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Kate & El


Elton Bingham


Documenting the family of Catherine ‘Kate’ Clarkston, daughter of Thomas and Nellie (Feathers) Clarkston, and that of her daughter, Ellender ‘El’ Clark/ston, has been difficult, at best.  The major problems are (1) there is no record that either of these women ever married, (2) their several children appear to have been fathered by a number of different men, and (3) they have been found in very few census records or other primary source documents.


Even though a clear picture of the makeup of their families has still not been achieved, the discovery of some records and family lore helps us get a better picture of these two families.


Catherine Clarkston


Catherine Clarkston was born about 1816, most likely in Lee County Virginia.  Once Catherine was on her own, using census records to document her residence has proven rather futile as Catherine seems to have eluded the census taker from 1850 through 1870.  The only year in which she was enumerated in a census was in 1880 in Harlan County Kentucky.  An analysis of the Thomas Clarkston household from the census for the years 1820 through 1840, with the known children of Thomas & Nellie Clarkston, leads us to believe that Catherine was living in the home of her parents in Lee County VA in 1820, 1830 and 1840 and likely had one or more of her infant children living with her as well in 1840.  Tracking Catherine’s whereabouts after 1840 has been most successful by relying on Tax records.  These records give us the following residence locations for Catherine:


  • 1820 thru 1840 – Lee County VA (census records)
  • 1846 – Harlan County KY (tax records)
  • 1858 – Perry County KY (tax records)
  • 1862-1874 – Harlan County KY (tax records plus the marriage of Benjamin Franklin Clarkston in 1867 is performed at the home of his mother Catherine Clarkston in Harlan County KY)
  • 1880 – Harlan County KY (census records)


No grave marker nor formal death record for Catherine has been found, but an entry in the diary of William H. Short gives a clue to her death.  The diary records the death of Catherine Clark May 10, 1894.  As will be shown later, the Short family had close relations to the family of Catherine Clarkston, thus it is believed that this entry by William H. Short pertains to Catherine Clarkston, daughter of Thomas Clarkston.


It is believed that Catherine was living with her daughter Mary “Polly” Clark from 1880 until her death in 1894.  This is supported by the fact that in the 1880 census, Catherine is listed as head of the house and her daughter Polly (Mary) is listed as a member of her household.  However in that same year in the tax records, Polly Clark is listed and Catherine is not.  Although the last tax year in which in which Catherine is listed is 1874, Polly is regularly listed on the tax records from 1880 through 1892 (1892 being that last year the tax records are available).


The lack of census records for Catherine has also made it very difficult to create a good list of her children.  By the 1880 census, most of Catherine’s children were out of the home.  However, death certificates, marriage records and the 1880 census do give us good clues on who the children of Catherine were.


The following is the list of children of Catherine along with the source records that tie them to Catherine:


  • Benjamin Franklin (born about 1834, died 21 Apr 1892, married his 1st cousin Ellender Clark, daughter of John Clarkston & Sarah McKinney)
    • Death record in Lee County VA 21 Apr 1892 lists his parents as Kate Clarkston.
    • Marriage to Nella (Clark) Morris in Harlan County KY 11 Aug 1867 is performed at the home of Catherine Clark.
  • Mary “Polly” (born about 1840)
    • Living in the home of Catherine Clark in the 1880 Harlan KY census and listed as “daughter”.
  • Martha (born about 1841, died 5 Feb 1927, married Martin H. Witt 7 Dec 1866)
    • Death Certificate lists her father as unknown, mother as Katherine Clark
    • Martha is living in the home of Abner L Pace and wife Lavina Scott in the 1860 Harlan KY census, age 18, born in VA, listed as a domestic servant.  Abner Lewis Pace was the son of Charles Pace and Hannah Lewis.  Lavina Scott was the daughter of Jesse Scott and Mary McKnight.  It is unknown if the biological father of Martha is connected to either the Pace or Scott family.
  • Ellender (born about 1845, died 31 May 1886)
    • Details on Ellender are presented later in this article.
  • Nancy (born about 1847, died 5 Mar 1915, married her 1st cousin, Thomas “Harmon” Clark, son of John Clarkston and Sarah McKinney, about 1865)
    • Death certificate 5 Mar 1915 lists her parents as John Payne & Katie Clark.  The informant was her husband, Thomas “Harmon” Clark.
    • Burial of Nancy was in the A. Payne Cemetery in Keokee, Lee County VA, adding another tie to the Payne family.
  • James M., possibly called by the nickname “Buck” (born about 1855, died 7 Jul 1937, married 1st to Mary Ann Short 7 Oct 1873 and 2nd to Ester Williams about 1881)
    • Living in the home of Catherine Clark in the 1880 Harlan KY census and listed as “son”.
    • Buck Clark and Nancy Clark are living in the home of their 1st cousin Rebecca Garrison Hoskins in the 1860 Perry County KY census.
  • Elizabeth (born about 1862).  Married Luther Caner Templeton in 1885 in Harlan County, KY.
    • Living in the home of Catherine Clark in the 1880 Harlan KY census and listed as “daughter”.
    • Sister Polly Clark is living in her home in the 1900 Census.
  • Josephine or Jasermine (died 4 Feb 1876)
    • Two grandchildren are listed in the home of Catherine Clark in the 1880 census, Rebecca Ann Clark and Mary Elizabeth Clark
    • The death certificate of Mary Elizabeth Clark Garrison lists her parents as Milton Huff and Josephine Clark
    • The William H. Short diary lists the death of a Jasermine Clark 4 Feb 1876.
    • Family lore from descendants of Rebecca Ann Clark is that she and her sister Mary E. were raised by their aunt, Mary “Polly” Clark, daughter of Catherine Clark.
    • For many years, it was assumed that Rebecca Ann and Mary Elizabeth Clark were daughters of Ellender Clark.  However, the fact that they are not living with Ellender in the 1880 census, but instead with their grandmother does not support that theory and the death certificate of Mary E. Clark Garrison suggests other possibilities. 
    • Commenting about Rebecca Ann and Mary Elizabeth possibly being daughters of Ellender Clark, Glenda Morris Robinson, a direct descendant of Catherine Clarkston through her daughter Ellender, wrote the following:  “I was totally unaware of the sisters (of her grandmother Orleana Clark) Rebecca (who married a Bailey), and Mary who married Isaac Garrison, according to your messages.”
    • The recent discovery of the information in the William H. Short diary about a Jasermine Clark lends support to the possibility that Catherine had a daughter by the name of Josephine or Jasermine who was the mother of these two girls mentioned above.  Her death in 1876 would explain why they were living with their grandmother in the 1880 census.


It is possible that there may be other children of Catherine, but to date, this is the list that can be supported by documents.


John Payne is the only partner of Catherine Clarkston that has been identified from documents.  The John Payne named is most likely the John Payne that left his children and first wife, Margaret Estep, and married (common law) Margaret Clarkston, daughter of John Clarkston (brother of Catherine Clarkston) and Sarah McKinney.  This John Payne was well acquainted with the Clarkston family, was of an age to be a father of a child of Catherine Clarkston, lived in the proximity of the Clarkston’s and is really the only John Payne found at the time in the vicinity of the Clarkston family.  Payne family lore is that John was not faithful to his first wife, thus, no surprise to them that he might have fathered a child with Catherine Clarkston.


James Taylor Adams, the Wise County Historian who is also related to the Short family, sent a questionnaire to all Short family that he could locate asking information about the family.  A portion of Susan Short Farley’s answer to the questionnaire is listed below:


Your full name:    Susie Ellen Short Farley  Date of birth May 26, 1875


Birthplace:  Clo Splint, Harlan County, Kentucky
Your husband's full name:  Allan Sergent Farley
date of his birth:  Jan 27, 1868   Place Ages Harlan Co. Ky.
His parents names:   John G. Farley and Jane Segent Farley


Your father's name:   John Medley Short   Date of birth:  about 1851
Date of death if dead [address if living]: 
Aug. 20, 1923
Where was he born:  Clo Splint
Ky.  [Harlan County]
Your mother's name:  Elenaar Clark   Date of birth:  About 1851
Date of death, if dead:   About 52 years ago
Names of her parents:  Ellen Clark and Alfred Slemp


Here give names and dates of births of your brothers and sisters and addresses.  If any are dead give dates of deaths.
[Deceased]  Martha Short  1870     Harlan Town



The information given above regarding the mother of Ellender Clark is not what we know about Ellender Clark, but is the father listed, Alfred Slemp, indeed another partner of Catherine Clarkston?  The only Alfred Slemp of an age to have fathered a child with Catherine Clarkston and in the vicinity of the Clarkston family is an Alfred Slemp, located in the 1850 Lee, VA census, born about 1813 in Johnson TN, found on page 60 of the census while Thomas Clarkston is on page 87.  No other clues regarding a possible relationship between Catherine Clarkston and Alfred Slemp have been located.


There is an interesting listing in the Kentucky Birth Index 1852-1910 in Perry County, KY, dated 25 Dec 1857.  The birth is for an unnamed female child, born to Jacob Fields and Caty Clark.  A search was done in the 1860 Kentucky census for a Jacob Fields, born between 1800 and 1840.  There was one match in SE Kentucky, in Perry County Kentucky, for a Jacob Feilds and wife Sally.  Jacob born about 1804.  No child is listed in the home born about 1857.  It is interesting to note that there is a Caty Clark listed in the Perry, KY tax records in 1858.  Is it possible that this is another partner of Catherine Clarkston and a previously unknown child?


All of the children of Catherine Clarkston that have been identified to date used the Clark or Clarkston surname, therefore no new clues about other partners of Catherine have come from the names of her children.


Even though Catherine Clarkston did not have a traditional family, Clarkston family lore is that she was a good mother to her children and cared and provided for them as best as she could.  Dana Pierson adds the following information about Catherine: 


“Oral tradition of Helen Mckinney Clarkston's descendents as told to A Hobbs: Catherine and Helen (McKinney) Clarkston's mother, Margaret “Peggy" (Mckinney) Clarkston lived with or very near each other during the last years of Thomas Clarkstons life. They dug ginseng root and quilted to make money for the families as Tom was in very poor health.”


“[There is a] BF Clark in [the] 1860 Breathitt County Ky. census.  This BF is the right age for KATE'S BEN - by his entry is written “Jail”.   I do have some oral tradition from A Hobbs that Catherine's last child, Elizabeth, (she's on the 1880 census with Catherine) was fathered by a Jailer.  The story goes that one of Catherine's sons was in jail when she conceived Elizabeth. The time line is believable. Elizabeth is listed as 18 on the 1880 Harlan Census.   …Story also says it took Kate a long time to make enough money to get this son out of jail.”


Ellender Clark


No documents have been located that directly tie Ellender Clark to Catherine Clarkston, but family tradition from the descendants of the children of Ellender Clark is that Catherine was her mother.


The earliest record of Ellender Clark is the 1860 Harlan County Kentucky census.  From that time on, the records are consistent in placing her as a resident of Harlan County Kentucky.  Ellender was regularly listed in the Harlan County Tax records from 1870 to 1885 and she was enumerated in the Harlan County Kentucky census in 1860, 1870 and 1880.


Several partners of Ellender have been identified along with the children that they fathered with Ellender.  Perhaps the clearest way to identify those men is by listing the children of Ellender and the documents that tie them not only to Ellender but also to their father.


  • Benjamin F. Bailey (born 30 Aug 1864, died 3 Apr 1957, married Sarah Garrison about 1886)
    • Living in the home of Ellender Clark in the 1870 Harlan KY census.
    • Living in the home of Ellender Clark in the 1880 Harlan KY census and listed as “son”.
    • Consistently used the name Bailey in his adult life as found in the documentation.
    • Death certificate 3 Apr 1957 lists his father as Jim Bailey and mother as Martha Jane Creech.  Informant is his daughter Orpha (Bailey) House.  The mother listed here has to be an error.  Martha Jane Creech is the married name of Benjamin’s half sister, Martha Jane Short, who died when Orpha Bailey would have been a youth.
    • Ellender is listed as a fifteen year old servant girl in the household of James C. Bailey in the 1860 census.
    • Obituary of Benjamin F. Bailey lists Susan Farley as a surviving sister.
  • Nancy ArmintaMintyClark (born 18 May 1867, died 6 Dec 1936, married Charles Pennington 30 Dec 1882)
    • Living in the home of Ellender Clark in the 1870 Harlan KY census.
    • Living in the home of Ellender Clark in the 1880 Harlan KY census and listed as “daughter”.
    • Marriage record in Lee County VA 30 Dec 1882, lists her parents as Aleander Clarkson.
    • Death certificate 6 Dec 1936 lists her parents as John Witt & Ellen Clark
  • Martha Jane Short (born 26 Jan 1872, died 16 Mar 1907, married William S. Creech 6 Sep 1888)
    • Living in the home of Ellender Clark in the 1880 Harlan KY census and listed as “daughter”.
    • Martha is listed as Martha J. Short on her marriage record.
    • Listed as daughter of John Medley Short & Elender Clark in the William H. Short diary.
    • Listed as sister of Susan Ellen Short Farley in a letter written by Susan Ellen Short Farley to James Taylor Adams.
  • Susan Ellen Short (born 26 May 1875, died 22 Jun 1970, married 1st to unknown prior to 1895, married 2nd to Allen S. Farley 23 Nov 1895)
    • Living in the home of Ellender Clark in the 1880 Harlan KY census and listed as “daughter”.
    • Listed as daughter of John Medley Short & Elender Clark in the William H. Short diary.
    • Listed as daughter of John Medley Short & Elenaar Clark in a letter written by Susan Ellen Short Farley to James Taylor Adams.
    • Her father is listed as John M. Short on her death certificate.
    • Listed as a surviving sister in the obituary of Benjamin F. Bailey.
    • Listed as a surviving sister in the obituary of Alpha Holmes.
  • Louisa B. Clark (born 14 Dec 1876, died 11 Dec 1936)
    • Birth register in Harlan County KY lists the birth of a female 14 Dec 1876 to John Kelly and Ellender Clark
    • Living in the home of Ellender Clark in the 1880 Harlan KY census and listed as “daughter”.
    • Death Certificate 11 Dec 1936 lists her father as unknown and her mother as ? Clark.
  • Jane Clark (born Dec 1879)
    • Living in the home of Ellender Clark in the 1880 Harlan KY census and listed as “daughter”.
  • Alpha Elizabeth Holmes (born 29 Apr 1881, died 5 Feb 1968, married Lee Emerson Reese 16 Aug 1897).
    • Listed in the 1897 Harlan County School census as Alpha Holmes, birth 29 Apr 1880, in the home of A. S. Farley (spouse of Susan Ellen Short – see above).
    • Listed as sister of Orleana Mae Clark by descendants of Orleana Mae Clark (see notes from Glenda Morris Robinson below).
    • Death certificate lists her father as John Holmes and her mother as unknown.
    • In email dated 24 June 2006, John Tolbert, great grandson of Alpha Holmes Reese wrote the following:

“From what my great aunt (her daughter Grace) told me several years ago when I interviewed her for information, Alpha’s father was John Clinton Holmes and her mother was Martha Jane Kelly. I’ve never tried to verify that since it came from her, but at least it will give you something to work with if you want to pursue it.”

    • Obituary of Alpha Holmes lists Susie Farley as a surviving sister.
  • Orleana Mae Clark (born 15 Apr 1883, died 28 Nov 1944, married Ballard M. Woodward 20 Nov 1901)
    • Marriage record in Lee County VA 20 Nov 1901, lists her parents as Elenor Clark.
    • Death certificate 28 Nov 1944 lists her father as unknown and her mother as Ellen Clark.


Glenda Morris Robinson provided the following information which links several of these children of Ellender:


“My grandmother was Orleana Clark Woodward. My mother told me that Orleana's mother died when Orleana was about 2 yrs. old, and Orlena's sister, Minnie raised her. …The other sisters I have heard about or seen pictures of were: Alpha Eliz. Reese of St. Chas. Va., Louisa. My older sister thinks they were raised by Jehu Holmes of Robbins Chapel, Lee Co, VA.  I've heard about Aunt Susie, Aunt Fannie Farley. Also, Orleana had a brother Ben Bailey. They used to go by train from Lee Co. to New Bernsted Ky. to visit him.”


“From what I've read in the other postings, There are no known husbands for either Katherine or EL. El 1st appears as the 15 yr old servant girl in the household of James C. Bailey in the 1860 Census of Harlan Co. My mother did not seem to know very much except they worked as servants for different men or households and they had children by them. The only names that I've heard are Bailey.   I'm not sure of the name Aunt Minty, went by before her marriage, I think it was Clarkson. Aunt Alpha and Aunt Louisa went by Holmes, and they were raised by Jehu Holmes, I think they took them in when EL died around 1883-84. She was about 39 years old when she died of breast cancer, according what my mother told me. There was a Bailey family in the Dryden,Va. area that I remember visiting once. So there must have been a friendly relationship with the Baileys.”


Based on the records listed above and the surnames that the children used, the following list can be made of partners of Ellender:


o       James C. Bailey

o       John Witt

o       John Medley Short

o       John Kelly

o       John Clinton Holmes


Each of those partners can be explored as follows:


James C. Bailey


The following is taken from Harlan Footprints, Vol 5 issue # 1, May of 1991, written by Holly Fee:


“[Ellender] first appears in Harlan County in the 1860 census as a fifteen year old servant girl in the household of James C. Bailey.  James was about thirteen years older than Eleanor and on 6 November 1851, had married Nancy, daughter of Simeon and Nancy Willeford Wilson.  James was the son of John Bailey and his first wife, Hannah Smith.  After Hannah’s death, John had married Patsy Clarkston, daughter of Thomas and Elender “Nellie” Feathers Clarkston. Patsy was Eleanor’s aunt and it was probably this family connection that brought Eleanor into Patsy’s stepson’s household.”


“James C. Bailey and his wife Nancy had had five children by 1860 and a sixth was born that fall.  The date of birth is uncertain but sometime in 1862 or 1863, Eleanor had a son by James C. Bailey.  There is some family tradition that James wife was, not unnaturally, unhappy about this state of affairs and that this prompted James’ enlistment in Company E of the 49th Kentucky Infantry.  In 1887, when Nancy applied for a pension based on his service, she stated that James was “on detached duty” when he “was killed by a gunshot wound inflicted by the Confederate or Rebel forces on 31 October 1863.”    His date of death was given as 4 November 1863 but it would not be unusual for him to have lived a few days.  The War Office records countered that their records stated that he was listed as deserted on October 5 and October 10 on the muster rolls at Camp Nelson and their office had no records of his death.”


“…James and Eleanor’s son was named Benjamin Franklin and went by the Bailey name most if not all of his life.”


John Witt


Research on a possible John Witt that could have fathered children with Ellender Clark has turned up only one likely John Witt.  Edmond Witt and wife Anna Thompson had a son John, born about 1840.  John is found living with his parents in the 1850 and 1860 Lee County VA census.  This Witt family, along with other related Witt’s of Lee County VA, were very well acquainted with the Clarkston family.  There are several marriages betweens the Witt’s and the Clark/stons.  A search in the 1860 census in counties surrounding Harlan County Kentucky for a John Witt that would be of an age to have fathered a child with Ellender Clark, turned up only two John Witt’s.  The John Witt (age 20) mentioned above and a John Witt (age 24) found living in the home of William P. Kelly in Harlan County Kentucky.  Going back to the 1850 census, only one John Witt was found, that being the son of Edmond Witt.  Further investigation on the John Witt found in Harlan KY in the home of William P. Kelly leads us to believe that it was John Witt, son of Edmond Witt, enumerated twice in 1860.  William P. Kelly’s sister, Rachel Kelly, married Archibald Witt, brother of Edmond Witt, providing a tie between the William P. Kelly family and the Edmond Witt family.


Another interesting connection is also available between this John Witt and the Clark/ston family.  Margaret Clark, daughter of John Clarkston and Sarah McKinney, bore two children who carried the Witt surname, Noah Witt, born about 1862 and Martha Witt, born about 1865.  The death certificate of Noah Witt lists his parents as John Witt and Margaret Clark.  A brief study of John Witt, son of Edmond Witt yields the following timeline of his life:


About 1840 - Birth

15 Sep 1861 - Enlisted in the Confederate Army in Lee County VA

9 Sep 1863 – Taken POW at Cumberland Gap and confined at Camp Douglas in IL

15 Jun 1865 – Released as POW

3 May 1867 – Married Rachel Couch in Lee County VA

About 1878 – Married Nancy Pennington

About 1899 – Married Matilda York

5 Dec 1920 – Died in Leslie County KY


Births of Noah Witt (born about 1862), Martha Witt (born about 1865) and Nancy Arminta Clark (born May 1867) all took place at a time when this John Witt would have been in the vicinity of the residence of both Margaret Clark and Ellender Clark.  Thus, this John Witt appears to be the most likely father of the children of Margaret Clark and the daughter of Ellender Clark based on acquaintance, age and in the vicinity when these children were conceived.


John Medley Short


John Medley Short, son of Wright Short and Susan Hall was born 6 Mar 1852.  John is a near neighbor to Ellender Clark in the 1880 Harlan County KY census.  John Medley Short 1st married Anna Clark, daughter of Mary Clark who was daughter of John Clarkston and Sarah McKinney.  The William H. Short diary clearly identifies John Medley Short as the father of two daughters of Ellender Clark. 


John Kelly


John P. Kelly was born 21 Aug 1829, son of Isaac Kelly and Cynthia Parker.  In the 1880 Harlan KY census, John Kelly is a near neighbor of Ellender Clark.


John Clinton Holmes


Louisa Clark, daughter of Ellender Clark, is found living in the home of Jehu Holmes and his wife, Martha Bailey, in the 1900 thru 1930 Lee County VA census.  This Jehu Holmes was son of John C. Homes and Mary Huff.  In the 1880 Harlan KY census, John Clinton Holmes is listed 3 households away from Ellender Clark.  John C. Holmes fathered Ellender’s daughter Alpha Elizabeth Holmes and whether he was the father of Louisa and/or Orleana as well is not known.  In notes presented above as oral tradition passed to John Tolbert by Grace Reese Winfrey, daughter of Alpha Holmes Reese, the parents of Alpha Holmes were John Clinton Holmes and Martha Jane Kelly.  John Clinton Holmes married Martha Jane Kelly in 1850 in Harlan KY.  Martha died in childbirth about 1852.  John Clinton Holmes married Mary Huff in 1853 in Harlan KY.  John Clinton Holmes did live past 1900, but Martha Jane Kelly could not possibly have been the mother of Alpha Holmes. 


The William H. Short diary records the death date of Ellender Clark as 31 May 1886.  This death date is consistent with the statement from Glenda Morris Robinson wherein she stated that Orleana Clark was about 2 years old when her mother died of breast cancer and is also consistent with the Harlan County Kentucky tax records which list Ellender Clark up to 1885.  Ellender would have been in her late 30’s or early 40’s at her death, leaving behind several young children to be raised by relatives.


The only thing clear about Kate and El is that their lives must have been incredibly difficult.  Unless someone comes forward with more information, we may never have a complete and accurate picture of the families of Kate and El.  We certainly would like to clear up the mystery of Josephine/Jasermine.  To date, she only appears in the William H. Short diary and the death certificate of Mary Elizabeth (Clark) Garrison. 



Last updated Friday, January 21, 2011