Saturday, February 28, 2015

How Are We Related?

My brother, Tom, asked me to remind him how we are related to Thomas Probert. My brother, Dan, asked me what was it about Thomas that made me want to write about him? In addition, he wanted to know how I decide which ancestor to write about. Good questions -- especially for extended family who may be reading this blog -- and I appreciate all of you.

To answer Tom's question, Thomas Probert is our paternal gg-grandfather. Here is a chart that shows this relationship. If you recall, Thomas was married twice. We are descended through Mary Elizabeth Diamond who died, as did her baby, shortly after the birth of her first son. The cause of death is listed as "consumption," or what we now know as tuberculosis.

After being found not guilty in the killing of Jacob Spears, Thomas married a second time to "Kate" Richardson. The new family moved to Mt. Sterling and started a new life. This past month, I focused on Thomas' and Kate's life in Mt. Sterling, Montgomery Co., Kentucky. Our cousin, Barbara Kaiser Pharo, is a direct descendant of Kate. This second chart would apply to her.

To answer Dan's question, I am always trying to discover information about our ancestors. Some are easier to research than others. For example, Thomas left quite a paper trail as the result of working in a government position. He was also featured in numerous newspaper articles as a result of the killing of Jacob Spears. Ancestors who served in the military are also great subjects because they, or their widows, often filed for a pension. You can order copies of their pensions from the National Archives. These records often provide great documentation as the widow, for instance, had to prove their marriage and the births of all of their children. These can be a gold mine.

So I go where the evidence leads me. Although I have written about our Wainright ancestors in the past, I submitted an application to become a Daughter of the American Revolution, I really had to tighten up some of the information I had to make the case that Vincent Wainwright, Minute Man from New Jersey, was a direct ancestor. My application was approved. The Wainright/Wainwright line is going to be the focus of my next writings because I found so additional information on their lives in Cincinnati along the Ohio River.

I appreciate all of you who read these posts. You, my readers, really do keep me motivated to continue. Thanks for following along.

February 2015

Friday, February 27, 2015

One More Sign of the Times

In researching the life and times of Thomas Probert and family, I often uncovered little surprises in the dusty boxes stored at the Kentucky Archives. They gave me valuable clues about the conditions within the town of Mt. Sterling in the 1870s. Here is one of my favorite discoveries.

Cynthia Jones and Jane Martin were indicted in December 1875 for "keeping a bawdy house." The indictment lists the specific charges:

The said Cynthia Jones and Jane Martin did . . . unlawfully keep a bawdy house by permitting divers persons, both men and women, to assemble in and about their house for the purpose of cohabiting together and having sexual intercourse and did knowingly permit said persons to have carnal sexual intercourse with each other in and about their house, they, the said Cynthia Jones and Jane Martin being at the time occupiers and controllers of the said house and in possession of the same.

But then for the really fun stuff. It seems as if the witnesses and accusers were all men. Hmmm...

Witnesses: Wm. Yocom, Thos. Howard, Joseph Anderson, Labe Wood, Will Lee, Peter Hall, Will Wood, Taylor Hal, John Thomas, Bob Jameson and John Garnett. It sounds like they were beneficiaries of the services provided, so I can't help but wonder what their motivation would be for wanting to witness against these women.

With this story I end, for now, my trip back in time to Mt. Sterling, Montgomery County, Kentucky -- a town I've grown to love.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thomas Cannot Be Put in a Box

I could have told you a lot more. I could have told you about how Thomas purchased four mules that he got from Mrs. Smith, that he uses in his team, plus two cows and two mares; or about the time Thomas was a witness in the defense of James Harvie who had been assaulted as he left a "lager beer house." Perhaps I could have discussed the taxes Thomas had to pay on his possessions, including property and a gold watch.

But I am afraid I would bore you with the details. I am in the possession of a LOT more documentation about Thomas and his very public life. Suffice it to say that our ancestor was multi-dimensional. He cannot be "put in a box" and easily defined.

Perhaps this is why I am so fascinated with Thomas. He is a product of his upbringing, his times and the cultural influences of living in Kentucky during the Civil War. He was an entrepreneur and did whatever he could to support his family. He was a member of the Odd Fellows and a political force who served as a jailer during very difficult times. He lived in a time when half of the population of his town was enslaved and later freed. His town was overrun alternately by Union and Confederate troops. And most significantly, only four of his nine children survived to adulthood -- all girls.

The story of Thomas has not yet been completed -- but I hope you, like me, have a better understanding of this man I am proud to call my ancestor.

Submitted by Kathleen Jones Hellmann Reed
February, 2015

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Thomas Probert - Gone But Not Forgotten

Seven years after Thomas' death, this story appeared in the Mt. Sterling Sentinel:

I love that Thomas and Judge Elliott thought to put a bottle of whiskey in a wall of the new court house as it was being rebuilt in 1870.

Of course, I had to find out a little more about the whisky produced by Howard Barnes & Co. The Mt. Sterling Sentinel published this article in their April 22, 1869 edition.

Sounds like they picked a good brand.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What Happened to Kate? (The Final Chapter)

I wish that I could tell you that Kate had the opportunity to enjoy her retirement, kick her feet up, and enjoy a glass of wine. (Oh, wait -- that's me!) Instead she continued to experience loss. From  the 1900 Census, we know that Maggie Story, one of her step-grandchildren, was 26-years old, single, and also living with her.  Maggie died in Kate's home at the age of 28 after a lengthy illness. Pictured is Maggie Story's obituary. Apparently, she suffered from a "protracted illness." I don't even want to count up the number of children and grandchildren Kate lost in her life.

But Kate's death was on the horizon. Her obituary provides us with a LOT of information.

Transcription: Probert -- Kate Probert, relic of Thomas Probert, deceased, departed this life on Sunday night the 10th instant, at 11 0’clock, aged 65 years. Funeral service was conducted at her home on Sycamore Street on Tuesday afternoon at 2 o’clock by her pastor. J. R. Hobbs of the Baptist church, and her remains were buried in Machpelah cemetery. Mrs. Probert had been a member of the Baptist church for many years and of the Mt. Sterling Baptist church since its organization in 1870, and as a Christian and church working woman, she was consistent in living and faithful in the discharge of religious duties. As a neighbor, friend, mother, step-mother and grand-mother, she was absolutely free from prejudice and favoritism and her endeavor was to be kind and just to all. She had been sick for more than eight years and such Christian fortitude in pain and sorrow has never been surpassed. The home will be lonely without  her, but the evidence she left of trustfulness and the Christian life will be sufficient to impress the living that she is in that home provided for her through Christ and where she abides others may attain through repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Mrs. Probert leaves two daughters, Mrs. C.C. Coleman of Cincinnati, and Mrs. Maud Casey, of this city, and three grandchildren, Katie Mae and Ida Gorman and Georgia Casey. Mrs. Probert’s husband was an Odd Fellow and she gave evidence of their watchfulness and care for a brothers’ widow.

Mt. Sterling Advocate
March 23, 1905
Obituary for Catherine Richardson Probert

We know from the obituary that Kate had been ill for eight years previous to her death and that the illness must have resulted in quite a bit of pain. She was long-time member of the Baptist church and a charter member of the Mt. Sterling Baptist church. She is described as a "church working woman" who obviously was engaged in her church.

Kate was the mother of six biological children. Only two lived to be adults. Her two daughters were widowed young, and she took on the care of multiple grandchildren and one step-grandchild. Thomas was lucky to find such a life partner. And may I add that she is the gg-grandmother of my cousin, Barbara Kaiser Pharo. What a legacy Kate left.

Photo Credit: First Baptist Church
West Main Street
Courtesy of Lee Hoffman

Monday, February 23, 2015

What Happened to Kate? - Part 3

I do not know how Kate was able to support herself and her children after Thomas' death -- at least initially. Three years after she purchased her home on North Maysville, she is listed in the 1880 Census as "keeping house." Unfortunately, we do not have the benefit of an 1890 Census, so we have to rely on other documents.

In 1893 after living in the Maysville home for 16 years, Kate sold her home in 1893.What's interesting about this sale is that the owners include Kate, but also her adult daughters Mary Lou and Maude, and Maude's husband James Casey.

The sale included the following:
It is understood between Mrs. Kate Probert, Mrs Mary Lou Gorman and Mrs. Maud Casey and her husband James Casey that the said three thousand dollars is to be paid to T. F. Rogers to be invested by him under the direction of Mrs. Kate Probert in real estate, bank stock, bonds, or building . . ." It is designated that these assets, including interest, is for her use during her natural life, then to be divided equally among her two daughters.

By the 1900 Census, Kate and her extended family were living on Sycamore Street. In addition to Kate, her household included:

  • Mary Lou Gorman, daughter, age 34, widowed, mother of four children with two living. She is listed as a "trained nurse."
  • Katie Gorman, granddaughter, age 18, at school
  • Ida Gorman, granddaughter, age 11, at school
  • Maud Casey, daughter, age 28, widowed, mother of two children with one living, dressmaker.
  • Maud Casey, granddaughter, age 3
  • Maggie Story, granddaughter, age 26, seamstress

It is surprising that both daughters are widowed at ages 34 and 26 respectively. The other surprise is that Maggie Story is the daughter of Addie, Kate's stepdaughter. And as we shall see in the next post, Kate is ill.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

What Happened to Kate? - Part 2

This we know for certain. Shortly after Thomas' death in October, 1876, Kate purchased a home located at this address on North Maysville, next door to the property of George Everett. We also know that the house underwent extensive remodeling and additions were added. What we don't know is whether or not parts of this beautiful structure were part of what she purchased.

Apparently, the Odd Fellows played some role in helping her get on her feet after Thomas died. One of the key members of the Odd Fellows, D.B. Garrison, provided assistance in one way or another for Kate to purchase this home. The total purchase price for this home in February, 1877, was $2700, The house was purchased within three months of Thomas' death.

Three years later, Kate and her daughters Mary Lou and "Maudia" were listed in the 1880 Census. Kate was listed as "keeping house" and the two girls were "at school."

I do know from other records, that Kate must have tried to bring in some income, because the Records of the Montgomery County Circuit Court include several instances where Kate had to sue to recover payment for services rendered.

These four lawsuits sought the recovery of $56.65 in 1877 dollars. It seems incredible that Kate would have to go to court to seek payment, but in looking at other records, this seemed to be common practice. It doesn't say what work she had completed for these clients.

Eventually, her girls would both marry, and this would become the "family home." Kate would live in this home for 16 years.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

What Happened to Kate? Part 1

Thomas Probert died of cirrhosis of the liver on October 9, 1876. His widow, Kate, was only 39 years old. I have no knowledge of when Thomas recognized that he was ill and what impact this knowledge may have had on his wife and two young children still at home. However, there are a couple of records that give me a clue.

Nine months before Thomas' death, Kate and Thomas sold their billiard table and its fixtures for $150. Did they need the cash or recognize that there would no longer be any need for these items? Note that in 1876, women did not typically conduct their own business, and Thomas acted as Kate's agent for the sale. It was the end of an era.

Thomas was not able to submit his final request for reimbursement for prisoners kept in his jail. I was able to uncover an invoice submitted in Kate's name at the Kentucky archives. Based on this invoice, it seems as if Thomas only kept prisoners through July, 1876.

The invoice was submitted for reimbursement on December 23, 1876. Kate is noted in the document as the "Administratrix of T.H. Probert, deceased." So how would she support herself and his children now? There are some clues in the paperwork.

Friday, February 20, 2015

A Tribute to Thomas

Following Thomas' death, the International Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) published a tribute to Thomas, their well-loved brother.

The part that is most touching to me is the statement that "he was a devoted friend, a kind and affectionate father, and loving Husband, and in all these relations he will long be remembered by those who know him best."

As much as I know about Thomas, I long to know more. For instance,

  • Since he died of cirrhosis of the liver, was he an alcoholic? How did drinking impact his life or the lives of those around him?
  • He was growing award-winning potatoes a year before his death. How long before his death were his physical abilities impacted?
  • How did he feel about his son-in-law, John Cronin, husband of his daughter, Lucy?
  • Did his younger children have positive relationships with his grandchildren who were close in age?
  • What gave him his greatest joy -- wife, children, grandchildren, friendships?
My siblings and I frequently comment that we'd love to have one more day with our Dad who died too soon at the age of 57. Although I spend a considerable about of time trying to uncover the everyday lives of my ancestors, I count Thomas among the many with whom I'd love to spend a day. Which one of your ancestors would you most like the chance to spend one more day with?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Thomas Dies at Age 52

Grave marker at MacPhelah Cemetery
T. H. Probert died at the young age of 52 on October 9th, 1876. He died of cirrhosis of the liver. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Not only was he involved in the liquor trade from an early age, he lived during a time of incredible stress. What could be more stressful than the Civil War which took place in his early 40s?

In his two marriages, he had fathered nine children, but only four (all girls) survived to be adults -- two from his first marriage with Elizabeth Diamond and two with Kate Richardson. At the time of his death, Addie was 28 and married, Lucy was 24 and married.  Mary Lou aged 10 and Maud aged 5 were, of course, living at home with their mother, Kate.

It had to be hard for Kate. She was a 39-year old widow and mother of two young girls. She had also lost her main source of income. Luckily, she did benefit from her husband's association with the International Order of Odd Fellows whose mission included looking out for the welfare of the widow and children of their members.

Thomas H. Probert, Date of Death, October 9th, 1876

Apparently the informant, most likely Kate, was unaware of the name of either of Thomas' parents. I guess I shouldn't be surprised as she was his second wife, and his father, William, died nearly 40 years before his death. What would happen to his family now?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Bill Probert - The Dog

Note: This article was published in the Breckenridge News, Wednesday, September 20th, 1882.

Please take the time to read this newspaper article about the dog -- Bill Probert. I would loved to have had the chance to meet this author. He kept me laughing throughout. Enjoy.

Last night a very interesting reading of a paper on dogs in an English magazine brought vividly to our mind recollections of an old canine acquaintance of ours, who some years ago, was about as noted a character as the town of Mt. Sterling could boast.  Indeed, it was hard to tell if the Mt. Sterlinger of the days we write was prouder of his town having been the birthplace of Senator Garrett Davis, Chief Justice Marshall of California, or “Bill Probert,” even though the latter was only a dog.  But such a dog!

If gentility is an attribute of caninity, then Bill was a gentleman among dogs. There was nothing mean or low or currish about him.  He was high-toned in his conduct, and high-headed and high-stepping in his bearing. Courageous he was, as were all true-born Kentuckians, be they men or dogs. He had no more idea of fear than the late Live Forever Jones had of short hair. Had occasion presented itself, he would have tackled a lion without thought of or care of the consequences. Ostensibly the property of Tom Probert, he was his own master, and roamed about the town withersoever he listed, sure of a cordial welcome at every house he condescended to visit.

Bill was not popular among his fellow dogs. Had there been such things as a congress and popular elections among dogs, he would never have been chosen to represent his dogstrict. As became a dog gentleman, he was an ardent admirer of the pretty and sleek Blanches and Sweethearts of his tribe, but he held his nose high above the common Trays and Bones and Tigers and Lions that stooped to sentengery about the dirty alleys and backyards of the town. There was but one dog in that place that, in family and blood, anyways near approached the aristocratic plane, and that was Phil Reece’s Dick. They were rivals and, of course, inveterate enemies. They never met but to fight. Bill was low and broad and heavy little English bull terrier of a brindle brown color. Dick was taller and of the Scottish terrier persuasion.  Both were game from the tip of their nose to the end of the tail, and when they engaged in battle the conflict only when they both became too exhausted to stand on their feet.

Bill was eminently a friend to man, and hence was a great favorite with his two-legged 
acquaintances. But he was wary of forming intimacies, and never grew confidential. We do not remember but of one gentleman towards whom Billy exhibited aversion, and that was the late Judge Zeke Garrett. Judge Garrett at his prettiest would never have been accepted as a model for Apollo or Antinous by any sculptor of taste, and when he “made a face” his countenance was no mean representation of a masque of Hideous. It was Bill’s misfortune one day to display empathic aversion to one of Zeke’s faces, and from that time on, he never saw peace in the judge’s presence.

Such were Bill’s qualities of head and heart that Marion Botts, on the mornings after being overtaken in a bottled fault – a much too common experience, poor fellow – used to declare that “Bill Probert was the whitest man in town.” But then Marion, as with all persons who become headachy after exhilaration, was at such times given to cynicism.

But the time came when poor Bill lost the countenance lost the favor of that warm friend and staunch admirer. The breach came about in this manner. Marion had been over-stimulating himself and grown aweary. Sitting down on the stone sill under the show window of Wells & Thompson’s store to rest, he naturally dropped to sleep in the summer sunlight. Bill came promenading along, lost in thought, and got a casual glimpse of Marion’s legs. Had he not been wool-gathering, Bill would have known better, but imagining they were posts he sidled up and performed the usual canine libation in token of his appreciation of the uprightness symbolized by posts and pillars and trees. Marion, too wroth to accept the delicate attention as a compliment, looked upon it as an insult, and Bill’s name nevermore passed his lips coupled with commendatory phrases, but quite the reverse.

Bill was an ardent democrat, and attended all the meetings of that party at the courthouse. No man living can say that he ever saw him at a meeting of the opposition. He hated the negro as the devil is said to hate holy water. He was a staunch union dog during the war, and when Morgan invaded Mt. Sterling fought the Johnnies as any soldier of the blue. And his loyalty to the old flag did not cease when the war ended. When the long lines of confederates filed into the town to be paroled and wend their various ways homeward, being received with open arms by their recent foemen, Bill scorned to recognize the terms of the capitulation and continued the war against the conquered confederates on his own responsibility.

A strong tie of friendship existed between Bill and Hon. Richard Reid, now a judge of the superior court, a friendship that was severed only by Bill’s death. And Mr. Reid, as a token of regard and esteem, honored his memory and extolled his virtues in a brief biographical sketch couched in singularly beautiful and pathetic language.  He died decorously as he had lived an orderly life – except when battling with Dick Reese.

The Breckenridge News, Wednesday, September 20, 1882

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Man of Many Talents

Transcription: Mt. Sterling Sentinel, October 30, 1875.

Mr. T. H. Probert, our efficient jailer, dug from five acres of ground two thousand bushels of Irish potatoes, and he says there are about one hundred bushels more in the ground, which he intended to dig, which will make two thousand one hundred bushels. They are in the Irish cup, and the largest we ever saw. Mr. Probert says he can select seven hundred bushels of those potatoes that will weigh one pound to the potato. If any person has beat that in raising potatoes we want to hear from him.

After finding this article, I had a lot of questions:
1) Where did Thomas find time to plant five acres of Irish potatoes?

2) Does the fact that he grew Irish potatoes support the theory that Thomas is of Irish descent? My cousin, Barbara Kaiser Pharo, has an aunt who insists that the Proberts were Irish. I have some contradictory evidence that the Proberts were Welsh. This is a question we've yet to prove.

3) Who was this man? If anything has become apparent to me, it is that Thomas was not one-dimensional. Over his lifetime he pursued so many interests.

4) I also know that almost exactly a year later, Thomas would be dead. How did he have the stamina to grow potatoes in addition to all of his other responsibilities?

We are coming close to the end of our journey to better know our ancestor. I hope to finish up with a couple of more anecdotes about T. H. Probert. And can you believe it? After all of this research, I still have no idea what the "H" stands for.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Abigail Stephens - Murderer

Thomas Probert was the jailer in Mt. Sterling for ten years from approximately 1866 to his death in 1876. In researching this time period, one named jumped out. Abigail Stephens had been held in Thomas' jail for 152 days. She had been charged with murder, and Thomas was seeking reimbursement for costs associated with her incarceration.

In my blog post from two days ago, correspondent "Fair Play" complained that seventeen Mt. Sterling residents had been murdered with seemingly few consequences. He was seeking stricter enforcement of the law in a town where he felt human life was no longer valued. Among those listed in his complaint was Eveline Hubbard who was "killed with a hatchet."

Due to my love of historical newspapers, I had researched Abigail Stephens to see what was behind such a gruesome, hands-on murder. I didn't expect to find this result.

Reprinted from the Mt. Sterling Sentinel,
One of the most cruel and cold-blooded murders was committed in the upper portion,of this county on Sunday last that it has ever been our lot to chronicle. The particulars, as we learn them, as as follows:
Evaline Hubbard, a woman of easy virtue, lives on the Long Branch. on the road leading from the State road to Gatewood's old mill, in a settlement commonly called "Pennsylvania" and has for a neighbor George Stephens, who has for a wife a woman heretofore known by the name of Abigail Hedger, also a woman of bad character.
It seems, from all we can learn, that Stephens' wife has been for a long time jealous of the charms of Evaline for her husband, and catching her away from her house on the day named, just in the edge of the woods, attacked her with a hatchet, cutting her several times in the face and head, causing her death instantly, She then left her where she was found during the day, presenting a ghastly spectacle.
Mrs. Stephens was arrested and charged with the crime, which we are informed she acknowledged and exhibited the hatchet with which the work of death was performed; but , we are informed since then, she denies any knowledge of the affair. The case was to be tried before Esquire Bedford, sitting as an examining court, on Wednesday, but up to the time of going to press, we have not learned the result of this trial.
Unfortunately, it will require another trip to Mt. Sterling and a check of the Mt. Sterling Sentinel on microfilm to find out about Abigail's ultimate fate. I can't imagine being a woman in that jail. Today's jails would seem luxurious by comparison.

Source: Eastern Kentucky Tragedies: Particulars of Two Terrible Murders.
             Courier-Journal (1869-1922) [Louisville, Ky] 24 July 1874; 3.    

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Jail Business

As a family historian researching an ancestor from 150 years ago, I feel very fortunate that Thomas Probert left such a great paper trail. As the Mt. Sterling jailer, he had to submit his expenses for reimbursement quarterly to the county. Since these were government records, they were later transferred to the Kentucky Department of Library and Archives. A visit to the Archives uncovered numerous records for invoices that Thomas Probert submitted to the county. Better yet, they were written in his own hand.

The Archives had four boxes of records from Mt. Sterling that included many invoices similar to the one below.

These ledger sheets listed the name of the prisoner, the date, their alleged crime and costs associated with their incarceration. I scanned several of these sheets and created a spreadsheet to see what kinds of crimes the good people of Mt. Sterling were committing and with whom Thomas was spending his days.

This small sample included five prisoners accused of murder, one rape, one case of horse-stealing, and several cases of grand larceny. Included in the records were several invoices for the transportation of prisoners to the penitentiary in Frankfort and other locations. In the case below, Thomas and the prisoner traveled by stage coach from Mt. Sterling to Lexington and then took a train from Lexington to Frankfort. This trip took three days round trip -- a trip that could be completed in hours today.

I was intrigued that one of his longest-held prisoner was a woman named Abigail Stephens who was accused of murder. Because of my love of historical newspapers, I looked her up to get the details of her case. Her story was very much a surprise -- one I will share in the next post.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Post-Civil War Lawlessness in Montgomery County, Kentucky

In yesterday's post, Vigilante Justice, I discussed how the alleged killer of a black Civil War Veteran, Simpson Grubbs, was freed from jail by a mob. I wanted to know more about how or why Mr. Grubbs was murdered. I searched an index provided by the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

On January 15th, 1879, a correspondent who referred to himself as "Fair Play" submitted this article to the Louisville Courier. The article was forwarded to the Cincinnati Enquirer where it was reprinted. The article provides a lot of context for the life and times of Thomas Probert.

A correspondent, signing himself "Fair Play" writes from Mt. Sterling, under date of the 15th to the Louisville Commercial as follows: "I will give you a hastily gotten up list of the names of those killed in Montgomery County since the war, with the names of a few of those assassinated during the war, for which there has been no one punished, except two men sent to the Penitentiary, as I will note: John Evans, shot; John Thompson, shot; Jane Hensley, killed and thrown into a well -- her murderer sent up for eight years, James Anderson, knife; John Doyle, shot; O.B. Duke, shot; Scott Johnson, shot and cut; John Carr, shot;  Wash McIntyre, shot; Sam Rogers, shot: --- Stoner, shot; Wm. Voris, shot; Sat Tyree, hung by Ku-Klux; David Simpson, shot; Simpson Grubbs, shot; his murderer released from jail by a mob. 
These seventeen were killed in Mt. Sterling, and those killed in the county are: Eveline Hubbard, with a hatchet; George Beatty, shot; Tom Kelly, shot; Mart Hines, shot; Murrell Tyree, shot and hid in sawdust; William King, shot: Alfred Hainline, shot; Dave Howard, shot; --- Bowen, shot; George Owens, cut; murderer sent up. Jack Stevens, waylaid and shot; Doc Trimble, waylaid. Making twenty-nine killed since the war, and I do not think this list is complete.
The following is a list of those assassinated during the war, for which not a single man has been punished by the law: John Jeffries, waylaid; Patterson Poynter, waylaid; Joe Bradshaw, shot in his own door; Green Thompson, shot in his own house; Sandy Crooks, shot in his own house; Sam Moxey shot on the highway; John Clarke, shot by his brother; John Stevens, shot in his own house; Jim Blue, shot in his own house. 
Now here are seventeen persons killed in a flourishing town, containing six magnificent church edifices, and a $26,000 Courthouse, and in one of the first counties in the State for wealth and society, which shows that poor Godforsaken Breathitt has not all the blood on her hands, nor all the lawlessness in her borders. While Breathitt has not a church-bell in the county and the Sabbath is poorly observed by many and not observed at all by many more, we have nothing of which to boast over her, but should "clean our own door-sills." 
I only write this to call attention and to show the authorities and the public generally the need of a stricter enforcement of the laws, and to show how cheap human life is in Kentucky. Such lists ought to be pasted up in every jury room, and on every Judge's hat, and on every street corner and laid in every lawyer's dinner plate three times a week, till law in enforced. 

There is a lot of information on law-enforcement during the time Thomas was the jailer -- including the jailing of some of the people mentioned in this article. Needless to say, it was a time of great unrest and lawlessness. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Vigilante Justice

The Mt. Sterling Sentinel published an article on a jail break that, unfortunately, happened far too often. While Thomas was away on business in Cincinnati, a mob estimated to range from 25 to 100 individuals made a raid on the jail. Jacob See was imprisoned for killing a negro named Simpson Grubbs. Charley Ragan, the Deputy Sheriff, turned over his keys to the mob. See was freed and nothing more had been heard of him following this incident. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the deputy did not recognize any of the mob. Justice was denied to Simpson Grubbs.

Mt. Sterling Sentinel, date not recorded
I wonder if this article is symptomatic of the kind of justice that was to become the norm in post-war Montgomery County. Even if the suspect was arrested and confined, did vigilante justice take over and thus make it impossible for black victims to get justice within the system? Why do I suspect that this situation was the norm in the South post-war?

A quick search on showed me that Simpson Grubbs had served in the Civil War as part of the U.S. Colored Infantry Troops.

I believe he may be the same person that Find-a-Grave lists as Samson Grubbs buried in the Olive Hill Cemetery in Mt. Sterling. He is listed as serving in the same unit as the Simpson Grubbs listed in the Pension Index. What a story he could tell.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Reflections on "Race" in Mt. Sterling in the 1860s

Visit to Mt. Sterling in 2001 with Tim Jones
When I initially started researching the Proberts in Mt. Sterling, it involved several trips to the Recorders Office in Montgomery County. I remember my shock when among the ledgers where deeds were recorded were groups of books labeled "Colored" on the shelf. I guess my shock was noticed by one of the other patrons. She asked me where I thought I was and stated that the population of Mt. Sterling around the period of the Civil War was about 50/50 black/white. The ramifications were only beginning to sink in.

Population in 1870

According to a map of Mt. Sterling in 1879, the population of Mt. Sterling was made up of 597 white and 448 black people (57% vs. 43%). Note that this census is five years after the slaves were "freed."
Here is what I know:

1860 Census

In the 1860 Census, Thomas' household includes his wife, 3 children, brother-in-law, and "Hampton." Hampton does not have a surname listed and is also listed as a man of "color." This was shortly after Thomas moved to Mt. Sterling and he was earning his living as a "confectioner." I am assuming that Hampton was a slave, but he did not belong to Thomas as verified by a check of the 1860 Slave Schedules. Slaves were often hired out by their owners to work in certain trades, and I think this is a possibility here. Hampton may have worked at the bakery with his wages going to his owner. It will take more research to verify my assumptions.

Serving Liquor to a Slave

As mentioned earlier, Thomas was indicted in 1864 for "serving liquor to a slave." Here is a copy of the indictment:

Transcription: On the ? day of August, 1864, in the County and Circuit aforesaid did unlawfully sell, loan and give to Jack the slave of Samuel Edger and wife, spiritous liquors, whiskey and brandy without having the written permission so to do from the owners. masters of any one having the custody and control of him for the time being entitled to the custody or services of the said Jack by contract with the owner or anyone having the control and custody of him.
It's hard for me to imagine another human being considered to be "property," but this was the reality of the times. It makes me wonder whether or not Jack knew his circumstances would change in the near future. What's interesting is that Jack was not impacted by Lincoln's "Emancipation Proclamation" issued on January 1, 1863. According to Wikipedia, "The Proclamation applied only to slaves in Confederate-held lands; it did not apply to those in the four slave states that were not in rebellion (Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware, and Missouri, which were unnamed), nor to Tennessee (unnamed but occupied by Union troops since 1862) and lower Louisiana (also under occupation), and specifically excluded those counties of Virginia soon to form the state of West Virginia." 

Acknowledging the Truth

I have never been able to prove that Thomas was a slave owner. However, I must admit to my own shock when I uncovered this deed. I was researching all of the deeds for Proberts and related family to see what had been purchased and how much it cost. In the Recorders Office, I was able to get a copy of the deed for the purchase of the building that was used for the "confectionery shop" in 1863.

If you notice in the section labeled "price paid," that Thomas paid "nine hundred dollars, four hundred fifty dollars of which is to be paid on the 8th day of July, 1864, and the remaining four hundred and fifty dollars on the 8th day of December 1864." Part of the purchase price, however, was a negro boy named Harry. On this day, Thomas H. Probert "sold, delivered and transferred, all right, title and interest in and to a certain negro boy named Harry to the party of the first part."

At times, I wish I had never found that document, but on the other hand I believe that we, as a country, must collectively assume responsibility for what we were willing to do to human beings at this time. Sometimes, in my mind, I think of this period of time as something that like the Holocaust, we have a duty to "Never Forget." More importantly, we must acknowledge the impact that the legacy of slavery has on our society today and make every effort to ensure justice and opportunity for us all.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Gaming - 1860s Style

The more I know about Thomas Probert, the better I like him. On New Year's Day, 1865, Thomas and a few of his friends and neighbors were involved in "gaming!" Horror of horrors.

To quote the indictment:
The said Thos. H. Probert on the 1st day of January, 1865, in the County and Circuit aforesaid did unlawfully suffer and permit diverse persons to assemble upon his premises and in his house, therein his control and occupation, and did suffer and permit the said persons to assemble to play at diverse games of chance and hazard, at cards, such as euchre, poker, seven-up and on which said games money, property and things of value were bet, won and lost, and all of which he had due notice and permitted. 
Against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

A little context:
  • It was New Year's Day. 
  • They were in the 4th year of a horrible Civil War that had devastated the town.
  • They were at home, and surprisingly there was no indictment for selling spiritous liquors.
A little irony:
I went to "google" to look up the proper spelling for "euchre." This was the first thing that came up.

How things have changed in the 21st Century.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Thomas Probert Was a Good Shot

On January 17th, 1866, the Cincinnati Enquirer  reprinted this notice that had been printed in the Frankfurt Yeoman.

I don't know much about shooting, but my husband assures me that this is a pretty big accomplishment. He shot them "off hand" which according to "google" is defined as "keeping all of the shots in a space between the nipples horizontally, and keeping them between the base of the sternum and base of the collarbone vertically." So he wasn't using a "gun sight." 

But this is Thomas Probert we are talking about. He didn't just demonstrate his shooting expertise -- he took bets on it. An indictment followed.

The indictment is hard to transcribe, but here is my attempt.

The Grand Jury of Montgomery County in the name and authority of the Commonwealth of  Kentucky, accuse Thomas Probert of the offense of gameing (sic), committed as follows: The said Thomas Probert on the 10th of March, 1867 in the County and Circuit aforesaid, did unlawfully engage in a game of chance and hazard by shooting with a gun and pistol at turkeys and at which money, property and things of value were bet now and lastly by the said Probert to the amount and value of over twenty dollars.
Against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

What does this guy have to do to catch a break? Well, at least his accomplishment was recorded in multiple newspapers.

Can anyone decipher the script that I could not? Thanks to Amy Hartman who could read the script.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Thomas Probert Was an Odd Fellow

I recall a conversation with a cousin who shares Thomas as a gg-grandfather. She wondered why Thomas' obituary described him as an "Odd Fellow." As I was familiar with the fraternal organization, I was amused. But it occurred to me that many of my contemporaries may not be familiar with the "Independent Order of Odd Fellows." 

The Odd Fellows are a fraternal organization. To quote their mission, 
Lodge degrees and activities aim to improve and elevate every person to a higher, nobler plane; to extend sympathy and aid to those in need, making their burdens lighter, relieving the darkness of despair; to war against vice in every form, and to be a great moral power and influence for the good of humanity. For members, the degrees in Odd Fellowship emphasizes a leaving of the old life and the start of a better one, of welcoming travelers, and of helping those in need. The command of the IOOF is to"visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead and educate the orphan." 
Thomas Probert was part of a group of men in Mt. Sterling who formed the Sterling Lodge #11 in Mt. Sterling. Thomas was one of the initial officers, serving as the lodge's Sentinel.

As I tried to discover other activities of the Sterling Lodge, I was surprised to find this newspaper article.

See below for transcription.
Transcription: Mt. Sterling Sentinel, December 24, 1864  Caned J.D. Trapp, Esq. Lexington, Grand Master of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows of Kentucky was severely caned in this place on Friday evening last. The affair occurred in Hoffman and Co. store, and Mr. Trapp on one side and Messrs. William Hoffmann and T.H. Probert on the other side were the principal actors. The cane used was of ebony, with a beautiful gold head upon it, and we understand cost ninety dollars.  Bro. Trapp's conduct, while here richly merited the caning, and we were glad to notice that he submitted with very good grace. In the language of "Old Probe", there were no "philanthropic remarks" made.  
And in another story---The supper prepared by the indefatigable Probert would have done credit to Delmonico. The tables fairly groaned under the weight of the good things. Taking it all and all, it was a most delightful entertainment one of those "nights of undecaying joy," which form a pleasant memory in after days -- an oasis in the desert of man's existence. May we have many more such.

OK -- I need some help. This "party" was on Christmas Eve. I understand the wonderful dinner and Thomas' part in its preparation, but can someone please explain to me how "caning" could be a part of the activities of the Odd Fellows? I am at a loss -- especially since this was the Grand Master.

The Odd Fellows would continue to play an important role in the social life of Thomas as well as in the well-being of his wife following his death. So now you know why so many cemeteries have a link to the International Order of Odd Fellows.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Montgomery County Jail

Mt. Sterling went through a series of jails. The conditions must have been horrendous. The community solicited bids for a new jail in 1861, but with the beginning of the Civil War, plans were delayed and eventually scrapped. In The History of Mt. Sterling, Kentucky there is this description:

During the war, the jail was used to hold Rebel soldiers as well as criminals, and conditions seem, if anything, to have worsened. In a letter written from Canada by Henry Stone of the 9th Kentucky Cavalry, Co. D, CSA in 1863, he says, "Got a letter from Cousin Sallie Johnson, who says three Rebels got out of Mt. Sterling dungeon the other night, prying bars in the widow loose. There was a tier of bars at each window, eight feet from the floor and nothing to pry with then I was there. I suffered in that place. It was dark at night; no candle; cold and damp, no fire, and for the first three nights I had no blanket. I had to eat, sleep, drink and answer nature in the same room. (p.106)
40 Broadway Street
After the war, and with Thomas' elected to become the new jailer, a new jail was completed by 1871 on Broadway on the present site of the City Building. According to the 1870 Census, the "jail house" consisted of living quarters for Thomas and his family as well as a "cook" and three inmates housed in the jail.

The 1870 Census lists Thomas and his wife, Kate, daughter, Lucy, young daughters Mary Lou and Lizzie, son-in-law, and Albert Story and his wife Atlanta (Addie). Addie was his oldest daughter, now married, and her husband was running the "confectionery" business.

The cook was a black woman named Rachel Regan, who undoubtedly had been a slave just five years earlier. The prisoners included two white prisoners, John Broth and Wm. Landsaw, and one black prisoner named Jim Wyatt.

Side Entrance to Jail and
Upper Story Living Quarters

Quoting the History of Mt. Sterling:
The jailer at this time was T. H. Probert, who was paid 75 cents a day (per prisoner) for "dieting" prisoners. The county also assumed the costs of fuel, medicine and doctor's visits for inmates. City prisoners in this period were used as labor at a rock quarry on Queen St., working out their fines at $1.50 a day, or were used by the jailer in cleaning streets.

This was to be Thomas' job until his death ten years later. It was probably not the best job, but one with a guaranteed, legal income in the tumultuous period following the end of the war.

Boyd, Carl B and Boyd, Hazel Mason. History of Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, 1792-1918, pp. 106-107.