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,

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Western State Hospital 1916 - 1917

Information on the operation of the Western State Hospital (formerly Western State Lunatic Asylum) in Hopkinsville  is not easily found so it was a thrill to find a couple of newspaper articles describing changes in the administration in 1916[1] and additional information on the staff in 1917.[2] You will recall the hospital was also featured in this blog Here

According to the first article, Dr. Fred G. LaRue of Smithland succeeded Dr. H.P. Sights as Superintendent.  Dr. LaRue was described as a pleasant-faced gentleman of middle age. He was stoutly build, beardless and wore glasses.  His family consisted only of his mother.

Another Smithland resident, Miss Bessie Smith, was secretary.

Dr. Harry G. Sanders was continuing as first assistant physician and Dr. W.W. Durham of Christian County was succeeding Dr. Robinson as second assistant.

A representative of the Smithland Enterprise visited the Western State Hospital at Hopkinsville in March 1917 and reported that under Dr. LaRue's superintendency the hospital  seemed to be "managed with efficiency and the employees and inmates are under splendid rules of discipline."[3]

Mrs. Brown, the Matron, looked after the supplies and the cooking as well as the sanitary conditions of the institution.

Harry Wilson was the Gate-keeper and Lewis Conner was assistant electrician.  Mrs. Connor was in charge of the sewing room. Jim Hodge and wife[4] were doing well and are very well satisfied with their surroundings.

 Mrs. Browning was in bed suffering from rheumatism, but hoped to be able to visit Smithland and Livingston county friends when spring weather arrived. The sanitary condition maintained at the hospital was one of its chief points of interest. There could be learned a valuable lesson, if the house keepers of the country and towns would visit this place and see how clean it is.

The farm consisted of 720 acres of land on which were grown vegetables, corn, hay, tobacco and other crops, under the management of Mr. Byars. There are 67 cows giving milk at an average flow of three gallons each. Steam and electric power ran everything, furnishing light, heat and water in abundance. A large motor truck hauls coal from the railroad, making the trip in less than an hour, carrying several tons every trip.

Western State Hospital had been established in 1848. At the end of the fiscal year 1915, there were 540 white male patients, 481 white female patients, 170 colored male patients and 161 colored female patients.[5]

[1] "W.S. Hospital  New Superintendent and Other Officials in Office To-day," Hopkinsville Kentuckian, Tues., 1 Aug 1916, p. 1.
[2] "A Visit to the State Hospital," Hopkinsville Kentuckian (reprinted from the Smithland Enterprise) Sat., 31 March 1917, p. 4.
[3] Ibid.
[4] There is no indication if Jim Hodge and wife were part of the hospital staff or were inmates.
[5] Frank K. Kavanaugh. Kentucky Directory for the Use of Courts  State & County Officials and General Assembly of State of Kentucky, 1916.

 Published 20 October 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Monday, October 17, 2016

Monument Monday - Eleazer Holmes

Eleazer Holmes
Born 1798
Died 1854
An humble Christian
and Ruling elder in 
the Presbyterian church

Buried Cedar Hill Cemetery, Princeton, Kentucky. Tombstone photographed 8 June 2016.

Eleazer Holmes, age 55 and a house carpenter born in Massachusetts, is listed in the household of John H. Rackerby, age 50 and a hotel keeper born in Virginia, on the 1850 Caldwell County, Kentucky census.

Published 17 October 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Friday, October 14, 2016

Mapleview Cemetery

By 1891, the old Marion Cemetery in Crittenden County, Kentucky was crowded and more space was needed for a graveyard.   There would have to be room for  expansion in the new cemetery and it should be close, but not too close, to town. Two locations were proposed - west of Marion and another north of Marion.

The Crittenden Press reported the following in the 9 March 1893 issue:
" Settled at Last.  For a couple of years the people of Marion have been talking about a new cemetery. After dragging along, the matter was finally settled Monday. A number of citizens visited two places - one north of town on J.P. Pierce's land and the other west on John Lamb's land. The site west of town was chosen by vote."

Burials began not long thereafter and continue today. Many beautiful and unusual tombstones mark the graves of former residents. Among the early tombstones is that of John Lamb, who was the owner of the land where Mapleview Cemetery was established. Below are just a few of the beautiful tombstones at Mapleview Cemetery.


Jennie Clark

Mapleview Cemetery


Robert Moore Wheeler



Published 14 October 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Tombstone Tuesday - Sarah A. and J.T. Woolf

At Rest
Sarah A.
Wife of
J.T. Woolf
July 6, 1856
Nov. 29, 1903

Sarah A. Drennan married John T. Woolf 5 December 1872 in Crittenden County. [1] Later J.T. Woolf remarried.

According to his death certificate #14176 (1940), he was born 11 August 1849 and died 3 June 1940. His parents were William Woolf and Matilda Baker. At the time of his death, J.T. Woolf was a retired postmaster and lived in Tolu.  The 1940 Crittenden County census shows J.T. Woolf, age 90, living with his second wife, Myra, age 65, living in Tolu, Crittenden County.

J.T. Woolf
1849 - 1940

Sarah A. and J.T. Woolf are both buried in Mapleview Cemetery, Marion, Kentucky.

[1] Brenda Joyce Jerome. Crittenden County, Kentucky Marriages, Vol. II 1866-1886 (Evansville Bindery, 1991), 52.

Published 11 October 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Two Unmarked Graves in Smithland Cemetery

When someone dies, at least three records are usually generated - a death certificate, a cemetery record and an obituary. There are times, however, when one or more of those records is missing.  Smithland Cemetery has a number of burials without tombstones so, in order to tell the story of those buried there, we must rely on other records.  For example, we can learn about the death of little Lena Hodge, the 10-year-old daughter of Harriet Hodge of Smithland, even though she has no tombstone. The story of what happened to her can be found in the Paducah newspaper.[1]

Lena and her mother Harriet Hodge went to Paducah on the steamer Golconda to celebrate the 8th of August emancipation celebration. After celebrating all day, Harriet and Lena returned to the boat to return home. The girl went to sleep, but soon  was missed. Her hat was found floating in the river, indicating she had probably gone overboard.

Lena's body was found near the wharf boat. "Evidence showed that no one saw the girl fall go into the water but several people heard the splash and there was a cry of 'Somebody Overboard! The remains will probably be taken to Smithland for burial. "[2]     It makes sense that she was buried in Smithland Cemetery as she and her mother lived in Smithland and a number of years later when her mother died, she was also buried in Smithland Cemetery. Unfortunately, Lena's grave was never marked with a tombstone, but our best guess is she is buried there.

Another person thought to be buried in Smithland Cemetery without a tombstone is Sterling Barner Taylor.  Sterling was born in 1869, just a week before his mother, Pattie Barner Taylor, died of complications of childbirth in Nashville, Tennessee. She had recently separated from her husband, B. Waller Taylor, and the child, who was named for his grandfather, Sterling M. Barner, was reared by his grandmother, Sarah Jane (West) Barner,  in  Logan County, Kentucky. In fact, Sterling B. Taylor was the heir to the combined estates of Benjamin Barner, Sterling Barner, Sarah Jane Barner and Pattie Barner Taylor.

As an adult, Sterling B. Taylor took his medical training at Bethel College in Russellville, Kentucky and  Ohio State University College of Medicine. Later he became chief surgeon of the N.Y. Central R.R. and was a fellow in the American College of Surgeons.

Most of his professional life was spent in Columbus, Ohio before he retired to St. Petersburg, Florida, where he died 21 September 1944. It seems strange that he would be buried in Smithland Cemetery since he only lived in Smithland for a very brief time after his mother's death, but two different, undated obituaries from the Columbus, Ohio newspapers stated that burial was to be in "the family burial plot in Smithland, Ky." One obituary also says that the burial will be "by the Isadore Branstetter funeral home." In addition, his death certificate[3]  states the body was to be removed 24 September 1944 to Smithland, Kentucky. To date, nothing has been found that there was ever a tombstone marking Sterling's grave or a newspaper notice of his funeral.

These are only two of the unmarked graves in Smithland Cemetery. There are many more that need to be identified and the decedents' stories told.

[1] "Child Drowned," Paducah Evening Sun, Tuesday, 8 August 1899, p. 1.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Pinellas County, Florida Certificate of Death #18971 of Sterling Barner Taylor shows the body to be removed 24 September 1944 to Smithland, Kentucky.

Published 6 October 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Tombstone Tuesday - Fidalis Thomasson

June 22, 1912
Apr. 22, 1925

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

According to Kentucky death certificate #17432, Fidalis Thomasson was the daughter of J.C. Thomasson and Hermie Brewer, both of whom were born in Kentucky.  She died in Eddyville, Lyon County, Kentucky.  Jul and Hermie Thomasson and their children, Ollie, Fidalis and Georgia H., are enumerated on the 1929 census in Dixon Mag. District of Webster County.

Published 4 October 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,