Thursday, February 2, 2012

Looking for Monk's People

In an earlier post, I allude to the fact that Monk (slave name, Uncle Monk Estill) saved my 4x-great-grandfather's life after Wyandot warriors shot James Berry (1752-1822) in the thigh at a skirmish called Estill's Defeat, or the Battle of Little/Small Mountain. 22 March of this year will be the 230th anniversary of this 1782 event.

I was able to interest the Madison County Historical Society in printing the following article in their newsletter, Heritage Highlights.

Partly inspired by the group Coming to the Table, I seek to build relationship with Monk's descendants. Estill's heirs freed Monk for his valor during and after the battle. I contend that not only was Berry's consciousness changed by the debt he owed a slave, but that Berry's grandson (my 2x-gr-grandfather) James Berry Turner (c1820-c1867) also believed freed slaves capable of self-determination. Turner attended an Emancipation Convention in 1849. This deviant behavior - of contemplating a means to free slaves - outraged his in-laws and strained relations with Turner's own family.

Here is the article as submitted.

20 March, 1880 - “The court-house was crowded to overflowing today with the best people of the county to witness the exercises of the Estill Centennial,” reported the Courier-Journal about this grand Madison County event. “A century ago Captain James Estill, with twenty-four men, fought a party of Wyandotte Indians on a small branch of Hinkston Creek, near where Mt. Sterling, in this State, now stands, and Estill was killed. From the fact that a large artificial mound stood near the spot, the fight is known as the battle of Little Mountain or Estill's Defeat.” 
Much had been done in preparation. H. C. Krell’s marble relief, on the flank of Estill’s monument in Richmond Cemetery, is dated 1879. The frieze of Joseph Proctor, aiming his rifle - and our attention - to the moment before Estill was impaled, was likely unveiled as part of the Centennial. 
On the University campus one hundred guns were fired. Students and schoolchildren marched in procession to the courthouse, which was decorated for the occasion. Nearly a dozen dignitaries had prepared orations, prayers and a benediction.
The names of some of the defeated can still be found on a marker that the Col. George Nicholas Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution erected near the battlefield.
Adam Caperton (1753-1782), John Colefoot/Coltfoot, Capt. James Estill (1750-1782), Unknown (perhaps George) Forbes/Forbis, Jonathan McMillan, Unknown McNeely & John South (The Younger, 1745-1782)
James Berry (c1752-1822), Ensign David Cook (c1756-1825) & William Irvine (1763-1819)
Others Engaged
James Anderson (perhaps 1757-1831), Henry Boyer(s)/Bowyer(s) (perhaps 1763-1821), William Cradlebaugh (c1744-aft 1832), Benjamin Dunnaway/Donway (perhaps 1757-1830), Whitson George (1766-1843), William Grim (likely William Grimes, b 1740), John Jameson (perhaps James Madison Jameson, c1741-1827), Unknown Johnson, Beal Kelly (1750-1837), David Lynch/Linch (1761-1826), Lt. William Miller (1747-1837), Rev. Joseph Proctor (c1755-1844), Reuben Proctor (c1753-c1804) & ‘Uncle’ Monk/Munk, slave to James Estill (D 1835) 
Peter Hacket(t) (B 1763) & Samuel South (c1769-1832)

To this list we must add young Jennie Gass (c1769-1782), daughter of David Gass (1732-1806) who was killed at the outset of hostilities.
To the DAR we can be grateful for specifying the most likely date of the battle: 22 March 1782. Others were involved in Col. Logan’s callout of the militia that March. The George Rogers Clark Papers in the Virginia State Archives report that in September 1783 the General ordered eight men compensated for horses lost at Estill’s Defeat: John Berry (1753-1811), David Crews (1740-1821), Stephen Hancock (c1744-c1827), Robert Harris (1749-1833), Benjamin Martin (1758-1838), John McDowell (perhaps 1757-1835), John Moore (1748-1825) & Page Portwood (1740-1779). Other evidence indicates William Hancock (1738-1818) and the Proctor brothers Benjamin (1760-1850) and Nicholas (1756-1835) may have been in the pursuit as well.
It is not clear where the Boones were during the attack. Alexander Robertson (1748-1802) was recuperating there when Estill’s station was attacked. Cotteril cites, in his History of Pioneer Kentucky that a (perhaps Charles) Hazelrigg was sufficiently knowledgeable about the battle to have given a subsequent deposition. He may have been on the burial detail of 40-50 men, which included John Harper. The primary native combatant has been referred to as Sourehoowah.
More than a hundred members of the Estill Family were to have attended the 1880 event; four of whom, Jonathan P. Estill, Maj. Jonathan T. Estill, Peter Estill, & Col. Clifton R. Estill, were living on their shares of Capt. Estill’s preempted land. Family members arrived from Missouri. They included Robert Estill, Jr. of Howard County, reportedly ‘one of the wealthiest citizens of the state;’ Robt. G. Estill of Kansas City, ‘for ten years a commission merchant’ of St. Louis; Benjamin Estill and wife of Kansas City; & T. K. W. Estill of Roscoe.
Other descendants of the ‘Heroes of Little Mountain’ addressed those assembled: William M. Irvine, then President of the Second National Bank; Judges William B. Smith and W. C. Miller; Hon. Thomas J. Scott and Hon. James B. McCreary; Col. James Caperton & Stanford attorney Wallace E. Varnon.
22 March 2012 will be the 230th anniversary of what the Richmond Register called the ‘Fiercest Battle Known.’ Recently, the freed slave Monk was honored by the 4th MCHS Walk of Fame plaque. Monk is to have sired 30 children by three wives, and a descendant of James Berry, the survivor of Estill’s Defeat whose life Monk likely saved, wants to acknowledge them. This MCHS member in Portland, Oregon is hoping readers can put him in touch with any of Monk’s known descendants. Mr. Hardesty is also soliciting all unpublished anecdotes pertaining to The Battle of Little Mountain and would like to hear from any descendants of those involved. Contact him via this page.


  1. Welcome to the GeneaBloggers family. Hope you find the association fruitful; I sure do. I have found it most stimulating, especially some of the Daily Themes.

    May you keep sharing your ancestor stories!

    Dr. Bill ;-)
    Author of "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories" and family saga novels:
    "Back to the Homeplace" and "The Homeplace Revisited"

    1. I'm almost humbled that GeneaBloggers has multiplied my readership, Dr. Bill. Thanks for the reference to your Springfield posts: I'm in a conversation about how heavily we rely on 'facts,' and whether - just because the government published them - facts can be trusted as gospel. I hyperlinked to one of your articles.

      I hope that, by getting the word out, I get to meet descendants of ‘Uncle’ Monk Estill, the man who saved my ancestor's life.

  2. What a wonderful article, so glad it was published. I can't wait to read more about Monk's descendants!


  3. Dave, thanks to you for sending me on the search for Monk Estill in my Estill family line. As you already know, I had a mind blowing find about my Estill family. Wow!! Because of you, I finally asked the right question to the right person. Much gratitude cousin for your help and support.



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