Friday, April 8, 2011

Samuel Fox - An Analysis of a Life in Story and Fact

A bright, sunny March afternoon in the foothills of the Appalachians.

Six people, all related, wander the ridges of a familiar mountain in search of the grave of one man.

Two cousins, one documenting facts, one keeping the family stories.

While I'm not directly related to Samuel Fox, he and his descendants weave in and out of my family like narrow back-roads weave along the sides of Barnes Mountain.

I've seen Samuel Fox's name off and on for nearly 15 years as his family was one of the first I added to Estill County's KYGenWeb page when we started the project. Samuel looked into my eyes from 150 years in the past and I was hooked on this family.

What I offer you here is a bit of both - documented facts and family stories.  

In the Fox family, there is a story regarding the ancestor of this Samuel Fox, who was also named Samuel.  When I asked my cousin, Jakie, about this, she sent me the following as it had been passed down:  

"I'll tell you girls a story that my father told me as his father told it to him. Your grandpaSamuelwas born in England across the big sea. Samuel's family was very wealthy and, as a young lad, he used to go down to the docks to watch the ships sail in and out of the harbor. He was kidnapped by slave traders.  They knew his family was wealthybut they did not ask for ransom.  The ship pulled out of the harbor and headed for the United States. Samuel's captors rubbed  grease on him and made him lay in the sun day after day so he would not be easily noticed among the darker skinned slaves. He was treated badly and beaten after trying to escape.  The ship sailed on to the United States......This is your heritage."

Jakie gave me the lineage on these early Fox generations as follows:

Samuel Fox was born in England about 1775.  He married Catherine "Katy" Sizemore in North Carolina.  They were the parents of William, George, Mearinda, Johnny and Martha.

William married Catherine Briggs, likely in Tennessee.  They were the parents of Malinda, Samuel (our subject here), John, Elmyra and William R.

Our Samuel was born 14 June 1821 in Grainger County, Tennessee.  The family migrated to Estill County, settling into the hills and hollows of present-day southeastern Estill County.  He died 11 April 1865 in Estill County, Kentucky.  He married Rutha Barnes and they had four children that survived childhood:  William, George Washington, Diana/Dinah and Marshall Boone.

Samuel was 42 years old when he enlisted as private in Co. E47th regiment of Kentucky Infantry Volunteers on 17 August 1863.  Samuel was a farmer by trade.  He stood only 5' 6" tall and had a fair complexion with light hair.  

Getting word from family was difficult during the war, especially when few in this area could read or write more than their name.  Another family story was passed down:

"Rutha had not heard from Samuel for a long time and was worried, afraid something had happened to him. There was a woman that lived not far from Rutha who could tell fortunes.  Rutha, sick with worrywent to see her, wanting to know if Samuel was still alive. She was told he was still alive and would be coming home soonbut would not live long after he got home. 'Samuel will be brought home by a man riding a white horse and when your husband dies you will marry that man on the white horse.'  Rutha ran home crying and upsetsaying she would never marry again.  Several weeks later Samuel was brought home by a man on a white horse.  He was wounded and sick and had to be helped down from his horse.  Samuel didn't live long after he returned home. He died April 11, 1865.  The man on the white horse was Evan Hunt and he and Rutha married September 19, 1873."

And now the facts/documentation:

Samuel and Rutha (Barnes) Fox were married 02 November 1848 by William Park.  This is recorded in Estill County Marriage Book A, Page 170.

They appear on the 1850 Estill County Census, Series M432, Roll 198, Page 59A.  They are recorded in Dwelling 178, Family 178.

On the census, we find Samuel, age 29, born in Tennessee and working as a laborer.  Rutha is there, age 18 and born in Kentucky.  Their eldest son, William, is listed as 6/12 (6 months) and born in Kentucky. This family was visited on 22 August 1850.  If the birth date given for William is true, he was born about February 1850.

The growing family also appear on the 1860 Estill County Census, Series M635, Roll 365, Page 116.  They are recorded as Dwelling 770, Family 770 and were visited on 27 July 1860.

Samuel is listed as 39 years old and born in Tennessee.  He's again listed as a laborer with the value of his real estate owned as 50 and his personal estate as 30.  Rutha is there as well, listed as 28 years old and born in Kentucky.  The family has grown now to included the four children listed above:
  1. William, age 10, born in Kentucky and attending school
  2. George W., age 6, born in Kentucky and attending school
  3. Dianah, age 3, born in Kentucky
  4. Marshall, age 2/12, born in Kentucky
Diana's birth was recorded as May 1856 on the rolls.  This can be found on the Kentucky Birth, Marriage and Death Records 1852 - 1910 microfilm.  These can be found at the Kentucky State Archives in Frankfort, Kentucky - Rolls 994027 - 994058 for the entire state.  While her brother, George, was born in 1854, I wasn't able to find him on the rolls.

With regards to Samuel's military records, I found where he had signed up for the draft, at age 42, on 1 July 1863 in Irvine, Estill County, Kentucky.  This was found on in the Records of the Provost Marshal General's Bureau (Civil War); Consolidated Enrollment Lists, 1863-1865.  Interestingly, there is another  Samuel Fox listed on the same page as signing up for the draft in neighboring Madison County.  

According to Samuel's muster rolls, he enlisted in Co. E, 47th Kentucky Infantry on 17 Aug 1863.  He was mustered into service on 5 October 1863 in Irvine, Estill County, Kentucky, joining for the period of 1 year.  His attendance, per these rolls, is as follows:

  1. Enlistment / October 31, 1863 - Present
  2. November / December 1863 - Present
  3. January / February 1864 - Present
  4. March / April 1864 - Absent from March 18"/64, Recovering from sickness in Estill County, Kentucky
  5. May / June 1864 - Present
  6. July / August 1864 - Present
  7. September / October 1864 - Not available
  8. November / December 1864 - Not available
  9. Muster-out roll - 
Samuel appears on the Muster Out roll dated 26 December 1864.  He mustered out in Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky.  According to the documentation, he was last paid up to 31 August 1864. 

After this, according to the family story, he was brought home by the man on the white horse.

Now, this brings us forward to that warm March day.  We found the cemetery and walked from the truck.  There were only five marked graves.  This is what we found.

Samuel Fox's headstone / John Reece Cemetery / Leighton, Estill County, Kentucky.

Rest in peace, Samuel.


  1. Wonderful! I love your inclusion of the stories as well as the documented events.

  2. Thanks, Susan. I believe there needs to be both. The documented events are important, but the stories bring them to life.

  3. Loved reading this! You did an amazing job. Thank you. I have heard the story about the white horse, but never the one of Sam Sr.
    Can't wait to see what you do next!

  4. Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it!

  5. I was talking with my Grandmother this afternoon & she added some more about the story of Samuel Fox. She told me she was also told the story of Samuel being kidnapped & that the people that kept him for a long while. They were hopeing to ransome him but no-one came forward or went public to claim him so, they desided to take him to America and sell him as slave. When he got here he was sold & worked for a man for 7 years for his freedom, but the man went back on his word & made Samuel work for another 7 years before he let him go free.

  6. I am a Fox descendant through Johnny Fox. It came down to my great-grandmother that the original Samuel came over "in a pickle barrel". What a sad story.