Family History - Chapter I by Coyen Thomas Ledford II

Ledford History as told by Thomas Coyen Ledford II - Chapter I

July 7, 1999

Three young Ledford brothers decided to leave England and their families behind. The year was 1738. They were farmers living near the seaport of Lancaster, England.

Leaving their farm near the seaport of Lancaster, England in 1738, three young brothers, John age 14, William, age 16, and Henry, age 18, boarded a ship named Walpool.The name of the ship's captain was Patton. About four months later they landed in the Tidewater area of Virginia. John, age 14, was the youngest of the three brothers. He was the Great, Great Great, Great, Great Grandfather of Thomas Coyen Ledford III and Cynthia Susan Ledford Christian. They had paid their passage by agreeing to work for Patton, the ship's captain, on his plantations in Virginia for seven years. This truly was an act of faith and courage.

After paying their debt of seven years of labor on the plantations owned by Patton, they moved farther inland. They married and started families of their own. Still living in Virginia, John Sr. married a. young lady named Lucy. She was the Great, Great, Great, Great, Great Grandmother of Thomas Coyen Ledford III and Cynthia Susan Ledford Christian. There were about twelve children born to this union- One of the older children was a boy named John Jr. born in 1752. He was to be the Great, Great, Great, Great, Grandfather of Thomas Coyen Ledford III and Cynthia Susan Ledford Christian. About three years later, Henry, the oldest brother was killed while fighting with the Militia against the Shawnee Indians. He left a wife and seven children behind at his death. The same year, about 1755, the families decided to move to the Carolinas because of the danger from the Indians.

John Ledford Sr. died while living in the Carolinas in the year 1799. He was 75 years old. Three years later, John Jr. made a decision to move to the bluegrass area of Kentucky. He took with him a married daughter, Betty Ledford Smith, her husband Henry, and their 13-year-old son Aley. While traveling through the Cumberland Gap toward the Bluegrass of Kentucky in a covered wagon pulled bv two yoke of oxen, they cai-nped near a large tree. That night during a bad storrn, the tree was blown down and landed across the wagon where John Jr. and his wife were sleeping. They were both killed in the accident. Aley, the 13-year-old son, helped bury both of his parents that day on a knoll overlooking the Cumberland Gap Trail. They wrapped them both together in the warm cover and laid them to rest in a fresh dug grave.

A very brave and lonely 13-year-old boy became a man that day in the year of 1802, as he threw a handful of dirt into the graves of his mother and father. As their bodies were lowered into the ground, a large stone was rolled into place to mark their final resting place as Elizabeth "Betsy" Farmer the little girl who would six years later become his wife stood by his side. The dream of the journey to the bluegrass area of Kentucky ended with the death of young Aley's parents. Their plans had been changed. They now had no choice but to travel with the Farmer's and the Skidmore's, who were headed east to settle on Martins Fork and Cranks Creek in what is now Harlan County, Kentucky. Aley helped his sister build a small two bedroom cabin at the intersection of Martins Fork and Cranks Creek. He lived there with his sister Betty until he was 19 years old.

The year was 1808. Aley was 19 years old. He had fallen in love with Elizabeth "Betsy" Fanner, the little girl who had stood by the graveside with him on the Cumberland Gap Trail as as his mother and father were burried. Six years had passed. Aley and Betsy were married in the home of his sister Betty. They were ready to raise a family of their own. They were the Great Great, Great Grandparents of Thomas Coyen Ledford III and Cynthia Susan Ledford Christian. The following year was 1809. Their first child was born. They named him John, after his father. When their son John was grown, he moved to the Red River area of Kentucky, leaving his parents still living in Harlan County where Aley and Betsy lived for the remainder of their lives. Aley died in 1873, at the age of 84. He was buried on the hill above his house on Cranks Creek where he and Betsy had lived since they were married in the year of 1809. Betsy lived to be one hundred years old.

John Ledford was born on July 25, 1809. His first wife was Martha Napier. They had two children. After Martha died, John married Melissa Skidmore. John and Melissa were the Great, Great Grandparents of Thomas Coyen Ledford III and Cynthia Susan Ledford Christian. The names of their children were as follows:

  • Frank Ballanger - born 1842
    Henry Clay-born 1852
    John - born 1844
    Caswell - born 1855
    Margaret-born 1845
    Noble Smith - born 1857
    Aley -born 1848
    John - born 1860
    Sarah- born 1850

    John Ledford, as far as we know lived in a three county area, Menefee, Powell and Wolf counties of Kentucky. These three counties are where he raised his faniily. They join each other in the general area of the Daniel Boone National Forest and the Natural Bridge State Park. John died in the year 1907 at the age of 96. John was the oldest child of Aley and Betsy "Farmer" Ledford who had traveled through the Cumberland Gap of Kentucky in the year of 1802 at ages 13 and 11.

    Aley Ledford was born on May 16, 1848. His first wife was Patsy Gilbert. They had five children as follows:

  • Nancy Lola - born 1868 ... married Santford Wills
    Ballanger- born 1870.. married Rebecca Rose
    Rushie - born ?.... married Bill Ratcliff
    Will Henry-born 1873.. married Emma Lawson
    Jerome........ born 1878.. married Mintie Branaham

    The year was the winter of 1880 and 1881. Aley's wife Patsy died. She left behind five children ages 3 to 13 years of age. This was a trying time for this young family. Aley was 32 years old. His oldest daughter, Nancy Lola, was only 13. Aley Ledford had some decisions to make. His children needed a mother and he needed a wife. He remembered that Green Berry Wills, who lived about 10 miles away, had a beautiful red headed daughter. Her name was Martha Jane Wills. He knew the family well. He had stopped there on several occasions. Aley decided to make a visit to the Green Berry Wills home.

    [Stanford Wills was the brother of Martha Jane Wills Ledford]

    Aley Ledford made his way to the Green Berry Wills home. Things began to happen- Aley was 32. Martha Jane was 33. They were married May 19, 1891. Martha Jane Wills Ledford was the oldest of six children. She had lots of experience with children. She had taught school. She also had helped her mother raise five younger brothers and sisters. Now she was the mother of a ready-made family of five. Nancy Lola was the oldest. She was 13. Jerome, the youngest, was 4. The first house with Aley and the five children was a three-room log cabin with a loft. When bedtime came, the children climbed a ladder made of round hickory poles, notched and tied together with rawhide. Martha Jane was a small woman. She had strong character and spiritual strength as well as determinations. These five children would be the half brothers and sisters of the children of Martha Jane and Aley. Aley was a live stock trader. That was the way he made a living for his family. Traveling by horse through the Red River area and other counties in Eastern Kentucky. Sometimes as far east as Pike County, where he bought cattle and horses. Driving them back to the Ledford area to be sold. He would often be away from home for ten days or more at a time. Aley and Martha Jane were the Great Grandparents of Thomas Coyen Ledford III and Cynthia Susan Ledford Christian.

    Aley and Martha Jane had four children, one died at birth. They were as follows.

  • Green Berry ... born March 19, 1882-He was named after his Grandfather Green Berry Wills
  • Thomas Coyen... born September 27,1885
  • Etta................. born November 29,1888
    'I'he year was 1900. Aley was 52. Martha Jane was 53. Green Berry was 18, Thomas Coyen was 15, and Etta was 12. The youngest of Aley's children was Jerome..he was 22.

    'I'he year of 1900 was to be a tragic year of the Ledford family. On July 25, 1900, Green Berry died. On August 2, 1900, Etta died. A short time later that same year of 1900, Aley died. Martha Jane had lost her husband and two of her three children in the space of weeks and months. Thomas Coyen had lost his father, a brother, and a sister. Martha Jane had trusted Christ as her Savior as a young girl. She knew how to pray. She knew that God would give her the Grace to go on. He would supply her needs and the needs of her son.

    Martha Jane and Thomas Coyen continued to live in the Red River area. Aley's children had all taken on the responsibility of families of their own. During the next several years they all pitched in to help. They all loved Martha Jane and she loved them. She had taken their mother's place as much as possible. Thomas Coyen worked at different things. Sometimes farm work and at other times he worked in the timber industry. During those years the logging and timber business was going strong in that area and further east in Pike County. The steam engine was being used to power the portable sawmills. The engines were built on wheels and hauled into the remote areas of virgin timber, The logs were hauled to the portable sawmills with teams of mules or yokes of oxen. Thomas Coyen had been working on getting an education- He had attended Berea. A school that helped students pay their own way through a work program. The school is still in existence today. Almost ten years had passed since the tragedy of the year 1900. Thomas Coyen would be 25 years old on September 27th. The year was 19 10. They were seriously considering moving to Pike County.

    The logging and lumber business was going strong in Pike County, about 80 miles east. Thomas Coyen had worked there for some of the past three years. He had made some good friends in Pike County. One of those friends was John Little. John would remain a life long friend. He and John worked together in the timber business. Coyen as friends called him, never had a problem getting a job at the saw mills, neither did John. Coyen was an expert in figuring the exact amount of board feet in a pile of lumber, and John was an expert in knowing the kind of tree it was sawed from. When John stacked a pile of poplar oak, ash, or hickory, or what ever it Was, you could count on John being right. They were both hard working young men and could be counted on to do their job. John Little will later play a major role in the life of the Coyen Ledford family. Coyen shared some interesting stories with his sons about some of the times that. he and John would go together in their courting days. No cars, no televisions, no movie theaters, no electric lights, no telephones, and no radios. You had to have a real good sense of humor and be a good listener, as well as a good talker to be good at courting in those days. They both qualified.

    The early spring of the year 1910, Martha Jane "Wills" Ledford and her son Coyen made the final decision to make the move to Pike County, Ky. Coyen had a job waiting for him at Stewart, Ky. A band saw mill powered by a portable steam engine was in operations at the-forks of Caney near the Stewart Ky. Post Office and the country store owned by Andrew Jackson Stewart. A one room schoolhouse was also located near by. Coyen had completed two years of school at Berea and had plans to take his test in Pike County to get his teachers certificate. -the move would be light. Martha Jane had a large trunk that would hold her small personal belongings, as well as a thing or two that she would need at her new home. She would leave behind Aley's children and the half brothers and sisters of her son Coyen. She would also leave behind the graves of Aley, Green Berry, and Etta, knowing that she would not be returning- They all had died in the year of 1900. They were buried side by side near Campton in what would later be called the Ledford Cemetery. Martha Jane knew in her heart that this move was the right thing to do. She looked forward to it. She had spent some time on her knees talking to God, She knew that he was working out his will in their lives.

    Coyen made a final trip to Pike County, (Stewart, Ky.). He had the promise of a house, owned by the J.H. Newsome family. It was a three-room house located at the mouth of Newsome Branch- It was about one mile from the Stewart, Ky. U.S. Post Office and the general store owned by Andrew Jackson Stewart, who was also the postmaster, The post office was located in the store. A one-room wood frame schoolhouse stood about one thousand feet from the store. Jack and Nan Stewart as their neighbors called them, lived just across the creek from the store and post office. They had a large family, five boys and three girls. If you needed a pair of shoes, cloth for a dress, or food for the family, you could find it at the Stewart General Store. If you needed something made from a piece of iron, Jack had a blacksmith shop. in a real pinch, if your toothache was bad enough, Jack kept an old-fashioned tooth extractor that could relieve you of your pain and your tooth. Andrew Jackson and Nancy Caroline Stewart would later make a great contribution to the Ledford family. Coyen rented and furnished the little house at the mouth of Newsome Branch. He then made travel plans as he moved his mother Martha Jane "Wills" Ledford to Stewart, Ky.

    The fall of 1910 found Coyen and Martha Jane settled in their new home at Stewart. Martha Jane was 63. Coyen was 25. He would be getting his Kentucky School Teachers certificate in the very near future. The fall of 1913 he was hired to teach grades one through eight at the Upper Caney School in Stewart, Ky. . He was excited to have a. dream come true. He had noticed a beautiful young lady. She had caught his attention in a special way. She was the seventeen year old daughter of Jack and Nan Stewart. He saw her often as she helped her father with the post office and general store. They wasted no time. They fell in love. Family would meet Coyen Saturday morning, Feb. 13, 1914, where the road crossed the creek just below the house. She jumped up on the horse behind him and they rode to the Wilson Newsome house on Lizzie Fork of Caney Creek. There they were married by a preacher named A.N. Horn, as recorded in book # 44, page # 135, file # 10424, at the Pike County Court House, Pikeville, Ky.

    Thanks to my brother Cecil Thornton Ledford, his wife Mary "Williamson' Ledford, his daughter Maple "Ledford" Stewart, and her husband Tom Stewart. All now living in Jacksonville, Florida. Also, my oldest sister Edna "Ledford" Younce and her husband Theodore Roosevelt Younce. Who are both now in Heaven, For their contribution to a condensed version of the LEDFORD GENERATIONS story. Also, a book-- written by John Egerton, GENERATIONS-AN American Family. This book was very helpful. The -stories and dates of the Ledford Great Grandfathers back- to- when they came to America in 1738 are in this book- It helped us tie together other information we had that could not have been tied together without the book.
    The condensed Ledford story and the little truck were written and nailed together by Thom&-, Coyen Ledford. Thomas now lives with his wife Ruth Ann "Francisco" Ledford in South Point, Ohio. I am now working on Chapter Two of the Ledford generations. It will be called, THE LEDFORDS OF STEWART, KENTUCKY.