Thursday, March 15, 2018

Life of Robert M. Mitchell

I enjoy writing  Tombstone Tuesday posts. I love starting with birth and death dates and filling in the time between those dates. Who did he  marry?  Where did he live?  What was his occupation? Was he born in this county and if not, where was his birth place?

Sometime ago I came upon a weathered tombstone in Smithland Cemetery that was almost unreadable. Taking a photograph and rubbing my hand across the face of the stone revealed the following information: 

R.M. Mitchell Born  Aug. 5, 1788 -  Died July 9, 1858

An entry in my muchly-used copy of the Livingston County cemetery book [1] verified the birth date, but noted the death date was below ground level.  Apparently, after the book was published, someone had dug down so that the death date was revealed.

Now comes the fun part. Who was R.M. Mitchell. What part did he play in Smithland between 1788 and 1858? 

Robert Mitchell, age 61 and born North Carolina, appears on the 1850 Livingston County census[2] along with Nancy, age 45 born Kentucky and James and Joshua East, ages 14 and 19 respectively. Wife and children?  Continued checking provided the following information:   Robert M. Mitchell married Mrs. Nancy East 12 May 1844[3] in Livingston County. Nancy East had previously been married to Clinton Kidd 26 July 1821[4] and Jesse G. East 16 Nov 1834.[5]  Good!  Robert Mitchell and R.M. Mitchell were likely the same person.  It is likely that Robert M. Mitchell was married prior to his marriage to Nancy, but there is no such marriage recorded in Livingston County.

There was more to learn. By checking the county court minutes, I learned that Mitchell had operated a tavern at his house in Smithland in the early 1830s.[6]  Later Robert M. Mitchell was elected jailer of Livingston County and took the oath of office on Monday, 5 Sep 1853. He served as jailer until tendering his resignation 3 Nov 1857, when William M. Mitchell was appointed jailer.[7]  I wonder if Robert M. Mitchell was ill when he resigned. His death came just eight months after he submitted his resignation. What do you bet William M. Mitchell was a close relative, a son perhaps?

According to his death record,[8] Robert M. Mitchell  was born in Orange County, North Carolina, was also a shoe and boot maker and was the son of R.L. Mitchell.

Going back to the cemetery book, I learned that Nancy Mitchell had a tombstone beside her husband, [9] but I did not find it. She was born 14 Jan 1805 and died 17 Sep 1856.

Other records I searched, but without success, were the deeds. Apparently, Robert M. Mitchell did not own land.  The Livingston County tax lists [10] verified that Robert M. Mitchell owned no land.  He was taxed on one white male over 21, one horse and a gold/silver or metallic watch. He also had two cattle and 10 hogs on the 1855 tax list. He was not listed as a slave owner on the 1850 slave schedule.

So, after starting with nothing more than a birth date and death date, I have filled in the gaps in his life. I know who he married, his occupation, where he was born and the name of his father.  Now, on to a new project.

[1] Livingston County, Kentucky Homemaker Clubs. Livingston County, Kentucky Cemeteries 1738 - 1976 (n.p., 1976), 323.
[2] 1850 Livingston County, Kentucky census, page 358 (stamped), dwelling 491, family 491,
[3] Joyce McCandless Woodyard. Livingston County, Kentucky Marriage Records Including Marriages of Freedmen, Vol. II (August 1839-December 1871), (Evansville, IN: Evansville Bindery, 1994), 33.
[4] Joyce McCandless Woodyard. Livingston County, Kentucky Marriage Records, Vol. I, (Smithland, KY: n.p. 1992), 63.
[5] Woodyard. Livingston County, Kentucky Marriage Records, Vol. I, 133. Nancy Kidd's name is erroneously given as Mrs. Nancy Kibb.
[6] Livingston County, Kentucky Court Order Book H:31, 66, 150.  No location for this tavern was given.
[7] Livingston County, Kentucky Court Order Book L:155, 415.
[8] Kentucky Death Records, 1852-1910, Robt. M. Mitchell died 10 July 1858, Livingston County, Kentucky,
[9] Livingston County, Kentucky Homemakers. Livingston County, Kentucky Cemeteries, p. 323.
[10] Livingston County Tax Lists 1854 - 1859, Roll 250, Kentucky Dept for Libraries and Archives.

Published 15 Mar 2018, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

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