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Most Unusual Ancestors
Kentucky Cousins Pages

I am so glad that I have ancestors. Without them, I wouldn't be here!

Phillip Cassady

Thomas Cassady, Revolutionary War soldier, married first, Mary Corder, and second Elizabeth Hall. Both ladies were from Virginia. Cassady moved to present day Martin County, Ky. from Tazewell County, Virginia. The son of Thomas and Mary, Benjamin, b. 1800, Tazewell, settled on Coldwater Creek and was appointed to the commission to decide on a county seat when, in 1870, Martin County was established. (Prior to that its land had been in Lawrence and Pike and other adjacent counties).
Benjamin married Juliet Helvey, daughter of a German-American family whose name had originally been Helwig. As a descendant, I definitely like the name change!
Benjamin's son Phillip became the first sheriff of Martin County. He was a farmer and a businessman, owning the old Palace Hotel in "Eden" which, in those days, was the name of Inez.
Phillip was very effective in working with people and was elected to a second term. His sons, missing their busy dad, took the unusual step of attempting to bribe voters NOT to vote for their daddy!
Footnotes: County census and marriage records; Martin County Heritage, March and June 2000; Readings on Martin County, Vol. I, by Concerned Citizens of Martin County, 1983).

The story of Jenny Sellards Wiley is drawn from a variety of sources, among them the following: "Wiley, Virginia" by Trisha Morris, The Kentucky Encyclopedia (John Kleber, ed.) University of Ky. Press, 1992; William Elsey Connelly, The Founding of Harman's Station, Heritage Books, 1988; Thelma R. Crawford, Jenny Wiley, Hazard, Ky. 2000; Joseph W. Alley, Alden Williamson genealogy, Prichard, W.Va., 1962.

Jenny Wiley

Virginia (Jenny) Sellards, daughter of Hezekiah Sellards, married Thomas Wiley in 1779. The couple lived on Walker's Creek in what is now the Bland County area of Virginia. In 1789, Indians attacked their cabin, in retaliation for an attack on a chief's family by a white man - the Wiley cabin was selected by mistake. Jenny's 3 children were killed and she and her baby were captured.
The Indians took her north toward the Ohio River. Her baby was killed during the journey, and the child she was carrying when captured was killed. Jenny lived in captivity for many months, unable to escape until one day when she saw an opportunity. She traveled many miles and by good fortune, ended up on a stream across from Harman's Station, a very early structure built by Long Hunters. Henry Skaggs had stayed behind in camp as his friends hunted, and seeing the peril of Mrs. Wiley with her captors close behind, he made a raft. The Indians approached and called out to Mrs. Wiley, but Henry had already ferried her across the stream.
The hunters returned and escorted Mrs. Wiley from where she had escaped in present day Johnson County, Ky. to her home and husband in Virginia. She and Thomas Wiley had 5 more children. Today there is a state park named in Jenny's honor where each year a dramatic outdoor performance is presented based on Jenny Wiley's life. (Mrs. Wiley is a collateral ancestor by marriage through the Williamson line.)

The Alden Williamson Family

Benjamin Williamson was one of the early settlers of the Sandy Valley region. His father was Alden Williamson, said by Joseph Alley in his genealogy to have been born in 1750 in New Kent County, Virginia, son of a Hugh Williamson from Wales, England. (One researcher has raised the possibility of some of the Williamsons being from Chowan Co., N.C.) Alden served in the military, fought at Point Pleasant, and eventually died going down a raft of logs on the Tug River. Benjamin's mother was Isabel Thompson, son of Richard Thompson, a precocious youth said to have married at 14. (See the Summers books on Southwest Virginia for Richard's exploits with the wolves.) Benjamin's second wife was Susan Loar.
When Benjamin arrived, the country was still wild, and game was more prevalent. He had several sons. Son Richard married the daughter of Jenny Wiley, the lady who escaped months of captivity at Indian camps (see story at right).

Matthias Harman

Matthias Harman must have been an unforgetable person to those who met him. He was not a dramatically large man: he was just over 5 feet tall, and lean, but he was fearless and a powerful fighter. His face was angular, and framed with blonde hair and a slightly darker beard. The gaze of his blue eyes could be intense. His reputation was well known to nearby Native American tribes. He was among the Long Hunters who made extended trips into the wilderness of Kentucky, and he founded Harman's station, one of the earliest Kentucky settlements. He was among those who pursued the attackers of the Thomas and Jenny Wiley family.
Matthias was a member of a large German-American family. He was born in 1736 to in Strasburg, Va. to Heinrich Herrman (Harman); his brothers Jacob and Henry also lived nearby in Virginia.
Matthias married Lydia Skaggs, daughter of James Skaggs. The Skaggs family may also be familiar to those who have read early Appalachian history and the tales of the "Long Hunters." For those who are related, to read more about Matthias and the Harman family, the following books are recommended: Virginia Connections: A Genealogical History of the Thompson-Ward Family by Judy B. Anderson; The Big Sandy Valley by William Ely; The Founding of Harman's Station by William Elsey Connelly; The Big Sandy Valley by Willard Rouse Jillson (not a misprint! there are 2 books with this title!)and Annals of Southwest Virginia by Lewis Preston Summers. (Some of these books have only brief mentions; some much more.)