I’ve never been as interested in the life of a woman before meeting Lucy Neville Blakemore Bragg – metaphorically speaking. We met at her gravestone in Vanceburg, Lewis County, Kentucky, two years ago. Lucy died 156 years ago – but what a life she lived. And the most important dates and information are on her stone for all to know a part of her story.
Lucy was the daughter of Thomas Blakemore and Ann Gibbs Neville, born in Frederick County, Virginia, April 8, 1764. She married Thomas Bragg – a captain during the Revolutionary War. They eventually moved their family to Lewis County, Kentucky. Thomas Bragg died October 14, 1820. Lucy lived on for another 42 years.
Lucy began life as a British subject, the daughter of Thomas Blakemore and Ann Gibbs Neville, born April 8, 1764, giving allegiance to King George III, and being a loyal subject until the war. Her father and at least one brother fought during the Revolution, as well as her future husband, Captain Thomas Bragg, whom she married September 20, 1781.
Thomas and Lucy Bragg were in Lewis County before 1810, when they appeared in the census of that year. This is twenty-seven years after the war, Lucy was 46 years of age. In 1819 Thomas Bragg petitioned the court to open a tavern at his home in Vanceburg, and after his death in 1820, Lucy continued to keep the tavern.
In the 1850 census Lucy is head of her household, aged 86 years. With her lives her son-in-law, Alexander Bruce, who married her daughter Amanda (who is deceased by this time). Also in the household are two grandsons, children of Alexander and Amanda – Thomas J., 28, a boatman, and his new wife, Mary, 20; and Henry C., 26, also a boatman, and his new wife, Mary, 20. Vanceburg sits right on the river and I’m sure many in the town and county worked on the water. In the 1860 census Lucy is 96, Mary Bragg, 18, living with her – probably a great-granddaughter.
And she was living life to the very end. In February of 1862, nine months before her death, she changed her will in favor of her grandson, Henry C. Bruce, in stead of grandson Horatio W. Bruce. At first I thought there must have been a tiff in the family, but read that Horatio W. Bruce moved to Louisville, and perhaps Lucy decided Henry, living in the county, would keep the land and slaves in the family. Just a guess.
Going from a British subject to a citizen of the United States, Lucy Blakemore Bragg lived through sixteen presidents! From our first president, George Washington, down the line to Abraham Lincoln. What an amount of history this woman experienced! She lived through four major wars – Revolutionary War, 1775-1783; War of 1812, 1812-1815; Mexican War, 1846-1848; and the first two years of the Civil War.
Think of the amount of changes and events that came about in her lifetime – a new country that was given ‘certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’ – Lewis and Clark explored the Louisiana Purchase – the steamboat was invented – the city of Washington was burned by British troops in 1814 – James Monroe proclaimed his doctrine of manifest destiny – the California gold rush – the slavery issue is debated – the country grew from the original 13 states to 34 – the South secedes from the Union and the Civil War begins. And that’s just to name a few.
Lucy outlived her husband, Thomas Bragg, by 42 years. She outlived all but two of her children and they died within three years – John in 1863 and Harriet in 1865.
How I would love to sit and talk with this woman! What interesting things she could tell us about the infant days of our country and the way it changed in the ensuing 80 years!
In the name of God, amen.
I Lucy Bragg, of Lewis County, State of Kentucky, knowing the uncertainty of life, the certainty of death, being frail in body though sound in mind, do make the following disposition of a part of my property. I give to my grandson, Henry C. Bruce, of Blackrock Bottom, my Negro woman Minerva, her three children, or more if she has more children, and all their increase. Also I give to my said grandson Henry C. Bruce a piece of land adjoining the town of Vanceburg and bounded on the north by the town of Vanceburg, on the east
by the state road, on the south by the lands belonging to the heirs of my late husband at my death, and on the west by the land of W. C. Halbert; said parcel of land namely bequeathed to Henry C. Bruce is the same land heretofore claimed by my grandson H. W. Bruce, and I ever give and bequeath said land and slaves or other to said H. W. Bruce in any former will I may have made heretofore I hereby revoke said will as far as it gives any property of any kind to said H. W. Bruce and all gifts or bequests heretofore made by me to said H. W. Bruce are hereby changed and said property of every kind thus given or bequeathed to said H. W. Bruce is hereby given to my grandson Henry C. Bruce, hereby revoking all former wills and testaments so far as may conflict with this.
In testimony hereby I have hereunto set my hand and affixed my seal this 14th day of February A.D. 1862.
Signed, sealed, declared, published and delivered in presence of the undersigned who witnessed this in the presence and at the request of Mrs. Lucy Bragg: W. C. Harnett, R. F. Waring
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. Vanceburg Cemetery, Lewis County, Kentucky.