Genealogy Report: Descendants of William Coomes
Descendants of William Coomes
1.WILLIAM4 COOMES(THOMAS3, RICHARD THOMAS2, RICHARD1)1,2 was born Abt. 1730 in Coomes Purchase, Charles County, Maryland3, and died 08 November 18243.He married FRANCES JANE GREENLEAF3 17603.She was born Abt. 1747 in Charles County, Maryland3, and died 24 April 1826 in Nelson Co. Kentucky3.
Notes for WILLIAM COOMES:
The William Coomes family left Maryland, moving to Virginia. When hearing of the fertile ground in "Kain-tuck-ee", the Indian name for Kentucky (meaning beautiful ground), the Coomes family joined the pioneers, led by James Harrod, in the early 1770s. They used flatboats and poled them down the mighty Ohio. After journeying down the Ohio for several weeks, the party made their first permanent camp at a place called Drilling's Lick. It was located on the Kentucky River, near the present day site of Frankfort, Kentucky. While the men were busy with hunting and trapping, Frances Jane Coomes began to manufacture salt. This was the first and earliest manufacturing of salt in the state. After a short stay at Drilling's Lick, the pioneers pushed further into the wilderness. They settled at a place called Harrod's Station, later called Fort Harrod. The men hunted and trapped and cleared land to grow crops. Frances Jane Coomes spent much of her time teaching the children how to read, write, and cipher.
Oct 28, 1779: William Coomes this day claimed the right to a settlement & Preemption to a Tract of Land lying on the waters of Beach Fork of Salt River, known by the name of Cave Spring, by residing in this country FOR TWELVE MONTHS, before the year 1778, satisfactory proof being made to the Court they are of Opinion that the said Combs has a right to a settlement for 400 acres of Land including said Spring & a Preemption of 1000 Acres Adjoining & that a certificate issue for the same accordingly (certificate book of the Virginia Land Commission, 1779-1780)
During the War of Independence there were three companies of volunteers from what at that time was known as Kentucky County, Virginia. Captain John Holder's company was organized in either 1799/1780, at Ruddells' and Martin's Station, near the present day site of Cynthiana, Kentucky. William Coomes was a sergeant in Captain Holder's company. His official title was "Sergeant of the Continental Line".
After the war William Coomes and family settled in Bardstown on a one thousand-acre farm two miles northeast of the town. They wanted to be near people of their own faith - Catholic; and, there was a large cave on the farm for protection from Indians. William Coomes presented 105 acres to Father Badin for a new Church..
William COOMES Sr. was born about 1730 in Charles Co., MD.He died on 8 Nov 1824.
He was married to (Jane? Frances? UNKNOWN on 17 Jul 1760.(Jane? Frances? UNKNOWN was born about 1747 in Charles Co.?, MD?.1She died on 24 Apr 1826 in Nelson Co., KY.Some researchers believe her maiden name was Greenleaf. Others that is was Lancaster. Still no proof for either that I've seen.
More About WILLIAM COOMES:
Burial: Bardstown, Nelson County, Kentucky
Religion: Catholic[William Coomes Desc.ged]
The William Coomes family left Maryland, moving to Virginia. When hearing
of the fertile ground in "Kain-tuck-ee", the Indian name for Kentucky
(meaning b eautiful ground), the Coomes family joined the pioneers, led by
James Harrod, in the early 1770s. They used flatboats and poled them down
the mighty Ohio. After journeying down the Ohio for several weeks, the
party made their first permanent camp at a place called Drilling's Lick.
It was located on the Kent ucky River, near the present day site of
Frankfort, Kentucky. While the men w ere busy with hunting and trapping,
Frances Jane Coomes began to manufacture salt. This was the first and
earliest manufacturing of salt in the state. Aft er a short stay at
Drilling's Lick, the pioneers pushed further into the wild erness. They
settled at a place called Harrod's Station, later called Fort Ha rrod. The
men hunted and trapped and cleared land to grow crops. Frances Jane
Coomes spent much of her time teaching the children how to read, write,
an d cipher.
Oct 28, 1779: William Coomes this day claimed the right to a settl ement &
Preemption to a Tract of Land lying on the waters of Beach Fork of Sa lt
River, known by the name of Cave Spring, by residing in this country FOR
TWELVE MONTHS, before the year 1778, satisfactory proof being made to the
Co urt they are of Opinion that the said Combs has a right to a settlement
for 4 00 acres of Land including said Spring & a Preemption of 1000 Acres
Adjoining & that a certificate issue for the same accordingly
(certificate book of the Virginia Land Commission, 1779-1780)
During the War of Independence there w ere three companies of volunteers
from what at that time was known as Kentuck y County, Virginia. Captain
John Holder's company was organized in either 179 9/1780, at Ruddells' and
Martin's Station, near the present day site of Cynth iana, Kentucky.
William Coomes was a sergeant in Captain Holder's company. Hi s official
title was "Sergeant of the Continental Line".
After the war Wil liam Coomes and family settled in Bardstown on a one
thousand acre farm two m iles northeast of the town. They wanted to be
near people of their own faith - Catholic; and, there was a large cave on
the farm for protection from India ns. William Coomes presented 105 acres
to Father Badin for a new Church.
More About WILLIAM COOMES:
Burial: Bardstown, Nelson County, Kentucky3,4
Record Change: 24 January 20025
Notes for FRANCES JANE GREENLEAF:
Frances Jane Coomes manufactured the first salt in Kentucky.
She did so at Drilling's Lick, the first stop of the pioneer group moving
deeper into Kentucky. The group reached Fort Harrod on September 8, 1775.
Frances Jane was the first schoolteacher in Kentucky. Her little
schoolhouse was built of customary round logs with no chinking between
them. It had a dirt floor; a slab door hung on deer thongs, and only one
window. The following statement is of particular interest: "with low
pay, often in tobacco - which was legal tender- bear bacon, buffalo steak
or jerked venison, these pioneers ekked outa precarious existence.
There was a long fireplace on one wall, a dunce stool in the corner, and
a chastizing rod nearby. The alphabet was inscribed on paddle shaped pine
shingles (which also came in handy when a child needed punishment).
Dillard's Speller and the New Testament were the only textbooks. Itwas a
blab school, where all studied aloud. The Coomes school was kept open,
despite the hardships and irregularities of pioneer life, for three to
four months each year.
Frances Jane and her family remained in the fort for nine years, during
which time, William Coomes took an honorable part in the defense of the
station through the siege of 1776-1777. He leared land and helped with
the provisioning of the fort. One of the Coome's sons was in the famous
battle of Blue Licks.
William Coomes was registered in the records as the owner of one thousand
acres of land. Part of theis acreage is the present site of Wickland,
Kentucky - home to three governors.
In 1784 the family moved to Nelson County, Kentucky, and Francis and
William Coomes are buried in Bardstown, Kentucky.
(On the site of the original schoolhouse sets a replica with a plaque
honoring Mrs William Coomes, first schoolteacher of Kentucky)
The following is a transcript of a paper written by genealogical researcher and 5th great grandaughter of Frances Jane Coomes, Rita Mackin Fox
"While conducting research on the life of Kentucky pioneer Frances (a.k.a. Jane) Coomes (a.k.a. Combs, Coombs, Coombes)-Kentucky's first teacher, among other achievements-the status of women in American history became very clear. I experienced firsthand the frustration of trying to discover the story of one Kentucky pioneer who had the misfortune of being born a second-class citizen-a woman. For Frances and other women in American history, very few historical documents exist to tell us what their lives were like. When a woman's accomplishments were deemed noteworthy enough to be included in a civil document or historical record, she usually was referred to in connection with her husband's name because, upon marriage, almost all women in colonial and federal America were viewed as being one legal entity with their husbands.
While Frances Coomes had many historical accomplishments in her own right, she is referred to in most state history books only as Mrs. William Coomes. Her maiden name is unknown. Some researchers believe her to be a Lancaster, others a Greenleaf or Greenwell, and yet others a Mills. But I have yet to see any solid proof for any of these surnames. I hope one day to find her marriage record-which is probably in Maryland or Virginia-but I know many other Coomes researchers have already tried and failed to turn up such evidence.
Kentucky historians and Coomes researchers can't even agree on her given name-Frances or Jane. There was a plaque erected in her honor during the 1930s at Fort Harrod State Park in Harrodsburg (also referred to in this paper as Harrod's Town, its original name), Ky., which referred to her as Jane. Several deeds in Nelson County, Kentucky, the first of which was dated 10 March 1789, refer to her as Frances.To illustrate the confusion, at Frankfort's Department of Libraries and Archives, there are two biographical sketches on her in the vertical files-one under Jane, the other Frances. The "Jane" file lists her achievement as being Kentucky's first schoolteacher. The "Frances" file describes her role as Kentucky's first woman physician. Both mention her being the first Anglo in Kentucky-woman or man-to manufacture salt.Because she is called Frances in the only primary documents I have found, I will use that name, unless citing a source that names her otherwise.
With that established, let me share what I have learned of my ancestor, Frances Coomes, my maternal fifth-great-grandmother. In the process, I hope to give my reader a glimpse of the life of a pioneer woman on the Kentucky frontier.
Frances makes her marks on Kentucky history
Frances's husband William is credited, along with Dr. George Hart, an Irishman and physician, as being the first Catholics in Kentucky. Of course, they actually were the first Catholic males, as the entire Coomes family emigrated at the same time. Along with Frances, their nine children are overlooked as being among the first Catholics in Kentucky. All of their children were born before the family emigrated to Kentucky circa 1775-76.Like so many other questions yet to be answered, the exact date of Frances and William's arrival at Harrod's Town is in dispute. Martin Spalding and others give 1775 as the year.However, Frances's arrival is not included in the following passage from Allen's History of Kentucky: "In September 1775, three more ladies arrived in Kentucky, and, with them their husbands and children settled in Harrodsburg, to wit: Mrs. Denton, Mrs. McGary, and Mrs. Hogan."The Fort Harrod entry in The Kentucky Encyclopedia reads: "Among the pioneers who arrived in 1776 were Jane Coomes, who started a school and taught for the next nine years...."But all sources agree that the Coomes family was in Kentucky by 1776, the year Kentucky County, Virginia, was created by the Virginia Assembly. Harrod's Town served as the county seat.
Frances began to make her place in Kentucky history soon after entering the region. Spalding, writing in 1844, cites information provided by Frances's son, Walter A. Coomes, who said he was about 16 years old when he arrived at Harrod's Town.Spalding reports that William Coomes was born in Charles Co., Md., and later moved to the south branch of the Potomac River in Virginia. (It is not yet known if they were married in Maryland or Virginia.) The Coomes family emigrated from Virginia to what is now Kentucky together with Abraham and Isaac Hite. Spalding shares this glimpse of Frances's first historically noteworthy activity:
On their way through Kentucky to Harrod's Station, the party encamped for seven weeks at Drilling's (sic) Lick, in the neighbourhood of the present city of Frankfort. Here Mrs. Coomes, aided by those of the party who were not engaged in hunting, employed herself in making salt-for the first time, perhaps, that this article was manufactured in our State.
George Morgan Chinn describes the salt-making event as follows (although her being Irish is not yet proven):
While the party was camped near Drennon's Lick, Mrs. Coomes, a resourceful Irish Catholic ... collected a few kettles and directed the boiling of salt water from the spring. The Indians had long used this method for obtaining salt, but for the early settlers it was hardly a practical solution. Even if heavy and precious iron kettles large enough for the project could be obtained, it took from 800 to 1000 gallons of the salty spring water and days of feeding the hot fires under the boiling kettles to produce one bushel of salt-comparable in value to 20 British shillings, a good cow and calf, or 1000 pounds of tobacco.
Needless to say, Frances was an invaluable person to have along on the Wilderness Trail from Virginia, through the Cumberland Gap, and into Kentucky. She proved even more valuable once she arrived at Harrod's Town. According to one biographical file in the Library Extension Division, she is credited as being the first woman physician in Kentucky. The sketch reads:
There she practiced medicine and surgery, and she was in wide demand on the frontier as an obstetrician....
From Maryland she had brought her meager supply of medicines. These she supplemented by making her own from herbs. She dispensed calomel, her principal drug, sparingly. As a substitute, she boiled an extract of white walnut until it became a sirupy (sic) mass, and then made pills of it.
This biography, which cites Dr. John A. Ouchterlony's Pioneer Medical Men and Times of Kentucky as its source, also describes two examples of Frances's healing practices. She successfully treated a case of clubfoot in one of her grandchildren, who had been born with her or his toes touching the shin bones. Frances bandaged the deformed feet daily until they were normal. Another treatment is described in greater detail:
... that of a man who came to her from Virginia for treatment of an ulcer. She informed him the treatment would be severe, but he consented. She provided an operating table of hewn timber, constructed to enable the patient to be strapped down. She used clay to fashion a dam around the diseased tissues and then applied a powerful escharotic (sic) by pouring hot boiling lard over the affect[ed] surface. It was a crude procedure, but the principle was sound. And the patient was cured.
Dr. Ouchterlony is quoted as writing that Frances "certainly was the first female who ever practiced medicine in Kentucky, and according to some was the first of either sex to exercise the beneficent functions of the healing art in our State." The sketch stated (though it did not attribute the statement to Ouchterlony) that "it is assumed she may have practiced medicine before her neighbor, Dr. Hart, had an opportunity to do so, although it is believed that she had the benefit of his instruction and perhaps the use of whatever medical library he possessed."
At Harrod's Town, the Coomes family lived outside the fort, but used the fort for protection during sieges and attacks by Indians, which continued long after the Coomes family moved on to Nelson County. The first of the attacks began in March 1777, when the fort came under continuous attack by Indians. Several Kentucky histories, including Spalding's, recount the narrow escape of William Coomes in an attack outside the fort in which one of his Harrod's Town companions was killed.
Frances occupied part of her time in Harrod's Town as a teacher and is credited with being Kentucky's first educator. "Mrs. Coomes, at the urgent request of the citizens, opened a school for the education of children."The need was great, according to a fall 1777 census of the fort that shows nearly one-third of Fort Harrod's population was under the age of ten-58 white and seven black children.(It is not known if the black children, possibly slaves, were provided instruction.) Present-day Kentucky historian Thomas D. Clark described Mrs. Coomes' school as "nothing more than a dame school without significant implications of the English system of education. Her youngsters of Fort Harrod were taught to read and write from paddles with the alphabet inscribed upon them and from the Bible texts."
The Library Extension Service biographical sketch quotes a Lexington Herald story about the school as follows:
Her texts were the New Testament and crude wooden paddles, which took the place of horn books of Queen Elizabeth's time, on which the letters of the alphabet and figures were printed. It was a blab school where all studied aloud, their swaying bodies keeping time to the tune of their
A B Cs. A dunce stool stood in a corner; a rod for chastising the negligent nearby. The seats were made of puncheons or logs cut lengthwise, set up on peg legs, there were no backs. That little school room was built of round logs with no chinking between them. It had a dirt floor, only one window, covered with a doe-skin instead of glass, and a slab door hung on deer throngs.
Kathryn Harrod Mason describes horn books as "a paddlelike affair made of clapboard and a piece of horn, which was steamed and flattened to provide a smooth writing surface." Mason adds the following anecdote:
Mrs. Coomes called the children with a brass bell that had once hung around the neck of a cow she had brought across the Wilderness Road.
While Frances left no diary behind, we can get a glimpse of her daily life in this description of the typical pioneer woman in Kentucky:
Woman was something more than man's helpmate on the frontier ... "it is not known whether the man or woman be the most necessary." ...
She was both mistress and servant, matron and nursery maid, housekeeper and charwoman, dairy-maid and cook....
Custom and necessity united to lay upon her the duty of providing for every household need that the rude agriculture of the period did not supply, and in all the multifarious activities which engaged her skill and energy, she labored unaided by labor-saving machinery. And so she milked the cows in all weather, while sturdy men and boys watched an operation too effeminate to enlist their service; churned the butter and pressed the cheese; carried the tube to the spring and caught rain-water for the weekly "washing" from the eaves in troughs and barrels; made her own soft-soap; washed, picked, carded and dyed the wool; pulled, broke, hatcheled and bleached the hemp; spun the thread; and wove the cloth; contrived and made the garments; reared her children; nursed the sick, sympathized with the distressed and encouraged the disheartened laborer at her side. In all this, and above it all, woman was the tutelar saint of the frontier.
Frances in later years
Spalding reports that Frances and William remained at Harrod's Town for nine years.By 1783, William had obtained a grant for 1,000 acres in Jefferson County on the Cox's and Stewart's creek watercourses. This land helped form Nelson County in 1784. William was deeded this land in December 1784. He became a prominent Catholic landowner in this area and is mentioned often in deeds, court records, and the marriage bonds of his daughters and sons. Frances seems to have slipped into obscurity, only mentioned by given name in a few deeds between 1789 and 1813 and identified as William's wife.
The Coomes family Bible gives the date Frances died as 25 April 1816. William passed away on 6 Nov 1824.No will was probated nor is there a record of their estate being settled in Nelson County. Several of their children had moved on to Daviess and other counties, so it is possible they did not die in Nelson County. But they might not have had any property left to be divided. In 1813, William and Frances divided 1,646 acres of their land among eight of their nine children, excluding only Nancy Ann.
While this paper has to come to an end, my search for Frances's story goes on. Primary records, particularly marriage, deed and will records may hold many clues, if only I can find them. Perhaps I'll even find mention of her in the diaries and records of her neighbors. But I already am quite proud of all Frances managed to accomplish-not the least of which is the feat of getting her name mentioned in any record in our state's male-authored history books. "
More About FRANCES JANE GREENLEAF:
Burial: Bardstown, Nelson County, Kentucky7
EDUC: First schoolteacher of Kentucky7
Record Change: 24 January 20027
Children of WILLIAM COOMES and FRANCES GREENLEAF are:
|i.||ANASTASIA5 COOMES8, m. LEONARD COOMES8, 18008.|
|ii.||CHARLES COOMES8, d. Abt. 18438.|
|iii.||MARY ANN COOMES8, m. BENJAMIN MITCHELL, 27 November 1797.|
|iv.||NANCY ANN COOMES8, m. ED MCFARLANE, 1789.|
|2.||v.||WALTER A COOMES, b. Abt. 1758; d. Abt. 1844.|
|3.||vi.||ENOCH T COOMES, b. 05 July 1765; d. 03 December 1828.|
|4.||vii.||WILLIAM COOMES, b. 13 March 1769, Charles County Maryland; d. 1844, Daviess County, Kentucky.|
|5.||viii.||JOHN COOMES, b. 1778; d. 23 April 1848.|
|ix.||THOMAS ALEXANDER COOMES8, b. 17828; d. 16 July 18308; m. MARY.|
|x.||SARAH COOMES8, b. 17848; d. 18278.|