By Bob Ferris
My wife, mother, sister and I took a trip nearly two years ago to New Harmony, Indiana (see here) from my mother's home in Annapolis, Maryland. Along the way we stopped by the Buffalo Trace Distillery and bought a hat and t-shirt because the establishment was founded by Taylors who we thought were our Taylors. I even made the above Facebook/Instagram post that was "liked" by the Buffalo Trace folks. Turns out we were wrong. We were the unwitting victims of hopeful genealogy, coincidence, and assumption. I am not pointing fingers here only trying to get the story straight.
|Minerva Jane Taylor born 1816|
John Prine has an iconic song called Paradise (above) where he sings about coal, Mr. Peabody, and Muhlenburg County in Kentucky. I have used it as an anthem in my fights with the coal industry and it turns out that is where the answer was found. Part of our challenge in finding our James Taylor, aside from his name being common and that Fire and Rain singer guy confusing things, is that we were looking in and around Bardstown in present-day Nelson County, Kentucky. Here there were hints and wisps but nothing that absolutely supported or knocked this false lineage out of the running. So it lived on in the limbo of enough hope and mystery to keep it breathing.
We did know some information. James Taylor was a name in a family Bible. There was a story of him being a cultured gentleman from Virginia. We knew that James married Susannah James (also making searches complicated) and that she was the daughter of Samuel James and Francis "Frankie" Randolph who was born in Manassas, Virginia. This was a second marriage for Frankie who was married first to her cousin Thompson Randolph not to be confused with her brother Thompson or her son Thompson (all of which were frequently called Thomas).
All of this swirled in confusion until I found the kernel above. I say "kernel" because much of the upstream and downstream from this is faulty or incomplete. Once we had Jacob and Mary things started to fall in place. What if Jacob was the gentleman from Virginia rather than James? Gibson County is near to Posey County and New Harmony. So I tracked Jacob from Virginia to North Carolina where he married Mary Wilkins, probably fought in the waning years of the Revolution, and by 1790 was the head of a household that had one male over 16 (him), four males under 16, and five females of all ages. That meant James Taylor was born in North Carolina and was possibly a twin with Hannah.
But back to Muhlenburg. An 1810 census of Muhlenburg County has James and Jacob Taylor as well as a John Taylor. That is helpful but this population count also includes Samuel James, four Randolphs that match with Frankie's siblings, and five people named Wilkins (Mary Taylor's maiden name). It also contains Jesse Reno and two others from his clan. Why is Jesse important? Mr. Reno is important because when Samuel married Frankie on May 30, 1793 in Allegany County, Maryland it was a double ceremony including Frankie's niece Elizabeth "Prudence" Randolph who married Jesse. Bingo.
Muhlenburg County also has records that link all these names including the Kinchloes who come into play below. These records include land sales from both Jacob Taylor and his son (see entries for McIlvain and James Taylor) which pegs their move north to Indiana sometime between 1810 and 1814. All this takes us to Minerva Jane Taylor who married Thomas Robb and then we enter the land where we have gravestones, a rich history, and photographs for nearly the all of the players directly to my mother Mary Robb Settles Ferris. All mysteries relatively solved except for a lingering set that are all named Thompson Randolph.
Where to start? To begin with Virginia genealogy in the beginning of the 18th century is complicated because there were not a whole lot of surnames and they tended to use first names repeatedly often using them multiple times in the same family and generation. And sometimes last names were used as first names. Common names in this clump of Virginians were Randolph, Osborne, Bland, and Thompson. In this somewhere is also a connection to the Kincheloe's who were related to the Randolphs and/or Osbornes either by blood or marriage and served as the guardians for some Randolph children, possibly Frances for a time.
Which takes us to Kincheloe Fort or Station (near Bardstown) in 1782 and Thompson Randolph (born 1746) the brother who is in Kentucky with the Kincheloes, his wife Ann Bayliss with their young child, and cousin Osborne Bland. The fort was attacked by Indians and Ann was killed and so was Osborne but Thompson escaped with his young child William Bayliss Randolph (who was eventually active in the Underground Railroad). Accounts of this vary but in all this Thompson and his son lived (1,2,3). According to the above this Thompson later married Hannah Taylor sister of James Taylor in 1802. This seems unlikely as she would have been around 17 at the time and this Thompson would have been 56. The more likely candidate is Thompson Junior from the husband Thompson and Frances who would have been 16 or so. This latter situation is the one favored by my grandmother Edna Robb Settles. Phew.
But what about the husband Thompson? This is where the Ancestry.com site provides help and confusion. If we accept that the Thompson Randolph who married Hannah Taylor is the son of Frances' first husband Thompson Randolph (which works if son was born in 1786) then cutting out the obvious mistake with spouse Elizabeth Taylor who was born after the subject died so not his wife then we are left with the mystery of "Tuckahoe" as in Thomas Randolph of Tuckahoe Plantation and one-time home of a young Thomas Jefferson. But Frances is related to the Manassas Randolphs and not those of Tuckahoe. Which raises the issue of sorting out the various Randolphs of Virginia and many people much smarter than me have been trying to do that for centuries and I have to finish putting a new floor in my bathroom.