CORNETTSVILLE — Surrounded by trees, overlooking the quiet valley below, a small Eastern Kentucky cemetery is a peaceful resting place for veterans of almost every American war.
The first burial in Audley Cornett Cemetery came in 1836 with the interment of William Cornett, a Revolutionary War veteran, who, for his part in the war, was granted 875 acres in what is now Perry County.
Today, the cemetery, with about 100 graves, is the final resting place for generations of veterans. With markers showing the War of 1812, the Civil War, World War I, World War II and the Korean War, this cemetery is rich in American history.
Even more remarkable: Almost all of those buried at the cemetery are descendants of William Cornett, and the cemetery, along with the original log cabin built by Cornett, are still owned by his descendants.
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Judi Woods, 69, is Cornett's five-times great-granddaughter and lives in the cabin, along with her brother, Ben Woods. According to Ben, the cemetery houses veterans from every war except the Mexican-American War and the more recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some graves are not clearly marked, including one for a veteran who served in Vietnam. the family said.
For Judi, the cemetery and land are a part of her heritage. Many of her ancestors lived in the log cabin before her, and several family members were buried in the cemetery. "I'm just honored that I can carry on living there," Woods said.
She does not know a lot about specific roles her ancestors played in America's wars. "They didn't talk much about those things," Woods said. "It was an unpleasant experience I imagine." They were very patriotic people, though, she said.
"Wow. My goodness," said Ann Johnson when the cemetery was described to her. Johnson has worked on the preservation of small Kentucky cemeteries for the past 14 years. To have so many veterans from various wars is a really unique thing, she said.
"And it's a family cemetery, not a veterans' cemetery," she said
A lot of times veterans are in unmarked graves, so for each one of these veterans to have a stone, that's pretty incredible, Johnson said. "They're resting in peace knowing that people cared enough to bury them up on that hill with other veterans," Johnson said. She added that it is special for this cemetery to still be protected by the original family.
Judi and Ben Woods bought back the house and cemetery from a cousin in 2003, and have cared for the cemetery ever since.
"A lot of families come here to visit," Judi Woods said. "Probably at least once a month somebody comes."
Usually, they are trying to prove their ancestry to William Cornett, or other veterans, to get into organizations like the Sons or Daughters of the Revolution, she said.
Rebecca Poertner has not had the opportunity to visit the Audley Cornett Cemetery, but she joined the Daughters of the American Revolution as the six-times great-granddaughter of Cornett.
Poertner feels that freedom from England meant a lot to Cornett as he enlisted twice in the Revolutionary War. "For that, I am truly thankful," said Poertner, who is happy to have had an ancestor who fought for her freedom and the life she has today.
For Woods, the significance of the cemetery lies in its rich family history. "I think it's an honor to all those that are buried there to be there. It's such a beautiful place."