An Interesting Discovery.

It’s tough to stay focused when researching family history.  With so many branches to study, and so many unanswered questions, it is difficult to pursue one “story” to its conclusion.  So one carries about — either in a notebook or in one’s head — a “tickler” file of things to look for if the time is ever found to do so.

An idle moment and a bit a serendipity resulted in the discovery of an astounding bit of information.  This concerns my immediate line — the descendants of Dowan Ballard of Franklin County (c.1825-1909).

Dowan’s son William Henry Ballard wrote down all he knew of his ancestry sometime about 1933, and in that narrative recounts how his father was once owned by “the Macklin family.”

Dowan Ballard, Sr. son of Bland Ballard (white) and his servant Flora was born in the year 1820 at Ghent Ky.  At an early age he was sold to the Macklin family at Stamping Ground in Scott Co., Ky., in 1848.  Later he was sold by the Macklins to Dr. Ben Duvall in Franklin Co., Ky., near the forks of Elkhorn Creek and remained a slave in this family until the Emancipation was proclaimed in 1863.

He was married 3 times during his life.  The first wife died shortly after their marriage and no children were born to them on the Macklin farm.  The second wife bore him two sons John William and Flournoy and she died from burns received when the cabin on the Duvall farm where they were living burned down.

The prospect of finding a record of the sale from Bland Ballard to “the Macklin family” is tantalizing.  No Macklin family records have found their way to any public repository, so a search began for descendants of that family.

We know that the family descends from a Hugh Macklin, who settled in Kentucky in 1798.  Hugh Macklin had two sons, Alexander and John; Alexander became a wealthy hog farmer, while John cultivated wheat and became successful miller active in the New Orleans trade; both resided in Franklin County, Kentucky.   We also know that Dowan was owned by John Macklin, because there is an entry in the Franklin County, Kentucky Vital Statistics (1852) that records the death of “Flourney”:

August 1852 – FLOURNEY – 4 – black male – single – laborer – resident of Franklin County, Ky – born Franklin County, Ky – slave of John Macklin – died, Franklin County, Ky – cause of death – Typhoid flux.

We found a biography of John Macklin Stevenson, a descendant of John Macklin in History of Kentucky (Chicago and New York: American Historical Society, 1922) Vol. 4, pp. 605-606, that provides a valuable clue, which we quote here in part:

John Macklin Stevenson.  Of a pioneer Kentucky ancestry John Macklin Stevenson has for many years been one of the prominent lawyers of the Winchester bar, and has achieved success in other fields of enterprise, both business and politics.

His paternal grandparents, James and Mary (Darnaby) Stevenson, were natives of the historic community around Bryant Station, Kentucky, where the Stevensons and Darnabys settled on coming from Spottsylvania County, Virginia, about 1785. …

His son, Rev. Thomas J. Stevenson married Anna Macklin, daughter of John and Elizabeth (Black) Macklin … Mrs. Anna Stevenson still lives in Geogetown [in 1922] and owns the old Macklin farm which was acquired by her grandfather Hugh Macklin in 1798 and has been continuously in the family possession ever since.  Her father, John Macklin, was an active business man and large landowner, and John Macklin Stevenson was born on the old Macklin homestead in Franklin County, January 12, 1873.  On this farm John Macklin operated a mill on the banks of Elkhorn Creek, and made large quantities of flour for the New Orleans trade.  Mrs. Stevenson, the mother of the subject of this sketch, spends much of her time on the farm, operates it, and has shown special qualities as an able business woman.  She has two children, John M. and Mary M., , the latter unmarried and living at home…

John Macklin Stevenson married at Winchester in 1899 Miss Linna Witherspoon, the daughter of N. Holly Witherspoon.  They had four sons: Holly Witherspoon Stevenson, Thomas Johnson Stevenson, Frank Webb Stevenson and John Macklin Stevenson, Jr.

Given that the original Macklin homestead passed down from Hugh Macklin to John Macklin, then to the Stevenson family by the marriage of Anna Macklin to Thomas J. Stevenson, then it stands to reason that perhaps some family papers survive among the belongings of these Stevenson descendants.  Web searches found obituaries showing that two of these sons removed to Hartford, Connecticut, where they had successful careers in law and insurance; both obituaries mention a surviving relative residing in Winchester, Kentucky.

By way of Facebook, we found an email for this descendant, whose identity is not being disclosed because we do not have permission to do so.  We wrote a note explaining what we were looking for; she replied that she could offer no promises but would do some searching of her mother’s things.  A couple of days later I received this note:

I still can’t believe it, but I found the Bible yesterday afternoon.  It is a Macklin family Bible, and the following names are listed–this is my interpretation because some of the letters are hard to determine.   Flurnoy Matry’s child born April 5th, 1849 and Harriet’s child Dowen born March 22, 1852.  I am not sure about the name Matry…it may be Matsy.  I am still studying the letters, and I plan to send you photos of these listings.

So here we have a vital statistics of Flournoy’s short life:  Born 5 April 1849 in Franklin County, Kentucky, son of Dowan Ballard and Matry/Matsy [after seeing copies, I concur on the interpretation as “Matsy’], all slaves of John Macklin of Franklin County, Kentucky; died August 1852, the cause of death being “typhoid flux,” and rather sadly (and ludicrously) identified as a single laborer.

The second entry is more problematic, with several possibilities: (1) This Harriet is yet another consort/wife, previously unknown; perhaps the birth of a child was unknown even to him; (2) Dowan’s son bearing his name is not the son of Matlida Bartlett, but the son of this Harriet; or (3) there is no familial relationship whatsoever — but the name “Dowan” is not common, and its recurrence in this instance is compelling.

William Henry Ballard records that the mother of Flournoy Ballard and John William Ballard died in a fire in their cabin at the Macklin farm; most likely he took up with another woman before his marriage to Matilda Bartlett in 1854.  Matilda was a slave owned by Dr. James R. Butler, whose farm adjoined that of Dr. Benjamin Duvall.  This suggests that Dowan was sold to Dr. Duvall sometime between 1852 and 1854.  This conclusion is, at best, speculative, but this is amazing information to have nevertheless.  This isn’t our direct line, but this additional data helps confirm what we learned from one other primary record (i.e., the 1852 Kentucky Vital Statistics).   And it is likely that this information appears no where else.

Our special thanks go to our guardian angel in Winchester, Kentucky who safeguarded and preserved this dusty old book, and generously shared the information found there.  Thank you.