Sunday, September 3, 2023

Earth Scientists Buried at Cave Hill Cemetery

A while back I was contacted by a researcher at the Cave Hill Cemetery here in Louisville Kentucky for more information about Dr. James Knapp. While he was medical doctor, he had a passion for paleontology and collected an impressive selection of local fossils. As it turns out, the cemetery in 1868 had geology document created and Dr. Knapp and Dr. Yandell are listed in it as donating a collection of fossils that were/are found at the burial grounds. This information request spawned an idea to create a posting of past Louisville area earth scientists that were interred at Cave Hill Cemetery. Here is the list:
Lunsford was born in on July 4, 1805 in Hartsville, Tennessee to a father who was a medical doctor. He followed his father into the profession studying at Transylvania University (Lexington, Kentucky) and graduating from the University of Maryland in 1825. Afterwards he setup a medical practice in Nashville and Murfreesboro, Tennessee. In 1831, he returned to Transylvania University and became a professor of chemistry. He helped found the Louisville Medical Institute in 1835 in Louisville, Kentucky and he taught physiology, chemistry and materia medica there. Dr. Yandell left Louisville in 1859 to join the faculty of Memphis Medical Institute (Tennessee) and when the American Civil War broke out in 1861 he was put in charge of the Confederate hospital in Memphis. When the Union Army took over Memphis in 1864, he and his wife moved to the family home in Daceyville, Tennessee and later returned to Louisville in 1867. In 1872, was elected president of the Louisville College of Physicians and Surgeons. He was also a member of the Boston Academy of Science as well as the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences.
Dr. Yandell also was well known for his study of fossils. He published articles in 1855 in the Proceedings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science "Description of a new genus of Crinoidea", 1856 American Journal of Science and Arts "Notice of a new fossil genus belonging to the family Blastoidea (Eleutherocrinus)", and same journal 1851 "On the distribution of the Crinoidea in the Western States". He and Benjamin F. Schumard (1820-1869) published a book entitled Contributions to the Geology of Kentucky in 1847. A number of local fossil species where named in his honor and it appears some of the fossils specimens he found are in the Harvard Museum collection.
Two of his sons became doctors David Wendel Yandell (1826-1898) and Lunsford Pitts Yandell, Jr. (1837-1884) and his granddaughter Enid Yandell (1869-1934) was a noted sculptor. They are all buried at Cave Hill Cemetery with Dr. Yandell Sr. plot is located in Section O, Lot 257.


J. Lawrence Smith was born on December 16, 1818 in Charleston, South Carolina. He received his college education at the University of Virginia in Civil Engineering and later the Medical College of South Carolina. Smith graduated in 1840 with his medical degree. He continued his scientific studies in Paris, France and Giessen, Germany until 1843 when he moved to Charleston, South Carolina. Dr. Smith became an expert on agricultural chemistry. From 1846-1850 he helped the government of Turkey cultivate cotton and discover new mineral resources. While there, he discovered a uranium carbonate mineral he named liebigite. Once Smith was back in the United States, in 1852 he marries Sarah Julia Guthrie the daughter of Kentucky politician James Guthrie (1792-1869). 
James Guthrie was an important figure in Louisville's history. In 1847, he encouraged some of the medical faculty for Transylvania University to leave [among them Dr. Lunsford Pitt Yandell, Sr.] and form the Louisville Medical Institute which later became the University of Louisville (U of L). Guthrie became U of L's first president. He also got Louisville's first railroad bridge built across the Ohio River, the city to buy the land that became Cave Hill Cemetery and he was the president of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad.
Through his father-in-law, Dr. Smith got work at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. in 1853. The next year, he and his wife moved to Kentucky where he became the chair and Professor of Medical Chemistry on Toxicology at the University of Louisville. After leaving the university in 1866, he spent time traveling Europe collecting and studying meteorites ("aerolites").
The newspaper the Republican Banner published an article on August 8, 1874 entitled "The Troost Collection". From the article, "The Trustees of the Public Library having purchased at a cost of twenty thousand dollars cash, the Troost cabinet recently of Nashville, it may be interesting to present to the public full information in regard to this celebrated and very valuable collection... The cabinet of Dr. Troost has been long recognized among the scientific men of Europe and America as one of the most extensive as well as valuable private collections in the world. It contains: 1. Minerals in number 13,582, 2. Fossil organic remains-paleontology-2,851; 3 . Geology-rocks, etc. from granites to lavas, between 2,000 and 3,000; 4. Shells- not numbered; 5. Indian relics from ancient mounds, with dresses, ornaments, war clubs and other weapons, arrow-heads, images, etc... In appropriation of the large sum of money necessary to secure for Louisville this vast treasure, the Board of Trustees have been influenced by the advice of our eminent scientists, Dr. J. Lawrence Smith, Drs. L. P.  Yandell, Sr., James Knapp, Thomas E. Jenkins, T. S. Bell, and others, who have interested themselves in a successful attempt to bring to Kentucky this result of the labor of one of the most busy and practical scholars of modern times;...The collection of meteoric stones of Dr. Smith is probably the best in this country, as be has made these "messengers from other worlds" the subject of his special study."
Somehow Dr. Smith was able to get the meteorites from the Gerard Troost (1776-1850) collection and incorporate them into his collection. Upon his death, his wife sold the meteorite collection to the Harvard Museum. The proceeds from the sale were used to create the J. Lawrence Smith Medal. Since 1888, it has usually been awarded every 3-5 years by the National Academy of Sciences for investigations of meteoric bodies.

J. Lawrence Smith is buried at Cave Hill Cemetery in Section B Lot 1 Grave 12 with his wife Sarah Julia Guthrie Smith (1827-1901) and her sister's family who are buried in a triangular pattern around their parents very large monument James Guthrie (1792-1869) and Eliza Churchill Prather Guthrie (1799-1836).


Dr. James Knapp (1821-1885)

James Knapp was born on January 29, 1821 in Groton, New York and grew up there. He moved to Floydsburg, Kentucky in 1821 and apprenticed as a saddler. He studied medicine at the Louisville Medical Institute and graduated from there in 1852. Once a doctor, his practice flourished and he became quite wealthy. In 1863, he enlisted in the Union Army as a physician.  In a 1868 document Cave Hill Cemetery had created it states,  "Dr. Knapp and Prof. L. P. Yandell have very kindly presented the Trustees of Cave Hill Cemetery a collection of the fossils belonging to the rocks of the Cemetery. They constitute a good record of a very early manifestation of life on this planet. The Trustees will provide for the preservation of these fossils as an instructive and interesting portion of the history of the Cemetery." It is uncertain what became of this fossil collection. As mentioned above, Dr. Knapp played a role is getting the Gerard Troost mineral collection transferred to the Louisville Public Library which was finished in 1882. The collection was later transferred to the Louisville Science Center who in 2019(?) transferred it to the Indiana State Museum. The picture of the fossil in the right corner is a Bordenia knappi (Hall, 1882) named after James Knapp by the famous paleontologist James Hall (1811-1898) of New York. Professor Hall named another after him (see grey shell drawing above) called Pentamerus knappi.
Dr. Knapp never married and his only heir was a brother in Pennsylvania. His estate was about $65,000 in 1885 which would be equivalent to about $2 million dollars today. After his death, Dr. Knapp's fossil collection was sold to William Borden (1823-1906), who at one time was one of the wealthiest people in the state of Indiana. The Borden fossil collection was sold to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago after Borden's death. James Knapp is buried at Cave Hill Cemetery in Section P, Lot 576 Part WP Grave 0 (the obelisk like stone is under a tree, the text is somewhat hard to read).


Henry Nettelroth (1835-1887) 

Henry Nettelroth was born on June 6, 1835 in the Kingdom of Hanover (Germany). He attended universities there and graduated as a civil engineer. After graduating he became an engineer in the Hanoverian army. After their defeat in 1866 to the Prussians, he emigrated to the United States and settled in the Louisville area. He collected fossils there from about 1872-1887 and created a book entitled Kentucky Fossil Shells: A Monograph of the Fossil Shells of the Silurian and Devonian Rocks of Kentucky. It was published after his death in 1889. Nettelroth wrote positively about Dr. James Knapp and Professor Lunsford Yandell in some of the fossil descriptions in the book and he listed that they are both dead at the time of its writing. He named fossil species after them and said they had some of the oldest fossil collections in Louisville.

His sons sold his fossil collection the Smithsonian Institution where it still resides as of this writing. The picture of the spiny snail fossil above is a Platyceras dumosum (Conrad, 1840). In 2023, that fossil was on display on the 1st floor of the Smithsonian Museum of National History. Henry Nettelroth is buried at Cave Hill Cemetery in Section A, Lot 502 N1/2 Grave 500 near his wife and another son and his family are in Section 29 Lot 41 NW1/2 Grave 3.

Ruth F. Gillespie was born on July 28, 1905 in Syracuse, New York. Her father was telecommunications engineer with Western Electric Corporation. He was sent to Sweden to install phone systems there and took his family. Ruth attended school in Europe as a result. After returning to the United States, she graduated from Cornell University in 1929 with a bachelor's and master's degrees in geology with emphasis on paleontology. She was married not long after graduating from college and raised a family in Virginia and they later moved to the Louisville for her husband's job.
She became involved in the Ohio Falls Chapter of Kentucky Society of Natural History as a geologist and director. Ruth also became involved in the formation of a natural history museum in Louisville and Falls of the Ohio State Park. Between 1958-1977 she published a number of papers on local area fossils particularly on Ordovician Period corals like the one shown above Foerstephyllum vacuum (Foerste, 1909). Ruth is buried at Cave Hill Cemetery in Section 35 Lot 23 Part B Grave 2 next to her husband.

James Elvin Conkin was born October 14, 1924, in Glasgow, Kentucky, USA. He graduated from Louisville's Male High School in 1943 and joined the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II where he served in the Pacific theater of operations. After the war, he graduated with a degree in geology from the University of Kentucky in 1950, a master's degree in geology from University of Kansas in 1953 and a doctorate from the University of Cincinnati in 1960. He was married to his wife Barbara in 1951 who was also a geologist and frequent research collaborator. He founded the Geology Department at the University of Louisville in 1964, served as its first chairman until 1968, and taught there from 1957 until 2001 before becoming professor emeritus. Dr. Conkin named numerous fossils especially in the Coral Ridge layer south of Louisville and had 100s of publications (like the one shown above written with is wife Barbara entitled Ancient Animals Locked in Louisville's Rocks.) He and Barbara are interred together at Cave Hill Cemetery in Section U, Crematory Garden Space 5.

Barbara was born on July 17, 1928, in Wilmette, Illinois, USA. She grew up there and graduated New Trier High School. Afterwards she graduated from Smith College and earned her Master's Degree in Geology from The University of Kansas. While at Kansas she met James Conkin (see above) and they were later married in 1951. She and her husband raised a family of 4 children. The family traveled though out the world for various geological studies.  She became the first geology teacher for Jefferson Community College, beginning there in 1969, retiring in 1995. She authored a number of books including the one shown above Why Are The Highlands High? The Geology Beneath the Landscapes of Jefferson County and co-authored a number of publications with her husband Jim. They are interred together at Cave Hill Cemetery in Section U, Crematory Garden Space 5.

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