- Genealogists -
There are a number of
active genealogists of the Hamilton family of Eastern Kentucky. In
1998, they held a reunion at May Lodge at the same time the May
reunion was in progress - and a few came to hear my talk on the
Meÿ/May ancestors. At the 2002 reunion, I met some Hamilton
descendants who offered their assistance and I soon was fortunate
enough to find and purchase a very large book, Hamilton
& Cantrell Genealogy, [with many photos] of the
descendants of Mary May Hamilton, wife of John Hamilton, compiled and
published in 1993 by Helen Cantrell Hunt of Ashland, KY. The
following essay adds a few new facts to the one I distributed at the
2002 reunion. A listing of Marriage bonds from Morgan Co., KY has
also added facts about Hamilton marriages in the 19th Century.
| The Justice Family | The
Hamilton Family | Living on the Licking River:1817-1868
L. Hamilton | John May Hamilton | Notes
of Mary (Polly) May
(Polly) MAY b: Abt. 1797 Carter Co., TN, in the Watauga River Valley
d: Abt. 1868 Morgan Co., KY, body moved to Hamilton Cemetery at Red
Bush in 1983 age at d: 71 est.
+Robert Peyton JUSTICE b: 1784 Pittsylvania, VA d: Aug 1862 m:
10 Jul 1814 Shelby Creek, Floyd Co., Ky. (now in Pike Co.).
Spencer Adkins, J.P., performed the ceremony. age at d: 78 est.
Elizabeth (Justice) HAMILTON b: 1815 Floyd Co., KY
+Isaac FERGUSON b: 1815 m: 6 Sep 1835 Morgan Co., KY, John Williams officiating
Husband of Mary (Polly) MAY:
+John HAMILTON b: 3 Mar 1793 North Carolina [later becameTennessee]
d: 3 Mar 1886 Morgan Co., KY, body moved to Hamilton Cemetery at Red
Bush in 1983 m: Abt. 1817 Floyd (present-day Pike) Co., KY age at d: 93
Samuel L. HAMILTON b: 27 Apr 1819 d: 15 Sep 1896 age at d: 77
+Cynthia HILL b: Floyd Co., KY m: 13 Apr 1843 Johnson Co., KY, by E. Howes
Thomas HAMILTON b: 17 Dec 1820 d: 4 Mar 1885 Red Bush, Morgan Co., KY
age at d: 64
+Mary (Polly) FERGUSON b: 24 Nov 1824 d: 19 Sep 1911 m: 29 Feb 1844
Morgan Co., KY age at d: 86
Benjamin S. HAMILTON b: 1826
+Frances (Franky) WILLIAMS m: 11 Feb 1847 Morgan Co., KY
Wife of Benjamin S. HAMILTON:
+Nancy FAIRCHILD m: Bef. 1852
May HAMILTON b: 1827 Morgan Co., KY d: 14 Jul 1864 Bloomfield, Nelson
Co., KY - executed by firing squad, without a trial, by order of Gen.
Stephen Gano Burbridge of the Union Army, buried in Maple Grove
Cemetery age at d: 37 est.
+Elizabeth HARGIS b: Abt. 1835 Pike Co., KY d: 17 Mar 1921 m: 10 Jun
1856 Morgan Co., KY, R. Humphrey officiating age at d: 86 est.
(Polly) Ann HAMILTON b: 1833 d: Morgan Co., KY, buried on Salyers
Branch at Red Bush
+Marshal Laney SALYERS d: Morgan Co., KY, buried on Salyers Branch at
Red Bush m: 27 Aug 1856 Morgan Co., KY
2 Sarah HAMILTON
H. HAMILTON b: 1834 Kentucky
+Edith (Eady) BROWN d: Bef. 1907 m: 29 Dec 1855 Morgan Co., KY age at
Wife of David H. HAMILTON:
+Mary DILLS m: 1907
HAMILTON b: 1836 Kentucky
The information I have
gathered from the referenced web site begins with William Justice
(1625-1664), the great-great grandfather of Robert Peyton Justice. He
was born in South Hampton, London, England and immigrated to Virginia
as an indentured servant at a young age. In 1656, at the age of 31,
records show that he owned 1,198 acres - known as Kittawon Plantation
- in James City, VA. This land was granted to him from his
father-in-law, Capt. JOHN FRAME, on 1 Sept. 1643 - "due sd.
JUSTICE as marrieing the daughter & heyr of sd FRAME, as also for
trans. of 24 persons [from England]." William became a member of
the Virginia House of Burgesses and owned the ship EDWARD, which
sailed out of Bristol England.
Robert Peyton JUSTICE was
born in 1784 in Pittsylvania, VA. In March 1813, upon the death of
his father, William Justice (1737-1813), he inherited a lower bottom
of land where his father had lived, but the house went to his mother.
William is listed in the 1810 Floyd County census, over the age of
45, and the owner of seven slaves.
Robert Peyton Justice,
commonly known as Peyton, married Mary (Polly) May on July 10, 1814
in Floyd County, KY and they were divorced on November 4, 1816. In
2001 I received information telling that Peyton and Mary had a
daughter, Elizabeth, born about 1815, and that she was reared in
Morgan Co. as Elizabeth Justice Hamilton.
Marriage certificate of
(Mary) Polley May and (Robert) Peyton Justice
by Spencer Adkins
Peyton married his second
wife, Mary (Polly) Blackburn, on Christmas day, 1818. She had
previously been married to William Slone and they had one son, whom
Peyton adopted. Peyton is listed in the 1820 Floyd County census with
his mother, (second) wife and three children under ten years of age.
They are known to have had at least ten children.
A story of the death of
Peyton from the referenced sources is repeated below:
During the Civil War,
Confederate scouts were crossing the river where Russell Fork runs
into the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River, and someone shot at them
from the hillside. They stopped at Peyton's house and found him sick
in bed. When he could not tell them who fired the shot, they took him
with them a few miles down the river to the mouth of Dry Fork. Here
they killed him. Later a man was coming down the road and stopped to
rest on a log. He found Peyton Justice's body. The Confederate
soldiers were under the command of Col. Nathaniel McClure Menifee - a
man with a ruthless reputation for killing innocent citizens - who
was relieved of his command in early 1863. Peyton's wife had Menifee,
and several men indicted, but they never stood trial.
John Hamilton was the son
of Benjamin and Susannah (Moonglow) Hurst, a half-Cherokee Indian.
This family group includes:
1 Benjamin S. HAMILTON b:
1761 Hawkins Co., TN d: 12 Jul 1849 Moon, Morgan Co., KY age at d: 88 est.
.. +Mary RANKIN m: Abt.
1782 Bledsoe Co., TN
*2nd Wife of Benjamin S. HAMILTON:
.. +Susannah (Moonglow)
HURST d: 1846 Moon, Morgan Co., KY m: Abt. 1792 Sullivan Co., NC,
which became part of TN in 1796 age at d: ?
2 John HAMILTON b: 3
Mar 1793 North Carolina [later becameTennessee] d: 3 Mar 1886 Morgan
Co., KY, body moved to Hamilton Cemetery at Red Bush in 1983 age at
...... +Mary (Polly) MAY
b: Abt. 1797 Carter Co., TN, in the Watauga River Valley d: Abt. 1868
Morgan Co., KY, body moved to Hamilton Cemetery at Red Bush in 1983
m: Abt. 1817 Floyd (present-day Pike) Co., KY age at d: 71 est.
2 Elizabeth HAMILTON b:
1794 North Carolina [later becameTennessee] d: 1864 age at d: 70 est.
...... +Jesse OLDFIELD b:
1775 d: 1866 m: 19 Feb 1814 Floyd Co., KY age at d: 91 est.
2 Sarah HAMILTON b: 1796 Virginia
...... +Edward HILL b: 1794
Virginia m: 27 Jul 1815 Floyd Co., KY
2 Nancy HAMILTON b: 1797 Virginia
...... +Joseph HANNAH m: 22
Jan 1818 Floyd Co., KY
2 Polly HAMILTON b: Kentucky?
...... +James HANNAH m: 11
Feb 1819 Floyd Co., KY
2 Esther HAMILTON b: 1804 Kentucky?
...... +William ISON m: 20
Apr 1826 Morgan Co., KY
2 David K. HAMILTON b: 1805 Virginia
...... +Drucilla HILL m: 7
Aug 1823 Floyd Co., KY
2 Benjamin HAMILTON, Jr. b:
...... +Elizabeth (Betsy)
NICKELL b: 1807 m: 18 Oct 1828 Morgan Co., KY
2 Amelia Ann HAMILTON b:
...... +Isaac ISON b: 1805
m: 4 Dec 1852 Morgan Co., KY
2 Martha HAMILTON b: Kentucky
...... +Ebenezer HANNAH b:
1810 m: 1829
Benjamin Hamilton and his
older brother, Thomas, say in their applications for Revolutionary
War Pensions that they enlisted in Bedford Co., VA. On John's
gravestone is inscribed "PVT, Christina's Regt. VA Troops,
Rev. War." The earliest records of the family found by Mrs.
Parrish were in "Early Tennessee Tax Lists: 1796-97." Family
traditions say that three Hamilton brothers, Thomas, Benjamin and
Samuel, came to Eastern Kentucky in the early 1800s. Other records I
have seen don't list these brothers. In Benjamin's household for the
1810 Floyd County census were his wife and ten children under 26
years of age. His is the only Hamilton household in this 1810 census.
In 1820, five children were still in Benjamin's household.
Helen Hunt's book adds
information to that provided in Mrs. Parrish's work. Regarding
Benjamin's service in the Revolutionary War [from
a 1908 letter from the Commissioner of the U.S. Revolutionary War Section],
she states: "Benjamin's enlistment began May 10, 1780 and
(he served) under several different officers up to 1783. On June 25,
1783 he was drafted in Sullivan County, North Carolina, where he
served as a spy and ranger against the Indians." His brother,
Thomas, served a much longer time." In 1796 Sullivan Co. NC
became Sullivan Co., TN. After moving to Kentucky, he made his home
at Relief on Big Paint Creek, Morgan Co. In 1840, he was living with
his son, David K. Hamilton, and getting an annual pension of $43.33
from the U.S. government. He was granted his pension from an
application executed Dec 2, 1833, as a resident of Morgan Co., KY,
on the Licking River:1817-1868
I appears that not long
after their marriage about 1817, Mary and her husband, John Hamilton,
were living in the Licking River Valley, a few miles over the
mountains from the Big Sandy River Valley. From the 1820 Floyd County
census we know that John lived near the home of his father with Mary
and their young children; a son [Samuel] and a daughter [Elizabeth]
under ten years of age. In 1823, Morgan County was formed from parts
of Floyd and Bath counties, so any subsequent records of the family
should be found in Morgan County records. Marriages of John's
siblings are also recorded in the work by Mrs. Parrish.
Like many other men of the
period, John took advantage of his opportunity to buy unclaimed lands
in the region at bargain prices, using the Kentucky Land Warrant
System, as modified in 1815. Mrs. Parrish wrote that in 1820 four
Kentucky Land Warrants for a total of 250 acres of land were issued
to John Hamilton in Morgan - actually Floyd at the time - Co., KY; in
1827, 50 acres on Stone Coal Creek, and on branches of Paint Creek;
in 1833, 50 acres; in 1840, 100 acres; in 1845, 50 acres. I recently
discovered that John and his father - their last name spelled
Hambleton by the surveyor - had surveys done on their respective 100
acres of land on Stone Coal Creek in 1821. That same year, John's
brother, Thomas - his last name spelled Hambilton by the surveyor -
had 50 acres surveyed on Middle Creek. Any subsequent surveys for
John should be in entered in Morgan County survey books.
Mrs. Parrish lists six sons
and one daughter of John and Mary but doesn't have any succeeding
generations of this branch of the Hamilton family. From my other
sources, I learned of the existence of Mary's first child and
recorded a number of additional generations of Mary and John's
descendants in my records. Existing vital statistics of their
children are at the beginning of this biographical sketch. Most, if
not all of them, appear to have lived near the place of their birth.
Elizabeth is known to have had at least eight children; Samuel,
twelve children; Thomas, eight children; Benjamin, seven children;
John; four children; Mary, ten children; Sarah, no known children;
and David, fifteen children, by two wives. James is listed in the
1850 Morgan County census, age 14, but no other records of him have
Mary died about 1868 and
John survived her by about eighteen years. He and others of the
family were buried on the family farm in Morgan County. Years later,
the Paint Creek Dam was built and the graves were moved to the
Hamilton Cemetery in nearby Red Bush.
He is the
great-grandfather of Helen Cantrell Hunt, who compiled genealogies of
the Hamilton and Cantrell families, adding new facts to the history
of the descendants of John and Sarah Phillips May.
Samuel was the first child
of Mary May and John Hamilton. Some records give Samuel's birth year
as 1817, but the 1819 date is most likely correct. After he married
Cynthia Hill, they settled near Hager Hill in the Burnt Cabin section
of Johnson, Co., a few miles south of Paintsville. They moved within
the county from Hager Hill to Hargis Creek and then to Paint Creek
near a community now known as Moon. From there they moved to the
Licking River side of the mountain on Coffee Creek, now known as
Silver Hill. He and his wife are buried in Hamilton Cemetery on the
property he owned on Coffee Creek.
Hollie Williams provided an
account of Samuel to Helen Hunt, telling that he was a Primitive
Baptist minister and was once affiliated with the Paint Church.
Riding over the mountains on horseback, he served a church circuit in
Morgan, Magoffin, Johnson, Lawrence and Floyd Counties. One family
story says that following an extended trip when some of his children
were very ill he returned home and Cynthia asked, "Samuel,
where have you been?" He replied, "I've been out saving
souls." "Well", said Cynthia, "you should
have been home trying to save some bodies."
of John May Hamilton (1827-1864)
story was sent to me by John B. Wells III of Paintsville, KY in 1992.]
I end this brief account of
the family of John and Mary May Hamilton with a story of the execution of
one of their sons during the Civil War:
An account in "A
History of the Civil War in Nelson Co., KY" by John B. Thomas,
Jr. tells of the fate of John May Hamilton. The story begins on the
night of June 17, 1864, when Col. George M. Jessee's Confederate
Cavalry with about 200 men camped somewhere in - mostly Rebel -
Nelson Co., KY between Bloomfield and Bardstown, possibly at a place
called Camp Charity. Five of his men went to the home of John R.
Jones who lived nearby in a large brick home that still stands near
the Blue Grass Parkway and the Bloomfield-Springfield road [KY 55].
They demanded a horse, saddle and bridle. Jones refused and fired on
the men through the front door, inflicting a fatal wound on one
before being killed himself. He was buried three days later at a
place called the Camp Ground with a large crowd in attendance.
The previous month, from
Washington, Joseph Holt, Adjutant General of the Army, had sent a
message to Gen. Stephen G. Burbridge of the Military District of
Kentucky suggesting punishment - which might even have been
interpreted as execution - of Confederate soldiers captured a second
time after being released on an oath not to fight again. Some say
Holt - whose wife was from Nelson County - and Burbridge wanted an
excuse to shoot Confederate prisoners. On July 16, 1864, Burbridge
issued General Order 59, establishing a policy stating: "When an
unarmed Union citizen is murdered, four guerrillas will be selected
from the prisoners in the hands of the military authority and
publicly shot to death in the most convenient place near the scene of
the outrage." This order started what is known as Burbridge's
Reign of Terror in Kentucky. During the next seven months, over 60
prisoners, usually selected by lottery, were sent to various places
in the state and shot or hanged. The case of John R. Jones was one of
the first to come to the attention of Burbridge.
Two young men, John May
Hamilton and Richmond Berry, were brought to Nelson County, not
knowing their fate. They had been held as prisoners-of-war in
Lexington, KY after being captured as guerrillas who served with
"Partisan Rangers" in Tennessee and Kentucky. The men in
these outfits "lived off the countryside" and were more or
less recognized as having official standing by the South, but were
seen as bank robbers, outlaws, and guerrillas by the North. Hamilton
had been with "Sidney Cook's Guerrillas" when they raided
Flemingsburg, Ashland and Olive Hill in Eastern Kentucky. He was
captured March 6, 1864, while on a raid in Johnson County, near his
home farm. They were taken to "Bunker Hill" [now called
Schoolhouse Hill] and executed by firing squad to atone for the death
of John R. Jones, a man they had never seen. In a history of the
town, Dr. A. H. Merrifield called it "the gloomiest day
Bloomfield had during the war."
The local account of the
deaths of these two men tells of the bravery of John May Hamilton,
when he realized they were to face a firing squad. "Their bodies
were given over to the good people of Bloomfield and were buried
handsomely in metal caskets. Before interment their bodies were laid
out in the Masonic hall where the whole town wept over these innocent
young men." A number of years later the local women's club - who
thought he was from Richmond, VA instead of Morgan Co., KY - erected
a stone for John that notes, "Though a stranger, he lies
Terry Kidd and members of the 5th Kentucky Infantry Camp of the Sons
of Confederate Veterans officiated at the reinterment of John May
Hamilton on Sunday August 9, 2009 in the Hamilton Family Cemetery at
Keaton, Kentucky -- 145 years after his tragic execution.
The same events are also
recorded in the Hamilton & Cantrell Genealogy by Helen Hunt -
1993. She cites a summary by James Christopher Hamilton - a
great-great grandson of John May Hamilton - of his father's research
into the facts of the mysterious death of their ancestor. The story
adds to the one above with details of how John May Hamilton and
another Confederate prisoner were chosen by their fateful selection
of two red beans from a bag. Helen Hunt memorialized the story this way:
"The crowd grew
still and the soldiers came to a Confederate prison camp. The enemy
held out a bag of beans, each prisoner in turn drew out one. Little
did they know what was in store for the two who chose the red.
Southern troops had stopped at J. R. Jones to trade tired horses for
fresh. Jones was angry when they took his saddle too. An argument
came up and Jones was shot. After the killing, Union soldiers went to
the Confederate camp with the beans, the two who chose the red were
taken to Jones' son and he said 'Shoot em.' Richard Berry and John
May Hamilton were forced to ride on their caskets to the cemetery and
were shot. Two brave innocent men gave their lives to avenge a murder
they did not commit."
Mrs. Verle Hamilton Parrish
apparently wasn't aware of the above story. She added some service
information but gave some conflicting facts about John. She says his
name was John Major Hamilton and that he enlisted in Co. K, 5th
Kentucky Infantry of the CSA at the beginning of the Civil War, and
later was elected First Sergeant of Co. E, serving under Gen.
Humphrey Marshall in Bragg's Kentucky campaign. They were nearby at
Harrodsburg when the Battle of Perryville was fought. After a year's
enlistment he was discharged but didn't return home to the mountain
counties of Kentucky where the Union troops and the Home Guard were
on the lookout for Rebels. More recent information - consistent with
his murder - seems to confirm that he never returned home; his wife
of eight years and mother of their four children, Elizabeth Hargis,
remarried in 1866 and had at least three daughters.
Tress May Francis wrote her history of the May family in 1956, she
only knew of the marriage of Mary (Polly) May to Peyton Justice and
assumed that members the Justice families of Pike County are their
descendants. She had no knowledge of their divorce in 1816 and her
subsequent marriage to John Hamilton. I learned of the Hamilton
marriage from a genealogist, Verle Hamilton Parrish, now deceased.
the information found in 2002 is of value to May genealogists
researching later generations of the May family - descendants of Mary
May (Hamilton), of the 8th May generation.
personal research on the Justice family has been limited to available
Pike County records. The following internet source is used for much
of the information cited here. http://www.charleston.quik.com/jeffkat/d13.htm#P149
Young, a descendant of Mary May, of Alta Loma, CA related that Mary's
child by her first husband was reared in Morgan County as Elizabeth
site on the descendants of Benjamin S. Hamilton is at:
Pension Record is #S31111
not personally researched records of Morgan County, KY. Another
source of the birth date for Mary, for example, should be in the 1850
and 1860 censuses of the county.
early Hamilton family surveys are in Floyd County Survey Book A:310