Old Wills

1782 Will of Zephaniah Blackford of Jefferson County

So many interesting things about this will!  Fort Nelson became Louisville, Kentucky.  In 1781 Colonel George Rogers Clark was stationed there where he led expeditions against the Shawnee Indians.  Zephaniah Blackford evidently knew him well enough to purchase land from him.  

Since no wife is mentioned, Zephaniah Blackford was not married, so he chose the daughters of his brother Reuben to receive his legacies, as well as his brothers and sisters.  The mention of his nursery on Fish Creek, and the number of apple trees he gives make me want to call him an early Johnny Appleseed!  Fish Creek is off Nolan River, now located in Mammoth Cave National Park, in Edmonson County. 

Zephaniah must have been a religious man, setting aside $200 for the use of the Baptist Society to preach the gospel ‘where none but darkness to be found.’

The land purchased of Captain George Rogers Clark on the mouth of the Kanawha is now located in West Virginia.  Fort Jefferson was constructed upon instructions by then Governor of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson, he putting Clark in charge.  After the fort was built a small settlement by the name of Clarkville had some settlers make it their home, but the Indian raids caused the fort and settlement to be a disaster.  It was to have been built at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, today near the town of Wickliffe, Kentucky, in Ballard County.

In the name of God, Amen.  I, Zephaniah Blackford, Conductor of Military Store in the Interior Department, now residing at Fort Nelson, being of sound and disposing mind and memory and understanding and considering the certainty of death and the uncertainty of the time thereof, I do make and ordain this my last will and testament in manner following.  First and principally I resign my soul to God Almighty, and hope for salvation thro the merits of my blessed redeemer Christ.  As to my temporal estate I dispose thereof as follows.  I do name and constitute my brother, Reuben Blackford, to be my sole executor.  I will that all my just debts and funeral charges must first and immediately be paid.

Imprimis.  I give my Birth Right and all my property of whatever kind in East Jersey unto my brother and sisters that may be in that provenance at my decease be equally divided between them in quantity and quality to them.

Item.  I give unto my brother, Reuben Blackford, my wearing apparel and surveying instruments and all my bills and receipts from the state of Virginia and also here my settlement and presumption at Fish Creek and the six hundred acres of land I have up the Kanawha that was bought of John Savage, and two town lots I bought of Captain George R. Clark at the mouth of Big Kanawha and all rights to two town lots and appurtenances that was Jacob Shillings at Clark Ville, Fort Jefferson, to him and his heirs and assigns for him or them to sell or dispose with at phases, my just debts to be paid out of the same and two hundred dollars for burial and likewise for the use of a Baptist Society that may for future years be used in the Illinois Country and in support of the Gospel where none but darkness to be found, if demanded five years from the present date.

Item.  I give unto my niece Hannah Ruth, daughter of brother Reuben Blackford, it is my desire to use her as if she were my own daughter, I give unto her my land that is known by the falls of Blackford Manor on the Wabash River two leagues at Vincennes consisting of fourteen hundred and forty acres and appurtenances and land as entered in that office by the name of Levi Blackford, William Blackford, Oliver Blackford, George Blackford,

Richard Blackford, Moses Blackford, Isaac Blackford and Henry Blackford, to remain her and her heirs of blood forever.  I give unto her five hundred apple trees to plant on the above land out of my nursery at Fish Creek of the second choice, she to take possession of all the lands at eighteen years of age.

Item.  I give unto my niece, Phoeby, the second daughter to my brother Reuben Blackford, as a token of my friendship to her, land opposite to the town of St. Vincennes over the Wabash, containing three hundred and sixty acres of land entered in that office by my name and forty acres of this being what I bought of John Cardinne, to remain her and her heirs of blood forever.  I give unto her five hundred apple trees for the use of the said land out of my nursery aforesaid, the third choice, she may take possession at the age of eighteen years.

Item.  I give unto my niece Elizabeth, the third daughter of my brother, Reuben Blackford, as a token of my friendship to her, my land I bought of Randall White and one lot of my father, John Blackford, entered in that office, the whole containing three hundred and twenty acres of land to her and her heirs of blood forever.  I give her five hundred apple trees, of the fourth choice.  She may take possession of the premises at eighteen years of age.

Item.  I give unto my friend, Yates Conwell, as a token of the friendship I always had for him, seven hundred apple trees of my nursery at Fish Creek, the first and best choice of the said nursery.

I do deny all wills, testaments, legacies, before this time and this only do I maintain to be my sole will and last testament.  Perhaps I may add one or more codicils to this hereafter, but the rest and residue of my real and personal estate whatsoever after payments of my debts, funeral charges and legacies, I give to my brother, Reuben Blackford, his heirs, executors, administrators and assigns forever.  In witness where of I hereunto set my hand and seal the 12th day of May in the year of our Lord 1782.  Amen.

Zephaniah Blackford

Signed, sealed, published and declared by the said Zephaniah Blackford, for his last will and testament in the presence of us who have hereunto set our names, as witnesses, in his presence at his request and in the presence of each other.

Buckner Pittman, William Pritchet, George Shepherd


Jefferson County, April Court 1784

The last will and testament of Zephaniah Blackford, deceased, was proven by the oath of William Pritchet, one of the subscribing witnesses and being also proven by the oath of George Walls to be the handwriting of said decedent, was admitted to record.

Teste.  Will Johnston, Clerk Jefferson Court

Jefferson County Will Book 1, Pages 3-4

2 replies »

  1. I certainly did enjoy this article about the will of Zephaniah Blackford. All of the information about his life and connections along with the dates made it so very interesting. It also seemed to give a flavor of the times in Kentucky during this time period. Thank you again for sharing such interesting information.. Marilyn

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