In all of the years of my chasing down my own ancestors, I have always been fascinated, and return quite often, to my ever elusive great-great-grandfather, Lorenzo Dow Bunch. So much folklore surrounds this mystery man that he has become quite the urban legend in the previous generations of my family, and also in his home country, Clinton County, KY.
Bunch is on my father’s side of the family, but I feel the need to mention briefly here that my mother’s side has bragging rights to sharing DNA with famous statesman Davy Crockett. Our Crockett line also came from Clinton Co., KY. Needless to say, over the long 30 years I’ve been dedicated to solving these family conundrums, I have made several trips to Clinton County. Several of my Crockett line are laying in perpetual rest in the cemetery at the Beech Bottom Church.
Before that church came into existence, my Crockett relatives were at Clear Fork Baptist Church near the small community of Paoli. This church was also home to “Raccoon” John Smith, ancestor of the honored LT Smith, of whom the football stadium at WKU in Bowling Green is named. We share some DNA with him as well, on my mother’s side.
Also at Clear Fork was my 3rd great grandmother, Lydia Bunch. There were at least 3 Lydia Bunchs in the Cumberland-Clinton County area in the early 1800s, but I have pinpointed the Clear Fork Lydia to be Dow Bunch’s mother. I know little else about her. It’s a guessing game on which of the three women she actually was.
But I digress – Lorenzo Dow Bunch grew into quite a striking figure. The original legend stated that his mother was a “white woman raped by an Indian.” DNA done on the male descendants of the family in the last several years have proven this to be wrong, giving us a Scotch-Irish connection somewhere back on the family tree.
Whatever the background, Bunch’s appearance definitely showed Native American heritage, and it was claimed to be Overhill Cherokee – who were indigenous to Tennessee, south of Cumberland and Clinton counties. And the man stood an impressive 7 feet tall, which I had confirmed several years back when speaking with the late James Martin, who owned the farm that Dow Bunch is buried on.
Back when James Martin was a young man, he had occasion to make the acquaintance of Hays Glover, Sr., who was a pall bearer at Dow Bunch’s funeral. He stated that yes, Dow Bunch was buried in the small grove of trees on the back of the farm that was once owned by James Butler Bunch, and you could see the grove of trees from the Harp Road. Another tidbit that Mr. Glover added was that Dow was a “tall, tall man,” and when they dug his grave they had to make it a 9-footer because Dow stood at least 7 feet tall!
While at the cemetery that day with my mother, and Mr. and Mrs. Martin, who have both passed on since then, Mr. Martin and I measured the one grave that looked suspiciously larger than the rest. To any who have not been to this cemetery, it is out in a field on a rise, with some scrawny trees on one side of it. So it’s been out there in this field all these years, exposed to occasional cattle and the elements. All the graves are slightly sunken, and one of them had actually eroded enough to see the layers of rock and wood that was used to pack the graves as they were filled. Each grave is marked with two stones, one at the head, and one at the feet. There are 14 graves in all, and one of them has a hand carved headstone that reads – “ZH Bunch, died Dec 1862.”
The grave I am certain is Dow Bunch’s measured the 9 feet from headstone to foot stone, and that said foot stone being directly behind the headstone reading ZH Bunch. Over the years, arguments have arisen over his questionable burial place. When he died, he lived near Vernon School Road, off of Lick Branch Road, with his third wife Betsy Devore and their daughters. Dow’s daughter by his first wife, was my great-grandmother, Liddie Bunch Lawson, and she is buried in a cemetery there on the Frank Wells’ farm that is also known as Bunch Cemetery, and several family argue that he was buried there.
Others claim that he had an actual headstone with writing, and claimed to have seen it, over in what was called “Morris Hollow.” Morris Hollow was named after Morris Pickett, and to make a long story short, this Bunch graveyard off of Harp Road is in what was known as Morris Hollow! Two of his sons are buried there, as is his second wife Rebecca – one of those sons being the named “ZH Bunch,” who died at Greensburg during the Civil War, while serving in the Union Army in the 21st KY Infantry.
The other reference, given by Clorine Lawson, for Dow’s burial location, is “the back side of the Garrett Cawthorn place.” That’s the only one that has eluded my research, but I found Cawthorns owning land less than two miles away from the Harp Road location!
Lorenzo Dow Bunch had many legends about him being a fighting man, and somewhat of a gypsy, owning several different parcels of land, and moving all over the area between Morris Hollow, also “No Man’s Land” closer to the Lick Branch Church, Kino, off of Lick Branch Road, and back around to Slick Rock and returning to Morris Hollow. Any of his origins remain as murky for me today as they were 30 years ago, but I have learned alot! For every tidbit of info I get, I have that many more questions to ask, but it has been an unforgettable experience, trying to follow in the footsteps of this urban legend!
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