A Trading Post?

John M Smith case study #9

I’ve spent some time thinking about the Clarence Smith interview story on Ancestry that I mentioned in a previous post. It said, “Elias was born in Virginia. He came to Kentucky with his parents and 2 or 3 brothers and settled near Danville, KY, where his father (John M.) and brothers operated a trading post.”

I am also thinking about the letter from Louise (Smith) Jones to Bessie (Smith) Kimble. Bessie was the granddaughter of Elias Smith (1853). Bessie was born over 30 years after Elias died (although Elias’s wife, Elizabeth, lived until Bessie was 7 years old), so if she had information on the family history, it would have been passed down from others. While we don’t have the complete letter, the page that we do have begins with, “One brother stopped there – the other came over to the mountains. She also understood that the one who stopped in Danville owned most of the land that is now the town of Danville. Can you tell me whether or not this is true?”

So I’m looking for a potential trading post in the Danville area.

My mind immediately went to the map that I have of the various “stations” found in early Kentucky. The Kentucky History and Genealogy Network, Inc. has an article about Kentucky Early Stations and Forts[1]. The article states that stations were located about 10 miles apart from one another and they were a safe place to stop while traveling to various forts – which were more spread out. I don’t believe that a trading post and a station are the same thing. In fact, Calvin Fackler in his book, Early days in Danville [2], stated, “According to Marshall they (stations) were composed of cabins which adjoined or were connected by intervening palisades; while a fort was a little more elaborate, having one or more blockhouses, usually at the corners.”  but I wanted to go back through my notes to see what I could find because I haven’t thought about this at all recently.

Years and years ago, I came across this image. I have no idea where it comes from. My biggest mistake as a new genealogist was not to make note of such things!

A portion of the map for the Mercer County/Danville area is here:

You can’t see the key on here, but #7 is Smith’s Station. This seems to be located up near Cane Run and not Harrod’s Run. Station #6 is Trigg’s Station. Lewis Collins wrote about the stations of early Kentucky in his book, History of Kentucky[3]. This website has transcribed the information and put it online. On the website, it states that Smith’s Station was on a road from Danville to the mouth of Dick’s River. The site also says that Trigg’s Station was 4 miles N. E. of Harrodsburg, in Mercer co., on Cane run, 4 miles from its mouth at Dick’s River; settled in 1780 by Col. Stephen Trigg, and called Viney Grove, because of the number of large grape-vines. John Haggin lived there, and it was sometimes called Haggin’s Station. John Haggin was a neighbor of Captain John Smith, so I feel that Station #7 was most likely Captain John Smith’s station.

The 1784 map of Kentucky by John Filson[4] shows more than one Smith’s Station. One is east of Dick’s River and the other is west of Dick’s River very near Danville. On an Ancestry message board on 21 Jul 2000[5], Margaret Simpson says that one of these is James Smith’s station and she gives several references for documents to show the location.

Going back to the Clarence Smith note, he mentioned that “his father (John M.) and brothers operated a trading post.” The words “trading post” sound very much like a place in the wilderness. The Fackler book lists several taverns and stores in Danville. Nothing mentioning Smiths is included in the book.

  • Walker Daniel’s store – this store opened “soon after his arrival”. In June of 1784, John Crow sold to Walker Daniel the land that soon became the town of Danville. (p. 24)

Taverns before 1800

  • Benjamin Grayson’s tavern – this was the meeting place of the Political Club (p.25)
  • Thomas Barbee – between 1788 and 1799 (p.27)
  • Gill’s tavern (p.27)
  • Clemens tavern (p.29) – built about 1793

So at this point, I haven’t been able to confirm a trading post or station for John M. Smith’s family. But I am beginning to work on a project of mapping the land of the Smith men in the area and their neighbors and creating an interactive program to help me put all of the pieces together in one place. This will be a long-term project – not one that I can easily complete in a week or two – so if you’re interested in following along with it, let me know in the comments and I’ll find a way to share my work.


[1] https://khgninc.org/khgn-inc/articles-index-ky-research-articles/kentucky-early-stations-and-forts/

[2] Fackler, Calvin Morgan. 2002. Early days in Danville. Utica, KY: McDowell Publications.

[3] Collins, Lewis, and Richard H. Collins. 1924. History of Kentucky. Louisville, Ky: John P. Morton & Co.

[4] https://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~2115~190027:Kentucky-?sort=Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No&qvq=w4s:/where%2FKentucky%2Fwhen%2F1794;q:Kentucky;sort:Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No;lc:RUMSEY~8~1&mi=0&trs=1_No%2CSeries_No;lc:RUMSEY~8~1&mi=0&trs=1

[5] http://boards.ancestry.com/localities.northam.usa.states.kentucky.counties.lincoln/1614.1633.1635.1726.1993/mb.ashx

The First John Smiths

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[1] (Aaron Smith witness to permission[2].)
  • John Smith and Sally McDaniel married abt. 28 Apr 1800. John’s mother – Judy Smith, who gave permission[3]

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[4] had no land. Research over time revealed this to be John Harrison Smith – not my John M. Smith.
  • Wm Gains (commissioner)
    • John Taylor Smith[5] owns 234 acres and had 8 slaves
    • John Smith Jr[6] owns no land and is listed just after John Taylor Smith
    • Capt. John Smith[7] 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[8] – 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.”
    • The survey[9] for this land indicates that it is “Cain Run” next to the land of Richard Hogan and Azor Reec. (Recognize that name from the Thomas Smith search?)
  • 18 Jan 1780[10] – 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[11] 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[12] – 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[13] 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[14] – 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[15] 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”[16] 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!

Scoreboard:


[1] Mercer County, Kentucky, Marriage Register v1, p70, FamilySearch film #4705549, image 41.

[2] Mercer County, Kentucky, Marriages, Loose papers, FamilySearch film #4705524, image 625.

[3] “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.”

[4] Mercer County, Kentucky, 1800 Tax List, p16, FamilySearch film #7834485, image 195.

[5] Mercer County, Kentucky, 1800 Tax List, p9, FamilySearch film #7834485, image 202.

[6] Mercer County, Kentucky, 1800 Tax List, p9, FamilySearch film #7834485, image 202.

[7] Mercer County, Kentucky, 1800 Tax List, p10, FamilySearch film #7834485, image 203.

[8] 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

[9] Virginia Patent Series, Patent VA 0103 & VA 0104 (identical) for John Smith, https://web.sos.ky.gov/land/vakypatentseries.aspx

[10] 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

[11] Virginia Patent Series, Patent VA 0111 & VA 0112 (identical) for Zachariah Smith, https://web.sos.ky.gov/land/vakypatentseries.aspx

[12] 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

[13] Virginia Patent Series, Patent VA 0655 for Adam Smith, https://web.sos.ky.gov/land/vakypatentseries.aspx

[14] 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

[15] Virginia Patent Series, Patent VA 0105 and VA 0106 (identical) for George Smith, https://web.sos.ky.gov/land/vakypatentseries.aspx

[16] Brookes-Smith, Joan. 1976. Master Index Virginia Surveys and Grants 1774-1791. Frankfort, Kentucky: Kentucky Historical Society. P. xvii

Danville, Kentucky – Here I Come!

John M. Smith case study #7

(Note: all of this research was based on the Oscar M. Smith biography before I took another look at the Clarence Smith interview note. I’m trying to think through how Clarence’s information might help me, but unless it gives me a specific idea of a new place to look, I’ll just be keeping what I already had in my notes through the years. For example, if Elias was born in Virginia as Clarence indicated, then a lot of the information I collected really doesn’t help anything. But it’s the path I’ve been following, so that’s what I’m publishing.)

After publishing “A Man with Two Counties”, I received a comment and then an email from a fellow Smith family researcher, Reid Harrod. Reid offered to send me a scan of a letter than had been written to his great-grandmother, who was the great-granddaughter of John M. Smith. Research revealed that the author of the letter was a great-granddaughter of Elias Smith (1853) and Elizabeth Meadows. Reid only has 1 page of the letter, but that page also mentioned Danville, Kentucky, giving me even more confidence in the research theory that I have been following. Collaboration is a wonderful thing!!!

Danville, Kentucky

Danville was an important city in early Kentucky history. Danville was part of the settlement around Harrod’s Fort, which was first settled in 1774. Between 1784 and 1792, ten conventions were held in Danville to create the local government and to secure independence of Kentucky from Virginia.

Before the formation of Mercer County, the Danville area was part of Lincoln County, Virginia. In 1786, it became part of Mercer County and Danville was part of that county until around 1842 when boundary changes put it in Boyle County. For my research time period, Danville was in Mercer County.

If Elias Smith (1853) was born in Danville (taken with a grain of salt and expanded to all of Mercer County) around 1810, I decided to look at the tax records for 1810. The records are difficult to read, but I found 2 entries for men named John Smith.

  • John Smith with 350 acres in Mercer County[1]
  • John Smith with no land living in Mercer County[2]

Taking a look at the census records, there are 3 different John Smiths in the 1810 census for Mercer County.

Looking at these 3 families, I have to wonder if the first John Smith is the oldest. It would appear to be a married couple with 3 family members, perhaps children, over the age of 16. This John Smith has 14 slaves. The children here appear to be too old to make this the family of my John M. Smith.

The second John Smith appears to be a widower. The children in the home are younger which is what makes me think he might not be as old as the first John. But it could be that the second John Smith is the oldest and the children are living with him to help with work on the farm or home. John is listed just before a Humble Smith. I have never run into a Humble Smith in my research (he’s not not in the 1809 or 1811 tax list), so that doesn’t help, but it is something to keep in mind if I DO see the name somewhere else. This John Smith has 1 slave. If Elias Smith (1853) was born in 1810 in Danville, there should either be an infant or an expecting mother for this to be the correct John Smith.

The third John Smith seems to be a single man and it could be the John Smith with no land that I found in the tax records.

At this point, I don’t see a John Smith that could be my John Smith, but I have no other locations to research, so I will continue on with this line of research since I have 3 pieces of evidence that point to the Danville area.

Clearly, I need to find a way to keep the different men straight. I am a visual person, so I will be making tables to track information. The charts will evolve over time to keep track of all the information that I find.

If John M. was an “early settler of Danville”, and Elias was born around 1810, I decided to start with the assumption that John M. was married there as well. I know this may not be true, but it’s a place to start. Knowing that there were at least 2 older children when Elias was born, I decided to look for men named John Smith who were married between 1790 and 1805. (Elias’s brother, George, was born 24 June 1805 according to his gravestone.) Using FamilySearch, I found these 2 possibilities:

  • John Smith and Elizabeth Arbuckle married 4 May 1798[3] (Aaron Smith witness to permission[4].)
  • John Smith and Sally McDaniel married abt. 28 Apr 1800. John’s mother – Judy Smith, who gave permission[5]

I began a table for each of these individuals and will add information to it as it becomes available. I am especially interested in FANs (family, associates, and neighbors) because with a name like John Smith, these are the people who will help to tell them apart. I might later create a family group sheet, but that doesn’t help me keep track of all of the different types of documents I’ll be tracking, so I don’t do that until I feel like I’m on the right track.

John Smith and Sally McDaniel

I began with researching Judy Smith because I thought it was unusual to have a mother granting permission and it would probably be “easy” to find records in her name. Unless she gave birth out of wedlock, her husband died during or before 1800 or he would have been the one to give permission. When I searched records on FamilySearch for “Judy Smith” in Mercer County between 1790 and 1800, I found the marriage record above plus 1 additional marriage record.

  • Thomas and Judy Smith, parents of the bride. Nancy Smith and William Taylor married May 1798[6] (Stephen Smith and Allen McDaniel witnesses to permission)

Clicking on the image thumbnail brings you to the permission note for the marriage. Going back 1 image on the microfilm shows the marriage bond[7]. William Taylor’s bondsman was Richard Allen. I’d imagine that the Smiths and Taylors lived near each other, so I will add Richard Allen as an associate even though he technically isn’t attached to the Smith name. I also added short notes in superscript so that if I need to refresh my memory on where the name comes from, I can find it again.

So now the chart looks like this:

Now I have a new name to research – Thomas Smith, a potential father for John M. Smith. I will begin a new table for him to help me keep track of documents I find.

Because my ultimate goal is to trace a “John Smith” from Mercer County to Russell County, I will research deeds, tax records and probate records until I find something promising or until I can rule a man out. For example, if I can prove that this John Smith died before John M. Smith died or is still in Mercer County at the time that I know that John M. Smith is in Russell County, then I can rule him out. I will keep track of anything I find in this chart to help me tell the various men apart. Any information that I find for Thomas Smith while researching Mercer County will go into the table. Focusing on Thomas Smith, here is a list of items found, in chronological order.

  • 1787 – Mercer County Deed Book 1 p23[8] – 300 acres on Cane Run from John Smith (wife Martha) to John Haggin. This was part of a land grant to John Smith in 1780. Noting here because this land was adjacent to Thomas Smith in the next deed.
  • 1787 – Mercer County Deed Book 1 p48[9]– 203 acres to Thomas Smith from Azor Reece (part of Reece’s 1000-acre preemption: Patent date 6 Apr 1785)
  • 1794 – Mercer County Marriage Loose Papers – Betsy Smith and Vincent Broor/Brower/Brewer (permission[10] by Thomas Smith, witnesses Thomas Turpin and Richard Peter, bondsman[11] Stephen Smith)
  • 1795 – Mercer County Marriage Loose Papers – Judith Smith and Allin McDonald (permission[12] by Thomas Smith, witnesses William and Benjamin Edgerton (same bondsman[13] as for John Smith/Sally McDaniel))
  • 1797 – Mercer County Tax List – Thomas Smith – 100 acres on Deep Creek[14]
  • 1797 – Mercer County Tax List – Thomas Smith – 50 acres on Deep Creek [15] (2 different men named Thomas)
  • 1798 – Mercer County Deed Book 3 p519[16] – 200 acres on Deep Creek to Thomas Smith from Samuel Peter of Washington Co, KY
  • 1799 – Mercer County Tax List – Thomas Smith – 203.75 acres[17]
  • 1800 – Mercer County Court Minutes Book 1798 – 1803, p73[18] – Will of Thomas Smith proven
  • 1800 – Mercer County Court Order Book v3 p488[19] – Will of Thomas Smith proven (I do not see the will in the Will book or in any indexes for wills from Mercer County.)
  • 1800 – Mercer County Tax List – Judy Smith – 100 acres on Deep Cr[20] (John Smith, no land, listed just above Judy)
  • 1800 – Mercer County Tax List – Thomas Smith – 203 acres[21]
  • 1801 – Mercer County Tax List – Thomas Smith – 203 acres[22]
  • 1802 – Mercer County Tax List – Judy Smith – 100 acres on Chaplin River[23]
  • 1802 – Mercer County Tax List – Thomas Smith – 203 acres[24]
  • 1803 – Mercer County Tax List – Judy Smith – 100 acres on Deep Creek[25]
  • 1803 – Mercer County Tax List – Thomas Smith – 203 acres on Cane Run[26]
  • 1804 – Mercer County Tax List – Thomas Smith – 203 acres on Cane Run[27]
  • Note – no records found that I can tie to John Smith who married Sally McDaniel.

After collecting these records, the chart for Thomas Smith looks like this:

However, it is quite obvious that there are at least 2 different men named Thomas Smith which are fairly straight forward to untangle. The information in the chart is updated

Because Thomas and Judy Smith are the family with a John Smith as a son, and because I can find no additional information on Judy or John, I will set the Thomas Smith information aside unless something else pops up later. If this son John, “became a planter whose broad acres were tilled by slave labor”, then it doesn’t appear that it happened in Mercer County. I can find no land records where a John Smith with a wife named Sally sold any land in Mercer County. If I do run across more Thomas Smith records, I can easily add the information to the appropriate chart so I don’t have to look for something later.

Next up: John Smith, son of John Smith


[1] Mercer County, Kentucky, 1810 Tas List, p36, FamilySearch film #7834485, image 673.

[2] Mercer County, Kentucky, 1810 Tas List, p39, FamilySearch film #7834485, image 676.

[3] Mercer County, Kentucky, Marriage Register v1, p70, FamilySearch film #4705549, image 41.

[4] Mercer County, Kentucky, Marriages, Loose papers, FamilySearch film #4705524, image 625.

[5] “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.”

[6] Mercer County, Kentucky, Marriages, Loose papers, FamilySearch film #4705524, image 654.

[7] Mercer County, Kentucky, Marriages, Loose papers, FamilySearch film #4705524, image 653.

[8] Mercer County, Kentucky, Deed Book 1, p23, FamilySearch film #7896914, image 18.

[9] Mercer County, Kentucky, Deed Book 1, p48, FamilySearch film #7896914, image 31.

[10] Mercer County, Kentucky, Marriages, Loose papers, FamilySearch film #4705523, image 1173.

[11] Mercer County, Kentucky, Marriages, Loose papers, FamilySearch film #4705523, image 1172.

[12] Mercer County, Kentucky, Marriage, Loose papers, FamilySearch film #4705524, image 70. Smith/McDonald

[13] Mercer County, Kentucky, Marriage, Loose papers, FamilySearch film #4705524, image 69. Smith/McDonald

[14] Mercer County, Kentucky, 1797 Tax List, p18, FamilySearch film #7834485, image 154.

[15] Mercer County, Kentucky, 1797 Tax List, p18, FamilySearch film #7834485, image 154.

[16] Mercer County, Kentucky, Deed Book 3, p519, FamilySearch film #7899114, image 271.

[17] Mercer County, Kentucky, 1799 Tax List, p11, FamilySearch film #7834485, image 183.

[18] Mercer County, Kentucky, County Court Minutes, 1798-1803, p73, FamilySearch film #7901429, image 153.

[19] Mercer County, Kentucky, County Court Order Book, v3, p488, FamilySearch film #7899117, image 253.

[20] Mercer County, Kentucky, 1800 Tax List, p15, FamilySearch film #7834485, image 212.

[21] Mercer County, Kentucky, 1800 Tax List, p9, FamilySearch film #7834485, image 202.

[22] Mercer County, Kentucky, 1801 Tax List, p12, FamilySearch film #7834485, image 222.

[23] Mercer County, Kentucky, 1802 Tax List, p19, FamilySearch film #7834485, image 284.

[24] Mercer County, Kentucky, 1802 Tax List, p13, FamilySearch film #7834485, image 271.

[25] Mercer County, Kentucky, 1803 Tax List, p18, FamilySearch film #7834485, image 297.

[26] Mercer County, Kentucky, 1803 Tax List, p17, FamilySearch film #7834485, image 322.

[27] Mercer County, Kentucky, 1804 Tax List, p17, FamilySearch film #7834485, image 359.

Spotlight on: James Gilbert

John M. Smith case study #6

On 31 Dec 1827 and 1 Jan 1828, John M. Smith and James Gilbert were assignees to 2 tracts of land lying partially in Russell County and partially in Wayne County, Kentucky. It seems like the fact that 2 men were listed is something significant that I need to be looking at.

Several years ago, I tried to do research on James Gilbert, but those were the days before FamilySearch had digital files available for free online, so I could not find very much, and I gave up. Going back over all of my research while doing this case study has made me smack my head and wonder how I could let this connection be overlooked for so long! Either these men are probably related, or they were very close acquaintances – but either way, I hope that by following James Gilbert, I will at a MINIMUM find the location of John M. Smith before coming to the Russell County area.

Most of my posts were originally written last spring/summer when the pandemic and lockdowns were fairly new. But this one is recent research, so I thought it would be a good idea to begin typing this Spotlight AS I’m doing the research. It will very much be a conversation that I’m having with myself. And I started by looking to see what I already had, starting with deeds.

  • 1827 – Kentucky Land Grants Book V:514 – John M. Smith and James Gilbert obtain 112 acres together in Russell and Wayne County.
    • Warrants #17438 and 14197 – is it possible to find more information based on these numbers?
    • Survey date 31 Dec 1827
    • Patent granted 2 June 1829
    • “assignees”
  • 1828 – Kentucky Land Grants Book V:515 – John M. Smith and James Gilbert obtain 88 acres together in Russell and Wayne County.
    • Same warrant numbers
    • Survey date 1 Jan 1828
    • Patent granted 2 June 1829
    • John M Smith & James Gilbert assignee of said Smith who assignee of Timothy Burgess assignee of Braxton Carter who was assignee of Elijah Hutchison
      • None of these 3 men are listed in the Master index of Virginia Surveys and Grants or in the Old Kentucky Patent Series or in the Virginia Patent Series
      • The Kentucky Land Grants –
        • Braxton Carter V:471 (6 Dec 1827 Wayne Co)
        • Braxton Carter Y:450 (15 Oct 1829 Wayne Co)
        • Broxton Carter H2:437 (28 Mar 1836 Wayne Co)
        • Braxton Carter 22:105 (9 Mar 1849 Wayne Co Court Orders)
  • 1835 – Russell Co, KY Deed Book B:501 – James and Elizabeth Gilbert to John M. Smith
    • James and Elizabeth Gilbert of Spencer County, Kentucky
    • 1 tract of 98 acres “being the same tract of land conveyed by Lewis Faust and wife to James Gilbert (RC Deed Book A:139 [79])
      • This is new land for John M.
      • Beaver Creek bottom
      • Mentions Simon Stacy’s land
    • One equal half of the interest in the 112-acre tract
      • This is from the land grant for John and James
      • Patents bearing the date 2 June 1829
    • One equal half of the interest in the 98-acre tract
      • This is from the land grant for John and James
      • Mentions Timothy Burgess land

So based on this, what do I know about James Gilbert?

  1. He was probably related or a close friend of John M. Smith
  2. He had a wife named Elizabeth
  3. At some point, he moved to Spencer Co, Kentucky
  1. Where was James Gilbert in 1830 between the Land Grant and selling the land back to John M?
    • There is a James Gilbert in the 1830 Russell County census. 1 male 30-39, 1 female 30-39 and 1 female 40-49. (I see no other James Gilberts in Kentucky. I see no other Gilberts in Russell Co.)
      • The male must be James. Born between 1780-1790. Who are the women? Wife and mother-in-law? Mother and sister?
  2. James Gilbert census for later years?
    • 1840 census – Spencer Co, KY. 2 males under 5, 1 male 5-10, 1 male 30-40, 1 female 5-10, 1 female 20-30
      • The ages don’t line up with the 1830 census. Which to trust?
    • 1850 census – Spencer Co, KY.
      • James – 52 years old
      • Elizabeth – 39 years old
      • Robert – 17 years old
      • Ann E – 15
      • James – 12
      • William – 10
      • Mary E – 9
      • Sarah – 7
      • Samuel – 5
      • Caroline – 2
      • George G – 6/12
      • Elizabeth Gilbert – 17 – why listed last? Not listed as a daughter in the Lota English Murray file. Daughter-in-law?
    • There are also 1860 and 1870 census records in Spencer County which match this family.

In my file of records that I had compiled years ago for James Gilbert, I found an image of a family tree written by Lota English Murray. This can still be found on Ancestry. It is not a complete tree as the number of children is given as 12, but only 8 children are listed. The names of the children match what is contained in the census records and I have found the marriage records that agree with the tree as well. This tree states that James’s father was John Wesley Gilbert and his grandfather was Captain John Webster Gilbert “of the Revolutionary Army”. Part of the note states that James Gilbert married Elizabeth Stone on 5 July 1832 and I found a record for that in Spencer County. The Findagrave (ID 128482277) memorial for James Gilbert shows a date of birth in 1798 and death in 1879. Assuming this is correct, James married Elizabeth at the age of 32. This seems a little older than typical for a first marriage.

I have an unsourced note in my John M. Smith files that shows a marriage between James Gilbert and Sally Decker in Wayne County in 1817. If this is the same James Gilbert, he would have been around 19 years old for this marriage and that seems a more typical age for a first marriage. This James has a likely census listing in Wayne County in 1820. He has a wife and daughter under the age of 10 and he is listed just below Abner Decker. (Wayne Co > Not Stated > image 3) An 1830 census in Wayne County cannot be found. Where did this family go?

My main purpose for building out this tree is to find where James Gilbert and John M. Smith were before the land grant was given. Were they related? So now, I try to build a timeline backward for James Gilbert. While I’m at it, I’ll keep my eyes open for other men listed in the land grants.

This is still a work in progress. See the Timeline to see additional information. If you are a James Gilbert researcher, I would welcome all comments on the Timeline!

A Timeline or an Inventory? (Both!)

Every time I prepare a post for this case study, I find something else that I either haven’t researched, or know that I DID research, but haven’t looked at in a long time. That’s how I end up with posts like “Where is Smith Bottoms” and the “Spotlight: Simon Stacy”. In fact, my January 11th post was originally Day 1 out of 13 and “A Man with Two Counties” was originally Day 2!

One shocking thing that I discovered as I have been collecting items to add to my Google Drive is that when I was a new genealogist, I had been researching John M Smith’s son – George A. Smith (my great, great, great grandfather) and as soon as I found out who his father was, I must have stopped researching George! I’ve been working to correct that over the past week.

You may recall from my first post that one of my goals for this project was to pull together all of the research that I’ve already done on collateral lines so that I can easily find all potential information, but George is a direct line ancestor, so this should have been done long ago!

To keep track of what I have and to look for additional clues for each individual, I’m working on additional timelines, beginning with George A. and his brother Elias trying to find out:

  • What do I have?
  • What did I miss?
  • Do I have everything transcribed?

When I transcribe a document, I am so often amazed at what I learn that I didn’t notice when I only read through a document, so my transcriptions are being added to my Google Drive and are being linked in the timelines. In some cases, links will be added to posts that are already online – so it doesn’t hurt to go back if you know of a post that mentioned one of YOUR ancestors. In fact, not every timeline has a post of it’s own – for example, I have a timeline for Thomas Simpson, one of John M’s daughters’ husband that is linked in the “How Findagrave Led Me Wrong” post, but he doesn’t have a post of his own like Simon Stacy did. These timelines and transcriptions are taking a bit of time and they WILL change over time.

Often, you will find that a timeline document is actually a conversation that I’m having with myself. When questions come to mind as I’m working through a document, I add those questions so that I can remember what I was working on when I come back for additional research. Then I start a list of places that I’ve checked to try to find the answer. Eventually, as questions get answers, the document turns into a blog post or a more traditional timeline. I’m trying to give them a consistent format, but there may be some differences.

Here are my current timelines:

By the way, if you have documents or transcriptions you’d be willing for me to include, let’s collaborate! I’d be happy to link to something in YOUR Google Drive or Dropbox if you’d rather not have me host it in mine.

Tracking Land Records

We collect deeds for our ancestors to help place them in a certain place at a certain time. There is, however, one aspect of “following the land” in Kentucky (and other state-land states – Connecticut, Delaware, George, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia ) that makes it a bit challenging. The land descriptions are written in metes and bounds. Here’s an example:

Beginning at a stake and five Beech painters running thence North 38½W 197 poles to a white hickory beam and Maple on the Bank of the River thence up the same buiding thence North43E 44 poles north55E 37 poles to an ash on the river Bank connect to a military survey of 1100 acres of which the aforesaid tract is a part thence with an original line of the military survey South 34E89 ½ poles to a stake thence South7½E 100 poles to an elm Claudius Busters corner thence north67E48 poles to a stake thence South52E 28 poles to a small sugar tree near a beech marked JMS thence South58½W 92 poles to the beginning…

Not exactly what we are expecting when we are trying to map out land locations. Several years ago, I wrote a post showing how to draw a map of a parcel of land using these descriptions. You can find that here. Using some software like Deed Mapper to draw your maps? You need a list of coordinates like this in order to do that.

But I don’t necessarily want to draw out every land description in each deed that I find. So I turned to my favorite piece of software – Excel. I decided to just list the “codes” for each boundary line. That way, I could pretty quickly determine if pieces of land were a match.

The first column of numbers are the directions and the second column are the number of poles.

Once I started filling in additional deeds, I decided I needed a way to also keep track of when land was sold and to who. This particular deed had a follow-up deed later showing that the boundary line markers had been changed, so that went into the document as well. But interestingly enough, future deeds did not use these new coordinates.

  • I like to use the empty cells to add any notes that I might want to add. Sometimes, these notes only make sense to me, so that is something that I need to keep in mind if I am going to share this document with a fellow researcher. For example, in the image below, I have a note showing the relationship of John Cook’s wife to Talitha Ellis. What I didn’t add was that Talitha was the wife of Elias’s brother, George A. She was my 3x great-grandmother, so I certainly recognize the relationship, but others may not.
  • I change the color of the information cell when the land passes out of my family’s line.
  • The cells with underlined information are linked to the correct page in FamilySearch where the deed can be found. One click takes me directly to the FamilySearch sign-in page and then immediately to the correct image.
  • I can also add notes using the Excel comments feature. For example, you can see the red triangle on the right side of this image in the cell that says 37. I added a comment to indicate that I had copied the information correctly, it was not a typo. That saves me time from going back to look at a deed again when I notice that something is different. Whenever my cursor hovers over the red triangle, I can read the note.
  • When I’m working with more than 1 person with the same name, I can use colors to help me keep track of who is who once I have assigned a deed to a specific person. I might be able to figure out who owned the land based on a watercourse that was mentioned, or the name of a neighbor or witness. In my Elias Smith examples, I might use green for Elias (1853) and blue for Elias (1885).
  • Keeping the information in the Excel format can also help me out when mapping a parcel of land just doesn’t make sense. In this example, you can see that the person copying the land description from a previous deed skipped one line of the boundary.
  • Can’t read part of the deed due to a rip or smear? This method can help you figure it out. Notice the line below the red box in the image above. The person who wrote that deed had written a number and then written another number on top of it. I originally transcribed it as S20E, but after entering the information in Excel, I could see that it should have been S23E.
  • There have also been instances when I wanted to include tax list information to help me figure out family relationships or to see which person was gaining land in the tax lists after finding a new deed. Because of that, I added columns to keep track of who’s name a tract of land was Conveyed, Surveyed, and Patented in. This information can also help me determine which deed belongs to a specific person. When adding tax information to my spreadsheet, I just have to be aware that the headers at the top don’t apply.

Setting up a spreadsheet like this can seem overwhelming at first because if your ancestor purchased and sold a lot of land, it’s a lot of information to enter. But it is so helpful when keeping track of where the land went, I can’t imagine doing it any other way.

I’ve placed this spreadsheet in my Google Drive and you can access it here. As with all of the documents that I’m sharing, it is a work in progress and may change over time.

A Man with Two Counties

John M. Smith case study #5

In the spring of 1835, just before his death, John’s tax list[1] showed that he owned 5 pieces of property totaling 556 acres. He showed 3 white tithes who I believe could be John M, Benjamin, and Solomon. George and Elias are listed individually directly after John in the list.

Working backward through the tax lists and deed records, I can track when John purchased land through the years and even expand that to track the land after John M’s death. I created a spreadsheet to help me track the land, which I will talk about in my next post.

I find John in Russell County for the first time in April 1827. He purchased 100 acres of land[2] that was half in Russell County and half in Wayne County. One question that I’ve always had is this – why do I find John M. Smith records in Russell County and not Wayne County? Seems like it would have been harder to get to the Courthouse in Russell County because he would have had to cross the river. But so far, I have never been able to find a record that I can definitely say was John M. (But now that I think about it, how hard have I really looked?)

Russell County was formed in 1826 and John’s area of Russell County had previously been Wayne County. Looking at the Wayne County tax lists, I can see a likely match for John M. Smith in the tax lists for 1826[3] and 1827[4] living in the same area as the families that two of his children would soon marry into – the Paynes and the Simpsons.

These two tax lists were most helpful because individuals were listed by tax collector district. This is unusual as the majority of the tax lists around this time period are entirely alphabetical with only an upper district and lower district, meaning that I cannot tell who neighbors might have been. He owned no land, so I have no land records to provide further clues for his time in Wayne County. But I can find the deeds for Philemon Payne and Reuben Simpson to see the area that this group would have been located in. I keep track of that type of information in the timelines that I keep on Google Drive, which I try to link to in these posts.

The next hint

My direct line comes through John M’s son, George A, and his son, Elias (1845-1885). When I would research Elias, I would often come across information for the other Elias, George’s brother. To tell these men apart, I label them with their year of death – Elias (1885) and Elias (1853). I often use this method when dealing with people with the same name because cousins may have the same name and may have been born in the same year, but very rarely did they die in the same year. It also allows me to quickly see if a record was created after the death of one of the men, which would rule him out for that record.

To make sure I wasn’t missing anything, I collected all records I could find for any Elias Smith and then worked to assign each to the correct Elias. Elias was the owner of quite a bit of land. He died in 1853 at the age of 43 in Russell County[5] leaving behind his wife and 8 children. Elizabeth (Meadows) Smith’s brother, James Harrington Meadows became the guardian for the children.

Elias’s (1853) family connections through his in-laws are pretty well known, so his information was not difficult to find. During this research, I came across a biography for one of Elias’ grandsons – Oscar M Smith[6] who died in 1952. The biography contained a lot of family information which I had already confirmed as well as a few additional hints on John M. Smith.

   Oscar M Smith has been a member of the Russellville bar for fourteen years and during a large part of that time has occupied his present position as city attorney. Whatever he has found to do he has done to the limit of his strength and abilities both of which have been of the highest order and thus while rising in professional prestige he has also won and held public confidence and regard Mr. Smith was born in Russell County, Kentucky August 21, 1872 and is a son of Rev. Elias and Mary C (Davis) Smith.

   The great grandfather of Mr. Smith (LV’s note: John M. Smith) was a native of Virginia and was the pioneer of the family in Kentucky, where he was an early settler of Danville and became a large landholder and the owner of many slaves. His son, Elias Smith, was born at Danville and was twenty-one years of age when he came to Russell County, Kentucky. Following in the footsteps of his father, he became a planter whose broad acres were tilled by slave labor, and his death occurred on his plantation when he was forty-eight years of age, before the birth of his grandson. Elias Smith married Elizabeth Meadors [sic], who was born in Russell County in 1823 and died at Marrowbone, Cumberland County, this state in 1895.

The biography continues with information about Oscar and his parents – Rev. Elias Smith (1914) and Mary C. Davis. But I was able to glean a few important pieces of information for John M. from this biography.

  1. Elias Smith (1853), son of John M., was born in Danville, Kentucky. Elias’ gravestone says that he was born on February 9, 1810. That means that I should be able to find John M. in the Danville area around 1810.
  2. John M. Smith (“the great grandfather”) was an early settler of Danville. (Danville was officially established on December 4, 1787, according to Wikipedia.)
  3. John M. Smith was a large landholder with many slaves.

Because John M. Smith died in 1835 and his son, Elias, died in 1853, Oscar (born in 1872) never knew his grandfather or great-grandfather. Where did Oscar hear this information about his grandfather and great-grandfather? Rev. Elias (1914), Oscar’s father, was only 4 years old when his father, Elias (1853) died. So perhaps Oscar heard the family stories from his grandmother, Elizabeth Meadows Smith, who lived until 1893. I put together a short timeline for Rev. Elias Smith to see if anything popped out to me, but I have not done any deeper research on him. Numbers in square brackets are image numbers. Census records come from Ancestry and all others from FamilySearch.

  • 1850 – Russell Co, KY Census [18] – 4 years old – living with his parents
  • 1860 – Russell Co, KY Census [74] – 13 years old – living with his mother and siblings 2 doors from his grandfather, Andrew Meadows
  • 1870 – Russell Co, KY Census [7] – 23 years old – living with his mother and siblings
  • 1880 – Russell Co, KY Census [1] – 33 years old – married (Oscar, age 7) living in Rowena
  • 1885 – Russell Co, KY Court Orders 7:32 [54] “is a minister in good standing in the Methodist Episcopal Church”
  • 1896 – Russell Co, KY Deed Book Q:635 [348] – Elias Smith and Mary C Smith of Logan Co, KY to George A Smith (this Elias’s brother) of Russell Co, KY – 1 tract of 30 acres, 1 tract of 3 acres and 1 tract of “one half of a 100 acre tract of land bought of Reuben Dowell by Elias Smith Sr.”
  • 1896 – Russell Co, KY Deed Book Q:517 [289] – Elias Smith and Mary C Smith of Logan Co, KY to George T. Smith, Albert Smith and Millie Smith of Russell Co, KY – 1 tract of 43 acres, 1 tract of 40 acres, and 1 tract of 17 acres – I believe these are 3 children of Elias’ brother – William G. Smith
  • 1900 – Logan Co, KY Census [42] – 51 years old – living in Logan Co, KY

Another slightly similar account can be found on Ancestry in a story shared about Elias (1853). The story states that Clarence Smith, another grandson of Elias, said, “Elias was born in Virginia. He came to Kentucky with his parents and 2 or 3 brothers and settled near Danville, KY, where his father (John M.) and brothers operated a trading post.”

I know that James Meadows Smith was the son of Elias Smith (1853) and Elizabeth Meadows and that James and Sarah Coffey had a son named Clarence Meadows Smith who died in 1971 in Fort Worth, Texas. Clarence would have never known his grandfather, Elias, so he may have heard these details from his father, James Meadows Smith, who would have been 13 years old when Elias died. I’m confused by “2 or 3 brothers”. Does that mean brothers of Elias or brothers of John? While the birth location details differ, it is most interesting that Danville is mentioned once again.

These types of biographies (History of Kentucky) are generally known to contain a few “embellishments” so between information being “hearsay” and knowing it might be embellished, how certain can I be that the information in the biography is correct? Here’s what I have confirmed from Oscar’s biography:

  1. “Elias Smith….was twenty-one years of age when he came to Russell County”
    • Elias Smith’s gravestone says that he was born February 9, 1810.[7] I do not know when or who erected the stone, but it does appear to be quite old. I DO know that the original burial location is now under Lake Cumberland and the cemetery was moved to the Jamestown Cemetery in the 1950’s. If the current stone in the cemetery is the original stone, it would have already been about 100 years old when it was moved.
    • John M. Smith likely appears in the tax records for Wayne County, Kentucky in 1826 and 1827 showing that he owned no land at that time. A portion of Wayne County was part of the area that became Russell County in 1826. John purchased land that was half in Wayne County and half in Russell County on April 4, 1827.[8] This land eventually passed from John’s heirs to Elias (1853). Assuming Elias was living with his family, he would have been about 16 years old when he came to the area around 1826.
    • Elias’ older brother, George A. (b. 1805), first appears in the Russell County tax lists in 1828[9].
    • In the 1830 census from Russell County[10], John M. is listed with 6 total males. I believe Elias would have been one of these as he didn’t marry until 1834.
    • In the 1831 tax list[11], John M. lists 2 white tithes. George A. is listed separately, so the 2nd tithe could have been Elias, who would have been around 21 years old at the time.
    • The 1832 tax list is missing, so Elias first appears in the 1833[12] list. If Elias was listed in the 1832 tax list, he would have been 22 years old, but he was most likely living with his father before this time. Elias married Elizabeth Meadows in 1834[13].
    • Given the age of Elias when he came to the Russell County area, I am unlikely to find tax records for Elias in any other county he may have lived in before Russell County.
  1. “Following in the footsteps of his father, he became a planter whose broad acres were tilled by slave labor”
    • At the time of his death, Elias owned 1500 acres in Russell and Wayne Counties[14]. His final tax list indicates that he had 6 slaves.
    • In the 1835 tax list, John M. owned 556 acres of land. Various tax lists show that John had 1 slave. At this time, I do not know any information before Russell and Wayne Counties.

Now for the clue that most excites me: “where he (John M.) was an early settler of Danville and became a large landholder and the owner of many slaves. His son, Elias Smith, was born at Danville”.

So soon the research turns to Danville, Kentucky!


[1] Russell County, Kentucky, 1835 Tax List, p30, FamilySearch film #7834502, image 255.

[2] Russell County, Kentucky, Deed Book A, p132, FamilySearch film #7896967, image 75.

[3] Wayne County, Kentucky, 1826 Tax List, p72, FamilySearch film #7834523, image 76.

[4] Wayne County, Kentucky, 1827 Tax List, p17, FamilySearch film #7834523, image 96.

[5] Findagrave Memorial – Elias Smith –  ID 82119958, Jamestown Cemetery.

[6] Connelley, William Elsey., Coulter, Ellis Merton. History of Kentucky. United States: American Historical Society, 1922. (Volume 4 p437-438) Available for free through Google Books.

[7] Findagrave Memorial ID 82119958 – Elias Smith, 9 Feb 1810 to 21 July 1853.

[8] Russell County, Kentucky, Deed Book A, p132, FamilySearch film #7896967, image 75.

[9] Russell County, Kentucky, 1828 Tax List, p31, FamilySearch film #7834502, image 92.

[10] US Federal Census for 1830 Russell County, Kentucky, p121, Ancestry: Kentucky > Russell > Not Stated > image 35.

[11] Russell County, Kentucky, 1831 Tax List, p31, FamilySearch film #7834502, image 171.

[12] Russell County, Kentucky, 1833 Tax List, p31, FamilySearch film #7834502, image 213.

[13] Russell County, Kentucky, Marriage Records v1, p12, FamilySearch film #5686089, image 27.

[14] Russell County, Kentucky, 1853 Tax List, p18, FamilySearch film #7834502, image 944.

The Robert Rennick collection

While looking for records from the area of Russell County that my Smith ancestors were from, I came across an incredible collection of information. Robert M. Rennick had a passion for finding out the origin of place names in Kentucky and traveled around the state interviewing local historians to find out all he could about local locations, but especially places with unique names. He publish several books including Kentucky Place Names and From Red Hot to Monkey’s Eyebrow: Unusual Kentucky Place Names.

The Morehead State University website has an incredible collection of his research. The research covers all of Kentucky, but I’d like to focus on what you can find here for Russell County.

  1. Let’s start with the Place Names collection. The Russell County portion of this collection includes a PDF document with 274 index cards of post offices and small towns including the notes he had taken about each location. Many of his recorded interviews are referenced on these cards. You can find the Russell County Place Names collection here.
  2. A narrative on the Post Offices of Russell County can be found here. Many of the post office histories included here tell how the post office was named and an amazing number of them were named after wives and daughters, so you may find a maiden name you’ve been looking for simply by looking at the information that Mr. Rennick collected in his notes.
  3. Not only did Mr. Rennick type up these notes into these reports, but he also had his own set of Quadrangle maps with incredible handwritten notes about small towns, schools, cemeteries and post offices throughout the county, many of which no longer exist. The maps themselves are from 1953, so this is especially helpful to see locations that are now under Lake Cumberland. To find the correct map, you need to know the name of the quadrangle.
  1. Dunnville Quadrangle (tab 12)
  2. Montpelier Quadrangle (tab 29)
  3. Russell Springs Quadrangle (tab 37)
  4. Eli Quadrangle (tab 12)
  5. Faubush Quadrangle (tab 14)
  6. Amandaville Quadrangle (not available in Rennick Collection)
  7. Creelsboro Quadrangle (tab 9)
  8. Jamestown Quadrangle (tab 21)
  9. Jabez Quadrangle (tab 21)
  10. Mill Springs Quadrangle (tab 28)
  11. Wolf Creek Dam Quadrangle (tab 47)
  12. Cumberland City Quadrangle (tab 10)

Once you know the correct map to look for, you can find it here. There is a row of tab numbers at the bottom of the screen, I have indicated which tab to click on to find each map. To see the original unmarked maps, go to https://ngmdb.usgs.gov/topoview/viewer/#4/39.98/-100.06 and enter the map name in the search box.

Finally, Mr. Rennick recorded the interviews that he traveled all over the state for. You can see the references for these interviews on the index cards in the Place Names collection. The interviews are arranged alphabetically by county. The only Russell County specific interview was with Richard Blair in 1971. You can find his interview here. Part 2 of the interview can be found on tab 19. Wayne County has MANY interviews and those begin on tab 16.
There are many locations discussed in the interviews that are not included in the note cards.

Were my Ancestors REALLY Moved?

John M. Smith case study #4

I enjoy being part of the “Casey, Clinton, Pulaski, Russell and Wayne County Ky History and Genealogy” group on Facebook. I posted a question for the group and asked if anyone had any information on Smith Bottom, hoping to find a map with the area labeled so I could see if it was close to John’s land.

A  fellow researcher and “Coffey cousin”, Teresa, told me that there was a mention of Smith’s Bottom near Horseshoe Bottom (which you can see on this map near the upper right corner) in the Nov. 3, 1904 edition of the Wayne County Outlook. Sadly, the newspaper was not included in the Newspapers.com site where I have a subscription, so I didn’t think I’d be able to read it.

As I continued to pull together all of my information for John M’s children, I came across the Findagrave memorial for Mary Jane (Smith) Simpson[1] that I discussed in this recent post. I could see the biography on the Findagrave site for her daughter, Martha (Simpson) Bell,  but I wanted to find out if the final sentence of the biography had been included in the original obituary. The biography indicated that the obituary was also in the Wayne County Outlook. So again, I turned to my group on Facebook and asked if anyone knew who might have a copy of the newspaper.

Another cousin from my Stephens line, Arlus, responded and told me that the Wayne County library has digital versions of the paper available on their website! He told me that the Russell, Pulaski, and Adair County libraries also have their own local papers available online. What a goldmine!! His hint solved the Mary Jane Smith mystery for me. But even better, I now know where to look to be able to read local papers without having to go to a library in another state!

Back in the Facebook group, another researcher shared a newspaper clipping from a 1980 Louisville newspaper[2] that talked about 57 old graves at Smiths Bottom being exposed when the Lake Cumberland water level dropped. Now if Louisville was talking about it, what were they saying in Russell County newspapers?

I started by going to the Russell County Library site and found the newspaper for August 14, 1980[3] and there on the front page was the story. The focus on this article was to question whether or not the remains had actually been moved.

As I continued to search the newspapers on the website, I found another front-page article from August 21, 1980[4] indicating that the graves had not been moved, or at least not totally moved.

Wondering if these could have been my ancestors, I kept digging. On page 2, the paper indicated that “Vance Smith accompanied the group to the site as the cemetery was near the Smith farm prior to the formation of Lake Cumberland.” Now I wondered if I could figure out where Vance Smith had lived just before the lake was formed in the early 50’s. I decided to look for Vance Smith in the 1940 Russell County census[5] and I found him living on…Smith Bottom Road! But there are Smiths everywhere and I would certainly expect to find some Smiths on a Smith Bottom Road. Were they “my” Smiths?

Vance’s parents on the census were Ira C. and Hulda Smith. Those names sounded familiar to me, so I went to my tree on Ancestry and sure enough, they were there. Ira Cleveland Smith was the son of James Meadows Smith and the grandson of Elias Smith and Elizabeth Meadows. Knowing that Elias had eventually purchased all of the land owned by John M. Smith from his siblings before his death in 1853, it seems pretty likely that the land had passed down through the family.

A side note – Hulda’s parents were George Washington Smith and Rebecca Jane Hall. GW’s father was yet another John Smith!

The census page showed that the enumeration district was 104-5. You can find a map of the enumeration districts on FamilySearch[6]. Here is a small part of that district. Notice how close Lula is to Beaver Creek. John M’s land included a tract near the mouth of Beaver Creek and was part in Russell County and part in Wayne County. Notice the 2 symbols to the right of the word “LULA”. All of the maps I’ve seen with legends show that the square with the flag is a school and the square with the cross is a church. This is probably Smiths Chapel. The legend for this map shows that cemeteries are marked with a dotted border, which I do not see in this area. Does that mean that this church did not have a cemetery?

It does seem likely to me that if Elias and Elizabeth Smith were buried in the Lula area, then perhaps others in his family were buried there as well, maybe in a family cemetery.

Once again, my Facebook friends helped me out by pointing me to a Digital Book called Graves of the Lake Cumberland Basin[7] that is available on FamilySearch. The beginning of the book has a great map showing where all of the cemeteries were, but it is a little difficult to read. But I can see that there are 2 cemeteries – Smith (cemetery 29) and Lula (cemetery 30) – right in the area that I am looking at. The book tries to give the names and locations of the plots that were moved and where they were moved to, but MANY of the graves simply say “unknown”.

On page 1, the book states that “According to the records of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, 123 cemeteries and the bodies of approximately 2800 persons were relocated, in preparation for the establishment of Lake Cumberland. Most probably there were other private, unmarked cemeteries that did not get moved, but hopefully not many.”

On page 3, there is a list of Smith graves that were moved from “Smith Cemetery” (#29) to Elk Springs Cemetery in Monticello. These include Sarah J. Smith, James M. Smith (this is James Meadows Smith, son of Elias Smith and Elizabeth Meadows and his wife, Sarah Coffey), Edgar Smith, Jimmie C. Smith, Buddie Smith, Pearl Smith, Mary C. Smith and “son of J.M. & S. Smith. These were all children of James Meadows Smith and Sarah Coffey. The map on page 3 indicates that there were 27 graves stakes with 12 monuments moved. This family would comprise 8 of those graves.

Also from that cemetery (page 7) – Emerine Smith, Infant Smith, Mazie Smith, Raymond Smith, Elias Smith and Elizabeth Smith were moved to the Jamestown Cemetery. Emerine was the daughter-in-law of Elias and Elizabeth who died at age 25. She was the wife of their son, George A. Smith Sr. The other names are unknown to me. That makes 6 more graves from the Smith Cemetery of the 27 that were staked. (Page 43) 12 additional “unknown” graves were moved to Piney Woods Cemetery. Infant of Irene Jones, Dick Jones, Irene Jones Cook and Pearl Price were moved from the Lula Cemetery to Piney Woods.

Elias and Elizabeth Smith Stone currently located in Jamestown Cemetery
George A and Talitha Smith Stones currently located in Jamestown Cemetery
Here you can see all of the open space next to George and Talitha. I believe these were graves of Unknowns who had no stones. I have to wonder if one of these spots was for John M. Smith? Elias and Elizabeth’s stone is located between the “Henry” stone and the blue SUV in the picture.

From the Lula Cemetery, the book (p7) shows Louise and Samuel Piercey were moved to the Jamestown Cemetery. Andrew and James Meadows were moved from Cemetery 32 to the Jamestown Cemetery.

I thought it might be helpful to create a table of all of the burial locations that I knew. I wrote about that in the post titled, Just Make a Table.

So while I don’t have actual proof, it does seem pretty likely to me that my ancestor remains were probably not moved, but their stones were. However, to be realistic, coffins and burial procedures were not the same back then as they are now, so I have to wonder if there really were any remains left to move.


[1] Findagrave – Mary Ann “Polly” Copenhaver Simpson – ID 67815762, Simpson Cemetery.

[2] The Courier Journal, Louisville, Kentucky, August 15, 1980, page 4.

[3] https://russellcounty.advantage-preservation.com/viewer/?i=f&by=1980&bdd=1980&bm=8&bd=14&d=08141980-08141980&fn=times_journal_usa_kentucky_russell_springs_19800814_english_1&df=1&dt=10

[4] https://russellcounty.advantage-preservation.com/viewer/?i=f&by=1980&bdd=1980&bm=8&bd=21&d=08211980-08211980&fn=times_journal_usa_kentucky_russell_springs_19800821_english_1&df=1&dt=10

[5] Ancestry, 1940 Federal Census, Kentucky > Russell > Other Places > 104-5.

[6] United States Enumeration Maps for the Twelfth through the Sixteenth US Censuses, 1900-1940, FamilySearch film #007325787, image 183.

[7] https://www.familysearch.org/library/books/records/item/612000-graves-of-the-lake-cumberland-basin?viewer=1&offset=1#page=1&viewer=picture&o=info&n=0&q=

Where is Smith Bottom?

John M. Smith case study #3

While working on the post about John M’s children, I wanted to be thorough and indicate where they were originally buried and where they may have been moved to due to the construction of Lake Cumberland. For some reason, in the back of my mind I was thinking that I had read somewhere that the family cemetery was in Smith Bottom, but I couldn’t find anything about it in my notes.

I had a notation in my notes about a Rootsweb message board listing[1] that said: “I do know that Elias Smith and Elizabeth Meadows Smith were both buried down in the “Lulu” area of Russell County prior to Lake Cumberland being built.” So was Smith Bottom anywhere near Lulu? I found a map with Lula on it. This map is from the United States enumeration district maps for the twelfth through the sixteenth US censuses found on FamilySearch[2]. If you find this map on FamilySearch, but sure to use the Tools in the upper right corner to invert the image which will make it a white page with black “text”.

It may be hard to read, but it is very near Beaver Creek.

John M. Smith owned several tracts of land. Some of the deeds[3] give the description of being “on the south side of Cumberland River” while others specifically mention the mouth of Beaver Creek[4] [5] [6] [7].

To create the next map, I used Photoshop to combine 2 Highway and Transportation maps from Russell and Wayne Counties and then added the red circle to show the area where John M’s land was located. These maps are located on the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Website and take a lot of searching to find. The Russell County map can currently be found here and the Wayne County map can be found here. Both maps are from 1937, which was before the formation of Lake Cumberland.

Now compare the first to the map I created showing where John M’s land was located. Look at the shape of the river loop in Russell County in both maps.

I know it’s difficult to read, so click here to open the image in Google Drive. If you compare the locations of Lula and Clyde (northeast of Lula), you can see that Lula is included in the area I that I have found John M’s land to be.

After doing a Google search for ““Smiths Bottom” Kentucky Cemetery”, I found a website that included index cards compiled by Robert Rennick of Morehead State while working on a book of Kentucky place names[8]. Out of 274 index cards for Russell County, one card was compiled for Smiths Bottom which indicated that it was located around the mouth of Beaver Creek. The interviews that are referenced on the card can also be found on the Morehead State website, but I was unable to find the interview with Jim Burchett.

So if Elias and Elizabeth were buried in the Lula area, would that have been at a church cemetery or a family cemetery? And is it likely that other family members were buried there as well?

Searching the Morehead State site, I found that there was a church called “Smiths Chapel” in the area[9] – but did they have a cemetery?

It’s now under the Lake, so how can I find that out? Many of the interviews that are referenced in these documents are available online, but some are not. Of course, the ones I’m most interested in aren’t available on this website! Stay tuned to find out how this question turned into a totally new research question for me! (Reference 11 – Mary Weaver of Somerset, Kentucky, interviews on May 23, 1979. Find this interview. Not found in Pulaski County interviews. (No Pulaski County interviews) Tab 14)

By the way, I believe the William G. Smith who was the first postmaster at the Lula post office may have been the son of Elias Smith and Elizabeth Meadows. In the 1880 census, he and his family were living in the Rowena area, which you can see on the first map just west of Lula. I wouldn’t be one bit surprised to find that he had a daughter named Lula, but so far, I have not been able to locate him after the 1880 census.

William’s wife, Matilda Gilespie, passed away in 1888 and is buried in the Bethesda Cemetery in Wayne County, Kentucky[10]. One of his daughters, Ida, passed away on 18 February 1895 and was buried in the same cemetery in Wayne County[11]. This makes me think that William must have been in the area at least until 1895, making him a likely candidate for being the postmaster of the Lula Post Office.


[1] https://mlarchives.rootsweb.com/listindexes/emails?listname=kyrussel&thread=20218168 accessed 4 Jan 2021.

[2] “United States Enumeration District Maps for the Twelfth through the Sixteenth US Censuses, 1900-1940,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-99HG-HGHX?cc=2329948&wc=92VW-929%3A1077257101 : 20 June 2014), Roll 23, Kentucky, Henry-Woodford 1900-1940 > image 188 of 882; citing NARA microfilm publication A3378 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2003).

[3] Russell County, Kentucky, Deed Book A, p132, FamilySearch film #7896967, image 75.

[4] Kentucky Land Grants, Book V p514, FamilySearch film #272854

[5] Kentucky Land Grants, Book V p515, FamilySearch film #272854

[6] Kentucky Land Grants, Book B-2 p296, FamilySearch film #272857

[7] Russell County, Kentucky, Deed Book B, p501, FamilySearch film #7896967, image 402.

[8]Rennick, Robert M., “Russell County – Place Names” (2016). Robert M. Rennick Manuscript Collection. 136.
https://scholarworks.moreheadstate.edu/rennick_ms_collection/136, p240.

[9] https://scholarworks.moreheadstate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1389&context=kentucky_county_histories, p8.

[10] Findagrave Memorial ID 66270935 – Matilda Smith, 1 Feb 1843 – 17 Jul 1888.

[11] Findagrave Memorial ID 66270751 – Ida Smith, 29 May 1877 – 18 Feb 1895.