Nestled in bushes on Nicholasville Road, between offices and apartments, is a small, peaceful cemetery that is nearly impossible to notice amidst the busy traffic.
The McGowan Hull Burial Ground dates to the early 1800s, said Lonnie Wright, a historian for Baptist Health Lexington, which owns the site.
The pioneer cemetery shows its age, with toppled tombstones and looming shrubs.
It is the secret garden of Nicholasville Road.
Never miss a local story.
About 10 people are buried there, all of whom were descendents of Colonel John Campbell's sister, Wright said.
John Campbell, who helped found Louisville, died in 1799 with no children and passed his Nicholasville Pike land to his sister's family, Wright said. Their family name was McGowan.
The only bit that the once 2,000 acre property still used for its original intent is the rock-walled burial ground that borders one of the most-traveled roads in Lexington.
Recently, Baptist Health had some of the bushes cleared near the road, so the cemetery would be more visible, hospital spokeswoman Ruth Ann Childers said. In July, a iron-wrought fence will be built around it to deter vandals.
"As a hospital, we clearly have a lot of respect for those who've passed away, and their families," Childers said. "What has come to our attention now is that not everyone is treating this site in that same way."
A woman who works in the area called it "witches' cemetery," and a 2003 post to The Kentucky Pagan Forum gives directions to the "witches' cemetery" on Nicholasville Road. "Ask permission of the Guardian before going thru the gap in the stone fence," the post said. "Bring a small offering; the tombstones have been vandalized and there are some PO'd spirits in this small Hull-Key family cemetery."
Childers asked officials for increased patrols near the cemetery, and she and Wright requested that Baptist Health put a barrier around the area.
Childers and Wright also said they hope for a historical sign one day to identify the area as a place to be respected.
Before they put up a sign, they are searching for more information about those buried in the cemetery. As far as Wright knows, there are no living relatives of the McGowan and Hull families, but he and Childers said they hope someone comes forward with more information to help write the history of this little piece of pioneer land.