Jacob Overley 

The following article appeared The Flemingsburg Democrat on February 7, 1878.

Biographical Sketches


Old and Young Men of Prominence

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The History of Fleming County

John Overley, the father of Jacob Overley, was born in the northwestern part of Virginia in what is now the State of West Virginia, about the year 1761. His father, Peter Overley, was a Dutchman-one of those hardy, adventurous frontiersmen, who cultivated the soil, hunted the bear and the deer, and fought the savage red man. The son grew up to manhood in his father's home, was educated in the use of the rifle, the axe and the plow, but had little knowledge of ... His parents spoke the German language, and when twelve years old, John could scarcely speak a word of English. But by the time he had doubled that age he had become sufficiently familiar with another language to make the daughter of a neighboring Welshman understand that he wished to marry her. So John Overley and Ann Jackson became one.

Born and reared amidst the stirring scenes of border life, John was becoming dissatisfied with his native home. The frontier had receded; game had become scare; the country was becoming densely populated and the young man determined to seek a home beyond the mountains, where the fertile fields would yield him bread and the forest furnish his meat. Such a home he found in Kentucky. He settled at Fleming Station in Fleming County, about the year 1791. This station was owned by Colonel John Fleming, who settled it in 1790. It was on the land now owned and occupied by Mrs. G. C. Summers, two miles from the town of Tilton and one mile from Martha Mills. The graveyard, not far from where the fort stood and where the settlers buried their dead, is yet to be seen. The station was built upon a little knoll, at the base of which is a fine spring. This furnished water for the use of the settlers, except during periods of very dry weather, when it had to be carried from a large spring several hundred yards distant. This spring is situated in a little cove on the hillside, fronting Fleming Creek and nearly opposite the residence of James P. Bell. Just over the spring and commanding a good view of its surroundings is an elevated point of land. John Overley used to say that he always crept cautiously to the brow of this hill and looked over to see that no lurking savage was near to shoot him before, venturing to the spring for water. About the year 1793, the Indiana made their last incursion into Fleming County, stealing some horses from settlers near Fleming's Station. The whites raided a party and pursued the marauders, John being one of the company. But the redskins made good their escape with the horses, crossing the Ohio at the mouth of Calun Creek, six miles above Maysville.

John Overley bought a tract of land about two miles west of the Station and built a house upon it, into which he moved his family about the year 1795. Here he spent the remainder of his life-more than half a century-dying in 1854 at the ripe age of 93. He raised a family of ten children-eight boys and two girls-all but three of whom have passed away.

Jacob, the subject of this sketch, was born in the year 1802, being n numerical order, the seventh child. His three younger brothers, Henry, Isaac and Joseph are still living. The boys were all raised upon the farm, and taught the laborious occupation of tilling the generous soil, which in return yielded them bread, thus developing and strengthening those physical powers upon which they were to depend for a livelihood in after years. Lands were to be cleared and fenced, roads were to be opened, the crops were to be planted, cultivated and harvested and many other kinds of hard labor performed and all without the aid of machinery, such as the present day affords. When not engaged upon their father's the boys assisted their neighbors... building, fencing, etc., so that all were constantly and profitably employed. There were no idlers in John Overley's family, all had to work.

Children were not so expensive a luxury in those days as they are now, and the cost of supporting a family was then trifling in comparison with what it is at present. Most of the food was produced upon the farm and obtained from the forest; wool from the sheep, manufactured by hand into jeans and linsey, supplied both sexes with winter wear; while coarse linen made from flax raised upon the farm, constituted material for summer clothing. Children from infancy to ten or twelve years of age usually wore but a single garment, a slip, which was nothing more than a long shirt made of linsey or linen. The father generally made the shoes--there were no boots in those days--and of leather tanned by himself. A few of the settlers could make hats and these supplied the demand for that necessary article, though coonskin caps were then quite fashionable. Just let the reader imagine a party of ten or a dozen young ladies and gentlemen of the present day clad after the fashion of their grandparents--the ladies with coarse, homade shoes, buckskin gloves, linsey-woolsey dress and hood of same material; the gentlemen in leather breeches, coon-skin cap and linsey hunting-shirt--and he has the picture of a family of grown up girls and boys in their Sunday attire at the beginning of the present century.

During Jacob Overley's years of pupil age, the country afforded few schools, and those were of an inferior grade; so that his opportunities for acquiring a good education were quite limited. He attended several winter schools, learning to read, write and cipher--as far as the teachers themselves could go--after which, by close application to books in his leisure hours at home, he gained a general knowledge of men and matters. For thirty years before his death he was never known to be without a newspaper, and was always well posted in the current events of the day.

At the age of 22, he married Mary, daughter of Frederick Beckner of Fleming County and aunt of Judge William M. Buckner, present editor of the Clarke County Democrat. Old man Beckner then owned and occupied the farm upon which John Peck now resides, two miles west of the town of Sherburne. Shortly after his marriage he began housekeeping on a tract of land belonging to his father, on the north side of Fleming Creek, one mile from Martha Mills, being a portion of the farm now owned by N. H. Crain. Being strong and hardy, be labored assiduously for several years, clearing, planting, plowing and harvesting. But fortune being unpropitious, he at length became dissatisfied with his home and determine to seek the chance of life in some more favored locality.

He had heard much of the cheapness and fertility of Indiana's soil and so decided to make that State his future home. In the spring of 1832 he landed at the town of Rising Sun, Dearborn (now Ohio) County. He did not buy land, but rented as much as he desired and at once proceeded to test the quality of Hoosier soil. But he found it no more productive than that of Kentucky, while many advantages he enjoyed in the old home were wanting in the new. A residence of two years in Indiana appears to have satisfied him with that State for the fall of 1834 found him snugly settled on a little farm in Bath County Kentucky, not far from the town of Bethel. Here he remained eight years, longer than at any other place since his marriage. In 1842 he bought and move to the old Jacob Chrisman farm, in Fleming county, adjoining the one upon which he had begun life for himself eighteen years before.

After the death of his father, John Overley, Jacob moved to the old homestead where he was born. Here he continued to reside till the year 1864, when he moved to Plummer's Landing, on Fox Creek, Fleming County. At this place, in the house now occupied by Fant & Hinton, he engage in the sale of dry-goods, with J. W. Lansdown as partner. After a few years he bought Lansdown's interest and alone continued the business, though on a small scale for want of capital, till his death, which occurred February 15, 1874, at the age of 72. His wife preceded him to the grave about eighteen months. She had been an invalid for twenty-seven years, twenty years of which time, she was confined to her bed. Her protracted illness was a serious drawback to the husband's prosperity, as much of his earnings was expended in vain endeavors to restore her to health.

Early in life he confessed his Savior, connecting himself with the congregation of Christians at Log Union. This was one of the first houses erected in Fleming County for the purpose of religious worship, (two lines unreadable)known by old citizen as the "Old Dunker Church" and its pulpit was for thirty years occupied by Peter Hon, a Dutch minister of the Gospel, who in his more youthful days had belonged to that peculiar sect called Dunkers. But most of the congregation have long since passed away, only the graveyard remains to mark the spot where the building stood; while the good old pastor, in his second childhood, after a life of nearly 100 years, but recently crossed the dark stream.

In politics Jacob Overley was a Whig, and adhered to his party with great tenacity as long as it survived. He was a great admirer of George D. Prentice, and was for many years a constant reader of his paper, (the Louisville Journal) the editor being then one of the most prominent leaders of the Whig party in Kentucky. In May 1851, with his associate Abram Gooding, he was elected Justice of the Peace in the Flemingsburg district, the first under the new constitution. Again in 1855, he was elected to the same office in the Tilton district, having previously changed his residence to that precinct. Archibald Hull, Democrat, was chosen with him. He was re-elected in 1859, this time in company with Elijah Thomas; serving in all twelve years as a Justice of the Peace for Fleming County. Squire Overley legal attainment were necessarily limited; but he possessed and exercised excellent judgment, and dispensed but old-fashioned, off-hand justice with such scrupulous impartiality, that few of his decisions were ever reversed by higher courts.

Jacob Overley raised a family of six children, three sons and as many daughters, four of whom are still living, two of the daughters having died in early womanhood. During the late civil war he remained a staunch adherent to the Union. His boys, however, divided, two of them, Thomas and Pinckney, becoming soldiers in the Federal Army. The other, Milford, with a single companion made his way thru the Union lines to the South, where he enlisted in the Confederate Army. Once during the war, Pinckney and his rebel brother were engaged in the same battle, though at the time neither was aware of the presence of the other . This division upon the part of the sons was the source of much anxiety to the good old father, but as if to increase his trouble, in 1863, his son Thomas, who was a member of the 10th Ky. Cavalry, was desperately wounded in an engagement with Scott's Louisiana Cavalry, C.S. A. in Estill County Kentucky. Whilst the war was progressing, Fleming County was frequently visited by roving bands of armed men professing to be Confederate soldiers, but who were not recognized as such by the War Department at Richmond, and who were in reality nothing more nor less than robbers. Their sole object was plunder and they cared little in what manner or from whom they obtained it On one occasion, the subject of this sketch was arrested upon the highway by a party of these marauders from Morgan County and robbed of his horse saddle and watch. His stables had previously been visited under cover of darkness and a valuable mare taken by those engaged in this secret service. The writer of this sketch, who was himself a Confederate soldier could give the names of some of the cowardly skulks who imposed upon the Southern sympathizers of this section by professing to be employed in the secret service of the South, but who were either deserters or bummers from the rebel army. The "captains," "majors," and "colonels," were the heroes of many battles. They told miraculous stories of bloody encounters with home-guards and bush-whackers in passing through the enemy's lines; were sometimes compelled to eat their "dispatches," to prevent them from falling into the hands of the foe; and they generally succeeded in impressing the to credulous sympathizer with the vast importance of themselves and their mission. They were fat, sleek-looking fellows, wore citizen soldier clothes and were usually armed with revolvers and bridles, the latter being the more effective weapon in their hands. Though they were not familiar with the "biz" of bullets, and knew little of Hardee's Tactics, yet they were thoroughly drilled in the art of horse stealing and practiced it indiscriminately upon the farmers of North Eastern Kentucky. Their booty was generally taken to the neutral territory, that lying between the hostile armies in Virginia, where it was disposed of and the proceeds spent in riotous living.

The war ended, the kind heart of 'Squire Overley was made glad by the safe return of his soldier boys. They all met at the paternal home, both Federals and Confederate, where they were received with expressions of glad welcome, but the former were not more cordially and affectionately greeted by the patriotic father than was he who had espoused the rebel cause and fought under the rebel banner All cast aside party prejudice and each accorded to the other sincerity and honesty in their political views, and the same freedom of thought and action which he himself had exercised in the troubles just ended. The manifestation of this spirit of liberty toward one another by all the members of the family and especially by those recently in open hostility and still differing so widely in their political sentiments was the means of re-establishing and perpetuating that fraternal feeling that should exist among those so closely connected by the ties of consanguinity. No reconstruction laws was necessary in that household. Kindness and charity accomplished what their opposites could never have done, reunited in sincerity and truth a divided family

Jacob Overley was now an old man, with but a few years intervening between him and the grave. The cares of life and the weight of years had whitened his head and shattered his once vigorous constitution. She with whom he had shared life's joys and sorrows still lingered in affliction and was his greatest comfort and care. Tenderly, kindly had he nursed her through the long weary years of her sickness, and till death had ended her sufferings, after a confinement of twenty years. The husband outlived the wife but a few months, and now he reposes by her side among his people in the old Dunker church yard. Peace to his memory!