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Some Very Old Papers
  • Contributed by Bryant of Danville, KY (March 2003)
  • Reference -- In 1826, the owner and publisher of the Olive Branch newspaper was Jefferson J. Polk (1802-1881). A few laters he deposed of the paper and became an agent for the American Colonization Society. Afterwards he moved to Perryville, only a few miles from Danville, where practiced medicine and was a preacher. In 1867, he authored a short history book, "Autobiography of Dr. J. J. Polk," which included brief histories of other individuals.

    The Kentucky Advocate - Saturday, January 7, 1893



    Historical Notes and Comments From One of the Pioneer Papers of the State
    -- Things of Local Interest.

    Before our venerable colored citizen, Mr. Harrison Wickliffe, (who will long be remembered as the former efficient and respected Professor of Dust and Ashes in Centre College), left us for Chicago, he placed in our hands a part of a file of "The Olive Branch," a paper published in Danville nearly three-quarters of a century ago. The fragmentary file before us covers the time from Jan. 16th, 1826, to February 17th, 1827. The paper was then published and edited by J. J. Polk. Unless we mistake him for another person of the same name, this gentleman was afterwards associated with James Gillespie Birney in the publication of an anti-slavery paper in Danville, and finally removed to Illinois. He was a kinsman, if not, indeed, the immediate ancestor, of Wm. Polk, who, in more recent years, has edited and published papers at Paris, Lexington and Middleboro, Ky., who was, a good soldier in the late unpleasantness, and at all times a sprightly writer. One of the Polks married a Miss Richardson, and in that way become connected with the Birneys; -- the elder James Birney (father of James G. Birney) having married a Miss Richardson or a Mrs. Richardson, for his third wife. The wife of Thomas Buck Reed, a brilliant U.S. Senator from Mississippi, two of whose sisters had been the wives of James Birney, the mother of John R. Ford, of Missouri, were Richardsons, as was also the wife of the late David Gillespie, which constituted the links that connected those families. In the diary of James G. Birney, under date of Sept., 25th, 1834, he remarks:

    "Greatly to my mortification, my father, after having appeared enlightened on the Christian duty to emancipation, has promised to give a negro woman (Maria) and four children (girls) to Mrs. Polk in Danville. I lament much that he has thought proper to leave such a memorial behind him."

    And again, under date of September 30th of the same year, the diarist wrote:

    "I this day write to my father, (he had gone to reside with his daughter, the wife of Judge John J. Marshall and mother of General Humphrey Marshall, near Louisville), requesting the privilege of paying out of my own means what he would say ought to satisfy Mrs. Polk instead of the negroes he promised to give her. About the close of last session there were said to be in Centre College about fourteen young men who were firm Abolitionists. Dr. Zeke Munsell is so decidedly. He is Superintendent of the Deaf and Dumb Asylum. I have heard that old Mr. Humphrey Marshall (the U.S. Senator and Historian, and father of Judges John J. and Thomas A. Marshall) is an Abolitionist and has liberated all his slaves, hiring their services."

    The elder Birney was an Irishman by birth, who came to this country shortly after the Revolution, and who was a merchant in Danville as early as 1788. He at one time lived in the old frame house which stood where the handsome new Methodist church now is, and which was afterwards the residence of Maj. James Barbour, and, at a more recent date, of the late John P. Thorel. Mr. Birney's two wives were sisters, daughters of John Reed, also a native of Ireland. They were both buried in the old grave yard on the place now owned by John M. VanMeter. He afterwards moved to the beautiful farm now owned by Mr. R.G. Evans, where he continued to live until he went to Judge Marshall's, where he died and was buried. But, to returned to the old file:

    The first page; of four columns, is taken up with a list of acts passed at the recent session of Congress, many of which were for the benefit of individuals. The names of the beneficiaries of some of these private acts call up interesting personal historical reminiscences. Several of them were for the relief and benefit of Davis Floyd. He was one of the brothers of Col. John Floyd, who was one the earliest surveyors, in 1774-5, in the latter year being at St. Asaphs (Stanford) in company with Col. John Todd. Col. Floyd was distinguished as a soldier in the Revolution, and afterwards as a pioneer in Kentucky, where he was killed by the Indians. Gov. John Floyd, of Virginia, was his son, and Governor and Secretary of War, John B. Floyd, was his grandson. These Floyds were descended from the daughter of a Catawba Indian Chief, who had a child by a trader named Davis, and they showed their Indian origin unmistakenly in their features and walk. Davis Floyd was deeply in the intrigues of Burr in 1806, and was to have been one of the officers in the proposed expedition of the daring and unprincipled adventurer. Whether or not Burr revealed to Davis Floyd, or to John Adair, who was to have had the command of a Brigadier in his army, the full extent of his designs is doubtful. It seems probable they understood that the expedition was intended as a gigantic fillibustering foray against the Spanish power in Texas and Mexico, and that the ultimate purpose of separating the Ohio and Mississippi valleys -- all west of the Alleghanies -- from the United States; and, thus forming with Texas and Mexico, a grand Western Empire, with Burr at its head, was concealed from them. Adair and Floyd were the chief witnesses relied upon by the gifted and patriotic Joseph Hamilton Daviess to prove the charges he had made against Burr. Both absented themselves, and Judge Inness, the Federal Judge for the District of Kentucky, refusing peremptorily to grant Daviess further time to secure their attendance, the grand jury made a report dismissing the case from consideration. This action was made the occasion of a grand ball at Frankfort given in honor of Burr, who became the lion and hero of the hour, while public sentiment ran strongly adverse to Daviess and to all who had detected and sought to expose the real purpose of Burr. But a few months passed, however, until facts were developed which completely vindicated the unselfishness and discernment of Daviess. As one of the heroes who fell fighting at Tippecanoe his name is now revered by all Kentuckians, while that of Burr is everywhere held as the synonym of falsehood and treachery.

    Old Kentucky 1893 Articles
    Some Very Old Papers
    The Polks
    Local History, No. V
    Local History, No. VI
    James G. Birney, No. VII
    James G. Birney, No. VIII
    James G. Birney, No. IX
    James G. Birney, No. X
    People Referenced
    Adair, John
    Barbour, James Major
    Birney, James G.
    Birney, James G. Sr.
    Buck, Thomas
    Burr, Mr.
    Daviess, Joseph H.
    Evans, R.G.
    Floyd, Davis
    Floyd, John (Col.)
    Floyd, John B. (Gov.)
    Ford, John R.
    Gillespie, David
    inness, (Judge)
    Marshall, Humphrey (Gen.)
    Marshall, John J. (Judge)
    Marshall, Thomas (Judge)
    Munsell, Zeke (Dr.)
    Polk, J.J.
    Polk, Mrs.
    Polk, William
    Reed, John
    Reed, Thomas B.
    Richardson, Miss.
    Thorel, John P.
    Todd, John (Col.)
    VanMeter, John M.
    Wickliffe, Harrison
    Subjects Referenced
    Catawba Indian Chief
    Centre College
    Chicago, IL
    Danville, KY
    Deaf & Dumb Asylum
    Frankfort, KY
    Lexington, KY
    Middleboro, KY
    Paris, Ky
    St. Asaphs
    U.S. Senator

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