Wednesday, February 7, 2024

William N. St. John - Steamboatman

The first appearance of William N. St. John by name is on the 1850 Livingston County census record when he was living in a household headed by Nancy St. John. William was 19 years old, an engineer and was born in Illinois. Nancy was 60 years old and born in Virginia. Was she his mother - very possibly. Both of them may have been part of the family of an older William St. John, who is found on the 1840 Livingston County census.  Ann Jane St. John, who married G.W. Burton[1], and P.M. St. John, who married Lavenia Wilson[2], were likely siblings of William N. St. John. There should have been more siblings.

William N. St. John married Serena Smith, daughter of Samuel Smith, 16 December 1856[3] at New Liberty, Pope County, Illinois. They were living in Livingston County in 1860 with their 2-year-old daughter, Laura. William N. continued to work on the river and was listed as a steam boat engineer.

By 1870, the St. John  family had moved to Evansville, which was the center of riverboat traffic in the area.  William was now listed as a river boat pilot. They did not stay long in Evansville, but returned to Livingston County before 1880.

William and Serena St. John had a number of children, including the following who appeared on the 1880 census:  Laura, Jennett, William N., Joel, Alice B., Cora, Daisy, Lilly, Violet and Charles.

A small article in the River News of an Evansville newspaper recorded the death of William St. John. It stated the following:  "The remains of Capt. Wm. St. John, who died at Paducah on Sunday, were taken to Smithland for burial. Capt. St. John was at one time a well known Cumberland river steamboatman. He resided in this city some years ago, and has many friends here who will be pained to learn of his death."[4]

William N. St. John's monument marks his burial spot in Smithland Cemetery. His wife, Serena, is buried in Maplelawn Cemetery in Paducah.

Wm. N. St. John
Nov. 23, 1884
51 yr's., 9 mo's.
Buried Smithland Cemetery
Smithland, Kentucky

[1] Joyce McCandless Woodyard. Livingston County, Kentucky Marriage Records Including Marriages of Freedmen, Vol. II, (Evansville, IN:Evansville Bindery) 1994, p 19-20.
[2] Kentucky Death Certificate #16598 (1923) of Mattie B. Hill identifies her parents as Martin [sic] St. John and Louvenia Wilson.
[3] Judy Foreman Lee & Carolyn Cromeenes Foss. Pope County, Illinois Marriage Books A-E 1813-1877 Vol. 1, (Evansville, IN:Evansville Bindery) 1990, p. 57
[4] "River News," Evansville Daily Courier, Tues., 29 November 1884, p. 3.

Originally published 17 September 2015, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,  Reprinted 7 Feb 2024

Monday, January 1, 2024

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Merry Christmas!

 Merry Christmas from Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog

Friday, December 15, 2023

Destructive Fire at Smithland 1875

 From the Evansville, Indiana Courier, 15 Oct 1875.

A special telegram to the Courier, received last night, brings the particulars of a disastrous conflagration that occurred in Smithland, Kentucky, on Monday evening, in which two fine store rooms were burned and a complete stock of goods destroyed. The fire originated in an old, unoccupied dwelling adjoining the store of Mr. Tom Leech.  The flames communicated to the store and from thence to T.T. Cochran’s establishment, both of which were destroyed. Leech’s entire stock was destroyed before the flames could be extinguished, and the goods of Cochran were only secured after being somewhat damaged. The entire loss will exceed $10,000,  upon which there was little or no insurance. The work is supposed to be that of an incendiary.

Published 15 Dec 2023, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog. httyp://

Monday, December 11, 2023

Livingston County's Bowie Family Connection

Jim Bowie, who is often associated with the Bowie knife and who was killed at the Alamo in 1836, spent part of the fourth year of his life with his family in Livingston County, Kentucky. Rezin Bowie, Jim's father, can be found on the 1800 Livingston County tax list and was appointed appraiser of the estate of John Clark deceased that same year.[1]

The Bowie family came to Livingston County from Logan County, Kentucky, where Jim was born. After staying in Livingston County a short time, the family moved on to District of New Madrid (Missouri) and  about 1802 moved on to Louisiana.  You can read more about Jim Bowie Here

[1] Livingston County Court Order Book A, no pagination, 25 Mar 1800.

Originally published 5 Feb 2016. Published again 11 Dec 2023.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

More Memories from Buz Egan

Those of you who follow this blog know that I have spent a lot of time researching Smithland, Kentucky and its residents. One of the town residents I enjoy most is Ben F. Egan, more commonly known as Buz. I've written about him several times. This article was originally published 27 Mar 2014.

Buz was a steamboat captain on the Ohio and Cumberland rivers for many years and knew just about everyone in the business or connected to the business.  He also knew the men who reported the news of steamboats. So, when he was in a town, he visited the reporter who wrote the river news and talked. And talked and talked some more. He talked about old steamboat men in Smithland, calling them "old mariners." He talked about which ones were buried on "graveyard hill" in Smithland, which was often called "mouth of the Cumberland" or "mouth of Smithland."  Because of his talking, we get an inside look at people he knew in Smithland and on the rivers. Thank you, Buz!

Below are some of the news items found in the Evansville, Indiana Journal, which is available on microfilm at Willard Library in Evansville:

15 December 1884:  Speaking of his life-long friend, A.J. Duncan (deceased), Ben F. Egan says: Allen and I were boys together at that good old town at the mouth of the Cumberland river. When I first learned to know him well he and I were officers, in 1855, on the Nashville and St. Louis packet, Aleonia ... Capt. Duncan married  the niece of Capt. J.V. Scyster, of Smithland ... The widow of Wm. Mantz, a favorite engineer on the Cumberland river, is the niece of Capt. Duncan.

22 April 1885: [Speaking of J.W. Mills] His earthly voyage is ended, and he now sleeps on the graveyard hill down at the mouth of Smithland, and near him lie his old-time friends R.C. Weston, J.V. Throop, D.G. Fowler, N.F. Drew and Blount Hodge.

11 October 1886:  When a boy down at the mouth of Smithland, I played with the Matheny boys, Clem, Will, Tobe and Jim. Clem died at the pilot's wheel of the W.A. Johnson; Will committed suicide; Tobe was executed at Paducah by a military order issued by Gen. Payne, and now comes the intelligence from Evansville that Jim died there a few days ago, a victim of that dread disease, consumption. All of these boys were boatmen, and all, except poor Jim, died with their boots on. W.S. Gupton, a well known pilot, is their nephew.

3 December 1890:  Recalling ante-bellum days, Buz says: In the long ago Dixon Given drove a stage and kept a tavern on the point opposite the Mouth of Smithland. The old gentleman is dead and forgotten, and not a vestige of that house, nor of the ground on which it stood, remains. It has tumbled into the Ohio River. H.F., D.A., Mildred, Emily and Kate are dead. Judge W.P. Fowler married the oldest daughter. There [sic] sons are Dick, Joe, Whyte and Gus. Only Joe survives.

This is just a sample of what Buz had to say. 

Published a second time 30 Nov 2023, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Friday, November 24, 2023

Eddyville Trustees 1806

The following document was found among the loose county court papers in the Livingston County Clerk’s Office a number of years ago.  Eddyville was located in Livingston County at that time and remained  there until 1809 when it was located in the new county of Caldwell.  By 1854, Lyon County  had been created from Caldwell County and Eddyville was then located in Lyon County.

Many times information of this sort was recorded in the county court order books (court minutes), but this document was not recorded there. As far as I can determine, it is found only in the loose county clerk papers.


Click on document for an enlarged view

“As a Meeting of the lot holders and residents of the Town of Eddyville the following Gentlemen on the first Monday in August 1806 were duly Elected Trustees for said Town and took the oath accordingly Gideon D. Cobb, Samuel C. Clarke, Elijah G. Galusha, Moses Timmons, Blake Baker Esqrs.

                                                                      Attest  Jacob E. Faller  C.L.C., Eddyville August 4  1806"

 Published 24 Nov 2023, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,