Monday, February 2, 2015


If you do research in Lyon County, Kentucky, you are probably familiar with Willis Benson Machen. He was born 5 April 1810 in Caldwell County, Kentucky, but lived in the area that later fell into Lyon County.  He had a distinguished career  in iron manufacturing and the mercantile business before studying law and being admitted to the bar in 1844. He went on to perform public service, including serving in the Confederate Congress during the Civil War.  

He was famous in his own right, but he was also related to someone else who was famous, albeit in a different way. W.B. Machen was the grandfather of Zelda L. Sayre, who married F. Scott Fitzgerald, the famous writer of the 1920s and 1930s. The Fitzgeralds were known for their turbulent life style and marriage, events of which were fictionalized in Scott's books. Zelda, called the "Original Flapper" by her husband,  achieved some fame as a writer, artist and dancer, but her life was clouded by her emotional problems with much of her last years spent in hospitals.

Zelda was born in 1900 and was reared in Montgomery, Alabama. Her parents were Minerva "Minnie" Buckner Machen and Anthony D. Sayre.  Minnie Machen was the daughter of W.B. Machen and his third wife, Victoria Theresa Mims. Scott died in Hollywood in 1940 and Zelda perished in a fire in a hospital  in which she was living in 1948. They had one daughter.

W.B. Machen died in 1893, seven years before Zelda was born. Did her parents tell her about her Kentucky heritage?  Did this Kentucky heritage influence her life? Did she know of her grandfather's service to Kentucky? Did she ever visit western Kentucky?

Published 2 February 2015, Western Kentucky Genealogy  Blog,

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