William Derrick Foudray

Submitted by Sheila Watson

The following article appeared The Flemingsburg Democrat on April 4, 1878.

Biographical Sketches


Old and Young Men of Prominence

---Identified with---

The History of Fleming County

William Derrick Foudray was born in the city of Philiadelphia on the 18th of November 1792. He was the third in a family of seven children. His father Samuel Foudray, a hatter by trade, born in Wilmington, Delaware, was of French decent, and married Nancy Wood, the mother-of-William, in the city where he was born. She came of an old English family and was born in Philiadelphia, never being outside the city limits until nearly thirty years old. Thus our subject is of French-English origin, and his paternal ancestors are reported to be extremely wealthy at the present day, being numbered among the first families of France. When he was a mere child the FOUDRAY family took leave of the city of brotherly love and located near the eastern shore of Maryland. Their next place of residence was near the city of Baltimore, where William, though but little over six years old, distinctly remembers the tolling of the bells that announced the death of General Washington during whose administration he was born. From Baltimore his parents returned once more to eastern Maryland, but soon afterward emigrating to Fleming County, Kentucky, and settled about one mile south of the present town of Poplar Plains. This was about the year 1806, and the history of William Foudray has been a part of the unwritten history of Fleming County from that day to this.

When the second War with Great Britain was declared, Mr. Foudray, then a young man, scarcely more than nineteen years old, was among the first to enlist, which he did in CAPTAIN JOHN HUNT'S COMPANY, Kentucky Militia. For several months these troops, at the opening of the war was stationed on a branch of the Miami River, in the, then, Territory of Indiana. From some cause or other, during this time, they were never called into active service.

Returning from the war, within a few days of his twenty-first birthday, he was united in marriage to Miss Elizabeth Williams, six months younger than himself, with whom he lived over thirty years, or until her death, March 18, 1844. The result of this union was ten children, eight boys and two girls. Beginning with the eldest, John Williams, who now resides in Cincinnati, Ohio, or one of the suburbs of that city; Samuel Wood, died a few years ago in Missouri; Sabray Ann, married David R. Hedges, died two years ago in Mason County, Ky.; Elbert Downs, while a young man left Charleston, West Virginia, where he had been merchandising, and went to San Francisco, California, to continue his business during the gold excitement there. Fortune smiled and ere long he bid farewell to the Golden shores of the newly discovered Eldorado, and set sail for other lands, intending to travel over the world. But on the voyage to Southern Africa the vessel on which he took passage was wrecked, off the barren coast of South America, in doubling Cape Horn. The few survivors of the ill-fated steamer were picked up by a vessel bound for New York. Having lost everything excepting his life, Elbert D. Foudray returned to the Pacific coast, and when last heard from was sheriff of a county in Oregon; Addison Monroe, now living ----line missing------Herndon, Missouri; Jackson Lafayette, farming, at present near Sherburne, Ky.; Jefferson, now living in Western Illinois, was a soldier in the war with Mexico; William Washington, also in the Mexican war, enlisted in company with his brother Jeff, in CAPTAIN COX'S volunteers, Flemingsburg, Ky., and died in service, City of Mexico; Oscar, drowned some years ago in Missouri by a team plunging, terribly frightened, into a stream in that State. He and a little son perished at the same time; Amanda, married Joseph Gillspie, died in Lewis County five years ago; Thomas Pleasant, a soldier in the late civil war, now living, a carpenter by trade, in Missouri.

Mr. Foudray has been married three times, and is the father of fourteen children, ten by his first and four by his third and last marriage. His second marriage was in 1845, to Mrs. Elizabeth Walton, nee, Miss Fawns, widow of Mark Walton. With her he lived until her death two years thereafter. In 1847 he was married to Miss Elizabeth Davis, his present companion, and mother of his four youngest children. The two eldest of whom Milton Wallace and Helen, were twins, the former now living, a farmer in Mason County, Ky. The latter died in early childhood. The next Gustavus Adolphus, also lives in Mason County, and is a farmer; Monteville, the youngest of his large family is now twenty-five years old, and lives with and cares for his aged father and mother at their homestead one and a quarter miles east of Hillsboro.

Resuming the personal narrative of Mr. Foudray, about the year 1829 he purchased, for a mere pittance, ten acres of land, four miles south of his father's home. He built a cabin on this tract, into which he moved with his growing family. This, nearly sixty years ago, was the first house ever erected on the site of the present town of Hillsboro, which for many years bore the name Foudraysburg, in honor of its founder. On this ten acres, now covered by the town of Hillsboro, his next step was to erect a hatter's shop, and, following in the footsteps of his father, began the manufacture of hats, after having traveled considerable as a journey man workman, during which time he learned his trade. At that day this was among the most remunerative employments in which the laboring class could engage; and continued to be so, until as he, himself says. "In later years the large city manufactories coming into competition severely crippled our business, and losing one shop after another by two successive fires they were never rebuilt, and the hatters trade in Foudraysburg came to an end." After disposing of the available effects, and good will of the business to his two brothers, who continued it for some years at Wyoming, Ky., and other points, he engaged in farming on Fox creek, in this, Fleming County. Since then up to the present time he has pursued this occupation, always living on a farm, in close proximity to the village, which he ushered into existence, and has watched in its growth and progress for nearly sixty years.

The log cabin of 1820 was followed by the erection of a building by Mr. Foudray of a much more pretentious size, indeed, one that was considered a grand house for those days, being two stories high and containing several rooms. This had a store connected with it, the first ever in Hillsboro, stood at what is now the South-East corner of Main and Main Cross streets, occupied, at present, by the dry-goods establishment of D.S. Barksdale & Son. At the corner of the street for many years stood an old hickory tree, upon which the proprietor of the first store nailed his sign. This tree became such a prominent feature of the infant hamlet that it was named "Jackson" in honor of "Old Hickory," and was called that ever afterwards. A short distance in the rear of the present building stood the old hatters shop, burned in Hillsboro's first fire, 1825. This shop was rebuilt by Mr. Foudray, but about a mile out of town near his present house, and within one year shared the fate of its predecessor. Nearly fifty years had passed away when it is a fact worthy of note, that the corner, where the first hatters shop stood, was the only one that escaped destruction by another conflagration, which swept away every other prominent business house in Hillsboro, taking one from each of the other three corner, besides one farther up Main street. The store of Barksdale & Son alone being saved though badly scorched, from the disastrous fire of 1874.

The hats made by Mr. Foudray were far more durable than any of the common hats of the present day, and would last almost a life time. Doubtless some of them are yet in existence, for a few years ago the writer, then a mere child, remembers----line missing---

same hats by the junior member of the above mentioned firm, with the view of being made the recipient of a new one, when two of the old Foudray hats, which had been stored away in an old case for years, were produced. They were of such immense size as to cover the boys, big as his head was, eyes, ears and all down to his shoulders. Not being old enough to appreciate the value of such old relicts he very decidedly refused to accept one of them as a gift. Some time afterward those old hats disappeared, no one knew where, but it may be possible they yet cover the cranium of some human form.

Mr. Foudray enjoyed very little of the limited educational advantages of his early life. Only a very few days of his boyhood being spent at school, yet he grew up to be a remarkable well informed man, with a knowledge as varied, perhaps, as that of any man now living in Fleming county. "Some people are fools enough," said he during the writer's interview, " to think, if they want to now anything they must come to me for information." He is far from boastful, but in a modest communicative manner continued, "Nearly everything that I know has come to me through books, which I have read with eager interest ever since childhood or since I could distinguish one word from another. This inborn love of reading seems yet to be his chief characteristic, as he continues the perusal of books with unabated attention. For want of space his religious views will not be given in the present sketch, suffice it to say in his own words, "I have never been a member of any church and never intend to be, but," placing his hand on the Sacred volume lying on a table near him, "I suppose I have read that book about as much as any body. I have read it through this winter after doing the same many times before." To his grandson, a young music teacher, now in St. Louis, Mo., who visited him some months ago, he said with apparent deep feeling, "I am a stranger in my own land. All the friends of my youth have passed away. My children, grand-children, and great-grand children have found homes scattered here and there in different States, and many of them have gone to another world. I alone am left, soon to follow the companions of my childhood. Were it not for my books and that I am able to read them this world would afford no pleasure for me, and I would care not how soon I am taken away." Thus he finds companions in books, and when other sources of reading matter are exhausted he turns again to his Bible, which still retains the freshness that it did in his youth.

In appearance this aged father is about the ordinary size, weighing perhaps one hundred and fifty pounds, and quite hale for one so old. He often goes to Hillsboro, riding in the winter season, and walking in the summer, which he says he intends to do again when that season comes if permitted to live till then. Since the writers interview he went to town and cast his vote in the election for criminal judge. Once a year he goes and receives the pension of ninety-six dollars per year, allowed him by the government in whose service he was more than sixty years ago. His full face and tolerably-well preserved teeth would give him a much more youthful appearance were it not for the luxuriant gray hairs that hang closely about his shoulders, covering his entire head. This together with an abundant beard of snowy whiteness appears more in conformity with his age, and gives him a most venerable appearance. With a memory rapidly failing, and a defective hearing, his eyesight remains exceptionally good.

William Derrick Foudray has survived his generation. His life has been prolonged beyond the average of human existence, and now his long and eventful pilgrimage, through varying seasons of prosperity and adversity is drawing to a close. Bending beneath the storms of eighty-seven winters, that have left their silvery crown of whitened locks upon his furrowed brow he stands ready to go when it pleased the great Veteran of Heaven to call him to that unseen world where trials and tribulations have an end.