How Reliable Are Old Biographies?

Some say that many family biographies are unreliable, such as those written for the Kentucky – A History of the State volumes – or any biographical works.  I believe any biography gives you a starting place.  It’s up to you to go to the original records and check the facts!  This biography was chosen since Ritchey and I visited Vanceburg Cemetery in Lewis County – we have photos of several of the gravestones for some named below.  Footnotes are given for the original sources, although the numbering system is a little different with WordPress!

Kentucky – A History of the State, Perrin, Battle & Kniffin, 1888

Lewis County

Henry C. Bruce was born in Lewis County, Kentucky, January 16, 1824[1], and is a son of Alexander Bruce, a native of Garrard County, Kentucky, was born September 5, 1796.  He was educated at Transylvania College, Lexington, Kentucky, studied law in his native county, and began the practice of his profession in Vanceburg in 1819.  In the latter year he married Miss Amanda Bragg, daughter of Thomas Bragg, of Lewis County.  Alexander Bruce was a Whig in politics and was a leading lawyer of the Vanceburg bar.  In 1825 he was elected to the Lower House of the State Legislature, when the political issue was upon the Old and New Court.  Mr. Bruce was an advocate of the Old Court party.  He was the father of seven children, all of whom are living.  He died in Vanceburg in 1851[2], being at that time the first candidate for county judge under the new constitution.  His wife survived him about one year[3].

Alexander Bruce died April 18, 1851, aged 53 years, 7 months and 13 days.  Vanceburg Cemetery, Lewis County, Kentucky.

Amanda M. Bruce died May 20, 1852, aged 49 years, 2 months and 6 days.

John Bruce, grandfather of Henry C., was a native of Virginia and was one of the pioneers of Garrard County, Kentucky.  He was a son of one of the Refugee Highlander soldiers who escaped after the Battle of Culloden Moor in 1745 and took passage for America.  He was also a Revolutionary soldier[4].  Thomas Bragg, the maternal grandfather of our subject, was a native of Fauquier County, Virginia, and located in Vanceburg, Kentucky, about 1800.  He also was a soldier of the Revolution and died in 1820, his wife surviving him until 1863, when she died at the advanced age of ninety-nine[5].

Lucy Blakemore, born in Frederick County, Virginia, April 8, 1764, married Thomas Bragg, September 20, 1781, and died in Lewis County, Kentucky, November 1, 1862, aged 98 years, 6 months and 23 days.

Henry C. Bruce passed his early life in steamboating[6] on the Ohio River.  In 1850 he married Mary Conner[7], daughter of Major William Conner, of Greenup County, Kentucky.  In 1870 he engaged in the mercantile business with his present partner, Mr. Rugles.  He is the father of seven children, viz: Sidney, Mary, Thomas, Samuel, William, John and Elsie[8].  His wife died in 1867, and in 1871 he married Miss Cassandra Caines[9], of Lewis County, a daughter of Charles Caines.  He had six children by his first wife and one by the latter.  In 1881 Mr. Bruce was nominated by acclamation for Senator and was elected the following August.  After the expiration of his term he again resumed his business pursuits.   He is an energetic business man, and is the owner of large city and farming property.

_____________________

[1] According to the 1850 Lewis County Census Henry Clay Bruce, 26, and his new wife, Mary, 20, are living with his grandmother, Lucy Blakemore Bragg, 86.  Henry is listed as a boatman.  His mother, Amanda Bruce, also lives in the household, along with son Thomas J. Bruce, 28, and his wife, Mary, 20.

[2] Gravestone in Vanceburg Cemetery reads ‘Alexander Bruce died April 18, 1851, aged 53 years, 7 months and 13 days.’

[3] Gravestone in Vanceburg Cemetery reads ‘Amanda M. Bruce died May 20, 1852, aged 49 years, 2 months and 6 days.’

[4] Andrew Davis Bruce Sons of the American Revolution application from May 21, 1956.  Also, buried in the Bruce Cemetery in Garrard County – John Bruce, Revolutionary Soldier, born April 30, 1748, died April 13, 1827.  Elizabeth Clay Bruce, wife of John, born January 13, 1755, no death date.

[5] Gravestone in Vanceburg Cemetery reads ‘Lucy Blakemore, born in Frederick County, Virginia, April 8, 1764, married Thomas Bragg, September 20, 1781, and died in Lewis County, Kentucky, November 1, 1862, aged 98 years, 6 months and 23 days.’

[6] See footnote 1.

[7] Death certificate of Samuel Ellis Bruce, who died January 7, 1938, gives father as Henry Clay Bruce, and mother, Mary Conner.

[8] Children are listed in the 1870 and 1880 Lewis County census.

[9] Death Certificate of Elsa B. Kline, who died December 26, 1959, gives father as Henry C. Bruce, and mother Cassandra D. Caines.

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