land where they lived, farmed, built saw and grain mills along Floyds Fork – and were buried in a cemetery bearing their name.
The larger Seatonville precinct would be named for a George Seaton, who was born in the area in 1781. The town of Seatonville drifted into existence with the help of two brothers, William C. and Charles A. Seaton – the grandchildren of Radham Seaton – who built a general store in the flood plain near where Chenoweth Run and Floyds Fork merged.
In November, 1853, Elizabeth Seaton, a daughter of Kenner Seaton, married a Henry C. Mills. They would have 10 children – eight who were still living in 1882.
In 1866 Mills – the son of a stone mason – built a dam along Floyds Fork and erected a saw mill, one of several to operate along the river. In 1870 Mills added a grist mill to the operation, with one grinding stone for corn, another for wheat.
In time the little village would grow another store, a stable, a blacksmith, a one-room school, a 250-foot wooden bridge, even a doctor. A rampaging Floyds Fork would wash through it several times a year, but the early families – Seaton, Mills, Jean, Stout, Turner and Funk among them – would dutifully return to live along its banks.
So strong was this sense of place that Henry C. Mills would also build a classic, two-story, five-bay Greek Revival home near his mill at what is now 12802 Seatonville Road.
In 1884 Mills sold the home to the Stout family, which owned it for almost 100 years, including a time when it served as the local telephone exchange – with one of the few switchboards in the area.
In 1997, Doug and Barbara Vicars, retired teachers, interior designers and preservationists, bought the “Mills-Stout” home and the adjoining 10 acres fronting Floyds Fork and began restoring it.
Part of that work involved spontaneously ripping out a dropped ceiling in the kitchen. Above was a layer of “pre-drywall,” then horsehair plaster. Vicars worked for a week, finally exposing bare rafters, and then, working over the sink, he found an old hymnal and journal stuffed back in the wall.
The first entry in the journal, its pages badly faded, mostly unreadable, was dated June, 1870 – the time when Henry C. Mills, the husband of Kenner Seaton’s daughter, lived in the house and worked the mill right behind it.
Doug Vicars is working to translate the journal. From what he can tell it describes only “everyday” things; hauling oats, plowing the fields, the price of tobacco, the new minister. The journal would seem to be the words of Henry C.
Mills, whose wife’s father, a man who suffered a life-long affliction, is buried in an old family cemetery just a few hundred yards up Floyds Fork.