Nancy Kerlin Barnett, was married to William Barnett, Febuary 29, 1808. William was the great great great grandson of Pocahontas and John Rolfe.
Nancy Kerlin passed away on December 1, 1831 and is buried in what is known today as “The Grave in the Middle of the Road”.
It has to be one of America’s most unusual burial grounds: A grave that singularly divides a county road.
At each end of the grave is a divided highway sign with a cross in the center, indicating a cemetery. One can only wonder if there’s another like it anywhere in the country.
Here’s the story: Nancy Kerlin was only 14 — soon to be 15 — when she married William Barnett in 1808. Her husband was the great-great-great grandson of Pocahontas and John Rolfe. Nancy and William lived near present-day Amity, a small community south of Franklin which wasn’t actually founded until a number of years later in 1855.
When she died in 1831 at age 39, she was buried at what was apparently one of her favorite places — on a small hill overlooking Sugar Creek. In the following years, several others also were buried there and a small cemetery was created.
Like many Indiana counties, Johnson County had innumerable small cemeteries. One researcher has identified 163 in the county with 54 of them lost and nine removed. This biggest move of all came in the 1940s when a large number of graves were moved so Camp Atterbury could be constructed.
Over time a foot path developed through this small cemetery and later a county road was planned through it. Other graves probably were moved, but one of Nancy’s sons objected to moving her grave. Since it originally wasn’t a problem, her grave was left behind.
The trouble developed still later when the county wanted to widen the road. Now the grave would have to be moved.
So the story goes, her grandson, Daniel Doty, went to the gravesite with his shotgun and, in essence said, “over my dead body.” How long he remained there and what was said by whom to whom isn’t definitely known.
The upshot, however, was that the county agreed not to move the grave. Instead, they built the road around it. A concrete slab was placed over the grave to protect it and on Aug. 8, 1912, a historical marker was placed at the site as well.
That’s how things still stand today.
In almost any writing about unusual places in Indiana, you will see the gravesite of Nancy Kerlin Barnett included. Also, it is easily seen by traveling a short distance north off U.S. 31 in southern Johnson County.
Incidentally, the grandson who protected his grandmother’s grave was the son of one of Nancy’s daughters, also named Nancy, the eighth of her 11 children. The second Nancy was 20 years old, if records are correct, when she married John Doty in Johnson County in 1843. Daniel was the second of her nine children.
The first Nancy’s husband, William, died by drowning in the Ohio River 13 years after her death.