Finding Lost Family Treasure

I just returned from a Tri-Family Reunion in Greensburg, Indiana, where the families of Hamilton, McCoy, Donnell (the tri-part), and Adams got together.  I’m Hamilton-McCoy-Adams.  Greensburg is a small town in Decatur county with a big history, which my family was directly involved in.

Greensburg is a farming community with a Honda plant nearby.  It’s particularly well-known for the Clock Tower Tree — a tree growing out of the courthouse tower.  There was a main street area, and everything else was fields of corn and soybeans.  The roads just cut between the fields, and it was easy to tell that the roads didn’t get much in the way of traffic.  There were lots of grain elevators, like the one on the left.  That one was across the street from the hotel.  I took it at sunrise.  It was actually foggy out, but it doesn’t show up in the photo.  The area, like everywhere else, is in the middle of a drought.  It rained three times while we were there, but hardly more than five minutes.

The History:  In 1847, Greensburg was part of the underground slave escape route.  This was because of the location of the county.  It was in the lower half of the state, all controlled by the government.  The rest of the state wasn’t controlled, so Decatur became a launch point for the slaves to escape.  Several members of the Hamiltons, McCoys, and Donnells helped the slaves escape.  Caroline, a slave, escaped with her children, and Luther Donnell was charged for helping her escape.  Ironically, though, while he was part of the underground, he hadn’t helped her, and actually had an alibi.  The case went all the way to the Indiana Supreme Court.  More details here:  The Story of Luther Donnell.  Cyrus Hamilton is a great uncle, and James Eward Hamilton is a great-grandfather.

Not much is left of the original properties.  One house remains, belonging to one of James Eward Hamilton’s sons until the 1900s, when it was lost the bankruptcy.  James’ farm is long gone, though a plaque marks its location.  The Kingston Church still exists, though, as does the Kingston graveyard.

The biggest adventure I had was getting to the church and the graveyard.  You’d think a church would be on a main street.  It was in the middle of a cornfield!  I can only imagine how long it must have taken riding in a wagon.  I followed one of the other family members, and we drove all over the place, finally hitting this white gravel road.  It wasn’t gritty like normal gravel, but it sure kicked up a cloud of dirt.  Then, after my car was coated, then it rained.  Just a little, enough to make the car spotty.  It was probably good that was relatively isolated — people would have thought we were crazy when we went out into the cemetery, eagerly discovering our relatives.   It was hardly a somber moment you would expect in a cemetery — more like finding lost treasure, which I guess you could think of it as that.

I also went to Menora, a local town with a canal and the only covered aqueduct in the world.  Horses pull a canal boat — not quite historically accurate; mules were used in the past, but horses are less fussy and prettier.  Very, very hot that day.  I also drove to Indianapolis and went to the Children’s Museum. They had a great exhibit on dinosaurs, and another one of an Egyptian tomb.  Better still, I could touch everything!

The family is thinking of doing this on a regular basis, some to areas where ancestors were and possibly to places simple to have an adventure.  One of the places mentioned was Korea!

Here are some links to online books about Decatur County.

History of Decatur County

A Genealogical and biographical record of Decatur County, Indiana

10 thoughts on “Finding Lost Family Treasure

    1. Cool! Have you been to the Tri-Family reunion? Unfortunately, they treat it as a local thing — I’m on the East coast, and I get the notice about five days before. I was lucky my uncle coordinated things for our branch of the family.


      1. Mathilde Wenck

        I’ve never been to Indiana. Many years ago my Aunt Jennie Boone went to a Donnell family reunion and stayed with Trisha (I’m not sure of her first name.) Ewing. Her husband, Greg, was a Donnell cousin. Aunt Jennie took pictures of the old Donnell farm houses and told me that one had a hole or trap door in the floor in the dining room where they could quickly hide the escaped slaves. I have the green book titled “The Donnells”. My grandfather, Ben D. Donnell, left the family farm to seek a journalism career in Texas.



  1. Elizabeth 'Betsy' Barnes

    Hi Ann, Linda, and Mathilde, I am part of the Hamilton Donnell McCoy family. I believe my grandmother Dr. Helen Barnes was a Hamilton. Her daughter, my aunt Janet Mitchell has done a lot work on our genealogy. I find our history very interesting! I live in Greenwood, Indiana (about an hour from Greensburg) and can get you information on the Reunion. It is usually held in August. My grandmother used to help coordinate it in the past by sending postcard invitations. I do not attend it annually, but probably should!


    1. Anonymous

      I just discovered that my great grandfather, Luther Donnell, is not the same Luther Donnell mentioned in Linda’s blog. I now have a copy of the green book, “Donnells”. My great grandfather was also a Union officer, anti-slavery and a farmer in Kingston Community. Our Donnell family is listed in the Samuel Donnell chapter and lists all family members through my mother’s generation. I would like information about the reunion, although I doubt I can go.


      1. I’m not quite sure how to get on the reunion list. I just ended up on it, and I usually get a postcard for it about four days before the union. Works great if I’m local, not so great if I’m out of state. But you might try contacting my uncle. His blog “American Downton Abbey” is a link on this blog.


    2. Usually I get the notification really late. I’m guessing they think that everyone attending is local, or within a a few hours drive. You’d think though when they were addressing the envelope it would occur to them “East Coast.” We even have relatives who are overseas. That takes a lot of coordination to travel.


      1. Elizabeth 'Betsy' Barnes

        Hi Linda, Just wanted to let you know the reunion is the first Saturday in August annually (August 3, 2013) in Greensburg. Please let me know if you have any additional questions.


  2. Elizabeth 'Betsy' Barnes

    Linda, I just received a postcard of change of date for the reunion. It is the 10th instead of the 3rd. Thanks!


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