Family Stories

Willis Lunsford Ringo – Hickman County to Franklin County to Boyd County

Today we shall visit the Ashland Cemetery in Boyd County, Kentucky.  But first the particulars.  Willis Lunsford Ringo was born October 22, 1843, in Hickman County, Kentucky, to Dr. James Stone Ringo, December 29, 1800 – September 7, 1874, and his second wife, Sarah White, May 10, 1870 – May 28, 1880.  James Ringo’s first wife was Elizabeth Harris, May 21, 1799 – December 24, 1831.

In the early census records Willis is found with his parents and siblings in Hickman County.

1850 Hickman County Census

James S. Ringo, 47, farmer, Sarah Ringo, 43, Amanda Ringo, 16, J. M. Ringo, 21, Martha Ringo, 13, M. Ringo, 10, Coleman Ringo, 9, Willis Ringo, 7, L. B. Ringo, 3, f

1860 Hickman County Census

J. S. Ringo, 59, farmer, Sarah, 52, Fee, 19, Coleman, 18, Willis L., 17, student at seminary, James M., 14, Laura B., 12, Alexander White, 47.

Willis L. Ringo was 17 years of age when he enrolled on July 5, 1861, as a private in Capt. James W. Moss’s company, 2nd Regiment, Kentucky Infantry, of the Confederate States of America.  He traveled 150 miles to Camp Boone in Tennessee.  Halfway through the war he made the rank of Second Lieutenant. 

He was wounded during the Battle of Dallas in Paulding County, Georgia, and taken to hospital, by authority of the Brigade Surgeon, still there August 31, 1864.   

Payment of $80 for August 1863.

Willis Ringo married Sallie Cresap, born December 15, 1845, in Hickman County, November 4, 1869.  Marrying so late in the year meant Willis and Sallie together in the 1870 census – although each should have lived with their parents – which I could not find!

In 1880, Willis and Sallie live in the household with his sister, Laura Belle Ringo, 30.  Children Ruby Ringo, 9, M. C., 6, Nora, 4, Bessie, 2, Lillian, 11/12 have been born to the couple.  There is a M. E. Cresap, aged 53, also in the household, and it appears she is a stepmother.  With the last name Cresap she must be related to Sallie Ringo.

Willis Ringo was a clerk in the office of the Auditor of Accounts in Frankfort.  A notice in the Hickman Courier of October 31, 1884, lists him as such involving an Oscar Turner who was considered not living in Jefferson County.  Willis gave information from the tax books of said county, making him, Turner, eligible to run for office in said county.

Another notice in the same newspaper from December 18, 1885, reads as such, ‘Willis L. Ringo, of Clinton, assistant clerk of the last Legislature, is preparing a Manual for the use of the General Assembly.  Mr. Ringo is well versed in standard parliamentary law, and the work will be of great value to new members.  We always though that Willis Ringo was bound to distinguish himself.’

From The Courier-Journal of August 9, 1887, Louisville, ‘Willis L. Ringo, who has for three terms acceptably filled the position of Assistant Clerk of the Kentucky House of Representatives, will, in all likelihood, be elected Chief Clerk next winter.  At any rate he will be a candidate for the place, and his election may be set down as a pretty certain event.  Mr. Ringo is eminently fitted for the position.  He is polite and agreeable, a good reader, and an intelligent, well-posted gentleman.  His home is in Hickman County, though he has resided for several years at Frankfort, where he has a position in the Auditor’s office.’

In the September 13, 1888, issue of The Courier-Journal, it said, ‘Hon. Willis L. Ringo, Assistant Secretary of State, was in the city last evening, en route to the battlefield of Chickamauga to have disinterred and brought to the cemetery at Frankfort the remains of the members of the First Kentucky Brigade killed at Chickamauga.’

In the September 27, 1890, issue of The Frankfort Roundabout, ‘Hon. Willis L. Ringo, Assistant Secretary of State, has been elected General Manager of the Ashland Improvement Company, has accepted and has resigned his present position and will remove to Ashland to reside about the first of next week.  No more perfect gentleman or popular fellow than Willis Ringo ever held office on the “Square,” and we regret to know that he is so soon to leave our city.  We congratulate the Improvement Company upon having secured such an excellent general manager, and Ashland upon gaining such a clever gentleman for a citizen.’

Willis Ringo served one week as Secretary of State, August 25, 1891 – August 31, 1891, serving one week remaining on Secretary Adams term since Adams had been appointed Railroad Commissioner.

Just after his week as Secretary of State, Willis Ringo attended the Civil War reunion held in Owensboro, Kentucky, September 8, 1891.  The courthouse and hotel lobbies with filled with veterans.  Old stories, battles, war yarns, came from all.  From the Twice-A-Week Messenger of that city, as was said of the food, ‘Of course there could be no arrangement made to feed the multitude at once, though the loaves and fishes were all ready.  Accordingly it was announced that the members of the Orphan Brigade, the invited guests and ladies should be served first.  The tables were spread in the immense rooms under the grandstand and floral hall, and all were fed with unexpected promptness.  The tables were loaded with mutton, beef and shoat, all barbecued in the finest style, and accompanied with all sorts of eatables besides.  There was absolutely no room for complaint on the score of quality or quantity.  If any went away unsatisfied it was for lack of enterprise to walk to the tables and be filled, or of patience to await their turn.’

At the end of the reunion, General Lewis was re-elected president and Mr. Willis L. Ringo, secretary, and Paris, Kentucky, was to be the scene of the next reunion.

More articles than I can add to this blog noted Willis L. Ringo as worthy of appointments to office, ‘no cleverer gentleman,’ trustworthy and intelligent.  And one notice in his hometown newspaper states ‘since Gov. Buckner’s election he has made the best Assistant Secretary of State ever known to the State.  His past experience would be very useful to him as a delegate [to the Constitutional Convention] and he would make one in whom we could trust.  We can tell you now W. L. Ringo would suit farmers, and we warn all now no lawyers need apply.’

Due to health issues, Willis Ringo spent much time in Pinellas County, Florida.  He died there February 9, 1900.

The Courier-Journal, Jefferson County, Louisville, Kentucky

Sunday, February 11, 1900

Willis Ringo

Former Secretary of State Dies in Florida

Resident of Ashland and Prominently connected With That city’s Business Interests

Ashland, Ky., Feb. 10 – [Special] – Maj. Willis L. Ringo, former Secretary of State of Kentucky, President of the Ashland and Catlettsburg Street Railroad, President of the Ashland Improvement Company, and one of this State’s most prominent men, died at St. Petersburg, Florida, last night.  A telegram arrived today conveying the news to his wife and family, who reside here.  He was in Florida for his health.  He was fifty-six years of age.

Maj. Ringo was the founder of the famous Cliffeside Park.  Every man, woman and child who knew him will mourn his loss.  His body will arrive here Saturday.

Maj. Ringo was a Confederate veteran and was Secretary of State during the latter part of the administration of Gov. Simon Bolivar Buckner, succeeding Maj. G. Matt Adams.  Before serving as Secretary of State Maj. Ringo was a resident of Hickman County, where he was prominent in politics and held positions of public trust.  During his term at Frankfort, he was a popular official and made friends all over the State.  Before his time expired as Secretary of State he had become interested in Ashland, which was then forging to the front as a manufacturing city.  He made some investments here and became a resident of the place and one of its most public-spirited citizens.  He had great confidence in Ashland’s future, and much of the city’s prosperity is attributable to his energetic labors as President of the Ashland Improvement Company and his connection with other corporations and movements for the benefit of the city and county.

He had not taken any active part in politics in recent years but attended the Louisville convention last June as a delegate from Boyd County.

Willis L. Ringo, 1843-1900, Ashland Cemetery, Boyd County, Kentucky.

Sallie Cresap Ringo lived another 36 years.  In the 1900 Boyd County Census, taken June 1, she was living with daughter Ruby and husband Ellison Cook Means, along with their children Harriet and John, and her son Buckner, on 519 West Fifth Street in Ashland.  In a Boyd County census taken June 6, 1900, she was with her daughter, Nora, and son-in-law Lewis Davis, their two sons, Willis and Douglas, as well as her son Buckner, aged 10, living on Winchester Avenue.  Interestingly on June 20, 1900, she and Buckner are listed in the Monmouth County, New Jersey, census, with daughter Elizabeth and her husband, Ferdinand Fischer, along with their children Sarah and Ferdinand.  I have never seen someone listed three times in a census!

In 1910, Ellison Carl Means had moved his family to Clifton County, Virginia.  Sallie and Buckner Ringo lived with them – or were at least visiting at the time!

Sallie Cresap Ringo, 1845-1936.

I found nothing in the newspapers about Sallie Cresap Ringo – not even an obituary.  She is listed in the 1923 Ashland City Directory, listed as Sallie C. Ringo, widow of Willis L., house 306 E. Lexington Avenue.

Daughters Elizabeth Ringo Fischer and Nora Ringo Davis were interested in genealogy and their mother’s ancestors who fought during the Revolutionary War.  Sallie Cresap Ringo’s parents were John Mercer Cresap and Sarah Elizabeth Moore. Elizabeth and Nora’s great-grandparents were  Edward Otho Cresap and Sarah Briscoe; second great-grandparents Daniel Cresap, Jr., and Elizabeth Van Sweringen; third great-grandparents Daniel Cresap and Ruth Van Sweringen; and fourth great-grandparents Thomas Cresap and Hannah Johnson.  Thomas Cresap, 1702-1799, was an organizer of the Sons of Liberty and an active patriot.  Daniel Cresap, 1727-1798, served on the Committee of Safety and was appointed to raise money.  Daniel Cresap, Jr., 1753-1794, was lieutenant of riflemen under his uncle, Capt. Michael Cresap, the first company sent to Boston, and was at siege.  He was taken prisoner at Fort Washington and endured many hardships.  I am sure these ladies entered the DAR through efforts of these courageous men.

Nora Ringo Davis, 1875-1941

Nora Ringo Davis is buried beside her parents.

Children of Willis Lunsford RIngo and Sallie Cresap:

  1. Ruby C. Ringo, born September 26, 1870, Hickman County, Kentucky, died June 12, 1946, Boyd County, Kentucky, married October 5, 1892, Ellison Cook Means, born December 16, 1864, Boyd County, died January 24, 1956, Polk County, Florida.  Two children – Harriet Evelyn, 1895-1979, John Ringo, 1900-1962.
  2. Cresap Mercer Ringo, born July 21, 1873, Hickman County, died December 1, 1931, Lawrence County, Ohio, married Laura Eloise Newman, born September 1877, Ohio, death unknown.  Two children, Lillian Ethylwin, 1899-1987, Dorothy Evelyn, 1903-1984.
  3. Nora G. Ringo, born September 22, 1875, Arlington, Kentucky, died September 23, 1941, Boyd County, married October 23, 1895, Lewis Nelms Davis, born October 31, 1871, Carter County, Kentucky, died May 20, 1933, Boyd County.  Three sons, Willis Ringo, 1896-1940, Douglass Nelms, 1898-1933, Robert Watson, 1903-1977.
  4. Elizabeth Ringo, born December 22, 1877, Clinton, Kentucky, died March 20, 1952, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, married in 1896 Ferdinand Carl Fischer, born July 2, 1857, Cincinnati, Ohio, died September 10, 1906, Lawrence County, Ohio.  Three children, Sarah E., 1897-?, Ferdinand, 1899-?, Frederick Carl, 1900-1976.  Elizabeth married second on June 27, 1908, Alexander Blucher D. Gordon, III, born February 8, 1878, Baltimore, Maryland, died December 7, 1959, Baltimore, Maryland.  One son, Alexander Blucher D. Gordon, 1909-1963.
  5. Lillian Ringo, 1879-1881, Hickman County.
  6. Bolivar Buckner Ringo, born December 20, 1890, Boyd County, died June 3, 1955, Babylon, New York, married July 3, 1912, Marguerite E. Hinman, born December 12, 1892, Santa Ana, California, died December 9, 1962, DeKalb, Georgia.  One daughter, Jane Van Norman Ringo, 1920-2012.

1 reply »

Leave a Reply