Families walk cemeteries at Fort Knox in search of relatives during Memorial Day visitation
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Louisville resident Harold Hawkins plants a rose bush next to his great grandparents' grave marker in Camby Hill Cemetery May 30, 2022. He and his wife Eva joined several other visitors to Fort Knox during Memorial Day to visit about 118 identified cemeteries around the installation. (Photo Credit: Eric Pilgrim, Fort Knox News) VIEW ORIGINAL
Families walk cemeteries at Fort Knox in search of relatives during Memorial Day visitation
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Harold Hawkins places flowers at the grave of Ernest Hawkins, who Eva believes died of a broken heart at age 18. The family history is vague about Ernest, but she understood that he might have been married with a child at the time of his death. (Photo Credit: Eric Pilgrim, Fort Knox News) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT KNOX, Ky. — When Harold and Eva Hawkins from Louisville parked in front of Camby Hill Cemetery at Fort Knox May 30, they expressed excitement at how easy it was to get there.

Though the ascent to the cemetery is not very long, it is steep and Eva recalled having to walk the hill 1964 because of the road conditions. The road this year had been freshly bladed and covered in rocks to prevent erosion.

The cemetery is one of 118 identified by Fort Knox officials to date. On Memorial Day each year, officials open the post up to all visitors to visit the identified cemeteries. A popular destination for many tourists is Lincoln Cemetery, where President Abraham Lincoln’s grandmother is buried.

Families walk cemeteries at Fort Knox in search of relatives during Memorial Day visitation
Harold and Eva Hawkins stop by Montgomery Cemetery near the Brandenburg Gate May 30, 2022, to visit some the graves and stand under a huge sassafras tree, considered the second largest in Kentucky. Harold’s family once owned several acres of farmland in the area before the Army bought it. (Photo Credit: Eric Pilgrim, Fort Knox News) VIEW ORIGINAL

To honor Harold’s great grandfather, who once owned 234 acres of farmland near what was known in the late 1700s as Stithton — the current-day location for the post traffic circle — Harold and Eva planned to plant a rose bush next to his great grandparents’ graves at Camby Hill.

A tall tombstone sits just inside the opening to the cemetery with two sides dedicated to Harold’s great grandparents. The side facing the entrance reads: “Silas H. husband of F.J. Hawkins.” The other side reads: “Frances J. [Barker] wife of S.H. Hawkins.”

“Silas and his brother had inherited 516 acres from their father James, so Silas farmed the land here,” said Harold. “Silas’ and Frances’ 167th wedding anniversary is tomorrow. That’s why we’re planting the rose bush.”

Harold explained that Army officers came into the area prior to World War I and bought up all the Hawkins brothers’ land to build Camp Knox. He recently learned a lot of this and more because of their son Harold Jr.’s interest in the family’s history.

“My son has done a marvelous job of researching all our family history,” said Harold. “My mom and dad didn’t talk a whole lot about the family back in the day. Some things my mother would tell Eva, and some things my dad would tell me. My son really drilled into it and spent a lot of time writing this history of our family.”

Harold said there are approximately 28 Hawkins family members suspected of being buried in cemeteries around the installation, including some at Saint Patrick Cemetery, across the street from the Main Post Cemetery. Harold couldn’t find those tombstones.

Families walk cemeteries at Fort Knox in search of relatives during Memorial Day visitation
Members of the Vowels family visit the Saint Patrick Cemetery across from Fort Knox’s Main Post Cemetery May 30, 2022, to find the graves of family members. (Photo Credit: Eric Pilgrim, Fort Knox News) VIEW ORIGINAL

Earlier in the day, another group of people arrived at the Visitor Center in search of relatives. Siblings Kenneth Vowels and Diane Vowels Lancaster planned to also visit Saint Patrick.

As they began walking the grounds, they quickly located Vowels.

Diane said the last time she had visited the cemetery was about 50 years ago, when she came with their father. Kenneth said their father retired from Fort Knox, and Kenneth worked here for several years.

Families walk cemeteries at Fort Knox in search of relatives during Memorial Day visitation
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Kenneth Vowels (standing), from Flaherty, Kentucky, and another member of the family look at the grave marker of an A.A. Vowels, with whom Kenneth said he was not familiar. (Photo Credit: Eric Pilgrim, Fort Knox News) VIEW ORIGINAL
Families walk cemeteries at Fort Knox in search of relatives during Memorial Day visitation
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Members of the Vowels family observe other grave markers of families who are related to them, including Pike, Padgett and possibly Ray. (Photo Credit: Eric Pilgrim, Fort Knox News) VIEW ORIGINAL

From the Flaherty area, they had planned to just visit Vowels graves but quickly realized they had several more relatives buried at Saint Patrick. Some of the surnames include Padgett, Pike and possibly Ray.

“This is something that we’ve been aiming to do for a while,” said Kenneth. “My sister wanted to do this, so we did.”

Matthew Rector, historic preservation specialist at the Cultural Resources Office, positioned himself, as he does every year, at the Visitor Center to help direct people where they wanted to go to find cemeteries. He said families and even visitors stopping by Fort Knox on Memorial Day each year is vitally important to the post.

Families walk cemeteries at Fort Knox in search of relatives during Memorial Day visitation
Niki Mills, Fort Knox Cultural Resources manager, helps visitors find cemeteries during Memorial Day May 30, 2022. She and Fort Knox historic preservation specialist Matthew Rector stay at the Visitor Center each year to assist those who are looking for graves or just wanting to visit interesting cemeteries. (Photo Credit: Eric Pilgrim, Fort Knox News) VIEW ORIGINAL

“The fact that people come to visit buried relatives reinforces the importance of the annual event,” said Rector, “and demonstrates that those buried here are not forgotten.”