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Sketch of Lampton and Clemens families

In honor of the birthday of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, Mark Twain (November 30, 2012 - April 21, 2012), I submit the sketch on the Lampton and Clemens families of Adair County as written by Judge Rollin T. Hurt and which appear in his History of Adair County (along with some additional notes by editor). - MIKE WATSON

By Judge Rollin T. Hurt, with notes by Mike Watson
From Judge's Hurt's History of Adair County

The Lampton and Clemens Families

The Lamptons were among the earliest comers to Adair, but the date of their coming is forgotten. Lewis Lampton, for many years, was the proprietor and conductor of what would now be denominated a hotel, in the town of Columbia, but in the day of its operation it bore the name of a tavern. It was famous for the social functions which were held under its roof in the olden time and was the popular resort of the elite of society in those days. Doubtless, it was all that a tavern in Columbia at that day should have been. The circumstance in connection with its proprietor, which tradition has most carefully preserved, was the effort on his part to chastise Jesse White. 1



White was a great wit, a dandy in his dress, a good soldier and when the occasion was favorable, would sometimes imbibe more freely than was conducive to the utmost sobriety. In this respect, however, he did not differ from the great majority of the men of his generation. He was one of the forty men from Adair County who volunteered at the call of Governor Shelby in the War of 1812-15 to go upon the campaign which was made into Canada against the forces of the British General Proctor and his Indian Allies, who were commanded by the celebrated chief, Tecumseh. White served throughout the campaign and participated in the battle of the Thames, where the British and Indians were defeated and routed and Tecumseh was slain.

The cause of Lampton's attempt to chastise White is now forgotten. Probably, it was a very trivial and insignificant circumstance, as men quarrel as freely about small things as great ones. White pretended to be very loath to engage in a fight with Lampton, but Lampton would receive no apology, nor would he desist, at the insistence of friends, and compelled White to fight, and accompanied his attack upon White with the declaration that he wanted all to see just how a gentleman could handle a woodchuck. White was an expert in the use of his fists and feet and, very unexpectedly to Lampton, the fight resulted very disastrously to him and ended in his being completely knocked out. During the course of the engagement, a considerable damage was done to the furniture and vessels in the room, which was the property of Lampton. The spectators, feeling, doubtless, that they were a large part of the cause of the affray, as they had egged on the combatants as was the custom in those days, proposed to pay the damage to the furniture and vessels. White readily concurred in the justice of the spectators paying the damages, declaring that he should pay no part as the spectators had the entire benefit of the show, including and incular demonstration of how easy it was to show up an opossum when it was pretending to be a wildcat.

Upon one occasion, White was in Burkesville, Kentucky, where he was introduced to the then Governor of North Carolina, who was present about certain legal matters then pending the court at that place. The governor had a very common and ordinary personal appearance and White, contrary to usual custom, stood, and for a moment, mutely gazed at him. The governor, doubtless thinking that White was in all probability embarrassed at meeting so distinguished a personage, and to relieve the situation, suggested that probably White did not credit the statement that he was a governor.

White replied that he did not discredit the statement that he was a governor. White replied that he did not doubt that the governor was all that he was represented to be, but that he was thinking that if the governor was truly the highest officer in that state, if he [White] should become a citizen of it, what position would be commensurate with his deserts?

A number of the descendants of Jesse White yet reside in Adair County. Jesse White who resides in Columbia being a grandson. 2

Benjamin Lampton was a brother of Lewis Lampton and resided upon a farm in the neighborhood of Bliss, about four miles west of Columbia. He married Betsey Casey, who was also called Peggy, and a daughter of Colonel William Casey. The date of the marriage 3 is not known, but from other bits of local history, it seems safe to say that they were married and were living upon the farm mentioned, which was near the residence of Colonel Casey, as early as 1795 or 1796. Here their daughter, Jane, was born and reared.

Miss Pamelia Goggins was a belle in Virginia for whose hand in marriage Samuel B. Clemens and Simon Hancock were strong rivals. Clemens was the lucky suitor and her hand was bestowed upon him in marriage. 4 The eldest child of the marriage was John Marshall Clemens. Samuel B. Clemens was assisting a neighbor to erect a log building when one of the logs fell upon Clemens and crushed his life out. His wife was then left a widow with a limited amount of property and with several small children who were dependent upon her for support and education.

When Simon Hancock lost to his rival the hand of Miss Goggins, he came to Adair County and secured and opened a farm for cultivation. Thereafter, a brother of Mrs. Clemens came out from their home in Virginia and secured a new home by the purchase of a farm which adjoined that of Hancock. When Mrs. Clemens was left a widow by the unfortunate death of her husband, her brother in Adair County invited her to come and reside with him. She accepted the invitation and brought her children with her.

When thrown in association with her old lover, Simon Hancock, the old flame sprang up in Hancock, and he again sought her hand in marriage. 5 His second suit was successful and they were married. John Marshall Clemens grew to young manhood upon the farm of his step-father, Hancock, about three miles from Columbia. He wooed and won the hand of Jane Lampton in marriage. 6 She was then an acknowledged belle and had many suitors for her hand. They resided in Columbia for a time 7 and then removed to Gainesboro, Tennessee, where a cousin of the wife, Dr. Nathan Montgomery, then resided. At Gainesboro, their eldest child, Orion Clemens, was born. From there they removed to Fentress County, Tennessee 8, which lies upon the Cumberland Mountains, and there their two daughters, Pamelia and Margaret, were born. They resided for a time in a large hewed log house upon Wolfe's River in Fentress County, Tennessee, where their son, Benjamin, was born. Their son Samuel L. Clemens was named for his grandfather who lost his life in Virginia. He was born at Florida, Missouri. John Marshall Clemens died in Missouri.

In the late seventies Mrs. Clemens paid her old friends and relatives at Columbia a visit. A lady who was one of those visited by her thus described her at that time. "She was beautiful even at old age, complexion as fair as a girl's, with gray curls on each side of her face, set off with a dainty little cap, made her an attractive picture. In manner, she was quiet with quaint, old fashioned ways. She was an elegant and beautiful woman." She was rather witty and animated in conversation, but her words came out with rather a long drawl. She died at the home of her son, in Keokuk, Iowa, at eighty-eight years of age.

The fact that the parents and one of the grandparents of Samuel L. Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, were reared and married here has caused a belief upon the part of many that the great humorist himself was a native of the county. This belief led a gentleman, who is now a prominent businessman in Louisville, Kentucky, into an embarrassing situation. While a high gentleman, with many worthy qualities, he is a very positive character, especially about his information. He is one of those positive men whose information consists of nothing but facts, and he has no opinions nor beliefs. At the time that the mother of Mark Twain made the visit to Columbia, mentioned above, the gentleman engaged in conversation with several ladies upon a train without the knowledge that Mrs. Clemens was one of them.

When, for some reason, the name of Mark Twain was mentioned, the gentleman promptly volunteered the information that Mark Twain was born at Columbia. Mrs. Clemens quietly demurred to the correctness of the assertion and said that he must be mistaken. [He stated] that he had been shown the house at Columbia in which Mark Twain was born and that his information came from persons who were perfectly reliable, and could not have been mistaken in their information. Mrs. Clemens very quietly begged pardon, and said that she must have been laboring under a mistake herself for a long time, but that she was the mother of Mark Twain, and had always believed, until then, that his birth had occurred at Florida, Missouri. - Judge Rollin T. Hurt

Notations, by Mike Watson:
  1. Jesse White, born about 1769, was one of the sons of Stephen and Agatha White, formerly of Bedford County, Virginia, and a brother-in-law of William Hurt.

  2. Jesse White married Frances White, daughter of the head of the "other White" family, John White. They were parents of at least six children: William, Mildred who married William Wheeler, Janetta who married Moses Stone, Sanford, Dudley and Harmon B. White. William White, son of Jesse, was the father of Jesse V. White of Columbia, the man referred to here.

  3. Green County, Kentucky marriages list Benjamin Lampton and Peggy Casey's marriage bond as dated 17 March 1801 with Robert Fletcher as surety and And. Scott as witness. Colonel Casey gave his consent. [Marriage Book A, bonded, not recorded.]

  4. Samuel "Clements" married Parmelia Goggin[s] in Bedford County, Virginia on 29 October 1797 by John Ayers, surety Samuel Hancock.

  5. Simon Hancock marriage Permelia Clemens in Adair County, Kentucky on 25 May 1809, by James Hill.

  6. John Marshall Clemens married Jane Lampton, daughter of Benjamin Lampton, in Adair County Kentucky. Marriage bond dated 6 May 1823 with Thomas Cheek as surety and Anderson H. Moore as witness.

  7. John M. Clemens had studied law and was admitted to the bar and practiced in Adair County prior to his marriage to Jane Lampton. He had rented rooms in the magnificent house of John Field, who had fallen on hard financial times. Mrs. Field would allow him to take his clients up the beautiful front staircase to his office, which adjoined this sleeping room. After the marriage, John Marshall and Jane Clemens resided in the Field House for some time before moving to Tennessee.

  8. Fentress County, Tennessee once bordered Kentucky as did Overton County before Pickett County was formed.

    This story was posted on 2012-12-01 04:27:15
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