Thursday, October 19, 2017

A Case of Bigamy

This tombstone is found on the hill in Smithland Cemetery, which overlooks the Ohio River where it merges with the Cumberland River in Livingston County, Kentucky. No flowers pay tribute to this child and the weathered monument gives no hint to the controversy that swirled around her parents years after the infant's birth and death.

Miss Oleonder
daughter of
Thos. W. & Jane Ann
Browder Who was
born Oct. 24 &
departed this Life
Dec. 6, 1847

Thomas and Jane Ann Browder were living in the household of Richard and Julie An Weston in 1850 Livingston County. Thomas was age 25, a boatman born Kentucky and Jane Ann was age 18, born Pennsylvania. Since Julie An Weston was also born in Pennsylvania, perhaps there was a connection between them.[1]

Thomas Browder left Kentucky and went to California after the Gold Rush began.  We don't know the year he arrived in California, but a newspaper article states Thomas Browder was arrested in San Francisco in 1859 on a charge of bigamy. Pressing charges was the mother of his bride, who stated he had a wife in Kentucky, but had married the new wife, who was 16 years old,  in Santa Cruz County the previous year.[2]

Browder was arrested and his trial began in January of 1860. D.W. Patterson of Livingston County testified to having known Browder in Livingston County in 1841 or 1842. "Capt. Browder and a lady came to his home in 1848; it was understood that the lady was his wife, although he has no recollection that defendant introduced her as such."[3]  No marriage record for Thomas Browder has been found in Livingston County or in California.

The trial of Thomas W. Browder continued in California, but was later dismissed by the judge as there was insufficient testimony to warrant the case being continued.

Thomas W. Browder disappears after the trial. He does not appear in the 1860 California census records.  What happened to him?  Did he stay in California or return to Kentucky?   The only clue to his life in Livingston County is the tombstone of his baby daughter in Smithland Cemetery.

[1] 1850 Livingston County, Kentucky census, Smithland, (online), accessed 10 October 2017.
[2] "Bigamy Case," Sacramento Daily Union, p. 2,  Monday, 19 December 1859.
[3] "The Bigamy Case," San Francisco Bulletin, p. 3, Saturday, 7 January 1860.

Published 19 October 2017, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Tombstone Tuesday - Samuel F. Singleton

To the Memory
Samuel F.
Infant son of
Dr. S.F. & Louisa
Died Sept. 1845
[Aged 6 months][1]

Buried Smithland Cemetery, Livingston County, Kentucky. Tombstone photographed 27 September 2010.

Dr. S.F. Singleton, a druggist by occupation, arrived in Smithland about 1840/41 and remained there until  about 1847, when he moved to Paducah, McCracken County, Kentucky. He appears on the Livingston County tax lists 1841 - 1847 and on the 1850 McCracken County census.

Also buried in Smithland Cemetery are Alice Singleton, sister to infant Samuel F. Singleton, and their mother, Louisa Singleton. For details on the tombstone of Louisa Singleton, read Filling in the Gaps

[1] The last line comes from "The Old Cemetery at Smithland, Kentucky," by Mrs. Berna Presnell McChesney, The Register of the Kentucky State Historical Society, Vol. 41, 1943, p. 246. The stone is broken and the last line is currently unreadable.

Published 17 October 2017, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Influenza Pandemic 1918 - 1919 Killed Many People

The influenza pandemic of 1918 - 1919 killed approximately 20 to 50 million people world wide. More than 25% of the U.S. population became sick and some 675,000 Americans died.[1]  The first wave of influenza hit Europe in the Spring of 1918 and was generally mild. A second wave, however, came in the Fall of 1918 and was much worse, killing many people within days - and sometimes hours - of contracting the disease. Because Spain was one of the earliest countries to be hit  hard by the influenza, the disease was also known as the "Spanish Flu."

The influenza did not distinguish who caught this highly contagious disease.  Healthy, young people, normally more resistant to disease, fell victim along with older people with health problems.  Many World War I soldiers caught the disease and one report says more men died from the disease than were killed in battle during the war.[2] 

Two of the young people who succumbed  to the influenza were Sible Josephene and William Ralph Trail, children of William W. and George Ann Trail of Livingston County, Kentucky. One tombstone holds silent vigil over their graves in Pleasant Grove Cemetery.

June 3, 1909
Nov. 29, 1918

June 2, 1902
Dec. 1, 1918
Sleep on dear children and take thy rest
In Jesus arms forever blest
Children of W.W. Trail

Both children died of  the deadly combination of influenza and pneumonia, according to their death certificates.[3] Their parents were identified as William W. Trail, born Livingston County, and George Ann Curnell, born Crittenden County, Kentucky.  William Trail and George Ann Curnell married 23 November 1898, Livingston County.[4]

[1] "Flu Pandemic," History online,, accessed 1 September 2017.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Kentucky Death Certificate, #40800, William Ralph Trail,, accessed 1 September 2017 and #40801, Sible Josephine Trail,, accessed 1 September 2017.
[4]  Kentucky, Compiled Marriages 1851 - 1900,, accessed 1 September 2017.

Published 12 October 2017, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Tombstone Tuesday - Cornelius Hazel

May 22, 1824
Aug. 18, 1899

The above two photographs illustrate what can happen to a tombstone within a few years. The first photo was taken 23 March 2013 and the second one was taken 15 February 2017. The stone had been broken and repaired before the 2013 photo was taken, but had broken again and was on the ground before the 2017 photo was made.

Cornelius Hazel was buried in Bells Mines Cemetery, Crittenden County, Kentucky. He married Mary Emeline Miller 6 July 1848 Crittenden County. Joseph Hughes, Justice of the Peace, officiated at the wedding. Sarah Miller, the bride's mother, gave written consent, for the license to be issued.[1]

Cornelius Hazel and family are enumerated on the 1860 Union County, Kentucky census, Post Office Morganfield, page 198.

[1] Brenda Joyce Jerome. Crittenden County, Kentucky Marriage Records, Vol. 1 1842 - 1865 and Abstracts of Wills Book 1  1842 - 1924, (Evansville, IN: Evansville Bindery, 1990) 21.

Published 10 October 2017. Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Joyce Family Reunion 2017

There is something that warms the heart when you return to the area where your ancestors lived long ago. Recently we visited Virginia and North Carolina, where my ancestors lived during and after the Revolutionary War. When my 5th great grandfather, Thomas Joyce,  died in 1780 in Charlotte County, Virginia, he left property in North Carolina to his children, including my ancestor, George Joyce. George lived in what is now Rockingham and Stokes Counties, North Carolina before migrating to Kentucky in 1806.

Thomas Joyce, George's father, had a brother, Alexander Joyce,  and both brothers had a number of children,  with each having a son named John. There is a family legend that explains how the two cousins named John were distinguished from each other.  Apparently, the two John Joyce cousins went coon hunting and a dispute arose between them. The father of one cousin  stated his  son bites like a coon. The father of the other  said his son fights like a possum. The names stuck and one John Joyce is listed as John Coon in public records and the other became known as John Possum.  The Possum line descends from Alexander Joyce and the Coon line descends from Thomas Joyce. That makes me a Coon Joyce although I descend from a brother to John Coon.  Even today, Joyce visitors to Rockingham and Stokes Counties are often asked if they are a Coon or a Possum Joyce.

The reason for the visit to North Carolina was the first annual Joyce family reunion. We originally met through a Facebook page dedicated to the descendants of Alexander and Thomas Joyce. Most of us had never met face to face, but through sharing  family information and DNA testing, we had become friends. 

It seemed only natural to plan a get together to meet in person.  We arrived the day before the reunion and a cousin who lives in the area took us on a tour of sites important in our family history - the old Joyce School, the John Possom Joyce Cemetery, and Joyce Presbyterian Church. As you may gather, Joyce is a very common name in the area.

Joyce Schoolhouse
Rockingham County, North Carolina

John Possom Joyce Cemetery
Rockingham County, North Carolina

A lot of research is being doing through DNA testing to determine the origins of our family. So far, it appears we may not be from the area "across the ocean" that we had assumed. I'll let you know when it become official.  In the meantime, the Joyce cousins continue to search for and share information. I am so pleased to be part of this large, very interesting family.

Published 5 October 2017, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Tombstone Tuesday - William Lowry (1804 - 1836)

William Lowry
was born Apl. 7th
died Sept. 20th

Buried Piney Fork Cemetery, Crittenden County, Kentucky. Tombstone photographed 25 January 2017.

William Lowry and Elizabeth Ordway were married 5 February 1824 in Caldwell County by Robt. A. Lapsley, according to the rights and ceremonies of the Presbyterian church. James Lowry, father of the bridegroom, and Kinsay Robison, step father and guardian of the bride, gave consent in person.[1]

The will of James Lowry, dated 21 September 1844 and recorded 20 November 1854, mentions "heirs of my son William (who is dead)." [2]

[1] Brenda Joyce Jerome. Caldwell County, Kentucky Marriages 1809-1832, (Evansville, IN: Evansville Bindery, 1996) 84.
[2] Caldwell County, Kentucky Will Book B:155.

Published 3 October 2017, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Thursday, September 28, 2017

My Visit to Patrick County, Virginia

I had an adventure last week that took me back to the areas of Virginia and North Carolina where my ancestors lived in the late 1700s and early 1800s. The trip began with a 9 hour drive through Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia and across the Blue Ridge Mountains to Patrick County, Virginia, where  my great-great-great grandfather, William Joyce, married in 1804, and his son, also named William Joyce, married in 1828. I had visited Patrick County almost 40 years ago but my memories  of the area had grown dim.

While Patrick County may be dear to me because my ancestors married there, the county is better known as the birthplace of General  J.E.B. Stuart (CSA), who fought and died during the Civil War. It seemed fitting that we entered the county via  the J.E.B. Stuart Highway.

I must confess that  I have a personal reason for being interested in J.E.B. Stuart. His great grandmother, Elizabeth Perkins Letcher Hairston, was a sister to my great-great-great grandmother, Bethenia  Perkins  Bostick (1739 VA - ca 1811 Stokes County, NC). That makes us cousins, doesn't it?

The Patrick County courthouse in Stuart was built in 1852 and is still in use today. 

Stuart, Virginia
On the courthouse lawn is a statue dedicated to honoring all Confederate soldiers who served during the Civil War. On the bottom of the statue J.E.B. Stuart is honored as a hero.

Statue honoring all CSA soldiers

Plaque honoring J.E.B. Stuart

After visiting the courthouse, we headed toward the town of Ararat, Virginia, which is located about 25 miles from Stuart and just a few miles from Mt. Airy, North Carolina. This property is where J.E.B. Stuart's great grandparents settled after their marriage in what was then Pittsylvania County, Virginia in 1778.

 Laurel Hill, birthplace of J.E.B. Stuart

This is a beautiful location for a home. The Stuart property was called Laurel Hill and includes a cemetery, where J.E.B.'s father, Archibald Stuart, was buried  in 1855. In 1951 his remains were moved and reburied beside his wife, Elizabeth, in Saltville, Virginia.

First burial site of Archibald Stuart, 
Father of J.E.B. Stuart

Overlooking the Ararat River is the grave of William Letcher, J.E.B.'s great-grandfather. Letcher was murdered by a Tory during the Revolutionary War. His tombstone, the oldest in Patrick County, states "In memory of William Letcher who was assassinated in his own house  in the bosom of his family by a Tory of the Revolution, on the 2 day of August, 1780, aged about 30 years. May the tear of sympathy fall upon the couch of the brave."  His death left a wife of two years, Elizabeth Perkins Letcher, and a baby daughter, Bethenia, who much later married David Pannill. Elizabeth, the daughter of Bethenia and David Pannill, married Archibald Stuart and they had James Ewell Brown Stuart, also known as J.E.B., on 6 February 1833.

We spent a day and a half in Patrick County and wish it could have been longer, but we needed to go on to Rockingham County, North Carolina, where dozens of Joyce descendants were gathering for the first annual family reunion on September 23.  I'll tell you more about that in a later blog post.  In the meantime, if ever you have the chance to visit Patrick County, Virginia, do so and be sure to visit Laurel Hill.

Published 28 September 2017, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,