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Home Features History lessons offered by Katie Blevins Cemetery

History lessons offered by Katie Blevins Cemetery

The graves of Jacob and Catharine “Catie” Blevins in the Big South Fork. Jacob was the first person to be buried in the Katie Blevins Cemetery in 1868. Today there are more than 150 graves there | Ben Garrett/IH

Oral tradition has it that one day Jacob Blevins was walking with his wife, Catharine (Catie), when he suddenly stopped and stuck a stick into the ground.

“This is where I want to be buried,” he said.

In 1868, Blevins died. And his wife honored his request. 

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Today, there are more than 150 graves surrounding Jacob and Catie. The cemetery, located on Bandy Creek Loop Road just north of the Bandy Creek Visitor Center and Campground, is one of the largest cemeteries within the borders of the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area. It’s located adjacent to the Lora Blevins Homestead, one of three historic homesteads in the Bandy Creek Area that are preserved from the BSF region’s settlement days. 

This cemetery is different from most in the Big South Fork in that it is a relative mix of older and more recent graves. In fact, the most recent person to be buried in the cemetery is Mike Slaven, the owner of Mike’s Station in Oneida who died earlier this year. 

A stroll among the headstones is a venerable history lesson of the Big South Fork because many of its earliest settlers are buried here. Most of them are related, in some form or fashion, and the stories of the BSF’s past cannot be told without mentioning the names of those whose final resting place was the Katie Blevins Cemetery.

Dozens of the graves at the cemetery are Blevins, one of the most prolific families of the Big South Fork region. All of the Blevins descended from Jonathan Blevins, one of the region’s first white settlers who made his home along the headwaters of Station Camp Creek.

Jonathan Blevins was a long hunter and pioneer who moved to the Big South Fork region in the late 18th century and married Katie Troxell. Legend has it that she was the daughter of “Big Jake” Troxell and the Cherokee Indian woman Princess Cornblossom, but historians doubt the existence of Cornblossom. In any event, Jonathan Blevins established the farmstead that today is Charit Creek Lodge in the Big South Fork backcountry.

The graves of “Uncle Jake” and “Aunt Viannah” Blevins at the Katie Blevins Cemetery near Bandy Creek | Ben Garrett/IH

Jacob Blevins, born 1811, was the third of four children born to Jonathan and Katie before Katie died in 1814. (Jonathan Blevins remarried to Sarah Minton and had two more children, the first of whom was Armpstead Blevins, born in 1820.)

Jacob and Catie had six children. Catie lived for more than 35 years after her husband’s death. When she died, she was buried beside him. Their hand-carved stones are still in place, though their descendants later purchased a commercial granite headstone to be placed at their graves.

Two of the Blevins’ six children are buried at the Katie Blevins Cemetery — Nancy (1848-1928) and Jacob (1857-1935). 

Jacob married Viannah West, and they settled along the headwaters of Station Camp Creek, just to the west of his grandfather’s farm that is now known as Charit Creek Lodge. “Uncle Jake” and “Aunt Viannah,” as they were known, had nine children. Seven of the nine (William, John, Daniel, Arbana, Elijah, Katie Roysden, and Nancy) are also buried in the Katie Blevins Cemetery. (The only exceptions are Elitha Thomas, who is buried at Grave Hill, and Charlie, who is buried at Black Creek Crossroads.) 

Today, the site of Jake and Viannah’s homestead is known as Jake’s Place. It is located on the Twin Arches Loop Trail. Jake’s cabin, along with the nearby cabin of his son, Elijah “Booger” Blevins, were dismantled by Joe Simpson and moved to Charit Creek in the mid 20th century, when Simpson operated the old Blevins farm as a hunting lodge. Today, the cabins are incorporated into the Charit Creek Lodge.

The Blevins homestead was one of the more elaborate pioneer homesteads of the Big South Fork region. It included a water-powered mill and a gunsmith shop. Jake and Viannah raised all nine of their children in the home, and both of Jake’s sisters — Mary, who was widowed in 1878, and Nancy, who never married — lived there as well.

The graves of John and Elvira Litton in the Katie Blevins Cemetery at the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area | Ben Garrett/IH

One of Jake and Viannah’s nine children, John “Jack” Blevins, moved out of the Station Camp Creek Valley and built a cabin along the headwaters of Bandy Creek, just a few hundred yards from the Katie Blevins Cemetery. Their oldest son, Oscar (1915-1988), eventually purchased the farm. Today, the farm is preserved as the Oscar Blevins Farm.

Jack Blevins and his wife, Louisa Slaven, are buried at Katie Blevins Cemetery, as are Oscar Blevins and his wife, Martha Ermon Smith. Their infant child, who was born and died in 1941, is buried there, as well. 

Both of Jack and Louisa’s other children, Charlie Blevins and Bertha Blevins Watson, are buried there, along with their spouses, Dessie and Cornell.

Still another of the Blevins buried at Katie Blevins Cemetery is Rev. Lora Elzick Blevins (1896-1983). In the early 1900s, Lora and his first wife, Tealie Ann Slaven, purchased 45 acres adjacent to the cemetery and built their pioneer-style farmstead, which is preserved today as the Lora Blevins Farm.

Lora Blevins is not a direct descendant of Jacob and Katie Blevins. He was the son of Shadrack “Shade” Blevins and Polly Ann Crabtree. Shade Blevins, who is buried at Katie Blevins Cemetery along with his wife, was the son of Armpstead Blevins and a grandson of Jonathan Blevins. That makes Lora Blevins a grand-nephew of Jacob Blevins.

Among the other graves that can be found at the Katie Blevins Cemetery are those of John Littleton Litton (1855-1935) and his wife, Elvira Dawes Litton. John and Vi built the Litton Farm located to the east of Bandy Creek, along the headwaters of Fall Branch. The original home, barn and other buildings at the farmstead can be visited by hiking the Litton Farm Loop Trail that begins and ends at Bandy Creek Campground.

The home of Rev. Lora Blevins, adjacent to the Katie Blevins Cemetery in the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area | Ben Garrett/IH

There are three pioneer-era homesteads in the Bandy Creek area that are still preserved (the Oscar Blevins Farm, the Lora Blevins Farm and the John Litton Farm), and the owners of each of them are buried in the same cemetery. 

While Oscar Blevins and Lora Blevins were second cousins once removed, Litton was not related to the Blevins family. The Litton family can be traced back to 17th century England. 

A visit to the Katie Blevins Cemetery on a warm summer evening is an excellent history lesson of the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area and the families who originally settled this land long before it was a national park. The best part about it? Unlike many of the Big South Fork’s smaller cemeteries, it is located directly on the road and doesn’t require a hike into the backcountry.

This story is the May 2021 installment of Our Back Yard, presented by First National Bank on the first week of each month as part of the Independent Herald’s Back Page Features series. A print version of this article can be found on Page B4 of the May 6, 2021 edition of the IH.
Independent Herald
Contact the Independent Herald at newsroom@ihoneida.com. Follow us on Twitter, @indherald.
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