Monday, September 29, 2008

Elder - McFarlan Controversy 1833

James and William Elder of Livingston County established a ferry from their land on the Kentucky shore to the ferry landing of James McFarlan on the Illinois side of the Ohio river on the 29th of January 1829. William Elder and McFarlan formed a partnership to ferry people, horses and goods from one side of the river to the other, but that partnership turned sour. The reason for the dissolution of the partnership is unknown, but by 1833, the men were neither partners nor friends.

The Elder ferry was located in that part of Livingston County that would be in Crittenden County today and the McFarlan ferry was located at what is today Elizabethtown, Hardin County, Illinois.

On the 13th of August 1833, several people, including three children of William Elder, left the Kentucky shore in a skiff belonging to their father and headed toward the Illinois side of the river. In crossing the river, they drifted some distance below the landing place and, as they approached the shore, they saw James McFarlan, who walked along the shore, keeping opposite the boat until they got near the river bank. McFarlan then stepped aboard, grabbed the chain, declared the boat his property and ordered the occupants off the boat. When William Elder’s son, James, stated they would not give up the boat, McFarlan raised the tomahawk over his head and said if they did not he would split James Elder’s skull. McFarlan stepped on shore and with the chain, drew the boat toward a place to fasten the boat. At that time, James McFarlan’s son approached the boat and declared, “Well old man. You have found a prize.” James McFarlan replied that he had, indeed, and intended to keep it. The occupants of the boat were then taken back to the Kentucky shore, but McFarlan kept the boat, which was valued at $50.

Unhappy with the treatment of his children and the confiscation of his boat, William Elder filed suit on a charge of trespass in Livingston County Circuit Court against James and John McFarlan. Depositions were taken by both sides with the defendants’ witnesses claiming William Elder had been violating McFarlan’s ferry privileges by carrying passengers from the Kentucky shore to McFarlan’s landing in Illinois. McFarlan did not deny confiscating the boat, but did deny threatening to use a tomahawk.

On the 3rd of June 1835 returned the following verdict: “We of the Jury find for the plaintiff against James McFarlan, defendant, $304 in damages and against John McFarlan, $204 in damages.” The defendants’ attorney objected, but was overruled.

Livingston County, Kentucky Circuit Court Order Book G, pages 365, 377

Livingston County, Kentucky Circuit Court Order Book H, pages 11, 171, 175, 256, 261

Livingston County, Kentucky County Court Order Book G, page 364

Elder vs McFarlan, Livingston County, Kentucky Circuit Court Case File September 1833, Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Apprenticeship of Motherless Boy

I love the deed books! Have I said this before? Let me say it again - I love the deed books! You never know what will be found among all those transfers of land. So far, I have found marriage contracts, divisions of estate, agreements, wills, and indentures of apprenticeship. The following apprenticeship record comes from Livingston County, Kentucky Deed Book HH, page 121.

“Article of agreement and understanding made and entered into this 21st day of June 1845 between Joseph Caststeele of the one part and Peter Jones of the other part, both of Livingston County, Kentucky. Witnesseth that the sd. Joseph Caststeele is a Widower and has a son by the name of Samuel Caststeele who will be Thirteen years of age on the 6th day of August next and now in consideration of a house for the sd. boy Samuel and six months schooling to be hereafter given and furnished by the sd. Peter Jones to the sd. boy Samuel together with a decent new suit home made clothes and Twenty Shillings to be given by Peter Jones to the Boy Samuel on his arriving at Twenty one years of age, which will be the 6th day of August 1853, I the sd. Joseph Caststeele Do this day and by these presents Doth put and place and bind out Samuel Caststeele as an apprentice to live with the sd. Peter Jones to learn the art trade and mystery of a farmer, the sd. Samuel after the manner of an apprentice to dwell with and serve Peter Jones from the date hereof until the 6th day of August 1853 ... during which term or time the apprentice shall well and faithfully swerve his master keep his secrets and every where and at all times readily obey his lawful commands he shall do no damage to his master nor willfully suffer any to be done by others and if to his Knowledge any be intended to give his master reasonable notice thereof. He shall not waste the goods of his master no lend them unlawfully to anyone.

“He shall not play at cards dice or any other unlawful game. He shall not commit fornication, nor contract matrimony during the term or time. He shall not haunt or frequent Taverns ale houses or tippling shops or places of gaming. He shall not absent himself from the service of his master, but in all other things and at all times he shall carry and behave himself as a good and faithful apprentice ought during the whole time or term. And Jones on his part doth hereby promise covenant and agree to teach and instruct Samuel or cause him to be taught or instructed in the art trade and mystery of a farmer by the best way and means he can & to give him six months schooling and also to find and provide Samuel good and sufficient meat drink clothing and lodging and other necessaries fit and convenient for such an apprentice ... and at the expiration of his servitude give him a decent suit of new home made clothes together with Twenty Shillings in money.” /s/ Joseph (X) Caststeele, Peter Jones. Recorded 21 June 1845.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Case of the Webb Brothers

If you are a fan of the tales surrounding James Ford of Fords Ferry Ohio in early Livingston County, Kentucky (later Crittenden County), you have heard the story of how Charles H. Webb and his brother, John Webb, escaped capture by bandits along the Ohio River in the 1820s. In the book, Satan’s Ferryman, it is stated that John Webb made his way to St. Louis, where he was joined by his brother. The story of John Webb stops at this point. Charles H. Webb met and married Cassandra Ford, daughter of James Ford. My goal is to find out what happened to John Webb and I think I know. In the meantime, let’s look at these brothers.

After his marriage to Cassandra Ford in 1827, Charles H. Webb lived in Caldwell County, where he was a prominent physician in Princeton. He had a number of children, including James, Nancy W., Augusta W., Charles and Cassandra. Charles H. Webb, along with a daughter and his young brother-in-law, James Ford Jr, perished from the results of the explosion of the steamboat Lucy Walker in October 1844.

Now, look at John W. Webb, whom I believe was the brother of Dr. Charles H. Webb and was also a physician. John W. Webb shows up first in Caldwell County in 1834, when he bought a lot in Princeton. He appears on the 1840 census as a white male between the ages of 30 and 40 with 3 young children and a woman age 20 to 30 in his household. By 1841, he had moved to Smithland and began buying land there, including several town lots. The Webb family was enumerated on the 1850 Livingston County with a wife, Augusta E., and children Charles H., age 15; John W., age 12; Mary E., age 5 and George W., age 7.

By the 3rd of December of that same year, Dr. John W. Webb was dead. His widow, Augusta E., was appointed administrator of his estate, which consisted of 10 slaves, a brick house and lot on Main Street in Smithland, a frame house on Level Street in Smithland, a brick house in Princeton, a farm on the Cumberland River plus a carriage and a large number of household furnishings. From the inventory and appraisement of his estate, it appears that Dr. Webb was well off. Included among the household items inventoried were 12 Windsor chairs, 1 settee, a brass clock, 1 secretary, maps and books, window blinds, plus a grass carpet - all items that many residents could only dream of owning. The inventory of his medicines and supplies included quinine, opium, cordials and a lot of empty bottles. Unfortunately, on Christmas night of 1850, Dr. Webb’s medicine and supplies were destroyed by fire.

About a year after the death of Dr. John W. Webb, his widow, Augusta E., married John Snyder, a Smithland Justice of the Peace. Snyder died before 1870 and Augusta died after the 1880 census.

Let’s look at the coincidences. Both Charles H. and John W. Webb were born in Fayette County, Kentucky - Charles H. in 1798 and John W. about a year later. Both lived in Caldwell County - Charles H. was there until his death in 1844, but John W. only from about 1834 until 1841. Both men were physicians. Charles H. named a daughter Augusta, which was the name of John W.’s wife. John W. named a son Charles H. Coincidence? I think not, but I am not certain.

So far, I have checked census records for Caldwell and Livingston counties, as well as tax lists, deeds, marriage records, county court order books and the inventory/appraisement/sale books for Livingston County. Each record has contributed to my knowledge, but nothing has shown up to indicate a relationship between the two men. So, the first thing I need to do is re-read every bit of information that has been gathered just in case I missed a clue, decide what records need to be checked and how to access them. That is my research plan and, if I follow it, perhaps I’ll reach my goal.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Lease of Morse Land

Not everyone was a landowner in early Kentucky - many people leased land. It is not easy to find a formal lease as so often they went unrecorded. The following lease was one of 3 or 4 found among loose papers in the Caldwell County Clerk’s Office, Princeton, Kentucky.

“This indenture Witnesseth that Bryant Nichols administrator of G.G. Morse Deceased hath this day leased unto John Sheraden for the term of Five years a certain farm and tract of land Situate and being in the county of Caldwell & State of Kentucky on the waters of Donoldson containing 180[?] acres, Known as the Jefferson Morse Survey, with the appurtenances thereunto belonging, or in any wise appertaining and doth in consideration of the covenants here inafter made and expressed on the part of the sd. Bryant Nichols convenants and binds himself that Sheraden shall hold, use and occupy the farm and tract of land for and during the term aforesd. without let or hindrance and in consideration thereof Sheraden on his part covenants and agrees to pay Bryant Nichols as administrator the Sum of Fifty one dollars per year as rent thereof to be paid by the end of each year from this date. Nichols agrees and binds him Self to take the rent in repairing [the] farm, Nichols is to allow John Sheraden two dollars per Hundred for every hundred rales[?] he the sd. Sheraden makes and putes up on the place, and at the end of the term to Surrender peaceable possession thereof in as good order and repair as it now is excepting the natural decay and usual ware and tare of the premises and unavoidable casualties. Witness the hands and Seals of the parties this 6th day of November 1865. [signed] John (X his mark) Sheraden, Bryant Nichols admr of G.G. Morse dec’d.”

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Slave Mortgages

A good source for information on slaves can be found in the deed volumes in the county clerk's office of all Kentucky counties. Sadly, slaves were deemed personal property and, as such, were sometimes mortgaged to guarantee payment of a debt. Rarely is the word "mortgage" used, but by reading through the entire transaction, the meaning is clear. The following are abstracts of a few mortgages which can be found in Livingston County Deed Book GG (1841-1844).

12 September 1843: Samuel S. Barnett is indebted to James Pringle in the sum of $57.50 as evidenced by his note of this date and due 12 months after date. To secure payment, Barnett conveys to Pringle one certain negro girl named Eliza a slave for life about 13 years old, of a yellow complexion, the same now in possession of Barnett. If Barnett pays the debt when due, this obligation is null and void. [Page 576]

22 September 1843: B.O. Thrift of Smithland conveys to William Fellowes, Cornelius Fellowes and B.I. Adams of Louisville, trading under the firm & style of W. & C. Fellowes & Co., for the sum of $1, three negro girls, Celia about 38 years of age, Vina about 17 years of age and Louisa about 16 years of age. Thrift has executed his promissory note to W. & C. Fellowes & Co. for $547.48 dated Louisville 22 March 1843 with a credit of $100 paid 8 July 1843. If Thrift pays the debt plus interst, this obligation of Mortgage is void. [Page 578]

3 January 1844: Nehemiah Woodyard is indebted to James Pringle in the amount of $112.50 as evidenced by his note of this date. To secure payment, he bargains and sells a certain negro boy named John a Slave for life and about 21 years old, of a black complexion and the same now in possession of Woodyard. If Woodyard pays his debt, this obligation is void, otherwise to remain in full effect. [Page 610]

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Manumission of Slaves

Copyright by Brenda Joyce Jerome, CG
May not be copied without written consent

There were two ways a slave in Kentucky could be manumitted or set free from slavery - through a will or through the county court.

Mary Wilson Deacon Smith had inherited a number of slaves by the will of her late husband, James Deacon. In her own will in Will Book B, page 37, dated 21 December 1831, Mary Smith stated ... “it is my will that the aforesaid and each and every of them with all their future children shall after my death be set free and emancipated from every kind of slavery and servitude to all any every person.”

Francis W. Urey, in his will in Will Book B, page 234, dated 7 March 1849, also in Caldwell County, went one step farther and stated the following: “I positively direct that all my negroes at my wife’s death, young and old, be free and sent to Liberia and they shall be well clothed and a sufficient quantity of clothing in addition be given them to last them two years after they get there, and expenses required to send them to Liberia and clothing &c shall be paid out of my estate.”

The other way a slave owner could free his slaves was by making his wishes known to the county court. This is what James Johnson did when he appeared in open court on Monday, 1 October 1832. The entry in Livingston County Court Order Book H, page 95, states “James Johnson appeared in open Court and acknowledged the following deed of Emancipation: Know all men by these presents that I James Johnson of Livingston County do think proper and do by these presents forever Manumit, liberate and set free from hence forward, my certain negro man named Willis, about forth years of age, of Black Collour, to have his full and perfect freedom from me my heirs executors or administrators and all and every person or persons besides.

Whether a slave was manumitted by will or through the county court, the former slave owner had to post a bond, with security, guaranteeing that the former slave would not become a charge upon the county. Many former slaves, fearing capture and a return to slavery, traveled to Illinois and Indiana, where slavery was prohibited. Some freed slaves started their own communities, such as Lyles Station in Gibson County, Indiana.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Barner vs Burner

From the two articles on Miss Pattie Barner of Smithland, you have probably guessed that I am very interested in her family. My interest in the family came about because I thought that one of my probable ancestors married into the family. What a lesson learned of the value of going to the original sources! Let me give you a bit of background to explain what happened.

The mother of my great grandfather, David Vaughn, was Julina Caroline Vaughn, who was born in July 1827, according to the 1900 Livingston County census. Working backward through the census records, I found Julina, who never married, with her children living with Rebecca Barner in 1860 Livingston County. In 1850, Julina and her children were also living with Rebecca, but Rebecca’s last name was Vaughn. Rebecca Barner appears on the 1840 Livingston County census. Various Vaughn researchers have said that Rebecca Vaughn, a widow, married John Jacob Barner in 1834, but a search through original Livingston County marriages records shows that his name was, in fact, John Jacob Burner and Rebecca is never listed as a widow.

Well, that put a whole new face on the problem! There were other clues that John Jacob was not related to the Barner family. While I still know little about John Jacob Burner, I do know the Barners lived in Smithland and the Vaughn family lived quite a distance away in a completely different part of the county. The Barners were merchants and business people and the John Jacob Burner and Vaughns were farmers. The Barners were Cumberland Presbyterian and as long as I can remember, the Vaughns have been Baptist. There were simply too many differences between the two families.

In a later blog, I’ll tell you what happened to John Jacob Burner and Rebecca Vaughn.

Published 13 September 2008, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

City of Golconda Goes Down

The following article appeared in the 20 August 1901 issue of the Evansville Courier and describes the sinking of the steamboat Golconda.

City of Golconda Goes Down Five Miles This Side of Paducah

The Drowned
Miss Lizzie Graham, Grahamsville, Ky.
Miss Trixie Grimes, Grahamsville, Ky.
Mrs. W.A.. Hogan and three children, Paducah, Ky.
Watts Davis, Livingston County, Ky.
Mrs. David Adams, Smithland, Ky.
Miss Lockey Barnett, Smithland, Ky.
Clarence Slayden, Lola, Ky.
Unknown man, Lola, Ky.
Five negro rousters
Two peddlers, names unknown.

Paducah, Ky., Aug. 19 - Eighteen people lost their lives in the sinking of the steamer City of Golconda tonight. It was the worst disaster that has taken place on the Ohio river in 50 years.

Caught in a storm which came up suddenly, the boat was turned over in the middle of the river in the twinkling of an eye and 18 lives were sacrificed. Forty-five passengers escaped.

The City of Golconda plied between Golconda and Elizabethtown (Illinois) and was on her way down the river with a large number of passengers. The boat had fine sailing and nothing had happened to mar the trip of the many pleasure seekers on board.

When the boat was five miles above this city, a storm came up. It was sudden. The crew did not see the black clouds in the west. In fact, the passengers were at supper and all were merry.

Suddenly there was a loud noise, like a clap of thunder, and the boat was turned over in mid river. It was too sudden for those on board to tell how it happened.

In an instant passengers were fighting for their lives in the middle of the river and many were caught in the cabin like so many rats in a cage, never to escape.

The fortunate ones who happened to be thrown in the river held on to the steamer until she drifted down stream a mile. Skiffs that are always kept on top of a steamer were finally secured and with these the passengers got to shore.

News of the terrible disaster reached here at 8 o’clock and a relief party was sent up the river to aid in the work of rescue. The party arrived too late to save any lives and began searching for bodies of the dead.

Some of the passengers who lost their lives were from the most prominent families of Kentucky. Watts Davis was a cattle buyer of Livingston County, Ky., and one of the wealthiest men in western Kentucky. Miss Locky Barnett was the wealthiest woman in Smithland and her father, who recently died, was prominent in politics.

The City of Golconda was the property of Golconda, Ill., people and was valued at $10,000. She was one of the best little boats in this port and was insured for $5,000.

On board the steamer when the accident happened was a Methodist minister. There was also a white horse on the boat. Passengers who saw the horse taken on remarked at the time that there would be an accident of some kind, as there was already a minister on the boat. The minister escaped with his life and says he will never again go on board a steamboat where there is a white horse.

Published 10 September 2008, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Fall Seminar

The Tri-State Genealogical Society will host their annual fall seminar on Saturday, 25 October 2008 at the First Baptist Church, 320 Cherry Street, Evansville, Indiana. The church is located across the street from the downtown Welborn Clinic. There is plenty of parking for attendees.

Pat Gooldy, owner of Ye Olde Genealogie Shoppe in Indianapolis, will speak on No Vital Records?, Migration and Genealogy Trips. The cost for the all-day seminar is $25 if paid by 21 October; $30 after that date. A box lunch is available for $6. Checks for the seminar and lunch should be made payable to Tri-State Genealogical Society and should be mailed to Connie Conrad, 1014 E. Blackford, Evansville, Indiana 47714-1828.

In this day of fewer regional seminars, this is the perfect occasion to meet other researchers, see what books are available from vendors, sit in on a computer demonstration and learn some tips on being more effective in your research. If you have questions, let me know.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Statistics for 1925 and 1926

The following press release from the Department of Commerce is dated 7 November 1927. It can be found in loose county court papers, Caldwell County clerk’s office, Princeton, Kentucky. The press release has been abstracted.

Washington, D.C., November 7, 1927 - The Deptartment of Commerce announces that, according to the returns received, there were 1,183,334 marriages performed in the United States during the year 1926. These figures represent an increase of 13,745 marriages, or 1.2 per cent from 1925.

During the year 1926, there were 180,868 divorces granted in the United States, as compared with 175,449 in 1925, representing an increase of 3.1 per cent.

The estimated population of the U.S. on 1 July 1926 was 117,136,000 , and on 1 July 1925, it was 115,338,000.

In Caldwell County, there were 109 marriages in 1925 and 108 marriages in 1926. In 1925, there were 18 divorces and, in 1926, there were 20 divorces.

In Crittenden County, there were 66 marriages in 1925 and, in 1926, there were 73 marriages. In 1925, there were 11 divorces and in 1926, there were 20 divorces.

In Livingston County, there were 52 marriages in 1925 and, in 1926, there were 43 marriages. In 1925, there were 3 divorces and the same number in 1926.

In McCracken County, there 545 marriages in 1925 and, in 1926, there were 490 marriages. In 1925, there were 127 divorces and, in 1926, there were 130 divorces.

In Union County in 1925, there were 158 marriages and, in 1926, there were 128 marriages. There were 20 divorces in 1925 and, in 1926, there were 18 divorces.

In Webster County, there were 135 marriages in 1925 and 126 marriages in 1926. In 1925, there were 21 divorces and, in 1926, there were 31 divorces.

I wonder how those figures compare with the number of marriages and divorces today

Friday, September 5, 2008

Ellis C.S.A. Pension Application

The Commonwealth of Kentucky began granting Confederate pensions in 1912. Copies of pension applications for Kentucky residents are available from the Kentucky Dept of Libraries and Archives, Frankfort, Kentucky.

Mrs. Joeanna Ellis of Carrsville, Livingston County, Kentucky filed for a pension as allowed by the General Assembly to indigent widows of soldiers. She was born Joeanna Moss on 29 Jan 1853 in Ghent, Carroll County, Kentucky.

Her late husband, David Ellis, was born 17 Sep 1838 in Newcastle, Henry County, Kentucky. The couple married in Carroll County 9 Sep 1873.

David Ellis enlisted in 1862 in Company F, 4th Kentucky Cavalry, C.S.A..

Mrs. Ellis owns a farm valued at $1,000 and personal property worth $200. She has rental income of about $150 a year or less. Her husband died 30 May 1904 at Carrsville, Kentucky.

James M. Truesdale of Carrsville was a witness in support of Mrs. Ellis’ application. He stated he had known her about 40 years and she had lived in Livingston County since 1877. He had also known David Ellis for 40 years.

Albert Likens, another witness, stated he knew personally the same facts stated by James M. Truesdale.

Prisoner of war records show that David Ellis was captured 14 Jun 1864 at Cynthiana, Kentucky, paroled at Camp Morton, Indiana and forwarded via Baltimore, Maryland to Point Lookout for exchange by orders from Washington, DC 14 Feb 1865.

Widow’s pension No. 4532 for Joeanna Ellis was allowed 28 Nov 1928. Mrs. Ellis did not live long enough to enjoy the pension as she passed away 1 Jan 1929 and was buried the next day in Carrsville Cemetery.

Published 5 September 2008, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Crittenden County, Kentucky Will Book 1 1842 - 1924

Ever since 1990, when I published Crittenden County, Kentucky Marriages 1842 - 1865 and Abstracts of Wills Book 1 1842 - 1924, I have regretted doing only the will abstracts. There is so much to be learned from reading every word of the will. Therefore, I am now publishing a book with full transcriptions of the wills. The 1990 book will not be reprinted in the same format.

Crittenden County, Kentucky Will Book 1 1842 - 1924 plus five rejected/unrecorded wills is finished and will be available the middle of October. As this is a very limited printing, it would be wise to reserve your copy now. To do this, send your name and address, along with a check or money order for $31 to Brenda Joyce Jerome, CG, PO Box 325, Newburgh, IN 47629-0325. Indiana residents must include $2.10 for state sales tax. The price includes postage.

The soft cover book is printed on acid-free paper and contains 234 pages plus a 20 page full-name index.

Included with the will transcriptions are the book and page number of each will, names of witnesses, date the will was produced in court for probate and the date it was recorded.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Cyclone of 1890

The weather has really been in the news lately. As this is being written, Hurricane Gustav is hitting Louisiana. While western Kentucky does not have to deal with hurricanes, they have had their share of tornadoes.

1890 was a bad year for tornadoes, or cyclones, as they were commonly called in Kentucky. The weather had been sultry on the 30th of March of 1890 and a storm was predicted, but no one had any idea how devastating that storm would be. Thunder began about 4 p.m. and soon dark clouds were visible in the southwest. About 6 p.m. a funnel cloud made its appearance. As the cyclone gained strength and rolled along, everything in its path was destroyed. Buildings were lifted, torn apart and their parts were scattered like childrens’ toys.

In the area between Thornburg and Clay, 17 deaths were reported and one woman and child were missing. After leaving that area, the storm struck the farm of Charles Parke and then hit the farm of Charley Owens. In that neighborhood Mr. Dick Williams’ house was blown down and he and one child and a Mrs. Shelton were killed and several others of the family were severely injured.

Webster County was not the only area hit by this monstrous storm. The little town of Grand Rivers, in Livingston County, Kentucky, was nearly blown away. A dozen houses were leveled. Mrs. Mattie Beck was hurled 200 yards and John Ethridge was hit by a falling tree. Both died of their injuries. The cyclone stuck the railroad bridge over the Cumberland River, a half a mile away, and took away a span. Telegraph wires were also destroyed.

There have been many fierce storms in western Kentucky, but among the worse were the tornadoes of 2005. The first one, in early November, hit Henderson and then passed over the Ohio River into southern Indiana, striking my town of Newburgh. More than 20 people died and I can attest to the devastation caused by this terrible storm. Mother Nature was not finished with this area yet, as just two weeks later, Hopkins County, Kentucky, about 40 minutes south of where the earlier tornado touched down, was hit with an F4 tornado, which did a tremendous amount of damage.