Paw Taylor was one of three great-grandparents that I met. But I don’t remember him. He died when I was not quite two years old. We’d lived in the same town since I was six months old, part of that time two blocks from each other. I’m told we saw him often. I was just too young to remember.
John Cook Taylor was born on Christmas Day in 1863 in Rockcastle County, Kentucky and lived there his entire life. He was the fourth of James Francis Taylor and Margaret E. Ramsey’s eleven children. The Taylors lived north of Mt. Vernon between town and what is now Renfro Valley.
John married Sarah A. “Sally” Ramsey, daughter of Goldman and Serena Green Ramsey, on 6 June 1885. They had two daughters, Grace (born 27 Aug 1886) and Susan (born 3 Feb 1889) before Sally died on 12 Feb 1892 at 24 years old.
On 22 Aug 1894, John married Margaret Frances “Fannie” Warren, daughter of Fieldon and Jane Warren. Their son, William Robert, was born on 16 May 1895 but the marriage did not last. John and Fannie divorced before 1900.
|Taylor family 1905
Front: Emma Jane, John holding Hartford
Back: Susie, Gracie and Emma
John married for a third and final time on 16 Jan 1900. Emma Jane Owens, daughter of Madison Crawford and Celia Owens, was only 17 years old when she became the step-mother of 13 year-old Gracie and 10 year-old Susie. In reality she became their mother. “Step” wasn’t a word used in the family. My mother was a grown woman before she learned that Gracie and Susie weren’t her grandmother’s daughters.
In 1900, Fannie and young Bill, were living with her parents in Rockcastle County but the Warren family soon moved to Kansas. Family stories tell that John chased after the wagon begging Fannie not to take his son away. It would be many years before father and son saw each other again.
|Anna Rose & John|
John and Emmie Jane had three children starting with my grandmother, Emma Ewers, born 24 Oct 1900. Their son, Hartford Conn was born 11 Apr 1905 and thirteen years later, the youngest, Anna Rose, was born on 10 Jun 1918.
The Taylor family lived in several location in Mt. Vernon. There was the house near the top of Fairground Hill on West Main Street where Emma was born, the two-story on East Main Street near Elmwood Cemetery and another house on West Main near the first one. That is where they lived when John’s daughter, Susie, married August Krueger on 7 September 1911.
|John and his fiddle|
They lived in a house on Crawford Street that burned down sometime before 1920 causing them to live with Susie and August for a while. They lived in a two-family house on West Main Street down the street from Susie and later in an identical house next door to it. Between times in those West Main houses, they lived on two different farms on Buckeye Road.
Like his Ramsey grandfather, John was a blacksmith. His shop was on the corner of Spring and Church Streets north of East Main Street in Mt. Vernon. After working as a blacksmith for more than twenty years, John bought a small farm on Buckeye Road and moved the family there. A few years later they moved to another farm a little farther down that same road.
Susie was the only one of John’s children to get married at his home. Emma eloped to Jellico, Tennessee with Elmer D. Hopkins in 1920, Hartford married Elizabeth Mulliner in Knox County, Illinois in 1928 and Anna Rose married Holt Chesnut in Cook County, Illinois in 1947. Gracie never married and lived with John and Emmie Jane most of her life.
|Mom & John|
John adored his grandchildren. Susie had four children, Bill two, Emma four, Hartford two and Anna Rose one. Hartford lived in Chicago and Bill was in Lawrence, Kansas so John didn’t see those grandchildren much or, in one case, at all. But the others grew up in Mt. Vernon and Harlan County (near enough to visit often). My mother would have gladly stayed with her grandparents on that second farm and never gone home.
As John became to old to handle farming, they moved back to town in another of those two-family houses on West Main Street. John, Emmie Jane and Gracie lived there for the rest of their lives.
|Emmie Jane & John|
It was during the time between the two farms when they were living in that West Main Street duplex the first time that Bill returned to John’s life. When he was a child, Bill’s mother told him that his father died. He believed that until, on her death bed, she told him the truth—that his father was probably still living in Mt. Vernon. In 1931, Bill took a train to Mt. Vernon to find his father. He didn’t try to contact him ahead of time. He just showed up at his door. According to everyone around at that time, John took one look at the man he hadn’t seen since he was a small child on a wagon leaving town and said, “That’s my boy.” Bill returned to Mt. Vernon every year for a visit until long after John had died. (The rest of Bill’s story is here and here.)
After two short marriages, one ending in death and the other in divorce, John’s marriage to Emmie Jane lasted for 53 years. He died on 7 September 1953 in Mt. Vernon. He was buried in Elmwood Cemetery.
|John and Emmie Jane|