Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Taylor Family


Written by: H. D. Taylor and read by: Dr. Pendleton at the Taylor re-union at Beaver Dam, Ky., Sept 9, 1875

The object of this meeting may be explained by stating the fact that old Harrison Taylor, with eight sons and four daughters, with their wives and husbands, emigrated to this country in the latter part of the last and beginning of the present century; he, with his sons and daughters and their wives and husbands, have been swept by time to the spirit land; the children of those sons and daughters have grown to hoary age, mostly ranging from seventy odd to ninety odd years, and another circle of years will scarce leave one of this third generation. In the meantime the connection by intermarriages have become so enlarged that they are not half known to each other. It was therefore, thought proper that they should meet and mingle together in this grant reunion; not for my selfish, clannish, or political purpose, but to talk over and recount the virtues of their good old sires and grandsires, who, thought unheralded by fame, filled all the duties of private citizens with more true usefulness, more virtue and honest integrity than the whole host of political humbugs and office hunters. The most that is known of old Harrison Taylor is, that though unknown to fame, yet just such a community of men would render any country famous- honest, industrious benevolent, mild and reticent; untainted by avarice and ambition, he glided along in the quiet undercurrent of life from whence the purest virtues flow. He was born in the central part of Virginia; his parents were of Welsh and English origin, and derived the name of Harrison from an intermarriage of his ancestors with the Harrison family of Virginia. His father died without a will, and, under the feudal laws of the age, the oldest son took the property, which was said to be large, and left Harrison shareless, who, instead of lying round a lackey and pensioner on his brother, boldly struck out for the frontier, and located at Winchester, then but a frontier village, where he took up the trade of house carpenter. Here it was that he evinced the only known instance of ill temper and ungovernable rage. A British recruiting officer located at that place, in the recruiting service, took a fancy to him and tried to induce him to enlist as a soldier, but in vain. It was this officer's practice to gather a crowd about the tavern of nights and drink and carouse until some one became so drunk and insensible that he either took the bounty, or had it slipped into his pocket, and was strictly temperate, he never could be caught in this way; but one night after a hard day's labor, he had taken his seat in a quiet retired corner and fell asleep. The officer observing this, slipped the bounty into his pocket and awaited until his supposed victim awoke, and then blandly addressing him remarked that it was time that they should go home to the barracks. Taylor looked at him with astonishment, and asked what he meant; the officer, who had formed an incorrect idea of his man, with a haughty air, informed him that having taken the bounty he was now a soldier of King George, and the barracks were now his proper home. Taylor denied ever taking the bounty, when the officer, in like haughty tone, asked him how he could deny it when he had King George's coin in his pocket. At the end word "pocket" the youth suddenly ran his hand into his pocket, grasped the coin and threw it with his utmost strength at the head of the officer, and flew at him with all the venom of an enraged tiger, but was caught and held by his friends whilst the King's representative beat a hasty retreat and gave his recruit a wide berth afterwards. It was not long until he married Miss Jane Curlet and settled far back in the woods, where, with a single horse, he commenced clearing and cultivating the forest. This horse had to be belled and turned to the range at night and hunted up in the morning. Taylor, like all frontiersmen, carried his gun when he went to the woods, and one morning shot a deer just as he came up with his horse. He had just commenced reloading as he hears a turkey gobble, and then another and another, until they had nearly formed a ring around him. He at once comprehended his danger, turned his horse's head towards home, struck it a blow and then made for home with his utmost speed, and had barely arrived there when a messenger announced an Indian raid upon an adjoining settlement. The horse, in passing through the gobbling ring, had been greatly alarmed by the redskins, and made his way home, where he stood ready to bear the young wife and husband to the nearest fort. As the country improved he built a mill on a stream in Frederick County, by which the main road passed leading from the east across the Alleghany Mountains to the then great west, where he raised a large family; bore the reputation of peaceable quiet citizen, and, what is most remarkable, had the reputation of an "honest miller", which the following story as related by one of his sons will show. His son, Harrison, before he had even arrived to full manhood, had "Kentucky on the brain", and solitary and alone set out for that Eldorado. On the summit of the Alleghany Mountain he stopped for the night at a wayside inn, crowded with travelers. A youth and a stranger, he sat almost unobserved in a corner, until the landlord saw him, and book-registers not being in use, this landlord usually kept his register in his head, and blandly inquired of his young guest his name, residence and destination, and being told, exclaimed, "What, a son of honest old Taylor that kept the mail on the road? Why, I was a Wagoner for years on that road, and we Wagoner’s would drive for miles to get feed from him rather than buy elsewhere, for we were always sure of honest measure and fair prices - in fact, he used to go by the name of "Honest old Taylor at the Mill." Right-minded persons may well imagine the feelings of the young wayfarer at this encomium on his meek and modest old sire. This old sire's wife and partner through life was as unlike him, except in honest integrity and unbounded benevolence, as it was possible for two minds to be, yet this dissimilarity seemed to strengthen the bonds of mutual affection, and rendered their love and esteem ever-lasting and sincere. Demonstrative, possessed of powerful will, strong sense, abounding in wit and anecdote, and almost infallible in memory, she was ever remarkable for her great social qualities. Her mother had lived to the extraordinary age of ninety odd years, and the tenacious memories of these two women is a remarkable illustration of how the unwritten history of a nation can be preserved from generation to generation, for there are some still living who, in their childhood, used to hear old Mrs. Taylor relate incidents of English history, as far back as the days of Cromwell, which were afterwards corroborated in reading the written history of that country, Yet that was all traditional lore. But her kind-hearted benevolence was the leading feature of her character; and that it was not always bestowed in vain, the following story will illustrate: At their mill daily assembled men and boys from far and near, awaiting their turns. It was her custom to daily march down the hill to the mill, with loaf and knife in hand and cut and distribute bread to each of the hungry urchins, Among these was a poor, ragged orphan boy, who never escaped her eye, and was frequently taken to the house and fed to his heart's content, and many a garment belonging to her boys went to clothe his almost naked body. Stackhouse was his name, but the community would not allow him the whole of the thing inherited from his parents, and called him "Stack" for short. He grew up under a sense of oppression and wrong, and it was natural that he should wish to retaliate his wrongs upon society. Shrewd, daring and active, he was soon selected by old hardened villains, and became an expert accomplice in horse stealing, and from his knowledge of the country, could skulk and hide in the spurs of North Indian Mountain and steal any horse he wished, and transfer him to a regular band of thieves that was supposed to extend to the South Carolina and Georgia. The people of Frederick and Governor ordered military authorities to call out a sufficient force to scour the country and take Stack and his accomplices, dead or alive. Richard and Thomas Taylor were among those detailed for that purpose. They took their range for exploration, and separated to meet at a designated point. Thomas had not gone far before he discovered smoke, and approaching it cautiously saw Stack busily engaged drying or jerking the choice parts of a mutton he had stolen the night before. At this critical moment Thomas tread upon a stick, which broke and gave the alarm; a race ensued in which little was lost or gained. It was rather a far fire with certain aim, and to fire without effect was placing himself at the mercy of his adversary, for guns in those days would not fire a second time without reloading. Stack, however was approaching a precipitous hill-side, which, if once gained, would hide him from sight, Thomas raised his gun while running, determined to fire at the first open range, but was again so unfortunate as to get his foot entangled in a vine so as to stumble and fall. On raising up his intended victim had entirely disappeared, and notwithstanding the most diligent search, no traces of him could be found. He was banished for a time from his old haunts, but would frequently return, until finally caught tried and convicted. While in prison Thomas visited him, and on alluding their race, inquired how he had made his escape. "I was," said he, "in a few feet of the entrance of my den when you fell, and immediately dodged into it. Its entrance was so concealed that no mortal, perhaps, but myself has ever discovered it. Several times when you were hunting round you were in range of my rifle. It was once aimed at you and my finger on the trigger, but I thought of your mother and dropped it from my grasp. Ah, had I been raised by such a mother I would never have been the wretched outcast that I am." And tears trickled down the bronze cheeks of the poor, degraded outcast. Old Mrs. Taylor, believing in that text which says that "Man shall not live by bread alone," did not confine her benevolence to the hungry mill boys, but was ever ready to relieve sick and suffering, no matter what their condition in life. Poor, dying mother would often bequeath their children to her care, and in this way her house became almost an orphan asylum during the ravages of the revolutionary war. It is said that at times she would have as high as thirty odd children dependent on her for food and raiment. She, too, was the principal surgeon and physician of the then backwoods settlement. With her lancet ready in her pocket she was always ready to replace dislocated limbs, set broken bones, lance or bleed as required, with the steady never of a hospital surgeon, although the wail of a feeble infant, or any tale of suffering or sorrow would at all times bring tears to her eyes. By the most untiring care and industry these old people acquired property and raised a family of eight sons and four daughters. Several of these sons had visited Kentucky, and from their representations of the country the old folks were induced to set out and remove to Ohio County, where all of the old folks bought the farm now occupied by Mr. Hamilton Barnes, where they resided until too old and feeble to keep house, after which they removed to their son Thomas's where they lived the remainder of their days, and were both buried side by side in the family graveyard.

He was born on the 11th of August, 1735, and died 22nd November, 1811, in the 77th year of his age. She on the 5th of September, 1742, and died the 5th of August, 1812, in the 70th year of her age. In selling his mill and farm the old man took a bountiful supply of such store goods as he thought would be useful in the new settled country. These goods excited almost as great a curiosity as the glass lockets worn by the two girls at the party, on the Pigeon Roost Fork of Muddy Creek, as described in Ralph Ringwood's stories. The following story illustrates how they were appreciated by the young hunters and belles of the day: At a social party at the house of the old folks one night a pert, flippant young gentleman was seated nearest the candle by which a pair of bright polished snuffers lay. On being requested to snuff the candle he picked it up, licked his thumb and finger ready to pinch it off when he was told to use the snuffers there. Upon this he set down the candle, picked up the snuffers, opened them, licked his finger and thumb again, pinched off the snuff and placed it in the snuffers, closed them and laid them on the table with the remark, "Ain't they nice and handy?" As long as health and strength permitted their house was the resort of the sick and afflicted who needed aid, of the gay and witty who wished to measure lances with the unpolished, backwoods, off-hand wit, humor and sarcasm of the old lady, even the most sober and sage-like were fond of her society. The late eccentric James Axley, who preached her funeral, delighted in her company, and was heard to say that she had more native good sense and natural eloquence than any woman he ever knew.

We have given some of the details of the life of "honest old Taylor at the mill" and his good wife, and none should wish to trace their origin to a higher source, for an "honest man is the noblest work of God", and we will try and give a brief sketch of their sons and daughters. Their oldest daughter, Elizabeth, was married and afterward died in Virginia. Little is known of her children; one, Peggy Pue, accompanied her grandparents to Kentucky and was married to a Mr. Keel and died without children. Richard, the oldest son, was twice married. By his first wife he had Harrison, Thomas, and, as well as I now recollect, five daughters. Peggy married the Rev. John James. Sally married Phillip Fulkerson, and the other two, whose names are not recollect married the one a Leach and the other a Tarleton. By his second wife he had Richard, John, Blackstone and Mason, and Susan who married Richard Stevens; Henrietta, who married Daniel Stevens, and Clarissa, who married Ignatius Barrett. Richard Taylor lived to his 84th year, and through life was celebrated for his industry, honest integrity and hospitality. Thomas Taylor, the second son, united himself to the Methodist Church at the early age of twelve years, and became a local preacher while quite young, , and remained one until the day of his death. And although through life a large contributor in aid of the church, never asked or received a cent for his own services. While in the vigor of manhood it was his constant practice to labor hard through the week and ride miles away to preach in some place where there was no regular meeting. A file of old almanacs, still in the family, in which he used to not his appointments, will show that he frequently went to Hopkins, Muhlenberg, Grayson, Breckinridge, and even Hardin counties to preach. Yet, to do this, he seldom left home until Saturday and returned during Monday, and then by almost superhuman exertion made up the lost time through the week. If it were possible for anyone to have too much physical, moral and intellectual industry, he was the man. His life was a continued effort to improve soil, the morals and intelligence of the country. Of him it may be truly said his heart was always right - his failings were but his virtues in excess. He had five sons --- Nicholas, Wesley, Harrison D., Milton and Thomas, and a daughter, Frances, all of whom are dead save Harrison and Milton. Harrison, the third son, was said to have been a man born without fear, and I may add, died without reproach. While quite a youth he visited Kentucky and was entrusted with the location of the lands in this part of the country. He made several trips through the wilderness alone, and was known to remain at the surveyor's camps when older and more experienced men would fly to the settlements. He was a plain, simple-hearted, honest man. His house for two years was the headquarters of land claimants, who came to the country to look after their lands, and his thorough knowledge of the country rendered his services highly important; and in this way he often spent days and weeks, not only in entertaining them, but in showing them their lands, for which his old Virginia ideas of hospitality would not allow him to charge a cent. There was one extraordinary trait in his character. Although remarkable from childhood for his fearless courage, yet although he served as Justice of the Peace and Sheriff in the then chaotic state of society, he was an extensive trader and served wagon-master to the army in Hopkins' campaign, yet he was never known to have a fight, an encounter or personal difficulty with anyone. He left four sons and four daughters. John A., Thomas Alfred, Harrison, Washington, Jane, Cynthia, Ann and Rachael. William Taylor, the fourth son, was a man of powerful frame, will and energy all combined; distinguished as one of the best farmers, and for building the first brick dwelling house in the county and the first to thoroughly utilize our swamp lands for meadows. He had four sons, Septimus, Richard, William, Harrison and an only daughter, Christina. John Taylor, the fifth son, died about middle age, yet lived long enough to establish a character of unbounded liberality; was his own worst enemy, believed everybody and could be cheated by everybody who tired, which qualities he imparted to most of his children. It is though, however, that Coffee John has drunk enough coffee to brace his nerves so that he holds his own with the world pretty well. The names of his children were Ignatius, Benjamin, Lorenzo, Stephen, Fleming, (Coffee) John, Hannah, Margaret, Sally and Elizabeth. Septimus Taylor, the sixth son, also died early in life, leaving a reputation, however, of untiring industry, and the following named children: Richard M., William S., Septimus, Levi, Harvey, Jane, and another daughter, Margaret, who married years ago and moved to Indiana. All these are good livers and have inflicted no disgrace on their ancestors. Suffice it to say that Simon and Joseph, the two younger sons, like most pets, were a little spoiled in the raising, bad managers, and thought Kentucky soil too poor and removed West, but at last accounts had failed, either from not being rich enough by themselves, or from not finding lands rich enough to buy farms, and were still renters. Little or nothing is known of their families. Of the daughters, Hannah married Samuel Brown, both of whom lived and died in this county. Margaret married James Harsha, who moved to Illinois. Jane married Levi Pigman, who moved to the State of Ohio. All of these daughters raised numerous children. We have now sketched a brief notice of the second generation of the Taylor family, all of whom have gone to their long homes and a large portion of the third generation have followed them, and we who are left are in the sere and yellow leaf; the blandishments of life are gone, and our only care should be to guard well the family escutcheon and maintain the reputation of "honest old Taylor at the mill". We have none of us been wise as Solomon, brave as Caesar, or renowned as Clay and Webster. We have had our foibles and follies, but thus far none of us have been stained with crime and dishonor. We will soon transmit the care of our family name and record to the fourth, fifth and sixth generations. If there be any here today who have blotted that record, who have sullied that name, let them this day resolve to spend the balance of their lives in wiping pout that stain. Let them one and all, like their ancestors, regardless of the allurements of wealth and fame, resolve to live industrious, honest lives, adding daily and yearly to their faith, virtue, knowledge and charity; discharging all the duties of social and civil life, and whether they die with wealth and distinction, or sink to rest in the humble log cabin, a good conscience will whisper peace to the departing spirit, and their virtues will be cherished and remembered by those who come after them. To the young men and boys just verging into life, let one whose sands of life have nearly run give a word of advice. In our physical formation the spine and backbone is the grand support of our bodies; weaken or destroy that and the whole body is paralyzed. It is just as necessary to have a moral or intellectual backbone, a will, a firmness and fixed determination to carry out and finish anything we undertake, or to refrain from doing what we think is wrong. The boy who can be influenced to anything which he knows is wrong, or has not the energy to carry out and do what he knows is right, will never make a man worth raising; he will always be a poor drone or ninny among men. Without wishing to be at all egotistical, I will tell how this backbone of principle was serviceable to me at one period of my life, and in all probability saved me from ruin: When nearly of age I resolved on studying a profession. My father contracted with the landlord of our principal tavern for my board, etc. Well, I packed up and went to town, as green as a cucumber in the usages of town life; dressed from head to foot in homespun, home-made clothing, as unlike town folks as a gosling to a peacock, and the landlord assigned me a little eight by ten room immediately over the bar-room, and I was to cut my own wood and make my own fires. From old decks of cards lying around I began to suspicion that this was a resort for gamblers, and it was intended that I should be the firemen for their benefit. Well, sure enough, on the next morning three gentlemen ( I knew them by their voices, they were the leading doctor, lawyer and the most accomplished gentleman of leisure and fortune in the community,) came into the bar-room below and requested to have a room to take a game. "Oh, yes," said Boniface, "walk up those stairs, you will find a good fire; a young Mr. Taylor is up there, but he will have no objection." All this was loud enough for me to hear distinctly. Heavens, what a fix, what a current of thought rushed through my mind, and before they had ascended the stairs I had argued the questions pro and con: "I am here a lone boy, noticed by no one, how pleasant it will be to accommodate and become intimate with such distinguished gentlemen; how will it look for such an uncouth chap as I (casting a glance at my homespun,) to refuse them so small a favor?" This was the argument pro, but by the time they had entered the room and politely asked leave to play, I had made up and delivered the following opinion con: "Gentlemen, I am here for the purpose to study and learn, and although I would be glad to accommodate, yet if I were to do so others would expect the same privilege, so I think it best to allow of no gaming at all." The old doctor, who was slightly cornered, wheeled around, audible muttering curses as he retired, but the other two politely bowed themselves out, and, to my surprise, I heard the young man defending me downstairs. And here let me remark, that this young man, distinguished alike for his wealth, family connections and metal endowments, was ever after my warm friend. Ah! How it grieved me to see him gradually sinking into an inebriate's grave. But to my story. After the excitement abated, for I stammered with bashfulness as I spoke, I began to think every person has a backbone to their principles if they would use it, but what have I don? My landlord will be mad; these gentlemen may persecute me and the loafers and gamblers laugh me to scorn, But I know I did right, and like Davey Crocket, I'll go ahead, and I commenced my reading in good earnest. After awhile a young man, a boarder, came in and congratulated me for breaking up the gambler's den, and when I went downstairs the landlord treated me with usual respect, the landlady was delighted with my pluck, and I soon became a favorite among the ladies. In fact, the affair, small as it was, soon became noised over town and instead of being passed without notice, or a snarl of contempt, I was generally met with a friendly greeting; and believe I was the only country lad that ever came to town whom the boys never tried to run the green off of. People will admire pluck and backbone even in a puppy.

Now let us look at the other side of the picture. Suppose I had let these gentlemen play, I might have been fascinate with their wit, perhaps wisdom; I might have taken a hand just to make up a game; I might have tested their liquor just to be social, I might have become their boon companion, and I might --- nay, I would certainly have become a drunkard. All three of these men met their fate. I have never seen it fail. Boys, one more remark and I am done. Stick to your fathers' farms and shops. Learn to earn your bread by the sweat of your face, it is the surest way of living a respectable, honorable, honest life. Do not be led astray by the fascinations of town and city life. I would not give one sober, honest boy, with face bronzed by the sun and hands hardened by the industrious toil, for a whole team of city fops, with patches of down on their lips, a cigar half-way down their throats and dainty kid gloves and boots that make poodle dogs bark at themselves. Such youths are taking tickets in life's lottery it is true, but most of their prizes will be disappointed hopes, a loafer's calling, a blackleg's hardened life of fraud and crime, a felon's cell or a drunkard's grave.