Thompson Wills from Mercer County, KY Early 1800s

While researching the various Thompson lines in Kentucky, I came across a large Thompson family that migrated from Albemarle County, Virginia to Mercer County, Kentucky in the 1790s.

They have no known connection to my husband’s Thompson clan, but many of the men left wills and several caught my eye.

This Thompson group was quite wealthy. Unfortunately, their wealth was accrued on the backs of enslaved people.

It seems very odd that these wills, written years apart, were all recorded in the same short time frame. I wish I knew the story behind this family.

The first will is that of John B. Thompson. The purpose of a will is to name heirs and their legacies. Yet, John names his wife as sole executor, makes it very clear he wants no stepfather to have a hand in his estate and, instead of naming his children, he gives life advice to his sons and daughters, all of whom are not of legal age.

I am thinking that with the uncertainty of life out on the frontier and the young ages of his children, he decided they might pass away before reaching adulthood so there was no point in giving them specific bequests.

As seen by the codicils, sons John and Henry lived to come of age and one daughter, Sally, had married.

Will Book 9:524

In the name of God Amen. I John B. Thompson of the county of Mercer & state of Kentucky do make & ordain this my last Will & Testament to wit, Having complete confidence confidence in boy the Judgment and prudence of my wife Nancy P. Thompson – my Will is that she take & remain in intire possession of the whole estate of which I may die possessed during the time she shall remain my widow to be [smudged] & Disposed of during the time at her discretion for the support of herself & my children & the Education of the children hereby during that whenever any Child shall marry or arrive at age that my wife according to her own discretion give unto such child a reasonable proportion of the estate having regard to the number of children & her own Subsistence to be accounted for by such child whenever a general division may take place. I do not wish or desire to prevent my wife marrying after my Death – nor do I intend that my children or their estate shall ever be in the power of a step father

Therefore I direct that whenever my wife shall marry – that my estate be divided according to the now present law of my between her and my children giving her dower and the children
their right to pass with them into the hands of guardians to be their appointed by the court I direct that she be & hereby appointed her their guardians & to remain as long as she remains my widow I appoint my said wife sold Executrix of this my will and give unto each of our children born or to be born an equal interest in my estate subject to her controll as before stated – I wish my children to be well educated – when the boys arrive at years of Sufficient discretion let them choose their own occupation or professions if an unequal proportion of the estate is spent for their Education
they ought to account for it –

My sons hearken unto the words of your father. Then all the paths of Vice of every description and evade all wicked and profligate men for if you fall in with them you are certainly ruined Seek the company of the wise & prudent and labor to be so yourselves Be Just be industrious honest, moral and prudent and you will be respectable and happy. O never never – disgrace your parents – by acting dishonorable yourselves

My Dear little Daughters for you and your fate I feel most Sensibly – If your parents either live hearken I Beseech you unto their advice and profits and you are safe – if we leave you then O then the trial comes – Be neat industrious cautious in both words & Actions Shun I beg you the volatile giddy taking part of your [?] Seek the company of those ladies young & old of whom all people speak well – Let prudence and Amiableness so shine in your charities as to make you happy and to honor the name of your parents – To the philantropie part of the world and unto god I commend you.

Given under my hand & seal this 5th day of September 1819

John B. Thompson {seal}

I further direct by this codicil that whilst my wife is possessed of my estate as above directed she shall not be required to give Security as Exec. no do I wish her to Sell more of the personal estate than is necessary to pay debts unless in her Judgment it is best so to do. 24th March 1825 John B. Thompson (seal)

If my wife deem it expedient to Sell my Harrodsburg real property she is at liberty to do it. 2d July 1826 John B. Thompson (seal)

If necessary or if my wife think it best she may sell a hundred to two hundred acres of my Shawnee new land to pay debts or advance the children or all of it 29th Jany 1827 J. B Thompson (seal) John B. Thompson (seal)

Oct 1831 – Sally is married & gone she has received seven hundred Dollars in various things (See list) J B Thompson (seal)

John and Henry have both recd Advances (See list 22 Oct 1832 J B Thompson (seal)

Mercer County Sct August County Court 1833

The foregoing last will & Testament of John B. Thompson was this day produced into court & the handwriting thereof as well as the codicils hereto proved to be in that of the decdt by the oaths of Samuel Davis and M.L. Worthington and ordered to be recorded – which is done according ly

Att Tho Allin cc

Item 2 in the next will – that of John Thompson, father of John B. above – caught my eye. First, I though it was commendable when I read that Sucky, Patty, Jimboy and Jim were to be freed upon John’s death. Then I read the portion highlighted in red – to be freed unless one or more of them kills him! I can’t say I’ve ever seen a statement like that in a will before.

Will Book 9:525

I John Thompson of Mercer County State of Kentucky do appoint my son John B. Thompson Executor to this my Will

if at my Death I have a crop on hand not finished I direct that my negroes be kept together & treated well till the crop is finished.

2d. I set [smudge] following of my negroes free (to wit) old woman Sucky woman Patty old man Jimboy yellow tom and yellow man Jim – but if any one or more of them do kill me he or they so Doing shall not be free nor receive the benefit of of this clause of my will – but remain a slave or slaves to to go as is herein after directed in to the general clause

3d. I give to said Tom the horses raised and claimed by him Item

4th I lend unto my Daughter Mary B Allin during her life time the following slaves (to wit) Eliza a girl Fanny ann a girl & Bob a boy & after the Death of said Mary the sd Slaves & their increase devised in this clause To be equally divided between her children but also give to sd Mary full power and right in her life time to give or divide said last named slaves and their increase from this time among her children as she said Mary thinks proper

5th Item I give my son Philip Thompson my negroe man Jonas –

Item I devise that all the balance of my estate be sold by my executor the slaves to human masters in the country and after paying debts the proceeds and remainder to be equally divided between my sons John b. Thompson my son Philip thompson my son George B. Thompson and my Daughter Mary B Allin if either of them died before me there children to represent them and any debts due me or money on hand is to be included in the disposition of this clause

Item I desire that my Executor to see that my old woman Sucky be taken care off

Witness my hand this 2d June 1833

John Thompson [seal]

H T Deweese
CB Bradshaw
Richd Thompson

Mercer County Scts August County Court 1833
The foregoing last Will & Testament of John Thompson Deceased was this day produced into court and proved by the oaths of H T. Deweese and C.B Bradshaw two subscribing witnesses thereto and ordered to be recorded.

Att. Tho Allin cc

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the will of George Thompson, apparent brother of John Thompson, as he names his nephew John B. Thompson in his will.


2 thoughts on “Thompson Wills from Mercer County, KY Early 1800s”

  1. I keep hoping that our Thompson research will intersect some day. So far, I only have an 1820 marriage record in Ohio county, Kentucky. Otherwise, I’m stuck in Warwick county, Indiana.

    However, I have to admit that I haven’t spent much time digging for records on this line.

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