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Rev. Joey N. Welsh: A good name counts Part II

Another Angle, by Rev. Joey N. Welsh: A good name counts in Kentucky county names, Part II Mostly about Adair and Casey Counties, Col. Wm. Casey, Jane Lampton, Col. Wm. Casey School, Mark Twain. first published in the Hart County News-Herald 12 November 2006
For other Another Angle columns, enter "Rev. Joey N. Welsh" in the searchbox.

By The Rev. Joey N. Welsh

A good name counts in Kentucky county names, Part II

As I wrote last week, having a good name is an important thing. This truth is referenced in scripture (take a look at Proverbs 22 and Ecclesiastes 7, for example) and confirmed in daily life. In Kentucky the good names of some interesting folks have been honored through the counties that serve as their namesakes. Among the counties named 200 years ago for prominent people are Clay (for General Green Clay), Hopkins (for Samuel Hopkins) and Lewis (for Meriwether Lewis). I touched on those counties last week, but this week I take note of another man whose name was affixed to a Kentucky county back in 1806, Colonel William Casey (1754-1816).

Casey County, carved out of Lincoln County and named on November 14, 1806, has its seat at Liberty, a name that had significance for those who had fought so recently for independence. The real heart of Colonel William Casey territory, though, is Adair County (its seat is Columbia), where Casey established the first permanent settlement and lived during much of his adult life. A native of Frederick County, Virginia, he migrated with other men to what is now Kentucky after fighting in the Revolutionary War, coming to Logan's Fort at Stanford. The Commonwealth then was a rugged frontier region and a part of Virginia. Casey was in his mid-20#s, an authentic pioneer. At Logan's Fort he married Jane Montgomery, and they had the first of their five children.

In 1789 the young Casey family, along with about 30 other families, established the Casey/Butler Fort (in present-day Adair County) after moving south along what is now Casey Creek and crossing Green River at Plum Point. This was Casey's "first station." Casey's "second station" survives as a home built in 1816. A Kentucky highway historic marker along West Highway 80 indicates the site. The house is now an antique shop and can be visited. Casey' died in 1816 and he was buried in the Johnston Cemetery: William Casey, 1754-1816. Jane is buried in Westpoint, Iowa, having moved there after her husband's death.

Present Colonel William Casey Elementary School aptly namedCasey had brought a teacher to his early fort. The present Colonel William Casey Elementary School in Columbia is aptly named. Casey was a member of Kentucky's second Constitutional Convention in 1799. He served as a presidential elector, he was one of the first trustees of the town of Columbia and served as an assistant judge of the Circuit Court. The elementary school carries the good name of this Kentucky pioneer into the 21st century, but his immediate descendants guaranteed that the family continued to have a very good name back in the decades following Casey's death.

One of Casey's granddaughters, Jane Lampton, was one of Columbia's most admired young women when she met up with an eligible bachelor, attorney John M. Clemens, in 1823. Albert Bigelow Paine, author and biographer of a century ago, described Jane: "it was rare Jane Lampton herself--gay, buoyant, celebrated for her beauty and her grace; able to dance all night, and all day too, for that matter--that won the heart of John Marshall Clemens, swept him off his feet almost at the moment of their meeting."

Jane Lampton and John M. Clemens were married in Columbia, May 6, 1823

Jane Lampton and John M. Clemens were married in Columbia on May 6, 1823; later they moved to Tennessee and then west to Missouri. (The site of Jane's childhood home in Columbia is today recognized with a highway marker.) Among the couple's children was one of the most prominent authors and most widely quoted figures of American culture, Samuel Langhorne Clemens -- Mark Twain. Albert B. Paine, Twain's literary executor and official biographer, crediting Twain's mother Jane with many of the famed author's personality traits, wrote, "Many of the characteristics that made Mark Twain famous were inherited from his mother. His sense of humor, his prompt, quaintly spoken philosophy, these were distinctly her contribution to his fame."

Twain himself admitted that his mother helped to imbue him with the desire to observe and appreciate what was around him, and he wrote, "The greatest difference which I find between her and the rest of the people whom I have known, is this, and it is a remarkable one: those others felt a strong interest in a few things, whereas to the very day of her death she felt a strong interest in the whole world and everything and everybody in it." This was a significant outlook on life for a mother from Adair County -- or any county -- to pass on to her son.

Mark Twain a world-wide success

Jane Lampton Clemens (1803-1891) lived to see the world-wide success of her son, a man whom William Faulkner later described as "the father of American literature."

Most of the time when I think of Mark Twain, I first remember vividly the Twain residence I once toured while traveling through Hartford, Connecticut. It is a beautiful home, lovingly restored and preserved. (If you are ever there, be sure to visit the house, then walk over and tour the home of the Twains's next-door neighbor, Harriet Beecher Stowe.)

Other people, I am sure, hear Twain's name and conjure immediately visions of Hannibal, Missouri or Mississippi River steamboats or even Hal Holbrook's portrayal in the famous one-man play Mark Twain Tonight.

We might do ourselves a favor to pause when we think of Mark Twain and remember instead his Kentucky heritage: his pioneering great-grandparents, as well as his inquisitive and thoughtful mother, who once was the belle of Columbia, Kentucky. Samuel Langhorne Clemens -- Mark Twain -- certainly has a good name in the annals of American history and literature. But never forget that his good name was preceded by the good names of his Kentucky family members from Adair County.

Tuesday [November 14, 2006] marks the bicentenary of the naming of a new Kentucky jurisdiction, Casey County. This is an excellent time to remember with thanks the good names of Colonel William Casey, his granddaughter and her son as well as the good names, the lives and the talents of other pioneering Kentuckians and their progeny. "A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold." (Proverbs 22:1, NIV) If these words from Proverbs are true, then Kentucky is indeed a wealthy and fortunate land.


This story was posted on 2010-11-21 06:25:44
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