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1738 - 1958




Lexington, Kentucky


Introduction. Maude Ward Lafferty's and Helen Lafferty Nesbit's essay on the Lair family provides a fascinating history of the origins of Bourbon County, Kentucky. Because of its historical value, I have included the complete history. Researchers of the Lair family will find this an invaluable resource in tracing their family roots. Hopefully, this history will also prove interesting to family researchers whose ancestors are closely linked to the Lairs.

Bob Francis


The story of the Lairs is the story of America. It is the story of a peace-loving people living centuries ago on the banks of the Rhine, tending their vineyards and their flocks until a great religious war shattered that peace. It is the story of their crossing the Atlantic in a sailing vessel; of their landing in Pennsylvania and their home life there; of their moving on into the fertile valley of Virginia and then moving on again over Indian infested trails to the Blue Grass region of Kentucky. From the landing of the first Matthias Lair two hundred and twenty years ago to the present day, this family of ours has spread to the forty-eight states, crossing plains and mountains in covered wagons to Oregon, California, Colorado and Texas, and has played a great part in the building of this country.

The story begins with Matthias Lehrer, or Lair, a sturdy young German born in the Rhineland in 1714, who sailed on "The Nancy," William Wallace Master, landing in Philadelphia in 1738.

On the same ship came Catharina Margaretha Moyer, said to be an heiress, and it was whispered that her father, Will Moyer, was bringing her to this country to avert an undesirable marriage The poor father died on shipboard and was buried at sea, leaving Catharina to face life alone in a strange land.

Immediately after the ship landed, Matthias took the Oath of Allegiance to King George II and fidelity to the Penns, as the English Sovereign required of all male Germans and other foreigners within forty-eight hours of arrival. He also took the Oath of Abjuration which was required in 1729, renouncing the temporal power of the Pope of Rome and the claims of the Pretender and he paid twelve pence and forty shillings for the privilege of entering Pennsylvania. The British authorities required all ship masters to fiat male passengers, giving their birth place and birth date. According to their records Matthias wee twenty-four years old, was born in the Rhineland and landed in 1738. We, his descendants, are grateful for this information as it enables us to follow his footsteps through the intervening years.

It is not surprising that the passengers of "The Nancy" tarried in Philadelphia for a time as it was a pleasant city and was filled to overflowing with Germans, so the late arrivals found friends while studying the country and finding their way about.

Nor is it surprising that our lonely young Germans, Matthias and Catharina, should fall in love and marry in 1744 in their own church, nor that the Register of St. Michaels and Zion Church should record the baptism of the four children born to them during their stay in Philadelphia.

Recorded in German, it is as follows:

September 15, 1745. Johan Juwua Lehrer, son of Matthias and Catharina Margaretha. Born September 12, 1745. Sponsors, Josua Duer and wife Elizabeth, Johannea Ahlgeyer and wife Margretha Catharina.

December 18, 1747. Catharina Margretha Lehrer, daughter of Matthias and Catharina (Reformed). Born November 5, 1747. Sponsors, Jurg Heppele and wife Margretha.

February 18, 1750. Andreas Lehrer, son of Matthias Lehrer, and wife Catharina Margretha. Sponsors, Andreas Beller and wife, Catharina.

April 6, 1752. Matthias Lehrer, son of Matthias and wife, Catharina, born February 15, 1752. Sponsors, Andreas Beller and wife, Catharina.

As they had property in York County, Pennsylvania, it is good to know that Matthias was prospering. The tax list shows that he was possessed of land, cattle and horses in 1779.

As we become interested in them we involuntarily ask: "Who were they? Where did they come from?"

In order to answer these questions we should read a few German histories, such as: Menzel's "History of Germany," "The Thirty Years War" by Schiller, "The Story of the Palatines" by Cobb,"The Book of the Rhine," by S. Baring Gould and Wayland's "History of Rockingham County, Virginia," and should also search court records.

On the base of a famous statue at Bonn is the inscription: "The Rhine is the River, not the Frontier of Germany." It might have been said with equal truth that it is the river of Europe, for no other European river has played so great a part in human destiny. The struggle for its possession is the struggle for supremacy in Europe, which has lasted nearly 2,000 years and is yet unsettled, notwithstanding the price paid in blood in many wars.

As early as 57 B.C., the mighty Caesar built a chain of forts, walls and palasades along its banks to make the Roman Empire impregnable.

From its source in the Julian Alps to its mouth in the North Sea, it measures 750 miles. Its basin contains coal beds and minerals. It waters a region of great fertility and it is not only important from a military and strategic standpoint,but as a channel of commerce. It is the most direct pathway from Italy and the Orient to the British Isles and to Scandinavia and the wines of the Rhineland, the fruits and oils of the Mediterranean, the ivory and spices, Bagdad silks and India shawls that come by way of Cairo.

Its fertility makes the Rhine Valley the garden spot of Europe. The alluvial soil affords fine pasturage and their cattle are held in high esteem. Among their exports are Edam and Limberger cheeses and Rhenish wine is acclaimed the finest on the continent.

The vineyards carpet the steep banks of the river, terrace above terrace, for 350 feet. Some of these have belonged to one family for centuries. A recent article in the New York Times chronicled the death of Germany's oldest grape vine which had produced 75 gallons a year for over 400 years,

The great cash crop of the valley is the Rhine wine. It's the "Nectar of the Gods" to the dilettante: The most famous is the Moselle and the Bacharach is made at Dinkelsbuhl where children wearing wreaths of grape leaves in their hair, playing guitars and mandolins, dance through the streets to celebrate the Vine Festival.

The difference in flavor of Rhine wines is due to the quality of the soil and the dampness of the hillsides. The choicest portion of this super-wine is selected from the most exquisite clusters. In early summer when the vine is in flower the busy hands of farmer, wife and children pluck off the superfluous blossoms which are preserved and dried, to be cast into the wine press in the autumn to give aroma to the wine. In order to keep the soil fertile, the people carry the fertilizer up the steep river banks in baskets. Obviously the wine-growers love their vineyards, and we wonder why Matthias and Catharina Lair left them willingly to live in a faraway land. Envious countries sought to destroy these people and to usurp thelr fertile hillsides. To do so, they instigated The Thirty Years War.

The Thirty Years War was a religious war between Catholics and the Protestants. It originated in Bohemia, reached into Moravia, Austria, Germany, France, as well as Denmark and Scandinavia. It devastated countries, destroyed harvests, reduced villages to ashes and opened graves for thousands of combatants.

Yet, out of this war, Europe came forth free and independent, a community of nations, and this alone reconciles the philosopher to its horrors.

Religion, only, could have made it possible. For the State or the Prince, few nations would have drawn the sword, but for religion the merchant, the artist, the peaaant, flew to arms. They became hopeful of success when that good man, Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, took up arms for the cause. He was the only prince in Europe from whom the oppressed could look for protection. He was the hero of the age, the greatest general of his time. Before a battle he knelt in prayer.

Finally at the Battle of Lützen Gustavus Adolphus spurred his charger too near to an exposed point and there received the bullet that took his life.

His men rallied when they beheld his riderless steed and fought more viciously than ever, but the die was cast and when they knew that their great leader was dead, they had no recourse but to sell their homes, salvage what they could and set sail for America.

The Lairs, natives of the principality of Palatine, known to history as Palatines or Palatinates, deeply religious, appreciating freedom in churches and in schools, fled their Rhineland following their participation in The Thirty Years War and made their long and hazardous trek to a new home and a new life in America.

William Penn, an English aristocrat of great learning and vast wealth, had received from his sovereign in payment of a debt, certain lands in the New World, called "Sylvania." His King, with a twinkle in his eye, added the prefix "Penn" making it Pennsylvania. Penn was a Quaker who had the courage of his own convictions. Pennsylvania needed settlers, and he believed the Palatines would make good citizens. In order to be sure, he made a missionary tour of the Rhine which convinced him that he was right and the result of his labor was the great exodus of the Palatines to Pennsylvania. It proved to be an ideal arrangement and between 1730 and 1750, more than thirty thousand Palatines found homes in a free country where they could live in peace and happiness.

It was not long before a second migration followed to Pennsylvania which gave that state the name of Little Germany. Great numbers settled in Philadelphia and Germantown, or Brocks Gap, bringing with them the same fine attributes for which they were known in their native land. They changed their names. Dewitt became Dwight, Groen became Green, Gouldschmidt became Goldsmith, etc., and by this means Americanized their names.


After the birth of their first children, our immigrant ancestors, Matthias and Catherina, decided to establish their permanent home in the rich Shenandoah Valley. They purchased several extensive tracts of hundreds of acres, each on Linville Creek, near Brocks Gap and Raders Meeting House in Rockingham County. Their neighbors were old friends, the Chrismans, Bowmans, Hites, Kizers, Cassels, Millers and Custers, some of whom were related by marriage. In this ideal community four more children were born to Matthias and Catharina; Elizabeth, Mary, Margaret and John.

In the Shenandoah Valley they reproduced the homes they had enjoyed in the Rhine Valley, building them of stone with tile roofs, a huge chimney in the middle sometimes eight feet in diameter which made fire in every room possible and at minimum cost. Instead of grates, they used quaint stoves of tile, much like those still to be seen in German cities.

Their barns were reproduced from the "Switzer barns" of the Rhineland, They were always built on a hillside with foundation of stone to provide warm stalls for the live stock. The second floor was for hay or grain. On the up-hill level there was always a huge revolving door, wide enough for a team of horses to drive in with a wagon, unload and drive out in turnstile fashion. The barns were of log, put together with wooden pins as there were no iron nails to be had.

Scarcely were the Lairs settled in their new home until they were swept into the current of the Revolutionary War. Matthias and Catharina were too old for service, but according to the Militia vouchers of Rockingham County, 1788, the record shows slaves and horses given by them to help the cause, which designated them as patriots.

Living was difficult during the Revolutionary War but they managed to get along. Catharina's granddaughter stated that she "made frequent trips on horseback to Philadelphia to obtain little luxuries necessary to her comfort," though that city was 260 miles from her stone house in the valley of Virginia. She even worked at the loom,which was the abomination of the pioneer housewives. In these days when we can buy our clothes and household linens from the stores all ready for use, it is difficult for us to realize how those grand old women wove and spun and sewed without machines. But Catharina met her emergencies face forward and played her part, according to the bits of family tradition handed down to us. One of the first household articles set up was the cumbersome old loom. It sometimes found its abiding place in one of the main rooms,but more often in a shed or an attic room. Sometimes there was a "loom house" set apart for it. Weaving, spinning and carding, were duties assigned to the women of the household. The mother usually took the weaving while her daughters did the spinning and spooling. During the spring months the loom was busy with making rag carpets, while in the fall, it was used for making the requisite amount of clothing and linen for the household. Jeans, usually grey, used for suits for men and boys, linsey in chestnut browns, dull blues and scotch plaids, were the materials used for the wearing apparel for the women and girls. Towels and counterpanes were made during the fall. The flax used was grown in a little patch near the house and was harvested by the women. My mother, Helen Lair Ward, who grew up at "Boscobel" at Lair, Kentucky, told me that the flax was so pretty when in flower that her mother (my little grandmother Kittie) would lift her up on the back fence and say: "Helen, dear, look away over there across the Licking River at your grandmother's flax patch. Isn't it the prettiest blue you ever saw? She says that is Rhine blue." When grandmother Kittie was a girl she asked for a flax wheel and as she was left-handed, it had to be made especially to meet her needs. It is now used to hold magazines and newspapers and is handy as well as a cherished keepsake.

Sometimes the loom would turn out "kivvers" or coverlets, that highest form of the weaver's art. Every mother desired that each of her children should have one of these treasures of her skill as a wedding gift, and proud indeed is the housewife who owns one today. The wool blankets were also made on the loom. They were all wool and warm as toast. The one I inherited is light in weight and warmer than any present-day double blanket. These quaint old relics and the old carpets not only taxed the ingenuity but the artistic taste of the weaver and many a mother was famous for her "coloring" secrets. The coloring matter was largely vegetable and had to be boiled for hours before the rags could be immersed and hung on the fence to dry. Someone has calculated that in weaving three yards of close woolen cloth regarded as a day's work, the shuttle was thrown 3,000 times the tredle pressed down and the batten swung the same number of times. Our ancestors loved their home in the Shenandoah Valley and I have heard my mother and Cousin Dink Smith tell how their grandmothers used to sit on the banks of the Licking in the moonlight and talk in undertones of the glories and beauties of the Shenandoah homes and often tears coursed down the furrowed cheeks of Sallie Custer Lair as she sang a plaintive old song in which every verse ended in a wailing refrain "in the Shenandoah Valley."

Some writers contend that the German element was not good for this country generally because it constituted 70% of the entire population and living isolated upon their own farms marrying and intermarrying as they did adhering to their own language publishing their own books writing their songs and conducting their religious services in German, they remained a separate and distinct people. Others however maintain that German thrift and religious zeal set a good example in every section where they located and that they gradually became so noted for their fine farming and staunch morality, that they commanded the respect of all. This was as true of the Holland Dutch who settled New York as of the German element in Pennsylvania Virginia and Kentucky.

Matthias and Catharina Lair had for neighbors in their Shenandoah Valley home the Custers, prosperous store-keepers of Brocks Gap and also the Ruddles, Moyers, Huffmans, Rushes and Newmans. They all lived near their church, Raders Meeting House, which served as church, school and community center. Raders Meeting House, which was remembered by Catharina in her will, was built of logs in 1762. When it was organized, Adam Rader and Alex Painter deeded three acres of land to be used for a church. As that was more ground than was needed for a church building, the presumption is that it was intended for church, school and cemetery for members of the congregation. It was replaced by a more pretentious log building in 1806 and so the members of Raders Meeting Houee sent their children there to school and when they married, held the wedding ceremony in the same building. The school was taught by the preacher who opened it with prayer at eight o'clock in the morning and dismissed at six o'clock in the evening, allowing one hour for intermission. He taught them reading, spelling, writing, arithmetlc, grammar and geography. On Sunday they sat in the same seats while they listened to his sermon. The school had very severe rules. It did not allow games of any sort, nor were any "scholars" allowed to wear ruffles or "powder their hair" but they were allowed to work in the garden for recreation if they so desired.

Matthias Lehrer (or Lair) died in 1787, aged 73, leaving his property to his wife who outlived him about 12 years. Her will, dated July 9, 1799, was probated in January, 1804. It is found among the burnt records of Rockingham County, Virginia, Will Book A, Page 80. After the usual formalities, she left a small sum to her church, Raders Meeting House, made arrangements for the freedom of her body servant, "Rebecca, daughter of Jude," then continued:

"I give and bequeath unto my several sons and daughters, viz; my son, Joseph Lair, my daughter, Catharina Newman, my son, Andrew Lair, my son, Matthias Lair, dec'd or his heirs, my daughter, Elizabeth Trumbo, dec'd or her heirs, my daughter, Mary Ruddle, my daughter, Margaret Custer, and my son, John Lair, all my personal estate to be equally divided among them agreeable to quality and quantity.

"After payment of the lawful debts and funeral expenses, I do hereby constitute and sppoint my well-beloved friend, Henry Stolph, executor of this my last will and testament and do hereby disallow all other former testaments, Wills, legacies, bequests, and Executors by me in any way before named, willed or bequeathed, ratifying and confirming this and no other to be my last will and testament in the presence of us and the presences of such others hereunto subscribed over our names, ninth day of July, 1799.

(Signed) Catherine Lair

James Barnett
Benjamin Yount
Frederick Prises
Rockingham County. Probated January, 1804

In this document she anglicizes their names for the first time, also writing Lair instead of Lehrer. She even signed her name Catherine Lair. She had indeed become an American.


Three sons of Matthias and Catharina Lair, Andrew, Matthias and John, served in the Revolutionary War. There was a great deal of talk about the Wilderness of Kentucky where the rich farm lands were tempting farmers to settle in spite of the Indians on the warpath. Andrew, the oldest of the three brothers, took the lead and prepared to follow Colonel Benjamin Logan over Boone's Wilderness Road to Kentucky which Boone described as "a second Paradise."

The importance of the Wllderness Road cannot be over-estimated. The English speaking colonles stretched like a ribbon along the Atlantic coast from Maine to Florida and the colonials were beginning to need more land. The only available territory unoccupied by Indlan tribes was Kentucky, whose fertility and desirability had been heralded by fur traders, The land seekers became obsessed with a desire to possess it. The opening of the Wilderness Road and the Revolutionary War were simultaneous. The pioneers came to Kentucky by tens of thousands over the rough, narrow path. In some places it was necessary to travel single file and even a horse had to pick its way. Creeks had to be crossed, or dry creek beds used for roads and laurel thickets had to be cut away before even a horse could travel through. The pioneers felled the forests, planted crops and played a most conspicuous part in the Revolutionary War by protecting their own interests and the back door of the seaboard colonies at the same time, so that they could give their undivided attention to the British on the eastern shore. With George Rogers Clark, they captured "Hamilton the Hair-buyer," the British commanding general at Detroit and conquered the Northwest Territory, out of which the great states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and part of Minnesota were later carved.

Though would-be settlers had striven in vain to gain a foothold in Kentucky, the real settlement came through the Transylvania Company. This group of hard-headed, moneyed men of North Carolina, gathered the Overhill Cherokees at Watauga in 1775 for a powwow that lasted twenty days and finally succeeded in purchasing their claims to Kentucky, including the path," for the nominal sum of $50,000. Looking about for an experienced woodsman to lay out the road, they selected Danial Boone, who believed himself the instrument of Providence, foreordained for that purpose. It was a wise choice. This natural leader of men, fearless, strong, resourceful, had spent many months in exploring the land and he knew it well. Boone and his party, familiar with the land, crossed tbe Cumberland River without difficulty, an achievement not attained by any who followed them. The Cumberland, like many mountain streams, became a torrent after a bard rain and the current was swift. Out in the middle of the stream, firmly planted by Divine Providence, was a huge boulder, known to the pioneers as the "Ford Rock." This was their water-gauge. If it could be seen above the swirling water, they knew they could pass over it safely; if, however, the "Ford Rock" could not be located, the settlers dared not attempt to cross, even though they might be pursued by savages pressing hard upon them.

There is no more human study of the Wilderness Rood than that contained in Calk's diary. Minutely he describes the events of each day, telling how "Abram's dog's leg got broke by Drake's dog," how "Daniel Drake bakes bread without washing his hands," how "Abram's mare ran into the river with her load and swam over and he followed her and got on her and made her swim back again," how "at Richland Creek they had to tote their packs over on a tree limb and swim their horses over," how "they turned up a creek that they had crossed about 50 times," etc. But bravely he came along and brought his instruments with which he surveyed Boonesborough.

The first addition to the garrison of Boonesborough was Colonel Richard Henderson and members of the Transylvania Company "to the number of 30 guns," who followed Boone's Wilderness Road.

Coming with them was Benjamin Logan and his party. He left the Transylvanians at the Rockcastle River, however, and followed an older trail to the present site of Stanford, Kentucky, where he established Logan's Fort, eleven miles beyond Crab Orchard. Twenty miles away was Harrod's Fort which was considered "the end of the trail." With Benjamin Logan came Andrew Lair.

Colonel Logan made his first trip to Kentucky in 1775 and, with his friend, William Galaspey and two or three of his slaves, built his fort a mile from the present city of Stanford, Kentucky. He called it Logan's Fort, but some people called it St. Asaphs Fort.

There they raised a crop of corn in 1775. Next year, 1776, he brought his wife and family and the rest of his slaves and his cattle. He placed his wife and family in Harrod's Fort, however, until he could make his fort safer for them.

Logan's Fort filled up quickly with settlers who, less cautious than he, had brought their wives and children along. On May 20, 1777, in the early morning while the women were outside the fort walls milking the cows and their husbands were guarding them with guns loaded, a hundred Indians attacked them and during the attack a man named Burr Harrison was shot and fell. The others succeeded in getting into the fort in safety. The agony of the wounded man, his cries for help and the distress of his wife, were too much for Benjamin Logan and notwithstanding the danger of almost certain death, he dashed out of the fort gate, picked up the wounded man, threw him over his shoulder and ran with him into the fort, while bullets whizzed around his head. That was characteristic of Benjamin Logan who was recognized as one of the bravest and also one of the kindest men in pioneer history. He was a man's man, tall, handsome, courageous, a born leader and Andrew Lair made no mistake in following him.


The Kentucky forts were built in the form of a parallellogram, their site determined by the location of a good spring. Trees were cut down and the logs neatly picketed and set in a ditch or trench which had been dug the adze and shape desired. When the logs had been rammed tight, they made a solid wall from nine to twelve feet high, impervious to rifle fire and to the arrows of the Indians but not to cannon. The blockhouses, or bastions, built at each of the four corners, were two stories high and extended over the lower story about eighteen inches so that no enemy could make lodgement under the walls without risk of enfilading their fire.

The cabins were built against the inner walls of the fort. They had clapboard roofs and slab doors hung on deer thongs, which served as hinges. The windows were covered with oiled paper or oiled doe skin as there was no glass to be had. All the cabins opened into the enclosure.

The beds in the forts were constructed by forcing forked sticks into the earthen floor, running poles through the forks and between the logs of the wall, and stretching buffalo skins tightly over the frame work. Bedding consisted of homespun sheets and blankets, quilts and coverlets. In very cold weather bear skins or elk skins were added for warmth. The floor coverings were also of animal skins.

Cooking was done at the open fireplace with spits, pothooks and kettles. Tables were made of slabs of wood into which pegs were driven for legs. Noggins, piggies and bowls were neatly turned and pewter plates and horn spoons were considered luxuries.

In these forts friends found friends, neighbors sought former neighbors, kith and kin banded together in pre-empting land and soon built homes of log and stone outside the protecting enclosure of the fort. When danger threatened, a messenger was sent from home to home to warn the settlers to gather their families and a few necessaries and flee to the friendly fort. Not daring to light a candle, they hurried noiselessly through the savage-infested woodland to the friendly fort. Even the dog of the pioneer was trained in silence lest his bark betray his master's whereabouts to the wily savage.

Such were the conditions under which the wives of Benjamin Logan and Andrew Lair, and thousands of others, lived during forting days. Many of the women had been accustomed to comfortable living and were, therefore, able to substitute many items at hand for the things they needed in their daily lives.

At the beginning of the Revolutionary War there were only three forts, Harrod's, Boone's and Logan's, but by its close there were sixty forts, stretched like cities of refuge along the Wilderness Road and the Buffalo Trace, into which settlers "coming in" could spend their nights in safety and then proceed on their journey by day.

The attack on his fort had convinced Benjamin Logan that he did not have sufficient ammunition to withstand Indian warfare. He was needed at his forts but he also knew the fort could not survive without gunpowder. The nearest supply was 200 miles away at the Holston settlement, far beyond the mountains. Selecting two trusty helpers, he slipped out of the fort as soon as it was dark and avoiding the Cumberland Gap and the travelled ways where Indians might intercept him, he went afoot at full speed up the steep mountain sides and down into the dark valleys until he reached the Holston. He procured the gunpowder and lead and left it for his trusty helpers to carry back to Logan's Fort while he hurried homeward alone, reaching there just ten days after he had left.

When Logan built his fort in 1775, what we now know as Kentucky was West Fincastle County, Virginia. It was a vast tract of desirable land with a few scattered forts here and there, too weak to take care of themselves and too far from Williamsburg, Virginia, their seat of government, to secure aid in time of need. Some sort of organized government was urgent and the first step taken was to divide the unwieldy tract into smaller areas and to appoint a reliable officer to be responsible for it. Therefore Fincastle County, Virginia, became Washington, Montgomery and Kentucky counties. In 1780 Kentucky County was divided into Jefferson, Lincoln and Fayette. John Floyd was made Colonel of Jefferson County, Benjamin Logan Colonel of Lincoln County, and John Todd Colonel of Fayette County, while General George Rogers Clark was Commander in Chief, appointed by Virginia.


As settlers became more numerous, the Indians were more determined than ever to drive them out of their "Happy Hunting Ground" and their atrocities were more severe and terrifying. The Indians were aided by the British who resented George Rogers Clark's conquest of the Northwest Territory and raised an army under Captain Henry Byrd of the Eighth Regiment of His Majesty's forces. This army of 1,000 men, consisting of British Regulars, Canadian Volunteers and Tories, came on June 22, 1780, to capture Ruddle's and Martin's Forts. The British came from Detroit and the Indians from their Ohio towns, they crossed Lake Erie, came down the Miami and the Ohio Rivers, paddled up the Licking and reached Ruddle's Fort just at daybreak and announced their presence by cannon fire. It was the first cannon shot fired south of the Ohio River. The forters were asleep but knew instantly what it meant. Captain Isaac Ruddle protested in vain but the savages dashed into the fort, tore the baby of Mrs. Ruddle from her arms and threw it into the fire, tore wives from their husband's arms, tomahawked and scalped men, women and children and adding the prisoners to those they had captured at Martin's Fort four miles away, drove 470 men, women and children, loaded down with plunder from their cabin homes, to Detroit, a distance of 600 miles. There they were divided among their captors and some were taken 800 miles farther to Mackinac and on to Montreal. The story of their capture, of the separation of families, of hardships endured during the six weeks journey and of the conditions under which they lived during the fourteen years of their captivity is one of the most shocking in the pioneer period of Kentucky's history. Mad Anthony Wayne's Treaty of Greenville set them free. In executing their plan, they waged the War of the American Revolution on Kentucky soil, for they came under the command of a British officer, flying the British flag and demanding surrender in the name of his Britanic Majesty, King George III. Captain Byrd made official report of the expedition to Sir Frederick Haldimand, the British Lieutenant General who was then Governor of Canada.

This battle of the Revolutionary War was fought on land now known as the Matthias Lair farm and is where the Lair Association holds its reunions. Ruddle's Fort stood in the hollow pasture back of the house at "The Cedars" and it was Cousin Eliza Lair who erected the monument that marks its site on the banks of the Licking River. It is fitting that the Lair Association should commemorate the tragic event by holding reunions on June 22, or the first Sunday thereafter.


By way of retaliation, George Rogers Clark called all fort commanders to collect their troops and rendezvous at the mouth of the Licking, march in a body to the Indian towns of 0ld Chillicothe and Piqua and punish the Indians so severely they would not be able to make forays into Kentucky again. Boatloads of soldiers came from Louisville on the Ohio, others floated down the Ohio and the Licking. Then Clark gave the signal, the largest army of Kentuckians in pioneer history landed on the present site of Cincirnati and marched through the virgin forest to take the Mad River Indians by storm.

Many historians including Collins, McClung, J.F. Smith, Mann Butler and Kerr, have described those battles and disagreed widely. Since Andrew Lair was a soldier under Benjamin Logan and was one of that army of 970 men, it seems advisable to describe it, giving the account by Theodore Roosevelt, the distinguished historian and soldier who had access to the best source material available.

According to him: "Clark realized that he would have trouble raising an army of volunteers and the first thing he did was to close the Land Court and the next was to station armed men at the Crab Orchard, the point from which those returning to Virginia gathered as they were well armed for protection over the dangerous Wilderness Road. The soldiers were ordered to stop all men from leaving the country and to take eway their arms, if necessary as four-fifths of all grown men were drafted and needed immediately for the expedition against Chillicothe.

"Logan went with Clark as second in command and carried with him a light three-pound gun on horseback. They began the march on the second of August in a drizzling rate, every night they encamped in a hollow square with the equipment and horses in the middle.

"After their fifty-mile march, they found Chillicothe deserted and burning, so they pushed on to Piqua on the Little Miami, arriving at about 10 o'clock in the morning of August 8.

"Pique-town was strongly built like all French towns. The stout log houses were far apart and the strip of land between them was planted in corn. A blockhouse with loopholed walls stood in the middle. Round about was a woodland.

"Clark divided his army into four divisions, taking command of two of them in person and giving the other two to Logan. He ordered Logan to cross the river above the town and take it in the rear, while he crossed directly below and assailed the town in front.

"Logan did his best to obey the orders but he could not find a ford and marched three miles upstream making repeated and vain attempts to cross, When he finally succeeded, the day was almost done and the fighting was over.

"Meanwhile Clark plunged into the river and crossed it at the head of one of his own two divisions. The other was delayed for a short time. Both Simon Girty and his brother were in the town with several hundred Indian warriors. They were surprised by Clark's swift advance just as a scouting party of warriors were returning to the village. The warning was so short that the squaws and children had barely time to retreat out of the way. As Clark crossed the stream, the warriors left their cabins and formed in some thick timber. A long-range skirmish ensued with the warriors in the timber, but in the approach of Clark's second division the Indians fell back. After a slight running fight of two hours, the whites lost sight of their foes and wondering what had become of Logan's wing, they gathered together and marched back toward the river. The scattered detachments now sat down to listen for the missing wing.

"After half an hour's silent waiting, they suddenly became aware of the presence of a body of Indians that had slipped in between them and the town. The backwoodsmen rushed to the attack, while the Indians whooped and yelled defiance. There was a moment's heavy firing, but as both sides carefully sheltered themselves behind trees, there was very little loss and the Indians steadily gave way until they reached the town about two miles distant from the spot where the whites had halted. They then made a stand and for the first time there occurred some real fighting. The Indians stood stoutly behind the loop-holed walls of the cabins and in the blockhouse. The Americans, advancing cautiously and gaining ground, suffered much more loss than they inflicted. Late ln the afternoon Clark managed to bring the three-pounder into action from a point below the town. A few shots from the three-pounder dislodged the defenders of the blockhouse and about sunset the whites closed in, only to find that their foes had escaped and disappeared. A few stragglers exchanged shots with the advance guard of Logan's wing as it at last came down the bank. This was the only part Logan was able to take in the battle. Of the Indians six or eight were slain, whereas the whites lost seventeen and a large number were wounded.

"Clark destroyed all the houses and a large quantity of corn, then the army marched back to the mouth of the Licking and disbanded, most of the volunteers having been out just twenty-five days.

"The Indians were temporarily cowed by their loss and by the damage they had suffered. Especially were they cowed by the moral effect of so formidable a retaliation foray following immediately on the heels of the victory of Byrd's inroad. Therefore, thanks to Clark, the settlements south of the Ohio were but little molested for the remainder of the year."

The first court for Lincoln County was held in 1781 at Harrod's Fort, the earliest and strongest fort in Kentucky. As it did not have the required population, Colonel Benjamin Logan offered ten acres of land at St. Asaph's, or Logan's Fort and fifty acres at Stanford, on condition that a courthouse be built there as a permanent site. His offer was accepted and plans were made at once to build the courthouse.

At the July term it was proven that Benjamin Logan and James Harrod were employed for twenty days, each of theme with one horse to ride and one pack horse, to transport from the Long Island of Holston to the Kentucky country. They were allowed 22 pounds for their services. This is in reference to Logan's 200 mile run to the Holston for ammunition after the Indian attack at Logan's Fort.


In an original document in the Virginia State Library and known as the "Illinois Papers," D. 156, is the pay roll of Captain George Adams Company in actual service in Lincoln County Militia 1782.

In the above mentioned pay roll the name of Andrew Lair appears as having served as a private, he having enlisted June 29, and being discharged July 25. Sworn to before Benjamin Logan, by Colonel John Logan, that this service was performed.

Certified copy can be obtained from Virginia State Library.

In the Lincoln County Court Records of 1786, published in the Kentucky State Register, May 1922, Vol. 20, No. 59, Andrew Lair was commissioned "An Lieutenant, l779."

Also in the index of Certificate Book of the Land Commissions in 1779-80 the name of Andrew Lair appears reference page 141 of Certificate Book. This index is published in the Kentucky Register September 1923, Vol. 21 No. 63.

By the Act of 1779 "every person who had entered a claim and raised a crop of corn prior to 1778 was entitled to 400 acres at the sale (?) of $2.25 per hundred acres and were also given the right to pre-empt 1,000 acres in addition to be paid for at the higher rate of $40.00 per hundred acres."

The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society for May 1923 Vol. 21, page 141, records the following:

"And'w Lear this day claimed a pre-emption of 400 acres of land at the state price in the District of Kentucky lying on a small creek running into the Kentucky River about 13 miles up the said creek from the river by making an actual settlement in the month of March 1779. Satisfactory proof being made to the Court they are of Opinion that the s'd Lear has a right to a pre-emption of 400 acres of Land to include the above Location & that a Cert. issue accordingly."

Jillson's Land Grants:

"Andrew Lair 300 acres Book 4 Page 428
Date 3-25-1784
Fayette Ky. River
" " 100 " Book 9 Page 532
Date 12-3-1784
Fayette Johnson's Fork
" 192 " Book 144 Page 101
592 Date 5-2-1786
Fayette Johnson's Fork

Andrew Lair could not have chosen a more beautiful site for a home. The Dix River plunges down its steep banks into the Kentucky in a white froth. It was a favorable site for mill dams, necessary at that time, and court records show that Colonel Bowman, Colonel Logan, John Craig, Joseph Hunt and Robert Allen were granted mill sites there and were neighbors of the Lairs. It was on this land in Lincoln County that Andrew Lair spent the remainder of his very eventful life,and where he died in 1826.

The Will of Andrew Lair, probated April 10, 1826, is to be found in the Lincoln County records, Book of 1824-1829, Book 1, and is as follows:

"In the name of God Amen, I Andrew Lair of Lincoln County and state of Kentucky, being of a good memory and of a sound disposing mind, calling into mind the frailities of human life and the certainty of death, do make and constitute this my last will and testament revoking and disannulling all others in the manner and form as follows:

"Item first, I recommend my spirit to God who gave it in full hope of a happy immortality through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus and my body to the grave to be buryed under the direction of my executors untyl the morning of the resurrection.

"Item, I give and bequeath unto my son in law William Anderson the tract of land whereon I now live supposed to contain three hundred and thirty acres at ten dollars per acre making 3,000 three 300 Dollars, by his making the following payments towit.

"Item I give and bequeath unto my son John Lair seven hundred and fifty two dollars to be paid by William Anderson and year after my D.S.

"Item I give and bequeath unto my son in law Thomas Pope three hundred and seventy six Dollars to be paid by William Anderson two years and six months after my D.S.

"Item I give and bequeath unto my son in law George Smiser three hundred and seventy six Dollars to be paid by William Anderson four years after my D.S.

"Item I give and bequeath unto my Daughter Catherine Stepp one hundred Dollars to be paid by William Anderson six years after my D.S.

"Item I give and bequeath unto my son William lair one hundred Dollars to be paid by William Anderson six years after my D.S.

"Item I give and bequeath unto my son Hubbard Lair one hundred Dollars to be paid by William Anderson six years after my D.S.

"Item I give and bequeath unto my son James Lair ten dollars to be paid by William Anderson six years after my D.S.

"Item I give and bequeath unto my son in law William Pope ten dollars to be paid by William Anderson six years after my dec.

"Item I give and bequeath unto my son in law William Anderson three hundred seventy six Dollars out of my land. It is also my will that my son in law William Anderson for his services in affection and attention unto me during several years in the latter part of my life that he shall have eleven hundred Dollars out of the value of the land.

"Item I appoint my son John Lair and my son in law William Anderson my executors to execute this my last will and testament.

"Given from under my hand this 7th day April in the year of our Lord Eighteen hundred and twenty five."


John S. Higgins
James Withers
Braddock Withers


Andrew Lair was born in Philadelphia in 1750 and died in Lincoln County, Kentucky, in 1826. In Virginia he married Lady Frances Hubbard, who was born in 1752 and died in Lincoln County in 1792.

The following are the names of the nine children born to Andrew and Frances Hubbard Lair, in order of their birth dates, the married names of the daughters and such names as could be had of the next generation.

1. Catherine, born about 1773 in the state of Virginia, was brought as an infant into the fort home of her parents in the wilderness of Kentucky. She married a Mr. Stepp and all other records of her are lost.

2. Elizabeth Lair, born in 1774 in the Kentucky fort, was the second white girl baby born ln Kentucky, according to the Smiser Bible and letters from descendants in the papers of Eliza Lair. She lived in Kentucky for "three score years," according to the Smlser Bible, then moved to Missouri where she died at the age of 104. Cousin Lenie Euffman of Cynthiana, Kentucky, had a copy of a letter written by Elizabeth Lair Pope shortly before her death in which she wrote she had her teeth and eyesight, did not wear glasses and had spent the day before at the home of her son, walking a mile each way. She had declined an invitation to the Philadelphia Centennial. She first married a Mr. Brady and had two children by that marriage. After his death she married Thomas Pope and by that marriage had three sons; William, Andrew and Thomas. The latter had one son, Daniel Pope, who married Mollie Hatfield. There are no records of descendante of the first two sons.

3. William, born in 1775, married Mary Graham and died in Russell County, Kentucky,in 1875. There were eight children born to this union; Margaret,who married Dr. R. C. Hill, lived in Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, then moved to Oregon, making the trip in 1853 in a covered wagon; Enoch Green Lair married Lucy Stapp; Martha Jane Lair married John P. Buster of Texas; Almira Lair married Simeon Yakey; John Lair married Harriet Owens; Emily Lair married Edward Tiller; William Dixon Lair graduated in medicine from Transylvania, lived in Texas and married Marie Hayner and Thomas Lair, a farmer, married Kittie Anderson.

4. James Lair, born in 1778, married a Miss Robinson. The name of one son is given, William Lair, who later lived at Glennville, Missouri. One daughter, Mollie Lair.

5. Martha Lair, known as "Patsy," was born in 1780 in Lincoln County, Kentucky,and died in Harrison County in 1857. In 1803 she married George Smiser in Harrison County. This remarkable woman showed great courage at an early age as she escaped capture and possible death by an Indian when she was not yet in her teens. There was illness in the family of Andrew Lair and finding it necessary to make a trip through the woods to the mill, only Martha was well enough to go. Her father cautioned her to save her horse on the way to the mill as his strength might be needed for the return and told her to get her corn ground as quickly as possible. Reaching the mill she found many people ahead of her and when the miller finished her meal and fastened the sack to her saddle, lt was quite dark. Galloping through the dense woods, her horse suddenly shied and an Indian sprang from the thicket and tried to catch her bridle. She remembered her father's instructions and whipping her horse, calling "go, Billie, go," she flattened herself out against his neck, dashed through the woods, and watching every shadow reached her home in safety, where she fell sobbing into her father's arms.

Martha Lair was twenty-three when she made her momentous visit to her relatives in Harrison County, taking three days to make the trip on horseback, a distance of scarcely 80 miles from her Lincoln County home Accompanied by a body-guard, she spent the nights along the way with friends, reaching the handsome home of her cousin, Charles Lair at Lair Station, on the third day. Since the death of the original owner, Martha's uncle Matthias Lair, the home was presided over by his son Charles. Living in the home was Charles' small niece, Betsy Smiser the three-year-old daughter of Charles' sister Catherine and their neighbor, George Smiser. Catherine died soon after the birth of her daughter Betsy and George Smiser then married another sister of Charles Lair, Mary, who died at the birth of twin daughters, who also died. Being left a widower a second time and evidently liking the Lair girls, it was not long until he was courting the lovely guest and cousin, Martha Lair. Thus the visit to the relatives in Harrison County lasted for a lifetime and George Smiser is known to the family as the brave man who married three Lair girls, Catherine and Mary, daughters of Matthias Lair, and their cousin, Martha, the daughter of Andrew.

Martha Lair Smiser's home was across the Licking River and not far from "The Cedars." It had been built for George Smiser's first wife and was one of the earliest and most pretentious brick houses in Harrison County at that time. Built of small hand-made bricks two stories high with an attic, the four large rooms and hall on the first floor were done in "rice plaster" which had the glaze of fine porcelain. There were hard-carved mantels and chair-boards in the house and its furnishings were considered the last word in elegance. Martha made the outside of her house as beautiful as it was within and her flower garden with its intricate brick walks and pretty beds of blooming plants soon became the envy of the countryside. However, she was more widely known for her herb garden which her slaves called "old missus' yard garden." As there were no apothecary shops in those days, every doctor had to obtain his medicinal plants and roots and with other elements, mix his concoctions. Martha, with her knowledge of herbs, soon became a godsend to the medical profession and doctors were often her distinguished guests. Being deeply religious as were all the Lairs, she entertained her minister and his family and the work of her church was one of her greatest interests.

Martha liked pretty clothes and gave the greatest care to her toilet, especially to the selection of "neckacher" cap and "breast pin" to be worn that day. She rode to Cynthiana on horseback to do her shopping, taking along her favorite maid, "Julie, " to carry her "carpet bag" of purchases. The merchants considered her an authority on fine goods and her adoring slaves thought she knew everything. Living as they did on the Buffalo Trace, the slaves working on the farm would frequently find bones of the mastodon and other pre-historic animals. These they carried to her and she had them cleaned and recognizing each one, stored them in the "saddle house" to show to distinguished guests. A good story of the loyalty of her slaves is told of "Ike," who opened the door of the "saddle house to show a neighboring slave "old missus' bones." The visiting slave sneeringly said: "Why man, my missus, she knows the name of every tree thet grows in this here woods," and Ike, not to be outdone, raised his powerful voice and shouted: "Hesh yo mouf, nigger, I'm a-telling you, my Miss Patsy Smiser, she knows de names ob de stahs in Hebben."

Martha Lair Smiser was a noted housekeeper and her wines, cordials, pickles, jellies and preserves were famous. The vegetable garden was her pride and delight and she knew how to store her vegetables in her cellar for winter use. Her slaves became skillful in the curing of the fine old hams and in making the sausage by Martha's recipe and mixing it in a trench from a hollowed log.

Martha had a gay disposition but she was also self-willed. Not agreeing with her in some small decision, she became irritated with George and said: "If you will not agree with me in this, I will jump out of the window," whereas George, without raising his eyes from the book he was reading, said in his broken English: "yump, Marthy, yump!" Her gay laughter made everything right again.

George Smiser, the husband of Martha Lair, was born in 1772 in Virginia. As a young man of considerable means he came to Kentucky to make his home, selecting the location on the Licking River as an admirable one to carry on his business as he had learned the hatter's trade, a lucrative one in those days. Small dams were made in the river where the beavers were trapped and making use of the eighty or so slaves he owned, he soon had a thriving business at Lair Station. The pelts of the beavers were tanned by the negro slaves and the fine sewing of the watermelon pink silk linings was done by young women who lived in the neighborhood. These elegant tall beaver hats, so fashionable for the dandies of that day, were sent to Philadelphia where they sold for excellent price.

Some slaves were also used in the lead mines George Smiser owned and in the operation of his distillery. A note in his Bible reads: "Put in a small copper distillery - made much of it, sold it in Maisville and Lexington at .10 and 12 1/2 per gal." Although his "it" was cheaply sold, George made money on it as he did on the large farm he operated.

George Smiser was the grandson of the immigrant George Smiser who at nine years of age came to America with his widowed mother Barbara Smiser, his brother Matthias, 16, and his sister Margaret, 20. Sailing from Rotterdam on "The Britannia" they landed in this country September 21, 1731. The husband and father,Marton Schmeisser (Smiser) served as second in command under Frederidk V, and fell mortally wounded at the battle of Würtenburg, an important engagement of The Thirty Years War between the Catholics and the Protestants. This war was bitter as all rellgious wars are and as it was won by the Catholics, the Protestants found it advisable to seek new homes in America where they could worship God as they pleased.

The family of Schmeisser, or Smeisser, is one of the oldest German families of free or noble descent, who flourished among the Silesian Knighthood. Known as "Schmeissers von Ehrenpreisberg" their castle was located on the Rhine and their coat-of-arms shows the crown and the lifted arm hurling a javelin, thus giving the name Schmeisser which means "one who throws." In America the name has been variously spelled; Schmeisser, Smeisser. Smizer, Smyser, Smiser.

Martha Lair and George Smiser had the following eight children: Samuel Merritt Smiaer married Rebecca Frazer; John Hilton Smiser married Julian Edwards; George Smiser married (1) Mary Allen, (2) Margaret Collier, (3) Martha Wilson; Catherine Smiser married John Wesley Lair, a first cousin of her mother's; Darius Smiser married (1) Louisa Smith, (2) Sarah Jane Howe; William Smiser married Helena Lair, his first cousin; Mary Smiser married James Frazer; Celia Smiser who was unmarried.

In explanatlon of the above Smiser-Lair marriages: Catherine Smiser, daughter of Martha Lair Smiser, was the granddaughter of Andrew Lair and she married John Wesley Lair, the son of John Lair who was a brother of Andrew Lair, thus John Wesley Lair was a first cousin of Martha Lair Smiser, his wife's mother.

William Smiser, the son of Martha Lair Smiser and the grandson of Andrew Lair,married Helena Lair, the daughter of John Lair and the granddaughter of Andrew Lair, showing them to be first cousins.

The two John Lairs are not to be confused. One was a brother of Andrew, the other was a son of Andrew.

6. Mary Lair was the sixth child of Andrew and Frances Hubbard Lair. She was born in 1782, and married William Pope. Their daughter Helena, married (1) William Faulkner and had one daughter who married William Huffman. Her second marriage was to John Miller Anderson and had four sons and three daughters. Married names of daughters are: Robertson, Thomas and Keller.

7. Hubbard Lair, born in 1783, married Julia Montgomery. Their children were: William Lair, who married a Miss Wilkinson; Andrew Lair who married Mary Ann Wilson, and John Montgomery Lair who married Mary Tatum.

8. Celia Lair, born in 1786, married William Anderson and had one daughter who married N. Carter of Dallas, Texas, It was Celia and her husband William Anderson who cared for Andrew Lair the last years of his life and to whom he willed his farm in Lincoln County.

9. The youngest child of Andrew and Frances Hubbard Lair was John who married Elizabeth Buchanan, said to be a relative of the President of that name, There were three daughters of this union: Helena Lair who married her cousin William Smiser; Elizabeth Lair who married Jonathan Smith and Catherine Lair who married Charles Smith.

This completes the story of Andrew Lair, son of Matthias and Catharina Lair, the immigrants; born in Virginia; married Frances Hubbard in Virginia; came over the Wilderness Trail into Kentucky; fought under George Rogers Clark and Benjamin Logan; hero of Indian warfare; commissioned a Lieutenant for service in the Revolutionary War against the British and Indians; took up his lands in Lincoln County, Kentucky, where he died in 1826. As the first Lair in Kentucky, we can indeed think of him with pride.


Sixteen years after Andrew Lair came over the Wilderness Road to make his home in Kentucky,his two brothers, Matthias and John, accompanied by their families, slaves and livestock left their fertile Shenandoah Valley ln Virginia to also make their home in the same state, Matthias, a man of 39, and John ten years younger, came by the river route and the Buffalo Trace and though the year was 1791, the route was equally as dangerous as the Wilderness Road had been when traveled by Andrew in 1775.

England claimed the eastern part of the continent, Spain controlled the Mississippi at its mouth and both England and France desired the great Mississippi basin. Hemmed in as the colonies were between the Atlantic and the Alleghany Mountains, a Mystery Land lay beyond and both nations were alert to find a way to possess it.

The beautiful Ohio River was the alluring avenue provided by nature to open up this country, and like a siren, it beckoned men of all sorts and conditions to follow its course. The Alleghany from the north and the Monongahela from the south join below Pittsburgh to form the Ohio, the river that filled the Indians with awe and was known to the Wyandotts as the Ohezhu, the Mohawks as Oheyo, the Oneidas as the Ohe and the Iroquois as the Oyo.

Painted savages in undisturbed possession had crept silently through the dark forests that fringed the Ohio River and climbing into their birch canoes, had crossed it and paddled up its numerous tributaries into the heart of Kentucky, called by them, "Happy Hunting Ground."

The first white men who followed the Indians into Kentucky were the fur-traders for fur--not gold, silver or oil, but fur was the lure that opened up this continent, and France and England struggled for a century to get control of the Ohio country. Bartering gaudy calicoes, whistles, combs, knives and looking glasses for the pelts the Indians discarded, these traders came and went but not making permanent homes in the state, were not molested by the Indians.

As the white settlers came down the Ohio, the Indians on the northern bank concealed themselves behind the giant forest trees that grew down to the water's edge and attacked them whenever possible, using guns and ammunition supplied by England. Often they would force white prisoners to run along the bank of the river, crying to be taken on board by the settlers but woe unto the soft-hearted who went to their rescue, only to be taken prisoners also. There were dangers of whirlpools, sandbars and of large trees floating in the current with great branches to catch the small boats and crush them. There were two guide books which the settlers found helpful: Darby's "Emigrant's Guide" and "The Navigator." There are no records to tell us of the hundreds of boats destroyed and the thousands of settlers who were drowned or picked off by the Indians, yet on and on they came in a continuous procession to make their homes in Kentucky.

Matthlas Lair, his wife, Ann Elizabeth Rush Lair and seven of their children with slaves, livestock and household goods, occupied several flatboats These boats were built at Redstone and could be purchased for about $35.00 each, although the larger ones with partial roof and sleeping bunks were more expensive. John Lair, his wife Sallie Custer Lair and two children, followed with their boats similarly loaded. The other children of Matthias and John Lair were born in Kentucky as indicated by the dates of their birth.

We do not know whether our two Lair families embarked at Pittsburgh or at Redstone but, as the long string of flatboats, each with a man heavily armed for the night and day watch, began their perilous journey down the Ohio, they must have made an impressive departure.

We can only imagine the hardships of that trip: the exposure and discomfort of the small boats; the difficulty in milking the cows and preparing the food; and the constant fear of river and Indians. We do not know, either, how long it took them to float down the Ohio but we can well imagine their great joy when they saw for the first time the great limestone cliffs jutting out into the river where the small settlement of Maysville was located.

The unloading of the flatboats, the great scramble up the steep hill, took time, and arranging for the pack-train took even more time. The packtrains consisted of six or eight horses fastened together and on each horse was a pack-saddle in which was placed the many small articles, household goods and in some instances, the small children who were too young to go on foot and too heavy to be carried a great distance. A driver and a leader were required to handle a pack-train and having many slaves with them, it is possible the Lairs used their own men in the operation of the pack-train.

Driving the livestock before them, the packtrains were followed by the slaves on foot end members of the families on horseback. The last lap of their Journey was less than fifty miles from Maysville to the land they had purchased on the banks of the Licking River but it took them several days. They spent their nights in "lean-tos," a make-shift shelter of boughs fastened together around a fire where the slaves took turns keeping a constant watch, guns in hand. This last stretch must have seemed the longest of all as they excitedly made plans for their new homes in the wilderness and traveled on the only highway of the state - the Buffalo Trace.

The Buffalo Trace is the oldest road in North America. Beaten down by the hoofs of buffalos thousands of years ago, this trace is as directly cut as if designed by an experienced engineer. The buffalos came from the North and the West, trampling and beating the earth in their frenzy to reach the salt deposits found in abundance in this section of Kentucky. The Buffalo Trace was used by the Indians as they came to their "Happy Bunting Ground;" by the fur traders who came to barter gifts for pelts; by the backwoodsmen who hunted and explored the state; and by all the settlers who came this way. In making their decision as to the location of their lands, Matthias and John Lair must have taken into account the fact that the Buffalo Trace ran through their lands and that it would be a good place to build their permanent homes, facing the trace.

All indications are that these Lair men made numerous trips into the state prior to 1791 in order to look things over before making their final decision as to location. Records show that they had owned some land in Kentucky near Maysville in Mason County and also in Lincoln County. They were entitled grants for their service in the Revolutionary War and they also had the means with which to buy additional land. With their background as farmers of the Rhineland, they were attracted by the Blue Grass region and by the rich land on the banks of the Licking. Between them, Matthias and John Lair owned more than 2,000 acres in the bend of the Licking River, according to the family records. The land on which they settled soon became known as "The Lair Settlement'" then as "Lair Station" and now is known as "Lair, Kentucky."

As soon as they reached their destination' they set to work felling the large trees in order to make a "clearing" for the houses and also to get in as many crops as possible. The best logs were selected for the building of the cabins as logs were the best material at hand for those first homes Matthias built a double cabin for his family and John built a single one, well within sight of his brother's home. Cabins also had to be built for the slaves of the two men and close by the cabins of their master.

The site of Matthias' cabin was where the smoke house later stood and back of the fine house built years later by his son, Charles. The double cabin consisted of two cabins built end to end with a "dog trot" between. This trot later became a hall connecting the two cabins, and still later a small porch or portico was added in front. There was a stairway like a ladder to the loft above where the children slept. Both cabins had a large stone chimney on the end. The floors were puncheon, logs smoothed on the up-side and laid close together; the windows were of doe skin, greased and stretched very tight, which permitted light to enter the room. These windows, however, had shutters of solid wood on the inside that could be quickly closed if Indians should attack, The doors were slabs of wood hung on deer thongs and each door had B hole cut through in order that the "latch string" could be put outside. Thus the expression, "The latch-string is hanging on the out ice" which always spelled hospitality.

The inside was made comfortable and attractive by Annliss Lair with the few treasured possessions she had brought with her from her Virginia home and when she put the "kivvers" on the beds made of boughs fastened through the logs of the wall,the bright rag carpets on the floor and hung her cooking vessels by the large stone fireplace, she no doubt made a homey place of her log cabin.

The single cabin built for John Lair and his family was located near the site of his stone house which was started almost immediately and the original cabin became the outside kitchen and was used by the family for many years.

Matthias Lair brought his livestock with him when he came from Virginia and needing a pen for them used the stockade of the old Ruddle's Fort left standing after the masaacre by the British and Indians June 22, 1780, eleven years before. This made a splendid stock pen and when Matthias soon became an extensive mule buyer selling throughout that section of the state, the stockade became known to the family as the "mule pen" and remained so for several years or until a better pen was built near the barns. The old stockade was then torn down and the large logs used for buildings about the place. It is also interesting to know that the bones of the forters scalped and killed in that messacre were covered with rocks and dirt by men from nearby forts soon after the tragedy and the bones remained there until Charles Lair built the family vault several years later and placed them there.


Matthias Lair served aa a Captain in the Revolutionary War but his service was in the state of Virginia and records are not to be found in Kentucky. A careful search was made of The Register, publication of the Kentucky State Historical Society, Frankfort, Kentucky, but there is no mention of the service of Matthias Lair. Records in the posseasion of his descendants show: "Matthias, a Captain in the Revolutionary War spent his final pay, amounting to $600.00, for a pair of boots and a pair of silver cuff buttons."

W. W. Stevenson of Harrodsburg said records there showed: "December 6, 1782, Matthias Lair entered 100 acres of land upon part of a Treasure Warrant, 11,065 lying in a 'bent' of Dicks River opposite the mouth of the Hanging Fork on the Trace leading from Jackmans to Downeys station to Southeast for quantity including the before-mentioned also same, adding the Warrant Records out of the office June 1783 "

The above information is from bits of paper found in the papers of Eliza Lair, a descendant. These warrants were always for Revolutionary War service and all can be found in the Virginia records.

As shown in the family records, Matthias Lair bought 463 acres in Harrison County from Robert and Nancy Hinkson for 580 pounds, this land having been patented by them. There is no record of the purchase of the additional acreage.

Matthias Lair did not live long after coming into Kentucky for he died in 1795, at 42 years of age. The Smiser Bible shows: "Matthias Lair died from exposure fighting for our independence." His wife, Ann Elizabeth Rush Lair, known as "Annliss" out-lived him many years. Matthias' death dropped the burden of leadership upon the young shoulders of his oldest son, Charles, not yet twenty years old.


Charles Lair, the oldest child of Matthias and Ann Elizabeth Rush Lair, born in Virginia in 1775, was a boy of sixteen when the family made the long and dangerous trek from their home in Virginia to their new home in Kentucky and no doubt was the principal assistant of his father and uncle. He lived to be 85 years of age, dying in 1860, and was well remembered by my mother, Helen Lair Ward, who described him as a large man, very handsome, with brilliant mind and known to her and the entire relationahlp as "Uncle Charlie" although he was a first cousin of her father's.

This remarkable man of vision was farmer, stockman, architect, scientist and above all, a great scholar. It was he who developed the land in the wilderness until it became a magnificent farm; who added to his livestock until he became known in all that section for his successful dealings; who built the famous barn in 1811 without a planing mill and without nails; who designed and built his beautiful house in 1812, "The Cedars," known throughout Kentucky as an architectural gem and admired by the best architects in this country for one hundred and forty-five years. His library, built up through the years, was a remarkable one, showing his unusual taste and his great breadth of knowledge.

Upon the death of his father, Matthias Jr., Charles shouldered the responsibility of his mother and the eight younger brothers and sisters, caring tenderly for them all. In 1801 he married Sallie Anderson and with the arrival of his own children, he found the double log cabin crowded and began making plans for the building of a magnificent house.

Started by Charles Lair in 1812 and completed in 1828, this house was built at a cost of $40,000, a tremendous sum for that day, and could not be built today for many times that amount. In 1930 the main part of thia exquisite house was burned and today only the ell of the house and the old library wing are left standing. The porches, however, were saved and one can be seen on the ell where it is used by the present occupants. Also, if you dig about in the grass, you can plainly discern the foundation of the main section of the house. We have several pictures, two in this booklet, to show the perfect proportions of the house and to give one an idea of the grandeur of that house that Charles Lair built.

For one hundred and two years The Cedars was the center of gay social life for that section of Kentucky and a guest in those days would have found himself in a small yard after entering by the gate at the side and would have followed a wide brick walk to the main door. There were many brick walks in the yard, laid out in a symmetrical pattern, flower beds between and with a sundial in the middle of the yard. (The original sundial is in the possession of the family now and copies of it have been made.) The house had a perfectly proportioned portico at either end of the main hall, these two porticoes having graceful small pillars set high on iron standards which gave the pillars the look of being suspended as they were unattached at the top. The roof of the portico was curved, giving the whole an exceedingly light and graceful appearance. The doorway into the hall was duplicated at the other end and these doorways were fan-shaped with leaded panes of glass that had been brought in from Philadelphla. The hall was tremendous with the stairway, long and shallow of tread, up one side, across on a long landing then up a shorter flight to the floor above and the bedrooms. The floors were of wide ash, the woodwork carved and painted white, On the left of the hall was the parlor, a large room running the full depth of the house with ample space for the large pieces of mahogany furniture brought in from Philadelphla and New Orleans. Around the wall ran a molding of wood with sandwich glass knobs on which hung pictures at even distances apart. These pictures, well remembered by members of the family, were scenes of Germany and the Rhineland and hung on silk cords. Other pieces of furniture were made by cabinet makers in Maysville and Lexington of the native woods; curly sugartree, wild cherry and walnut. But the wonderful piece of furniture in the parlor was the piano, one of the earliest in Kentucky. This instrument was made in Maysville by two brothers who were cabinet makers and had learned the making of spinets and pianos in "the old country." Only two were made by these brothers, and Charles Lair was fortunate in being able to buy one of them. The piano was short, more the type of a spinet than a piano, was ornamented in front by a brass sunburst and was lined with sky-blue silk. The magnificent clock from this house is now in the home of a descendant.

From the parlor you went down several steps into what was called the "library porch," a small porch closed on the back but open on the side next the yard. Crossing this porch you entered the library, a beautiful room with windows front and back, a hand-carved mantel and with built-in bookcases, beautifully carved also with "butterfly shelves" for the many books Charles Lair had collected. He bought his books in Philadelphia and the larger cities in this country, often sending to London for one he especially desired. The most remarkable thing in the library was the ingenious way he provided for the study of his maps. On either eide of the back windows, behind the shutters, were small grooves with heavy cords and when these were pulled and the door in the ceiling was opened, the maps descended into the room from a small attic above, thus permitting the student to carefully study the map on either side. After getting his information, Charles would pull his cords and the map would be drawn up to the room above and the door closed. There were several cords, each attached to a large map and this novel idea of Charles Lair permitted them to be studied without using too much space in the beautiful room.

At the end of the house, beyond the library, was a tool room and also a "saddle house" both used for the many things needed about the place.

On the right side of the hall as you entered the house was the "family room" which was a very large room running the depth of the house Back of it was the "girl's room" and across a porch was a large room known as the "boy's room." Beyond it was the loom room.

At right angles to the main part of the house and across this last porch was the "ell" with dining room, kitchen and a room back with attic above used as servant's quarters. The kitchen had a large stone open fireplace where the cooking was done and was equipped with cranes, cooking utensils of copper, etc. This ell was the first part of the house built by Charles and was occupied by the family during the years the handsome main part was being constructed.

Crossing the yard from the ell and standing where the sundial stood, one could study the beautiful lines of the house: the roof line and the dormer windows in the bedrooms above; the perfect proportion of the windows of the downstairs rooms and the bricks, painted white, which were laid in what is known as "Flemish bond" by the students of our early architecture. These bricks were hand-made by the slaves on the place and the perfection of their work made them among the finest examples in the state.

Just beyond the sundial was the spring house which was a small brick structure with conical roof and reached by several store steps. Within it was always cool, even on the hottest summer days, and as children we liked to go there and sit while we drank our milk from the crocks in the spring. This spring probably determined Matthias on the location of that double cabin of his when he first explored his land after arrival.

In 1811 Charles Lair built his barn, which is said to be the oldest log barn standing in Kentucky. Patterned after the "Switzer" barns built by the Germans in Pennsylvania and Virginia which were copied from those built in the Rhineland, this great old barn had the roof raised in one day by 500 men who came for a big barbecue dinner as the guests of Charles Lair. Sheep, pigs and chickens were roasted in pits and the preparations went on for days before hand. It stands on a hillside on a foundation of stone and has stalls for the livestock below where it is protected against the hill. On the upside there is a tremendous revolving door, 40 feet wide, that turns on a huge squared log serving as pivot. This door enables the wagons to drive in on one side, turn round and go out on the other side. Two bins were on either side built for grain.

At the beginning of the War of 1812, men in that section were mustered in at the barn. Charles Lair, standing in the great doorway, held a hat in which were placed slips of paper to be drawn by the men. A story in the family is that Charles drew a slip for service and his brother drew one that was blank. His brother said: "You have children and your family needs you. I will give you the blank slip and will take the one for service." The story related was that the brother was killed and that Charles grieved for the rest of his life, because his brother had sacrificed his life for him. Just which brother it was who so unselfishly gave his life in this manner has never been exactly clear but as Joseph died quite young, unmarried, and either in New Orleans or in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, it is believed it was he.

In 1845 Charles Lair decided to build a vault on the banks of the Licking River just below "The Cedars" and to place in it the bodies of the members of the family who were buried in a nearby graveyard. He secured the best workmen possible and had a large room or opening dynamited out of the solid limestone cliff. A story is that one of the workmen wee blown into the river below by a large charge of dynamite but escaped with only minor injuries. After the stone vault was completed, a door of iron was hung and placed above, a slab of marble on which are the words: "Please do not disturb the remains of the Sleeping Dead" and the date 1845. A ledge was left before the door with room enough for a procession of people to stand during a service. A small iron gate was placed between this ledge and the pathway that led to the vault from the house. After completion of the vault, Charles bought in Maysville several large iron coffins which were being used at that time in some of the cities. These coffins were to replace those in the graveyard that had decayed and in some instances, fallen apart. For the ceremony of moving the bodies from the graveyard to the vault on the banks of the river, he invited all the relatives and friends who lived nearby. Cousin Dink Smith, a granddaughter of Charles Lair, was a small girl at the time and accompanied by her mother went to the ceremony. She said: "Grandpa had a sense of the dramatic and he asked that all hold hands as each coffin was opened and the bodies moved to the new iron coffins. The first to be opened was that of his mother, Ann Elizabeth Rush Lair, and as Charles Lair lifted her up all saw the beautiful woman's face, her bright dress, golden brown hair bound with a brown velvet ribbon embroidered in gold leaves. As they all pressed forward to get a better look, whiff, She fell into dust." Cousin Dink related that the negroes moaned and wailed and she, getting the fright of her small life, ran under her mother's tilters, nearly upsetting that dignified lady.

As the iron coffins and such others as were in good condition were placed in the vault, the headstones used in the graveyard were placed at the head of each. After all the members of the family had been moved into the vault, Charles Lair gathered up the bones of the twenty forters who had been massacred at Ruddle's Fort and had them placed in two stone coffins and put in the vault. These bones are the only remains of the pioneer forters known to be in Kentucky preserved in this way and had it not been for Charles Lair and his thoughtfulness, they would have remained near the mule pen back of "The Cedars."

In 1909 Cousin Eliza Lair, a descendant of Charles Lair and with her sister, owner of "The Cedars" met me at the vault with undertakers, photographers, cement men, etc., and after bringing the iron coffins from the vault in order to take pictuxes of them, they were placed in rows in the vault and cemented in, so as not to be disturbed in the years to come. There they are today and where they should remain. The vault and surroundings should be kept in better order, as Charles Lair left money for that purpose, and the Lair Association should see that it is done well.

Charles Lair died in 1860, age 85, after a long and useful life, and was pieced in the vault he had built. He was indeed the Great Charles Lair.

The children of Charles Lair and his wife, Sallie Anderson Lair, are as follows:

Catherine and Betsey, died as infants;
Isaac Newton Lair married Lucretia Jamison;
Sallie Lair married William Redmon;
Martin Luther Lair married Nancy Williams, and built the Colonial house across the road;
Matthias Lair married Rowena Lair;
Willism Lair married Mary Elizabeth Lair;
Joseph Lair, unmarried;
Eliza Lair married George Redmon;
Cynthia Lair married John Redmon;
John Lair married (1) Emily Redmon, (2) Varia Varnon.

In explanation of the Lair-Lair marriages: Matthias Lair, son of Charles and grandson of the first Matthias in Kentucky, married Rowena Lair, the daughter of Matthias Lair and the granddaughter of the first John in Kentucky, Thus Matthias and Rowena were second cousins.

William Lair, son of Charles Lair, married Mary Elizabeth, the daughter of Matthias Lair. Charles Lair and Matthias were brothers and the sons of the first Matthias in Kentucky. Thus William and Mary Elizabeth Lair were first cousins.


2. Catherine Lair, born in Virginia in 1777 was the second child of Matthias and Ann Elizabeth Rush Lair and came over the trace with them to their new home in Kentucky. She died in 1800 and was placed in the family vault. She married their neighbor, George Smiser, and it was for her he built his home. They had one child, Elizabeth (Betsey) who lived in the home of her uncle Charles Lair after the death of her mother and until the marriage of her father to her aunt, Mary Lair. After the death of Mary Lair Smiser, the little girl returned to the home of her uncle where she lived until her father married his third wife, Martha Lair, when she then went to live with her father and step-mother. When Betsey was but fourteen years old she ran off and married Jacob Dove Harter, a young man who was serving as an apprentice to her father at his "hattery" conducted at Lair Station. In the middle of the night Betsey slipped to the attic of the home, located her saddle and bridle in the dark, and dropping them out the window to the waiting arms of "Jakie" stole out the front door and away they went to Falmouth, Kentucky, to be married at the home of her cousin, Paul Custer Lair. Returning some time 1ater, her father angrily shouted at her in his broken English but her step-mother, Martha Lair Smiser, kindly took them in. They did not remain there for long, however, but went to Ohio to make their home among the relatives of Jakie Harter, where they prospered, reared a large family and often returned to visit the Kentucky kin. The large fortune of the Harters came from the manufacture of their well-known medicine known as "Harter's Little Liver Pills" and "Harter's Iron Tonic." It was a bitter dose but every spring, whether we needed it or not, all five of us were rounded up and given a thorough course of treatment. Tears and protests were unavailing. Mama said firmly, waving the large tablespoon: "Open your mouth, you know it is a great medicine and that it is made by our Lair kinfolks." Verily there was no limitation to the Lair loyalty.

3. Mary Lair, the third child of Matthias and Ann Elizabeth Rush Lair, was born in Virginia and came to Kentucky with her parents. She became the second wife of George Smiser after the death of her sister Catherine. Mary Lair Smiser died after the birth of twin daughters who died also. It was after the death of Mary Lair that George Smiser married the first cousin of his first two wives, Martha Lair,the daughter of Andrew Lair of Lincoln County. George was the "brave man who married three Iair girls."

4. William Lair, the fourth child of Matthias and Ann Elizabeth Rush Lair, was born in Virginia in 1784. He married Emily Bell, and their children were:

Charles Lair married Sarah Zimmerman;
Saphronia Lair married Rudolph Zimmerman;
John Lair married Elvina Williams;
Emily Jane Lair married S. V. Helvie;
Sarah Lair married Richard Thomas;
Joseph Lair married Sarah Ross;
Rachel Lair married Wells Willett;
Ossie Lair married Frank Piper;
Matthias Lair married (l) Martha Ross, (2) Discretion Ferguson, (3) Ella Sparks;
Henrietta Lair married Albert Stiffler;
Addie Lair married Dr. John Nesbit.

5. Elizabeth Lair, known as "Betsey" was the fifth child of Matthias and Ann Elizabeth Rush Lair. She was born in 1785 in Virginia and died, unmarried, at eighteen years of age.

6. Joseph Lair, the sixth child, born in Virginia and who also came over the trace with his parents, died unmarried in either New Orleans or Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It is believed he is the brother of Charles Lair who unselfishly offered to go into service in the War of 1812.

7, Matthias Lair, born in Virginia (birth date uncertain) was probably the youngest of the children brought over the trace by Matthias and Ann Elizabeth Lair. He married a MISS Sidle and no records give her first name.

The children of this union are:
Thomas Lair married (l) Mary Veatch, (2) Jane Megibben;
MaryElizabeth Lair married William Lair;
Sarah Ann Lair married John Lail.

In explanation of this Lair-Lair marriage which is also given above: Mary Elizabeth Lair, the daughter of Matthias Lair, was the granddaughter of Matthias and Ann Elizabeth Rush Lair. She married William Lair, the son of Charles Lair and a grandson of Matthias and Ann Rush Lair. As the parent, of these two were brothers, Mary Elizabeth and William Lair were first cousins.

8. Sallie Lair born in 1789 in Virginia, the daughter of Matthias and Ann Rush Lair, married a Mr. Allon. She died at 20 years of age and was placed in the vault.

9. John Lair, son of Matthias and Ann Elizabeth Rush Lair, whose birth date is variously given, was probably born in Kentucky. He married Peggy Bell and their children are:

Betsey Lair married Gen. Asbury Steele;
Joseph Lair, died at four years of age;
John Lair married Isabella Cook.

This completes the names and the marriages and the children's names of the nine children born to Matthias and Ann Elizabeth Rush Lair. You will note that the four daughters all died young. Betsey was unmarried and Catherine, Mary and Sallie married but only Catherine left a child. Joseph died young probably in battle. The other four sons married and all reared large families. These were: Charles, William, Matthias and John.


John Lair, the youngest child of Matthias and Catharina Lair, the immigrants, was born in Virginia in 1762. He married Sallie Custer, a neighbor, whose line is that of General George Custer, killed at the battle of "Little Big Horn." in l876. Two children were born to them while living in Virginia and were mere babies when John and Sallie Lair came into Kentucky by the river route, over the Buffalo Trace and to their new home on the banks of the Licking River.

John Lair was ten years younger than his brother Matthias, but seems to have always "tagged along" with him as is shown by many records and stories handed down in the family. When Matthias went to enlist for service in the Revolutionary War, John, a very young boy, went along and the officer who was enlisting Matthias asked: "What can that strippling do?" Whereupon John drew himself up to his greatest height, which was certainly not much, and said: "I have a strong wagon and a good team and I can haul things, I reckon."

Knowing the devotion of these brothers, it was a most natural thing that they should set out with their wives, children, slaves, livestock and household goods together to settle on their lands in the Blue Grass region of Kentucky. The story of their hardships on the trip from Redstone to Maysville, over the trace from Maysville to their land later known as "The Lair Settlement" and the building of their first log cabin homes there, has been told in the chapter on Matthias Lair, John's brother. Matthias being ten years older than John was definitely the leader on the trek to Kentucky, but John and his little family shared the same hardships on the perilous journey.

As stated before, the two brothers set to work upon arrival, clearing their land for the crops and for their homes. John built a single cabin, well within sight of his brother's double log cabin. This cabin later became the outside kitchen for the larger house and was used as such for many years.

Although Matthias Lair's family lived in their double log cabin until his son Charles began the building of the handsome house in 1812, John found his cabin too small for comfort and set to work in 1791 to build his house of stone, which is standing today. This was one of the earliest houses of that type in Kentucky and as all records read: "Was standing when Kentucky became a state in 1792." Built of field stone, the house consisted of two large rooms, one before the other, with an upstairs room for the children reached by an "in the wall" stair from the front bedroom. Windows of these rooms were deep and very high, as there was still danger of Indians lurking around.

Soon after the completion of the log house, Sallie Custer Lair, her children and several of the slave women, were in her room when she noticed a horse galloping toward the house. This was always an indication that Indians were about and realizing all the men were felling trees a great distance from the house, she immediately gathered the women and children together and removed the rug over a hidden door in the floor that led to a dark cellar below. After they were all huddled in a dark corner of the cellar room, Sallie carefully closed the door and managed to get the rug over it so it would not be noticed. A few moments later they heard the whoops and yells of the Indians as they came into the house, exploring each room and looking everywhere for the occupants. A large ham was on the table, other delicacies were on the sideboard and in the closet. The Indians had a banquet and ate everything in sight, emitting great yells of satisfaction between bites. Sallie Custer prayed the entire time the Indians were in the room above and lest her baby cry out. She nursed him at the breast to keep him quiet. (This child is believed, by his birth date, to have been Paul Custer Lair, their first child born in their Kentucky home. After the Indians could not find anything more to eat, they noisely departed, leaving the house a complete wreck, Hearing the Indians yelling, John Lair and his slave men came running toward the house, expecting to find the women and children killed and the house burned, but instead found them in Sallie's room gathered about her as she prayed in thanksgiving.

It is believed the Matthias Lair place was not called "The Cedars" until the fine house was built by his son, Charles, in 1828. On the other hand, John Lair and his wife, Sallie Custer Lair, named their stone house "Boscobel" at the time it was built in 1791 and so it is known today. Sallie Custer Lair had brought with her from Virginia many beautiful things, and a great many pieces of her white and gold china are in the family now. This china was added to by the next generation, John Wesley Lair and his wife, Catherine Smiser Lair, and it is interesting to study the difference in the pieces, the older ones having the panel in the rim. Furniture of the house was made by the cabinet makers, principally in Maysville, and were of the native woods. One very fine piece, a bow-front chest, was made in the late 1790s and is now in the home of a great-great-great granddaughter.

As in the case of his brother Matthias, John Lair's service record of the Revolutionary War can be found in Virginia, as his service was there and there is no record to be found in The Register, publication of the State Historical Society, Frankfort, Kentucky.

Records show that John Lair and Sallie Custer Lair owned land in Mason County, Kentucky, in 1789 on Johnson Fork of Licking, "part of John Lair's survey of 400 acres."

John Lair bought part of his land in Harrison County from Samuel Anderson and the rest from George Kirkpatrick and a Mr. Callahan of Opolusa, in 1796.

Sallie Custer Lair continued to live at "Boscobel" after the death of her husband. Her youngest son, John Wesley Lair, managed the extensive farm and cared for his mother until her death in 1847.

1. The oldest child of John and Sallie Custer Lair, born in Virginia in 1787, was Matthias Custer Lair. Be married Jane Anderson,

The children of Matthias Custer and Jane Lair were:
Rowena Lair married Matthias Lair;
John Miller Lair married Sue Grimes;
William Lair married (1) Sue Wyatt, (2) Mattie Clay;
Margaret Lair married (1) Dan Shawhan, (2) Joe Taylor;
Jacob Lair married Emily Lair;
Abraham Lair married Fannie Dungan;
Zerelda Lair married Ben Reynolds.

In explanation of the Lair-Lair marriages: Rowena Lair, the daughter of Matthias Custer Lair and the granddaughter of John Lair, the first in Kentucky, married Matthias Lair, the son of Charles Lair and the grandson of the first Matthias Lair in Kentucky. Rowens and Matthias Lair were second cousins.

Jacob Lair, the son of Matthias Custer Lair and grandson of the first John in Kentucky, married Emily Lair, the daughter of Addison Lair, granddaughter of William Lair and the great granddaughter of John the first of Kentucky. Jacob Lair and his wife, Emily Lair, were first cousins once removed as Jacob's father and Emily's grandfather were brothers.

2. The second child of John Lair and Sallie Custer Lair was William G. Lair, born in Virginia in 1789. He married (1) Mary Anderson, (2) Mrs. Bradley. Children were:

Robert Lair, wife's name not given. Record states there were six children;
Addison Lair married (1) Nancy Wood; (2) Nancy Blackford;
George Lair, wife's name not given. Six sons,, four daughters;
James Lair, wife's name not given. One son and one daughter;
Wesley Lair. No other record;
Susan Lair married a Mr. Vanskike;
Margaret Lair married a Mr. Moss;
Mary Lair married a Mr. Pepper; Mamie Lair married a Hr. Howell;
Fannie Lair married a Mr. Davenport.

3. Paul Lair, the third child of John and Sallie Custer Lair, born in Kentucky; married Martha Frazer. There were no children by this marriage.

4. The fourth child of John and & Sallie Custer Lair was Jacob, who married a Miss Hall. Records show son, Johnnie Lair who married a Miss Turner and also state "others."

5. Catherine Lair, the fifth child of John and Sallie Custer Lair, married a Mr. Young and there were no children by this marriage and no more records.

6. Mary Lair, sixth child of John and & Sallie Custer Lair, married a Mr. Peyton and all traces were lost.

7. John Wesley Lair, the seventh child of John and Sallie Custer Lair, married Catherine Smiser, the daughter of his first cousin. John Wesley's father, John Lair, was a brother of Andrew, the grandfather of Catherine Smiser. Her mother, Martha Lair, daughter of Andrew, had married George Smiser.

John Wesley Lair lived with his parents at "Boscobel" and continued to live there after his marriage to his cousin. Six children were born to this union:

John Andrew Lair married Lida Bickham. He became a surgeon of note and served in the Northern Army with distinction;
Helen Henry Lair married the Hon. A.H. Ward, famous lawyer who also served in the Reconstruction Congress;
Arabella Lair married John Burton Maude of St. Louis;
Mary Lair married Captain James M. Givens, Confederate officer;
Frances Hubbard Lair married Rev. A. B. Griffith of Ohio;
Lida Lair married Achilles Martin.

These children of John Wesley Lair and Catherine Smiser Lair lived in "Boscobel" until the close of the War Between the States and the death of their father, John Wesley Lsir. Their childhood there as told me by my mother, Helen Lair Ward, was delightful. A small school for the many Lair children in the neighborhood was conducted on the Charles Lair farm and the little Lairs would be accompanied through the woods by one of the slave women, the school being a great treat. Their mother's parents, Martha Lair Smiser and George Smiser, lived across the Licking River and they made almost daily visits there where "Grandmother's sweet-cakes and goodies were eaten with relish." Aunt Lida Lair Martin told how frightened she was if her Grandfather Smiser spoke loud to them in his broken English. When they went on these visits, one of the slave women would accompany them to the river's edge, then calling: "Hello the boat. Hello the boat" and Grandma Patsy's servant would come from the other side in the boat and take them across. It was also delightful to sleep in Grandma Patsy's trundle bed and to feel the cozy warmth of the heavy curtains of the fourposter bed above.

While the Wesley Lairs were there and the children were small,a strange woman appeared at the door of the home. She was dressed in rags, her hair tousled, and she spoke "utterly and was not easily understood. The kindly John Wesley Lair learned enough from her to know that she was homeless, without relatives, and wanted a place to stay. Having a vacant cabin on the place, he gave it to her to use, gave her chickens, pigs, a cow, and Catherine Lair gave the woman enough to make her comfortable in the house. The woman tended her garden, milked her cow, seemed to get along well, but had nothing to say to any who came to her little house. As this was the time of witchcraft in the New England states, some people in the neighborhood and especially the slaves on the Lair places nearby, believed the woman to be a witch and began to tell all sorts of tales of looking in the window and seeing her milking dishrags. About that time, some cows in the neighborhood went dry. They said the witch had cast a spell over the cows and the witch was getting the milk from her dishrags. Then the horses often stalled in the road near the house of the witch. As the tales grew taller and the feeling against the woman grew greater, John Wesley Lair came to her defense, calming the fears of the slaves by placing his hand on the horses' neck and the superstitious thought he broke the spell. Soon the woman was left to her little home and garden without bodily harm having been done. When she died, she was buried in the garden at "Boscobel" and the marker stated simply: "The Wandering Woman."

This account as told by Paul S, Ward is as follows: "When the Proclamation of President Lincoln was published, John Lair, with the paper in his hand, went out to the farm bell which hung on the tall pole midway between the house and the Negro quarters, pulled three times as in calling the blacks out for orders. They assembled in front. Then, addressing them, he said, "Boys and girls, our President has issued a proclamation which declares you all to be free men and women. I know you can't know what that means. It means you can go anywhere to work and for anyone you like, that needs help. Miss Kittie and I have taught you all you know, gardening, farm work, spinning, weaving, knitting, sewing, and you, Alex, carpentry and smithing. We have planned ahead for meat, vegetables and all food and warm, comfortable clothing and shoes, and shelter, everything you need. If you want to leave us, you can take clothes, furniture and chattels you using; they are yours. But if you decide to stay, we will go on planning the same as now. I will pay you the top pay for freemen."

When he finished, has eyes and those of his black folks were wet with tears. Only one mulatto girl left.

When the daughters of John Wesley Lair were grown and their many parties made the stone house crowded, a wing was added with a hall and parlor downstairs and bedrooms upstairs. It was from that house that the daughters married and went to homes of their own, and the farm was sold after the death of John Wesley Lair who died on hls knees in prayer in 1869. His wife, Catherlne Smiser Lair, died in Cynthiana.

8. The eighth child of John Lair and Sallie Custer Lair was Sarah, who married James W. Berry of Harrison County. Their children were:

Rhoda Berry married W. W. Chamberlain;
Sarah Frances Berry married T. W. Bardy;
Willie M, Berry, a daughter, married Claude Cantrill.

John Lair, born in Virginia; Revolutionary soldier; brought his family, slaves, livestock and wordly goods to the wi1derness of Kentucky to settle on his lands in Harrison County in 1791 and to become a prosperous farmer and citizen of that section.


Catherine Lair, second child of the immigrants, Matthias and Catharina Lair, born in Pennsylvania in 1747, married Walter Newman. They were the parents of ten children, their oldest being Jonathan, born in 1768. Although Catherine Lair Newman did not come to Kentucky to make her home, her son Jonathan did come to Jessamine County, Kentucky, in 1793. In Virginia he married Hannah Spears and to this union were born seven children. David Newman, born in 1794 and their oldest child, was a distiller of peach brandy, a tanner, a breeder of horses, owned a blacksmith shop and was a Justice of the Peace. He was a large slave owner, many being valued by him as high as $1,000. He built a tavern on the Kentucky River, a ferry and warehouses for shipping down the "mucky River.

David Newman married Esther Huston Boggs, built his beautiful Colonial house known as "Cedar Grove" in 1820." lt has been lived in by six generations, Mrs. Peyton Welch and her son, Robert, being the present occupants. Built high on a hill, the proportions of this exquisite house; the graceful Paladian windows, the portico supported by four white square pillars with a fan transom of leaded panes over the "double witch" front doors, indeed make this house an architect's delight. As in the case of "The Cedars" built by Charles Lair in 1828, this houee is also built of hand-made bricks, fashioned by the slaves on the place . Floors are of wide ash, the wood-work Carved and the hand-rail on the staircase is of wild cherry. On the first floor there is a parlor, dining room and two bedrooms and other bedrooms are on the second floor. The back door of the hall opens onto a porch which extends across the back of the house and leads to the stone kitchen with its walls two feet in thickness. There is a hand-made walnut press beside the great chimney that measures eight feet in breadth. The crane still hangs in the open fireplace. The Cellar shows great beams that are tree trunks with the bark left on Along the walls of the cellar lie hollowed logs used in bygone days to salt down the meat or for drying apples and vegetables for winter use, The beautiful house is surrounded by immense cedar trees, many eight feet in girth, hence the name "Cedar Grove."

"The Cedars" passed out of the family's hands in 1950; "Boscobel" in 1869; "Smiser House" was sold many years ago. "Cedar Grove" is now the only house lived in by Lair descendants continuously in the state of Kentucky.

Records show immense tracts of land in Kentucky owned by Jonathan Newman in Estill, Casey and in Jessamine Counties. Walter Newman who married Catherine Lair, the daughter of the immigrants Matthias and Catharina Lairs and his son, Jonathan Newman, were members of the First Independent Company in Dunmore's War. See Virginia History, May 1936, Vol. XLIV, page 102. Walter Newman served as private in the Virginia Militia.

Although the son and the grandson of Catherine Lair Newman, Jonathan and David Newman, were the first in their line to settle in Kentucky, they selected for their lands a location some forty miles from the homes of the uncles, Matthias and John in Harrison County and Andrew in Lincoln County.

Jonathan Newman came over the Wilderness Road into Kentucky as did his uncle, Andrew Lair, eighteen years before; he possessed thousands of acres of land; built a handsome house as his cousin, Charles Lair, had done, and his descendants became the prominent citizens in their community.

It is to be noted that the four children of the immigrants, Matthias and Catharina Lair, described in the preceeding pages of this story, are not taken in the order of their birth dates, but in the order of their coming into Kentucky. First came Andrew, the Indian fighter in 1775, to be followed in 1791 by his two brothers, Matthias and John, and in 1793 by their nephew, Jonathan Newman, who took up vast lands in Jessamine County. But little is known of the other four children of Matthias and Catharina, as they did not come to this state and traces of them have been lost.


Joseph Lair, first child of Matthias and Catharina Lair, the immigrants, was born in Pennsylvania in 1745. He married Persis Warren in Virginia and moved to Llcking County, Ohio, dying there in 1826. Joseph Lair was undoubtedly in the Revolutionary War as were his three brothers, but there are no records of his service in Kentucky and probably could be found in Virginia.

It is interesting to learn that the census of 1820 taken in Monroe Twp., Licking Co., Ohio, shows Joseph Lair and his wife both listed as "over 45 yrs of age."

Esther Lair, the eleventh child of Joseph Lair and his wife, Persis Lair, was born in Rockingham County, Virginia, January 9, 1799, and died some time after the census of 1850 as she is then listed with her husband, Preston Coulter, in Crawford County, Illinois. Their oldest child was born in Licking County, Ohio, in 1821.

For this information we are indebted to Mrs, Addie Baker Stowell, a descendant.

An interesting story handed down in the Newman family and related by Mrs. Peyton Welch, a descendant, is that a daughter of Catherine Lair Newman went to Ohio to live. While she and her child were on a visit to her Uncle Joseph Lair in Licking County, Ohio, the Indians killed her husband and a number of people in the settlement, and all were buried in one grave.


But little is known of this daughter of the immigrants, Matthias and Catharina Lair, but we do know that she married Richard Trumbo, Jr. She died before 1799, as is shown by the will of her mother.


Mary Lair, daughter of the immigrants, Matthias and Catharina Lair, married Ambrose Ruddle, a relative of Captain Isaac Ruddle of Ruddle'e Fort, and it is said that they were in that fort at the time of the attack by the British and Indians June 22, 1780. We have no records of descendants of this daughter.


This daughter of the immigrants, Matthias and Catharina Lair, married Jacob Custer in 1781. Records show two daughters: Dorah Custer who married a Mr. Corcoran and moved to Alabama, and Catherine Custer who married Charles Chrisman and had one daughter, Kittie, who married a Dr. Gray.

Kentucky was admitted to statehood in 1792 and stood alone for four perilous years on the frontier of civilization. Her statehood was followed by the admission of Tennessee in 1796 and by Ohio in 1803. Thus Kentucky led the way to the West and the settlers pushed across the confluent to take up their lands where the great states of California, Oregon, Colorado and Texas were later carved. With the same intrepid spirit their ancestors had shown when they came over the Wilderness Road and the Buffalo Trace into Kentucky, the Lalr descendants of the fourth, fifth and the sixth generations have made their homes throughout the West and have placed their names in the annals of its history.


Menzel's "The History of Germany"
"The Thirty Years War" by Schiller
"Blue Rhine, Black Forest" by Louis Untermeyer
"A Book of the RHine" by S. Baring Gould
"History of Rockingham County, Virginia" by Wayland
"The German Element" by Wayland
McClung's "Western Adventure"
Daniel Drake, "Pioneer Life in Kentucky"
Henry Howe, "Historical Collections of the Great West"
"Story of the Palatines" by Cobb
Kerr's "History of Kentucky"
Collins' "History of Kentucky"
Mann Butler's "History of Kentucky"
Roosevelt's "Winning of the West (VOL II, In the Current of the Revolution)
"Bureau of American Ethnology" 42nd annual report
Hulbert's "Historic Highways"
Dunbar's "History of Travel in America"
Hall's "Sketches of the West"
"The Adena People" by W. S. Webb
Ealk's Diary
Speed's "Wilderness Road"
Darby's "Emigrant's Guide"
"The Navigator" by Cramer
"Daniel Boone" by Reuben Gold Thwaites
"The Danville Political Club" (Filson Club) by Speed