Madison County Families

Kentucky Pioneers and Their Descendants

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Boonesborough’s John Newby:   Who Was He?


In October 1779, a John Newby signed a petition at Boonesborough.  We do not know whether this John Newby was the John Newby from Granville County, North Carolina who later settled in Madison County and raised a large family there on the banks of Tates Creek.  Or another John Newby altogether.  

We are reasonably certain that it was not the John Newby of Chesterfield, Virginia, a revolutionary war soldier who later settled in Pulaski County, Kentucky.  In an 1832 affidavit establishing his eligibility for a veteran’s pension this Pulaski John swore that he was fighting in eastern Virginia and North Carolina from August 15, 1777 through August 21, 1780.  

It is entirely conceivable that a young John Newby could have ventured from North Carolina to Boonesborough in 1779, returned to North Carolina to marry and then settled in Madison County nearly a decade later.  

Richard Henderson, organizer of the Transylvania Company which settled Boonesborough, lived and died in Granville County, N.C.  He and members of his family were prominent landowners and public officials in Granville and surrounding counties.  The young John Newby could have easily been recruited to help settle Boonesborough.  

Another connection is compelling.  John Newby (estimated age 19) signed a petition at Boonesborough in October, 1779.  Talton/Tarleton Embry arrived at Boonesborough in 1780 when he would have been 16 years old.  In 1784, in neighboring Wake County, North Carolina, John Newby married Talton Embry’s sister Susannah, and both John and Talton sign the marriage bond.  John and Susannah moved to Madison County shortly thereafter.  About 1800, Talton settled on Tates Creek near his brother-in-law.  

Whether John Newby and Talton Embry knew each other before Boonesborough, or whether they first met at Boonesborough, we don’t know.  But we do know they were closely connected a few years after Boonesborough.  

Doubts persist about the identity of Boonesborough’s John Newby for two reasons.  First, John Newby of Tates Creek did not testify at the land claims hearings before the Madison County Court in the early 1800s; many other Madison County residents who were at Boonesborough, including Talton Embry, did testify.  Second, John Newby was not identified in the late 1800s as an early resident of Boonesborough by Madison County historian and journalist French Tipton, who listed 439 settlers, including Talton Embry.  

Despite the doubt, descendants of John Newby of Tates Creek will no doubt feel certain that their John is also the Boonesborough John.