George Lansdown(e), Prince William County, Virginia to Bath County, Kentucky

I have a small addition to make to this entry on George. I had long seen that a George Lansdowne was an ensign during the War of 1812. I found yesterday that he served, along with his brother, John Lansdowne, a sargeant, in Capt. Joseph Smith’s Company of the 36th Regiment in the County of Prince William. It would seem that it was a long way from ensign to the rank of colonel that he went by in Kentucky, but I guess that re-inventing yourself was the beauty of moving so far from home.

I was quite stumped as to where this George Lansdown came from when I first noticed him in Bath County, Kentucky. I began collecting bits and pieces of information about him because he lived at an early time and seemed like he could be related to the Virginia Lansdown family. Then the following reference to him popped up in my search one day:

Virginia Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 37, No. 2, p. 119-124.
“Hail Ye Also From Virginia?”, Roger G. Ward
“A major source of frustration to many genealogists researching the 18th and 19th century American frontier is the phrase “born in Virginia” or “came from Virginia. . . Listed below are Virginia landowners in the 1815 county land tax lists . . . “east of the Blue Ridge” ”
p. 124 “Landsdown, George, by his wife in 1817, of Kentucky; Prince William County”

So, George was from Prince William County, Virginia and I had conveniently found a will for John Lansdown of the same County, written 8 December 1811 and proven 6 January 1812, which mentioned sons William, John, and George. It would seem that George used the money from his father to head to Kentucky. George married prior to his moving but his first wife’s name is unfortunately lost to us. His only child from this marriage, Andrew Jackson Lansdowne was born 20 October 1814 in Virginia. We can see by the reference above that he was in Kentucky by 1817, so we can narrow down the date of his move to that window of about two and a half years. We know his wife was with him in Kentucky and so we have her date of death as being between 1817 and 1819, when George remarried.

George Lansdown lived a remarkably colorful life. The following citation relates an incident from George’s early time in Kentucky. It seems to show an impulsive man, but perhaps also a loyal man. For whatever reason, he seemed to believe the punishment did not fit the crime committed by Ellenor Gillespie.

Briefs from History of Bath Co.., KY 1876, William M. Talley
“July 26, 1817. Jury Wm. Smith, Robert Downs, Thomas Perry, Gordon Griffin, Drury B. Boyd, James Thompson, Wm. Miller, Christopher Oakley, George Butcher, John Trumbo, and Jarvis Brennigan sentenced Ellenor Gillespie to hang for the murder of her husband. She was executed at the forks of the road on Mt. Sterling pike, on gallows erected by David Hynoman. Guards were: George Cloyd Jr.,Charley Cooper, Asa Maxey, Denny Burns, Billy Burns, and David Fathey.
While Ellenor was confined in jail, George Lansdown went in and undressed himself, gave her his clothes and she attempted to escape by walking boldly out of the jail. David Fathey saw the deception and arrested her as she was leaving. Lansdown was incensed at Fathey for not permitting her to escape; a fight ensued and Fathey whipped Lansdown.”

Bath County records of May 1818 show George Lansdown being ‘ordered’ to view prickly ash road with two out of three neighbors; Andrew Cartmell, Thomas Cartmell, and Hebron Rall, and determine the best way to ‘turn’ the road. Road viewing was a task commonly assigned to the men of the community in colonial America. I suppose this return to community life shows that George was somewhat forgiven for his defense of Mrs. Gillespie the previous year.

On October 24, 1819 Col. George Lansdowne (he added the ‘e’ to his surname) married Mary Lonsdale Menefee, widow of Richard Menefee who was “one of the founders of Owingsville, one of the wisest law makers of Kentucky’s earlier years, and the father of one of the three great orators of Kentucky.”

The 1820 Census of Bath County, Kentucky showed George and his family living in the town of Owingsville, the county seat. The household consisted of three boys under ten years of age, three between ten and sixteen, along with George and his new wife, Mary, both between twenty-six and forty-five years old. One of the boys was Andrew Jackson Lansdowne, son of George and his first wife. The five Menefee boys, stepsons of George, were: Allen Menefee, and his twin, Alvin Menefee, both age sixteen; Alfred Menefee, age thirteen; Richard Hickman Menefee, age nine, later a Kentucky congressman and lawyer; and John Lonsdale Menefee, age seven. John was killed in a duel in Mississippi in 1838.

A biography of Richard Hickman Menefee, step-son of George Lansdowne, written by John Wilson Townsend, gives some insight into the family. “Menefee completed his first year at [Walker] Bourne’s school with great credit to himself. In the summer of 1822 he probably labored in the fields of some friendly farmer, and in the fall of the same year returned to Bourne’s school. One day, in the latter half of his second year at Bourne’s school, he came home and found his mother in tears. Inquiring for the cause of her sorrow he was told that she had been mistreated by his step-father, and, seizing a carving knife he made ready to repay the injury that Lansdowne had inflicted upon his mother. A relation, who happened to be in the house at the time, interfered and serious trouble was averted. This difficulty caused “the lion of his nature to first break out.” Menefee now left the home of his mother, and at the age of fourteen years started out to face the cold and uncongenial world.”

The same biography of Menefee contains a letter from Menefee to his step-father which showed that the two were somewhat reconciled.

“Lexington, December 30th, 1826
Dear Col:—I should be glad if you would inform me as soon as you can conveniently whether or not you intend that I should pay what remains of the money which I have to Mr. Brooks for boarding, or whether yourself and Mr. Brooks have arranged it yourselves. If you recollect, John Fletcher loaned me all the books which are necessary in College and thus far I have been obliged to purchase but one or two; Owing, however, to a different arrangement in the studies of the different classes all the books (excepting one or two) which I borrowed from Fletcher have become entirely useless; those of them which are still necessary, he has sent for, and I shall be under the necessity of purchasing. I think it is very probable that I could sell all the books which I shall buy for almost the same sum for which I buy them. I have been obliged to be at far more expense than I expected to have been by getting shirts, shoes, etc.
College will not be open for the students until Tuesday and I should like to hear your advice before that time.
If you think it advisable I will either get the books and sell them again or keep them for Jackson; I think, however, it would be advisable to dispose of them, as there is almost every year a change in books, though I leave this entirely to your own wishes. My respects to Ma and the family.
Yours with gratitude
R. H. Menefee.
N. B. The reason of my wishing to know the agreement of Mr. Brooks and yourself is that the boarders who are here at this time make quarterly payments; and if I am also to do it, as I have been here three months, I should be about it. After getting a college receipt of $20, books and other necessaries I have yet remaining $22.50 which I shall expend in any manner you may advise.
I am anxious for an immediate answer as I am entirely at a loss how to act. R. H. M.

“The Mr. Brooks referred to in the letter was James A. Brooks, who had charge of the University refectory during the entire time that Menefee was at Transylvania. “Jackson” was Andrew Jackson Lansdowne, Colonel Lansdowne’s only son, born to him by his first wife. By Menefee’s mother he had two daughters, one of whom married B. F. Tomlinson and the other one married Harrison Gill. Gill’s daughters have assisted in the preparation of this biography.”

Bath Co., Kentucky Deed Book E, 1824-1826 shows a purchase of land by George Lansdown dated 6 November 1824. He apparently paid one dollar to Robert Crockett and his wife, Polly, for a track of land “on the waters of prickly ash” which seems to have contained a little over ninety-two acres.

For many years George Lansdowne was one of the lessees of Olympia Springs in Bath County and announced in May, 1830, that he had “lately purchased the above celebrated watering-place of the Hon. H(enry) Clay” and was ready for business. Kentucky Atlas and Gazetteer has the following snippet about this resort that was popular in the nineteenth century. “Olympian Springs was a resort and spa in southern Bath county located about seven miles southeast of Owingsville on KY 36. The site was originally known as Mud Lick and the mineral springs attracted development before the beginning of the nineteenth century. It was named Olympian Springs around 1800 by Thomas Hart for a nearby hill called Mount Olympus. Through the years it had a succession of owners and cabins and hotels were constructed on the site. Kentucky’s first stage coach line, in 1803, ran from Lexington to Olympian Springs. The resort closed in the early part of the twentieth century. The Olympian Springs post office opened in 1811 and operated intermittently until 1822 when it moved to the nearby town of Olympia. Modern maps refer to the site as Olympia Springs and it is locally known as Mud Lick.” That George was running a resort explains the rather large household present in the 1830 census for George and his family. He and his wife had added two daughters to the family, Georgia Ann, called George Ann, in 1820 and Mary Jane in 1826. His son from his first marriage was just sixteen, and at least one of his stepsons was still at home, along with two unidentified white women, possibly employees, and fifteen slaves.

There is a record, dated 27 May 1831, “(in Henry Clay’s hand) signed by George Lansdowne selling (a) seven or eight year-old bay mare raised in Virginia with a star on her forehead said to have been got by Potomac to Clay.” Apparently the men were gambling buddies. There is a story that George obtained the springs from Henry Clay in a card game. Others claim that he won the right to purchase the resort in said game.

On 12 February 1833 George added fifty acres on Mud Lick Creek to his land holdings. And then his life turned upside down. The first tragedy was the death of his wife, Mary, on June 21, 1833, at the age of forty-six. She was buried at Olympia Springs. The next tragedy that marked George’s life is hard to understand. Perhaps he was grief-stricken and not in his right mind. Sometime prior to January 9, 1834 he was arrested and jailed for murder. The Journal of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Kentucky of that date stated “Mr. Stone presented the petition of George Lansdown of Bath county, representing that he is confined in the jail of said county on the charge of murder; and that from the prejudice existing against him in said county, he cannot receive a fair and impartial trial, and praying a change of venue.” Acts of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky carried the following: “AN ACT to change the venue in the case of George Lansdown. Whereas, it is represented to the present General Assembly, that George Lansdown is confined in the jail of Bath county, upon a charge of murder, committed upon the person of his own slave, and that it is believed by him, and so proven, that the Judge who presides in said Circuit Court is unfriendly to him; that there is great prejudice existing against said Lansdown: and moreover, that the prosecuting Attorney, in said county, is nearly related to the prisoner [I believe this was his stepson, Richard Hickman Menefee, who was commonwealth’s attorney in 1831 and 1833]; and he has petitioned the Legislature for a change of the venue for his trial.” Eventually the trial was moved to Fleming County, but unfortunately, not living in Kentucky, I have been unable to discover the exact verdict. However, by 1840 George is back in Bath County in what seem like greatly reduced circumstances. He was between forty and fifty years old and was living with just one male slave.

In 1850 George Lansdown was living with his daughter, George Ann Gill, and son-in-law, Harrison Gill. His age was given as 60. Also in the home were the five children of Harrison and George Ann, Thomas Gill, an eighteen year-old deputy sheriff, and Allen Menifee, age forty-seven, a constable of Bath County and George’s stepson. Oddly, George is also listed as living with his daughter, Mary Jane Tomlinson and her family as well. So maybe he divided his time between the two.

George Lansdowne died on October 3, 1851. His tombstone says he was in “the 63d year of his age.” If true, we have his birth date narrowed down to about 1788. He is buried beside his wife, Mary, in Olympian Springs Cemetery on the grounds of the resort he ran. His son-in-law, Harrison Gill, took over Olympian Springs and ran it for several years. He and his wife, Georgeanne Lansdowne Gill are also buried in the cemetery.

Child of George Lansdowne and his first wife:
I. Andrew Jackson Lansdowne, b. 20 October 1814, probably in Prince William County, Virginia, d. 15 April 1873. He married Mary Hord, daughter of Thomas Hord, 13 May 1842, in Kentucky. She b. 15 Aug 1825 in Carter Co., Kentucky, d. 21 Apr 1881, Grayson Co., Kentucky.
Their children:
a. Lucy Lansdowne, b. 4 May 1843. She married Louise Gobel.
b. Mary “Daisy” Lansdowne. She b. 11 November 1844. She married George Ostenton. Their son Charles was a state senator from West Virginia.
c. George W. Lansdowne, b. 1 Nov 1848 in Carter Co., Kentucky, d. 7 Feb 1924 in the same. He married Helen Bayless 14 Feb 1872 in Carter Co., Kentucky. Their marriage produced nine children before their separation. Their son John C. Lansdowne was murdered in 1904. Their daughter Helen became one of the first women in advertising, working in New York City with her husband.
d. Juliet Lansdown, b. 20 Jan 1852 in Carter Co., Kentucky, d. 6 Apr 1947 in Carter Co., Kentucky, where she is also buried. She married Frank Powers.

Children of George Lansdowne and Mary Lonsdale Lansdowne:
I. Georgeanne Lansdowne, b. 21 October 1820 in Owingsville, Kentucky, d. 21 Jun 1883. She married Harrison Gill, 6 Dec 1837. They had nine children.
II. Mary Jane Lansdowne, b. 1826 in Owingsville, Kentucky, d. Missouri. She married Benjamin Franklin Tomlinson, 29 December 1839. They moved to Missouri about 1858. They had six children.

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13 Responses to George Lansdown(e), Prince William County, Virginia to Bath County, Kentucky

  1. I found all this information very interesting. Curious if this George is in any way connected to my Landsdowns.

  2. spotisadog says:

    I believe that this George is the son of John Landsdown of Prince William Co., Va. John mentioned sons William, John and George in his will. John was the son of William Lansdown of Westmoreland Co., Va. William mentioned sons George, John and William in his will. This would make John of Prince William the brother of the William Lansdown that moved to Halifax Co., Va. and then to Wilkes Co., NC. Their children would have been cousins.

  3. MIKE HENSLEY says:

    would like information if the grounds of the hotel was used as a bivouac site for troops during the civil war?

    • spotisadog says:

      I believe that is was called Camp Gill because Gill Harrison, son-in-law of George Lansdowne, allowed troops to use the grounds. It was a Union camp, not a Confederate camp.

  4. Lee Hoffman says:

    George Lansdown(e)’s first wife was Lucy Robinson. Her father was John Robinson, also of Prince William Co, VA. From what I have been able to find, John Robinson was supposedly wealthy. So it may be that George Lansdown(e) not only had resources from his family but from her family as well which would permit him to be well-situated in KY. I have not been able to find Lucy’s grave although I would presume it to be in or near Owingsville, KY.

    A number of the stories about George Lansdown(e) [Sr] are often mistaken with those for George Lansdowne [Jr] and vice versa. Both seemed to have a less than gentlemanly demeanor (with emphasis on “mean”) at times.

    As for Olympian Springs, my grandfather recalled seeing George [Jr] taking payments for the resort to Lexington to Henry Clay including the final payment. Clay never owned the resort although as executor of his father-in-law’s estate, he had charge of it. The story of the poker game could have some truth to it although only that George Lansdown(e) won first refusal should the Hart heirs decide to sell — this is only my opinion, but makes sense.

    • spotisadog says:

      Thank you so much for his first wife’s name. I see that you are a Hoffman, so you would be descended from Laura Gill, daugher of Harrison Gill and George Ann Lansdown, who married A. Hoffman? Does Lucy’s name come from a family Bible?

      But I am confused, or maybe it is just 6 am, but could you tell me specifically who is George Sr. and who is George Jr.? I know that Andrew J. Lansdowne had a son George who ended up divorced and who seemed on the mean side. But I never knew or didin’t figure out that the George from Va had a son George. Nobody has a George Jr. from him that I have seen.

      There was a later George Lansdown who died in 1903 in Bath Co who was born in SC. I have never been able to figure him out.

      • Lee Hoffman says:

        In regard to the South Caroline George Lansdowne, I agree that he is a mystery. According to the 1850 & 1860 censuses, he would have been born about 1824 which would put him between Georgia Ann and her sister, Mary. This would allow him to be a son of George [Sr] assuming a birth pattern for his children of every two years. This would satisfy the rumor that George [Sr] had a second son.

        The problem, of course, is why this George would have been born in SC. One could say the census enumerator made a mistake if one census had him born in SC and the other in KY. But both would be stretching things. Still, it is possible that George [Sr] was there on a extended trading trip and that his wife was with him with possibly an early birth. But, I doubt it. I think if that were the case then some other record would have surfaced to that effect.

        My thinking is that the George from SC was at best a nephew of George [Sr]. Still, I am keeping an open mind.

  5. Lee Hoffman says:

    Yes, my great grandmother was Laura Gill. My original source for the name of his first wife is John A. Richards, “A History of Bath County, Kentucky” (Yuma, Arizona: Southwest Printers, 1961), p. 106. But I have seen it in another which I cannot offhand cite. I need to find that other source in that it is one that states her father’s name. I do have another source, my father obtained a blank genealogy book in 1909 and filled it out then when his grandmother, Laura Gill was still living and would have known the name of her GF’s first wife.

    Yes, the George [Jr] is actually the grandson. My perception of him is that he had the attitude that the world owed him. Thus, he caused many people problems unnecessarily and often to his own loss. George [Sr] died when George [Jr] was baout age three, but my GF told me that as [Jr] aged, many people said that he was just like his GF, [Sr].

  6. steven ray menefee says:

    thanks for this info. i have an interest in richard hickman menefee and his mother mary lonsdale.i have been cleaning up the cem. at olympian springs. menefee married the daughter of matt jouett kentucky portrait painter.

    • Wilma West says:

      Hi Steven Ray Menefee….I was just at the cemetery in Olympian Springs yesterday and It must have been a while since you have been there. I was wondering who actually owns the land/cemetery there. I was raised there on Mudlick Road and really never noticed the cemetery until a few yeas ago. I was wondering if maybe since that State Marker is there if the state owned it or could even clean it up. That is a great piece of history there that needs to be preserved. There are trees growing up in there and the weeds are very high. Would you know who I could contact to see about getting it cleaned up?

  7. Loxley says:

    I wonder if there is a connection to my Lansdownes of Prince William and Loudoun Counties who are African American.

  8. Patti Jones says:

    The following is the line I’m working on. The daughter Clary had an illigitimate son David Allen Lansdown who later married and had a daughter Elizabeth S. Lansdown, she was my GG Grandmother.
    4. i. John Landsdown, B. abt. 1765 in Gordons Dist., Wilkes Co., NC, *Killed by Indians in KY in 1803. M. Sept.16, 1786 in Wilkes Co., NC

    5. ii. David Landsdown. B. abt 1767 in Wilkes Co., NC, D.Aft1837. M. abt 1788

    iii. William Landsdown, B abt 1769 in Wilkes Co., NC, D. 1814 in Prince William Co. VA, M. April 19, 1798 in Culpepper Co., VA

    iv. Nancy Landsdown, B. abt 1870

    6. v. Sarah Landsdown, B. abt 1771 in Wilkes Co., NC, D. abt 1820. M. Aug. 26, 1790.

    7. vi. Nathaniel Landsdown, B. abt.1776 in Wilkes Co., NC D Between 1850-1860 in Wright Co.MO, M. April 15, 1799 in Wilkes Co., NC.


    8. vii. Reuben Landsdown, B. Abt 1781 in Wilkes Co., NC, D. 1830 in Carter Co., TN. M. August 3, 1803 in Wilkes Co., NC.

    9. viii. Elizabeth Landsdown, B. Abt.1783 in Wilkes Co.,NC, M. Jan.09, 1803 in Wilkes Co.

    ix. Idacia Landsdown, B. abt. 1785 in Wilkes Co., NC. D. 1825, M. Abt. 1804 In Wilkes Co., NC

    10. x. CLARY LANDSDOWN, B. Bef. 1787 in Wilkes Co., N.C


  9. Roberta Newell says:

    Eleanor Gillespie was my mother’s third great grandmother. Eleanor killed her second husband, John Hawkins. He was the sheriff of Bath County. The family account was that he was a drunkard and sexually abused her daughters. He passed out before he could hurt 7 yr old Rebecca. Eleanor had had enough. Along with her son, Jacob they tied a rope around his neck and “one went one way and the other went the other way”. In the book you refer to “The History of Bath County”, the author claims that molten lead was poured down his ear. Actually, that was from “Hamlet”. He also claimed she knitted on her way to the gallows. That would be found in “The Tale of Two Cities”. A relative located the article of the death of Hawkins in a 1817 Lexington paper. According to this, a rope was found around the victim’s neck, embedded in the skin which correlates to the family account.

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