Claywell In-Laws Shed Light On 19th Century Clan

Methodist minister Peter Cartwright

Methodist minister Peter Cartwright

I believe in building off previous genealogy work when the work is well researched and documented as is the case with this information about the Richardson family. The Richardson family married into the Claywell family in the early 1800s and some of the members were neighbors with Shadrach and his siblings — both in Bedford County, Virginia and Cumberland County, Ky.

Reed Richardson, who died in 2008, wrote his family history — a portion which is available online. In the online portion, he fills us in on a couple of interesting tidbits; first about the Claywells and secondly about the reluctance of the people in the Cumberland County region to allow a minister among their midst in the early 1800s.

The Claywell Connection

The Richardsons and Claywells first cross paths in Maryland around 1750 when John Richardson and Peter Claywell served together in the Militia of Somerset Co., Maryland, in Capt. William McClamy’s Company. Both men would move from Maryland to Virginia. Based on the research, it appears Peter Claywell is Shadrach’s father (my grandfather from the Revolutionary War era). You can read the research here — go to the section titled: JOHN RICHARDSON 4th GG.

As the research points out, two of the children of these men: George Richardson and Shadrach Claywell would fight together in the Revolutionary War. George Richardson testified that he fought with Shadrach and his name is present on Shadrach’s Revolutionary War Pension Application (pdf). George would go on to marry Shadrach’s sister Comfort. Eventually Shadrach’s and George’s families would move to Cumberland County, Ky. The Richardsons moved there in 1802 and the Claywells came four years later in 1806.

Christianity ran deep in both families it appears. Shadrach’s brother Peter was a Methodist minister in Iredell County, NC as was George Richardson’s son — George Jr. According to the research, when George Richardson was 16,

(H)e was licensed to exhort and appointed class leader, which position he filled with great acceptability and usefulness to the Church up to the spring of 1823, when he was, by Rev. Peter Cartwright, appointed to the Cumberland Mission.

It was when he was 19, though, that his real mission was undertaken. It appears the inhabitants of the Cumberland District had run off the first missionary sent to them in 1822. But famed minister Peter Cartwright, presiding elder for the District was not easily defeated and selected George Jr. as the minister to tackle the region. According to the article written about Richardson after his death,

Cartwright first took his (Richardson’s) physical dimensions and found them sufficiently imposing. He was nearly six feet high, broad-set, with well developed muscles, indicating both strength and activity. … His general bearing was fearless, but respectful. Brother Cartwright concluded he was the man he needed, and the following conversation, in substance, occurred:

(Cartwright) “Brother Richardson, I want you to take charge of the Cumberland Mission. Those fellows up there have driven Bro. Chambers off, but it won’t do for us to deliver them over to the devil without another effort to save them and I want to give them a strong pull.  They must be converted somehow, and if you can’t convert them with the gospel, do it with your fist.” 

(Richardson) “Well, that is just the sort of place I should like to go to.”

As one would expect, Richardson was required to use his fist often to fend off the attacks that came his way. You can read about his exploits here — go to the section: The Rev. George Richardson, An Old Kentucky Preacher. Here is a sample though of what he dealt with.

(Bro. Richardson’s) first public demonstration was made at the shiretown of a new county where his hamlet consisted of two log cabins, one of which was called the court house and the other the tavern. Richardson stopped at the latter and preached at the former. The public service over, he returned to the tavern and was reading his Bible, when and where he received an unceremonious call from some of his parishioners. The seat he occupied was an imperfect imitation of a chair, of some manufacture, strong, and heavy, but roughly finished.  While he was alone, quietly reading, four young men stepped in and made a rude attack upon him. At first he tried to reason with them that he was a lone, unoffending stranger and not disposed to have any personal difficulty; to all of which they made no reply, but profanely affirmed their fixed purpose to flog him and drive him from their country as they had driven Chambers. As they crowded towards him to make the assault, Richardson rose up and placed the large chair between him and his assailants, and holding it firmly with both hands, took his position deliberately and gave them fair warning that if they rushed upon him they must take the consequences.

Yes, he won.

Generational Connection

The Richardson and Claywell families remained intertwined for at least another generation as other siblings married and moved with their in-laws to new parts of the country. In fact, Shadrach Richardson — the oldest son of Rev. George Richardson — moved to Cass County, Illinois which was adjacent to Sangamon County, Illinois where Jesse Claywell (and Abe Lincoln) lived. (Map) The Claywells lived in Springfield, Illinois — in Sangamon County while the Richardsons lived near Beardstown in Cass County.

Peter Cartwright, because of his opposition to slavery, would end up in Sangamon County as well, where he died in 1872 at the age of 87.


Peter Cartwright, who was elected to the Illinois General Assembly in 1828 and 1832, lost a bid for a Congressional seat in 1846 to Abraham Lincoln.

Categories: Family History

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