Famous Graves in Kentucky

By Leslie Potter | 10/27/19 3:43 PM

Across the commonwealth, famous Kentuckians of the past have been memorialized with notable gravesites. Kentucky Life took a closer look at four of those unique memorials.

Daniel Boone

One of Kentucky’s most iconic former residents is Daniel Boone, who led a group of settlers into the frontier through the Cumberland Gap in the 18th century. There is a monument to Boone and his wife, Rebecca, in Frankfort overlooking the state capital and the Kentucky River. But there are some doubts as to whether or not the Boones are truly resting at that site.

Daniel Boone spent the end of his life in what is now Missouri and was buried there after his death in 1820. The Boones’ remains were said to be exhumed and reinterred at the memorial in Frankfort in 1845.

“I fully appreciate a good mystery and a good controversy, and this is certainly one of American history’s biggest controversies,” says Marc Houseman of the Washington Historical Society. “Where is Daniel Boone? Is he here, or is he there? And I think the short answer to both of those questions is yes. He is here and he is there. And I don’t think there’s any other way you can slice it.”

The Wooldridge Monuments

“The Wooldridge Monuments, they’re called ‘the strange procession that never moves,’” says author Bobbie Ann Mason, who grew up near the monument for Col. Henry Wooldridge in Mayfield, Kentucky. “It’s a group of sculptures in the graveyard. The procession includes [Col. Wooldridge’s] mother, his father. He had three sisters, three brothers. I think some nieces. There are two dogs, a horse, a deer, and then two versions of Col. Wooldridge himself.

“They’re all looking east, like they’re waiting for the Walmart to open,” adds Mason.

The eclectic, unmoving procession has been named to the United States National Register of Historic Places, although Wooldridge himself is a bit of an elusive character.

“He was the local kooky aristocrat and called himself Colonel,” says Mason. “I gather he became obsessed with being noticed and making his mark. He just wanted to be there forever; wanted people to remember.”

Col. Sanders

“One of the most frequently visited gravesites within Cave Hill Cemetery is Col. Harlan Sanders,” says Michael Higgs of Louisville’s Cave Hill Cemetery. “Col. Sanders has a very beautiful monument. It is made of gray granite, and there’s a bronze bust that…looks just like him. That’s primarily because his daughter helped create the bust.”

Sanders was born in Henryville, Indiana, but his likeness is associated with Kentucky thanks to his Kentucky Fried Chicken fame. He was buried in Louisville after his death in 1980.

“The gravesite became very popular after his interment here at Cave Hill,” says Higgs. “We had to install a yellow line leading directly back to his gravesite. So we often tell people to ‘follow the yellow brick road.’”

Harry Leon Collins

Cave Hill is also home to the distinctive memorial of magician Harry Collins.

“Harry Collins was also known as Mr. Magic,” says Higgs. “He was a magician. He was a salesman. He was a public relations guru. In 1970 he became the official magician and public relations spokesperson for the Frito Lay company.”

Collins’ memorial is a life-sized bronze cast, showing the magician with an outstretched hand, forever inviting an audience over to see him perform his next trick.

“He’s beckoning here immortally now for your attention,” says Higgs. “And he has it.”

This segment is part of Kentucky Life episode #2504, which originally aired on October 26, 2019. Watch the full episode.