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Indiana’s grave in the middle of the road: a startling discovery

Indiana’s grave in the middle of the road: a startling discovery

By Rick Hinton

The subject of moving the grave of one of Johnson County’s early pioneers, Nancy Kerlin Barnett, from the perimeter of a small county road just outside of Amity became the fuse on a stick of dynamite when the road was eventually widened. Who would win? She did, with the help from grandson Daniel Doty. Her above ground level mound remained as County Road 400 South split to go around her. However, the years have not been so kind.

Frequent traffic has resulted in accidents and damage to the shallow grave. Weather, erosion and large farm equipment have also added to the mix. Something had to be done. In 2016 work began. Barnett would still remain in the middle of the road – something her descendants had fought hard for – only the grave would be lowered so it would no longer be above grade. Goodbye to chunks of rock and warning slats of steel that encircled the grave. The work began, and a discovery was made. What historians had believed to be Barnett’s solitary grave in the middle of the road was actually a cemetery in the middle of the road!

Bill McGowen contemplates the grave in the middle of the road. (Photos by Rick Hinton)

A total of seven bodies were found in the plot: two women (one presumed to be Barnett), one man and four children. Family? Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe grandson Doty, back in the day, knew something everyone else did not? University of Indianapolis Archaeologist Christopher Schmidt told The Indianapolis Star, “If Mr. Doty’s story is correct, he didn’t just protect his grandmother. He also prevented all the graves from being moved.” An internet reader commented, “Doty … was he protecting her grave, a family plot, or an evil he might have done?” It’s certainly fodder for speculation.

Each body has been reinterred back into the middle of the road, each lowered below ground in new caskets.

Any odd piece of local lore will generate stories; they always do. Some claim this site is haunted. Others pay it no mind as they cruise past with only a sideways glance. The tales of this out-of-the-place final resting site of Nancy Kerlin Barnett, however, has eased quite comfortably into the annuals of “weird” Indiana. Myth has become fact in the minds of many: anything from this being the grave of an Indian princess to that of her having been a witch. Some say the grave glows on certain nights. Some claim phantoms appeared in front of their cars at the grave. Some swear to disembodied voices whispering in the night And Halloween most always brings late night visits from curious teens looking for that brush of the afterlife.

Pennies highlight the Barnett plaque.

Today the new concrete – its white luster already fading and cracking in spots – is the height of a median or curb. There is a plaque in the center, but if you didn’t know it was there, you wouldn’t see it; it only has her name on it and no other. The former historical marker for Nancy Kerlin Barnett is long gone. Hundreds of pennies are peppered on top.

To visit the grave, travel south out of Franklin on U.S. 31 to Amity. Proceed to the intersection of County Road 400 South. Turn east (left) and travel roughly one mile to the grave. Be cautious in parking.

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