Samuel and Clarissa (Holloway) Hill

Samuel Hill

Zeralda Holloway writes about Samuel Hill: Samuel Hill was a genuine Englishman with a large strong frame, and a persevering, overbearing temperament and an ungovernable temper, which caused his family much trouble. He was peculiar in his manner of treatment toward his servants and family: he was heard to say to his men “Well! while we are resting we will go and roll logs;” the horses, were resting. He was clearing the ground for plowing and rolling logs to be burned. After the death of the old folks, the remainder of the family went to KY to where the Holloways settled. The particular quote about doing something while you are resting rang loudly in my ears since I have heard my father use that expression almost every day of our life together.

Egbert Hill writes of Samuel that he was an Englishman who came to this country before the Revolution and took sides with the Colonists. Louisa Venona Hickman Hill, wife if George Littlewood Hill and daughter-in-law of Samuel, writes to a friend that Samuel was born in Yorkshire, England. Samuel’s granddaughter, Phobe Laurinda Hill, says in her Bible that Samuel was born near Sheffield, Yorkshire, England. Thus, everything seems to indicate that Samuel was born in England and came to America sometime prior to the Revolutionary War.

Based on trial documents that are discussed later Samuel Hill appears to have been born in 1755. He died an untimely death in Fredericksburg, Virginia on August 8, 1808.

Clarissa Jane (Holloway) Hill

Clarissa Jane (Holloway) Hill was the daughter of William Holloway. Her son, George Littlewood Hill, left a diary of sorts that lists her date of birth as June 18, 1763. Her date of death is clearly April 17, 1847. Her tombstone in Smithfield in Henry County, Kentucky says that she was 80 years old at the date of her death that would make her year of birth 1767. Clarissa was born in Caroline County, Virginia, according to the bible of her granddaughter, Phoebe Laurinda Hill, daughter of George Littlewood Hill. Clarissa’s middle name comes from the bible of Phoebe Laurinda Hill.

Zeralda Hudson Holloway, who married into the Holloway family, left a diary written in 1911 in which she writes: “A few words concerning Clara Holloway Hill. Clara Holloway was a sister of John and George from England. Writer thinks she married in Samuel Hill in England and immigrated to America several years after her brothers did, and settled in Va and died there. They were wealthy in land and slaves, with all needful surroundings. We do not know how much of this is true. One thing we know to be incorrect is the place of her death. She died in Smithfield, Henry County, Kentucky. Also, there has been no evidence to support the fact that she married Samuel in England. Clarissa’s grandson, Egbert O. Hill (a son of George L. Hill), in a letter to his daughter Louisa I. Rae in 1903 says about Clarissa that they were quite a numerous and prominent family Census records would tend to support this.

Contrary to Zeralda’s book, Clarissa’s family had been in America for several generations. That was a very large Holloway family in and around Caroline County, Virginia at the time. See the Holloway Family page.

Samuel’s Untimely Death

On January 9, 1808, Samuel Hill with malice aforethought did shoot and discharge . . . [a] gun . . . in and upon the left temple and neck of . . . Gawin Sommerson [also known as William Sommerson] one mortal wound of the depth of one inch and the breath of one inch of which . . . Gawin Sommerson instantly died. The quotes are from the trial transcript of the Commonwealth of Virginia vs. Samuel Hill.

The reason for the murder of Gawin Sommerson is unknown. We do know that Sommerson and Samuel had been quarreling for sometime. On the night of the murder, Sommerson came to Samuels home and Samuel loaded a gun that he purchased for four dollars and shot him. Samuels son (presumably Henry) testified at the trial that Samuel killed Sommerson in defense of one of his slaves. Whether this is true or whether it was only a sons attempt to save his fathers life we will never know.

During the trial a couple of jurors held out for a not guilty verdict. Finally they give in for a promise that Samuel would be referred to the Governor of Virginia for clemency. The trail record contains letters from most of the jurors responding to the Governor on the issue of clemency. Ultimately, clemency was denied and Samuel was hanged in Fredericksburg on August 8, 1808.

Samuel’s Will

Samuel writes his will in May 1808 and amended it by codicil the day before his execution. Samuel divided his land (which apparently consisted of at least two farms) among his three sons – Henry, George and William. Other assets were divided among all of his children. A daughter, Nancy (Nancy was apparently a nickname for Anne), is named and another daughter, Elizabeth, although not named by name, is inferred. William, my great-great grandfather who was three months old at the time of Samuels death, was also given a slave named Mose. Moses survived William. I have heard my grandfather talk many times of old Mose Hill the slave who came to Kentucky with his great grandmother Clarissa. Samuels estate consisted of thirteen slaves.

Clarissa’s Migration West

Samuel’s estate was finally settled in October 1811. In 1817 Clarissa left Caroline County, Virginia for Fayette County, Kentucky with her children Henry (age 24), George (age 19), Nancy (age 16), Elizabeth (age about 13) and William (age 9). She first shows up on the Fayette Co., Kentucky property tax rolls in 1818 and show up there until 1826. Three of her children, George, Anne and Elizabeth were married in Fayette Co. during her say there and Henry married his first cousin in nearby Clark County. Henry’s wife was Elizabeth, the daughter of Clarissa’s brother John who settled in Clark County, Kentucky. The first year she shows up on the Henry County, Kentucky property tax rolls was 1828. That places the year of her move to Henry Co. as 1827 since property is valued for taxes on January 1 of each year. She never owned land in Fayette County or Henry County, however I have found records of Henry, George and Anne owning 106 acres in Henry Co. and William owning 100 acres. Clarissa appears to have lived in Henry Co. much of her life with the exception of a period of time around 1840 when she appears to have visited her son Henry who had already migrated to Missouri. She died in Henry County, Kentucky on April 17, 1847 and is buried in Smithfield Cemetery, Smithfield, Henry County, Kentucky

The Sharp Lawsuits

Clara Hill moved to Clark County, Kentucky following her daughter, Elizabeth, who lived there after her marriage to John Sharp. Clara’s brother, John Holloway also lived in Clark County. Elizabeth Hill Sharp died about three to five weeks after the birth of her second child, Owen T. Sharp. Clara and Sally Sharp (probably Elizabeth’s sister-in-law) where with her when she died. Clara moved back to Fayette County after Elizabeth’s death where she stayed for several years before moving on the Henry County, Kentucky.

Samuel’s will left Clara a life interest in his entire estate. Upon her death the slaves were to go to Samuel’s children. Since his daughters, Anne and Elizabeth, did not receive a share of the land, they were to receive a double share of the value of the slaves.

Upon Elizabeth’s death, John moved to Pendleton County, Kentucky and married Jennetta McClenachan. John and Jennetta had three sons and four daughters. John also had one illegitimate son, John Sharp, Jr., apparently after Elizabeth’s death and before his marriage to Jennetta.

In 1837 John gave Samuel Thomas Hauser of Falmouth, Kentucky his power of attorney for the purpose of suing William L. Hill and Clara in order to recover the value of the slaves that where willed to Elizabeth by her father. Henry, George and Anne were apparently also defendants in the suit. The suit was instituted in Henry County, Kentucky Circuit Court. Plaintiffs included John Sharp and his two children Mary Jane and Owen T., both under twenty-one years of age.

According to a transcript of the record, John was afraid that Clara, who was about seventy-four at the time, was going to move to Missouri to live with her son Henry, and take the slaves out of his reach. According to the transcript of the record he was afraid that Clara, in company with her son Henry and son-in-law William Pickett was going to remove the slaves to Missouri. Her son Henry had already moved to Missouri by then with his brother-in-law (husband of Anne) William Pickett. Her son was living in Illinois by then. The Plaintiffs asked for an injunction against the move and for an accounting of all the estate of Samuel Hill. The court ultimately held for the plaintiffs and the verdict was appealed to Kentucky’s Court of Appeals (then the states highest court at the time.) The Court of Appeals upheld the verdict in the lower court.

John Sharp died in December 1846 . His will, which was proven in February 1847, purported to leave his entire estate to Jennetta for life and after her death, to his children. At issue was whether this included what ever interest in the value of the slaves that were left to his first wife, Elizabeth. Owen T. and Mary Jane, Johns children by Elizabeth, along with Mary Jane’s husband, William Cummins, contested the will and were successful in having the will set aside.