Thursday, July 12, 2018

Three Generations of Hodges

Mention the name Blount Hodge to a genealogist familiar with Livingston County, Kentucky records and  you will likely receive a big smile in return. That is because Blount Hodge lived life to the fullest and left a legacy of going against the norm during his lifetime (1801 - 1877). There are all sorts of stories told about Blount Hodge, but in this blog I am trying to stick to what can be proven.

Hodge was twice married. His first marriage was to Ann Eliza Phillips, daughter of Mark Phillips, in 1823.[1] Then, on 22 October 1834 he married Mrs. Elizabeth P. (Rice) Bigham, widow of Robert C. Bigham. [2] Several children were born to Blount and Elizabeth P. Hodge, including Blount Hodge Jr., who died at age 14, and James Campbell Hodge, who was a lawyer in Smithland.

Following the death of Elizabeth P. Hodge in 1864, Blount began a relationship with Almira Wynder, his African-American housekeeper, resulting in the birth of at least two daughters.  Blount wrote his last will and testament in 1874 and added a codicil to the will just two days later.[3]  To his son, James C. Hodge, he left only $5, having previously given him money and real estate. Blount stressed that his son was to have no more and expressed the belief that his son was "fixing up plans to thwart and destroy this will & I hope to God the County Court ... will scout all such subterfuges if any should be attempted."

Almira Wynder had three daughters, Lucy Wynder, Almira Hodge Jr. and Lillian St. Clair Hodge, the latter two  acknowledged by Blount as his daughters.  To Lucy Wynder he left a house and lot on Charlotte Street, a lot on Main Street and 63 acres of land. He directed his executors to sell the property and use the money from the sale in schooling Lucy. Blount left 700-800 acres of land valued at $8,000 - $10,000 plus  other property to Almira Hodge Jr. and Lillian St. Clair Hodge.

As if this will was not already unusual, Blount went on the say that "there has been an attempt to take my life with Stricnine." He said he believed he knew who did it and believed they might try to destroy his will.

Whew!  Strong words.  When I first read this will, I thought maybe he was paranoid and just thought someone was trying to poison him. Then, I came across a newspaper article published a few months before Blount Hodge died.  It stated that Blount Hodge of Smithland, "who was poisoned a short time ago we learn  is out of danger... Mr. Hodge has but one legitimate child, Mr. James Hodge, a lawyer of Smithland. For years the old gentleman has been living with a negro woman, and has a family of children by her. Not long since he made his will, leaving the large bulk of his property to the negro, and little or nothing to his son James. This woman, when she drank or pretended to drink the poison with Hodge, was instantly affected by it, and commenced screaming and declared she was poisoned, while it was nearly three hours before the poison took effect on Hodge. The woman at once charged James with poisoning her and his father and satisfied the old man of the fact."[4]

Were they poisoned or not?  I will let you decide, but I did not find a court case regarding a case of poisoning and/or a contested will. The unusual happenings did not stop with the death of Blount Hodge in 1874.  Remember he had a son, James Campbell Hodge, who was a lawyer in Smithland.

James C. Hodge was good friends with Capt. John W. Bush, a veteran of the Union Army during the Civil War and also a lawyer in Smithland.  Hodge was returning from Paducah on board the steamer, Royal, in 1906. He had just stepped ashore from the gang plank, turned to speak to his son, also named Blount Hodge, when he threw up his hands and fell  dead to the ground.  His friend, Capt. Bush, who had been ill for about two months but was on the mend, died instantly upon hearing the news of his friend's death.[5]

One more event involving the Hodge family that made the news. Blount Hodge, the son of James C. Hodge and grandson of the older Blount Hodge, was involved in a "shooting affray" in Smithland in 1905. The ingredients in this "affray" included  river pilot Blount Hodge, Dr. F.G. LaRue and LaRue's "handsome young wife."  [6]  The shooting began in front of Grayot's drug store. After the first shot, which hit the victim over the eye, Hodge ran down the street with Dr. LaRue in close pursuit. Two more shots followed, one striking in back of his ear and the other hitting his leg at the hip.   Dr. LaRue surrendered, gave up his pistol, and said, "I have shot a man down on front street who wrecked my home." The description of this "affray" brings up a really vivid picture in my mind!

Blount Hodge later served in World War II, where he piloted seagoing Navy vessels from Evansville, Indiana to the Gulf of Mexico. He settled in Seattle, Washington and died there 16 September 1950, age 71.[7]                

[1] Joyce M. Woodyard. Livingston County, Kentucky Marriage Records, Vol. 1 (Oct 1799-July 1839), (Evansville, IN: Evansville Bindery, 1992) 72. Marriage bond dated 9 December 1823; no marriage return.
[2] Livingston County, Kentucky Marriage Records, Vol. 1, p. 133. 
[3] Livingston County, Kentucky Will Book C, p. 19, dated 13 August 1874 and codicil dated 15 August 1874.
[4]The Hickman Courier, Hickman, Kentucky, Sat., 28 February 1874, p. 3, originally published in the Paducah Kentuckian.
[5] "Lawyer Friends of Smithland Died the Same Day," Hopkinsville Kentuckian, 17 November 1906, Chronicling America,
[6] "Shooting Affray," Crittenden Press, Thurs., 16 February 1905, p. 1.
[7] "Captain Hodge, Livingston Native, Dies in Seattle," The Paducah Sun, Sunday, 17 September 1950, p. 4.

Published 12 July 2018, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

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