The John Graham Cemetery at Emma, Kentucky
by Robert Perry
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One of Floyd County's most interesting cemeteries is the John Graham Cemetery on the hill overlooking Emma. Until quite recently--and I know this was the case because I several times tried to find it--the cemetery was covered with a dense growth of trees and vines--so dense, in fact, that it was inaccessible. Several months ago, however, Ernest Graham Burchett, a descendant of John Graham living at Emma, cleaned up the cemetery and built a road to it. Floyd County owes Ernest an immense debt of gratitude for performing this work.
Ernest tells me that the Floyd County Fiscal Court is considering a proposal to acquire the cemetery and maintain it as a Floyd County landmark and historic site. Ralph Archer Leslie, the owner of the cemetery, has been contacted, and negotiations are in progress. The county is also thinking of purchasing a Kentucky Highway Historical Marker and placing it along the road which borders Mr. Leslie's Emma residence, which stands on the ground once occupied by John Graham's house and trading post.
John Graham, soldier, explorer, surveyor, farmer, merchant, banker, judge and land trader, was Floyd County's most important citizen during the early period. Of Scotch-Irish descent, he was born in Augusta County, Virginia on January 1st, 1765. His father, David Graham (1742-1768), was a soldier in Captain William Preston's Company of Rangers in the French and Indian War (1758) and married Jane Armstrong in 1764. His grandfather, William Graham, Sr., born in Donegal County, Ireland, emigrated to America in 1741 and settled on Calf Pasture River about 1742. William, Sr. died in Augusta County in 1749.
John Graham received a good education in Virginia, probably at Augusta Seminary, and later served in the Eighth Virginia Regiment, Continental Line, during the Revolutionary War. After emigrating to Kentucky, he served in the Kentucky Militia under Captain William Price in the Indian campaign of 1788.
John Graham came to Kentucky while still a young man. He explored the Red River Valley in 1784, and three years later he explored the headwaters of the Big Sandy River. In 1787 he was hired by Colonel John Preston to survey his 100,000-acre Virginia Land Grant on the headwaters of the Big Sandy. In 1797 Graham made his first survey of the site of Prestonsburg, Kentucky, and soon thereafter surveyed his own plantation, a 2,000-acre tract enclosing all the bottom land on both sides of the river from the mouth of Abbott Creek to the mouth of Beaver Creek.
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In 1799, after his surveys of Colonel Preston's lands were finished and Floyd County was established, Graham returned to his home in Tazewell County, Virginia, where he married, on February 10th, 1803, Rebecca Witten, daughter of Revolutionary War veteran Thomas Witten, Jr. and Eleanor Cecil Witten. Eleanor was a first cousin of Kentucky Governor Christopher Greenup and a direct descendant of William Cecil, Lord Burleigh, who for forty years was Prime Minister of England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth.
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After their marriage John Graham and his wife lived in Tazewell County for a year or so. About 1805, after their new log home on the Big Sandy was  completed, they moved to Kentucky, taking their infant son Thomas, their  slaves, and their household effects. Their home was located close to the river, about three miles below Beaver Creek, in the present-day hamlet of Emma. Two years later, Graham erected the first frame house in the valley. The dwelling soon became famous, for it was a story and a half high and had seven rooms. The construction of the house required five years of constant labor.
During the 1799-1835 period, John Graham was the leading land agent of the county. His trading post at Emma became the county's land office and general store, and he became the county's first banker and money-lender. For many years he was Floyd County Surveyor, the county's most important office during the early period. He also served as the first Representative to the Kentucky Legislature from the Big Sandy District, and in 1808 and 1814 he served as Assistant Judge of the Floyd County Circuit Court.
John Graham's first house, completed in 1807 and torn down in 1898.
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Judge Graham died on April 20th, 1835 and was buried in the Graham Family Cemetery on the hill overlooking modern-day Emma. In his will, executed April 19th, 1835 and probated in the Floyd County Court during the June Term, 1835, he bequeathed to his wife and their six daughters over 5,000 acres of land and a large estate of personal property, including fourteen Negro slaves and one emancipated Negro man.
Judge John Graham and Rebecca Witten Graham had seven children:
1. Thomas Witten Graham (1804-1833)
2. Rebecca Graham, born 1807.
3. Dorothy Graham, born 1809.
4. Eleanor Graham, born 1810.
5. Tabitha Graham, born 1812.
6. Elizabeth Graham, born 1819.
7. Sophia Graham,  birth date unknown.
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Like all cemeteries, the John Graham Cemetery contains graves of persons who died untimely deaths. Buried between John and Rebecca is their only son, Thomas Witten Graham, whom they outlived. He died in 1833 at age 29. Records show that Thomas served as Sheriff of Floyd County from April 15th, 1829 to May 15th, 1831.
The John Graham Cemetery has four markers with legible names and dates. In addition to the three markers shown above, there is the stone at left, marking the grave of Mary Eleanor Trimble (1832-33), daughter of Edwin Trimble and Dorothy Graham Trimble. Many other stones surround these four markers,  but none have decipherable markings. Family tradition says
that these stones mark the graves of the Graham family slaves.
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Edwin Trimble, born in Kentucky in 1808, was Deputy Clerk of the Floyd County Court for many years and served as Floyd County Attorney from 1833 to 1840. Dorothy and Edwin raised seven children to adulthood: James, born 1830, Edwin Jr., born 1837, William, born 1840, Josephine, born 1843, Thomas Graham, born 1848, and the twins Robert and Meggy, born 1850. Edwin Trimble, Jr., their second son, served under Colonel Jack May and commanded the 10th Kentucky Cavalry, C. S. A.  during the Summer and Fall of 1864. He was killed in action on October 2nd, 1864, during the Battle of Saltville, Virginia.
Edwin and Dorothy's son James M. Trimble (1830-1862) followed in his father's footsteps, becoming Floyd County Clerk during the 1850s and early 1860s. He died in Prestonsburg on February 14th, 1862, leaving a widow and two sons, Malcolm and James. He is buried in the May Cemetery on the ridge overlooking the Samuel May House, next to his son Malcolm.
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James M. Trimble (1830-1862), son of Edwin and Dorothy Graham Trimble.
The information in this article has been taken from three sources: William C. Kozee's Early Families of Eastern and Southeastern Kentucky (Strasburg, Virginia, 1961); William Ely's The Big Sandy Valley (Catlettsburg, 1887); and Willard Rouse Jillson's The Big Sandy Valley (Louisville, 1923).
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