Release and Freedom for Slaves of William Campbell, Muhlenberg Co., KY 1800

While researching in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, I happened upon the will of the “Father of Greenville,” William Campbell, who was one of the first settlers of the county.

William Campbell was the son of Patrick Campbell, who also settled with him on the western Kentucky frontier, and was the cousin of General William Campbell, hero of the Battle of King’s Mountain.

William married well. His wife, Tabitha Adams Russell was the daughter of General William Washington Russell. Her stepmother was Patrick Henry’s sister.

While reading his will, the wording made it seem as if he was struck down either in an accident or by a sudden illness which became fatal. As I researched his life, I came upon the story that in the fall of 1800, he broke his leg and decided to ride to Lexington to seek medical help.

I have been unable to determine exactly where he broke his leg, but I suspect that he may have been on a business trip to Lexington when he was injured. Check out this map:

GreenvilleKYMapCrop
Greenville to Lexington

It’s about 175 miles from Greenville to Lexington and it’s hard to believe that he would have ridden a horse (as stated in the lore) that far to get help for a broken leg.

However, his will was apparently written in Lexington because the witnesses are not Muhlenberg County men – in 1810, which is the first extant census, two lived in Lexington and one lived in Shelby County.

It is evident that William Campbell was one of the leading citizens of the new county of Muhlenberg. His will refers to his plantation and lands he owned in Tennessee. One item in the will states, “It is my will and Desire that my proposals to the Court of Muhlenberg County be complied with.” This statement might pertain to the choice of the square that was selected for the location of the court house, as the square and lots facing it were “presented” (given, suggested?) by Campbell.

His will is also unusual in that, while he makes gifts of slaves to his wife and children, he added the following near the end of his will, “Although I have as above given to my wife and Children the following Negroes or slaves (towit) Isaac, Jacob, Cornelius, Viney, Richard, Celia, Becky and Chloe yet it is my will and Desire that the said negroes from and after they arrive to the age of thirty years Injoy their full and perfect Freedom in as full and perfect manner as if they had been Free Born.” For whatever reason, Peter, Letty and Ails, also slaves, were not mentioned in the manumission clause.

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Will of William Campbell, 1800
Will Book Volume 1:9-13
Source: FamilySearch

In the name of God amen. I William
Campbell of Muhlenberg County Being weak
in Body but of sound mind memory and
understanding doth make publish and declare
this my last will and Testament in man-
ner and form following, Towit, Item I give
and bequeath  unto my well beloved wife
Tabitha Campbell During her natural life
for her support and support of my Children
until such time as my said children
should think proper to separate from
my said wife the following property
towit, Five hundred acres of Land to be
laid off in a good form by my Executors
hereafter to be name so as to include
the plantation whereon I now live with
a free use of all the sugar trees that is on
my land that lies up the Creek from
the said plantation also the following
slaves. (Towit) Peter and his wife Letty, Ails
and her two sons Isaac and Jacob also
I give and bequeath unto my said wife
to be disposed of when and how she may
think proper all my house hold and
Kitchen furniture Stock and utensils of
Every Kind that is on or Belonging to
the above mentioned plantation. Item,
I give and bequeath unto my son Samuel
Campbell the five hundred acres of Land
as above Bequeathed unto my wife after the
Death of my said wife but if it should be
the wish of my said son to settle himself
before the Death of my said wife it is my
will and Desire that there be two hundred
acres of Uncultivated Land laid off to him
by my Executors out of the five hundred
acres above Bequeathed to my wife the said
five hundred acres of Land to my said son
his Heirs and assigns forever also I give and
bequeath unto my said son one Negro
boy by the name of Cornelius to him his
Heirs and assigns forever. Item, I give and
bequeath unto my five Daughters Towit
Elizabeth, Tabitha, Ann, Polly and Jinny
all the lands I own in Muhlenberg County
Except the five hundred acres as above
bequeathed to be equally Divided among
them by my Executors to them their Heirs and
assigns forever Also I give to each of my
said Daughters One negro Towit to my
Daughter Elizabeth one negro girl named
Viney to my Daughter Tabitha one negro
boy named Richard to my Daughter Ann
one negro girl named Celia To my Daughter
Polly one negro girl named Becky to my
Daughter Jinny one negro girl named Chloe
the said negroes to my said children
their Heirs and assigns forever. Item. It
is my will and Desire that my Executors
make a Deed unto William Bradford for
one hundred and fifty acres of Land Lying
in the state of Tennessee it being a part
of my parte of a survey in the name of
Robert S. Russell. Item. It is my will and
Desire that my proposals to the Court
of Muhlenberg County be complied with. Item.
It is my will and Desire that all the Land
that I own in the state of Tennessee Except
the one hundred and fifty acres above
mentioned with all the Lands I own in
Logan County be sold by my Executors when
and how my Executors shall or may think
proper and the moneys arrising therefrom be
applyed for the further support and convenience
of my said wife and children in such
manner as my Executors shall or may
think proper. Item. It is my will and
desire that the horse mill that I have been
about erecting near Greenville in Muhlenberg
County be completed and the necessary money
for the purpose of completing the same be
taken out of what William Sanderson is
owing me to be collected and paid by
my Executors. Item. It is my will and
Desire that all the remaining part of my
Estate whether real or personal be Divided by
my Executors Equally among my Children to
them and their Heirs forever remembering at
the same time that my Just Debts are
first to be paid. Item. Although I have as
above given to my wife and Children the
following Negroes or slaves (towit) Isaac, Jacob,
Cornelius, Viney, Richard, Celia, Becky and Chloe
yet it is my will and Desire that the said
negroes from and after they arrive to the age
of thirty years Injoy their full and perfect
Freedom in as full and perfect manner as
if they had been Free Born. I do here
by nominate and appoint my dearly
beloved wife Tabitha Campbell and my
friends William Russell and Robert Wilson
Executors of this my last will and Testa-
ment revoking all former will or wills
heartofore made by me in Witness whereof
I have hereunto set my hand and seal
this seventeenth day of November one thousand and
Eight hundred.              Wm. Campbell Seal

Signed Sealed published and declared by
the above named William Campbell to be
his last will and Testament in the presence
of us who have hereunto subscribed our
names as witnesses in the presence
of the Testator and in the presence of
each other. James Blythe, B. Porter,
Robert S. Russell

Muhlenberg County Sct.

February Term 1801

The last will and Testament of William
Campbell Dec’d was exhibited into Court
and proved by the Oath of Robert S. Russell
a subscribing witness thereto and ordered
to be Certified. Att. C.F. Wing Clerk

And again at a count court held for
the county aforesaid on Monday the 24th day
of August in the year aforesaid was fully
proved by the Oath of Benjamin Porter also
a subscribing witness thereto which is there
upon ordered to be recorded.

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