William Gorham (c1775 – 1837)

William Gorham was born while his parents still lived in Loudoun County, Virginia and was still a small child when the family moved to Kentucky.    By 1800 he was established in Logan County, Kentucky near the small settlement that later became Adairville.   He remained there for the rest of his life, as other members of the family moved elsewhere.   By 1840 all but one of the Gorhams remaining in Logan County were William Gorham’s widow and children

The 1800 census is lost, but he appeared on the tax list that year.  He was evidently already married by that time as the 1810 census shows him a few names from his father, heading a household of seven.   By 1820 he headed a household of nine children and five slaves.  In 1830 the household had four male and two female children still at home with his son Alexander enumerated next door, and a total of 14 slaves.

On 14 August 1805, he bought 100 acres near the Tennessee state line from his brother-in-law Abner Clark, witnessed by his brothers Joshua and Thomas Gorham.1  He sold this land on 19 January 18072 and on the following day his father deeded him 181 acres for $1.3   He also patented 200 acres in 1807 which he and his wife Nancy sold in 1809.4   He was administrator of the estates of both his father Thomas Gorham and his mother Margaret (see Thomas Gorham file).   In the settlement he acquired another 94 acres granted to his father, which he and Nancy sold on 4 March 1815.5  In addition to other properties, William Gorham also bought the adjoining land of his brothers Joshua and Thomas, and of his brother-in-law Thomas Riggs.6

William Gorham was alive as late as 4 January 1837 when he made the last of five deeds of gift to his eldest children.7  He died intestate within a few months, sometime in early 1837.  The inventory and appraisal of his estate were dated 6 June 1837 by Elijah Gorham, administrator.8  A division of his real estate was dated 14 June 1837.9  The widow received a dower tract of 104 acres, and a total of 398 acres was split among three heirs “who had received no land from dec’d. in his lifetime.”  Those three were Jackson Gorham, Martha Gorham, and William Traughber in right of his wife, formerly Permelia Gorham. William Gorham had earlier deeded tracts of roughly 150 acres each to five other children:  Elijah, Alexander, Shelby, and William Gorham Jr., and to Robert Murray (husband of Rachel Gorham) for $1.

These eight persons were the only heirs, as the interest in the dower land and slaves was also split eight ways.  All eight of the heirs are mentioned in a series of deeds confirming the land division.10  The eight are also mentioned in a deed in which six of the heirs sold their interests in the dower land to their sister Martha Gorham on 8 July 1837.11

William Gorham’s widow, Nancy, is enumerated in the 1840 Logan County census as age 40-50, consecutive with several of the children.   (The only Gorham in Logan County who was not a member of this family was Henry S. Gorham.))  Nancy Gorham is in the 1850 census of Logan County, two doors away from Elijah Gorham,  listed as age 63 and born in North Carolina.  In 1860 she was aged 72, with son William in her household and Elijah and Alexander in neighboring households.  It seems likely that Nancy’s age is understated in the 1850 and 1860 censuses, as she was aged over 26 in the 1810 census.

Whether or not Nancy is the mother of all of the children is unknown. Her maiden name is also a mystery. It was reported to me in 1979 by a correspondent that a “Gorham Family File” in the Kentucky State Archives calls her “Nancy Darrington”.  I was unable to locate that file, so I don’t know the original source of the information and cannot assess its credibility.   However, I am unable to find anyone named Darrington in either Kentucky or Tennessee near where William Gorham lived at the time he most likely was married.

The eight children are identified by the several deeds mentioned above.  I didn’t attempt to track the children who left the area, or the others past 1860, except for Permelia Gorham.  Also note that the 1800 census record suggests at least two daughters who did not survive, including the eldest child who was apparently born before 1800.

  1. Elijah Gorham (14 June 1802  –  11 January 1885)   Elijah first appears in 1825 buying land.12.  He sold it a few years later on 8 January 183313 the same day that his father William Gorham Sr. deeded him 147 acres for $1.14   Elijah Gorham married Elizabeth Neal on 6 January 1837.15  He is in the 1840 census of Logan County with three children, all males. In 1850 he is listed as age 49, with Elizabeth, age 30, and six children: Harvy T. (13), Volney (11), Benjamin F. (9), Nancy (7), John B. (5), and Martha (2).   In 1860, Elijah is 58, Elizabeth is 40, and three children were added:  Harvy (22), Volney (21), Benjamin (19), Nancy (19), John (15). Martha (13), Mary (11), Sarah (5), and Lucy (6/12).   I didn’t attempt to track him after 1860, but his inventory was filed on 14 August 1885.16  Elijah is buried, along with his wife Elizabeth (1820-1902) and five children in the New Whippoorwill Baptist Church Cemetery in Logan County.
  2. Permelia Gorham (c1805 – c1846) She married William Traughber in 1822.  See separate file for details.
  3. Alexander Gorham (23 March 1807 – 1 April 1861) He was listed on the 1830 Logan County census adjacent to William Gorham, with a wife and one female under 5.   She was Mary Price (Pierce?) whom he married by license dated 5 November 1827.17  On 19 September 1835 William Gorham made a gift to his son Alexander Gorham of 124 acres for $1.18   His wife’s gravestone in the Red River Meeting House cemetery appears to show 1838 as her death year.  In 1840, he was enumerated adjacent to his mother, his age 20-30, with a single male under 5 and a female 5-10 in the household.  I did not find him in 1850, but the 1860 census shows him, age 54, as the sole member of his household located next to his mother Nancy.  His children are uncertain.  His gravestone in the Old Red River Meeting House near Adairville gives his date of birth as 23 March 1807. The death date is nearly unreadable but appears to be as above.
  4. William Gorham (c1808? – aft1860) On 8 January 1833 William Gorham Sr. gave 151 acres to William Gorham Jr. for $1.19   William appears consecutive with his mother and brothers in the 1840 census of Logan County as the sole member of his household, age 30-40.   He appears several times in Logan County records, the last I found being a reference to his land in 1845.20  In 1860, William Gorham, age 52, is living with his mother Nancy. There was no marriage record found for him.  [Note that there is a William C. Gorham whose estate was settled by Michael Gilbert on 30 January 1849, but that appears to have been a different person.]
  5. Shelby Gorham (6 February 1811 – 30 September 1861) He may have been named after Isaac Shelby, the first Governor of Kentucky. (The fact that Evan Shelby witnessed one of his deeds is intriguing.) Some think his name may be a clue to his mother’s maiden name.  His wife’s maiden name is unknown, but she appears in a number of records as Mary Ann.  He was enumerated in the 1840 census of Logan County adjacent to his mother and brothers (age 20-30) with three male children.  The 1850 census lists him as age 37, with wife Mary A., and several children: William T. (16), John T. (14), Shelby R. (12), Mary J. (9), Martha (5), and ___ Taylor (1). In 1860 he is listed as a hotel keeper, age 49, with Mary and children John T. (23), Zachariah (11), and Susan (15).  An 1860 deed by John T. Gorham identifies his mother as Mary Ann Gorham, wife of Shelby Gorham.21
  6. Martha Gorham (c1812 – 1866)  She was unmarried when she bought the estate interests of several of her siblings in 1837.  She married John D. Freeman by bond dated 15 March 1838 (returned 20 March).22  They were in Ste. Genevieve County, Missouri by 9 March 1849 when John D. P. Freeman and his wife Martha sold their interest in the estate of Nancy Gorham.23  The 1850 census of Ste. Genevieve County lists both John and Martha as age 38.  They were not further traced but a descendant reported that she died in 1866 in Wyandotte County, Kansas.
  7. Rachel Gorham (c1815 – aft1880) Rachel must have been one of the two females under 10 in the 1820 household, and the two females 10-15 in the 1830 household, thus born in the period 1815-20.   She married Robert Murray by license dated 2 September 1833 with the consent of her father.24  Her husband is identified in the deeds surrounding the William Gorham estate as “Robert J. M. Murrah” (sometimes Murray). They are in the 1850-1870 Logan County censuses living in Adairville (she aged 33, 45, and 55) with children named Pamelia Murrah, Mary Murrah, Lucy Murrah, Nancy Murrah, and a son named Frances B. Murrah.  Her husband apparently died by 1880, for Rachel (age 65) was head of household in 1880.
  8. Jackson Gorham (c1813 – ?) Jackson is probably one of the males under 10 in the 1820 census and one of the two males 10-15 in 1830. (If he were named for Andrew Jackson, he would presumably have been born after Jackson became a national hero in late 1812.) He was living in Logan County on 14 June 1837 when he was deeded land by the other heirs of William Gorham25  but moved to Missouri within a year. He sold both his interest in the dower land and his own inherited land to Shelby Gorham on 29 October 1838, as a resident of Cape Girardeau, Missouri.26  In both deeds, his wife Eliza released dower.   I did not find him in Missouri, and Cape Girardeau records are largely destroyed. Since Cape Girardeau is on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River, he could have gone in several directions.  I’d also note the possibility that he may have gone by “Andrew” or some other name if Jackson was actually his middle name.


  1. Logan County Deed Book A, p359. []
  2. Logan County Deed Book B, p21. []
  3. Logan County Deed Book B, p30. []
  4. Logan County Deed Book B, p478. []
  5. Logan County Deed Book D, p278. []
  6. Logan County Deed Book F, p126 and p481, Book G, p342. []
  7. Logan County Deed Book W, p255 []
  8. Logan County Will Book F, p309. []
  9. Logan County Will Book F, pp313. []
  10. Logan County Deed Book V, p255, 256, 257, and 388. All dated 14 June 1837. []
  11. Logan County Deed Book V, p216. []
  12. Logan County Deed Book N, p229 []
  13. Logan County Deed Book S, p156. []
  14. Logan County Deed Book S, p155. []
  15. Logan County Marriage Book 1, p132. License dated 19 Dec 1836, return dated 6 January 1837. []
  16. Logan County Inventories, etc. Book  P, page 174. []
  17. Logan County Marriage Book 1, p68. []
  18. Logan County Deed Book U, p41. []
  19. Logan County Deed Book S, p156. []
  20. Logan County Deed Book 32, p395 []
  21. Logan County Deed Book 37, p423. []
  22. Logan County Marriage Book 1, p141. []
  23. Logan County Deed Book 30, p522. []
  24. Logan County Marriage Book 1, p108. []
  25. Logan County Deed Book V, p255. []
  26. Logan County Deed Book W, p53 and p55. []