Lucky To Be Alive

Isaiah Hill and Lydia Ross

My great-grandfather, Isaiah Hill, could write a book about his life!  His were truly the adventures you read about in books – in the comfort of your arm chair, not risking life and limb in the process!

Isaiah was born in Garrard County, Kentucky, about 1835, the son of Isaiah and Lucy Murphy Hill.  His was the Hill family involved in the Hill-Evans Feud, a relatively minor scuffle, more concerned with taking each other to court, until Hezekiah Evans shot and killed Jesse Hill (Isaiah’s uncle) on the courthouse steps in March of 1849.

March 4, 1850, Isaiah’s mother died – during or shortly after the birth of her 13th child, Lucy.  The feud continued to escalate until March 13, 1852, when his father and two uncles were shot and killed by the Evans faction.  This left all those children to fend for themselves.  Mary, the oldest daughter, was only 16 when she became mother to her younger siblings.

Isaiah and many of his brothers moved to Anderson and Washington counties to get away from the fight that put so many of their family in their graves.

When the Civil War began Isaiah answered the call to duty and enrolled at Camp Robinson in Captain Downey’s Company E, 19th Regiment, Kentucky Volunteers, September 25, 1861, for a three year term.  My grandfather told me war stories that his father told him – having to hide in the rafters of covered bridges – not daring to breathe until the Confederate troops passed below.  Or being in the midst of battle and having first your fellow soldier to the right drop with a bullet wound through the heart, then the one on the left shortly afterwards.  He never knew if his turn would be next.

From enrollment to mustering out, Isaiah held the rank of private.  During that time there were several six-week periods when he was on detached service with the Chicago Mercantile Battery.  When the company’s term of enlistment had expired they returned to Louisville, Kentucky, to be mustered out.  The company remained in the barracks for some time, and it was at this point that Isaiah, along with several others in the company, contracted small pox.  He was ordered to the hospital by John A. Brady, US Surgeon, and taken by his captain, John Barnett, on January 22, 1865, and remained there until March 27, 1865, and was at that point mustered out.  George W. Hammack, one of his company who also had small pox, died while in the hospital.

As you can see by the picture, small pox caused great problems for Isaiah.  He was blind in his right eye, deaf in his left ear and badly scarred over his body.  The rigors of war left him with scurvy and piles – which was worsened by the addition of having small pox.

He applied for and received a pension from the Record and Pension Office of the War Department.  How do I know this?  I requested records of his military service from the National Archives and was sent an inch-thick pile of legal size copies.  Affidavits by Isaiah, his captain, his fellow soldiers; pension applications, letters, doctor’s statements, widow’s application, etc., etc., were included!  An absolute mountain of information!  One of the applications lists the names and birthdates of his children, another lists only those alive in 1898 – by that time two had died.  But the most important paper to me was the affidavit he made on February 18, 1908, concerning his age.  It is as follows:

Inability Affidavit, State of Kentucky, County of Marion

In the matter of Isaiah Hill, Pension Claim No. 266.175, of additional evidence wanted as to age, on this 18 day of February, A.D. 1908, personally appeared before me a notary public in and for the aforesaid county, duly authorized to administer oaths, Isaiah Hill, a resident of Lebanon, in the County of Marion, and State of Kentucky, whose post office address is Lebanon, Kentucky, well known to me to be reputable and entitled to credit, and who, being duly sworn, declares in relation to aforesaid case, as follows:  That he is unable to comply with the requirement of the Pension Office as to his age.  There being no public record of his birth, no baptismal record to be found and the Family Bible is lost.  My parents died when it was said I was 17 years old.  For that reason I have always counted my age from date of my parents death, who I heard say just before their deaths I was 17 years old.  My mother died in the year 1850 and my father died two years later in 1852.  and it was from that date I claimed to be 17 years old; and being 17 years old in 1852 when my father died would make me 72 years old in 1907, this is the best record I can give.  Isaiah Hill, Attest Y. J. Bailey, J. G. Bard

This is a very important document since it is proof positive that this Isaiah Hill is the son of Isaiah and Lucy Murphy Hill, who died in Garrard County in 1852 and 1850 respectively.  I have known for years that he was – my genealogy intuition told me so from the first moment I looked at the 1850 census of Garrard County with Isaiah Hill listed, with son Isaiah ten years old.  And I was even more sure when my grandfather’s marriage certificate listed place of birth of both his parents as Garrard County.

There is always the possibility of finding just the proof you need in any corresponding record of your family member.  Leave no stone unturned – look through all the possibilities – it is amazing what you might find!

Oh, and just in case you had a question about his pension application, Isaiah did receive a pension from the United States government for $4.00 per month beginning on June 25, 1866 (which would be $58.83 a month in today’s money – try feeding your family on that!).  Each and every year he had to fill out applications.  This increased to $8.00 per month in 1884, $12.00 per month in 1891, $25.00 per month in 1912 and a grand total of $40.00 per month in 1918 until his death September 8, 1919.  His widow Lydia, then received his $40 pension until her death in 1931 (she was approximately 20 years younger than Isaiah).

Also Miss Montgomery

Anna Margaret Montgomery

The companion picture to my grandmother’s published yesterday – my Great-Aunt Maggie.  Again, beautiful material for the dress, lace collar – and Maggie is wearing a watch (my grandmother is, too, but I couldn’t tell until I enlarged the picture).  Papa didn’t approve of Aunt Maggie’s choice of a beau and she remained single the rest of her life.  She and Uncle Bob, her younger brother, lived in the old house together after their parents died.  They had many, many old clocks – in the parlor, in the hall, in the dining room – I’m not sure how many there were in all!  As children we loved to hear them all chime at the top of the hour!

She was the daughter of Robert E. Lee Montgomery and Frances Barber Linton.


Miss Montgomery

Mary Alice Montgomery

This is a beautiful picture of my maternal grandmother taken shortly before her marriage.  The picture was made in Lebanon, Kentucky, by J. W. Miller.  I love the beautiful material of the dress and the lace at the collar and cuffs.  I can see my mother in her eyes, nose and mouth.  Perhaps her engagement ring is what she’s wearing on her left hand?  I’m surprise she’s somewhat slouching in the chair!  My grandmother was always such a stickler for good posture and correct behavior!  Perhaps this was her rebellious stage?

Mary Alice Montgomery married Joseph Rueben Carrico.  She was the daughter of Robert E. Lee Montgomery and Frances Barber Linton.

William McKee, Jr. – Obituary

McKee Cemetery/Sugar Grove North

Note by Phyllis Brown:  William McKee, Jr., is a brother to Ritchey’s ancestor Amanda McKee who married Charles Ritchey.  All, including their parents, are buried in the McKee Cemetery/Sugar Grove North Cemetery in Schuyler County, Illinois, just north of Rushville.  Brother William lived a much longer life, his sister dying at the early age of 26.

William headed west on the Oregon Trail two different times, once in 1839 and again in 1847 when his brother, Joel McKee, and Joel Tullis, accompanied him.  For Mr. Tullis it was a long, hard trip filled with sorrow – six of his children died on the way and their bodies were buried along the Indian trails, wherever the party happened to be camped when death came to them.  William McKee also fought in the Black Hawk War.  From Oregon he went to California in 1849, where he joined the throng of gold miners.  There he remained until 1852 when he returned to Schuyler County, after the death of his father.  He decided it was time to settle down and  married Sarah Wilmot and lived his remaining days on the old farmstead.

In the Schuyler County Historical Jail Museum and Genealogy Center in Rushville, there are some of William’s artifacts including items he took with him on his trips west.  This is pioneer history at it’s best, and the small town of Rushville should be justly proud of having such a fantastic history center.

The Rushville Times, Rushville, Illinois

December 23, 1897

William McKee, one of the early pioneer residents of Schuyler County, died suddenly at his farm two miles north of Rushville, last Friday evening.  Though an aged man, he was not afflicted with the ills age usually brings, and he continued to go about his farm and drive to town whenever the weather permitted.  The evening he died he started to do his chores as usual, and with a woman in his employ went to the cattle barn a short distance from the house.  He there remarked that he would let the cow go dry and his companion turned to go to the house.  She had taken but a few steps when she heard a sound behind her and retracing her steps found Mr. McKee had fallen and was then unconscious.  She gave the alarm and the family came to lend assistance, but he was dead.  Mr. McKee was born in Crawford County, Indiana, January 22, 1813.  He came to Schuyler County in 1826 with his father, and since 1852 has resided on the old homestead, which was purchased by William McKee, Sr., and at his death willed to his son.  Mr. McKee was married in 1853 to Sarah C. Wilmot.  Five daughters were born to them – Mrs. Henry Hite, Mrs. Samuel D. Wheelhouse, Mary C. ad Meta McKee and Mrs. Cyrus L. Dewitt.  Mrs. McKee and her daughter, Mrs. Dewitt, are the only ones living of this family to mourn the death of their beloved husband and father.

Mr. McKee has three surviving sisters and a brother.  His sister, Mrs. Bettie Sprigg of Augusta, was here on a visit when he died.  Another sister, Mrs. Jacob Ritchey, lives on a farm nearby.  The remaining sister, Mrs. Dorcas Horney, and her daughter Mary, of Warren County, came to attend the funeral.  His only brother, Joel McKee, resides in Texas.  E. E. McKensie and wife, of Beardstown, were also in attendance at the funeral.

On Sunday morning at 11 o’clock, Rev. John Knowles, who had been intimately acquainted with this grand old pioneer farmer for fifty years, conducted the funeral services at the family residence in the presence of a large number of sympathizing friends and neighbors.

Mr. McKee lived a long and eventful life.  In his early years it was a stirring, busy life.  A life such as led by the more hardy pioneer of his time and generation.  With advancing age he returned to the home of his father, married and reared a family, and in a quiet, unostentatious way lived the life of a farmer until death removed him from his earthly labors.

In this short article we have not attempted to give a full history of the life of Mr. McKee.  The prominent part he took in the affairs of his country in the early days, when the Indians roamed over our now thickly populated prairies, is worthy of a detailed description, and next week we will bestow upon our old friend the honor he so well merits.

A Gold Mine!

Bates County Court House, Butler, Missouri

I fear that many of today’s genealogists feel they can find the information they need for their family trees while sitting in the comfort of their computer chair.  While technology advances are being made every day in the area of genealogy, I still feel it’s important to get out of the house and into the field!  Cemeteries, church offices, libraries, archives, history centers – there are many venues for research.  But one of the most important, in my opinion, is the county courthouse.

Every courthouse has a county clerk’s office – and every clerk’s office has a wealth of information.  Marriage records, wills, and deeds are the standard records kept there.  Each clerk’s office is a bit different.  Each will have some records another may not keep – or may have sent to the archives.  Although I have visited several county clerks in Virginia, Missouri, Illinois and Iowa, most of my research has been in the county clerk’s offices of Kentucky – in the surrounding counties to my home.

Garrard County Courthouse

Garrard County has a very nice courthouse.  The people are very friendly and helpful.  Other than your normal finds, Garrard County has boxes of estate papers.  They are at the very top next to a high ceiling.  You must climb a rolling ladder – as seen in old libraries – to reach the boxes.  It’s a little treacherous the first few times – the ladder rolls a bit while you’re making your way to the top! – and it’s hard to hold the metal box and climb back down!  But the amount of information found makes up for any fear of heights!

Lincoln County Courthouse

Lincoln County, one of the three original Kentucky counties, has less information available than any other county I have visited.  Perhaps much of their information has been sent to the archives in Frankfort.  I found it difficult to research there – even all the marriage records were not readily available.

Old Nelson County Courthouse

In Nelson County the county clerk’s office is not in the courthouse, but in another building close by.  I think room at the courthouse ran out quite a few years ago (now they have a new one, the old one – in the center of the town square – now being used as a tourist center).  The old records are in the basement.  This area is manned by volunteers – and if they are not there it is difficult to reach some of the old records since they are in a locked room.

Marion County Courthouse

Marion County, my home county, has a different dilemma when it comes to their records.  Confederate General John Hunt Morgan burned the courthouse, along with the railroad depot, a hotel and several residences, on July 5, 1863.  The only marriage records that exist before that time were those at local churches.

Old Washington County Courthouse

I saved the best for last!  Washington County Clerk’s Office has the most abundant amount of information I’ve ever found in any county courthouse.  Let’s set the scene – you walk in the front door and ask to look at the old records.  You are directed to the back room, in the corner of which you see steps that disappear.  To get to “the dungeon”, as I call it, you must travel down a narrow, winding staircase!  I love it!  It smells a bit musty as you descend.  There are small windows at the top of the walls – that desperately need to be cleaned – that let in only a small amount of light.  But you don’t notice that – you see only the wealth in front of you – marriage books, will books, deed books, school records, tax records – I could go on and on.

When I first went to Washington County, almost 40 years ago, Miss Olive Walker volunteered in “the dungeon”.  She helped find your marriage record or whatever you were in need of.  She was probably 65 and very protective of the records.  And if she liked you, she gave you more information.  I don’t know if it was because of my youth and enthusiasm, but she took me under her wing and let me have the run of the place.  Miss Olive had filing cabinets full of family folders – I believe this was information she had found throughout the years.  She shared this with me.  How I miss those days!  And I especially miss her!

Years after Miss Olive passed away, I asked one of the clerks about a marriage record and the parent consent that accompanied it.  She said, “Oh, that’s in the next room in the basement – let me unlock it for you.”  I couldn’t believe my ears – there was another room?  She let me in and I found boxes and boxes of original marriage records and consents, original wills, court cases – a room full of shelves holding boxes of records.  From then on when I came in I asked them to unlock the door, which they did.  It has been simply an abundance of information for me – especially since both my parents’ families were in Washington County since 1818 or before.

More and more, Kentucky courthouses are sending the original records to the archives in Frankfort.  It is as much a safety issue as it is a storage issue.  But copies of the original records of your ancestors are a valuable source of proof for your genealogy research.

A Simple Suit In Garrard County, KY. Any Importance?

A Table of Explanation

Garrard County, Kentucky, Court Case

John Hill VS. John Bryant, 1800

One day while researching at the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives in Frankfort, I found the listing of a court case from Garrard County, Kentucky, between John Hill and John Bryant, 1800.  My Hill’s were from Garrard County, in fact were the Hill’s involved in the Hill-Evans Feud that took place from about 1829 to 1854, culminating in the March 13, 1852, gunfight that took the lives of three brothers – Russell, Frederick and Isaiah Hill – along with those of William Chrisman and John Sellars.  This was their grandfather, John Hill, the first Hill to come to Garrard County – which was actually a part of Madison County at that time, when he moved there from Virginia.

I requested the file and after sending notice to the basement below – where the actual records are kept – and waiting fifteen minutes for their arrival, a box was placed on the table in front of me.  There were file folders containing the original papers from this case!  I was so excited – and yet a little nervous about handling such old documents.  This was ten or more years ago – I’m not sure I could do that today!

Inside there were eight depositions – taken from Mary Jackson, Sam Griffith, Zachariah Green, John Murphy, John Crow, Vincent Wren, William Bryant, Mansfield Crow – wait, Mansfield Crow?  But this was one of my ancestors from my paternal grandmother – as was Zachariah Green!  At that point I just started reading!

Most of the depositions did not have much information that I could use.  And then came the deposition of William Y. Bryant.    He was asked by the defendant, John Bryant, “Did you ever see a certain man at my house by the name of John Crow that called himself the father of John Hill’s wife, the plaintiff in this suit with said Hill?”  I almost fell out of my seat!  I now had not only the maiden name for Sallie (Sarah) Hill, but I also had her father’s name!  What a find!  In a later deposition I found that Mansfield Crow was John Crow’s son – a brother to Sallie Hill!  Even more interesting – this brought to life the fact that my paternal grandmother and grandfather’s lines went back to a common ancestor – they had the same great-great-great-grandfather – John Crow!

Another interesting fact – Zachariah Green, who also gave a deposition, was father-in-law to Mansfield Crow, married to Lena Green.

Back to the court case!  It is almost insignificant after all those findings!  John Hill brought John Bryant to court because Hill bought 100 acres of land from Bryant and said the land laid off was less than that amount.  After all the depositions, answers, notifications, etc., it was the opinion of the court that what was laid off was not the correct amount.  John Bryant had to run the course of the 100 acres according to the Table of Explanation which contained a diagram and express directions.  This land was on Sugar Creek, where John Hill then lived.  Sugar Creek was the area in which the feud began – but that is almost thirty years later – and another story!

Maryland to Kentucky Genealogy Convention

Marion County, Kentucky 1996

The Maryland-Kentucky Catholic Reunion, was held June 28-30, 1996, at St. Charles parish hall in St. Mary, Kentucky.  My birthday weekend.  Our very first genealogy convention of any kind.  What a blast!  I met so many people – most of whom had been researching far longer than I.  I still have my name badge with my eight families displayed – Montgomery, Dillehay, O’Bryan, Smith, Carrico, Gates, Spalding and Yates.  The ancestors from all these families made the trek from Maryland to Kentucky in the last few years of the 18th century.  These pioneers came to the counties of Marion, Nelson and Washington in Kentucky.  Most of my ancestors came from Charles County and St. Mary’s County in Maryland.

Since it was our first convention, and Ritchey didn’t know as much about the family lines, I worried he may get bored.  How wrong that proved to be!  Registration started at 9:00 a.m. on Friday and we were one of the first in line.  He may not have known the family lines at that time, but he can talk to anyone!  They put him to work and he manned the pre-registration table on Friday and Saturday – talking to everyone he came in contact with!  That he does very well!

Friday evening a “Welcome Home to Marion County” reception was held at St. Augustine Parish Gym.  It was hosted by the Lebanon/Marion County Chamber of Commerce.  We were treated to a premiere of a 41-minute video, “Maryland Pioneers at Home in Kentucky”, produced especially for the event.  The tape included beautiful photography of landscape and landmarks, and were available for purchase.

Saturday was another day of research and talking with others about the different families.  The tables were divided into family names and everyone who was researching Carrico’s sat together and shared information.  Of course, people were milling around, staying at one table a few minutes, then going on to their next family.  Thomas Montgomery had boxes and boxes of information on the Montgomery family and I copied everything I could!  He was a goldmine of information for me.  I was able to help several people with their O’Bryan and Linton lines.

Sister Mary Louise Donnelley was there.  I purchased one of her books – William Elder.  There were about 25 vendors that attended.

The event banquet was held Saturday night.  I still remember the food!  I can honestly say (and not with prejudice just because I am originally from Marion County) the food was the best of any convention I’ve attended!  Marion County is the country ham center of Kentucky – their festival being Country Ham Days held the last weekend in September.  So naturally we had country ham, fried chicken, corn pudding, salads, luscious desserts – so much to eat!  Dr. Thomas Clark, the then 93-year-old Kentucky’s Eminent Historian Laureate, was the keynote speaker at the banquet.  He told an appreciative audience that the area known as the Catholic Holy Land, parts of Marion, Washington and Nelson counties, “has never been sufficiently exploited.  There is a certain English charm about it,” he said.

Sunday morning a special Mass was held at St. Charles Church with a luncheon following.  One final time for chats and exchange of information – along with addresses.

I would encourage anyone interested in genealogy to attend a convention – whether it is a local, state or national convention.  Meet people, talk about your families and share information.  You make good friends that will last a lifetime, and generally add a few more branches to your family tree!