Family Stories

Richard and Mary ‘Polly’ Duerson

IMG_1700_1Richard Duerson, July 29, 1790 – October 2, 1855.  Polly Duerson, September 18, 1809 – July 28, 1902.  Winchester Cemetery, Clark County, Kentucky.

This blog started with just the one photo of the gravestone of Richard and Polly Duerson, taken in Winchester City Cemetery in Clark County, Kentucky.  But, of course, that is only the beginning.  There were no other stones that I photographed with this last name.  The hunt was on!

1850 2In the 1850 census of Clark County Richard Duerson is listed as 59 years of age, born in Virginia; Polly, 40, born in Kentucky; along with the following children – Henry, 17; Eldred, 14; Maria, 13; Charles, 11; Mildred, 9; Catherine, 7; Lucy, 4; Richard, 2.  1850 is usually where I start in the census records – it’s the first that names all individuals living in the household.  In the 1850 Slave Schedule for Clark County Richard Duerson is listed as owning 12 individuals – 8 females and 4 males that range in age from less than a year to 57 years of age.

Let’s back up to 1830.  In that census 10 individuals are living in the household – one male 30-39 – that would be Richard; one male 20-29.  Since Richard and Polly married December 23, 1823, there would be no children of that age – unless Richard was previously married and had a son (he was more than 10 years older than Polly).  It could also be a younger brother of either of the couple.  One female 20-29 – that would be Polly; and three females under the age of 5 – three daughters!  There are 2 black males less than ten, a male 55-99 and one female 24-35.  It is quite possible those three young daughters were married and in homes of their own by the 1850 census twenty years later, or more likely, since the 1910 census tells us Polly had 13 children and only 7 were alive at that time, these three young daughters died before 1850.  Of course, they may have married and died during childbirth.

deaht 1This very tiny photo says that Richard Duerson, 63, farmer, no parents listed (although in a Clark County newspaper I found that Jack and Mary Bush Duerson were named as his parents), died September 30, of diarrhea.  Cholera was listed but marked out.  I’m not sure why.  Eight other individuals listed on that page died of cholera.  Of the 82 deaths in Clark County in 1855, 13 were caused by cholera – 16%.

Gaitskill 1 2Polly was left a widow at the age of 46 – much like her mother, Ann Gaitskill, who was left a widow in 1812.  Ann was appointed guardian to ‘Susan, Sally, Nancy, Betsy, Emily, Polly and Mariah Gaitskill, orphans of Henry Gaitskill, deceased, whereupon she, together with James Stewart and Thomas Wright her securities, entered into and acknowledged their bond in the penalty of $10,000 conditioned according to law.’  Seven young daughters!  Could their father have been killed during the War of 1812?  This may also explain why Polly Gaitskill married at such a young age!

It was so exciting to find so many court/probate records for this family after the father’s death.  The first is a list of ‘articles promised and set apart for the use and benefit of the widow and infant children of Richard Duerson, deceased’.

admin 23 1Some of the items listed are two horses and gear, one plow and gear, two cows and calf, two beds, bedding and furniture; one loom and spinning wheel and card.  One pot and one oven, no stove on premises, six plates, six cups and saucers, one coffee pot and tea pot (thank heavens for that!  couldn’t be without tea!).  One half dozen knives and forks, one table, family Bible.  One saddle and appendages and bridle.  Six chairs, all the poultry on the farm, ten head of sheep, wheat, one two year old heifer for beef.  This was written October 18, 1855 – less than two weeks after Richard’s death.

Notice the children are listed as ‘infant children’.  I believe this would be any child under the age of twenty-one.  The children’s actual ages are Henry, at age 22 in 1855, down to Richard, aged 7.

admin 79 1The next interesting find was a map of Richard Duerson’s land showing the allotment of dower – Mary is now listed with her christian name rather than nickname – I suppose since she is head of household that raises her in the eyes of the public!  Notice the map shows where the ‘Mansion house’ was on the 254 acres of land.  There are several named roads on the map – Mt. Sterling Road, Winchester and Mt. Sterling Turnpike, Red Rive Ironworks Road – and a railroad, the Lexington and Big Sandy.  Mary also owns 38 acres of land next to the railroad.  In addition to all this information, the people living adjacent to her property are listed!  John Weaver, Thomas Hart, Philip B. Winn, John W. Redmon and a Mr. Kelly are her neighbors!

admin 80Another tract of land.

admin 81 2The division of slaves gives Mary Duerson the following – Austin, aged 35; Sarah, aged 14; Patsey, aged 9; and Delpha, aged 63.  We will return to this in 1870!

guardian 507 2Each of the children except Henry had guardians that looked after the portion of the estate given to their wards.  The above is one piece of information from April 4, 1857, for Maria.  Eldred and Catherine were wards of William Henry Duerson, probably their uncle.  Maria and Charles were wards of J. N. Winn, a neighbor.  Mildred was the ward of H. G. Poston; and Lucy and Richard were wards of William Halley Smith.

1860 2In the 1860 census Mary is listed with five of her children, each of which have their portion of their father’s estate listed.  Maria and Charles were probably married at this point.  Maria married a Mr. Bean and Charles became a doctor.

1870 2In 1870, the first census after the Civil War, it is interesting to note that Henry is back home, living with his mother; the other children all married and in homes of their own.  But the most important piece of information is Sarah and Bush Hall and their children that live with Mary Duerson.  Bush is a farm laborer and Sarah is a domestic servant.  Remember the young slave, Sarah, who was part of Mary’s dower?  I believe this to be the same woman, now employed rather than a slave.

In 1880 Mary Duerson is living alone, but in the 1900 census she is a boarder with Olivia Sewell.  Mary is listed as born in 1809, aged 90, a widow, gave birth to 13 children, 7 living, both parents born in Virginia.  Mary died two years later.

from The Winchester Democrat, Clark County, Kentucky

Tuesday, July 29, 1902

 Death of Mrs. Duerson

Mrs. Mary Gaitskill Duerson died yesterday morning of the decay incident to old age, at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Maria Bean, on College Street, in the ninety-fourth year of her age. The remains will be buried this afternoon in the Winchester cemetery, services at the grave by Rev. J. J. Gilbert.

She was a native of this county, and before her marriage was Miss Gaitskill. Her husband, Richard Duerson, died in 1874.

She leaves three sons, Dr. Chas. Duerson, of Mt. Sterling, Henry and Eldred Duerson, of this city; also four daughters, Mrs. Maria Bean, Mrs. W. D. [Mildred] Thomson and Mrs. Chas. E. [Lucy] Stuart, of this city and Mrs. Kate Hieronymus of Mt. Sterling. She was perhaps the oldest white person in the city and was highly respected by all who knew her.




2 replies »

  1. What a wonderful story you have put together of the lives of this family. You have given us not only how to find the records but how to weave these into a touching story of the life of a family through time. You are a marvelous detective. Thank you so much. Marilyn

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