Tuesday, March 11, 2014

James Lewis Jenkins- LaGrange Pioneer

This ancestors has proven to be one of the most elusive. I’m sure it is not because he chose to be secretive but rather that back in his days, there were few official records kept. I have never been able to find an actual birth date. The only data I have for his birth is that which was reported on censuses and that can be, at times, untrustworthy. Back in the 1800s when censuses were taken, the census taker was not required to get the information from the people who actually lived in the household. Imagine a census taker on horseback out in the countryside coming to a house and no one being available to give information. He could have gotten it from nearby neighbors who probably didn’t know an actual birth year or where their neighbors were actually born. Or the census taker may may gotten the information from an older child who happened to be at home and may not have been accurate. By getting the information in these ways, the census taker would not have to make another trip back to get the information…. no telephones remember! There were all kinds of problems with those earlier censuses, so genealogists do not generally use them as proof but as good clues. When that is all you have to go on, then that is what you must use until you can locate more substantial proof. So that is where I am with James. According to census information, he was born in about 1806 in Kentucky. I have more than one census that agrees with that, so I feel somewhat comfortable that its accuracy is pretty close.
    I have also not been able to determine just where in Kentucky he was born. At this point, I strongly feel it was Bullitt County. On the map of Kentucky, you can see Bullitt County just south of Louisville. I found a history of Lewis County that had some biographies. There were three short biographies of William N, James, and George W Jenkins. This was not the James who is the subject of this writing because this James had been born in 1849. All three of these men had been born in Nelson County, Kentucky. Nelson County, as you can see on the map, is right next to Bullitt County. All three of these men are the sons of George W Jenkins, Sr. who I believe was born in Bullitt County in 1809. This is purely conjecture at this point, but I am thinking that James Lewis Jenkins and George W Jenkins, Sr. were brothers. Their birth years of 1806 and 1809 strongly suggest that possibility. That would make the three Jenkins men who were in the Lewis County history book nephews of the subject of this writing. And it might explain why all three men came to Lewis County with their widowed mother, Martha Cravens Jenkins. As I mentioned, this is all supposition at this point until I can find some proof of the possible relationship between James L and George W Jenkins, Sr. And, I might add, this is the real fun in genealogy…….. trying to find this proof! It is especially challenging when you are dealing with a time in which few birth, death, and marriage records were kept by counties. Hopefully, I will be able to report some progress in this quest in the future.

Back to James and his life, at least, what I do know. I have a land patent for some land he bought in Marion County, Missouri, which is just south of Lewis County. This happened in 1833, so I know he is in Missouri by that time. He married Nancy A Tuley on 2 July 1835 in Lewis County. Their children were daughters Mary J, Francis P, and Nancy A. They had two sons, John W and James L. The daughter named Nancy A would become known as “Nannie” Jenkins and would eventually marry William Shepherd, the parents of my great grandfather, Robert E Shepherd. In an article in a newspaper after Nannie Jenkins Shepherd died, she said her father, James L Jenkins was a tanner by trade in LaGrange. He also operated a cooper shop and owned the only undertaking business in town. That’s quite a collections of trades! He built the first brick house in LaGrange at the corner of Third and Jackson Streets. The

town of LaGrange was officially organized in 1854 and James served on the first town council.

Another interesting sidelight about James was his “disappearance” in 1850. James was on the 1840 and 1860 census in LaGrange. However, he is not listed with his family on the 1850 census there. At first, I thought the obvious…that he had died, but this was before I had located the 1860 census and found him in LaGrange. So, where was he in 1850? I did some more searching and found a James S Jenkins in Grass Valley, California. What’s going on in California in 1850? ……  think Gold Rush! James is living in a household with two other miners and he is listed as a miner. Just because it says James S and not James L on this census, I strongly believe this is our James because he is the right age and it lists Kentucky as the birth place. And this would explain his absence on the 1850 census in LaGrange. I have searched for proof of James being there and have come up empty so far. I wrote to a library out in that area but they could find nothing. I also have found nothing in Quincy newspapers about people who may have gone out West at this time, but I’ll keep looking.

The 1860 census would be the last census in which James appears. He died in 1861 and, ironically, on the 1860 census, his profession is listed as undertaker!

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