Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The William Straker Family

The Straker family is usually associated  with the Bells Mines area of Crittenden County, Kentucky, but one child, the daughter of William and Jane N. Straker, is buried in Piney Fork Cemetery, located on the opposite side of Crittenden County.  This may seem like a strange place for this child to be buried, but it really isn't when you realize  that Jane N.  Straker had roots in Caldwell County,  near the Piney Fork area and possibly even attended Piney Fork Church.  Her parents, Alfred and Jane N. Moore, married in Caldwell County 19 March  1810[1] and lived in that county in 1820. They later moved to what is now Crittenden County.

William Straker, who was born in Liverpool,  England, married Jane N. Moore 8 April 1841 in Crittenden County.  By 1860, they had settled in the Bells Mines area.  Together they had the following known children: Mary E., Ann, James E., William N. and  John Gipson Straker. William Straker was a physician.

Mary E., their oldest child,  was born ca 1842 Crittenden County and  married Ammon D. Bennett 28 December 1859.[2]  Mary E. and Ammon lived in Caseyville, Union County. Ammon outlived Mary E. by several decades and sometime after 1900, he and his daughter, Sallie E., moved to San Bernadino County, California. Known issue of Mary E. and Ammon Bennett  were Addie Jane Bennett, Lydia Augusta Bennett, Sallie E. Bennett, Gib Taylor Bennett, Harland A. Bennett and James L. Bennett.

Ann Straker was born May 1845 and died September 1845. She is buried in Piney Fork Cemetery.

Ann Straker
Piney Fork Cemetery
Crittenden County, Kentucky

James E. Straker was born 27 December 1846 Kentucky and died 24 June 1913 Vanderburgh County, Indiana.[3]  He married Ellen Church in Crittenden County 30 December 1869[4]. She died 22 July 1908 and both she and James are buried at Locust Hill Cemetery, Evansville.  James E. Straker, a coal miner, died suddenly after he had quit work and was going to the shaft to be lifted to the surface. [5]  He was living with his sister, Mrs. Charles Bunge, at the time of his death. James E. and Ellen had the following children: Edwin B., Robert Emerson, Daisy Pearl and  Edith Nellie Straker.

William Nicholas  Straker was born 28 February 1849 Kentucky and died 15 January 1932 Herrin, Williamson County, Illinois.[6] A coal miner, he married Ann Eliza Williams 27 January 1875 Crittenden County, Kentucky. [7] They had Otho Liston and Iley Christopher Straker.

John Gipson Straker was born 7 March 1855 Crittenden County and died 18 April 1939  Union County, Kentucky. [8] John Gipson married Mary Henry Harmon 22 March 1877 Crittenden County.[9] John G. and Mary Straker were living in  Evansville, Indiana in 1900 and, in 1903, they divorced. [10] John G. Straker moved to Saline County, Illinois, where he married Margaret "Maggie" Tyler.  John G. and Mary Harmon Straker had the following children: James E., Henry C. and William N. Straker.

It is interesting that all of the children of William Straker and Jane N. Moore left Crittenden County with the majority settling in other states. Most of the children and grandchildren were coal miners  and settled on the west side of Evansville. As far as I can tell, none of William Straker's descendants followed  his occupation of a physician.

[1] Brenda Joyce Jerome, Caldwell County, Kentucky Marriages 1809-1832, (Evansville, IN: Evansville Bindery, 1996) 6.
[2] Brenda Joyce Jerome, Crittenden County, Kentucky Marriages 1842-1865 and Abstracts of Wills Book 1 1842-1924, (Evansville, IN: Evansville Bindery, 1990) 82.
[3] Indiana Death Certificate #490.  Find A Grave Memorial #112276417.
[4] Brenda Joyce Jerome,  Crittenden County, Kentucky Marriages 1866-1886 (Evansville, IN: Evansville Bindery, 1991) 29.
[5] "Drops Dead in Coal Mine," Evansville Courier, Wed., 25 June 1913, p. 1.
[6] Illinois Deaths and Stillbirths Index 1916-1947,, accessed 14 March 2017.
[7] Crittenden County, Kentucky Marriage Records 1866-1886: 69.
[8] Kentucky Death Certificate #23821 of John Gipson Straker,, accessed 14 March 2017.
[9] Crittenden County, Kentucky Marriage Records 1866-1886: 85.
[10] "Groom, 34, Five Marriages; Bride, 50, Thrice Married," Evansville Courier, 3 May 1905, p. 13. Article on marriage of Carney Dorsey and Mary Henry Harmon Straker. 

Published 28 June 2017, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Friday, June 23, 2017

Tombstone Thursday - John N. and Kate Culley

John N. Culley
Oct. 15, 1838
Oct. 14, 1915
Kate His Wife
Feb. 19, 1853 - [blank]

Buried Bells Mines Cemetery, Crittenden County, Kentucky. Tombstone photographed 15 February 2017.

According to his death certificate, John Newton  Culley, the son of Jim Culley and an unknown mother, was born in Tennessee.[1] The informant was J.W. Culley.  The 1870 Crittenden County census shows J.N. Cully, age 27, born Tennessee, in the household of Thos. J. Cully, age 60 and born Georgia, and Sarah Cully, age 60 and born Tennessee.[2]

Sarah Catherine Culley, wife of John N. Culley, was born in Union County, Kentucky, died 19 February 1928, and was the daughter of John W. Snodgrass, born Virginia, and Jerusha Delaney, born Union County, Kentucky.[3] 

[1] Kentucky Death Certificate #28518 of James Newton Culley,, accessed 10 April 2017.
[2] 1870 Crittenden County, Kentucky Federal Census, Pct. #6, p. 9  (online database),, accessed 10 April 2017.
[3] Kentucky Death Certificate #3306 of Sarah Catherine Culley,, accessed 10 April 2017.

Published 23 June 2017, Western Kentucky Genealogy,

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Croft Family Reunion June 24, 2017

J.N. Croft and Josephine Bebout Croft and their children ca 1929

Descendants of James N. and Josephine A. (Bebout) Croft are invited to a family reunion on Saturday, 24 June 2017, at the Salem Baptist Church in Salem, Kentucky. We will meet at noon for food and visiting until 4 p.m. Please bring a dish to share and old photos you would like to display. Please contact me at with the number in  your family who plan to attend.

Published 20 June 2017, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Martha Rebecca's Story

Every person - every family -  has a story. Some are happy and many are not. The Lewis family had more than their share of unhappiness. 

About 1853, William Lewis, wife Martha Rebecca Vaughn Lewis, and their children John, James, Richard, William and Rebecca Jane, left their home in Bedford County, Tennessee and traveled north to Kentucky to start a new life in Crittenden County.  Shortly thereafter  William Lewis purchased land on the waters of Claylick Creek.  

Life was hard in Crittenden County for the Lewis family.  Civil War began in 1861, and  the two oldest Lewis sons, John and James, enlisted in the 48th Illinois Infantry, a Union regiment.  John died at Shiloh in  April 1862. The loss of a son must have been unbearable, especially when bad luck does not stop and seems to follow the family.

William Lewis mortgaged his land in Crittenden County and, unable to redeem the land, he lost it. As a farmer, he no longer had a way to support the family. In 1863, Possibly out of frustration, William abandoned his wife, Martha Rebecca, and their children. This left his son, James, as the sole support of the family. And the family was larger, Herod, Mary E. and Sarah C. having been born after the family moved to Kentucky.

Then came another tragedy in March of 1864 when James Lewis  was shot while home on leave from the Army. As he was returning with companions to their company in Crittenden County,  a Southern sympathizer (some say  an ex-CSA soldier or bushwhacker) shot him. The shooter was quickly caught and turned over to the military authorities in Smithland, but nothing could be done to save the life of the young soldier. 

Martha Rebecca applied for and received a mother's pension based on her son's military service. [1] Martha never remarried and, according to several depositions given in her pension application, she had to depend on her children for support.  She died 14 March 1897 and was buried at Chapel Hill Cemetery, Crittenden County.

So what happened to William Lewis?  The family legend says he left Crittenden County with another woman. This appears to have been true.  The 1870 census shows William Lewis, age 51, living in Posey County, Indiana.[1] Also in  his household were Charlot B. Lewis, 29 born Tennessee; Charlie Lewis, 6 born Indiana; America  Lewis, 2 born  Indiana and an 11 year old daughter of Charlot by her 1854 marriage to John Summers Belt of Crittenden County. No marriage for William Lewis and Charlott (Green) Belt has been found and it is assumed they were living together as a family.

In Martha Rebecca Lewis' pension application, she stated William Lewis was said to have died in August 1872. No death record or newspaper obituary of his death was found in Posey County or in a neighboring county.  One researcher claimed William died in Illinois, but no record has been found there either. No further information on Charlott (Green) Belt has been located. Did she move away from Posey County? Did she remarry or change her name?  I don't know.

The Lewis family endured many tragedies and there are more involving their children we have not mentioned. Their daughter, Mary Elizabeth "Lennie" Lewis, was my great-great-grandmother and had more than her share, but we will save those for another day.

Too many questions on this family are unanswered. 

[1] Declaration for an Original Pension of a Mother, #299.777, Martha Lewis based on service of son, James Lewis, Private, Co. E, 48th Illinois Infantry, National Archives. 

[2] 1870 Posey County, Indiana Census, Black Township, p. 3,, accessed 13 March 2014.

Published 15 June 2017, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Midnight Madness - Willard Library

Willard Library's Midnight Madness, five days and nights of research and workshops, is scheduled for June 19-23, 2017 at the library in Evansville, Indiana.  Presentations begin at 9:30 am and continue through 6:00 pm. A wide variety of programs is planned with J. Mark Lowe, CG, beginning the week with four programs: Just Talkin' or Oral History and Genealogy, Finding 20th Century Military Records, A Death in the Family and Whiskey, Brandy and Southern Migration. 

Others presenting during the week are Karin Marie Kirsch and Stephen Van Bibber (German/Latin records), Melinda King (Revolutionary War ); Brian Lankford (Researching neighbors); Nancy Voyles (Henderson Public Library); Lucy Hart (Willard's databases); Sue Berry (Rural  Family Life); Eddie Wildt (Publishing ); Pat Sides (History of W. Franklin Street); Dona Bone (Evansville During WWII)  and Harold Morgan (Evansville Transportation History and Lincoln Family).   

If you are just starting on your genealogical journey, the class on Beginning Genealogy by Lyn Martin, Willard Library Special Collections Librarian on Tuesday evening will be of interest.
The week will be capped off by a patriotic concert by the Red Bank ReUnion Band on Friday evening.

All programs are free and open to the public. Reservations are suggested, but not required. Special Collections (second floor) will be open during and after all programs. The library is located at 21 First Avenue, Evansville, Indiana. For more information, Willard Library Calendar of Events

Published 13 June 2017, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Timothy's Taylor's Will

Timothy Taylor left an interesting last will and testament in Crittenden County.  Instead of naming his children and their legacies, Timothy bypassed his children and left his estate to two grandchildren, both of whom were living with him in 1880.[1]

J.W. Taylor, son of Timothy and his wife, Evaline Crabtree Taylor, first wrote that he wanted his daughter, Mary H. Taylor, to have  all his interest in his father's estate as she had done more for his father than he had. J.W.'s wishes were dated 9 March 1882 from Walker County, Texas.  Timothy  responded by writing  that Mary H. Taylor would inherit her father's interest in Timothy's estate..  Both statements are appended to Timothy's will. [2]

The third part of Timothy Taylor's will is a bequest to Joseph C. Taylor for all of the interest that Timothy's son, James E. Taylor, would inherit in his estate. Joseph's siblings, Mary J. Hoyt, William H. Taylor, Charles W. Taylor and John H. Taylor, were excluded from inheriting anything.

Not named in Timothy's will were his other children Caroline Taylor Black Kimsey, Levi H. Taylor, Ruth Taylor Franklin, Ann E. Taylor Franklin LaRue, Elizabeth Taylor Lamb and Mary Dean Taylor Franklin.

Timothy Taylor's will was produced in open court 9 November 1891 and ordered to be continued because of the absence of the original subscribing witnesses to the will.  On that date, E.L. Nunn was appointed curator of Timothy's will. His job was to see that the estate was not wasted and that all debts and credits were satisfied  until an administrator could be appointed.  The will was finally settled and recorded 23 April 1892.

Timothy and Evelyn Taylor are buried at Green's Chapel Cemetery in the Bells Mines area of Crittenden County.

Timothy Taylor
Nov. 5, 1806
Oct. 27, 1891
Directly behind is the monument for James M. Lamb and Elizabeth (Taylor) Lamb

Evaline Taylor
Wife of Timothy Taylor
Dec. 25, 1808
Aug. 25, 1873
Joined the Methodist Episcopal Church 1824

[1] 1880 Crittenden County, Kentucky Federal Census, E.D. 59, p. 28, Bell's Mines Dist,, accessed 13 April 2017, dwelling 247, family #248. Timothy Taylor, age 73, Joseph C. Taylor (grandson), age 18 and Mary H.  Taylor (Granddaughter), age 16.
[2] Will Book 1:250, dated 12 April 1886 and recorded 23 April 1892.
Published 8 June 2017, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Sebree Springs Resort

Several western Kentucky counties had resorts where people could relax, take the waters and enjoy nature. One such place was Sebree Springs in Webster County, Kentucky.  The following article, which makes the resort sound like paradise,  is found on page 4  in the 10 June 1886 issue of the Evansville Journal and is  available on microfilm at Willard Library, Evansville, Indiana.

Sebree, Ky, June 8, 1886.   Sebree is on the "Ellen N." Railroad, a convenient distance from Evansville, Henderson and Clarksville, and is a most popular watering place. Many visitors come every year. They gain health, friendships dear  through afterlife, and a fuller appreciation of Nature's world. Rural charms are found here in the midst of active civilization, thus doing away with the lonesomeness and somber thoughts that intrude into the long avenues of solitude.

Sebree has the advantage of being in Webster County, where wealth and hospitality walk hand-in-hand, and where a courteous reception always awaits visitors. A stranger looking out car windows  sees a quiet village hedged in by the shadowy outline of tree-tops that suggest a near limit to earthly space. But leaving the train one finds touches of ideal loveliness in the picturesque  scenery. On the moss-covered cliffs are vine-clad trees, and tiny water-fall gurgling over a rocky bed.

The regular summer season opens Friday, June 18th, with a grand ball at Sebree Springs Hotel. Excellent music, dancing and refreshments are among the attractions that make up the programs.  By leaving Evansville on the noon train passengers reach Sebree in amply time for the gaieties of the evening.

Published 6 June 2017, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Walker Family Buried In Green's Chapel Cemetery

Gladys Walker 1908 - 1941 
H. Edgar Walker  1866 - 1940 
Fannie C. Walker  1867 - 1946

Buried in Green's Chapel Cemetery, Bells Mines Road, Crittenden County. Tombstone photographed 9 March 2017.

Hugh Edgar Walker was born 26 May 1866 in Crittenden County and died 31 December 1940.[1] His first wife was Wilmoth (last name unknown) and they were living in Stoddard County, Missouri in 1890.[2] On 9 February 1895, Hugh E. Walker married Miss Fannie C. Towery at the Methodist Church at Shady Grove, Caldwell County, Kentucky. [3]

Gladys Walker, daughter of Hugh Edgar and Fannie C. Walker, was born 11 November 1908 Kentucky and died at a hospital in Henderson, Kentucky 18 March 1941.[4] According to her obituary,[5] she attended Murray State Teachers College and, following completion, was a teacher for the next 14 years. She was a member of Bells Mines Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

Fannie C. Towery was the daughter of Ned Towery and Bettie Woods, both born in Kentucky. She was born 7 November 1868 and died 12 January 1946.[6]

[1] Kentucky Delayed Death Certificate #4135 for Hugh Edgar Walker,, accessed 14 March 2016.
[2] Crittenden County Deed Book Y:350, 27 September 1890, heirs of Hugh M. Walker, including H.E. Walker of Stoddard County, Missouri, sold land in Crittenden County.
[3] Brenda Joyce Jerome. Crittenden County, Kentucky Marriages 1887-1899 Vol. III, (Evansville, IN: Evansville Bindery, 1998), 90.
[4] Kentucky Death Certificate #7259,, accessed 14 March 2016.
[5] "Gladys Walker Rites Yesterday at Greens Chapel," Crittenden Press, 21 March 1941.
[6] Kentucky Death Certificate #572,, accessed 14 March 2016.

Published 1 June 2017, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,