John M. Smith case study #8
John Smith – but which one?
In my last post, I found 2 possible John Smith marriages between 1790 and 1805 in Mercer County, Virginia/Kentucky. (Kentucky became a state in 1792.)
- John Smith and Elizabeth Arbuckle married 4 May 1798 (Aaron Smith witness to permission.)
- John Smith and Sally McDaniel married abt. 28 Apr 1800. John’s mother – Judy Smith, who gave permission
In that post, I focused on John Smith and Sally McDaniel due to the fact that I thought finding records for Judy Smith would be “easy” because females in records would be rare, unless they were widows or single. I didn’t find anything that made me feel like there was a possible connection to my John.
Based on the marriage search, the other option for John M. Smith could be this one:
Married in 1798….I wondered if I could find John in the 1800 census. However, the 1800 census for Kentucky was lost by fire during the War of 1812. I decided to turn to one of my favorite record sets – tax records. Was there a John Smith in Mercer County, Kentucky in 1800? Yes. In fact, there were 5.
The 1800 tax list for Mercer County is divided into parts based on the tax commissioner. Names in each section are alphabetical by first letter of the last name.
- James Clark (commissioner)
- John H. Smith had no land. Research over time revealed this to be John Harrison Smith – not my John M. Smith.
- Wm Gains (commissioner)
- John Taylor Smith owns 234 acres and had 8 slaves
- John Smith Jr owns no land and is listed just after John Taylor Smith
- Capt. John Smith owns 500 acres and had 20 slaves
- James Slaughter (commissioner)
- John Smith with no land – followed directly by Judy Smith with 100 acres, so I know this is John Smith who married Sally McDaniel.
Looking at this list, I’m focusing on the 3 John Smiths in William Gains’ district. Thinking back to the clues, I see two men with quite a bit of land and “many” slaves, but the fact that there is a John Smith Jr directly after John Taylor Smith makes me wonder if these are father and son? I do know that “Jr” does not always apply to relationships, but instead can apply to age (meaning that Jr is younger than Sr, but not necessarily related).
Now I will start my charts for these 3 John Smiths.
I have been working on the John M. Smith puzzle for over 20 years. I won’t bore you with every single step of my search, but want to share enough to show my process for deciding which record goes with each person and how I keep track of that information. By the end of this case study, there will be multiple John Smiths and at the end of each post, I will have a “scoreboard” of sorts so you can see how each chart is progressing.
Who arrived first?
This part of Kentucky was one of the first areas to be settled in all of Kentucky. I began by searching through the original Land Grants for the area. While researching, I collected information for all Smiths in this area and time frame.
But before we look at the land grants, let’s take a quick look at the Early Exploration of Kentucky and James Harrod’s involvement. This is from the genealogy trails website for Mercer County, Kentucky. When I saw that this was copied from Wikipedia, I went there and made my own copy in order to preserve the sources that the information was collected from.
Exploration of Kentucky
In 1774, Harrod was ordered by Lord Dunmore to lead an expedition to survey the bounds of land promised by the British crown to soldiers who served in the French and Indian War. Leaving from Fort Redstone, Harrod and 37 men traveled down the Monongahela and Ohio Rivers to the mouth of the Kentucky River, eventually crossing Salt River into what is today Mercer County, Kentucky. On June 16, 1774, the men established the first pioneer settlement in Kentucky, Harrod’s Town. The men divided the land amongst them; Harrod chose an area about six miles (10 km) from the settlement proper, which he named Boiling Springs.
Just as Harrod’s men had completed the settlement’s first structures, Dunmore dispatched Daniel Boone to call them back from the frontier and into military service against the Indians in Lord Dunmore’s War. Harrod enlisted in the militia, but arrived too late to participate in the war’s only major battle – the Battle of Point Pleasant. His men arrived at the battle site at midnight on October 10, the day the fighting ended.
On March 8, 1775, Harrod led a group of settlers back to Harrodstown to stay. Within months, the town grew, and the original fortifications became inadequate. New structures were built on top of Old Fort Hill, which today is the site of Old Fort Harrod State Park. The settlers at Harrodstown joined other pioneers in the area at Boonesborough to formulate the first regulations to govern the area.
In 1778, Harrod married Ann Coburn McDonald at Logan’s Station, a settlement established by fellow explorer Benjamin Logan. McDonald had come to Harrodstown in 1776; her first husband was killed by Indians later that year. Her father was also killed and scalped by Indians. The couple had one daughter, Margaret, who was born in September 1785. McDonald also had a son from her previous marriage, James, who was captured by Indians in November 1787 and burned at the stake.
Harrod successfully opposed Richard Henderson’s colonization schemes for the area. Well-respected in the settlement, he held several positions of political leadership. When Virginia created Kentucky County on December 31, 1776, Harrodstown was designated the county seat. In 1777, Harrod became a justice in Kentucky County, and was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1779. Throughout the 1780s, he served as a trustee for the settlement that bore his name. In 1784, he attended the first of a series of meetings in Danville that eventually led to Kentucky’s petition for statehood.
Harrod’s political service was frequently interrupted by military necessity. In 1776 and 1777, he led two expeditions eastward to secure provisions for the fledgling forts of Kentucky. Harrod again served in the militia, and defended the settlement of Harrodstown from Indian attacks throughout the summer of 1777. Beginning as a captain, he attained the rank of colonel by 1779.
Now let’s look at the Land Records for Smiths in the area. Click the links to see my transcriptions. (When you download these documents from the Secretary of State’s website, you get them as a group and they are not labeled as “Warrant” or “Survey” or “Grant”. When I transcribed them, I put them in chronological order and named them the best that I could. But I freely admit that I could be wrong in my document titles and welcome all comments on the transcriptions within Google Docs. Also, I found some Land Entry records for Zachariah Smith that were not part of the Secretary of State website and I added those transcriptions to his document as well.)
- 27 Oct 1779 – 400 acres to John Smith “on account of (James Wiley’s) Settlement made in the year 1774 & Raising a Crop of Corn in the year 1776…and that the said James Willy is also entitled to the Preemption of one thousand acres of Land adjoining the said settlement.”
- 18 Jan 1780 – 400 acres to Zachariah Smith “on account of raising a Crop of Corn in the Country in the year 1776 lying on Harrods Run known by the name of Crows Mill Seat….is also entitled to the preemption of one thousand acres of land adjoining the said Settlement.”
- The survey for this land indicates that it is on Harrod’s Run and borders John Bowman and Adam Fisher, also James Harrod and P. Prather.
- 25 Apr 1780 – 400 acres to Adam Smith “on account of Raising a Crop of Corn in the Country in the year 1776 laying on Cain Run…also entitled to the preemption of one thousand acres of land adjoining the said Settlement.”
- The survey for this land indicates that it is on Harrod’s Run next to John Bowman, McBride, Adam Fisher and Zachariah Smith
- This land packet confuses me because Adam receives his preemption warrant before John Bowman assigns his land to him. Also, there are 2 surveys, one for John Bowman and one for Adam Smith. I may write about this later this week, but I’ll tell you now that it becomes even more confusing.
- 17 Jun 1780 – 600 acres to George Smith “on account of settlement made & Raising a Crop of Corn in the Country in the year 1776 lying on the waters of Harrods Run…also entitled to the preemption of one thousand acres of land adjoining the said Settlement.”
- The survey for this land indicates that it is on Harrod’s Run and borders Quirk and James Harrod.
John Smith and Adam Smith both were assignees of other men, which makes me think that James Wiley and John Bowman may have been with James Harrod in one of the original expeditions, but I’m not sure of that. It does appear that George Smith and Zachariah Smith both raised their crops in 1776, meaning they were probably part of the 2nd expedition. I can see that there are two areas for Smiths – Cane Run and Harrod’s Run. Note that while John Smith’s land was on Cane Run, the other 3 Smiths were all on Harrod’s Run making me wonder if they were related. Brothers perhaps? These watercourses will be important in the process of figuring out which records go with which John Smith. But these records are 20 years before the 1800 tax records, so I can’t make any conclusions yet about which John Smith goes with this Land Grant.
One more interesting side note. The Survey numbers for John and George Smith were 103 & 104 and 105 & 106. Zachariah’s were 111 & 112. I decided to see who came between George and Zachariah. Surveys 107-109 were for a William Stewart and Survey 110 was for….James Smith. His land was not near the other Smiths (his land was on the east side of Dick’s River) and I didn’t recognize any of the names of neighbors in the survey, but I just thought I’d mention it in case it helps someone else.
There is a great reconstructed map of the “Original Land Grants” for this area. I’m not sure why these 15 people are the only grants included, but I LOVE this map! First, I can see where Cane Run and Harrod’s Run are, but I can also see where this John Smith’s land was within the group. John’s land was in the north part of the map (letter P) while Adam, George and Zachariah would have been south of this mapped area near Harrod’s Run.
Based on this map, John Smith’s land was on Harrodsburg Road and was near Cane Run (letter P). His neighbors are Grissom, Jacob Froman, Azar Reece, and Richard Hogan.
And that’s where we’ll stop for today. Next Monday’s post will have additional land records, so we aren’t finished with these yet!
A word about what’s to come on the blog. I will be using the charts from the first part of this post to separate the various records among the different John Smiths. Sometimes, I’ll explain my thinking, but there are so many records, I can’t always take the time to explain it. If I did, my blog would become the great cure to insomnia. So every Monday, a different set of records will be added to the charts. Any post that does not appear on a Monday is a blog post that I thought I’d add to bring in some of the additional research that I’ve done over time. It may be for a specific person, a specific location, or resource. It may be a question that I’ve been trying to figure out along with the current state of my research for that question. Each week, a different record set will be added to the charts and any insights that come out based on these records will be discussed. Beginning next Monday, the record sets will include land records (2/22), wills & probate (3/1), marriage & court records (3/8), and then taxes (3/22). There will be one Monday (3/15), the week before the post on taxes, when I will break the pattern and have a post on one specific John Smith. The charts will become quite long and taking screen shots won’t cut it. So I’m including a “Scoreboard” at the end of each post that will contain a link to each chart as it stands at the end of the post.
I hope that makes sense and that you’ll stick with me to the end!
- John Smith and Elizabeth Arbuckle
- John Smith and Sally McDaniel
- John Taylor Smith
- John Smith Jr (I have never found any records that tied directly to this man, so I will not add him to the Scoreboard.)
- Captain John Smith
 Mercer County, Kentucky, Marriage Register v1, p70, FamilySearch film #4705549, image 41.
 Mercer County, Kentucky, Marriages, Loose papers, FamilySearch film #4705524, image 625.
 “No official approval to marry was given to those under 21 years of age unless they had the consent of their parents, grandparents or guardians.”
 Mercer County, Kentucky, 1800 Tax List, p16, FamilySearch film #7834485, image 195.
 Mercer County, Kentucky, 1800 Tax List, p9, FamilySearch film #7834485, image 202.
 Mercer County, Kentucky, 1800 Tax List, p9, FamilySearch film #7834485, image 202.
 Mercer County, Kentucky, 1800 Tax List, p10, FamilySearch film #7834485, image 203.
 Early Certificates of Settlement and Preemption Warrants in Kentucky County, Virginia, Warrant #33 for John Smith, http://apps.sos.ky.gov/land/nonmilitary/settlements/ (link no longer working 2/11/21) New link: https://web.sos.ky.gov/land/settlements.aspx
 Early Certificates of Settlement and Preemption Warrants in Kentucky County, Virginia, Warrant #147 for Zachariah Smith, http://apps.sos.ky.gov/land/nonmilitary/settlements/ (link no longer working 2/11/21) New link: https://web.sos.ky.gov/land/settlements.aspx
 Early Certificates of Settlement and Preemption Warrants in Kentucky County, Virginia, Warrant #560 for Adam Smith, http://apps.sos.ky.gov/land/nonmilitary/settlements/ (link no longer working 2/11/21) New link: https://web.sos.ky.gov/land/settlements.aspx
 Early Certificates of Settlement and Preemption Warrants in Kentucky County, Virginia, Warrant #943 for George Smith, http://apps.sos.ky.gov/land/nonmilitary/settlements/ (link no longer working 2/11/21) New link: https://web.sos.ky.gov/land/settlements.aspx
 Brookes-Smith, Joan. 1976. Master Index Virginia Surveys and Grants 1774-1791. Frankfort, Kentucky: Kentucky Historical Society. P. xvii