Friday, August 12, 2016

My Ancestor, Cornelius Spencer

If you trace my ancestry back on my father's side you come to this fellow Cornelius Spencer. That would be my third great grandfather. He was a Kentucky boy, born in 1815, in Bullitt County. 

In 1836 he married Dorothy Bess. In 1838 his first son was born, George Washington Spencer (my second great grandfather). Then, around 1841, the young family came to Knottsville, Kentucky, a little farming community in Daviess County.

Knottsville was only incorporated as a town in 1827, so this was early days. In fact, Cornelius' unknown parents (we'll get to that in a moment) were probably part of the first great immigration of white settlers into Kentucky, which took place in the 1790s. But getting back to Knottsville, there's this from Wikipedia:
The first school-house was built in 1854. It was a log cabin but was replaced by a neat frame building in 1857. The first school was taught by Powhattan Ellis, whose family came from Virginia. By the end of the 19th century, the town had two general stores, one drug store, one shoe shop, a blacksmith and wagon shop, two undertakers, one flouring mill, one saw and grist mill, and three tobacco factories.
Around the end of the 19th century the town looked like this:

Now, as to Cornelius' forebears. No one on seems confidant enough to venture a guess. It is known from DNA testing that these forebears came from Virginia, as did many other Kentuckians. He is part of DNA group 3B, descendants of one Abraham Spencer, but there seems to be no certainty about who exactly was his father.

In any case, Corenlius married Dorothy Bess in 1836. In 1838 their first son was born, George Washington Spencer. The Bess family had immigrated to Kentucky from southern Pennsylvania. 

In 1841 the young family moved to Daviess County, to a little farm just outside of Knottsville, on the Hawesville Road. The plot of land is clearly scene on this map of the Knottsville area, dated 1876. The farm of C. Spencer (75 acres) is over on the eastern border, and his neighbor just to the south is Geo. W. Spencer (his eldest son) holding 140 acres.

Cornelius and Dorothy would have three children. Nancy (born 1836), George (born 1838), and William (born 1840). Dorothy's sister Harriett, by the way, also married a Spencer. He was George William Spencer, like Cornelius born in Bullitt County. Did the Bess sisters marry the Spencer brothers from Bullitt County? There's no certainty that Cornelius and George William were brothers, but they were almost certainly related.

Go back to that map of Knottsville (here). Two farms to the west of Cornelius's property is an 80 acre farm belonging to W. O. Spencer. This is William, not the second son of Cornelius, but the first son of George William and his wife Harriett. 

Well, Cornelius would live to the age of 70, dying in 1885. His wife, Dorothy, died ten years earlier, at the age of 56. She was buried in the Pellville cemetery, just down the road from the family farm. Her gravestone reads, "Dearest mother thou hast loved us long ago, no one on earth hast ever loved us so." 

After her death Cornelius would remarry. The 1880 census shows him married to Anny, with three step-children bearing the last name Luster. She is thirty years younger than him, and the children are aged 9 to 14. In Cornelius' last will and testament, shortly before his death, he would leave his entire farm (down to 45 acres by this time), his house and all its furnishings, one cow, 5 "hoggs," and 4 sheep to his wife Anny. 

I don't know where Cornelius is buried. Perhaps in the same Pellville cemetery as Dorothy, but he is not listed in 

Next entry: we'll take a closer look at the son, George Washington Spencer.

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