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The Old Soldier of Hammonsville

A historical marker sits near the Three Forks Bacon Creek Cemetery, explaining Timberlake’s service in George Washington’s Guard.

Washington’s Guard, Sgt. Joseph Timberlake

Katrina England


Hart Co. News-Herald


From battlefields to hospitals to underground tunnels, Hart County’s history runs deep through the start of our nation, the Civil War, and all that followed.

It also happens to be home to a very important Revolutionary War figure.

Munfordville resident Judy (Timberlake) Lawler eagerly shares the history of her fourth great grandfather, Joseph Timberlake, who served as a “life guard” in George Washington’s army before moving to Hart County, a place which also served as his final resting place.

Similar to today’s Secret Service, the Commander-in-Chief’s Guard was a fighting unit which took part in skirmishes and stopped assassination attempts on Washington’s life.

The Guard was authorized on March 11, 1776 and organized the following day in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Joseph Timberlake, known by his descendants as “The Old Soldier” came to be part of that guard because, frankly, he was perfect for the role.

The requirements for the Guard were to be between 5’8” and 5’10” in height, and soldiers had to be of good build and of sterling character.

“All these men were from Virginia, and each regiment was supposed to recommend four men who met the requirements, and then (Washington) selected from them,” Lawler said.

It was also reported that Washington indicated he wanted men born in this country whose families lived in the colonies.

“(Joseph Timberlake) joined up in 1776, which is when he went into the Continental Army,” Lawler said. “In 1777 is when he was promoted into the Guard. The Guard was along with Washington in several of the battles too, one of them being Yorktown, where the surrender was. (Timberlake) was there at that as well.”

Timberlake spent the brutal winter of 1777-1778 at Valley Forge, where his name is also on today’s roll.

Timberlake received a land warrant for his service in the Revolutionary War, which is what brought him to Hart County, which at the time was still part of Virginia.

Timberlake, who is buried at the Hammonsville Three Forks Bacon Creek Cemetery, got a land warrant for his Revolutionary War service, which is what brought him to Hart County, Kentucky.

“He is on the Hart County census records beginning in 1800, so he did move to Hart County from Virginia,” Lawler said. “He got out of the army in 1783 (as a sergeant), so I’d say he moved to Hart County sometime in the late 1780s or early 1790s. He’s on it each 10 years after that through the 1840 one.”

Timberlake and his family reportedly lived a mile southwest of Hammonsville. Though it was called the Kentucky Territory, the area was still part of Virginia at the time.

“I’m descended from his oldest son, Joseph Timberlake, Jr,” Lawler said. “Joseph Timberlake (Sr.) is my fourth great grandfather.”

Lawler is also a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Her grandson, John Ross Lawler, was a charter member of the Children of the American Revolution Chapter which began in Glasgow several years ago.

Along the road at the cemetery where Timberlake rests in Hammonsville is a historical marker, as well as an American flag raised on a flagpole near his grave. “The Old Soldier” rests right here in Hart County after a military career of protecting the first president of the United States of America.

Now that’s something to be proud of.

An American flag flies next to the Hart County grave of Joseph Timberlake, who was one of George Washington’s “life guards” during the Revolutionary War. The Commander-in-Chief’s Guard is similar to today’s Secret Service.

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