Friday, March 22, 2013

A Murder in the Mystery Family

The Martins and the Dean Families
Who Are These Martins?

Eastern Kentucky and the Civil War

1850 United States Federal Census for Morgan County, Kentucky

Family Number: 365
Household Members:

Pleas Martin 38 (”Pleasant”)
Martha Martin 36
John Martin 16
William Martin 13
George Martin 11
Nancy Martin 10
Lucinda Martin 8
Elizabeth Martin 5
Angeline Martin 1
Elizabeth Jenkins 24 (Betsey, my 2nd Great Grandmother)

I'm still uncertain of the relationship between the Martins and the Dean.  They appear, in online records, to travel together.  Pleasant Martin was born in Tennessee, as was my 2nd great grandfather Elisha and his brother Daniel Dean, who later became a Martin.  I'm still questioning whether Elisha's mother, Elizabeth Dean, was married to a Martin before she became a Dean.

During this time period we're looking at, a well known fact is that families moved together to new cities and states. Most of the information people got back then was by word of mouth, and hearing of a better place to live and raise your crops and your family, they’d pack up their meager belongings and set out on foot or wagon for that lush green meadow others talked about.  Kentucky in the early 1800s was one such place.

The Martin family could have just been neighbors of Elizabeth Dean and her family in 1850, and Betsey may have been a maid or nanny for the Martins. Pleasant and his wife had seven children that year of the census and clearly could have used some domestic help.

Researching Pleasant Martin revealed, first of all, that the name “Pleasant” was not as unique as I’d thought. There were quite a few Pleasants in the records.

The next bit of information that surfaced for my ancestors' neighbor was that he was murdered in 1863 by the “Rebels,” he and a fellow named Reason Grayson, as told in a letter I found online.

A Civil War Letter from Henry Hurst to his brother William

Mt. Sterling, Kentucky October 7, 1863 Dear Brother: I received your letter yesterday and it gave me great pleasure to hear that you were well. I have not heard from father since Daniel wrote you; but I suppose he is on the mend. There has been a terrible crime committed here and I will tell you about it. The Rebels ran into Camargo and caught Pleasant Martin, Asbury Nickell, a son of Spaniard Nickell, Charles Little, a son of Phillip Little, Reason Grayson and Robert Nickell. They took them to Sycamore bridge near Ticktown and lined them up and told them they were going to parole them. They had them cross their hands on their breasts, telling them they were about to administer the oath; but instead they placed their guns against them and fired. All were killed dead except Robert Nickell who was shot near the right nipple, the bullet came out about five inches lower in the back. He fell off into the creek and they fired three more shots at him, one bullet struck his arm. He played off dead and they left him. As soon as they left he managed to get to a man's house who came and let us know. We took him to Mt. Sterling and then chased the Rebels to James Gibbs' on the dry ridge, there they scattered and we lost them. I think Nickells will get well, the Dr. says he is now out of danger. This same crowd after the killing at the bridge reached the home of Jacob Stephens, they took his pocket book with about $30.00 and shot him dead in his own home. They then went on and caught that man, Jenkins, who was shot so often. The treatment they gave him was much worse than death. They took all privileges from him that was allowed a man by nature and told him that if that did not kill him they would come back and finish the job. You wanted to know if Salyers and I had completed our job of enrolling. We have done all we can do without an armed force to assist us. We finished all except some of the Sandy territory when the Rebels got after us and captured our papers that we had finished and we had to do all the work over. We started in again and have about the same amount done as before; but they ran us out. We have made application three times for men to aid us; but they have not arrivfed. We are ready any time we can get protection. I want to complete this work as soon as possible for my time will soon be out, then I intend to go to some other country. I have of my present enlistment one month and five days yet to serve. Cockerell has offered me a 1st Lieutenants place in his Company which might be better than working with the Home Guards. Your Brother, H.C. Hurst

This was posted on  Ancestry  by laryssabeth on 7 Jun 2007.

The above letter not only tells the story of Pleasant Martin and others being caught by Confederate soldiers, it also gives us a look at what the war was actually like where our Dean ancestors lived.

Kentucky, trying to remain impartial in the war, had both Union and Confederate fighters. Obviously, we see Morgan County was Yankee territory, if the Southern Rebels captured Pleasant and these other fellows.

I feel it's too much of a coincidence that the Martins live one farm over from the Deans, and one of the Dean residents ends up changing his name to Martin, and a girl who ends up being my 2nd great grandmother lives with the Martins.  The fact that they all appear to come from the same place before settling in Morgan County, Kentucky, is also a factor.

Too much of a coincidence is all I can think. The research continues as the book goes on.


  1. That letter describes such brutality. It's stunning. When he says he's going to some other country, might he mean county?

    We also have families that traveled together, in my ancestry. The young folks from the two families married each other frequently. Maybe that's related to what's gong on between the Martins and the Deans?

    Really interesting post.

  2. Thanks, Mariann. I was wondering about the "country" thing too. I think that's probably what he meant. I've found other instances in my family of marriages with close family friends and neighbors. When you think of it, with transportation back then and the limited communication, there wasn't a lot of opportunity for mixing with people, especially for simple farm folks.