Posts Tagged With: Kentucky

Family history filled with loss, murder

Ida's sister Mollie stands next to Ida's grave.

Ida’s sister Mollie stands next to Ida’s grave.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,… it was the season of Darkness...” – Charles Dickens

As I unravel my daughter’s family history — it doesn’t take long to realize that many of her forefathers suffered a great deal. Families lost land and money, parents buried their children and husbands their wives. Here are a couple stories of loss from each side of her family tree.

Joe Lee Claywell

Joe Lee Claywell

Joe Lee Claywell

Joe’s wife Sallie Guinn died from complications of labor during the birth of their fourth child, Sallie. At the time of her death, his oldest child, Charlie (Molly’s great-grandfather) was only six. Joe’s other two children, Ruby and Jim were four and two respectively. The fourth child Sallie only survived about three weeks past her mother’s death.

Joe would remarry and have five more children and one of them would die at a young age. Less than three months after he turned 15, Glendon C. Claywell died, presumably due to injuries caused when he was thrown from a mule. When I spoke with his sister Minnie Conner, she said a winter storm prevented the family from getting Glendon the help he needed. He died on Feb. 28, 1934.

Christopher Hughes

Christopher Hughes, on Molly’s maternal side, definitely lived through hard times.

Just two years before he died, he was hit by a train causing him to lose a leg. When he was younger, his brother-in-law Oscar, was lynched by a mob. Oscar had the misfortune of being held in a county jail at the same time as a horse thief. A mob broke into the jail, and since the mob did not which person was the horse thief, both men were hanged.

But the greatest tragedy Chris faced was the murder of his daughter Ida May when she was 27.

Ida is my mother-in-law’s grandmother. Ida’s oldest son James, who was seven when he witnessed his mother’s murder, is my daughter’s great-grandfather (my mother-in-law’s dad).

The shooting took place in the middle of the afternoon on Sunday, Oct. 5 1913 in Wilmore, Kentucky when Ida and her three children, James, Warren and Mary (an infant) were at High Bridge Park — an area which was still in the prime of its tourism appeal. The park was site of the first cantilever bridge built on American soil and besides the attraction of the bridge, the park had “picnic grounds, a restaurant, a dancing pavilion and riding stables.”

It was in this public venue where Ida was killed. Ida Hughes Smith articleAccording to a news article describing the shooting,

“The strangest part about the tragedy was that not a word was spoken when the shooting took place.”

The article further states that Ida was holding her baby when she was shot.

The woman accused of killing Ida was her neighbor, Lillie Gibson, who would have also been about 27 at the time — and that’s where the story’s trail starts to go cold. Gibson was determined to be a ‘lunatic’ by a jury and of ‘unsound’ mind so the court committed her to the insane asylum in Lexington, Ky. I have been unsuccessful in determining if she lived out here life there — or if she was ever tried for the crime.

Her husband, Silas, died about six years after the murder on July 4, 1919 — a Lillie Gibson is buried next to him. This Lillie died in 1977 at the age of 95. I am currently tracking down death certificates for both of these Gibsons.

As far as the Smith family, James Franklin would marry Mollie Pitcher a few years after the crime and they would have five children. He died in 1944 and is buried in Kenton County, Kentucky.

After Ida’s death, the three children were initially raised by their paternal grandparents. James Luther, the oldest, would eventually leave home when he was around 12 years old.

Categories: Family History, Genealogy | Tags: , , , , ,

Forgiveness a Matter of Allegiance in Post-Civil War Era

One of the most interesting stories I have uncovered while doing family history research is the story of Champ Ferguson and Tinker Dave Beaty (also spelled Beatty). According to family tradition and oral history, these two men may have been friends before the Civil War. In court testimony Beaty — testifying against Ferguson — said he knew Champ for 18 to 20 years. Friends, or not, they definitely knew each other.

Both men lived in the Cumberland Plateau region of south central Kentucky and north central Tennessee. Ferguson was born and raised in Clinton County, Kentucky and Beaty lived across the state line in Overton County, Tennessee.

Once the Civil War commenced in 1861, it did not take long for conflict to begin in the region — and by the end of the War, hundreds of people in the regions died — under the guise of military action. But, a close look at the action of men on both sides of the conflicts shows that, in many ways, the War had been reduced to personal vendettas and thievery.

When the War ended and amnesty was offered to Confederate soldiers — it was not offered to Ferguson because of his guerilla warfare tactics. Instead, he was arrested, tried, convicted and hanged in Nashville. The indictment against Ferguson was for 53 murders, but by his own admission, the number of men he killed was closer to 100.

One of the key issues with the war in the region was the no quarters — or take no prisoners — approach to warfare. Both Beaty and Ferguson admnitted they executed captured men. Ferguson, in his trial, justified it by saying he only killed those trying to kill him.

The stories against both men include execution of unarmed private citizens as well — the only ‘crime’ of many of those killed was being on the wrong side of the conflict.

Yet, after the War ended Ferguson was executed and Beaty went on to become a politically influential man in the region. His son, Claiborne was even called upon by the Governor of Tennessee to help curb post-War KKK activity in the area.

In war, being on the winning side is everything.

Categories: Appalachia, Civil War History, Cumberland Plateau, Family History, Genealogy | Tags: , , , , , , ,