Toonerville Trolley Neighborhood Association

Fort George - Revisted (A History)




…A brief “who, what and

where” history of the

Fort George Cemetery

in Old Louisville, located

 near Toonerville Trolley Park

 along South Floyd Street…



Captain George Gray was born in Virginia in 1740. He married Mildred Rootes Thompson (born in 1761) in Culpeper, Virginia, in 1781 and with whom he had 12 children. A wealthy plantation owner when the Revolutionary War broke out, Captain Gray spent his own fortune on maintaining and equipping (with uniforms, arms, and horses) the Third Virginia Infantry during the American Revolutionary War (Courier-Journal, 5/24/1942).


Both James Monroe and Zachary Taylor were first cousins of Captain Gray. Gray and Monroe (serving as a lieutenant in Gray’s company), were with George Washington at the iconic crossing of the Delaware in 1776 to attack the British at Trenton. Washington later awarded Gray the Masonic Gold Badge for his valor (Courier-Journal, 5/23/1941).


The war had consumed the entirety of Gray’s fortune. Consequently, in 1782 he moved his wife, 11 children, and 40 slaves to a 4000 acre tract of land given to him in the fledgling town of Louisville (established by the Virginia General Assembly in 1780). The farm, which Gray named “Fort George,” stretched along present day Preston Street to First Street and included the family‘s burial ground. Captain Gray died in 1822, and both President Monroe and future president, Zachary Taylor, were pallbearers at his funeral. The captain, his wife, and thirty family members are reportedly buried at the “Fort George” grave site (located in the present-day 1260 South Floyd Street, between Oak Street and Ormsby) (Courier-Journal, 8/10/1980).


The cemetery property was deeded to the Episcopal Church of Kentucky by descendants of Captain Gray to “insure its being held in perpetuity as consecrated ground.” (Courier-Journal, 5/25/1944). At one point, All Saints Church was erected on the site but was demolished at an unknown date.


The site had “degenerated into a neglected vacant lot” over many years until the John Marshall Chapter of the DAR became interested in rehabilitating the cemetery in 1941. The site was reportedly overgrown with weeds and had no grave markers. In a ceremony on 5/31/1941, a descendant of the Gray family unveiled the grave markers that are still in existence today (Courier-Journal, 5/23/1941). The same chapter of the DAR further “reclaimed from obscurity” and “beautified” the cemetery the next year in 1942. On Memorial Day 1947, the John Marshall Chapter placed the last of the existing memorial stones inscribed “Fort

George” and “recounting the captain as a pioneer of our own Kentucky” as well as his role in establishing and funding the Third Virginia Infantry during the Revolutionary War (Courier-Journal, 5/25/1947). From 1941 until the early 1960s (based on reviews of Courier-Journal archives), Memorial Day ceremonies at the site became an annual event with wreaths laid at the graves, color guards, and patriotic music played. (Courier-Journal, 5/24/1942).


One event that any Old Louisville resident will empathize with all too readily occurred on the Memorial Day celebration of 1959. On top of the key to the gate being lost, and the band and color guard not showing up, there was one all too modern problem as well: an annoyingly parked tandem trailer “tank truck” was abandoned directly in front of Fort George. It was astonishingly but immediately removed with the “city’s largest tow truck” (Courier-Journal, 5/25/1959).  The key to the gate was found, and the rest of the ceremony went on valiantly in typical Old Louisville fashion. Only the Memorial Day ceremony of 1963 was found in the Courier’s archives following this event, and formal annual gatherings appear to have ceased.


Although the site continued to be owned by the Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky, “Fort George Neighborhood Association” maintained the property as late as 1981 (Courier-Journal, 9/21/1981). The site was apparently in private ownership, sold by the Episcopal Church of Kentucky. In October of 2009 the Toonerville Neighborhood Association acquired the property and has undertaken this research in a first step as how to best preserve the history and physical aspects of this site, which falls within its boundaries.  


 Researched and compiled by Adam Barmore

Via the Filson Club Archives

Posted by pjdibl01 on 11/18/2009
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