During our time at the Lincoln County Courthouse last week, while actually looking for marriage records, I had to copy a few of the oldest wills. This will of Silas Harlen, written in 1780 and produced in court in 1783, is the first will of the county. If you will notice Silas evidently is not married and has no children, his bequests are to his brothers. Another interesting point, in the three years between the time the will is written and then produced in court, two of the three subscribing witnesses have died. The very early years of Kentucky history were hard times, Indians still roamed the land and were not happy to have the newcomers take over their land.
At the beginning of the month Ritchey and I attended the monthly lecture series at Locust Grove, in Louisville, Kentucky. It was a performance by one of the Kentucky Humanities Council’s Chautauqua performers. Betsy B. Smith gave a wonderful talk/performance about Jemima Boone, daughter of Daniel Boone. She WAS Jemima Boone and took us along on the harrowing journey of coming to Kentucky in the mid 1770’s. Her expressions, her descriptions of life in Fort Boonesborough and of the Indian attacks, the hardships due to little food, etc., let us ride the journey with her through this bit of Kentucky history!
After reading this will and then the deaths of two of the witnesses, it brought back to life the story of Jemima Boone.
Will Book 1, Lincoln County, Kentucky (Virginia, at the time!)
In the name of God amen. I, Silas Harlen, of the County of Kentucky and Colony of Virginia, being of perfect mind and memory, make this my last will and testament. My estate I bequeath and dispose of in manner and form following. First to my brother Jehu Harlen I give and bequeath all that is due to me from Stephen Harlen of my father’s estate. Also to my brother Elijah Harlen my part of the tract of land that he is now in possession of. Also to my brother James Harlen all the remainder of my estate, real and personal, who I do hereby constitute and appoint the whole and sole executor of this my last will and testament. And I do hereby utterly revoke, disavow and disannul all former bequests, wills and legacies by me heretofore in any wise left or made declaring ratifying this and no other to be my last will and testament, in witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this seventh day of January in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty. Signed, sealed, published and declared by the within named Silas Harlen to be his last will and testament in the presence of us – Jeremiah Briscoe, Charles Fergueson, Jacob Harlen
At a Court held for Lincoln County the 22nd day of January, 1783, this instrument of writing was submitted in Court as the last will and testament of Silas Harlen, deceased, and proved by the oath of Jeremiah Briscoe, the only surviving witness, and ordered to be recorded.
Test. William May, Clerk