Hell’s Half Acre Cemetery

Published July 26, 2018 by Nan Mykel

It all started today when at the library’s poetry writing group someone showed a current obituary clipping from the newspaper  that said the deceased was going to be buried at Hell’s Half Acre Cemetery. No one knew where that was, so I volunteered to do some Google research.  I knew you’d want me to share some of my findings:

I LEARNED I HAD TO ADD ‘CEMETERY’ TO GOOGLE AFTER THIS:When you descend into your basement and find the camel crickets—rickety, gigantic, with limbs like robotic appendages—expect that they will leap toward your face. Expect them to try to scare you, to deter you from your drying rack with all of your evaporating clothes, from the dusty foosball table, from the home-brew kit waiting to be sterilized. Expect the insects to take ownership of all the things you’ve forgotten in darkness. (One para of many from http://ndrmag.org/nonfiction/2012/11/a-guide-to-hells-half-acre/)

I ALSO LEARNED I HAD TO ADD “OHIO” TO THE SEARCH, BUT FOUND AN INTERESTING ITEM BEFORE I LEARNED: The Hell’s Half Acre Cemetery of Whitley County, Indiana (also known as Dowell Cemetery and Helms Cemetery) is located on a wooded hill, 0.25 mile west of Wolf Rd. and 0.1 mile north of the railroad, west of the former Hell’s Half Acre School. It can be found by the following legal description: S20 T31N R9E. (https://www.genealogycenter.info/results_whitleyhha.php)

https://www.findagrave.com/cemetery/2292030/hells-half-acre-cemetery Located north of State Road 205 on Wolfe Road to the Panhandle tracks, west 40 rods on tracks then 20 rods north in a filed. A knoll with 3 large trees. Between  4 1/2 to 5 miles southwest of Columbia City or 6 miles northeast of South Whitley. (Indiana)

Hell’s Half Acre Cemetery

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Feb. 23rd, 2007 | 10:05 pm
posted by: mystikravyn in abandonedplaces  Hell’s Half Acre Cemetery  SW of Columbia City, IN and East of South Whitley, IN in Whitley County  This I feel was the best cemetery find for me to date. This area is called Hell’s Half Acre because it was the place to go in the mid 1800’s to find trouble. In the 1914 book History of Whitley County it says, “The things that happen in Hell’s Half Acre after dark would make a 15 year old boy hide under his bed in terror.” There was a train track which led right through here that people could hop for transportation and the cities of Columbia City and South Whitley is less than 5 miles either way.

This is a cemetery dated between the 1870’s to the turn of the century which would be just after things settled down around here. The last stone reading was done for this cemetery in the early 1980’s. Being one of the few cemeteries in Whitley County I haven’t been to of course, I had to find it. After driving circles in the area where this is marked on the map the Whitley County Genealogical Society has I decided to ask some of the people living in the area which weren’t many on a country block. No one had heard of it. Then we decided to hike it. On the map it said follow the train tracks, which were now gone, for 1/8 mile then head north through a field for 1/4 mile. We found the field and saw this: (see below)

There was a teenage girl on a 4X4 in the field and we asked her if she had seen a cemetery. She said no and said we could look in that clump of trees.She looked half amused and half freaked out. You had to duck inside the grove. It was very thick brush. We found all the graves listed in the last stone reading. There are 15 people buried here. One Indian solder, 2 people over the age of 60, and the rest are kids under 15. Some of the same names are here but for the most part was a public grave site. Below are all the pictures we took at the site. We noticed one grave was either grave robbed or the casket air pocket collapsed because there was a 3X5 area that was sunken down a foot or two right in front of a stone

Reply | from: mystikravyn

date: Feb. 24th, 2007 01:24 am (UTC)

I did talk to some people about it. it is in the middle of private property. The land it is on is about 20 acres and has 2 brand new $200,000+ homes near the road. It is possible to get it labeled as a “pioneer cemetery” which would help at least keep it in the state it is in. I dont know if it is legal in Indiana but I have seen homeowners do whatever they want with cemeteries on their property. There was 3-4 cemeteries in this county we went to find and they are no longer there and new houses are there in its place. Some people find it as a blessing to have a piece of history and others just throw the stones to the ditch and plow over the graves.

Now that the homeowners know there is a cemetery there they will probably not allow anyone else to come on their property. The last stone reading on it was done in the early 1980’s and there was another mass reading done on many of the counties cemeteries in the 90’s and again recently but this cemetery missed both of those.

These pics are truly a treasure to me (and many others) because I haven’t seen any others in existence and who knows, the property owner may have already removed the stones. Reply |


FOR deleted paragraph on story of John Lynn, go to source at bottom

[IN KENTUCKY] When Civil War soldiers came through the area, they set up residence at John Lynn’s house. The area around the house had already earned a bad reputation and local law enforcement refused to go near the land. It was a logical and desirable place for the guerillas, who were in no hurry to meet up with the law.

No one is sure exactly how long the guerillas stayed there, but the reputation of the half acre got even worse over the course of several years. It was notorious for gambling, drinking and wildness of the worst sort.

In the late 1800s a ball diamond was built on the land, as well as a race track. Most likely, both were for betting purposes.

There were tales of axe fights in the stands at the ball games, questionable women roaming the area and brawls galore. Drunkenness and debauchery were rampant and self-respecting, decent folk wouldn’t have been caught dead there.

Some years after the area had become more calm, a man called Nut Knox lived in a cave near the half acre. Nut carried an axe everywhere he went, local residents’ food disappeared mysteriously when he was around. Nut had a habit of lying on graves in the cemetery and frightening the already skittish gypsies that used to travel the countryside.

There are also stories that a great deal of gold and other valuable goods, obtained by the guerillas on their raids of houses, were buried under the house that originally stood on the land, but those excavating in hopes of finding the fortune have found nothing.

Some say that a man was also buried under the house, although there is no evidence to support this either.  Throughout the years many stories have been told about the land that came to be known as Hell’s Half Acre. Nearly a hundred years later it is difficult to distinguish between those that are fact and those that are fiction. With its bad reputation, the half acre and the land surrounding it became fertile ground for pranksters and many a strange and mysterious tale.

Once, a man riding his wagon through the area claimed that a small, white dog appeared out of nowhere and began to trot alongside the wagon wheels. When the man would crack the whip at the dog it would disappear, only to reappear on the other side. Rumor has it that the man nearly whipped his horses to death trying to get out of the area.

Another story tells of a redbird that perched on the sill of John Lynn’s window as he lie on his deathbed. The bird supposedly made the sound of the whippoorwill and flew away. When Lynn died, his casket was being transported to the cemetery on the property and the redbird landed on the casket and chirped like a whippoorwill all the way to the grave.

Amid the countless tales of strange sights and sounds are those of headless horsemen and odd feelings of doom by those who don’t even know the history of the place. More recent tales from the half acre include one about a group of deer hunters. Several men had traveled to the area early one morning. Looking to get a head start on the day, they found themselves in Hell’s Half Acre while it was still dark. Suddenly, the entourage heard something running through the nearby woods. It ran out of the woods, onto the top of their vehicle, then off the other side. All in the group say they saw nothing and claim there were strange tracks on the roof of the vehicle….

All traces of the civilization that once was Hell’s Half Acre are gone except for a few stones that mark where the old tobacco factory once stood and the graveyard that gets an occasional cleaning by relative of those buried there.

What vividly remains however, are the stories, fanciful, yet immensely entertaining, of a place that was once the shame of the county. Today the wildflowers bloom and the birds sing and it’s hard to picture the place the way it once was, even knowing that some of the stories are true. (This feature story originally appeared in the The Messenger in the small towns section of their “Changing Face of Hopkins County” on September 6, 1996 and was written by Slone Hutchison, a summer intern from Murray State University working with The Messenger to gain practical news papering skills during her summer vacation.  Hopkins County, Kentucky KyGenWeb page).  Return to Hopkins County

Apr 14, 2015 – The carnage as described by J. Morgan Smith of the Thirty-second Alabama Infantry prompted soldiers to name the field Hell’s Half Acre.

Wikipedia:“Hell’s Half-Acre”, a battlefield during the 1863 Civil War Battle of Stones River, Tennessee  /”Hell’s Half-Acre”, a corner of Chinatown, Honolulu, Hawaii /“Hell’s Half-Acre”, a notorious section of Nashville, Tennessee in the late 1800s/Hell’s Half Acre (Fort Worth), a former saloon district in the early days of Fort Worth, Texas/“Hell’s Half Acre”, or “Devil’s half acre”, an area of slave trading and jails in the 1800s, including Lumpkin’s jail, Richmond, Virginia/Omaha, Nebraska’s redlight district in the late 1800’s

OKAY, I learned my lesson. Needed to go to Hell’s Half Acre Cemetery Ohio –  There’s one in Beulah, Ohio and  Sodom Cemetery in Miami County.  There’s also a Hell Cemetery.

Notice, buried above is the Hell’s Half Acre Cemetery in Lebanon Township, Ohio [Meigs County, Ohio] (Per Ms. Carrick).  It’s difficult, however, to determine which of the 27 cemeteries in Lebanon Township changed its name recently.  No question as to why, really.

P.S. https://mclib.net/blogs/history/?p=815  Nov 3, 2016 – Hell’s Half Acre was located close to downtown, at the corner of … as being one of “the finest brothels in Ohio Valley” (Fairhurst Essays, pg. 369) .. 

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