McFarland’s Defeat

The McFarland Defeat took place in March or April of 1793 about four miles northeast of present-day London. This defeat was unusual because the man for whom it was named was one of the survivors rather than one of the victims.

Probably the most accurate and complete account of McFarland’s Defeat comes from Charles Robert Baugh, who heard it from his grandmother many years before he related it to the Lexington Herald newspaper, where it was published on January 20, 1907.

Following is an excerpt from that article. You can read a transcript of the entire article HERE: McFarland Defeat – Lexington Herald

“The first I ever heard about McFarland’s Defeat was from my grandmother years ago. It took place even before her day and time, but not so long before but that she had heard it discussed by parties well acquainted with the facts — possibly some who had visited the place the day after and had seen the awful evidence of the massacre.

“It took place about four miles to the northeast of London, the capital of Laurel County, in a narrow valley not over a mile long and drained by a branch of Big Raccoon Creek, ever since called McFarland’s Branch.

“McFarland was a hunter, a woodsman and a man experienced in Indian warfare. He was well acquainted with the winding path made by Boone, and had tasted the dangers of the dark woods on either side. Many descendants of the venturesome and hardy English colonists of Virginia and the Carolinas heard the call of the wild and the west and came to cast their fortunes with the new settlements beyond the Cumberlands.

“For the sake of company and for safety sake they traveled together and engaged a pilot like McFarland to take them through the Wilderness. At this time McFarland was leading a company of 28 besides himself.

“Knowing the dangers of the journey the company had, under the advice of McFarland, arranged a plan of action in case of an attack. At the appearance of the enemy it was agreed that the men should each seek the shelter of a tree and fight the Indians Indian fashion. The women and children were to push forward with the packhorses, leaving the men untrammeled.

“If the emigrants were victorious they could soon overtake the noncombatants. If the battle went against the whites the women would have some show of escaping by being out of sight.

“The little company passed where most of McNitt’s company had found their graves by the Trace side only four years before. Perhaps some friend or a relative had fallen here, and when McFarland pointed out the spot a shudder, a chill, passed over some of the timid — a premonition.

“Six miles beyond they passed down into the little valley. It was late in the afternoon. John Wood’s sheltering blockhouse was five miles away. The whoop of the Indians hidden by the trees was followed by a deadly fire.

“There were stout hearted women in the company. They had severed ties at the old home and willingly undertook the hazardous journey to find a new one. They had agreed to the plan arranged for them and had thought themselves equal to it, but when the test came they found the task too great.

“Their feet refused to carry them forward. Terror struck the company, terror and grim dispair. The women and children clung to their protectors who could neither protect nor save themselves. Without the shelter of a tree the men, women and children were at the mercy of those who never knew mercy.

“McFarland had no women folks, and he was able to get to a tree. From behind it he shot the leader of the Indians, who as he fell took off part of McFarland’s shot pouch with a last bullet.

McFarland was able to make his escape and went to John Woods’ blockhouse for help.

“It was sometime before McFarland could convince Woods who he was and how he came to be there. Then he was admitted, and soon the story of the massacre was told. After a consultation, made short for fear that the Indians had followed and would overwhelm them, Woods and McFarland left the blockhouse and hurried through the darkness over the long 30 miles that lay between them and Captain Whitley’s Station near where the town of Crab Orchard, Lincoln County, now is.

“Next day with assistance from Whitley’s they returned to the scene of the massacre. They found the bodies of the entire company and the body of the Chief that McFarland had killed. Upon examination they found that the Chief was a white renegade with a painted face and an Indian dress.

“It appeared at first that McFarland was the only survivor but a cry attracted them to a spot a little aside, and there they found a second survivor, a puny girl baby, and a third, a faithful dog that had lain huddled against her and kept her from freezing by warmth of his body.

“The mother and father and all the others sleep by the [Boone] Trace side where they fell. The child and her protector were taken to Captain Whitley’s. What became of the child I never heard.”

The rescue party also found a second little girl, Betsey Drake, who had been abandoned by her parents at Drake’s Defeat in March, 1793, and who had been taken by the Indians. She had escaped at the beginning of the McFarland battle and had been wandering alone in the wilderness until found by the Whitley party.

Both girls were taken to the Whitley home and eventually returned to their families.

Russell Dyche’s History of Laurel County, Kentucky (1954) also has a detailed account of McFarland’s Defeat. Read it HERE: McFarland Defeat – by Russell Dyche

Danna Estridge, Guest Blogger

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The Defeat of Thomas Ross

On Feb. 20, 1792, an Act of the United States directed that on and after June 1, 1792, a postal route “from Richmond [Virginia] . . . to Danville in Kentucky.”

U.S. Post Office Department records indicate that the first mail service to Kentucky was scheduled for October 18, 1792, but existing records do not show whether or not mail was delivered in Kentucky at that time.

Official records do show that on August 20, 1792, Thomas Barbee was granted a commission as postmaster at Danville, Kentucky, but the date the post office opened there is uncertain.

However, on March 21, 1793, “postrider” Thomas Ross, the first known mail carrier to travel the postal route established in the fall of 1792, was on his way from Holston, Tennessee, to Danville, Kentucky, accompanied by two other men, the Rev. Joseph Brown and a Colonel Friley.

An account of the fateful events of that journey were detailed in a narrative by the Rev. Joseph Brown on March 30, 1858. Brown’s account was printed in the Banner of Peace newspaper, published on August 5, 1858 in Nashville, Tennessee.

The Rev. Brown tells how he went to East Tennessee on business in the winter of 1793 and on his return joined a company with Colonel Robert Hayne, a brother-in-law of Gen. Jackson, and others.

When they reached Knoxville, Tennessee, a Cherokee trader informed them that a large body of Indians was planning to waylay the company going to Nashville and advised Brown and Hayne to go through Kentucky to avoid the ambush, which they did.

Two days into the journey, Brown’s horse came up lame and Brown was compelled to return to Knoxville for a week in order to allow the horse to recover.

At that time the postrider, Thomas Ross, and a Colonel Friley came along, Brown said, “and as they lived in Kentucky concluded if they could go safe I could.” So the next morning the three men set out for Kentucky.

Everything went fine until two o’clock the second afternoon, when on the east side of Little Laurel River they were fired on by a party of Indians. Luckily, the three men escaped unharmed and made a mad dash for the river.

Ross’s horse was faster than Brown’s horse, and Ross was about sixteen feet ahead of Brown when an Indian from behind a tree fired at Ross and shot his horse through the ear.

“She wheeled back and as they fired on Ross and me, Friley said there was twenty or thirty guns fired at us too,” Brown said. “Friley was forty yards behind, but our horse was scared at the screaming of the Indians and the guns and dodging they missed us both.”

Ross and Brown “dashed back and met Friley and we all came in abreast to [a] large fallen tree,” Brown said. “I was on the left and Ross in the middle and as Ross’s mare charged the log her four feet went into the ground so she fell on her breast and then on her side and he went over her head and his gun fell out of his hand.” That was the last Brown saw of Ross.

“Friley hollered to me that he was wounded and for me to charge my horse down the [river] bank or they would have us,” Brown said. “I answered him that I was wounded also and turned my horse toward the river.”

Brown and his horse plunged down the steep bank and into the water. They made it across the river and halfway up the slate bank on the other side, but Brown’s horse fell and Brown jumped off and started to run when he saw Ross’s mare approaching the riverbank. Brown observed that “She had the mail on and his blanket just as he [Ross] left her.”

Brown caught the mare and leaped onto her back. He saw Friley going over the hill more than a hundred yards ahead and Brown rode after him, catching up with him within a quarter of a mile.

Brown and Friley rode about twelve miles to the home of an unnamed Dutchman who took the men in, dressed their wounds and cared for their horses.

A few days later Brown left the Dutchman’s house, determined to get medical aid for his shoulder wound. About a quarter of a mile along the trail, Brown came across Ross’s mare, who had lost the mail and her saddle. Brown put his own saddle on the mare and rode her the forty miles to Crab Orchard, home of William Whitley, where he found a doctor—who happened to be a brother-in-law of Ross.

The doctor “treated me with a great deal of kindness and tenderness for six weeks before I felt able to start home,” Brown said.

A nephew of Colonel Whitley later give Brown “information of judgment of heaven on the very Indians that wounded me.”

Simon Kenton and a company of men tracked the Indians and ambushed them. The men retrieved the mail that Brown left on Ross’ mare and rescued the prisoners that were taken when McFarland was defeated the Tuesday after Brown, Ross and Friley were attacked.

Newspaper accounts reported the attack and Ross’s death, though not in the detail supplied by Brown:

“On the 21st of last month, Thomas Ross (post rider) and two other men on their way from Hawkins court house, in this Territory, to Kentucky, were fired on, near Laurel river by a party of Indians, supposed to be Cherokees, and the white man Ross was killed, the other two men were wounded, but made their escape. These wretches carried their brutality so far as to cut off his head and the flesh from his bones.” March 23, 1793, Knoxville, Tennessee.

“About 3 weeks ago, Thomas Ross, Postrider fell sacrifice to the Indians in the wilderness.” Bowen’s Centinel and Gazette, April 15, 1793, Winchester, Virginia.

You can read Rev. Brown’s entire narrative HERE: Rev Joseph Brown narrative

Next week: McFarland’s Defeat.

Thanks for stopping by!

Danna Estridge, Guest Blogger

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The McClure Defeat

For many years raiding parties of renegade Chickamauga and Cherokee stalked the Boone Trace, attacking small parties of travelers in the wilderness in order to steal their horses, cattle and other possessions. They also sometimes took prisoners from among the travelers.

Colonel William Whitley, who built the first brick house in Kentucky, “Sportsman Hill,” five miles west of Crab Orchard, was known far and wide as “the guardian of the wilderness.”

Whitley often went to the rescue of those who were attacked along the Boone Trace, and tracked down the raiding parties to recover the stolen goods and rescue captives taken prisoner by the renegades.

The McClure Defeat took place at the head of Skaggs Creek in present-day Laurel County in September or October of 1784.

According to William Whitley’s account, the McClure party was attacked shortly before daybreak. One man was killed and six persons were stabbed. Mr. McClure and several other members of the party were able to escape after firing back at their attackers.

Mrs. McClure and her four children were able to escape and hide in the forest, but one of the children cried, alerting their attackers to her location.

When they found Mrs. McClure, they killed three of her children immediately and took her and her youngest child prisoner. According to some reports, the youngest child survived and was later rescued with Mrs. McClure, but Whitley said the renegades killed this child, also, and his version of the story doesn’t mention rescuing the child.

The raiding party stayed at the McClure’s campsite until after daybreak, when they placed Mrs. McClure on a young horse that had been used as a pack animal but which had never been ridden.

She had a difficult time riding the horse through the thick underbrush and was battered and bruised by the experience.

Word of the defeat reached Sportsman Hill during Whitley’s absence, but his wife, Esther, sent for him and in the meantime raised a company of twenty-one men “true as steel” to accompany Whitley to pursue the renegades.

Whitley reported that his company caught up with the raiding party on the second night of their pursuit, about two hours before sunset.

The raiding party had apparently not traveled that day because they “had been busily engaged in dividing the plunder.” They were dressed in the clothing they had taken from the McClure party when Whitley and his men overtook them.

Whitley’s men fired on the raiding party, killing two, which enabled them to rescue Mrs. McClure and an African American woman who had also been taken prisoner.

Mrs. McClure told Whitley that “about a half hour before we fired on them one of the Indians had on a pair of shoe boots and was dancing merrily.”

Whitley said that if the dancer had waited a few moments longer “he would have got our music.” [Gunfire.]

Whitley stated that there were seven Indians in the raiding party. Whitley and his men recovered sixteen horses and “a great quantity of property,” which they later returned to the rightful owners.

The Indians also had six scalps stretched on hoops, and they forced Mrs. McClure to cook in sight of the scalps, some of which no doubt belonged to her murdered children.

Whitley took Mrs. McClure and the unnamed African American woman back to Sportsman Hill, where Mrs. McClure was eventually reunited with her husband.

Next week I will relate the story of the first postman, Thomas Ross, who was killed in Laurel County in March 1793 by a raiding party.

Thanks for stopping by.

Danna Estridge, guest blogger

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The Moore Defeat

According to Laurel County historian Russell Dyche, as well as several other sources, the Moore Defeat took place on the night of October 3, 1784, exactly two years before the McNitt Defeat.

The Moore Defeat took place near Raccoon Creek in what would later become Laurel County, Kentucky, but which at the time was still part of Virginia.

Because of the similarity in dates, and because the written report of the escape of a woman and her youngest child by hiding in a hollow tree at the Moore Defeat is almost identical with legends of the McNitt Defeat, the two events have at times been confused and some of the details of one may have been attributed to the other.

Two notable contemporary reports do exist, and they give details which seem to be the most reliable.

General James Taylor told of the experience of Mrs. Taylor as she came to Kentucky through the Wilderness with another group in the company of her stepfather, Captain J. R. Farrar, in the fall of 1784.

Taylor’s statement, made in October, 1838, at Newport, Kentucky, follows:

About the middle of the Wilderness they were overtaken by a party of 12 or 15 persons after they had taken up camp. This party appeared to be determined to go on further to encamp. They were advised to encamp with the large party on account of safety. They, however, pushed on and encamped about one mile in advance. The Indians that night rushed them, killed and scalped the greater part of the party. There was a man and wife who had two children. The woman came to the camp they had passed in the course of the night with an infant in her arms. The other child was killed. The husband took that end of the road leading to Kentucky, and each thought the other and children were killed. The wife with the infant came with the party and found her husband. Mrs. T. was horror-struck the next day when they came up to the massacred camp. The dead were buried as well as they could under the circumstances of the case.”

General Taylor also stated that Mrs. Taylor was then with her former husband, Major David Leitch, and that they were of a large party including the Reverend Augustine Eastin, who had married her elder sister, and that the massacred party “had retired to rest without stationing a single sentinel to guard their camp, or warn them of the approach of an enemy.”

Colonel William Whitley, of near Crab Orchard, known as “the guardian of the Wilderness,” told of his part in hunting down those responsible for the murders in his narrative recorded in the Draper Manuscripts [spelling, punctuation and capitalization are his]:

[He begins by saying that ten days after the McClure Defeat in 1784] “Moores Defeat came on about 2 miles on the other side of Raccoon Creek in the Wilderness. They killed nine persons. Word came I raised 30 men & persude after them attackers & got a head of them before I ever look for there trail knowing the course they would go (as I did the other times). We Examined the War paths & found I was before them.

We met them on the last Warpath Early in the day. We came Within Ten steps of them before they discovered us in the Cane Breake. We discovered each other about the same time. they were all on horse back drest in whites clothes. I judged they would be so drest and on horseback. There was 20 Indians and on horses of the best Quality. I had ordered my men for 10 to flank on the right & 10 on the left & those who had the most Indifferent horses to lite & fight on foot. I flanked to the left. Nathan McClure & Andrew Kenneady commanded the foot. Nathan Farris commanded the right wing. after I had got out a piece I saw two Indians & ran the about 200 paces. I lit from my horse within 20 yards shot at them. they both fell. One recovered & ran to the cane. I did not get him but learned from the Indians he died of the wound.

These were Cherokees going to the Shawness. This party was commanded by Fool Warrior. The Indian had Killd some persons and we got 8 scalpts, 28 horses, 50 dollars cash, a great many goods. This was a very wealthy Company.

Thomas Kennady & Nathan Farris Cought one of the Indians & Tomahawked him to death without a shot With his own Tomahawk.”

There you have it. The Moore Defeat. Next week I will give you the particulars of the McClure Defeat, mentioned above by William Whitley, which took place in September of 1784.

Thanks for stopping by!

Danna Estridge, Guest Blogger

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Happy New Year

I know you have all been missing my blog over the last few months, but I’ve been very busy promoting my new book (see the last blog entry for details) and have been neglecting my blogging duties.

But I’ll bet you can guess what my New Year’s Resolution is. That’s right! I have resolved to be more consistent with my blog writing. One each week, posted on Friday.

Well, that’s my goal, anyway. We’ll see how it goes.

Next week, I will continue with my series about Laurel County’s many “defeats” with a post about the Moore Defeat.

In case you don’t remember what a “defeat” is, scroll down the page to the September 17 blog entry about the McNitt Defeat below to find out everything you’ve ever wanted to know about “defeats.”

This post is basically just to let my loyal readers (and I know you’re out there somewhere) know that I haven’t disappeared off the face of the earth, and that I am still writing about Kentucky (and particularly Laurel County) history.

So tune in next Friday, January 6, 2017, to find out all I can learn about the Moore Defeat.

See you then.

And, have a SAFE and Happy New Year. Remember, if you’re going out to celebrate, have a designated driver so everyone gets home safely.

Happy 2017 to you all!

Danna Estridge, Guest Blogger

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My New Book Has Been Published!

I know I promised my next blog post (this blog post, in fact) would be on the Moore Defeat, but I have something more exciting to write about this week, so the Moore Defeat will have to wait until next time.

My newest book, Our Honored Dead: History of the National Cemetery at London, Kentucky, has been published and is now available for purchase!

I’ve been working on it since last November, so to finally have it finished and published and available for purchase is quite exciting for me!

You can find it on the “Books I’ve Written” page on my website (just follow the link in the book title above or the page name in this sentence for easy access).

The book gives a detailed account of the history of the Breastworks Hill Cemetery from its earliest beginnings before the Civil War to its most recent burial in the spring of 2016.

The cemetery was one of five parcels of land the Kentucky State Legislature deeded to the United States in 1867 for the purpose of establishing five national cemeteries in Kentucky.

During the Civil War, the cemetery played a crucial role in the August 17, 1862 Battle of London, which is recounted in detail in Chapter 3.

Although it is no longer a national cemetery, the old graveyard is still an integral part of local history and genealogy. Inside these pages is a comprehensive listing of all burials that have taken place in this old graveyard, compiled by meticulous research through a number of sources, including existing tombstone inscriptions, historical and archaeological surveys, military records, newspaper archives, funeral home records, death certificates, family histories and more.

A must-have for any Civil War enthusiast, this book is also an invaluable resource for hard-to-find information about the numerous military and civilian burials in the old cemetery.

It is currently only available in print format, but I may have it available as an e-book in the near future, especially if the demand is there.

But for right now, you can order it in print and have it in a few days.

OR, if you will be at the Battle of Camp Wildcat Reenactment on October 15-16, I will have a few autographed copies there for sale. And, if you can catch up with me at the reenactment, I’ll be glad to personalize your copy!

There will probably be a book signing event in the near future, so I’ll keep you posted.

Next time, the Moore Defeat. Unless something else more exciting comes up–again.

Thanks for stopping by!

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The McNitt Defeat

I was privileged to be invited to speak at the Rotary Club meeting in London earlier this week. Although my talk was not about the McNitt Defeat (also known as “Defeated Camp”), one of the members who spoke with me after the meeting had questions about the incident.

Unfortunately, I did not have the answers to his questions, but I told him I would research the event and write about it on my blog in the near future.

Defeated Camp Burial Site

Defeated Camp Burial Site

So, to keep my promise, I am beginning a new series on “defeats” (massacres) which took place in Laurel County.

First, some of my readers might not be familiar with the term “defeat” in the context of the McNitt Defeat and other similar incidents.

The origin of the term “defeat” for what some today refer to as a “massacre” is rooted in the frontier vocabulary, which is itself rooted in Middle English of the 12th century.

At that time “defeat” meant “destruction, ruin, undoing,” and could apply to one person or to many, unlike the word “massacre,” which means “deliberately and violently killing a large number of people.”

In addition, to be “defeated” did not necessarily mean to be “killed.”

I have at least one first person account from March 30, 1858 by Rev. Joseph Brown of Fort Nashboro (Nashville, TN) that says, “the next Tuesday after I was defeated. . .”

The good Reverend is undoubtedly still alive when telling his story, so in this context “defeated” cannot mean either “massacred” or “killed.”

It simply means he lost the fight but lived to tell the tale.

So “defeat” or “defeated” is more accurate than “massacre” or “massacred” when it was used for certain events during the settlement of the frontier in the 18th century.

OK. Now to the McNitt Defeat.

When the McNitt Defeat took place, Laurel County was not yet a county. In fact, Kentucky was not yet a state—it was still part of Virginia.

But the McNitt Defeat occurred in what is now Levi Jackson Wilderness Road State Park in Laurel County.

This is a well-known story to many Laurel Countians, as well as to visitors at the park, but history is taught so little in schools nowadays, and local history is often so little-known that the basics of the tale bear repeating here.

There are several different accounts of the incident, some of which were told by descendants of members of the rescue party and may be considered to be as factual as any oral history account of any incident can be.

Others have been told and retold by so many different people through the years that it is difficult to sort out the facts from the fantasy.

The basic story is this:

A group of fourteen families, led by a man named McNitt [or possibly McNutt] were on their way from Virginia to Central Kentucky to relocate there.

The group made camp near the creek in what is now Levi Jackson State Park on October 3, 1786.

Some reports say they failed to post a guard because they had traveled this far without attack and they thought they could relax.

Other reports say they did post a guard but he was surprised and overwhelmed by his attackers.

Some reports say the families danced and drank until late that evening. Other reports don’t mention that aspect of the story.

In any case, the party was surprised some time during the night by a group of Native Americans (some reports say they were Chickamauga), who killed and scalped men, women and children.

Some accounts say 21 people were killed; others say 24 were killed.

Most reports say some few escaped the massacre and hid out in the surrounding woodland until the attackers left. Other reports say some of the McNitt party, usually women and sometimes children, were taken prisoner.

One aspect of the story pertains to the question I was asked after my talk at the Rotary Club meeting. It concerns the report that after fleeing the ravaged camp, one of the women hid in a hollow tree, where she gave birth to a baby during the night.

The questions posed to me were: what was the name of the woman, and did she and the child survive?

While I did find several different accounts of a woman giving birth in a hollow tree following the “defeat,” I was unable to find her name.

The surnames of several families in the ill-fated party were McNitt, Ford and Barnes, so it is possible she was a member of one of those families.

Two account I read say that both the mother and baby survived and were taken to safety the following day when a rescue party arrived from Crab Orchard. Neither narrative gives the woman’s name.

I have attached a document to this blog post which gives several different accounts of the McNitt Defeat so you can read about it in more detail than I have space for in a blog post.

[Click on the link contained in the phrase mcnitt-for-blog in this sentence for access to the document.]

See you next week, when I will write about the Moore Defeat, which took place two years before the McNitt incident.

Danna C. Estridge, Guest Blogger

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Confederates are Hiding in the 1890 Laurel County Census!

I worked for the United States Census Bureau during the 2010 enumeration.

As a genealogist, I thought it would be good experience and would, perhaps, give me more insight into how information for earlier census enumerations was collected.

Although I am forbidden to discuss the experience itself, I can say that it definitely did give me insight about how the census information was collected and why some of the information on earlier census records may be incorrect, incomplete, or missing altogether.

Some census information is missing for an entirely different reason.

For instance, in 1921 about 25 percent of the original 1890 census records were destroyed and 50 percent heavily damaged by smoke and water when a fire broke out in the basement of the Commerce Building in Washington, D.C., where the records were stored.

Fortunately, the 1890 Federal Census included a special enumeration of Civil War Union veterans and widows of veterans. Many of these records, including those for Kentucky, survived the disaster.

The Veterans Schedules were supposed to enumerate only Union veterans and widows of Union veterans, but in some areas, including Laurel County, Confederate veterans were also listed, but had a line drawn through the name.

The 1890 Veterans Schedules provided spaces for the following information: names of surviving soldiers, sailors, and marines, and widows; rank; name of regiment or vessel; date of enlistment; date of discharge, length of service; post office address; disability incurred; and remarks.

Being the curious person I am, I recently decided to take a look at the 1890 Veterans Schedules for Laurel County and see how many Confederate veterans are listed there.

Because the names (but not the information) have a line drawn through them, some are difficult to read. Others have no information other than the name. It is as if the enumerator discovered the man was a Confederate veteran and stopped gathering information. [See the image of one of the original Census pages below.]

Following is a list of Confederate Veterans who were listed on the 1890 Census for Laurel County which I recently gleaned from the original census records:

George B. Cornett; private, Co. K, 51st VA Infantry; enlisted October 1863; served 8 months; address—Marydell.

James H. Sullivan; private, Co. E, 20th TN Infantry; enlisted 12 Oct. 1861; discharged 1 Feb. 1863; served 1 year, 3 months, 19 days; address—Bush’s Store.

Eloanery [?] Phipps; private, Co. B, 64th VA Infantry; enlisted 9 Sept. 1861; no information on discharge date or length of service; address—Bush’s Store.

George A. Booze; private, Co. H, [5?]3 NC Infantry; enlisted July 1863; discharged July 1865; served 2 years; address—Pittsburg; disability incurred—shot in breast with musket.

Caleb W. Rutledge; Sergeant, Co. F, 31st TN Infantry; enlisted 17 March 1863; discharged 17 March 1864; served 1 year; address—East Bernstadt.

Henry Bowman; private, Co. A, ___ TN Infantry; enlisted 1861; no information on discharge or length of service; address—Pittsburg.

Sara R., widow of ___ Gray [?]; no information about her husband’s service; address—Pittsburg.

William A. Pugh; no information about his service; address—Pittsburg.

Isac F. Green [?]; private, Co. I; no other information about his service; address—Raccoon; remarks—Confederate soldier.

Henry W. Chandler; private, Co. I, 26 NC Infantry; enlisted 22 March 1862; no information about discharge or length of service; address—London; remarks—Confederate soldier, wasn’t discharged.

William H. Harris; private, Co. A, 42nd VA Infantry; enlisted 1 May 1861; discharged 1 May 1861; served 4 years; no address listed.

Harry H. Wig[?]ton [unreadable because it was heavily crossed out]; private, 42nd VA Infantry; enlisted 1 May 1861; discharged 1 May 1861; served 4 years; no address listed.

Jessie A. Sawyers; no information about his service; address—London; remarks—Confederate soldier.

John M. Robinson; no information about his service; address—London; remarks—Confederate soldier.

Ruffus J. Moris; sergeant, [unreadable company and state] Infantry; enlisted 1861; discharged 1865; served 4 years; address—East Bernstadt; remarks—can’t tell anything about dates.

Danna Estridge, Guest Blogger


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Armed and Dangerous

The one thing I enjoy researching more than history is researching my own family tree.

I’ve been at it for nearly 50 years, but I still often find information about family members that surprises me.

For instance, I was browsing through old issues of The Sentinel-Echo newspaper on microfilm a few weeks ago, looking for some information for my “Where Are the Women?” blog entries.

As I was scanning the headlines in the 1935 newspapers, a familiar name caught my eye: Reuben Brown, who was my maternal great-uncle.

Needless to say, I was interested to know why my then 23-year-old great-uncle would be in a headline on the front page of the local newspaper. So I began reading the article and I received one of those little surprises I get so excited about.

The news article told about how Reuben Brown, a taxi driver in London, had been lured out into the county and had his taxi stolen from him at gunpoint.

Not only was his taxi stolen, it was taken by three fugitives who had escaped from the State Penitentiary in Frankfort two weeks earlier, on May 12, 1935. There were actually five escaped convicts, but my great-uncle only came into contact with three of them.

Following is an excerpt of the article, which explains what happened [notes in brackets are mine, used for clarification]:

“Three men, identified as Eller Robinson, James C. Morris and James B. Brown, escaped convicts, held up Reuben Brown, taxi driver, Monday afternoon [June 3] on Highway 80 near the Laurel-Clay line, commandeered his automobile, carried him six miles, put him out, and sped toward Manchester.”

“After the auto driven by Brown, and owned by Layton Sutton, was taken, Brown had to walk several miles before he could communicate with officers, who followed the fugitives but lost trace of them just beyond McKee in Jackson County.”

“Brown said a telephone message summoned him about one o’clock on Monday afternoon to a store ten miles east of here [London] on the Manchester road, and upon arrival there he picked up two men who said they would pick up two girls a short distance away. Brown stated that when they got to the designated spot he was ordered to blow his horn twice, and that a man whom he identified as Eller Robinson walked out from the bushes carrying a machine gun and a sack of ammunition and got into his taxi. They drove several miles, Brown asserted, when at Robinson’s request he was let out of the automobile. The other two men, he said, wanted to take him with them.” [The Sentinel-Echo, June 6, 1935, page 1.]

Police found the taxi abandoned between Shelbyville and Louisville the next morning. It had a flat tire, which probably explains why the fugitives left it behind.

Of course, I had to know more, so I tracked the story until all five fugitives were taken into custody again. I followed the story through gun battles, more stolen vehicles, robberies, police chases, and other thrilling exploits of the escaped convicts.

Three of the five fugitives, James C. Morris, Eller Robinson and James Boyd Brown, the men who stole Uncle Reuben’s taxi, were captured on June 11 in Ashland. A fourth escapee, Edward Sons, was taken into custody on August 2 in Manchester.

The remaining fugitive, Frank McDaniels, was arrested in Missouri in early October. He was selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door under the name Carson Baker and was recognized from a photo in a magazine by an off-duty police officer when McDaniels tried to sell him a vacuum cleaner!

Exciting stuff. Interesting stuff. And completely new to me!

I had never heard this story before! Not from my great-uncle, not from my great-grandmother (Reuben’s mother-in-law), not from my grandfather (Reuben’s brother-in-law), not from my mother (Reuben’s niece). Not from anyone in the family. I asked my Dad if he knew about it and he said he didn’t.

Now, if something that amazing had happened to me, I would have told everyone I knew all about it. At least twice. Probably more.

So, I have to wonder why I never heard this amazing episode mentioned by anyone in my family. Had they forgotten about it by the time I was born? Doubtful. Were they ashamed? Afraid? Angry?

Since all the people involved are now deceased, I guess I’ll never know why they wanted to keep the episode a secret.

It just goes to show that no matter how much any genealogist researches their family tree, there are always surprises still waiting to be found.

Here’s to those little surprises that make research so much fun!

Danna Estridge, Guest Blogger

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Where Are the Women? Corinne Harmon, Celebrated Musician

I literally stumbled upon this week’s subject while I was looking for something else. That’s not unusual for me. I do a lot of research in old newspapers, and I often find information completely unrelated to the subject I am looking for at the time.

In this instance I was looking for—well, I don’t actually remember what I was looking for—when I stumbled across an article about President and Mrs. Woodrow Wilson hosting a dinner at the White House for the Supreme Court Justices on Feb. 3, 1914.

Now, as fascinating as that was, it had nothing to do with whatever I was researching at the time.

However, what caught my eye about the article was that one of the entertainers at the dinner was a young woman from London, Kentucky. Her name was Corinne Harmon, and she was described as “one of the leading young pianists” at the time.

Of course, I had to know more. Following is a short summary of what I found out about Corinne Harmon:

Corinne Harmon's passport photo, 1907.

Corinne Harmon’s passport photo, 1907.

She was born on July 31, 1883 in Williamsburg, Kentucky, the daughter of Samuel L. Harmon, of Williamsburg, and Ida Bell Thompson Harmon, of London, daughter of the locally well-known William H. H. Thompson and Caroline Hackney Thompson.

Corinne’s mother, Ida, taught music classes at Williamsburg, and her father, known universally as S.L., owned a dry goods store there.

Corinne had an older brother, William H. (named, no doubt, for Ida’s father), born on April 1, 1881, but he is rarely mentioned in the newspaper articles. Corinne, it seems, received all the attention from both the press and their mother.

When Corinne’s father died on Jan. 26, 1884, after an illness which lasted several years, Ida and her children moved to London to live with Ida’s parents.

S.L. had two children from a previous marriage, but I was unable to discover if they moved to London with Ida, Corinne and William or if they stayed behind in Williamsburg with some of their father’s relatives.

I do know S.L.’s two children did not appear in Ida’s household in the 1900 Laurel County Census, but since they were older than Corinne and William, they could have been married and living on their own by then.

In any case, from the moment the Harmon family moved to London, it seems that Corinne was the focus of her mother’s interest.

Corinne apparently demonstrated her special ability on the piano at a young age. By the time she was eight years old, she was playing piano at parties, dances and “musicales” (small, informal musical concerts) in London.

Ida made sure her daughter received every opportunity to improve her skills. She sent Corinne to study at the Chicago Conservatory of Music (1898-1899), the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music (1899-1902), and took her to Europe to study with some of the master musicians there, including Raoul Pugno, in Paris, France, and Leopold Godowsky and Ossip Gabrilowitsch in Berlin, Germany (1907). (Click on the names to find out more about these teachers.)

As early as 1903, Corinne was teaching music in Cincinnati at age 20. In 1907, before she left for Europe with her mother, Corinne was teaching music in Searcy, Arkansas, and in 1912, after her return from studying in Europe, she was teaching at several prestigious studios in Boston, Massachusetts.

312 Marlborough, location of Corinne Harmon's music studio in Boston, Mass.

312 Marlborough, location of Corinne Harmon’s music studio in Boston, Mass.

She eventually set up her own studio in Boston, teaching music as well as performing concerts in a variety of venues, including the White House and one of the earliest licensed radio stations, KDKA in East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

She visited her family in London frequently, and often performed in concert in the area when she came home to Kentucky.

In 1937 she appeared at the Laurel County Homecoming in a musical program specifically tailored to honor her and showcase her abilities at the piano.

Corinne Harmon never married. It’s probable that she was too occupied with her musical pursuits to worry about marriage and children. It’s also possible that she thought marriage would mean giving up her musical career, and that was simply too high a price for her to pay.

This is, of course, conjecture on my part, as I found nothing in my research to explain her unmarried lifestyle.

Corinne Harmon died in Boston on Sept. 4, 1953. She was cremated and her ashes were brought back to London and interred in the A. R. Dyche Memorial Park next to her mother, Ida (who died Feb. 9, 1936), her brother, William (who died July 31, 1918), and William’s wife, Bess Pitman Harmon (who died March 10, 1967).

Although I searched the Internet for an audio recording of Corrine Harmon playing the piano, I was unable to locate anything. If I happen across something in the future, I will post it here as an update.

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