MOUNT VERNON -- Kathy Gamble was startled to recognize a name when she read an article by Chuck Martin in the Mount Vernon News in January about a tombstone discovered in the foundation when the old bar known as The Office was torn down last fall. The stone was for Rachel Chambers (1803-1883), Gamble's third great grandmother.
“At first it was a shock,” Gamble said, “because she's in Mound View (Cemetery) with a nice big stone.”
Sure enough, Rachel Chambers can be found there, listed on a large stone with her husband Benjamin (1799-1888), as well as their son William and other family members. The large stone evidently replaced the smaller individual stone for Rachel.
According to genealogical research Gamble has done, Rachel married Benjamin Chambers Jr in 1826 and they lived on 100 acres of the 600-acre family tract established by Benjamin's father, Benjamin Chambers Sr. The younger Benjamin and his wife built a frame farmhouse with a summer kitchen.
It all still stands today on Blackjack Road south of Mount Vernon. An 1860 agricultural census listed horse, milk cows, other cattle, swine, and sheep on the farm. Output for that year included 400 bushels of “Indian corn” and 75 pounds of wool.
Gamble said that she found her great-great-great grandparents to have lived a quiet life with little involvement in politics or anything in the public eye. But she does have Rachel's family Bible.
“I don't know if they attended church,” Gamble said, “but the Bible was falling apart when it was given to my mother by her grandfather, Rachel's grandson. It must have been read and studied by someone.”
When N. N. Hill's History of Knox County, Ohio: Its Past and Present was published in 1881, it cited Rachel Chambers as the oldest person living that was born in Knox County, with 1802 the date cited, though her tombstone says 1803.
A modern footnote in a reprint of the Hill book wonders if this description of Rachel being born in the area isn't an error, as most records claim that the only white settler documented that early in the area is Andy Craig, who pulled up stakes and left when the real first wave of settlers came over the next few years.
But it also gives Rachel's maiden name as Walker. If she was any relation to Captain Joseph Walker, he was one of the first landowners in Knox County and is recorded as already being here in 1804 when he began planning with Benjamin Butler to create a town which ended up becoming known as Mount Vernon. So, while Andy Craig may have made it to the banks of Owl Creek before 1800, others soon followed.
Martin's article gives an excellent history of the lot where the stone was found. The building that housed The Office appears to have been built between 1896 and 1913, when the Zuccaro Fruit Company was established there. The Office bar moved into the building sometime after 1953. The tombstones might have been used as foundation fill when the original building was built.