Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Crittenden County, Kentucky Emancipations

Slaves in Kentucky could be emancipated by the owner petitioning the county court or being set free through a  provision in the owner's last will and testament. To guarantee the former slave would not become a charge upon the county, a bond with security was signed by a responsible local citizen. The following handwritten emancipation papers are located in the loose county court papers, Crittenden County Clerk's Office.

Know all men ... we John S. Elder, Harvey W. Bigham & George T. Mayes are held & firmly bound unto the Commonwealth of Kentucky in the penal sum of $1000  ... 11th day of December 1843. The condition  is such that whereas the above named court have this day  ordered a certificate of freedom to be granted to Sethe a man of Color emancipated by the last will & testament of James Elder. Should Sethe never become chargeable upon any County of the Commonwealth this obligation to be void ... [signed] John S. Elder, H.W. Bigham, G.T. Mayes.

Know all men ... we H.M. Witherspoon, Wm. B. Hickman, U.G. Witherspoon and James R. Hanks are held and firmly bound unto the Commonwealth of Kentucky in the penal sum of $500 ... this 11th day of Octr. 1847. The condition  is such that whereas George Witherspoon late of Crittenden County now deceased in his last Will and testament declared that his slave named Sam should be liberated and set free at the Octr. term of the Crittenden County Court. Now whereas the sd. Court has this day directed that Certificate of Emancipation shall issue to sd. slave ... if Sam shall never become chargeable to the County then this bond is to become of no effect ... [signed] H.M. Witherspoon, W.B. Hickman, U.G. Witherspoon, J.R. Hanks.   Attest: R.L. Bigham.

Know all men ... we Green C. Reece and W.H. Husband & H.R.D. Coleman are held and firmly bound unto the Commonwealth of Kentucky in the penal Sum of $500 for the payment of which ...  bind ourselves our heirs  executors &c  ... this 10th day of April 1848. The condition is such that whereas Elisha Reece dec'd by his last will and testament (which was this day proven & ordered to Record by the County Court) hath set free and Emancipated his Negro Boy Cyrus aged about fifty years  Now if  Cyrus shall not become chargeable to any county in this Commonwealth then ... this shall become null and void ... [signed] G.C. Reese, W.H. Husbands, H.R.D. Coleman.

Know all men ... we Manerva and W. Wagar are held and firmly bound unto the Commonwealth of Kentucky in the penal sum of $500 ... this 11th day of March 1861. The condition is such that whereas Manerva has been Emancipated and set free Now should Manerva never become a charge upon any County in the Commonwealth for her support and maintenance then this obligation shall be void ... [signed] Manerva (X her mark), W. Wagar.

Know all men ... we King and F.D. Wyatt are held and firmly bound unto the Commonwealth of Kentucky in the penal sum of $500 ... this 11th day of March 1861.  King has been emancipated and set free ... should King never become a charge upon any county in the Commonwealth for his support and maintenance then this obligation shall be void ... [signed] King (X) his mark, F.D. Wyatt. Wit: Berry S. Young  clerk.

Published 28 December 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas 2016

Merry Christmas!

Published 25 December 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Lyon County, Kentucky Paupers 1880

In the earliest days of Kentucky, the goal of dealing with  paupers was to keep them from becoming a charge upon the county.  Prior to the establishment of county poorhouses, local residents bid on the care of each  individual pauper and cared for the pauper, usually in the resident's home.

In 1821  "An Act authorising the county courts to erect houses for the accommodation of their Poor" was approved.[1]  The county court was also given the power to appoint a fit person to superintend those who were in the poorhouse and to receive a reasonable fee for his services. Those wishing to be in charge at the poorhouse farm, placed a bid with the lowest bidder becoming the "winner."  No experience was required, but there were periodic reviews.

The order sending paupers to the poorhouses is often recorded in the county court order book (court minutes).  In addition, you might find a list of poorhouse inmates on the census records.  Lyon County poorhouse paupers can be found on the 1880 Lyon County, Kentucky census .[2]  The head of the household was J.W. Warfield, Supervisor of the Poor House. The inmates of the poorhouse  on the 21st of June 1880 were:

Sam Dyer, Black, Male, age 89, born Virginia, parents born Virginia.

Jas. Lady, White, Male, age 70, birthplace illegible, father born Virginia, mother born North Carolina.

Geo. Moneymaker, White, Male, age 37, born Kentucky, parents' birthplaces not given.

Fanny Oliver, White, Female, age 35, born Kentucky, parents born Kentucky.

Rilla Goins, White, Female, age 19, born Kentucky, parents born Kentucky.

Lilly Goins, White, Female, age 12, born Kentucky, parents born Kentucky.

Nancy Oliver, White, Female, age 4, born Kentucky, parents born Kentucky.

Alone Sells, White, Female, age 1, born Kentucky, parents born Kentucky.

[1] Digest of the Statute Laws of Kentucky, Vol. II, (1834) p. 1325, referencing  Session Acts, p. 385.
[2] 1880 Lyon County, Kentucky Census, Eddyville, Page 8C, E.D. 141, image 0018,, accessed 27 September 2016. 

Published 22 December 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Tombstone Tuesday - William H. and Mary E. Duke

William H. Duke
1841 - 1900
Mary E. Duke
1843 - 1925

Buried Cedar Hill Cemetery, Princeton, Caldwell County, Kentucky. Tombstone photographed 8 June 2015.

William H. Duke married Miss Mary E. Wigginton 3 September 1863 in Caldwell County.

The last appearance of William H. and Mary E. Duke together on a census was on the 1880 Caldwell County census in Enumerator District 158. William H. Duke was the enumerator in that district. Listed in the household were Wm. H. Duke, age 38; M.E. Duke, age 37, and their daughter, Charlie, age 18.

After William H. Duke's death, his widow continued to live in Princeton. In 1900 she lived on North Jefferson  Street. Included in her household were her daughter and son-in-law, Charlie and Edward D. Barnett, and their son, Edward.  They moved to the Bronx, New York before 1920 and are found in Bronx Assembly District 5, that year.

Published 20 December 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Patrick Duffie Naturalization 1858

In 1858, naturalization petitions could be filed in any Kentucky court, but are usually found in the county court or circuit court order books (minutes)  in western Kentucky. Information includes the name of the petitioner, his place of birth, when he arrived in the United States and his intention to become a citizen.

The following naturalization record for Patrick Duffie can be found in Crittenden County, Kentucky Court Order Book 2, p. 308, 13 September 1858.

"This day Patrick Duffie personally appeared in open Court and produced a Certificate from the Clerk of the Crittenden Circuit Court duly authenticated showing that he had on the 26th day of July 1856 in the Crittenden Circuit Court made the Necessary Declaration of his intention to become a citizen of the United States of America and having declared on Oath that he will support the Constitution of the United States and that he doth absolutely and entirely Renounce and abjord[?] all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign Prince potentate state or sovereignty whatever and Particularly Victoria Queen of England & Ireland whereof he was last a subject and having produced to the Court satisfactory evidence of his having resided in the United States five years at least and in this state one year at least  & that during that time he has behaved as a Man of Good Moral Character attached to the principles of the constitution of the United States and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the same Whereupon the said Patrick Duffie is declared to be and is hereby admitted a citizen of the United States."

Click on petition to enlarge

Published 15 December 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tombstone Tuesday - Harvey and Sidney Minner

Harvey Minner
1877 - 1923

Sidney Minner
1871 - 1915

Brothers Harvey and Sidney Minner are buried in Love Cemetery, Crittenden County, Kentucky. Their tombstone was photographed 7 November 2014.

According to Kentucky Death Certificate #10406, Harve Minner was born 19 July 1877, but his World War I Draft Registration gives his birth date as 19 August 1877 and his full name is listed as Harve Edrington Minner and his occupation as Post Master, Sheridan, Kentucky.  His sister, Sue Yates, was given as his closest relative. He died 27 April 1923.

Sidney Minner's Kentucky Death Certificate #9351 gives his date of birth as 26 January 1871 and death date as 30 April 1915.

The 1910 Crittenden County census shows Harve and Sidney Minner living on the Princeton-Wallace Ferry Road in the household headed by their older sister, Sue Yates, who was the widow of R.H. Yates.[1]

[1] Brenda Joyce Jerome, Crittenden County, KY Marriage Records Vol. II 1866-1886, (Evansville, IN: Evansville Bindery), 1991:160.

Published 13 December  2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Tombstone for Mary Ann Wolstenholme Smith

When my great-grandmother,Mary Ann Wolstenholme Smith, died in 1933, our country was  at the lowest point of the Great Depression.  Money was scarce and placing a tombstone on Mary Ann's grave was out of the question. Fortunately, my dad, who was 20 years old when his grandmother died, attended her funeral, remembered where she was buried and passed along that information  when I became interested in genealogy. It is one thing to know where someone is buried and another thing to have that burial spot identified for future generations.

Mary Ann lived with her children, rotating  from one household to another. She told stories to my dad and his siblings about growing up in Davidson County, Tennessee, but either Mary Ann or my dad "fluffed up" the stories of her background. Census records show her family lived a simple life. Whatever the circumstances were, my dad spoke highly of her and she was an important part of the family.

I have always felt a certain affinity for Mary Ann and wanted to get a monument to mark her grave. My generation is the last that will remember where she is buried. When we are gone, there will be no one who knows where she is buried. So, at our last Joyce family reunion, I mentioned what I wanted to do. Several cousins spoke up and offered to help.

A little over a month ago the tombstone was set and there will be no doubt where Mary Ann is buried. She rests beside her husband, Reddick Smith, in Central Cemetery in Hardin County, Illinois.  This was very important to me and I feel like Mary Ann and her family are pleased.

Published 8 December 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy  Blog,

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Tombstone Tuesday - Claude & Laura Gill

Claude A.
Dec. 20, 1872
Jan. 5, 1927

Laura S.
Feb. 6, 1881
Oct. 11, 1925

Buried Freedom Cemetery, Crittenden County, Kentucky. Tombstone photographed 25 March 2015.

The 1910 census shows Claude and Laura S. Gill living in Crittenden County. They had been married 12 years.  The 1920 Crittenden County census shows them still in that county and gives the further information that Claude's father was born in Virginia and his mother in Kentucky. This contradicts the information given on the 1880 census  of Hardin County, Illinois, which shows Claude living with his parents, James G. Gill and Mary Gill, both born in Kentucky.  Claude and his sister, Maude, were both born in Illinois.  Claude A. Gill died in Evansville, Vanderburgh County, Indiana 5 January 1927.

Published 6 December 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Margaret Jennings Brayfield 1847 - 1937

Margaret Jennings
Dec. 29, 1847
Jan. 28, 1937

Buried Smithland Cemetery, Smithland, Kentucky. Tombstone photographed 2 October 2010.

People are usually buried in a particular location because they have a connection to that place, but sometimes it was simply convenient.

At first glance, it appeared the burial of Margaret Jennings Brayfield in Smithland was going to be a puzzle, but a little research  showed her connection to that cemetery.  

According to various census records, she was born in Tennessee, her father in North Carolina and her mother in South Carolina.  Margaret married John S. Brayfield in McCracken County, Kentucky 22 February 1876.[1] She lived in Paducah, was 27 years old and this was her first marriage.  John S. Brayfield  lived in Evansville, Indiana, was 32 years of age and this was also his first marriage.

By 1880, the couple was living in Evansville with the family of William Jennings (age 78, born North Carolina) and Sarah Jennings (age 70, born South Carolina).  John Brayfield's occupation was listed as a printer on the 1880 census.

On the 1910 Vanderburgh County, Indiana census, John and Margaret Brayfield were living on Lincoln Avenue in Evansville and John was a newspaper reporter.  Their living situation changed by 1920, when they are shown as inmates of the Indiana State Soldiers Home in Tippecanoe County. This facility was established by the work of the Grand Army of the Republic (Union Army veterans of the Civil War) and had opened 1 February 1896. The last time Maggie/Margaret appears on the census was in 1930 when she was an 81-year-old widow still living in the State Soldiers Home.

 Sometime after 1930, she went to Paducah, where she died 28 January 1937.  Her parents are not identified on her death certificate[2]  and the informant was Marvin Scyster, age 41 and a real estate agent. He lived in Paducah, but the 1910 census shows him living with his parents, George D. and Maggie Scyster in Smithland.   So what connection did Marvin Scyster have to Maggie/Margaret Jennings Brayfield?

The 1860 Livingston County census shows W.J. Jennings, age 58, and Sarah J. Jennings, age 53, running a boarding house in Smithland. In their household were Joshua A. Jennings, age 25, and Margaret J., age 11 - probably their children. A salesman, Amon Price, also lived with them.  This has to be the right  Jennings family.

Now we know the Scyster and Jennings families both lived in Smithland at one time. Was that the only connection?  No, it wasn't. The answer is found in a deed[3] whereby a dispute was being settled between James Ellis, son of John Ellis, and W.J. Jennings.  In dispute were several slaves Jennings had given to his daughter, Sarah L.A. Ellis, the wife of James Ellis, before Sarah died.  One more thing - Marvin Scyster's full name was Marvin Ellis Scyster. His mother was Margaret M. Ellis, daughter of James Ellis and Sarah A.L. Jennings. James Ellis and Sarah A.L. Jennings were Marvin's grandparents and his grandmother was a sister to Margaret Jennings Brayfield.  

And that is how Margaret Jennings Brayfield was connected to Marvin Ellis Scyster and this is another reason why I love deeds.

[1] Kentucky, Marriage Records, 1852-1914, McCracken County,, accessed 18 August 2016.

[2] Kentucky Death Certificate #5428 (1937),, accessed 18 August 2016.
[3] Livingston County Deed Book 5:82, dated 3 October 1861.

Published 1 December 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tombstone Tuesday - Juda York

Wife of
Haywood York
Sept. 1, 1849
Jan. 10, 1905

Buried Sisco Chapel Cemetery. Tombstone photographed 2015.

Juda B. Stovall married Haywood York 24 December 1871[1] in Crittenden County. They appear on the 1880 Crittenden County census in Marion Dist. 1 with five children. The census also shows both Juda and Haywood were born in Tennessee. The 1900 Crittenden County census shows the York family has grown with more children plus Juda's mother, Perlie Stovall, living with them.  Haywood York died 13 November 1939 at the age of 92.[2]

[1] Brenda Joyce Jerome. Crittenden County, Kentucky Marriage Records Vol. II 1866-1886.(Evansville, IN: Evansville Bindery) 1991, p. 43.
[2] Kentucky Death Certificate #29380 (1939),, accessed 28 August 2016.

Published 29 Nov 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy  Blog,

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Smithland Cemetery

Smithland Cemetery is one of the treasures of Smithland, Kentucky.  A walk through the cemetery will show elaborate monuments as well as simple slabs devoid of artwork. The sign at the entrance states  the cemetery dates from 1810, but it is possible that the cemetery dates from a later time period.  In fact, the earliest burial dates given on the tombstones are mainly from the 1830s and later. Nevertheless, it is a very old cemetery and the town is fortunate to have it still in use.

In researching the cemetery, two deeds are important. The first deed  is found in Deed Book GG, page 61 and is dated 19 May 1841. At that time Benjamin and Sterling M. Barner conveyed to William Gordon, Gideon A. Haydock, John E. Wilson, John C. McGraw and William Smith, Smithland town trustees, 10 acres and 7 poles adjoining Smithland, beginning at the back corner of out lot #12 on Level Street and running with the back line of the town ferry to a stone corner to out lot #14 on Maiden Street.  The cemetery had been in use for some years by 1841, but no record has yet been found whereby the land was acquired.

Another important deed is from Deed Book 4, page 522, dated 19 July 1860. The town trustees conveyed to H.F. Given, for the sum of $1.00, a piece of land 32 feet wide and 65 feet long, "bounded on the North by the Shoemaker family grave yard, on the East by Haydock's family grave yard and on the Southwest by the George Hagey family grave yard."   This plot is where the  H.F. Given Family Tomb is located today. To date, this is the only deed I have found for the sale of a lot in the cemetery. 

During the 1850s, the town trustees were responsible for the care of Smithland Cemetery.  At a meeting of the trustees in 1853, it was  "ordered by this board that all persons (adults or Minors) guilty of injuring Tomb Stones, fences, pailings, plucking flowers, Braking off Shrubery or otherwise Mistreating graves in the Smithland grave yard Shall be fined four Dollars for each and every offence.   [signed] E.P. Haynes, chairman.   R.M. Haydock  Clerk." 

Smithland Cemetery has many types of tombstones.   Below are just a few examples.

Entrance to Smithland Cemetery

A.A. and Mary A. Grayot 

Alfred A. Grayot 1823 - 1883

Shot by Townsend Ashton on Christmas Day 

1816 Alabama - 1869 Cairo, Illinois

Published 26 November 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation 1863

This is a repeat post from 28 November 2013. It is still pertinent today.

“I do there­fore in­vite my fel­low-cit­i­zens in every part of the United States, and also those who are in foreign lands,  to set apart and ob­serve the last Thurs­day of No­vem­ber next, as a day of Thanks­giv­ing and praise to our benef­i­cent Fa­ther who dwelleth in the Heav­ens ... and fer­vently im­plore the in­ter­po­si­tion of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the na­tion and to re­store it, as soon as may be con­sis­tent with the Di­vine pur­pose, to the full en­joy­ment of peace, har­mony, tranquility and union.

Done at the city of Washington, this 3rd day of October, in the year of our Lord 1863, and of the independence of the United States the 88th."

        From Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation.

Published 24 November 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Thomas M. Davis Burial Plot

Davis Burial Plot - Smithland Cemetery

Richard Graham Davis of Paducah has generously allowed us to publish his sketch of the Davis burial plot in Smithland Cemetery. He has numbered and identified each grave within the plot. Buried here are Thomas M. and Emily (Roach) Davis, their children and connections. An atmosphere of haunting beauty envelopes the Davis plot.

Thomas M. Davis was the son of John Davis and Harriet Cook, both of Livingston County, Kentucky. Tom M. Davis had two  brothers, John N. and William R. Davis, who were both deceased. [1] John Davis died before 6 December 1830, when his widow, Harriet, was granted letters of administration upon her husband's estate.[2] Harriet remarried in 1833 to Stephen Lyon.[3]

Thomas M. Davis and Miss Emily Roach married 4 July 1843 in Caldwell County, Kentucky. Giving consent for the bride was her father, William Roach.[4]

The 1850 and 1860 Livingston County census records both list merchant as the occupation of Tom M. Davis.  He was also a Constable and Deputy Sheriff in Smithland.[5]

Thomas M. Davis died 4 January 1869, leaving a 42-year-old widow, Emily, and several several children.  Emily outlived her husband by 35 years.  Her obituary gave the following information: [6]

"Mrs. Emily Davis died this morning ... at  the residence of her daughter, Mrs. W.H. Sanders, in Arcadia..
Mrs. Davis was born in Lyon county, but lived most of her life in Smithland. She was the wife of Mr. Thomas Davis, of Smithland, who died about 35 years ago, and two children survive her, Mrs. W.H. Sanders and Mr. Charles B. Davis, of Smithland, besides several half brothers and sisters who reside in Paris, Texas.

"The remains were brought to the city this morning and are at the residence of Mrs. Wm. Hughes, on West Jefferson street. The funeral will be tomorrow at Smithland. A boat will be chartered to take the remains and the family and friends to Smithland Sunday morning and the funeral services will be held at the Smithland Methodist church of which Mrs. Davis was an old and zealous member."

[1] Livingston County, Kentucky Deed Book 1, p 539-540, 8 March 1852. Mrs. Harriet Lyon of Smithland conveys to Thomas M. Davis all her interest in the real estate of John David Dec'd which she inherited upon the deaths of her sons, John N. and Wm. R. Davis, brothers of Thos M. Davis and children of John Davis. John N. David died in 1848 and William R. Davis died in 1851. Both are buried in Smithland Cemetery.
[2] Brenda Joyce Jerome. Livingston County, Kentucky Estate Records 1799-1842, (Evansville, IN: Evansville Bindery), 2004, p. 82-83.
[3] Joyce M. Woodyard. Livingston County, Kentucky Marriage Records, Vol. I (October 1799-July 18 39), (Smithland, KY: n.p.), 1992, p. 126. Marriage bond was issued 7 Oct 1833; no return recorded.
[4] Brenda Joyce Jerome. Caldwell County, Kentucky Marriages 1833-1853, (Evansville, IN: Evansville Bindery), 1997, p. 74.
[5] Livingston County Court Order Book J, p. 191 (1 March 1847) and J, p. 132, (5 Oct 1846).
[6] Long Life Ends," Paducah Evening Sun, 10 September 1904. 

Published 17 November 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Tombstone Tuesday - Ruth Mooney Roberts

At Rest
Ruth Mooney Roberts
and infant
Wife and son of
Edwin Roberts
1897 - 1927

Buried Oak Grove Cemetery, Webster County, Kentucky. Tombstone photographed 13 July 2016.

Ruth Mooney, age 12,  appears on the 1910 Webster County census in the household of S.D. and Norah Mooney.  In 1920, Ruth is in a household headed by Nora Mooney, a 47-year-old widow. Four children younger than Ruth were also in the household.

According to Ruth's death certificate #17984 from Montgomery County,  Ohio, she was born 7 October 1897 in Dixon, Kentucky and died 25 March 1927 at St. Ann's Hospital in Dayton. Her father is listed as Samuel Mooney, also born Dixon, Kentucky. Her mother was  "unknown."  Ruth's husband was listed as William Edwin Roberts, who was also the informant for the death certificate.[1]

[1] Ohio Deaths 1908-1953, FamilySearch, digital image,, accessed 13 Aug 2016.

Published 15 November 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Nichols-Salyer Marriage Agreement 1833

It was common for a couple contemplating marriage to draw up an agreement whereby the property of each person was to remain within their control and, after their death, to go to their own children. The following marriage agreement was between Eli Nichols and Mrs. Sarah Salyer, who married on the 28th day of November 1833 Caldwell County, Kentucky and was among loose papers in the Caldwell County Clerk's Office. The contract is presented in the exact language of the original document.

"This article of agreement, made and entered into This 28 day of November in the year of our lord 1833, Between Eli Nichols of the State of Kentucky and County of Caldwell of the one part, and Sarah Salyer of the County and State aforesaid, of the other part, Witnesseth, that the following agreement is made (towit) As follows, as I the said Eli Nichols, are agoing to Join in Wedlock with the said Sarah Salyer and I the said Nichols doth agree, that what ever property of any kind whatsoever she the said Sarah Salyer Shall fetch with hur to my House, at my death, or at hurs, which ever should be the Longest liver, it shall be understood, that each one shall be intitled to their own property, unless unavailable accidents, such as fire  death, &c and further, if it should please God to smile on us in our undertaking, and we should  make any thing more than a reasonable support, That I the said Nichols is willing, if I should be the longest liver to come to a fare division, with the heirs of said Sarah Salyer, and if she the said Sarah Salyer should be the longest liver, she is to do the same. In testimony Whereof we have hereunto set our hands and Seals the day and date above written.  [signed] Eli Nichols, Sarah (X hur mark) Salyer.  Attest: Jas. Perry, James (X his mark) Salyer."

Published 10 November 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Historical Site Yields Family Information

Recently I visited Hardin County, Illinois, the county of my birth. While there, I stopped to visit the Illinois Iron Furnace built in 1837, two years before the county was formed. I had visited it before as my family used to have picnics under the trees near the furnace when I was a child.

The  furnace had fallen into disrepair, but had  been restored with display boxes telling the story of the furnace and the surrounding community. Interesting reading, but not exciting until I came to the last box.  In that box was a roster of workers in 1850, including my great-great-grandfather, Morgan Smith, and his oldest son, Rufus.

The 1850 Hardin County, Illinois census shows Morgan was age 46 and born Virginia and Rufus was age 21 and born in Kentucky.  The occupation for both men was moulder, just as shown on the roster of the Illinois Iron Furnace, so I knew their occupations, but I had never put it together with the iron furnace.  There it was in black and white. This is where they worked. This is how they supported their family.

The moral of this story? Never pass up a chance to learn something about your ancestor even if the source seems unlikely.

Hardin County, Illinois
Photographed 3 November 2016

Illinois Iron Furnace Display Box

1850 Iron Furnace Roster
Fillers Moulders
Morgan Smith, Rufus Smith

Click on the photos for easier reading

Published 8 November 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Wells, Barner & Co. 1841

Isn't it amazing that you can have a piece of information for years and suddenly see it in a different light?  That is the case with the following newspaper ad for the new firm of Wells, Barner & Co. of Smithland, Kentucky. I knew these men were in business together.  It is the date they established the business that went right over my head.  Sterling Barner was not on  the 1840 Livingston County census or tax list, but he does appear on the 1841 tax list. This newspaper ad, which is dated 28 January 1841, tells me Sterling moved to Smithland after the tax list was compiled in 1840 and before January 1841.  I did not realize the firm was organized shortly after Sterling Barner arrived in Smithland.  Let me explain, but first some background.

Benjamin Barner and Sterling M. Barner were brothers and Henry Wells was their brother-in-law, having married (1) their sister, Mays Barner, 10 January 1830[1] and, after her death he married (2) another sister, Martha Barner Egan, 5 March 1837.[2] Henry Hand was  younger than the other men and did not remain in business with them very long. By 1843, he had moved to Benton, Kentucky.[3]

Henry Wells arrived in Smithland before the Barner brothers. By 1824, Wells had moved to Smithland and that year purchased part of Lot #3, the same lot on which Bell Tavern, later called the Gower House, was situated. [4] By 1827, he also owned Lots #39 and #94.[5] He was well established in Smithland by the time the first Barner brother arrived in town.

Benjamin Barner had been working with his brother, Sterling M. Barner, in the mercantile business in Russellville, KY and later in the steamboat business in Nashville. Benjamin was a clerk and his brother achieved fame as the pilot of the "second steamboat to reach Nashville, coming  up to the wharf on Thursday, February 10, 1820, under command of Captain Sterling M. Barner, one of the best pilots of the early days."[6] Sterling was also a personal friend of Andrew Jackson.

After Sterling retired from steamboating, he  moved to Smithland. Two children were born to him and his wife, Sarah Jane, about this time - Joseph in 1840 and Mary E. in 1842. Both children were born in Tennessee so either Sarah Jane did not move to Smithland right away or she returned  to Nashville to have the children.  At any rate, Sterling M. Barner first appears on the Livingston County tax list in 1841, the same year the new firm of Wells, Barner & Co. was established.  

The partners in the new firm were commission merchants. They had a facility to "receive, store and forward produce, merchandize ..." [7] The location of Smithland at the confluence of two navigable rivers was ideal for this business. Benjamin Barner, who had experience clerking in a store, had the knowledge to handle merchandise efficiently and Sterling, as a former steamboat captain, knew the idiosyncrasies  of the rivers.

Not only did the Barners work together, they also lived together  in Benjamin's house on Lot #38 at the end of Charlotte Street, just one block from where the Cumberland and Ohio Rivers meet and merge.  Did Sterling retire and move to Smithland to go into business with his brother or did Benjamin invite him to join the business after he moved to Smithland?  Whichever it was, now we know it was probably the latter half of 1840 when he arrived in Smithland.


Nashville Union, Monday, 31 May 1841, p. 3

  Published 2 November 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,                                                                                                                                                                                              

[1] Joyce M. Woodyard. Livingston County, Kentucky Marriage Records, Vol. 1 (October 1799-July 1839), (Smithland, KY: Smithland, 1992), p. 104.
[2] Ibid. p. 150.
[3] Kentucky Death Certificate #3592 (1921) of Felicia Hand Bethshares, daughter of Henry M. Hand and Felicia Bogard. Felicia Bethshares was born 25 December 1843 Benton, Kentucky.
[4] Livingston County Deed Book AA:396, 22 September 1824, James McCawley to Henry Wells.
[5] 1827 Livingston County Tax List, 
[6] Byard Douglas. Steamboatin' on the Cumberland, (Nashville: Tennessee Book Company, 1961), 13.
[7] "New Firm in Smithland, Kentucky ...," Nashville Union, Monday, 31 May 1841, page 3. The advertisement itself is dated 28 January 1841.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Life and Death of Samuel H. Piles

We all rejoice when we find an obituary that gives a full, detailed account of a person's life.  The obituary of Samuel H. Piles is a perfect example of one that is full of information. [1]

"Colonel Piles had for the past several years been living  in Paducah, but two months ago went to Smithland for his health. He succumbed to the infirmities of old age, being past the allotted three score and ten, yet Colonel Piles had always seemed to enjoy good health for a man of his age until a short time ago.

"The deceased was born in Daviess County, Kentucky, and went to Smithland, Livingston County, when very young. He was a merchant and politician of popularity and prominence for years, and for many terms was sheriff of Livingston County. He later took up the practice of law, and still later became a traveling salesman.

"Twenty years ago he moved to Paducah, and resided on North Eighth street. He had been a candidate for minor offices, but lived a retired life, principally devoted to his family and friends. Two months ago he moved back to Smithland, and died at the Webb House last evening.

"The deceased had been married three times, his first wife being an aunt of Judge D.L. Sanders, his second wife a sister of Rev. Dr. Bigham, and his third and present wife a sister of Mrs. J.K. Greer of Paducah.

"Three sons survive, and two daughters, Messrs. Samuel, Matthew and Hugh Piles, Miss Rubie Piles and Mrs. Judge Winn, all except Mr. Hugh Piles and Mrs. Winn residing at Seattle, Wash. Mr. Hugh Piles resides at Fulton, Ky., and Mrs. Winn in Alaska.

"Hon. Samuel Piles is a lawyer of wealth and influence in the west, and will no doubt be the next United States senator from his district. Mr. Matt Piles was in the commission business here until two years ago, and Miss Rubie Piles resided here until about a year ago.

"Colonel Piles was popular with all who knew him and studied law under Judge W.D. Greer, of Paducah .

 S.H. Piles
Jan. 12, 1824
Sept. 21, 1904
Smithland Cemetery
Photographed 20 December 2010.

More information on the life of Samuel  H. Piles can be obtained from public records in Livingston County. On 2 January 1871, S.H. Piles obtained a license to keep a tavern at the Waverly House in Smithland.[2] The building and contents of the Waverly Hotel as well as other tracts of land were mortgaged by S.H. Piles on the 18th of January 1872 to Hibbs, Nelson, Bennett & Chipps, who had acted as security for debts owed to James Pringle, Mrs. Emily Davis and Alfred A. Grayot. This indenture mentions that the Waverly Hotel was made of brick and was located above the Court House on the street leading from the river by the Court House. One of the tracts of land mentioned here was the same land willed to Piles by his mother, Sarah Piles, in her will.[3]

[1] "Useful Life, Death Closes the Eyes of Col. Sam Piles at Paducah," The Paducah Sun, 22 September 1904, Image 3, Chronicling America,  , accessed 18 February 2014.
[2] Livingston County, Kentucky Tavern Keepers Bonds 1853-1894, p. 95.
[3] Livingston County, Kentucky Will Book B, p. 240. Will of Sarah Piles, dated 3 June 1862 and proven 5 July 1864.

Published 28 October 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tombstone Tuesday - W.D. and Mary S. Johnson

Wm. David
Sept. 9, 1844
June 9, 1915
Follow Me

Mary S.
His Wife
July 25, 1866
Mar. 1, 1937

Buried Pilot Knob Cemetery, Crittenden County, Kentucky. Tombstone photographed 9 April 2014.

According to death certificate #15901 (1915), William David Johnson was born in Caldwell County, Kentucky to William Washington Johnson and Cenia/Cemia Fraley.  The family is found on the 1850 Caldwell County census.

The death certificate  (#10178, 1937) of Mary Susan Johnson shows she was born in Crittenden County to Abner Danniels and Jossie Long.

William David Johnson married first to Margaret A. Ashley 18 November 1863 in Crittenden County. After her death, he married Miss Mary S. Daniel 24 January 1888, also in Crittenden County.

Published 25 October 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Henry W. Taylor Update

The work on restoring monuments in Smithland Cemetery continues.  On a recent visit to the cemetery, I noticed that the tombstone of Henry W. Taylor had been re-set and the death date and place are now visible.  Four years ago we could only guess.

 [Henry Taylor tombstone photographed 2012]

Henry W.
Born in Pittsburg Pa
Died in
Mound City, Ill.
Oct. 30, 1869

[photographed 20 October 2016]

You can help with the restoration of this cemetery by sending a tax deductible donation  to Smithland Cemetery Fund, Smithland City Hall, 310 Wilson Avenue, Smithland, KY 42081.

Published 23 October 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,