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My Sizemore Family History

Part I: Tales and Legends

Who were our Sizemore's and where did they come from? Discovering the answers to these simple questions turned out to be a great deal more difficult than I'd ever imagined. There are many tales and legends about our ancestors, but little actual proof. Some say we're descended from a line of Cherokee Indian Chiefs. Some think our blood is thick with fiery Scots-Irish. In the early stages of my quest I found us linked to several English noblemen, and even a Queen. That same genealogy took us back to a character named Fuko Howard who was born in the year 1115 in a place called Wiggenhall. Another had us connected to wealthy Virginia land owners and politicians. One tree even had us going back through Alfonso VI "The Valiant" King of Castile and Leon (born 1039 Castile, Spain), all the way back to Exilarch Hanini David, the high priest of the Jewish temple in Babylon, circa 620 B.C.! The truth - at least the provable part - is somewhat less glorious than kings and noblemen, but it's real. And the reality, as I've found it, is every bit as interesting.

So, who and what kind of people were we? What kind of work did we do, and what was important to us? I can tell you this with absolute certainty: Anyone that could have survived the challenges of the Kentucky wilderness near the end of the 18th century must have been sturdy, courageous, hard working and smart, because if that weren't the case then you and I wouldn't be here today. Apart from that, we were ordinary people with a sense of adventure who just wanted to get married, raise a family and have a place of our own. But then that's really all it takes, isn't it?

At the end of the 1700's the French and Indian Wars were past, the American Revolution had ended, and the Cumberland Gap was open with an invitation from the new American government for people to explore and settle the new state of Kentucky that had been formed out of Virginia in 1792. The attraction was affordable land. All you had to do was get there and stake your claim.

They came from Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina. They had names like Asher, Morgan, Napier, Begley, Gilbert and, of course, Sizemore. They, and thousands of others, threw everything they owned into wagons and onto the backs of mules, and began pouring through the Gap. Once they got there they spread out in every direction and wound up in places that came to be known by the names of the rivers and landmarks there. Places like Cutshin Creek, Rockhouse Creek, Middle Fork, Bad Creek, Grassy Branch and so on.

What did they do when they got there? From census and other records I can tell you that we mostly were farmers (and every married woman called herself a housewife or homemaker). Russell Sizemore, John 'Rockhouse' Sizemore, John 'Blackhawk' Sizemore and Albert Morgan were all farmers. Owners, laborers, and apprentices - if it smelled like dirt, we were deeply involved in it! To a lesser extent we also held public office. For instance, 'Sasser' John Sizemore (son of John 'Rockhouse' Sizemore) was twice elected Tax Assessor of Clay County (Sasser is 'country short' for assessor. I'm sure he was popular. Not!). We also had a Sheriff among our kin, and some of our trees claim a congressman or two. And we can't forget the musicians; James Sizemore, brother of 'Sasser John', wasn't called 'Fiddlin Jim' for nothing!

I also believe some of our earliest people, predating the farmers of Kentucky, were part of a frontier caste in the late 1700's that called themselves 'Long Hunters'. Daniel Boone was one. Starting out from North Carolina or Virginia, these men would pack enough equipment to last several weeks or months at a time, put on their Buckskin pants, coonskin caps, and the leather, knee length jacket known as a 'hunting shirt', cross the Appalachian mountains through the Cumberland Gap into the wilderness of 'Kentucke' and hunt Buffalo (yes, Buffalo) and other game. Dillion Asher, born around 1777, was one of them. He, of course, is the father of Polly Asher, who is the mother of John 'Blackhawk' Sizemore, who is the father of Polly Sizemore, who is the mother of my Grandma (Phrona Sizemore).

We were normal people in an abnormal time and place, who rose to the occasion and made the best of it. We were good people, but we had our bad apples too. We were religious people, but were divided between a number of faiths - including no faith. We were independent, cantankerous, ornery, kind, generous, stingy, stubborn and willful. We were everything that makes a person human, and that's good enough.

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