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Obituary offers descriptive view of my ancestor's life

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By Dave Taylor

With the account of the 1852 explosion of the steamboat Redstone last month I began a new series of monthly columns about historical events in Carroll County, called “Water Under the Bridge.” I plan to continue researching events of local historical significance for those who enjoy an occasional blast from the past.

This month, I feel compelled to establish my local pedigree as likely I am distantly related to anyone in the county with the surnames Taylor and Thompson.

My great-great-grandparents, Uriah Moorman Taylor and Elizabeth Ann Wharton Taylor, are among a unique number of local inhabitants of another era who were residents of three different counties without having moved a single item of furniture.

Uriah and Elizabeth were originally from Garrard County, Ky. They moved to Jefferson County, Ind., near the present village of Canaan in the mid-1820s. In 1830 they relocated to a farm on Fairview Ridge on a hill above Locust in what was then Gallatin County.

Trimble County was formed in 1837 from parts of Gallatin, Henry and Oldham counties. Trimble’s original boundary line extended east to the mouth of the Kentucky River and included Fairview Ridge. The easternmost section of Trimble and parts of Gallatin and Henry counties were chiseled off a year later to form Carroll County. The new county included Grandfather’s farm.

Some years ago my father came into the receipt of a copy of Uriah Taylor’s obituary which was printed in The Carrollton Democrat on May 2, 1885. Obituaries of that era—in fact most news accounts in the late 19th century—were written in a much more descriptive style than the journalism of today. Today’s readers are often too busy to read lengthy stories of literary proportions so we reporters try to get right to the point, write what needs to be reported and move on.

Uriah Taylor was described in the obituary as “a man of more than ordinary intelligence” and a leader in the Methodist Episcopal Church. “Although born and educated in the midst of slavery he believed it to be wrong and opposed the institution from early youth, being a strong Union man during the late rebellion.”

The obituary stated that Uriah was among the first “to engage in the cultivation of fruits and vegetables for the Madison, Ind., market and many of the older citizens can remember the large luscious peaches and fine melons he used to sell.”

On my last visit to the old homeplace there were still a few fruit trees flourishing on the grounds. Uriah’s house was replaced by another dwelling built by his son, Francis Marion Taylor, some years after Uriah’s passing.

Uriah died at his home 125 years ago on April 20, 1885, at the age of 84, and was buried in a family plot across a field within sight of his home “in a beautiful spot selected by himself years ago, 400 feet above the Ohio River on top of one of those rugged Kentucky hills that he loved so well.”

The obituary writer noted that Uriah’s widow, Elizabeth, survived “in her 80th year a lonely mariner on the river of time, only waiting a little longer to be called to join the happy throng beyond the tide. They had walked and fought life’s battles together for over 62 years.”

At the time of their deaths Uriah and Elizabeth resided with my great-grandparents, Francis Marion and Amy Clagg Taylor, who had taken over the family farm when Uriah had grown too feeble to work it. All are buried on the grounds today. My grandfather, the Rev. John Milton Taylor, was born there and later married Bertha Thompson, the daughter of Henry and Nancy Thompson of Wright’s Ridge in Carroll County. Nancy Thompson was the daughter of Creed Taylor, giving me two separate branches of Taylors in my paternal ancestry. Distant relatives still reside on the Taylor and Thompson homesteads.

Many readers likely have local roots that predate my ancestors’ arrival on the local scene. The experiences of their everyday lives may or may not be recorded in old newspapers, diaries, family histories or church histories. These are the stories that I will pursue each month—disasters, visits by famed personages, murder investigations and other exciting, or maybe not so exciting but still interesting, events of Carroll County’s past that bear repeating.

If you have old newspaper articles that predate the 1937 flood, or other interesting research from years past to share, contact me at dtaylor@mycarrollnews.com. For some, these stories may be interesting snippets of yesterday’s news that bear another look. For others, events of the past may simply be water under the bridge.