Mystery of the Wilcutt baby's tombstone remains unsolved
By Kathy W. Hathcock

Posted on January 1, 0001 12:00 AM

Kathy Wilcutt Hathcock is an award-winning photojournalist who is a former managing editor of the News-Democrat & Leader.
I love a good mystery. My book shelves are filled with books by Patricia Cornwell, Mary Higgins Clark, Carolyn G. Hart and others. As much as I love reading a mystery, however, I don’t really like to live one.
There is presently a mystery in my family that I don’t think we are going to solve this side of heaven.
My daughter, Brooke, has a friend who lives on a farm outside of Lewisburg, in the direction of Butler County. J.D. recently told her there was an old tombstone on his property that has the name Willcutt on it. He asked her if she would like to come look at it sometime and she told him she would love to.

Naturally, my ears perked right up, since my maiden name is Wilcutt. The spelling is different because my grandfather’s sons dropped the extra “l” in the name. I was extremely interested, since there had been some discussion recently about the location of the grave of my great-great grandfather, John Wesley Willcutt.

So, one day Brooke and I embark on our journey to look at the mysterious tombstone. I really had my doubts that the name was actually Wilcutt, I felt like J.D. may have misread the last name.

We arrive at our destination, pleasantries are exchanged and J.D. tells us to follow him. We go around the chicken house, over a fence to the edge of a field where the marker is lying face down.

Grass, as well as vines, had to be cut away before it could be turned over. Through strenuous efforts of Brooke and J.D., the marker was finally free to be set up in an upright position. Dust was brushed off and much to my surprise it bore the name of my grandparents, G.B. and Elzora Willcutt.

It was a marker for their infant son, who was born and died on Dec. 19, 1915.

My mouth just fell open as I stood there in disbelief. I simply could not believe it nor could I understand why it was there. I looked at Brooke and
J.D. and told them those are the names of my grandparents, but there is a marker for this baby at Elk Lick Cemetery.

J.D. said the marker had been there since he had bought the farm back in the 70s. J.D. had always wondered if the marker could have been stolen, since the practice of stealing markers had been done in the past to use as cornerstones or markers of property. I had no explanation to offer.

Then, he asked us if we wanted to take it with us? Brooke immediately answered yes while I looked at her in bewilderment. I was wondering how in the world she thought we were going to get that marker into her car. This was the same as picking up a concrete block.

The same question must have also entered J.D.’s mind at this time when he asked her, "How stout are you?"
Well, the marker was loaded into a wheelbarrow and guided around to the trunk of Brooke’s car, where it was loaded by Brooke and J.D.; I supervised as well as holding the wheelbarrow steady.

As we drove away, I knew the first stop I wanted to make was at the cemetery at Elk Lick. I wanted to compare the dates to make sure they matched.

The dates did match. Now, to try and answer the question as to why there are two markers and why was one in a fence row on a farm the opposite direction of Spa?

The only person I knew to ask was my cousin, Larry Wilcutt. We drove to where Larry works and told him I had something in the trunk of Brooke’s car that I wanted him to see.

Larry had no idea either but he did offer a suggestion I had not considered: Could the farm had been the birthplace of this child? Since the marker was up against a fence as well as lying on its side, I knew we had not taken it from a grave. But I had been narrow-minded enough to believe that Spa was the only place my grandparents had ever lived. I was becoming very aware of how little history I know about the union of G.B. and Elzora Willcutt.

We left Larry for my house. The next hurdle we faced was to get the tombstone out of Brooke’s trunk. I knew my husband, Mark, was not going to be happy about that little task.

After some exasperating sights, lots of grunts as well as some under-the-breath words, we were able to get it out and set it in my front yard.
I called Larry’s mother, Leola, to ask her if she might have any knowledge about the situation at all. She was just amazed as all of the rest of us. She knew there had been an infant son who died at birth, but she didn’t have a clue why there were two markers.

Unfortunately, this mystery has no ending. We are no closer to finding how this particular marker is not in the cemetery at Elk Lick nor how it ended up in a fence row on a farm below Lewisburg.

We don’t know if the original marker could have been stolen or if Pop chose to have it removed at the time he bought markers for his wife, two daughters and one son so they would all look alike.

Now, there is a tombstone sitting in my yard where it will probably remain until I leave this world.

The good news, however, is that we did find the grave site of my great-great-grandfather.

Some family members purchased the marker for his grave site several years ago, but time had erased the memory of the exact location.
Larry did know enough landmarks and general area to set Brooke’s bloodhound nose onto the search. After many miles she finally did locate the site with his marker intact on a farm off of 79 North.

One mystery solved, my mystery unsolved, a Sherlock Holmes I am not. I will just stick to reading my mystery novels.

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