Samuel Stockwell, Jr. (1812-1880)

Obituary Published June 1880 in the Times-Democrat, Flemingsburg, Fleming County, Kentucky

In our last issue we briefly mentioned the death of this estimable citizen and good man, which sad but not unlooked for event took place on Sunday evening, May 30, 1880, at 9 o’clock.  The deceased was a son of Samuel and Arabella Stockwell, nee Hodge. The elder Stockwell was one of the earliest settlers of Fleming county, and being a carpenter by trade, was the builder and originator of many of the dwellings and public buildings which now compose the town of Flemingsburg, prominent among which we mention the Court House, Presbyterian Church, the Dudley House, and an hundred others or more.  The elder Stockwell belonged to one of the most ancient and honorable families that penetrated the wilderness of Kentucky at that early day, about 1780.  He was a man noted for his sterling integrity, and high moral and Christian character.  It has been said of him that he knew the Bible by heart – and practiced its precepts in his every day life.  The son, Samuel Stockwell, Jr., the subject of this obituary, inherited many of the noble qualities of head and heart which so beautifully adorned the life and character of his paternal predecessor.  He and his brother Nathan were born June 28, 1812.  Of a family of twelve children – Samuel was the last to die, his twin brother Nathan having died some few years since.  The death of Samuel Stockwell, Jr., removes from this earthly tabernacle the last remnant of what was once one of the largest, wealthiest and most influential families of the West.  His death wipes out the last of the old stock.  All have crossed over and camped beyond the stream.  Their lives have all been useful, and their deaths have been severally regretted when they occurred.  The subject of this obituary was born and raised in Flemingsburg.  He grew up with the town and people.  He learned his trade (that of a carpenter) with his father and helped to build most of the old houses in the town and country surrounding.  He was for a long time one of the town trustees, and at one time was sheriff and constable.  For a number of years he engaged in the wholesale grocery business and traded extensively in the Louisiana sugar trade.  In later years he was engaged in distilling.  He was one of the very best businessmen we ever knew – he made money rapidly and at one time was considered wealthy.  He was a fine liver and entertained elegantly.  He became poor in later years not by his own losses in business but by a too free endorsement for others.  His heart was open and free.  He was the most affectionate husband, the most indulgent father, and the kindest considerer of those around him that we ever knew.  Yet, not withstanding his outward kindly traits he was close and exacting in all business affairs.  He was strictly honest in all his dealings.  In his business he meant business.  His word was as good his bond.  All his transactions would bear the closest scrutiny and fullest test of honesty – he never gained a cent by cheat or fraud – but accumulated money by hard struck blows.  He earned what he got and spent it as though it was as free as the water that runs.  He lavished his fortune upon his children and family and friends.  He was a man that rarely complained of the affairs of this life.  He bore its misfortunes like a man – yet the slight of some of those whom he had reason to believe would never desert him often brought him to tears.  At times he would become gloomy and melancholy and it was on these occasions that he gave vent to the sentiments of a wounded heart.  He thought and often expressed it, that there were some, who in former days, had loved to shelter under his bounteous vine, and revel in the sunshine of his happy home, who now, when old age, sickness and poverty had overtaken him, scarcely visited him or ever enquired of his wants.  The last ten years of his life he has been an invalid and incapable of attending to any kind of business.  The past year he has been almost totally helpless – and the last four months his death has been momentarily expected.  At times he suffered great bodily pain but during the last four months of his sickness he has suffered none.  His mind has been clear and remained so up to within a few hours of his death.  The loss of his devoted wife a month previous weighed heavily upon him and no doubt hastened his death.  Since her death he has continuously prayed for his own dissolution – and expressed an abiding faith that death would relieve him of all the sin and sorrows of this world – and transplant him in a world of endless joy and happiness.  Like his venerable father before him he believed fully in the faith of the universal creed and died fully in the hope of a blessed redemption.

His life has been a good and useful one.  He was one of the best of husbands, one of the most devoted fathers, one of the kindest neighbors and one of the best citizens.  His liberality was universal and he bestowed it generously.  He was a liberal contributor to every enterprise that bore the mark of merit.  As an evidence of his liberality and hospitality we mention that at the commencement of the Civil War he was an enthusiastic Union man and on one occasion he sheltered and fed nearly whole regiment of soldiers, (the 33d Ohio).  Many officers and soldiers partook of his bounteous hospitality during the war, his house was a hospital for the sick and wounded – he and his wife cared for them when they needed it.  If he had faults - and who has not - let us cover then with the mantle of charity, remembering that his good deeds and genuine heart, so full of human kindness, overbalanced them.  We venture the assertion that the county of Fleming never had a better citizen or a more genial gentleman.  He was every inch a man in form and feature; his soul was as big as the universe, his heart, as warm as the current that flowed from it.  The writer of these lines knew him well and draws no extravagant delineation of his character.  We know the man whereof we speak, and we can add no nobler epitaph to his life than this:  “The honest man is the noblest work of God,” and in closing this tribute to his memory; we quote the beautiful lines of Leigh Hunt, which we think so appropriate.

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,

And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold: --
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
"What writest thou?"--The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered, "The names of those who love the Lord."
"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerily still; and said, "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men."
The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blest,
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.

The funeral of Mr. Stockwell took place from the residence of his son-in-law, N. S. Dudley, in this place, on Tuesday morning, June 1st, when beautiful and impressive services were conducted by Rev. Jas. P. Hendrick, pastor of the Presbyterian Church, after which his remains were followed to the cemetery by a large concourse of sorrowing relatives and friends and his body interred by the side of his wife, who only preceded him to the grave about one month. To those orphan children, six in number, our heart goes out in deepest sympathy, and while we mourn for them we are consoled with the blessed hope that “their loss is his eternal gain,” and that “after life’s fretful fever he sleeps well.”

Submitted by Beverly Ring