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Interview with Herbert T. "Happy" Buchanan

October 29, 1971

Interviewer-Herbert Buchanan was born in Shelby Township, Jefferson County on December 4, 1897. He was the son of Henry E. and Rosa Maude Buchanan. The Lee family is the one we are going to discuss today. We’ll go back to Mr. Buchanan’s great-great-grandfather, Gershom Lee. I’ll let you start out. You don’t know when he was born?

I couldn’t find that out.

Interviewer-When did he die?

(Muffled) In 21.

Interviewer-Do you know when he came to Indiana?

I couldn’t find anything about that.

Interviewer-One of Gersham’s sons was Nathan, Tell us about Nathan who would have been your great-grandfather.

There is some muffled discussion and then Mr. Buchanan begins to speak.

Gershom Lee was born Hunterdon, New Jersey. He was a Baptist and moved to Flemington and erected _____________Lord’s? Church. He owned four acres near the church and also another lot on the other side of town. He sold out finally and started west. He stopped in Virginia for a considerable time then went on to Kentucky and he owned a farm there and died there in eighteen and twenty-one. His son, Nathan, moved to where the capital of Kentucky now stands but he built a small town there called Leesburg, and operated a tavern and kept people overnight. One season George Rogers Clark stayed at his place. He, Nathan Lee, bought lots down where Carrollton now stands and finally at the turn of the century he bought 640 acres of land in Indiana about three miles south of where Canaan now stands. He first married Isabell Morrow in 1897 (Mr. Buchanan, do doubt, means 1797) and they had two children who moved to Mississippi. Then he married a lady by the name of Ford in Kentucky. They had seven boys and three daughters. The three daughters were Elizabeth, Susan and Sytha. Sytha married James Barber. The other two girls married people by the name of Matthews. Elizabeth married John Matthews. They have many descendants in the neighborhood there today. The seven sons, I remember the name of six of the men. There were Hugh, Abner, Perry, Gershom and Watson, sometimes called Watty, sometimes called Warner.

Interviewer-He (Nathan) lived to be quite an old man didn’t he?

He died in 1860. Two of his sons served in the Civil War. Gershom, one of his sons, died in a southern prison camp during the war. The other one returned home in ill health but soon recovered and lived to be 93 years of age. He is the only one that was alive that I can remember. He was bitter against Robert E. Lee mainly because he had to lay out in the mud and water so much during the war. (Mr. Buchanan laughs) Nathan is buried on the farm where I live and he died in 1860. Nathan was a brother to Henry Lee, Sr. and Henry Lee, Sr. was the father of Henry Lee, Jr. who was known as Light-Horse Harry.

Interviewer-Now, Light-Horse Harry, I’m vague on my history, but he was a general or something, wasn’t he?

Well, that was Light-Horse Harry’s son.

Interviewer-I may be thinking of Robert E.

You’re thinking of Robert E. Robert E. Lee was the son of Harry.

Interviewer-One of the sons of Nathan was Abner, now that was…….

That was my grandfather, Abner, and when Nathan moved over to Indiana he got 640 acres of land that cost a dollar and a quarter an acre, and its all divided into small farms now that other people own. Abner was born in 1816. He was born in Indiana because his father had been here quite a length of time when he was born.

Interviewer-Who did Abner marry?

Abner married Frances Elizabeth Short. Her people come from Germany. Her grandfather come from Germany. His older brother was comin’ over and he (Abner) wanted to come but he was too young to get a pass, they called it then, so they cut out a piece of pasteboard about the size of a pass and lined up when they went on the ship and they only spot checked ‘em and they happened to miss him.

Interviewer-I think there is an interesting story connected with that Short name if you want to tell us about that.

Well, after they come over here, my grandfather changed his name to the English form of Short, his right name was Kertz, when he came here he changed the name but his older brother, he went on north and they finally lost communication with him and, you know it was hard to get mail back and forth at that time, you’d have to send it with somebody, and they finally lost trace of one another and so my grandmother, her father, Jake Kertz, he was a sailor. He’d been all over the world and he come the Nantucket Island and married a Nancy (Hankins or Atkins? Can’ make out the word.)

Interviewer-How do you spell that Kertz?

K-E-R-T-Z Then he moved to Indiana and he married a woman by the name of Ward from Kentucky and she been married before and had a son named Asher Ward. Asher was quite a famous orator at that time but he died before he was of any age.

Interviewer-Was he an artist around here?

No. Orator. Orator.

Interviewer-Now you’re talking about the Kertz, your grandmother’s family?

Yes, but they changed to the English form, but some of them didn’t and some of them went north and still kept the name.

Interviewer-So you could run into people by the name of Kertz and some by the name of Short and they might really be related. Abner’s children then. Abner was born in 1816 and he married……Abner’s children. Can you name them?

Abner’s children were Wattie or Watson, Abner, Perry, Gershom, Hugh, that’s six I guess and there was one more but I never did know his name for certain.

Interviewer-I thought those were the children of Nathan.

Oh, yes. They are the children of Nathan. I got them mixed up. (Mr. Buchanan laughs at his mistake) I don’t know who some of the children are of Abner. His children were,
I’ll give their married names. There was Demaree, Susan, Lucy Becket, and (Can’t understand) Barber?, Sarah Lyons, Mary Rogers, Killes, Thurston and Rosie.

Interviewer-To digress for just a minute. I have a note here, Abner Lee married Frances Elizabeth Short on Dec. 10th, 1847, they were married here in the county and raised their family in the county as did the generation before.

(There is a period of muffled talk that can’t be interpreted)

Her and a sister, I never did know the name, they was going to school in Madison when that famous flood took place in 1846 and somebody come out and told her father who was Ligy Short….

Interviewer-Her father was who?



Yes, Elijah. Neighbor told him Madison was about wiped away. He got a couple of horses and started out to find his daughters and he found them safe. The girls wasn’t allowed to attend any public colleges then, you know, but he was German and he believed in an education and him and group of neighbors paid for the girls school so the girls could get an education. That was almost unknown at the time.

Interviewer-The Shorts, now they lived out in the same neighborhood your family lived in?

Elijah Short lived in a little house down by Manville. I think it’s still standing. And my grandmother (can’t understand) then they moved up by Mooresville. That was standing ‘til a few years ago.

Interviewer-Let’s go back to Nathan Lee for a minute, the father of Abner Lee, who married Frances Elizabeth Short. Talk a little bit about Nathan. What else can you tell us about Nathan.

Nathan lived in a large house. It stood on the land now owned by Perry Lee. It was a short distance from a large spring. He there operated a place to tan leather and a grist mill. The large grist mill wheel is still on those grounds. When they first came to Indiana the Indians had a lot of log houses where that grist mill stands on a ledge of rock. One day they went off to have a large pow-wow as they called it and while they wre gone he set fire to their houses and removed them from what he called “his land’. Of course the Indians never knew who done that.

Interviewer-Nathan had title to the land?

Oh, yes. He bought it for a dollar and a quarter an acre.

Interviewer-Did the Indians have a place there to grind the meal?

Well, no. They just lived there. After they was burned out, come back and found out, they moved up to Michigan.

Interviewer-Then it was Nathan who built the mill. What can you tell us about Nathan’s children, the others, we’ve talked a little bit about Abner. He had some other sons. You named Watson or Wattie or Watts as they called him. What can you tell us about him?

Well, his first wife died and then he married a lady from Louisville, Kentucky.

Interviewer-Do you know what his first wife’s name was?

Oh, I don’t know. The second marriage was to a Brown.

Interviewer-Is there anything else you know about Watson?

That’s about all.

Interviewer-How about Perry?

Well, he lived up there on the ridge and he became a Mormon, the only one in the family, as far as I know. And he remained a Mormon as long as that Mormon church was in there. I can remember that Mormon Church was in bad condition when first I could remember it.

Interviewer-Where was that located?

South of the Mount Pleasant Church.

Interviewer-Did they have a big congregation out there?

Well, not real large—enough to keep the church going for awhile and they just finally died out. A lot of them moved away.

Interviewer-But Perry lived all of his life in the county?

That’s right, all of his life.

Interviewer-And who did Perry marry? Do you know?

Don’t know.

Interviewer-Another one of Nathan’s son, Killes, I’ve got a little note here that says he had fourteen children.

Yes. Killes was the father of fourteen children—all by his first wife. He lived in the house where Floyd Lee and Burnice(?) Lee now lives, close to where Nathan’s original home was.

Interviewer-Killes had two wives?

Two wives.

Interviewer-Who was his first wife, the mother of the children?

His first wife was a Skeen S-K-E-E-N and his second wife was a Ford.

Interviewer-And Killes and the Ford lady didn’t have any children. Is that right?

That’s right.

Interviewer-Then I have another son here of Nathan-Hugh.

He lived on the part of the farm that I now live on for awhile then he sold out and moved over on Bacon Ridge and he owned about 360 acres of land and had a large family and in his family he laid out nine dead in one room in the course of his lifetime.

Interviewer-Nine children?

Nine children and the wife and then he found they were for a large part weakly. They had TB. They called it “lung trouble” at that time and they kept dying off. He was considered well off for that time. When the estate was settled he had $33,000, that was besides the land. He was considered wealthy at that time.

Interviewer-What was his wife’s maiden name?

I don’t know. She was dead a long time before my time.

Interviewer-Another one of Nathan’s sons was Gershom. They called him Uncle Geesh?

They called him Uncle Gaysh. Uncle Gaysh and Killes both served in the Civil War and Gaysh died in the South.

Interviewer-Do you know where he died in the South?

No, I don’t. He married Aunt Jane Lee, we called her, she was living in my time and she died of cancer. They had a large family but there was only two of them survived.

Interviewer-You’re talking about Gershom, the one that died in the war.

That’s right. Gershom.

Interviewer-And he had two children who survived. What was their names?

Eliza married Sammy Risk and Warner. He died in Ripley County.

Interviewer-Was there anything about Nathan Lee that you wanted to go back to? He was the father of these people we have been talking about here.

Better not tell a scandal, had I. (laughs)

Interviewer-Well, it would be interesting and add a little bit of spice.

Make some of those descendants mad at me.

Interviewer-Everybody has skeletons in their closet. Some people are able to keep them hid a little bit better than others.

Well, Gershom went to court Aunt Jane Lee, her maiden name was Lee, and they went to goin’ together and his father, Nathan, he like to made a storm but he couldn’t keep ‘em from getting married without bringing everything out and he didn’t want to tell that he was the father of this Jane and they were half brother and sister. And people tells that that is why their children was so weak and died-so many of them.

Interviewer-Then Gershom unknowingly married his half sister?

That’s right. No, he didn’t know it ‘cause his father didn’t want to tell it, you know.

Interviewer-I’ve got a little note here on this son of Nathan Lee, Watson or Watty as you called him. I understand that he had a wild step-son. This would have been by the Mrs. Brown from Louisville.

I saw that step-son quite a few years ago. That step-son come a visitin’ around. He was a very heavy drinker and he finally died from drink. Now his name would have been Brown, John Brown.

Interviewer-Now, he would have been born in Louisville?

I think so. His mother was from there anyway.

Interviewer-Quite a heavy drinker?

Very heavy.

Interviewer-I understand he drank some stuff…….

They claim he drank stuff that finally killed him.

Interviewer-Do you want to talk any more about Killes Lee, son of Nathan? He was the one that had fourteen children.

Killes Lee was supposed to be the seventh son of a seventh son and one time he came in to where I now live and grandfather Abner was living there then, and he came and told him, he says, “I’ve discovered a wonderful power that I have. I can move rocks five men couldn’t even lift.” My grandfather said, “Killis, you losing your senses? You better see a doctor.” And then he says, “I can put my hand on your head and you can’t move.” And he went up and put his hand on my grandfather’s head and he began to strugglin’, trying to get up and he clenched his pipe stem in his teeth. And then after that he carried on séances for awhile but why he refused to carry them on anymore was because he figured they was misrepresentin’ things. There was one good man that died in that county and they had a séance to see if he went to heaven and they asked if there was degrees in heaven and he said, “Yes, three.” So then they asked what degree this man was in and he said, “The third degree.” So right then they stopped the séance and they said, “ A good man as that couldn’t get to the first degree in heaven, none of the rest of us will ever get there.” And that stopped the séances.

Interviewer-So Killes was a little bit afraid of his own psychic ability then and he just quit?

He just quit.

Interviewer-Another son of Nathan was Hugh. Do you know who he married?

No, I don’t. But you can find that on the tombstones.

Interviewer-Is he buried in the Lee Cemetery?

Yeah. That’s near where I am.

Interviewer-Did Hugh have any children?

Well, yes. He had quite a bounty cause he laid out nine dead in one room but I don’t know how many.

Interviewer-Now, Abner, the son of Nathan, who married Frances Elizabeth Short, we talked about her while ago. He was the father of your mother. You want to fill us in on who your mother’s brothers and sisters were?

There was Thurst-Lucius Thurston and Killes, the other brother and one died when it was a baby boy. There was Rosie or Rosa Maude and Mary, Mary A. Rogers, Sue married a Demaree and Sarie married Oren Lyons in Ohio. I don’t know if I got them all or not. Oh, and Lucy married Sam Becket.

InterviewerStarting with Killes-he was born in approximately 1852 who did he marry?

He married for his first wife a Miller and they had one child-a girl. She died in California a few years ago, and then he married a Brown for his second wife and they had one girl-living here in Madison-Dory. She married Homer Tewell.

Interviewer-I believe they lived down on Third Street.

Right by the park.

Interviewer-Next I have Sue. I have taken these approximate birth dates from the 1870 census. Susan would have been born about 1857. She married, I believe you said, a Demaree.

Watson Demaree

Interviewer-What children did they have?

They had (Can’t understand first name given), Ida and Nettie and Daisy and Hattie and Annie. I guess that’s all.

Interviewer-Did they raise their family around here?

Most of them did but Annie lived in Cincinnati and Sarie? north of Cincinnati.

Interviewer-Now, there are the children of Lucy, who was born in about 1859.

She was married to Sam Becket. They had two daughters, Mattie and Mollie. They are both dead now. Mollie was married to Charlie? Ringwald and Mattie was married to Elmer Ralston. Mollie married when an old woman and didn’t have any children.

Interviewer-The next one I have here is Melissa, born about 1864.

She married Rudolph Manford. They lived in Indianapolis and had one son, Ollie.

Interviewer-Thurston-I believe his correct name is Lucius Thurston. Tell us how that Lucius came about.

Well, my grandmother was pretty well educated and she was always picking out names.

Interviewer-Lucius was born about 1867. Who did he marry?

He married Ellie Manville. There children were Howard and Lester, Goldie and Flora. Goldie is still living in North Madison, Howard’s in Maryland and Lester’s at Tell City.

This is the last of the interview. It ends abruptly with no wind-up or sign-off given.