The Sad Story of Capt. John T. McLain of the First Kentucky Cavalry

(Transcribed from the Burkesville community newsletter published in the June 6, 1900 edition of the Adair County News.)

Decoration day has generally been unobserved and entirely so except the decoration of one grave. Judge J.J. Simpson, County Clerk M.M. Collins, Dr. J.H. Myers and Leslie Cary enwreathed and strewn flowers upon the grave of Capt. John T. McLain. Capt. McLean will
always be remembered with an intermixture of admiration and curiosity by those who knew him and will be looked upon with some degree and mystery and superstition by those whose information comes second handed. The grave situate upon the summit of the "Big Hill," the highest point in Cumberland county and more than 900 feet above sea level. Here lies the body of the once brave Capt. McLain has been resting for more than thirty years, a view from which place down upon the Cumberland valley and the town of Burkesville below, the verdured hills to the right and left, and e'en Cumberland Mountain [at] the horizon, must rival the grandeur of Yosemite. Capt. McLain was buried at this point at his own request which was made a few minutes before he died by his own hand. He shot himself in the little house lately used by Dr. J.C. Herriford just below the Burkesville Hotel. His request was to be buried by a certain rose-bush on the summit of the Big Hill, and it is told that he said that this was as near Heaven as he could ever get and that he wanted to be buried there for that reason. This is probably not true, however. The grave is marked by one small white headstone bearing the inscription: "Capt. J.T. McLain, Co. J., 1st Ky. Cavalry."
The following concerning Capt. McLain is copied from the Adjutant General's Report: "Capt. John T. McLain was enrolled August 20, 1861; was mustered in December 5, 1861, at Camp Boyle, Ky., for three years; was promoted from 1st Sergeant to 2nd Lieutenant, August 10, 1862; promoted to 1st Lieutenant July 4, 1863; promoted to Captain June 30, 1864."
Capt. McLain was an eccentric man but greatly beloved by his comrades. He killed a man by the name of Dick Watson, a union soldier, thinking he was a guerrilla, He [McLain] was an inebriate and that this led to his suicide. Mrs. Caroline Williams of Leslie, is a sister of his.

[The First Kentucky Cavalry, better known as the Wild Riders, was commanded by Adair County native Col. Frank Lane Wolford.]

Thanks to J. D. McGee for this submission