18 July 2010

John Lesley, Bolts Fork, Kentucky: Day Tripping Around Eastern Kentucky

compiled by Teresa Martin Klaiber July 2010

Driving back north on US#23 from Pike County, Kentucky to Bolt's Fork on the border of Lawrence County and Boyd County on a super highway is a breeze these days. However, viewing the changing terrain makes one think about the challenges our Eastern Kentucky pioneers had when settling the area.

In my last blog I described Lesley Settlement on John's Creek and spoke of William Robert Lesley and son Robert. When William and Robert left Virginia to travel to John's Creek, son John Lesley remained behind.

John, according to his tombstone and NSDAR papers was born 22 November 1760. Lesley served 18 months on the Clark Expedition to Illinois and is listed as receiving bounty land in George Rogers Clark Papers 1771-1784 edited by James A. James. This is probably the land that he made a survey for on the waters of the Bluestone.

John appears on the 1793 Wythe County tax list as John Lestly. He was recommended to the Commission of the peace in Tazewell County in 1812. Often the spelling of his name was contorted and read as Lasly/Lasley/Lestley/Leslie and other variants.

By 1815 John Lesley had deeded 1/2 acre near where he lived on the Bluestone, now Tazewell County, to the trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church [Tazewell deed book 2 page 509] and began selling parcels of land while giving other acreage to his son William.

In Lesley/Leslie 200 Years in America the author indicates that John Lesley and family may have stopped in the area of Lesley Settlement for a couple of years between 1827 and 1833. He does appear on the 1830 Federal Census of Pike County.

John then migrated to Lawrence County, Kentucky. The trip from John's Creek northward could not have been easy. When he applied for a pension in Lawrence County, Kentucky in April 1833 [#25016] the name was filed as Lasley. At this time he states he is a resident of the East Fork of Little Sandy and is 72 years of age.

The following year, 16 June 1834, son John P. Lesley had a confrontation with Josiah Lambert. The Lawrence County Circuit Court record states that Lesley had received a brutal assault and beating at the hands of Lambert. Testimony was requested on his behalf by Gordon Coburn, Isaac Bolt, William Lesley, and Briant Fannin. In April 1835 John P. Lesley wrote a note " Mr. James Rice, Sir I want you to stop that suit of mine as we have compromised it. He says he will pay all costs. I do not see there would be any chance of getting any thing out of him for he is not worth twenty-five cents...John P. Lesley."

When Ruth Cleveland Leslie published her book in 1956 she wrote about the burial of the elder Revolutionary John Lesley: "No actual account of his death was discovered by this researcher but he apparently died before another payment was due in April 1842. The aforementioned source also states that he was also buried in Pike County. However, no information as to the specific burial place was learned." NSDAR applications simply state he died circa 1841. Some online submitted trees still show John Lesley with a death in Pike County.

There is no indication that John Lesley returned to Pike County after filing for a pension in Lawrence County, Kentucky. He appears on the 1840 Lawrence County, Kentucky census as J. Lasley. He appears on the 1841 tax list for Lawrence County as well but does not appear on the 1842 tax list.

Driving north from Pike County on US #23 then left on Old Route #3 past routes to Yatesville Lake is a wonderful afternoon drive. Head up #3 and turn on Bolts Fork Road on the East Fork of the Little Sandy, now Route #773 you meander past the pioneer lands of Isaac Bolt and John D. Ross and what was once Sandy Furnace. Beyond Sandy Furnace you will see Ross Chapel and Jacks Fork Road. And just a short distance more on the right you will see a charming cemetery known as Leslie Cemetery. When the first burials took place in this cemetery it was part of Lawrence County now Boyd County.

Under the shade trees in Leslie Cemetery is a weather beaten stone that is unreadable. Apparently Ruth was not aware of or could not read the stone when she wrote her publication in 1956. When a reading was done in October 1968 historian, Evelyn Jackson, created a rough map of the cemetery and marked a "?" for the old weather beaten stone directly under the tree. She returned to the cemetery again in March 1978 again leaving the stone as unidentified.

Between 1978 and July 2001 the old weathered stone was replaced to honor John Lesley who had helped protect Virginia, saw the Wabash, and traveled the pioneer creeks and hollows of Eastern Kentucky to settle and finally rest under the shade trees of Bolts Fork.

1 comment:

  1. My Cecil ancestors moved from Virginia to Lawrence, KY, before Boyd became a county. Judging by the birth dates & place of birth, I'd guess in the mid 1840s. One of John M Cecil's daughters Emerine, married Issac Bolt's son, John. I know they lived in this same area, and probably died here too, before 1910. I'm glad that you've persevered in finding your John's resting place.

    I will keep the faith that I can keep discovering more... Just last month I happened upon a transcription for one of my Blacklock ancestor's headstone in Coalton. (Anne Blacklock, her husband Christopher married Emerine's sister, Mary.) And through the volunteers at findagrave, I even got a picture of her headstone. It is amazing! And it seems SO important to find, and put things to rest, again.

    Thank you,