Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Affidavit of William Gholson for Military Service

Originally published 19 Aug 2021. 

By the law of the 18th of March 1818, indigent officers of the Revolutionary War were entitled to $20 per month and privates who were indigent were entitled to $8 per month. They had to  have served not less than nine months in the Continental Line during the war. One of those indigent soldiers was William Gholson of Caldwell County, Kentucky. His affidavit, along with those of others, is recorded in Caldwell County Court Order Books B and C.

“William Gholson an Indigent Revolutionary soldier of the old Continental Army personally appeared in court in order to be heard  respecting his being entitled to the benefit of the law of the 18th of March 1818 Entitled an act to provide for certain persons engaged in the land and Naval service of the United States during the Revolutionary War, and being duly proven Testifies that in January 1777 he Enlisted in Capt. John Spottswoods Company tenth Virginia Regt. Of Continental Troops for three years and that he continued with the Army  until Charleston fell into the hands of the British and that he made his escape from the enemy the 14th day of June 1780 when he returned home having served the time of his enlistment. He further swears that from his reduced circumstances he needs the assistance of his country for support.”[1]

“On motion of William Gholson who produced his affidavit  … ‘State of Kentucky Caldwell County on this 24th day of July 1820, personally appeared in open Court being a court of record for William Gholson aged 62 years resident in said county  … doth declare that he served in the Revolutionary war as follows – that he enlisted in the month of January 1777 in the tenth Virginia Regt. Commanded by Colonel Edward Stevens for the term of three  years in Captain John Spotswoods Company for the Virginia line on the Continental establishment, all of which is contained in his original declaration which a bears date of May 25th 1818 on which he has received a pension,  certificate number 14.592.

“And I do solemnly swear that I was a resident citizen of the United States on 18th of March 1818 and I have not since by gift  sale or  disposed of my property or any part thereof with intent to diminish it as to bring myself within the provisions of an act of Congress entitled “An Act to provide for certain person[s] engaged in the land an naval service of the United States in the Revolutionary war” passed on the 18th March 1818 and that I have not nor has any person in trust for me any property or securities contracts or debts due to me, nor have I any income other than what is contained in the Schedule hereto annexed and by me subscribed. And I further declare I have no property except $30 which is due me from T.C. Gholson, my occupation at present is that of teaching a small Country School, and not able to labor for a living … I have one son named Richard D. Gholson aged about 16 years who is unable to render me any great service in procuring subsistence.  [signed] Wm. Gholson     24th day July 1820.” [2]

[1] Deposition of William Gholson, Revolutionary pension, Caldwell County, Kentucky County Court Order Book B, p. 235,

[2] Affidavit of William Gholson, Revolutionary War pension, Caldwell County, Kentucky County Court Order Book C, pp 202-203,  24 July 1820.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

John Behagg - Smithland Sexton

 Originally published 31 July 2009. One of my favorite citizens of Smithland before and after the Civil War.

Tombstone of John Behagg, Smithland Cemetery.

John Behagg never bought or sold land. He never applied for a license to keep a ferry, tavern or coffee house. He was never appointed to appraise an estate or to work on the public roads. He never left a will or had sufficient estate to require an administrator. Very likely his life was one of hard work trying to provide for himself, his wife and his step-children. John Behagg was the sexton, or grave digger, for Smithland, Kentucky in the mid-1800s. While he generated few public records, there is enough information to get a glimpse of his life.

I first ran across Behagg’s name while researching Martha Barner Taylor. Miss Pattie, as she was usually known, died in Nashville in 1869 and her body was brought back for burial in Smithland Cemetery. One of the estate expenses listed was to “Behagg for digging grave, $5.00.” That was enough to make me wonder who “Behagg” was and if this was how he earned his living.

Records on John Behagg were few and far between in Livingston County. However, I found several vouchers in county court minutes for digging graves for paupers and also found that in August 1845, he was appointed to take charge of the courthouse. This was likely for keeping the courthouse clean and orderly.

Census records show that John Behagg was in Livingston County by 1840 and had a number of people in his household, including a female who was of the age to have been his wife. No marriage record for him was found in Livingston County, but there is a marriage for John Behagg and Amanda Leftridge 9 May 1836 in Evansville, Vanderburgh County, Indiana. There were other Behaggs in Evansville, but they didn’t show up for some years after this marriage. However, maybe he was related to some Behaggs in neighboring Warrick County, Indiana. Were John and Amanda living in Indiana at the time of their marriage or did they make a special trip to Evansville to marry?

The Behaggs were still living in Smithland at the time of the 1850 census, along with Amanda and Joseph Leftridge, who were probably the children of Amanda by a former marriage. On the 1860 and 1870 census Livingston County census records, John Behagg is listed with Hester Behagg. I have an idea Amanda and Hester were the same person as on 7 November 1841 in Livingston County, Sarah Lefftrage, daughter of Mrs. Hester Behagg, married James Drewry.

Per Livingston Circuit Court Order Book L, page 260, John Behagg appeared in court on 2 October 1844 and made a declaration for the purpose of becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States. He stated that he was “born in the Kingdom of Great Britain in Huntingfordshire [sic] England. That he left that Kingdom and came to the United States of America in the year 1828 …” According to Circuit Court Order Book M, page 276, on Friday, the 19th of November 1847, John Behagg was declared to be a citizen of the U.S.

Amanda/Hester must have died after she and John appeared on the 1870 census as John married Rebecca Stevenson on the 23rd of October 1872 at the Methodist Church in Smithland. When John obtained the marriage bond (Marriage Bond Book 1, page 4), he stated it was his third marriage and he was sexton of a church. He was 71 years old.  This was the first marriage for his bride, Rebecca, who was 26 years old.

When John Behagg died 2 November 1875, he left no will or estate settlement. However, his grave is marked by a tombstone, now on the ground, in Smithland Cemetery. It states he was 78 years and 3 months old at the time of his death.  Although the age differs from what was shown on the census records, it is surely the same man. There was no other person in Smithland or vicinity with the name Behagg. Nearby is a tombstone for a child of Joseph Leftridge.

So, even with few available records, a small picture of John Behagg has emerged. This proves that no matter what the occupation or social class, every person in town has a story to tell. John Behagg may not have served in public office or been a large landowner, but he was a part of the town and performed a useful service in his job.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Ben Egan's Report on Conditions at Smithland 1862

Originally published 19 July 2012 and re-printed 25 April 2023.

It was surely difficult seeing your hometown overrun with soldiers during the early days of the Civil War, especially if those soldiers were in the Federal army and you sympathized with the southern cause.

People expressed their displeasure at the war in different ways. Some citizens of Smithland, Kentucky risked repercussions by flying the Confederate flag, others enlisted in the Confederate army and still others sent reports on the Federal army to the Confederacy.

Shortly after the war began in 1861, it was recognized that Smithland was important because of its location at the confluence of the Cumberland and Ohio rivers. The Federal army moved into Smithland in September 1861 and remained there until after the war was over in 1865. The strengths and weaknesses of the Federal army at Smithland was of interest to the confederacy. Who better to report on activities than Ben F. Egan? As a former resident of Smithland, he knew the people, the roads and, as a steamboat captain, he knew the rivers.

The first report Egan made about the Federal army in Smithland can be found in Official Records, Series I, Vol. 52, page 155, dated 26 September 1861. The report was sent from W.J. Waldron at Clarksville, Tennessee to General Polk. Waldron stated that "Capt. Ben F. Egan, just in from Smithland, reports that steamer Empress landed there on Tuesday evening 1,000 infantry and one company of cavalry, and took possession of the town."

It is a later report that provides a good look at the Federal army in Smithland. This report is located in Confederate Citizens File, Civil War, on Fold3. Egan submitted this report on the 11th of February 1862 [incorrectly given as 1861 in one place]. The report, accompanied by a hand drawn sketch, reads as follows:

"The Federal forces now occupying Smithland number 320, regularly enlisted soldiers and about 75 raw, green recruits recently brought there by P.D. Yeiser, of Eddyville Ky, who is raising a company for Judge Williams' regiment, these men are quartered in an old cooper shop near the market house. The Federals are encamped on Dr. D.B. Sanders' hill, behind his brick house in the orchard, their position is shown in the sketch ... these men are armed with the old U.S. muskets. There are only 3 pieces of cannon, one 64 and two 32 pounders - The 64 and one 32 are planted behind the camp and command a range a range [sic] from the Sulphur Spring (about a mile and a half distant) to the head of Cumberland island, the other 32 pounder is planted in the south East corner of the Grave Yard, commanding a range from the Sulphur spring to the foot of the Cumberland island - the guns in the accompanying sketch are marked ... The camp is on the farther side of the hill from the town immediately below the 64 lb gun. These guns are planted so as to command the road leading to Eddyville and Paducah but can be fired in any direction, as they work on turn tables. The pickets are stationed about a mile on the Paducah road and about a mile and a half on the Eddyville road and in a circle of about a mile to the Cumberland river. Trenches are dug on each side of the big road ... The troops say that if they are left alone and have one week to complete their fortifications that they will be well prepared to resist any attack that may be made by Southern troops.

"On Tuesday night an expedition of these troops started up the Cumberland river destroying all flat boats, ferry boats & rafts... and every description of water craft. On Wednesday they progressed as far as Greens Ferry, and were to continue the destruction of boats as far up the river as Ross' Ferry (27 miles) - The force occupying Smithland are [illegible word] and have been all the time in constant fear and alarm and greatly dreading an attack."

The Grave Yard mentioned in the report is Smithland Cemetery, which is located high on a hill just back of the old courthouse and provides a good view of the rivers.

It is unknown if Egan's reports ever became known to Smithland residents, but it is known that he left Smithland before the war and never returned to live there.

Ben F. Egan led a very interesting life on the river and elsewhere. He was the son of Edward Egan and Martha "Patsy" Barner of Logan County, Kentucky. After her husband died, Patsy Barner Egan married Henry Wells, an early commission merchant in Smithland. Following the death of his mother and stepfather, it is believed Ben F. Egan moved into the house of his Uncle Benjamin Barner on Charlotte Street. He was a Mexican War veteran  and lived a long life. He died in 1908 in a hospital in Washington, D.C. and is buried beside his wife, Nettie Miller Egan, in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Cherokee Land Rush of 1893

 Originally published 5 Nov 2020 and republished 12 Apr 2023.

The Land Rush of 1893, also known as the Cherokee Outlet Opening, drew thousands of people to the area that would become part of Oklahoma in 1907. There had been land rushes in 1889,  1891 and 1893 and a final rush in 1895,  but the Land Rush of 1893 was the largest.  According to Wikipedia, the land Rush of 1893 opened up 12,726 square miles to settlement.  The land had been purchased from the Cherokee Indians by the government.

One group from Carrsville, Livingston County, Kentucky, left with high hopes of establishing a homestead. The following article appeared in a newspaper in Marion, Kentucky.

“A party of Livingston county boomers were in the city last night, leaving this morning by the Gus Fowler for Cairo whence they will go by rail to the Cherokee strip, which is to be thrown open Saturday. They came from Carrsville and vicinity and had a complete outfit for camping, including dogs, guns and  other equipment considered necessary to out door life. The party was composed of the following persons: Capt. J.C. Barnett, T.B. Barnett, Crocket Bess, Carroll Bess and wife, Tom Bruce and A.C. Likens. They were guests of the Dale House last night. They will reach the Strip in ample time to join in the grand rush Saturday.  – Paducah News [1]

 Again, an area newspaper recorded the event. “Capt. J.C. Barnett has returned from the Cherokee Strip, where he and his son, Thomas, entered 160 acres apiece ... They made the run on the train of cars that entered the Strip. It only ran at the rate of 15 miles per hour, without stops, and when they reached land that suited them they leaped off and squatted on the ground they wanted. Tom remained out there and Capt. Barnett will return in a few days. – Elizabethtown, Ill. Independent [2]

Capt. Barnett returned to the West as when his father, P.C. Barnett,  died in Crittenden County in 1896, his survivors included his son, James C. Barnett of Texas.[3] J.C. Barnett apparently returned home after his father’s death and stayed for some time.  He appears on the 1900 census [4] and 1910 census.[5]  By 1920, J.C. Barnett had moved to Noxubee County, Mississippi, where he was living with his son, Tom (T.B.) Barnett and wife, Jeanette.[6]

 James C. Barnett and his wife, Jessie Carrie, and their son, T.B. Barnett, all died in 1929, Jesse Carrie died 4 March 1929. James C. and his son, T.B. both died of double pneumonia on 26 October 1929.  All three are buried in Odd Fellows Cemetery, Mason, Noxubee County, Mississippi. [7]


[1] “Bound for Cherokee Strip,” Crittenden Press (Marion, Ky), 14 Sep 1893, p. 3, reprinted from the Paducah News.

[2]“Personals,”  Crittenden Press (Marion, Ky), 12 Oct 1893, p. 4, reprinted from the Elizabethtown, Ill. Independent.

[3]  Brenda Joyce Jerome.   "P.C. Barnett Dead,” Crittenden County, Kentucky Newspaper Abstracts 1896-1900, (Evansville, IN: Evansville Bindery, 1994) 25.

[4] 1900 Livingston County, Kentucky census, Carrsville, p. 8, E.D. 0057, Ancestry.com

[5] 1910 Livingston County, Kentucky census, Panhandle, Roll T624_491, p. 4B, E.D. 0107, Ancestry.com

[6] 1920 Noxubee County, Mississippi census, Cliftonville, Roll T625_889, p. 8A, E.D. 80. Ancestry.com

[7] Find a Grave Memorial #118938307, James Curry Barnett; Memorial #118939360, Jessie Carrie Barnett; Memorial #118861326, Thomas Bruce Barnett.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Killed in Action - Battle of Salem 1864


 Farewell Friends

Willie P.

Son of

R. & C.C. Fowler

Member of the U.S. Army

and killed in Battle

Aug. 7, 1864

Aged 18 years

Willie P. Fowler was buried in John Wheeler Cemetery, Crittenden County, Kentucky. Tombstone photographed February 2016 and provided by Jerry Bebout. The decedent's given name was sometimes spelled Wiley.

Willie  P. Fowler was one of two Union soldiers killed when 300 Confederate soldiers and guerrillas attacked Companies B and C of the 48th Kentucky Volunteer Mounted Infantry during the Battle of Salem on 7 August 1864. The Union soldiers numbered only 35.

Willie,  the son of Robert Fowler, an early tailor in Marion, and Cynthia Caroline Ragsdale, was born about 1846. His father died when he was about five years old and his mother then married Henry C. Wheeler. Willie P. was mustered into Company B, 48th Kentucky Vol. Mtd. Infantry on 26 October 1863. He was only 17 years of age.

Originally published 23 February 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog, http://wkygenealogy.blogspot.com/


Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Return of Slaves 1845

Recently I came across the flollowing document and thought it might be of interest to others. It was found in Livingston County Deed Book HH, page 95, and is dated February 1845.

"Mrs. Ellender Burgess widdow of Dempsey Burgess dec'd under the Act of Assembly of the Kentucky Legislature approved March 2d 1844 relative to the rights of [illegible] would here return to the Livingston County Court Clerk's Office, the county in which I reside, That I hold a life estate on the following Slaves and have them in possession, Towit:

"Esther, a woman, aged thirty four years yellow complexion, Mary, a woman aged Thirty Two years, rather dark Complexion, Warren, a man aged Twenty Nine years, very dark skin, Lewis, a Boy aged fourteen years, yellow, Isabel, a Girl aged fourteen years, yellow, Peter a boy aged Thirteen years Black, Joe a Boy aged Twelve years Black, Rachel a Girl aged Eleven years black, Henry a Boy aged Nine years light, Mary Elizabeth a Girl aged Seven years dark, George a Boy aged Seven years black, Dempsey a Boy aged Two years Yellow, Abram a Boy aged one year light - all belonging to the Estate of said Dempsey Burgess dec'd. Witness my hand this [blank} day of February 1845. [signed] Ellender (X her mark) Burgess. Witness Test: J.E. Smullen, Test: Sharrad Barron.

James L. Dallam, Clerk of Livingston County Court, certifies that the foregoing Return of Slaves by Mrs. Ellender Burgess was on this day filed in his office and ordered to be recorded. 20 March 1845 [signed] James L. Dallam."

Published 15 March 2023, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog, http://wkygenealogy.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Dunn - Boyd Marriage Contract


A marriage contract was often signed by parties planning to marry in order to protect assets from a previous marriage. These marriage contracts are usually recorded in the deed books in Kentucky. The following marriage contract between Mr. M.F. Dunn and Mrs. Susan E. Boyd is recorded in Livingston County, Kentucky Deed Book 7, page 93.  The contracting couple did marry on the 27th day of September 1868.[1]

Article of Agreement made and entered into this 23rd day  of September 1868 between M.F. Dunn and Susan E. Boyd, both of Livingston County, Kentucky as a marriage contract …  Witnesseth, that whereas sd. parties have entered into an agreement to become joined in the bans of matrimony, Now for the purpose of Securing to the sd. Mrs. Susan E. Boyd her property both Real and personal, It is hereby agreed and understood between the properties, that when sd. Marriage is consummated, that all  her property both real and Personal Shall be  hers, as though she was a feme-sole [sic] and the Marriage shall not invest the sd. M.F. Dunn in any manner, or give any interest in any of her property that she may now own or may hereafter acquire whatever.   Given under our hands … [signed] M.F. (X his mark) Dunn, Susan E. Boyd.  Attest: Randolph Noe, M.P. Dunn.

[1] Livingston County, Kentucky Marriage Register 1839-1877, p. 263.

Published 28 Feb 2023, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog, http://wkygenealogy.blogspot.com/