Wednesday, May 06, 2020

An Ancestor Named Kitty, May 6, 2020

My gift of John Marshall 
to the people of the United States 
was the proudest act of my life.
~President John Adams (1735-1826)

In a recent post I wrote about Cindy's Civil War era ancestors Julius Caesar Vessels and his wife Narcissus from northern Alabama. The Grandmother of Narcissus Vessels was a woman named Katharine "Kitty" Keith, Cindy's 4X Great Grandmother. She is the link to our impressive Keith ancestors of early America. Below is a 12 generation lineage that includes Kitty Keith, and traces this family line back to 17th Century Scotland. I included this in a recent post but I am sharing it again to highlight two of the oldest individuals in this lineage.
  • Preslea Maida Shepard, b. 2010, the daughter of...
  • Nathan Shepard, b. 1977 (wife Chenda Sou) the son of...
  • Cindy Harris Shepard, b. 1948 (husband Steve Shepard), child of
  • Sammie Joe Harris, 1922-1999 (wife Paula Hicks), son of...
  • Mary Lee McGowan, 1899-1985 (husband Fred Harris) child of
  • Edna Pearl Vessels, 1882-1967 (husband S. A. McGowan) child of
  • Fannie Narcissus Bradford, 1845-1891 (husband Julius Caesar Vessels) child of
  • Jesse David Bradford, 1813-1885 (wife Mary Chandler) son of...
  • Katherine Keith, 1779-1831 (husband James Bradford) child of...
  • Alexander Keith, 1748-1822 (wife Margaret Harned) son of...
  • James F. E. Keith, 1696-1752 (wife Mary Isham Randolph), son of...
  • William Keith, 1663-1712 of Peterhead, Scotland
Katherine "Kitty" Keith was born in 1779 just 3 years after the establishment of our country, and was born into one of the founding families of the United States. The Keith Family was from Fauquier County, Virginia, 60 miles southwest of Washington, DC. 

James F. E. Keith (1696-1752)
A Missionary to the Colonies. Kitty was the granddaughter of an immigrant from Scotland named James Francis Edward Keith. Born in the town of Peterhead on the east coast of Scotland, James Keith was ordained an Anglican minister in January, 1729. Just two months later he received a grant from the King enabling him to secure passage to America. He was in essence a Christian missionary from Europe to the American colonies. He arrived in 1728 and settled in Virginia. His first assignment was at St John's Church, located on the plantation of the esteemed Randolph family, where he spent 4 years. At 35 years old James married the teenage daughter of the Randolphs, a 17 year old named Mary Isham Randolph, but not without questions raised about its appropriateness.

The Elk Run Church. James then served as the first minister of the historic Elk Run Anglican Church in Catlett, Virginia. He served the Elk Run Church faithfully for nearly 20 years, during which time he and his young wife Mary brought 8 children into the world. Rev. Keith died sometime in the winter of 1752 leaving his wife Mary with eight children between the ages of 18 and 4 years. Of their five sons, James Keith Jr. spent his life as a lawyer, while the other four fought in the American Revolution. James and his wife Mary are buried under the chancel of the old Elk Run Anglican Church.

Katherine "Kitty" Keith
Their youngest son Alexander Keith was a child of 4 when his father died. In the early years of America, Alexander Keith, like several others in his family, migrated westward down the Shenandoah Valley along the Cumberland Trail and settled in Kentucky and Tennessee. It was a popular westward route made famous by Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone. In Kentucky Alexander Keith married Margaret Harned, with whom he had 14 children, the second of whom was the aforementioned Katherine "Kitty" Keith.

One of 83 Cousins. James and Mary Keith had 8 children, each of whom married and had large families resulting in at least 83 grandchildren. Kitty Keith was therefore one of 83 cousins, spread out from Virginia to Tennessee. With communication being slow in the early 19th century, and with all those Keith descendants spread out all over the frontier, those cousins may not have even know each other.

We do know, however, that many of those 83 Keith grandchildren were notable citizens on the young American frontier. Kitty's brother was Judge Charles Fleming Keith who studied law in Virginia before spending his life as a Circuit Judge in McMinn County, Tennessee. Other Keith grandchildren included Elder Benjamin Franklin Keith and Elder Enos Keith, who were well known Baptist ministers in Hardin County, Kentucky.
Supreme Court Chief Justice 
John Marshall (1755-1835)

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The most famous individual in this part of our family tree was John Marshall, a Grandson of James and Mary Keith, and a cousin of Kitty Keith. He entered the Continental Army in 1775 at age 20 and was appointed lieutenant. He fought with George Washington during the harsh 1777-1778 winter of Valley Forge. After the Revolutionary War, at the age of 24 John studied law at the College of William and Mary. In August 1780 he was admitted to the Bar in Fauquier County, Virginia. In March 1801 President John Adams appointed John Marshall as Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, a position he kept until 1835. Prior to serving on the Supreme Court, he was Secretary of State during the Presidency of John Adams. Later Adams said, "My gift of John Marshall to the people of the United States was the proudest act of my life." 

An Ancestral Journey Across America. Kitty Keith's father Captain Alexander Keith served honorably in the Revolutionary war in the Virginia 10th Regiment. After the war he made his way with his family to Hardin County, Kentucky. It was there that their oldest daughter Kitty met James Bradford and together they made a life for themselves and their 7 children. Kitty and husband James moved the family on westward into Tennessee and finally into Alabama. After the Civil War their descendants moved to North Texas and Oklahoma where Cindy's parents were born. World War II brought the family into California, first to the San Joaquin Valley, and finally to San Diego. The image below shows the route of the 300 year, 3,300 mile, migration of this part of Cindy's Keith ancestors from Catlett, Virginia on the East Coast to San Diego on the West Coast.

The route of a 300 Year Migration 3,300 miles across America
from Northern Virginia to Southern California
This is just one of the many family stories that can be told of our ancestors as they made their way across this great land of ours. It is one more story of kinfolk whose lives teach us, inspire us and give us hope.
- - -
Steve Shepard
(he, him, his)

No comments: