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 2009-2015
Whatever else might be said, the Jones and Shearer side of the family has the most colorful names: including Mosias, Gabriel, Brightberry, Napoleon and Sylvanus Massie. And like many other families, these two were entwined through much of the 19th century.
The parents of Lucy Ann Jones -- John Markful Jones and Edna Jane Jones – were distant cousins. Both were clearly descendants of James Shearer and Anna Lenna, and they appear to be descendants of Mosias Jones III. Appear is used because John Markful’s connection to Mosias Jones III is established by elimination and deduction, not by hard proof. However, it is clear that Edna Jane is a descendent of this frontiersman from Virginia.
The Jones pioneer in Madison County was Mosias Jr., born in 1721 in eastern Virginia and who moved west to Albemarle County (Charlottesville) in later decades. In the 1780s, several families – including Gentrys and Harrises – left Albemarle and moved to Madison County, settling mostly on Muddy Creek. With Mosias Jr. came at least three sons. By 1792, he appears on a Madison County tax list with a slave, two horses and four cattle on 100 acres of land.
Mosias III (who died about 1814) had six sons, but only Gabriel and John are important in the current context. Gabriel is clearly the ancestor of Edna Jane Jones. John Markful is descended from a John Jones, who is most likely to be the son of Mosias III, but the evidence is circumstantial.
We don’t know a great deal about John except that he and his son Merrill J. show up around Union City about 1860. Meanwhile, Gabriel was moving in the other direction. He married Anny Johnson in 1803, and they proceeded to have nine children while living in the College Hill area. After a second marriage in 1839, Gabriel moved to the Speedwell/Panola area.
Merrill J. Jones, grandfather of Lucy Ann Jones, owned a productive farm near Union City that was divided and sold after his death to Richard F. Parks and William F. Parks. Lucy’s father, John Markful Jones, was a prosperous farmer and storekeeper at Union City. He served as Union City Postmaster 1894-1897, his term coinciding with the presidency of Grover Cleveland, a Democrat.
While both John Markful and Edna Jane are descended from them, James Shearer and his wife Anna Lenna never lived in Kentucky. However, three sons, Matthew, James Jr., and Thomas, migrated from Virginia to Madison County and settled along the Kentucky River between Otter Creek and Muddy Creek in the late 1700s. John Markful is descended from James Jr. while Edna Jane’s ancestor is Thomas.
In 1840, we find Harrison Jones, son of Mosias III, living next door to Sylvanus Massie Shearer, son of Thomas, in the Otter Creek area with their young and growing families. A decade later, we find these same two families living side by side, but this time they are in northern Rockcastle County, near the community of Disputania.
We don’t know why the two families moved to Disputania, but politics and/or religion could have had something to do with it. We know that Sylvanus Massie Shearer was anti-slavery and pro-Union. He associated himself with the national effort to distribute Bibles to slaves and teach them to read, a movement supported by the Rev. John Fee, the founding president of Berea College. Some slave owners and their supporters opposed – sometimes violently – the education of slaves because it would make them more likely to want to run away. At any rate, when the Civil War erupted, Sylvanus, 56 years old, enlisted in the Union Army along with four of his sons.
Meanwhile, Sylanus’ daughter Cassander (or Cassandra) and John B. Jones, Harrison’s son, went in another direction. They married in 1859 and promptly moved to northwestern Madison County. In the 1860 census they were living on Crutcher Pike near Tates Creek, and he is a tenant farmer. Later they moved down the creek, buying a place near Baldwin, the birthplace of Edna Jane Jones.
Edna Jane’s brother, James Handsbury Jones, popularly known as Mr. Jim Jones, carried on his grandfather’s politics as one of Madison County’s leading Republicans during his day.
Back in College Hill/Union City, Rebecca Shearer, daughter of James Jr., had married Thomas Johnson of Doylesville, whose daughter Elizabeth married Merrill J. Jones, father of John Markful Jones.
The evidence (sketchy thought it may be) suggests that the early Jones ancestors were of modest means. They generally had big families. Gabriel, in fact, had two big families. He had nine children with Anny Johnson, then at age 60 married 20-year-old Ruth Hunter who bore him seven more. In 1860, he is living with his second family at Speedwell; his real property is valued at $500, his personal property at $100. His son Harrison in Rockcastle has a total worth of less than $600. On the other side of the Jones family, John Jones and his wife Mary (Denny) had real property valued at $1,400 and personal property of $900. By comparison, Susannah Parks, widow of Merrill, had real estate of $4,700 and personal property of $1,100.
However, the next generation, Merrill J. Jones and John B. Jones, became successful farmers who acquired substantial amounts of land. Merrill Jones and his son, John Markful, also owned commercial property in Union City.
The early Shearers had land, but Thomas and James had less than their brother Matthew, who amassed several hundred acres along the Kentucky River east of Boonesborough. Thomas settled on Muddy Creek near the Kentucky River. But, son Sylvanus, in 1860, had a total estate of only $800.
(Note: James Shearer, husband of Rebecca (Aunt Becky) Fowler, from the Parks side, is also descended from James Shearer and Anna Lenna.)
The pioneer Denny is Samuel, most likely from Virginia, who settled near Union City and was a founder in 1812 of the Union City Baptist Church. He was also one of the first two elected elders. The early Dennys intermarried with Jones families three times between 1817 and 1827. Samuel’s wife was most likely a Crews; a son named Crews or Cruse had a large family of his own at Union City. Over the years Dennys intermarried with both the Parks and Parke clans, and were residents of the Union City area well into the 20th century.
Kin: Children of both John B. Jones and Merrill J. Jones had large families. Some of their descendants remain in Madison County. The closest Shearer kin are the children of Ben Shearer, including Sherman Shearer and Addy Shearer, who married Wallace Jenkins. Charlie Johnson (1884-1966) of Union City was apparently the last Johnson relative left in Madison County.
Origins: According to family researchers, William Jones and his pregnant wife were sailing from London, England, to Virginia when William died and was buried at sea. Son Mosias was born in Virginia in 1695. Subsequent generations moved west in Virginia, then to Madison County.
Shearer is a Scottish name, but the pioneer Madison County Shearer has been traced to Ulster, Ireland, in 1693. That almost certainly means that these Shearers were part of the implantation of Protestant English and Scottish settlers onto the confiscated estates of wealthy Catholics in Northern Ireland beginning in 1609. That would make these Shearers true Scots Irish. The Madison County Shearers migrated to North Carolina in the mid-1700s, then lived in South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia before coming to Madison County.
All the other names on the ancestor chart are English or most likely to be English (even Lenna).
Occupations: According to the information in the census all the ancestors in all these families were farmers throughout the 19th century and into the early 20th century. The first notable exception: in 1920 in Richmond, two young Denny sisters were telephone operators.
Military: The only ancestor on the Jones side who has a military record is Sylvanus Massie Shearer, the great grandfather of Lucy Ann Jones. Civil War records show that S.M. Shearer, age 56, joined the Union Army at Camp Dick Robinson in Garrard County on July 13, 1861 – three months after the attack on Fort Sumter and a week before the First Battle of Bull Run. He served in Company G, 4th Kentucky Regiment Mounted Infantry until January 24, 1863. The unit fought one major battle and 3 skirmishes in central Kentucky during 1862 before Sylvanus was given a disability discharge at Bowling Green on January 24, 1863. His discharge papers said he had a “broken down constitution.” He recovered quickly. After the war, he fathered at least eight more children, including twins, making the total number of children twenty.
Cemeteries: Edna Jane and John Markful are buried in the Richmond Cemtery. Merrill Jones and Elizabeth Johnson Jones are buried in the Merrill Jones Cemetery at Union City. John B. Jones and Cassandra Shearer are buried on a hill overlooking Tates Creek near Baldwin. Sylvanus Massie Shearer and some family members are buried in the Shearer Cemetery in Shearer Hollow near Disputania in Rockcastle County. Some of the children of Gabriel Jones are buried in the Red Hill Cemetery near Panola.