Beyond Vital Records: Dulworth Family and Goodspeed’s Mug Book

Yesterday, I shared the family sketch of James Dulworth and Elizabeth Gwinn Spear of Cumberland County, Kentucky. While Cumberland County has some extant vital records, it has some major gaps, too.

Long ago, I found one resource that often made me jump for joy – county histories and/or paid “mug books” (books mainly published for profit in the later 1800s, financed by individuals who paid a fee to have their family story published in an article).

It just so happens that the Goodspeed volume that includes Adair County, home of Jacob Dulworth in the 1880s,  was one of those books that brought on the genealogy happy dance.

That’s because Jacob Dulworth, son of James and Elizabeth, had the financial means and desire to have the Dulworth story told. I’ve found a number of these articles in various books, but Jacob’s, I think, might have been published to honor his father.

James Dulworth died in 1887 – the same year this book was published – and Jacob’s entry tells a lot about his parents and siblings. It wasn’t “all about him.”

Kentucky: A History of the State, Perrin, Battle, Kniffin, 4th ed., 1887, Pages 104-105Adair County.

JACOB DULWORTH, a native of Cumberland County, was born February 6, 1835. His father, James Dulworth, was born near Knoxville, and was a farmer in fair circumstances.  He began the battle of life without a dollar, and when in his twenty-fifth year married Miss Elizabeth Gwinn Spears, a daughter of Benjamin and Naomi (Crabtree) Spears, the former of the Old Dominion, the latter of Kentucky.  Benjamin Spears was the son of John Spears, a Revolutionary soldier.  To James Dulworth and his wife were born six children: Benjamin, Jacob, Mathias, John, Abraham and Nancy M., wife of James R. Coe.  John and Benjamin are now dead.  Mathias Dulworth served as a private in the Fifth Kentucky Federal Cavalry, but on account of his health was not able to serve out his term of enlistment.  James Dulworth was brought to Cumberland County by his parents.  He owned about 600 acres of fine land in the southern part of the county worth about $6,000, and he gave his estate, with the exception of 200 acres, to his children.  Mrs. Dulworth, who was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, departed this life in 1878, about sixty years of age.  Mr. Dulworth afterward was married to Miss Ibby Williams, daughter of Richard and Elizabeth (Spears) Williams, natives of Cumberland County, Ky.  Mr. and Mrs. Dulworth, both of whom are members of the Christian Church, still live at their home in Cumberland County, Ky.  John Dulworth, grandfather of Jacob Dulworth, had emigrated from Germany to the United States, and settled in Tennessee, where he was a farmer.  Benjamin Spears, maternal grandfather of Jacob Dulworth, was a native of the Old Dominion, and for sixty years he was a strict and consistent member of the Methodist Episcopal Church.  Before his death he divided his estate, which was small, consisting of 200 acres of land and $1,000 in cash, among his three children, two of whom were daughters, and several years before his death lived with Jacob Dulworth.  In youth Mr. Dulworth acquired a moderate English education in the common schools of his neighborhood, and remained at home working for his father until twenty-four years of age. He then, in 1858, emigrated to California, but after working unsuccessfully nearly two years, both in California and Vancouver’s Island, returned home in 1859, and went into brandy distilling.  Prior to emigrating he owned and ran three whiskey distilleries.  He quit distilling in 1860 and turned his attention to farming entirely.  The first farm Mr. Dulworth owned was in Overton County, Tenn., and it consisted of 180 acres, and was worth $2,500.  In 1870 he removed to Adair County, and purchased 200 acres of fine land on Green River, where he has since resided.  November 6, 1860, he was united in marriage to Miss Hannah, daughter of Burrell and Jane (Smith) Willis, natives of Overton County, Tenn.  Burrell Willis was a farmer, and the father of ten children, only two of whom were sons, John and Charles Willis.  John Willis was a veteran of the Mexican war, and served as private in Gen. Scott’s army.  Charles Willis was a private in the Fifth Kentucky Cavalry, Federal Volunteer service, and served until his death in 1863.  To Mr. and Mrs. Dulworth have been born nine children: Martha, wife of George A. Fease; James A., Joseph M., Leslie, William B., Rufus M., Jane N., Marietta and Rosa Belle, all of whom are living.  Mr. Dulworth is a member of the Masonic order, and of the Democratic party.  He began life with $640 in 1856, and is now worth $12,000, which is all the result of his own industry.  His farm comprises 576 acres of fine land on both sides of Green River, some of which is worth $100 per acre, and he has 200 acres of this tract in cultivation.  He first lived in a log house, but five years ago erected a frame two-story residence.  Mr. Dulworth does a great deal of trading and has been very successful in it–especially in tobacco and mule trading.  He has bought 25,000 pounds of tobacco this year, and now has on hand thirty-two young mules, which he bought when colts, and will sell when two years old.

This is one of my favorite finds of all time, as it tells me so many details that I’ve been able to verify through other sources, but adds information about which I had no idea. For example, Jacob’s brother Benjamin is in the 1860 census of Calaveras County, California, but I had no idea that Jacob had also gone to California.

On caveat about this mug book articles – sometimes families purposely exaggerated (or outright fibbed) about details or they were just plain mistaken. For example, Jacob’s grandfather, Benjamin, is well documented in North Carolina and his family migrated from Maryland. He wasn’t from the Old Dominion – but the Crabtrees – his wife’s family – did move to Kentucky from Virginia. Before that, they, too, were Marylanders.

Even though these volumes are long out of copyright, I haven’t always been able to find digital versions online. I think that may be because some of them have modern reprint versions. However, if you haven’t ever sought out these books, you might be missing an opportunity for your own genealogy happy dance!

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