My ancestor this week is my 4th great-grandfather on my Dad’s side of the family, William Harrison Bigham, son of James B. Bigham 1763-1817 and Sarah Margaret Freeman 1766-1836. This line is through my Papaw Beard’s side of the family. William was born in 1796 in Madison County, Kentucky where his parents had come in the summer or fall of 1793, from Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.
My ancestor William was the sixth of eleven children born to James and Sarah, the first four being born in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina and the rest being born in Madison County, Kentucky. I am not sure how many families came with the Bigham’s, but family stories say that they came through the Cumberland Gap and I doubt very seriously they would have come just by themselves. William and his family were in Madison County for about ten to fifteen years before they moved over to Caldwell County, Kentucky in the western part of the state sometime before 1810.
Can you image living in the wilds of the dark and bloody grounds of Kentucky, with Shawnee Indians, outlaws like the Harp’s and any other numerous problems that would have been around in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s of Kentucky. You would have had to have been of some pretty serious pioneer stock to come through the Cumberland Gap in to an almost unknown land.
The following is a picture taken from the pinnacle overlooking the Cumberland Gap that I found online at: http://images.nationalgeographic.com/wpf/media-live/photos/000/348/cache/landmark-national-pinnacle-overlook-cumberland-gap_34821_600x450.jpg
William’s ten siblings with birth and death years and cause of death if known were: David Freeman Bigham 1788-1858 (cancer of the tongue), James Hayes Bigham 1789-1856, John Madison Bigham 1791-1872, Joseph Bigham 1793-1874, Jennett F. Bigham 1794-1876, Robert C. Bigham 1797-1832 (cholera), Samuel Young Bigham 1800-1887, Peninah Q. Bigham 1802-????, Martin Van Buren Bigham 1804-1854 and Harvey Washington Bigham 1806-1849 (A passenger who was killed in the explosion of the steamer ‘Louisiana’).
After the family came to Caldwell County, the older children soon started to get married and move out on their own. William’s father James did not live long after the move to Western Kentucky, for he soon died sometime after August of 1816 and before October of 1816 when letters of administration were given to his two oldest sons David and James. William’s mother lived on for a few more years, but moved with some of her children down to Carroll County, Tennessee where she died in 1836.
I am not sure exactly what William did when younger, but he more than likely helped with the family farm and other day to day dealings in the wilderness. However, William soon received a call to preach and from the book, "A History of Kentucky Baptists from 1769 to 1885" by J. H. Spencer we read the following: “William Bigham, was a pious, zealous, and useful minister of Jesus. He united with the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, in Caldwell County, early in life; and was set apart to the ministry, by that fraternity, about 1822. He labored several years, first in West Tennessee, and afterwards in the southern part of Missouri: but finally moved back to Kentucky, and settled in Livingston County. Here he united with the Baptists, and was ordained to the pastoral care of Dyers Hill Church. In August 1852, he was appointed missionary in the western part of Little River Association, and immediately left for this field of labor. But he was soon attacked by a malignant fever, of which he died September 23, 1852 in the 56th year of his age. He had labored in the ministry, with great success, about 30 years.”
This book states that he was set apart by that ministry in about 1822 and went first to west Tennessee. However, I believe he may have been set apart even earlier then that date because on January 12, 1822 in Cooper County, Missouri he met and married a young woman by the name of Patience Clark who became my 4th great-grandmother. If you look at a map of Missouri you will see that Cooper County is about halfway between Kansas City and St. Louis and in the middle of that state and not in the southern part of the state. I have tracked him through census and other types of records and found him in 1830 in Dickson and Hickman Counties in Tennessee. In 1833 he and Patience are on a deed record in Caldwell County, Kentucky. In 1836 he is on a tax record in Carroll County, Tennessee and in 1837 William and Patience are selling some land in Tippah County, Mississippi. By 1840 they are in Dyer County, Tennessee and in 1850 William and Patience and some of their children are in New Madrid County, Missouri. So he was in West Tennessee and Southern Missouri, but at slightly different times then the book states. He must not have joined with the Baptist faith until after the 1850 census because on that census it states that he was a Cumberland Presbyterian Minister. He must have moved back to Kentucky shortly after the 1850 census was taken.
William and Patience moved around a lot and I know they had at least six children, two who were born in Kentucky and four who were born in Tennessee, but none in Missouri at least that I am aware of. Their oldest child was my 3rd great-grandmother, Sarah Catherine Bigham 1825-1903, who married Samuel Henry Elder; the rest of the children were: Martha Bigham 1829-after 1850, Charles Christopher Bigham 1831-1900, Robert C. Bigham 1833-after 1860, Amelia P. Bigham 1835-after 1850 and William Harrison Bigham Jr. 1838-1922. As you can see there could have been children born before my grandmother and in between some of the other children, but if there were I do not know their names or ages at this time. I do have one picture of Sarah Catherine Bigham, which is shown below, but unfortunately none of her siblings or her parents, I wish I did.
As the book stated and thankfully I have the book or I would not have known, William Harrison Bigham, died of a malignant fever on September 23, 1852. I still have not found when his wife, Patience died but she was still living in 1860 with two of their sons, Robert and William in Pemiscot County, Missouri.
I don’t know a lot about this man, my 4th great-grandfather, William Harrison Bigham, Sr., but I do know he served the Lord and he loved his family, what more needs to be said.