Where Are The Women? Julia E. Randall Ramsey Brown

Continuing my theme of finding out more about some of the women in Laurel County’s history, the subject of this week’s blog is Julia E. Randall Ramsey Brown, who was the first woman postmaster of the London Post Office.

As Mrs. Julia E. Ramsey, she served as postmaster from March 28, 1866 through Nov. 6, 1866, when Hiram G. Litton was appointed to the position. Litton had also served from June 7, 1864 to March 28, 1866, when Julia was appointed.

Born in 1840, Julia was the eldest daughter of William H. Randall and Martha Jane Slaughter Randall. Julia had three brothers and one sister.

If the name William H. Randall sounds familiar to you, it is probably because he was a prominent Laurel County resident in the 1800s.

Among other things, William Randall was a lawyer, circuit court clerk, county court clerk, circiut court judge, and was elected as congressman for the Eighth Congressional District of Kentucky in 1863 and 1865.

He is also one of the subjects on a Kentucky Historical Highway Marker that stands near the south entrance of the A. R. Dyche Memorial Park on South Main Street in London.

But back to Julia.

She married her first husband, merchant William Russell Ramsey, in Laurel County on Aug. 25, 1855 when she was just 15 years old. William was 23.

The couple had three sons: William Russell Ramsey, Jr., born 1856, died 1937 (age 81); Elmer Mark Ramsey, born 1860, died 1879 (age 19); Russell Thompson Ramsey, born 1862, died 1954 (age 92).

By 1867, Julia was a widow with three young sons to raise by herself. She was appointed as administrator of her husband’s estate on Dec. 4, 1867. William died intestate (without a will).

Since married women had no property rights in Kentucky in 1867, and since serving as administrator for an estate without a last will & testament was then, as now, a monumental task, Julia must have been a remarkably competent woman to be appointed administrator of William’s estate. That role was usually reserved for men.

Of course, having a father who was a Congressman probably didn’t hurt.

Julia remarried in 1874 to dry goods merchant John Tilford Brown in Laurel County. He was a widower. Julia and John did not have any children together, but both had children from their previous marriages.

Although Julia’s middle son, Elmer Mark, died young, her other two sons went on to lead long and successful lives, due in part, no doubt, to her influence.

William Russell Ramsey, Jr. became a lawyer, serving at one time as prosecuting attorney for the district. He was also a delegate to the Constitutional Convention when the new Constitution for Kentucky was drafted in the 1890s. William, who was an expert penman, was commissioned to inscribe the new Constitution onto parchment made from sheepskin. His handwriting, it seems, was unequaled in all of Kentucky for its beauty and legibility.

Julia’s youngest son, Russell Thompson Ramsey, became a physician.

Julia E. Randall Ramsey Brown (sorry, I never did find out what her middle initial “E” stood for) died on Oct. 12, 1880 of flux (dysentery), from which she had suffered for two weeks. She was only 40 years old.

Although her greatest claim to fame may have been her relationship to the men in her life, she was also a competent woman who was intelligent enough to serve as postmaster of the London Post Office, serve as administrator for her husband’s intestate estate, and raise three young sons on her own–none of which would have been easy for anyone in the mid-1800s.

Danna Estridge
Guest Blogger

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