Family Stories

The Birdwhistle Family of Mercer/Anderson County

Birdwhistle is a name long associated with Anderson County.  It is loosely translated as where the birds nest.  Most of the people with this surname come from Britain.  In 1840 100% of people with the last name Birdwhistle lived in Kentucky – quite remarkable!  I have found it spelled many ways.  In the histories and census records it was spelled Birdwhistle.  In James’s will and on his gravestone it is spelled Birdwhistell.

According to A History of Anderson County, begun in 1884 by Major Lewis W. McKee and concluded in 1936 by Mrs. Lydia K. Bond, ‘Thomas Birdwhistle purchased a farm on Salt River in what was then Mercer County, afterwards Anderson.  That same farm has been in the Birdwhistle family since that early day, and is now owned by Mr. J. M. B. Birdwhistle, Sr., of Lawrenceburg, who has an old deed executed by John Adams and wife, Polly, to Thomas Birdwhistle, September 4, 1818.’  Thomas paid $1,250 for 92 and one-half acres of land, at that time in Mercer County and ceded to Anderson County when it was formed in 1827.

‘All the Birdwhistles of this state are descendants of Thomas Birdwhistle, who came to Kentucky from Maryland, and settled in Woodford County.  To Thomas Birdwhistle and his wife, Sally, there were born the following children:  James S., who married Miss Julia Buntain; William N., who married Miss Mildred Smith; John, who married Miss Ellen Riggs; Henrietta, who married Thurston Cox.  To James S. Birdwhistle and his wife, Julia, there were born the following children: Thomas, James, Frank, Porter, Thurston, Cecil, Delia and Henrietta.’

When Thomas Birdwhistle came to Woodford County, Kentucky, he brought with him a daughter, Priscilla.  I could find no mention of a wife, perhaps she died before the move to Kentucky, or shortly thereafter.  In the Mercer County records this daughter, Priscilla Birdwhistle, married Jeremiah Anderson, January 21, 1829.  Thomas is listed as her father.

Thomas Birdwhistle married Sally Scearce November 25, 1815, in Woodford County.  If Priscilla was a daughter from this marriage, she would have been only 13 at her marriage to Jeremiah Anderson; therefore, Sally was Thomas’ second wife.  According to the 1850 Mercer County Census, Thomas was 69, born in Maryland (as per above), wife Sarah was 64, born in Virginia.  Their son John, 25, and his wife, Ellen, 20, lived with them.

It is Thomas and Sarah’s son, James S. Birdwhistle, who is the subject of today’s blog.

James S. Birdwhistell married Julia E. Buntain (Buntin) May 20, 1839, in Anderson County.  James Buntain was bondsman, and possibly Julia’s father, since consent was given by her father, James Buntain.  They were married by Jordan Walker the same day.

In the 1840 census of Mercer County we find Thomas and Sally Birdwhistle, both aged 50-59, with one son and one daughter, both 15-19.  These two children are John and Henrietta.  Son James was newly married, living next door to his parents, 20-30, with wife Julia, 20-30, and young son Thomas, under the age of 5.  William, son of Thomas and brother to James, lived alone on his property.

The 1840 census was the only time I found James S. Birdwhistle in the census – of any in Kentucky.  His father, brother William, son Porter, and wife Julia are in various census records of Mercer and Anderson counties.  I cannot explain this other than the name Birdwhistle perhaps caused much confusion for the census takers.

There are birth records for two of the children of James and Julia.  Delia Katherine Birdwhistle, female, born at Salt River, parents James Birdwhistle and Julia E. Buntain.  Henrietta P. Birdwhistle, female, born at Hickory Nut Creek, parents James Birdwhistle and Julia E. Buntain.  Hickory Nut Creek comes off the southern section of Salt River, around Hwy 749, south of what is now Four Roses Distillery.

In the 1870 census of Anderson County, after James’ death on January 29th, we find Julia as head of the family, 51, born in Tennessee.  Living with her were Adelia, 17; Henrietta, 14; and Cecil, 10.

Porter Birdwhistle married Hulda Bickers, April 8, 1868, in Mercer County and was living there in 1870.  He was listed as 25, giving him an 1845 birth year.  His wife, Hulda Bickers, is 24 and they have a one-year-old daughter, Emma.  Porter died later in 1870, and in 1880 we find Hulda living with her father, Walker Bickers, 73; brother James, 22; daughter Emma, 10, and Lizzie, 9.  Lizzie must have been born after Porter’s death.

In 1880, in the same county, Frank Birdwhistle was living with William Gaines as a boarder and worked in a distillery, very possibly Four Roses mentioned above.  Frank was 32 which puts his birth about 1848.

There was no mention of James Birdwhistle, Jr., or Thurston – perhaps these sons of James and Julia died young.

James S. Birdwhistell, born July 15, 1817, died January 29, 1870.  Mt. Hebron Cemetery,    Anderson County, Kentucky.

According to the Mortality Schedules of Anderson County for 1870, James S. Birdwhistle, 53, farmer, died in January of paralysis.  In his will he mentions ill health, perhaps his illness had taken quite a toll on him.  He makes a special bequest to son William for help during this time.

Julia Amy Buntain Birdwhistell, 1818-1893.

Julia Birdwhistle lived another 23 years.  She was buried beside her husband in Mt. Hebron Cemetery in Anderson County, on the Mercer-Anderson border.

Will of James S. Birdwhistell

Anderson County Will Book B, Pages 26-27

I, James S. Birdwhistell, being of sound mind but feeble in health and knowing the uncertainty of life, do this day make this my last will and testament.  First it is my wish that all my just debts be paid, after that it is my wish that my wife, July E. Birdwhistell, shall have all of my property, both real and personal, to have and to hold and use for the benefit of herself and children until my son Cecil Birdwhistell shall arrive at the age of sixteen years old or should he, Cecil Birdwhistell, die before that time my wife is to have all of the property till that time, but when he arrives at that age or that time, then it is my wish that all of my property, both real and personal, shall be sold to the highest bidder by my executors upon such terms as they may think best according to the situation of all the parties concerned, it is my wish that all of my affects be equally divided between my children, giving my wife, July E. Birdwhistell, an equal share with my children, to have and to hold and to dispose of in any way or manner she may see properly, it is my wish that my son William T. Birdwhistell, shall have in a general settlement of my estate, one hundred dollars more than the other children for services rendered to me during my illness.  It is further my wish that a general settlement be made by a bill of charges that I have this day made against my children, some of my older children with what they have got

So that they all may be made equal.  Reference can be had to my bill of charges.  I make and appoint my sons William T. and James H. Birdwhistell my lawful executors with full power to make and assign all deeds necessary to affect a good and clear title in the sale of my land.  I wish my friend A. R. Wheat to be a friendly advisor with my executors and family.  This my last will and testament, this 20th day of February 1869.  Signed before the witnesses,

James S. Birdwhistell

Witnesseth, Andrew J. Bickers, Cardwell Sale

State of Kentucky, I James M. Posey, Clerk of the Anderson County Court, certify that at a term of said court held on Monday, the 7th day of February 1870, the foregoing writing purporting to be the last will and testament of James S. Birdwhistell, deceased, has produced in court and proved by the oaths of Andrew J. Bickers, one of the subscribing witnesses thereto, who also proved the signature and attestation of Cardwell Sale, the other subscribing witness, and ordered to be recorded, which is accordingly done.  Given under my hand this 8th day of February 1870.

James M. Posey, Clerk, Anderson County

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