Tag Archives: Kentucky

Finding James Henry VanHook (1838-1906)

1-James Henry VanHook 1838-1906I was recently contacted by a descendent of James Henry VanHook (1838-1906) and Zerelda Ashcraft (1837-1910) who kindly shared this photo of James and Zerelda (with one of their younger daughters) taken in Cynthiana, Kentucky (probably in the 1890’s).  I’ve long known about this man and his descendants in the Harrison County, Kentucky area  – but I never knew who his parents were.  This photo, and the personal contact from his descendants, made me want to do a little research on him to see if I could place him in the broader VanHook family tree.

From his burial record in Battle Grove Cemetery in Cynthiana, we find his birth date of 1838.  Interestingly, the record also mentions he was a veteran of the Civil War – on the Confederate side.  In both the 1880 and 1900 United States census, his birthplace is given as “Indiana”  – and his birth date in the 1900 census is shown as May 1838.  I’ve been unable to locate him in the 1850, 1860 or 1870 census.

I knew his marriage to Zerelda Ashcraft was 27 November 1856 in Nicholas County, Kentucky.  Perhaps there was additional detail in that marriage record that could help.  And so there was.  In the marriage record it shows James VanHook, resident of Harrison County, age 19, with a birthplace of “Boon Co., IN.”  That was the clue we needed.  Now the question was “was there an VanHook family in Boone County, Indiana in the 1838 time frame that would indicate parentage for James Henry VanHook?”

In checking the 1840 US census for Boone County, Indiana, we find one VanHook family there – that of Elkanah VanHook.  And the family shows a single son – under 5 years old – the right age to be James.  Elkanah was one of 11 children of the famous Archelaus VanHook and Jemimah Whaley – early settlers of Harrison County, KY.  Elkanah married a Nancy Ann Blair on 10 Jan 1832 in Harrison County, then relocated to Boone County, Indiana in 1835.  That county was being subdivided and settled at the time, and was attracting people interested in cheap land (somewhat on the frontier).  Elkanah moved there (to Lebanon, IN), and stayed in the area for more than 10 years.  From that 1840 census, we know the family had 3 daughters and a son.

It is believed Nancy Ann Blair, Elkanah’s wife, died in the 1840’s and we know Elkanah ended up in Cincinnati where he died in 1849.  This information comes from a biographical narrative of their oldest daughter Sarah Elwyn VanHook (see the notes section on this link).  The names and fate of the other 2 daughters is unknown.

It’s always wonderful to make another family connection – both personally as well as tying the lines together.  Regarding James’ Civil War activity for the Confederacy – he was a corporal in Company A of the 1st Battalion Kentucky Mounted Rifles.  This group was mustered in Prestonburg, KY and fought from 1861 to 1863 in Eastern Kentucky and Tennessee. Being a border state, Kentucky contributed soldiers to both sides of that war.

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Ellison E. WIlliams (1770-1850)

Lyman Copeland Draper was a nineteenth century historian who traveled extensively and interviewed many of the people involved in the settlement of the trans-Appalachian “west” of the late 1700’s.  His work remains today in almost 500 volumes of interviews, transcripts, etc. at the Wisconsin Historical Society.

In “Series S” of those notes, volume 3, is found a very interesting interview with a Mr. Ellison E. Williams.  Ellison Williams was born in Surry County, North Carolina on 19 April 1770 (more commonly his birth year is given as 1766, but in the interview with Lyman Draper, Williams states he was born in 1770).  As a young boy, in October of 1779, he traveled to Kentucky with his father and mother – Peter and Margaret Williams.  Ellison’s father, Peter Williams, died in August of 1783 (probably killed by Indians).

About a year later, Samuel VanHook (1733-abt 1809) returned from captivity by the British and married the widow, Margaret Williams.  The young Ellison Williams then had a new step-father.  Ellison Williams then went on to have quite a colorful military career – primarily as a spy.  He became a friend and companion to Daniel Boone – and served as a pallbearer at Boone’s funeral.  Williams died 11 August 1850 in Kenton County, Kentucky.

The Draper interview is very interesting and paints a detailed picture of life on the frontier in Kentucky in the 1780’s.  Click here to read a transcription of that interview.  I would like to thank Harry Enoch for uncovering this critically important document.

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