Friday, July 28, 2017

Looking for Hightowers

Last Wednesday I drove to Kentucky to look for my illusive Hightower family records. Just to break up the trip, I stopped in La Grange, Kentucky, which is just north of Louisville. I had seen the town listed on the website Roadside America. This website, by the way, is great if you are going on a road trip and want to stop and see oddities or attractions along the way. In fact, I use it to find interesting things to see around my own city. You enter the state where you will be traveling, and a list of attractions pops up. You can also look at a map view so you can see what is along your route.

La Grange, KY
La Grange has the distinction of being one of only a couple towns in the U.S. where trains come right down Main Street. So if you hear that train a comin', you better get the heck out of the way! La Grange is a pretty little place, and it was nice to get out and stretch my legs. But sadly, none of the 20 plus trains that pass through daily chose the time I was there to make an appearance.

Melbourne, KY
My final destination was Alexandria, where I would be visiting the Campbell County Historical Society as well as the Campbell County Clerk's office. I stayed at an AirBNB for two nights in nearby Melbourne. Of course I had to take a picture of the sign. Who gets to visit Melbourne twice in two months?

I found a great little diner in Alexandria for breakfast on Thursday morning, thanks to Yelp. TripAdvisor totally let me down this time. It showed no places to eat in Alexandria. The Spare Time Grill was just what I was looking for so I could get my goetta fix. I passed the time talking to the owner and his daughter while waiting for the historical society to open at 10:00.
Spare Time Grill
Campbell County Historical Society
At 10:00 on the dot I was on the front steps of the old Campbell County Courthouse. I believe that it was constructed in the 1840s, but was heavily remodeled in 1928. It is still an impressive building, nonetheless. On the second floor lies the collection of the Campbell County Historical and Genealogical Society.

There was one volunteer in the building, and she was extremely helpful. Many of their records are online, and I had searched their site extensively before coming on the trip. But family files and some church files are not online, so I looked through those. She helped me brainstorm other areas that I might look, and probably most importantly indicated what records would and would not be located at the other Campbell County Courthouse in Newport (yes, Campbell County has two courthouses, just to make things even more difficult and confusing), as well as the holdings of the Campbell County Library in Newport. She saved me a lot of time looking for genealogy love in all the wrong places.

county clerk's office
Unfortunately, I found nothing new in their archives, and she sent me on my way to the county clerk's office. Though mostly used for licensing cars and drivers, this office also has old documents such as marriage bonds, deeds, wills, etc. It's a rare situation in that you are allowed to pull the books off the shelves and look through them. As the shelving area was right across from the license renewal desk, there were interesting conversations for me to listen to as I looked through the materials. I will say that the staff was much more friendly and helpful than any of the license offices I have had to go into around here.  While I found deed information for the man who may or may not be my 4 times great-grandfather as well as some other Hightowers who may or may not be brothers of my 3 times great-grandfather Thompson Hightower, there was nothing to tie them all together definitively. I took scans of all the deeds just in case.

I did find the original the original marriage bond that was posted for Thompson Hightower and Elizabeth Hopper. Marriage bonds were popular in the 1700s and early 1800s. It was essentially a declaration of an intent to marry. The groom-to-be would go to the courthouse with a bondsman, typically the father or brother of the bride-to-be, and posted a bond indicating his intention to marry. No money was paid at the time of the posting, but if the marriage did not occur then the would-be groom would pay the amount stated on the bond, in this case 50 pounds.

Marriage Bond
The Campbell County bonds had been indexed and that index appears online, so I knew the substance of the document. The bondsman in this case was J.P. Piner, an uncle of Elizabeth's, with whom she had lived from the age of 6. I had assumed (and you know what they say about assuming) that her parents were deceased. I do not know their names, so I have no idea if Piner was her mother's brother, or he could have been a brother-in-law to either of Elizabeth's parents. But when I saw the original document, there was a hand-written note that stated Elizabeth's "father is willing that a marriage license might be issued..." Her father was alive in 1838! For whatever reason, he had not been able to care for Elizabeth since she was about 6. Maybe his wife was ill or deceased, or maybe he was simply too poor to take care of her. Either way, it gives me another clue in looking for her father. Too bad they didn't list his name.

The next morning I bid my AirBNB adieu and drove north to Newport. Here I found The World Peace Bell, one of more than 20 peace bells located around the world. It was the world's largest free swinging bell from 2000-2006. It weighs 66,000 pounds, is 12 feet in diameter and 12 feet high. I found out about it through the above-mentioned Roadside America. It was pretty impressive to see, though I did not hear it ring while I was in the area.
World Peace Bell
After I grabbed a quick lunch in Newport, I went to the Campbell County Library, which had little genealogical information, and then headed over to Covington. The Kenton County Library has a lot of good stuff, but I have spent quite a bit of time there in the past. This visit I was focused on seeing if I could find out anything about the Baptist churches that were in the area in 1838 as I had found that Thompson Hightower and Elizabeth Hopper were married by a Baptist minister. Unfortunately the Baptists are not as organized as the Catholics, so I struck out there as well. It was time to get the heck out of dodge, and so I traveled across the river to Cincinnati, where I spent the rest of the weekend with my cousins and aunts. More on that in the next post.

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