~ Updated November 12, 2012 ~

In 1808, Marchant Thomas born 1771 in SC, arrived in Clay County Kentucky with his wife, Jemima Hamilton, born 1774 NC, and their 6 children, ranging in ages from 14 to under 5. They had spent a few years in Georgia prior to their coming to Kentucky. In 1808 there are some 326 families in Clay County and for several years they were the only Thomas family in the County. In 1810, they lived on Red Bird River near Jonathan Wilson, but by 1821 they had settled on the left fork of Cow Creek on land near Joseph Roberts.

In 1814, a male over the age of 21, named James Thomas appears on the Clay County Tax List and remains there through 1823. A brother of Marchant, or just another Thomas family from elsewhere in Kentucky, I do not know for sure, but it is highly likely that Marchant was accompanied by some of his brothers to Kentucky, and the name James is carried down through the Marchant Thomas descendants with great frequency. He could be the James Thomas, born 1775-1794, who is in Harlan County in 1820, perhaps in a section that borders Clay, which would explain why he is in and out of Clay County between the years 1819 and 1823, and is not on the 1820 Clay County Census. In 1815, Marchant is in Alcorn's Co., 80th Regt. and James is in the same regiment, but a different Co. In 1816, Marchant and his son James, who has now reached the age of 21, appear on the tax list in Alcorn's Co., 80th Regt., while the other James and a Samuel Thomas are listed in Murphy's Co., 65th Regt. In 1817, another son of Marchant, Jesse, is added to Alcorn's Company. Samuel is gone by 1818, perhaps returning to any number of Kentucky counties where his name appears both before and after he is on the Clay County tax list, and James (senior) is listed in Allerson's (or Allison's) Co., 68th Regt. in 1819.

Marchant's son Jesse marries about the same time that he appears on the tax list, in 1817, maybe even prior to that, because on the 1830 Clay County Census, he has 7 children, 3 in the 10-15 age bracket. James also marries about that time. He is living next-door to Marchant on the 1830 census and has 8 children, 2 in the 10-15 age bracket.

In 1822, Marchant's son Joseph, is added to the tax list as a male over the age of 21. After that in 1823, a Reuben Thomas and a Hamilton Thomas pop in for only the one year. I am quite sure that Reuben Thomas is the one from Garrard County who eventually ends up in Boyle County as a resident of a Tavern House. He is born 1796 in Kentucky, which further confirms that he is not a son of Marchant, since Marchant was not in Kentucky until 1808. I believe Hamilton Thomas is from Washington County, which, by the way, is where Samuel Thomas appears in 1820. Hamilton is there in 1820 & 1830 and in Marion County (formed from Washington) in 1840.

In 1824, the senior James is gone, and the next son of Marchant to appear on the tax list as a male over 21 is Isaac. Marchant's oldest daughter, Catharine, marries John S. Johnson, son of John Johnson. Also in 1824, Marchant Thomas and Joseph Roberts are paid as judges, and Elisha Bowman as clerk, in the elections that year. In 1826, Marchant's youngest daughter, Jane, marries Daniel Davidson, son of James Davidson and Mary "Polly" Morris, and about 1829 Daniel and Jane move to Indiana. Isaac marries Elizabeth Smith, the daughter of Richard Smith and his wife Margaret, in 1827, and Joseph marries Anna Jemima Couch (believed to be the daughter of Martin Couch and Sarah "Sally" Hall) in 1828. By 1829, Marchant's daughter, Elizabeth has two children by neighbor, John Wilson, son of Jonathan Wilson and Sarah "Sally" Cobb. Daughter, Mary Ellen marries another "John Wilson" in 1830 and moves to Henry County, Iowa about 1835. Also in 1830, Marchant's son, William (who signed Mary Ellen's Marriage Bond), is added to the Clay County tax list as a male over 21.

In 1833, another Jesse Thomas appears on the tax list (both names spelled Jessee this time), and then both men named Jesse leave Clay County.

In 1830, Marchant was listed as owning 50 acres of land on Southfork (of the KY River), obtained from J. Davidson (probably his daughter, Jane's, father-in-law) and in September of 1835, he sells his land on Cow Creek to Richard Reynolds. In August of 1834, Joseph Thomas has 50 acres surveyed on whiteoak waters of the South fork of the Ky River, A piece of Hiram Hibbard farm (as stated in the survey), and in December of 1835, he purchases 82 acres on the waters of White oak Creek a branch of the South fork of the Kentucky river (excerpt from the deed) from Bennett Clark of Howard County Missouri through his attorney, Robert Clark. And in 1836, Joseph acquires the 150 acres on White Oak previously belonging to Jesse Thomas. In that year Joseph's daughter Mary Elizabeth is born and she is, I believe, the namesake for the Betty Thomas Branch of White Oak Creek (see Owsley County map).

In 1837, William, Marchant's 5th son, marries Mary "Polly" McCollum., daughter of David McCollum and Rachel Morris. Joseph now owns 282 acres of land on White Oak Creek and in 1839, he sells two parcels of 50 acres each to his brother, Isaac.

Another Jessee Thomas appears on the tax list in 1840, as a male over 21, who is probably a grandson of Marchant and the one who marries Martha Combs. His name is consistently spelled Jessee on the tax lists from 1840 through 1863. Elisha Thomas, Marchant's youngest son, also appears on the tax list for the first time in 1840, and on the 1840 Clay County Census, he is married and living next-door to his brother, Isaac. It is about this time that many of the adult children of David McCollum and Rachel Morris leave for Missouri, and William Thomas accompanies his in-laws on the journey. His younger brother, Elisha, goes also, and he marries Rachel McCollum in 1844, in Platte County, MO. William may have died in the Mexican War as did his brother-in-law, Perry McCollum, and Elisha returns to Owsley County in 1846.

By the end of 1840 the Thomases left in Clay County are Marchant, James, Isaac, Joseph, and Jessee. By 1846 Isaac is on the Breathitt County tax list and when he dies in 1858, he is living on the Troublesome Creek Branch of the NF Kentucky River. From 1842 to 1846, Marchant is not on the Owsley County tax list. Being in his 70's now, he and Jemima are probably living with their children. The last time his name is seen on the Owsley County tax list is in 1848, and in 1850 he and Jemima are on the Breathitt County Census in son, Isaac's household. Marchant is on the Breathitt County tax list for the last time in 1853 and I do not find him anywhere else in Kentucky after that so he apparently died sometime after June of 1853.

New Thomas names to appear on the Owsley County tax list in 1843 are Benjamin and John, as males over 21. They are listed together with Jessee in 1843 & 1844. Then in 1845, Benjamin & Jesse are listed together and John is only a few names away. John & Jesse are together in 1846 with a new James Thomas. It is my guess that all of these young men are either brothers or cousins, sons of James or Jesse, Marchant's two oldest sons. In 1847, Jessee, James, Elisha, Joseph, and Marchant are all listed together, but John is gone and Benjamin (listed as B. F.) is with a James Thomas on the SF (as he was in 1846). He is on the Breathitt County tax list in 1848 and John is there in 1849, but I have not as yet found where Benjamin and John settled.

In March of 1843, Marchant's grandson, Jessee, born 1816, KY, marries Martha Combs, daughter of John "Jack" Combs and Rebecca Combs. By now, Joseph and Anna have 10 children, 5 boys and 5 girls.

When Owsley County is formed from Clay, Estill, and Breathitt, other Thomas families appear on the tax lists.

In 1844, Abraham Thomas, born 1770, VA, (possibly the son of James Thomas and Elizabeth Childers), is on the Owsley County Tax List with 600 acres on the South Fork of the Kentucky River. He arrived in Madison County, KY in 1807 and moved to Estill County in 1818. He was living in Estill County in 1830. According to written family history, he was a 'peculiar' man, and a 'Primitive Baptist Preacher'. His son, Cornelius, born 1800, VA, also has land on the South Fork of the Kentucky River in 1844. He first appears on the Estill county tax list with his father in 1823. He married Margaret "Peggy" McQuire in December of 1823, and in 1836, he has 180 acres on the SF KY River in Estill County. Later, in 1848, he is issued grants for 300 acres on "Elicks Branch" in Owsley County, and in 1850, 40 acres on "Elk Lick" and 50 acres on "Loges Island Branch". Although I was unable to find anything called "Elicks Br. or Loges Island", I did find Elk Lick off the Duck Fork of Sturgeon Creek in what is today Lee County, and in 1854 he has 190 acres there (see location on map). He also has 175-190 acres on Sturgeon between 1849 and 1853. Together with his land on the South Fork of the KY River, he has almost 900 acres. When Lee County is formed in 1870, Cornelius and Margaret are in the Proctor Precinct, with their Post Office at Proctor.

A new James Thomas also appears on the 1844 Owsley County tax list, with 450 acres on the SF KY River. He continues to be listed with 450 acres in 1851. On the 1850 Owsley County Census, James, born 1810, Virginia, is married to "Polly" and their oldest child is born 1844, indicating their date of marriage. He also has a son named Presley which later helps to locate him in the Proctor Precinct of Lee County, in 1870. At that time, he has a 4 year old son named Abraham. So I am assuming that he too is a son of Abraham, or at least, closely related.

Also appearing on the 1844 tax list, is Anthony H. Thomas, born 1814, and he is probably the son of Henry H. Thomas and Margaret "Peggy" Herrington. If so, he was born in Madison County, KY. He married Paulina Snowden in 1836 in Estill County. Beginning in 1849, he has 400 acres on the NF KY River that he continues to add to until, by 1856, it becomes 800 acres. It is listed as boundry property and in 1865 & 1866 it is on the Owsley/Wolfe county border, which means that his property was actually on what today would be the Lee/Wolfe county border (see the upper right corner of Lee County map). In 1870, he is in the Thomas Precinct of Lee County, with his Post Office at Beattyville.

Henry H. and Margaret (Herrington's) son, Henry C. Thomas, shows up on the Owsley County tax list in 1846. On the 1850 Estill County Census, household 58, he is married to Sally A. and they have a 7-month old son named Martin. Henry and Margaret are next-door in household 59.

In 1845 a Joseph Jr. shows up on the Owsley County Tax List just below Joseph, son of Marchant. Could he be a son of Joseph Thomas from another marriage, or just the Tax Assessor's way of distinguishing the older person from the younger one? (An example of this being done is in the case of Elisha Thomas, son of Marchant, and Elisha Thomas, son of Joseph in 1862). There is room for him to be a son of Joseph by someone other than Anna, since Joseph was 27 or 28 years old when he married Anna (in 1828), but written family history says that Abraham Thomas also had a son named "Joe", born 1823 (Jr.), in Estill county. Marchant's son, Joseph, was born in 1800 (Sr.). On the 1850 Owsley County census, Abraham's son is married to Elizabeth Brewer. They have no children, indicating that they are newly married. His mother, Lucy Johnson, is living with them. Abraham evidently died in 1850 since he is on the 1848 & 1849 Tax List with 600 acres, but is not on the 1851 or 1852 list. (The Thomas section of the 1850 Tax List on microfilm is barely readable). Joseph is listed as Jr. only often enough for us to separate him from the other Joseph. Beginning in 1848, he has 200 acres on Sturgeon Creek. In 1853, the 200 acres is broken down and 30 acres is on Wild Dog Cr., which helps us to pinpoint the section of Sturgeon Cr. that he is on (see map). In 1850, he receives a grant for 130 acres on Copperas Cave and in 1852, 30 acres on Granny Dismal (designated on map). In 1870, Joseph lives in the Proctor Precinct of Lee County near his brother Cornelius. In fact, most of the Abraham Thomas families are in the Proctor Precinct of Lee County in 1870.

After Marchant's son, Isaac, moves to the NF KY River area of Breathitt County, another Isaac Thomas appears on the Owsley County tax list, in 1844, with 150 acres on the SF KY River. This would be Abraham's son, Isaac Franklin Thomas, born 1805 in Madison County. He married Elizabeth Rankin in Beattyville, Estill County, in 1840. He received a grant that year for 150 acres on the SF of the Kentucky River in Estill County. After Owsley is formed, taking in the eastern part of Estill, he is on the tax lists there from 1844 through at least 1849, with 150 acres on the SF. Then in 1851, he has 750 acres on the SF, evidently inheriting his father, Abraham's, 600 acres. At times, Isaac's 150 acres is separated from the 600 acres and is listed as Fish Creek. At other times it is listed simply as SF. This together with the fact that all of the land was originally listed as Estill County is an indication of the area of the SF where all of the land is located (see Isaac, 1858 & Approx. Location of Abraham's 600 acres on map). When Lee County is formed in 1870, Isaac's widow is living in the Coal Branch Precinct, with her Post Office at Proctor.

As we have seen from this examination of the Clay and Owsley County tax lists through 1845, together with the Madison & Estill County tax lists (1807-1823), census records, and land grants, the Abraham Thomas families were early settlers of Estill County and were established in the area North of present day Owsley by 1844. The Marchant Thomas families were early settlers of the Clay/Owsley area and were the only families there by that name until about 1818.

Graphic by Rhio's Sampler