My great grandfather, William Floyd Proffitt, known as Floyd, was the son of Jacob Floyd Proffitt, my great-great grandfather, who went by Jake, and his wife Martha Corena Dennis.
Floyd was born on January 12, 1882 when Chester A. Arthur was the 21st president and the outlaw Jesse James was shot in the back of the head and killed by Robert Ford in St. Joseph, Missouri,
To set the stage of the times a bit more, here are a few other notable things that happened that same year; polygamy was made a felony, the world’s first trolleybus began operation in Berlin, Roderick Maclean failed in his attempt to assassinate Queen Victoria, Thomas Edison flips the switch to the first commercial electrical power plant in the United States, and The Chinese Exclusion Act was the first significant law that restricted immigration into the United States.
While Floyd had no brothers, he did have six sisters… an older sister named Martha, and five younger sisters; Linnie, Ida Mae, Liela Lee Rowe (who died at 25), Mittie and Mary.
In their rural farming lifestyle of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, being the sole son would have put a lot of hard physical work on him and his father.
I remember my father talking about how, as a young man, he and his family used to plow tobacco fields behind mules, and Floyd would have been two generations earlier, in even more primitive conditions.
I remember traveling to Frenchburg for family reunions in the 60’s and having my delicate suburban values challenged by relatives still using outhouses, as they still hadn’t “brought the plumbing inside”. I was sure spiders, snakes and rats were going to attack any hanging meat and often tried to stave off bowl movements until the last second.
In the 1900 census, at the age of 18, Floyd is noted as being a laborer for the railroad. At this time he was still living with his mother and father in Rothwell, a few miles west of Frenchburg proper, in their rented house.
Looking at old documents, it looks like a rail line was extended about that time from the Mt Sterling Coal Road line to McCausey Ridge, where many Proffitt’s lived.
During the time that further expansion of the Elizabethtown, Lexington & Big Sandy RR was delayed in 1872, another railroad, the Mt. Sterling Coal Road, was built between Mt Sterling and Rothwell in Menifee County. It was originally built as a narrow gauge railroad to bring lumber and coal to market. It opened in 1875.
From Mt. Sterling, the Mt. Sterling Coal Road ran southeast through Gatewoods, Coons, Spencer, Oggs, Walkers, and Johnsons Station (Hope). It continued on through Menifee County with stops at Clay Lick, Cedar Grove, Chambers Station (Means), Sentinel, Cornwell, and Rothwell. Around 1898 it was extended to McCausey Ridge and Appearson.
A man by the name of McCausey had a large lumber camp there and employed many loggers. Local farmers in that area shipped hides, ginseng, snakeroot and chickens back to Mt. Sterling.
In 1882 the line came under the ownership of the Kentucky & South Atlantic Railway and later the C & O Railroad. The line was discontinued in 1911 when standing timber in that area had been depleted. Source: Ghost Railroads of Kentucky By Elmer Griffith Sulzer
At the age of 19, he married Nancy Jane Clair, known as Nanny, when she was 17. Nanny was the 4th child born to parents Thomas R Clair and Suphrona Elizabeth Coldiron on November 3rd, 1884. Several census’ report she only went to school through the 4th grade, but could read and write…something it was noted that her parents could not do. We take so much for granted these days.
By the 1910 census, Floyd is shown as owning his own home in Menifee County in Leatherwood. Today, Leatherwood is no longer recognized as a town, but as an “historical place name”…it was made extinct by the damming of the Licking River to form Cave Run Lake, northwest of Frenchburg. Although many farms and homes were displaced, this didn’t take place until 1965, with the lake filled by 1973.
In 1910, Floyd and Nanny are farming, with 3 children; Maezella, the oldest at 7, John M, my grandfather, who was 5, and 1 year old baby Dolly, aunt Dot.
In the 1920 census, 37-year-old Floyd is still farming in Leatherwood. By now, Maezella was 16, John M 14, Dolly was 10 and there were 4 more children; Obie 8, William 6, Claude 5, and Ray 2.
Floyd died on July 20th, 1923 at the age of 41. My father was born 2 years later on the very same day…July 20, 1925, so he never knew his grandfather Floyd.
Family stories recall that Floyd contracted pneumonia, knew he was dying and had his son in law Joseph Rhodes promise to move Nancy and the family away from their Indian Creek farm due to all the moonshining and other unsavory activities.
Joseph purchased what had been the county poor house farm, along with 200 acres, built a home there for his wife Maezella Profitt and set up Nancy and her children there along with his family.
Tax records show land that was owned or farmed by “William Floyd heirs” through the 20’s and into the 30’s. This consisted of farmland on Indian Creek as well as the family farm plot.
The 1930 census shows 45-year-old Nanny as the widowed head of a rented household. They are listed as farmers living on Scranton Road in Frenchburg. Children remaining at home were Obie 19, Clay 17, Claude 15, Ray 12 and Shelby 8.
Curiously, they are listed as having no radio set, so entertainment must have been pretty simple on the farm.
Floyd’s mother Corena died in 1930 at the age of 70, his father Jake died in 1938 at the age of 81.
Nanny re-married to a man named George Snodgrass after 1930 but before 1935 sometime. Later in life, they went by “Mammie and Daddy George”
George had been married previously to Clara Armitage. George and Clara had at least 5 children of their own: Albert Courtney, John Chester, Lilian M, Garner Clay and Elmer Roger. Clara had another daughter, Doris, born about 1923. The 1930 census shows that Clara moved back to Indiana before 1930 with Elmer and Doris. She remarried to a man named John L Alexander before 1935. She died in April of 1978.
By 1940, the census shows 55-year-old Nanny and 64 year old George living alone together on McCausey Ridge, just south of Frenchburg.
Another interesting tidbit is that at the turn of the century, oil was being discovered in Menifee and the surrounding area. Many oil companies were in competition to buy oil and gas rights all over the county.
In 1942, this notarized document transferred oil rights on 125 acres on Meyers Branch, part of Indian Creek, from the heirs of William Floyd to a Detroit oilman named Joseph Thomas for $45. Note that Asa Little, another relative, was the Sheriff at the time. The notary, Zella Wells, is probably related to the Wells in our family also.
I remember a number of family reunions down in Frenchburg…Nanny was of course the matriarch that gathered everyone together there, as many of her children had migrated to Ohio in search of work.
George died on December 31st, 1968. Nanny died a year later, November 21st, 1969, at the age of 85.
Great grandma’s passing was the first death of someone close to me. I vividly remember walking up to her casket at the service and thinking she looked like a doll or mannequin.