Indiana Fun Fact – There’s a Woman Buried in the Middle of a Road in Franklin, IN
Everyone at some point in time has thought about the day when their time on Earth comes to an end. When will it happen? How will it happen? Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you want to look at it), many of us will never know the answer to either or both of those questions before it does happen. The one thing we know for certain is that it will happen at some point unless someone figures out a way to become immortal. That key piece of information gives us the opportunity to at least have a say in what we want to happen to our bodies once our eyes close and we draw our final breath. With that said, even if our dying wish is executed flawlessly, we have no control over what the world will do once we're gone. As is the case with the woman whose final resting place is smack dab in the middle of a two-lane county road in Franklin, Indiana.
Welcome back to my ongoing series, the not-so-creatively-titled, "Indiana Fun Facts" where I share little tidbits of info with you about our home state that I've discovered and think are interesting with the feeling you might too. In this edition, I want to introduce you to Nancy Kerlin Barnett, the lady whose dying wish was to be buried on her favorite hill until the world had different plans for it.
Born in 1793, Nancy was married to William Barnett who supposedly was the great-great-great-grandson of Pocahontas and John Rolfe according to a sign that once marked her grave. According to a 2016 article from Fox 59 in Indianapolis, the family settled in what is now Franklin in 1821. She died 10 years later at the age of 39. After her passing, her family buried her in one of her favorite places, a hill overlooking Sugar Creek in Johnson County, where she obviously remains to this day.
A Road Runs Through It
At the time of her death and burial, there was no road, just what I assume was a grassy hill. Roughly 70 years she died, in the early 1900s, county officials decided they wanted to build a road in the same spot. Why they couldn't simply build around her grave, I don't know. The point is the decision was made, and the road was going to be built. Whether or not the crew responsible for building the road would have just gone over the top of her grave, or attempted to relocate her remains is unknown. That's because, as the legend goes, her grandson guarded her final resting place with a shotgun to make sure no one tried.
As you can imagine, a man with a shotgun can be pretty convincing without having to say a word (especially if you don't have a shotgun too). So, instead of going over the grave or relocating it, crews left it be and split the road around it (as you can see in the photo above). Today the road is known as County Road East 400 South.
Nancy's grave was rather shallow. She was actually buried in a mound above ground since they didn't have backhoes that could dig six feet deep holes in a matter of minutes back in the mid-1800s. The crew who initially built the road in the early 1900s placed a concrete slab over the grave to protect it., according to Find A Grave.com.
As we know all too well, roads don't last forever. Vehicles are bigger and heavier, and natural causes like weather and erosion take their toll. When that happens, they need to be repaired, repaved, or redone altogether. The last of which county officials decided needed to be done in 2016 when they made the decision to widen the road.
In order to complete the project, Nancy needed to be moved, at least temporarily. Fortunately, no one was standing by and guarding it with a loaded shotgun this time. However, officials promised to return Nancy to her spot once construction finished, only this time they would bury her to today's standards (i.e. underground), which is exactly what they did. In place of the stone slab, Nancy now rests under a concrete median marked with a small plaque.
An Interesting Twist
According to a June 2016 article from the Indianapolis Star, not long after crews began the process of exhuming Nancy's body, they discovered she was not alone. Along with her remains, they discovered the remains of six other people, two women, a man, and four children in the same area. At the time an archeologist with the University of Indianapolis believed crews had likely stumbled upon a small family cemetery where other members of Nancy's family were buried after they died. Crews exhumed them all and placed them back where they were found once construction was completed.
Where to Find It
According to Festival County Indiana.com, the exact address of Nancy's grave is 6844 East 400 South, Franklin, IN 46131, roughly 35 minutes south of Indianapolis between Indiana Highway 31 and Interstate 65. There is no exit for the road from the Interstate, so you'll have to access it from Highway 31. If you do decide to stop and see it for yourself on your next trip to or from Indy, know that it is a county road, and there aren't really any good places to pull over on either side of the road.
[Sources: Festival County Indiana / Fox 59 / Indianapolis Star / Find a Grave]
More Indiana Fun Facts
If you enjoyed this edition, and enjoy learning unique things about the state we call home, check out the previous editions of Indiana Fun Facts.
- Indiana Fun Fact - Tomato Juice was Invented in French Lick
- Did You Know the First Electric Streetlight in America was Installed in Indiana?
- Indiana Fun Fact - A Tree Has Been Growing on This Courthouse Roof for 140+ Years
- Indiana Fun Fact - Elvis Played His Last Concert in the Hoosier State Before His Death in 1977
- Unique Indiana Fact - First American Soldier to Die in World War I was from Evansville
- Indiana Fun Fact - The First Sears Retail Store was in Downtown Evansville
- Indiana Fun Fact - The Gas Pump was Created in Fort Wayne