Madison County Families
Kentucky Pioneers and Their Descendants
This site created by and maintained by Robert J. Parks, 11 Regents Park Lane, Frankfort, KY 40601-3845
© Robert J. Parks 2009-2016
This site created by and maintained by Robert J. Parks, 11 Regents Park Lane, Frankfort, KY 40601-3845
© Robert J. Parks 2009-2013
All the Park/Parke/Parks/Parkes familes of Madison County, Kentucky, are descended from Roger Parke, who migrated from northern England to western New Jersey about 1680. In the 1700s, a new English Royal Proprietor challenged the land titles held by Roger’s descendants and evicted them. They moved first to what is now West Virginia and later migrated to the Piedmont of North Carolina.
About 1795 four Parke families migrated from Rowan County, N.C., to Madison County, Ky. (1) Allen settled on Owsley Fork near Big Hill/Pilot Knob. His descendants used the Park spelling, but nearly all of them moved out of state by 1900. (2) Allen’s brother, Ebenezer, settled first in what is now Estill County and later moved to the Madison County side of Drowning Creek. His descendants are overwhelmingly “Park.”
First cousins (3) Timothy and (4) Charles Sr. settled on Otter Creek near Red House. (They are second cousins of Allen and Ebeneezer.) Nearly all of Timothy’s descendants maintained the original “Parke” while Charles Sr.’s descendants have consistently used “Parks” starting with William in the late 1800s. The Parkes branch is descended from Charles Sr.’s grandson John White Parkes.
Charles Sr. bought 100 acres of land on the north side of what is now East Bill Eades Road 1.4 miles west of Otter Creek. On the 1876 map of Madison County this site is shown as being the home of J. Parks, grandson of Charles Sr. who bought the land at auction in 1831 and later increased it to 181 acres. When this James Parks died in 1885, the property went to his only child, Catherine Grimes. After her death, it was sold to Wilson Eades in 1906. There are no records, but it is reasonable to believe – given the customs at the time – that Charles Sr. and his wife, Catherine Pew are buried on this land. There is a Grimes Cemetery on the property.
By the time Charles Sr. died in 1831 most of his descendants had moved to Ohio, Indiana or Missouri. That included Charles Jr., who moved to Indiana about 1830 along with his wife and some of his children. By this time the only child of Charles Jr. left in Madison County was Merrill Parke, who married Susannah Gentry. Before his death at age 40 in the 1849 cholera epidemic, Merrill and Susannah had three boys and three girls.
William, the oldest, married Mary Crews and is shown on the 1876 map as living on the Brookstown Road. His brother James married Margaret Denny, and in 1876 they are living on Red House Road on the farm where the Parks/Gentry Cemetery is located. His sister Susan married James Pike Denham who was living just north of his brother-in-law James in 1876. Further down Otter Creek at Red House is Merrill’s daughter Elizabeth and her husband, Henry Clay Embry. Son Thomas Parks had moved to Jessamine County, and daughter Sythia Jane who married Clifton Barnes in 1871 apparently died soon thereafter.
Thus, in 1876, four of Merrill’s six children were living within a few miles of each other along Otter Creek not far from where their great grandfather had settled in the 1790s. Of the six children, three (William, James and Susan along with their spouses) are buried in the Parks/Gentry Cemetery.
William’s children also stayed close to the ancestral home. Of the nine who lived to adulthood, five died in Madison County and a sixth in Estill County. Another Fanny, who married Nathan Reid, moved to and died in Mississippi, but her family insisted that she be buried in the Parks/Gentry Cemetery (which she is).
William’s son James followed the family tradition. He settled just up the road from his father, and all his children lived and died in Madison County: Richard Fowler, William Francis, Mary Lucy (Noland), Amanda Turpin (Parke), Nancy Charity (Powell), Fanny Sue (Griggs) and Eliza Catherine (Parke).
Gentry ancestry is very prominent in the Parks lineage because Susannah Gentry’s parents were first cousins. The line goes back to Samuel Gentry and his son, Nicholas Gentry I, who came from England to Virginia in 1684. A large Gentry clan moved from Albemarle County, Virginia, to Madison County, Kentucky between the settlement of Boonesborough and about 1800. Most of them settled along Otter Creek.
One of the clan, David Gentry, became rich and famous. Another of the clan moved to the Missouri territory and became the first elected governor of that state.
The Crews line is not crystal clear beyond William Crews, the father of Mary Crews. William is apparently the son of Robert Crews, who may be the son of Richard Crews, who was in Jessamine County before moving to Madison. They were probably related to the Crews clan that migrated to Kentucky from Virginia in the late 1700s.
Mary Crews mother was Nancy Bruce whose family came from North Carolina and owned substantial tracts of land around Union City in the 1800s. Nearly all the Crews family members had migrated west by the 1870s.
It is hard to separate these two families because they were closely associated over a long period of time. The Fowlers came from England and settled in Maryland before migrating to Kentucky soon after the settlement of Boonesborough. They settled on land along Otter Creek between Richmond and Boonesborough and became successful farmers.
The Scudders left England and settled in Massachusetts about 1635. Subsequent generations moved to the New York City area and then to New Jersey. Mathias Scudder moved to Rowan County, North Carolina, and was living there at the same time the Parke clan from New Jersey was living there. His son, William died in Georgia, leaving a young widow and son, William. They moved to Kentucky between 1800 and 1810. She died about 1810. It is not clear who raised young William, but he apparently settled in the Otter Creek area. He subsequently married Lucy Fowler, the daughter of Richard Fowler Sr. and Nancy Summers.
Richard Sr. and Nancy and William Scudder Sr. and Lucy are all buried in the Fowler/Scudder Cemetery near Red House. Then Nancy, daughter of William Scudder and Lucy Fowler, married Thomas S. Fowler. All we know of his ancestry is that his mother’s name was Denisa or Denisy. The story passed down in the family is that he was a “woods colt” – the name given a young horse when a mare went off into the woods and returned in foal. Apparently, he never told anyone who his father was – if he knew.
One clue is that the oldest child of Thomas and Nancy was born in Estill County, suggesting that he was a member of the family of Fowlers in Estill County who had migrated from the Otter Creek area. On his death certificate, the lines for both mother and father are “don’t know.” Attempts to find a Denisa Fowler in public records has been unsuccessful. We don’t know her last name for sure. But she was remembered and honored: Thomas and Nancy named their youngest daughter, the mother of Richard Fowler Parks, Lucy Denisa Fowler.
While we know little of Thomas Fowler’s ancestry, we know a great deal about his life. Born in 1828, he married Nancy Scudder in 1852 and over the next 10 years they had six living children. When the Civil War began, he signed up with the Confederacy in the late summer of 1862 along with his brothers-in-law, Ira N. and Richard Fowler Scudder, and scores of other Madison County men from prominent families. This was right after the Confederates won the Battle of Richmond and at a time when many southerners thought the war would be over in a matter of weeks.
Thomas served as a wagonmaster in a unit headed by David Waller Chenault, who was killed in a battle in early 1863. James B. McCreary, who would subsequently be twice elected governor of Kentucky, took over the unit. Later that year, they joined with John Hunt Morgan on a fateful raid into Ohio. On July 19, they were captured on Bluffington Island in Ohio. Thomas and Ira were sent to the infamous Union prison in Chicago, Camp Douglas. Ira escaped, but Thomas stayed in custody of the Yanks until May, 1865.
While he was in prison, Nancy died. When he got home, his six children were living with Nancy’s unmarried siblings and their widowed mother in the family homestead on Campbell’s Branch. In 1867, Thomas married Mary E. Williams in Madison County and moved by 1870 to Woodford County with his new wife and his four boys. The two girls stayed with the Scudders.
In Woodford County, Thomas and Mary had two children, Nannie Belle and Thomas Field. He entered the livery business for a short time with a fellow POW, he farmed in the Mortonsville area, and he was a toll gate keeper on the Troy Pike. He kept in touch with his family in Madison County. Not long before he died in 1923 at age 94, he was in Richmond and got into a discussion on the Courthouse Square with a Union veteran of about the same vintage. The discussion led to a scuffle; younger bystanders had to separate the two old coots.
One of the oft-told family stories centers on Aunt Becky Shearer. Aunt Becky was wealthy and gave money to Centre College to establish free tuition for her relatives. When Paul wanted to go to college and medical school, Richard Fowler Parks tried to determine if any of her money was still available.
Aunt Becky Shearer was Rebecca Fowler, the sister of Lucy Fowler, who married William J. Scudder Sr., the parents of Nancy Scudder, the mother of Lucy Denisa Fowler, mother of Richard Fowler Parks. Aunt Becky married James Shearer, son of Matthew Shearer, owner of hundreds of acres of land in Madison County up river from Boonesborough. In 1860, Rebecca and James, residents of Elliston, had $10,000 in real estate and nearly $9,000 in personal property, which would have included the dozen slaves listed as being owned by James Shearer in 1860. James and Rebecca apparently had no children. James died in 1870; Rebecca in 1881. Both are buried in the Fowler/Scudder Cemetery.
The bicentennial history of Madison County provides the context for Aunt Becky’s gift. After the Civil War, prominent Richmond residents, most of them supporters of the Confederacy, began raising money to establish Central University in Richmond as an alternative to the pro-Union Berea College. One of the fund-raising gimmicks was free tuition in perpetuity in exchange for a significant contribution. After a few years, the fledgling college couldn’t keep its promises and essentially went bankrupt. The Presbyterian Church, which had supported the school in Richmond, established a new school, Centre College, in Danville.
Aunt Becky’s money was long gone by the 1940s.
While nearly all of Richard Fowler Parks’ ancestors were farmers, the Scudders were among the first to venture into other endeavors. W. J. Scudder Jr. had a store at Union on the 1876 map; he also apparently had a “by subscription school” there too. Richard “Uncle Dick” Scudder, the civil war veteran, was a school teacher in 1870 and was instrumental in the establishment of Union City High School in 1913. He is included in a photograph of “Morgan’s Men” in “Madison County: 200 Years in Retrospect.”
All the ancestors of Richard Fowler Parks appear to be English except Mary Quick, who was Dutch. Her ancestors settled in New York and later moved to New Jersey and on to North Carolina about the same time as the Parke families did. Another family that came from North Carolina along with the Parke clan was the Runyons. One Runyon married a Fowler, and of several buried in the Fowler/Scudder Cemetery, few ever married. Others in the Runyon clan from Otter Creek helped start the Shaker Community in Mercer County, which may explain the dearth of marriages.
The Parke families were Quakers in England and in New Jersey. That allegiance weakened in North Carolina. There is no evidence that they tried to remain Quakers in Kentucky. The Crews were also Quakers in Virginia but strayed during the American Revolutionary War period. Other ancestors were likely Quakers or Baptists in England; both groups were harassed from time to time by the Crown and the official state church, the Anglican Church. A major source of friction was that the government in England forced Quakers and Baptists to pay tithes to the Anglican Church.
It appears that nearly all of the ancestors of Richard Fowler Parks emigrated from England in the 1600s or early 1700s. They first settled on the Eastern seaboard and later moved west in search of land and freedom from government oppression. The first few generations of ordinary Americans living in English Colonies had to pay rents to the Royal government and tithes to the Anglican Church, just like in England, except it was easier to evade both the government and the church on the American frontier. The only way to get ownership of property was to get a grant from the King or Queen; something that ordinary citizens were unable to do.
The Parke families moved from New Jersey to North Carolina after being evicted by a Royal proprietor. At the time, North Carolina had a governor who promoted land ownership and did not harass citizens. It was a great opportunity. The families who first settled in Maryland and Virginia – Crews, Fowler, Gentry – moved over several generations from the Chesapeake Bay area to the Piedmont of Virginia, then to Kentucky after Boone established Boonesborough.
There is no record of any Parks serving in any capacity in the military until World War II. Perhaps the Quaker heritage was a major influence for many generations. Nor did any Parks ancestors own slaves. Some of the Parke, Park and Parkes family members did, but there is no evidence that any of Richard Fowler Parks’ direct Parks ancestors ever owned slaves.
The Fowlers and Scudders got involved in the Civil War on the Southern side; both families owned slaves.
In my research, the only Parks ancestor ever to sign a public document with an “X” was Charles Parke Sr., on his last will and testament in 1818 just before his death.