Children of Elizabeth Brooks (1747/1750 – 1816) and Husband George Rice (abt. 1743 – 1792): Mary Rice (1776/1778 – abt. 1825) and Husband Joshua Wilson (1769 – 1823)

Virginia Beginnings

As the last posting notes, it’s not clear whether Mary Rice, who married Joshua Wilson, was the second or third child of George Rice and Elizabeth Brooks. The August 1802 list of children of George and Elizabeth found in the case file of the Augusta County, Virginia, chancery court suit filed by Province McCormick against George’s executors places Elizabeth first among the children and Mary second, and indicates Mary was married to Joshua Wilson by August 1802.[1] But Bartholomew Smith’s 15 April 1808 complaint in his chancery suit against George Rice’s heirs makes Mary the second of George and Elizabeth’s children after Ruth – and I think this listing may be a more accurate representation of the birth order of the children. As my last posting (cited at the head of this paragraph) says, I’m not entirely clear as to whether Elizabeth or Mary followed Ruth, however. 

Notes by an unidentified researcher found in a Wilson family file at the Frederick Porter Griffin Center for Local History and Genealogy in Corydon, Harrison County, Indiana, uploaded to Susan Pope Faurote’s family tree at Ancestry entitled “Susan Pope Faurote / Scott Fauerbach”

A set of notes about the family of Joshua and Mary Rice Wilson by an unidentified researcher found in a Wilson family file at the Frederick Porter Griffin Center for Local History and Genealogy in Corydon, Harrison County, Indiana, states that “research to date reveals that Joshua Wilson was born about 1769 in Virginia,” and suggests that the couple married about 1794.[2] The notes do not cite sources for this information, but these dates sound plausible to me. 

If Mary was the second child of George and Elizabeth, it seems she may have been born in the 1770-1775 time frame I assigned to her sister Elizabeth Rice McCormick in the previous posting. But federal census data suggest to me that she was born after 1775. The 1810 federal census, discussed below, indicates not very helpfully that both Mary and Joshua Wilson were born between 1766 and 1784. But when we combine that census information with the information on the 1820 federal census, to be discussed in the next posting, which has Mary born between 1776 and 1794, we end up with a window of 1776-1784 for her birthdate. If she and Joshua married in or around 1794, then Mary would likely have been born around 1776-8, it seems to me. The 1820 census confirms that she was some years younger than Joshua. 

I have not found information about where Mary married Joshua Wilson, though I think it’s likely that they married in Frederick County, Virginia. As I note above, they were definitely married by August 1802. As we’ve also seen, Joshua Wilson witnessed the 20 April 1796 will of Mary’s brother Edmund Rice in Frederick County, Virginia, which made Micajah Roach (married Ruth Rice) and Joshua Wilson (married Mary Rice) co-executors of Edmund’s will and estate.[3] Since we have a marriage record for Ruth and husband Micajah Roach, we know that this couple were definitely married by the time the will was made — on 4 April 1786. Edmund’s will suggests to me that Mary Rice and Joshua Wilson had also married prior to April 1796. 

The Move to Kentucky: Bardstown Years

According to Dixie Hibbs in her history of Bardstown, Kentucky, by 1799, Joshua Wilson had opened his first tavern in that Kentucky town.[4] If Joshua and Mary were living in Virginia when he witnessed Edmund Rice’s will in Frederick County in April 1796, then this information would place the couple’s move to Kentucky between that date and 1799, and would seem to indicate that they first settled in Bardstown, probably with the intent to open an inn and tavern. According to the Wilson family notes previously cited, Joshua purchased a lot in Bardstown in 1798, in fact.[5] I have not found a deed for a Bardstown purchase by Joshua in 1798. I do find that on 3 May 1800, Joshua purchased from Samuel Morton, both of Nelson County, Kentucky, lot #67 in Bardstown.[6] The deed was acknowledged by Samuel’s wife Nancy on 2 July 1800 and filed on that day. Joshua and wife Polly then sold the lot on 7 February 1801 to William R. Hynes, with the deed again stating that both vendors and vendee lived in Nelson County. Polly acknowledged the deed on 2nd April and it was recorded 7th August.[7]

As we saw in a previous posting, Micajah and Ruth Rice Roach were in Bardstown by October 1802, and the following year, Micajah announced in an ad in the Tennessee Gazette dated 25 May 1803 that he had acquired from Joshua Wilson a tavern in Bardstown called the Sign of the Indian Queen.[8] Micajah’s ad also tells us that Joshua had bought this tavern from James Crutcher, who opened the Sign of the Eagle in Bardstown in 1795, according to Dixie Hibbs.[9] Micajah’s ad states as well that he had moved to the house in “Bairdstown” lately occupied by Joshua Wilson. This suggests that Joshua and Mary Wilson left Bardstown in 1803 as they sold their tavern there to Micajah and Ruth Roach.

Biographical and Historical Souvenir for the Counties of Clark, Crawford, Harrison, Floyd, Jefferson, Jennings, Scott and Washington, Indiana (Chicago: John M. Gresham, 1889), p. 119

A biography of James E. Wilson, son of George Patrick Rice Wilson, cited in a previous posting,  tells us that Joshua and Mary Wilson, parents of George P.R. Wilson, were living in Bardstown when George was born.[10] This source also tells us that after George’s birth, his parents moved to Louisville, but other records indicate that before they made the move to Louisville, they first went from Bardstown to Lexington, Kentucky, where they acquired another inn.

The Lexington Years

This inn was Captain John Postlethwaite’s inn in Lexington, which Joshua and Mary Wilson leased from him in 1804, and which they operated as Wilson’s Inn up to 1812 before moving to Louisville. As a previous posting indicates, Fayette County, Kentucky, records show Joshua Wilson receiving license in that county on 14 May 1804 to keep a tavern at his house in Lexington, previously occupied by John Postlethwaite.[11] On 5 June 1804, Captain Postlethwaite placed an announcement of the inn’s change of management in the Tennessee Gazette, noting that Joshua Wilson, formerly of Bardstown, had acquired his inn and tavern.[12]

Joshua’s 1804 license to operate a tavern in Lexington, from Fayette County, Kentucky, Court Order Bk. 1, p. 153, transcribed in . Winston Coleman Jr., Stage-Coach Days in The Bluegrass (Louisville: Standard, 1935; repr. Lexington: Univ. Press of Kentucky, 1995), p. 56

On 13 September 1804 at Lexington, J. Wilson witnessed the deed of Cuthbert Banks to Henry Clay for Banks’s plantation near Lexington. James F. Hopkins, who transcribes the deed in his collection of Henry Clay’s papers, indicates that J. Wilson is Joshua Wilson, who had recently come from Bardstown to Lexington and was now proprietor of Posthlethwaite’s Tavern.[13] Joshua seems to have had a connection to Henry Clay, since, as we’ll see in a moment, in 1810, Clay deeded to him two tracts of land on the Cumberland River in 1807. Part of the connection may have been a shared interest in inn- and tavern-keeping: by January 1809, Henry Clay owned an inn in Lexington called The Hall, which Cuthbert Banks managed.[14] According to William A. Leavy, Cuthbert Banks was running the Kentucky Hotel in Lexington by 1803.[15]

As noted in a previous posting, Joshua and Mary were running Wilson’s Inn in 1805 when they entertained Aaron Burr and his daughter Theodosia. In 1808, English traveler Fortescue Cuming found the inn comfortable, well-maintained, and well-appointed, and noted that its well-dressed hostess (Mary Rice Wilson) presided at the dinner table “with ease and propriety.”[16]

Fortescue Cuming, Sketches of a Tour to the Western Country (Pittsburgh, Cramer, Spear & Richbaum, 1810), p. 161
Robert Peter, History of Fayette County, Kentucky With an Outline Sketch of the Blue Grass Region (Chicago, O.L. Baskin, 1882), p. 281

In their History of Kentucky, William Elsey Connelley and Ellis Merton Coulter, have the following information about the inn under Joshua and Mary’s management — and I apologize for quoting at such length, but I think this information may be intrinsically interesting to anyone researching Joshua Wilson and his wife Mary Rice and their family:[17]

Inasmuch as Wilson’s Inn, better known then as Postlethwaite’s Tavern, is none other than our present Phoenix Hotel, which has served the public continuously for the past 118 years, his [i.e., Fortescue Cuming’s] description of it in 1808 is interesting. He says: “I entered the travelers’ room, which had many strangers in it. Shortly after, the supper bell ringing, we obeyed the summons and were ushered into a room about forty feet long, where, at the head of the table, laid out with great neatness, plenty and variety, sat our well-dressed hostess, who did the honors with ease and propriety.”

Three years before the visit of Mr. Cuming, Col. Aaron Burr was a guest of Joshua Wilson’s Inn; he entertained his beautiful daughter, Theodosia Burr Alston, and her distinguished husband, and Mr. Blennerhassett while there….

Joshua Wilson leased the tavern from Mr. Postlethwaite. His license in an old record book in the Fayette County Courthouse dated May 14, 1804, says: “On motion of Joshua Wilson, license is granted him to keep a tavern at the home lately occupied by John Postlethwaite one year from the date hereof, who came into court and entered into bond with George M. Bibb, his security, as the law directs.”

Capt. John Postlethwaite, a Revolutionary soldier from Pennsylvania, who built the tavern in 1800, was the ideal tavern keeper of the early days; dressed in neatly fitted small-clothes and gray silk hose and immaculate ruffles, he graciously greeted each guest, and, by his cordiality and dignified demeanor, won each for his friend. His advertisements were couched in chaste and elegant language, as the above transaction in the Gazette of June 5, 1804, will prove. It says: “I have rented the house and tavern lately occupied by me in this town to Mr. Joshua Wilson, formerly of Bardstown. I beg leave to return my sincere thanks to my numerous customers for their preference in my favor, whilst in that house, and am happy and confident in assuring those who continue their favors to Mr. Wilson that they will find every accommodation that the house and situation is capable of affording, which I hope I do not presume in saying will be equal to any in the Western Country.”

Captain Postlethwaite was a prosperous, public spirited citizen, serving his city as treasurer and banker, as well as tavern keeper, and Captain Postlethwaite’s Light Infantry Company was an important addition to all public functions. For a time he allowed the postoffice to be conducted at his tavern, which was a low, rambling log building on the corner of Main and Limestone streets, with the principal entrance on Limestone. Much of the furniture was made by local cabinet workers, of native cherry and walnut, which was fine and glossy, and the comfort of the corded four-post beds and the beauty of the Windsor chairs were mentioned by more than one writer of the times. The rag carpets were as fashionable then as now, and while the guests had to be ‘lighted to bed by tallow candles,’ there was a small army of faithful slaves to render the gracious service. He conducted the tavern at various intervals until his death in 1833, during the cholera scourge in Lexington.

As previously noted, the April 1808 complaint of Bartholomew Smith in his Augusta County, Virginia, chancery suit against George Rice’s heirs confirms that Joshua and Mary Wilson were living out of Virginia when the lawsuit was filed. On 27 October 1808, George Rice’s heirs, named in this deed as William McCormick on behalf of his deceased wife Elizabeth and their children, George Rice, Rebecca Rice, and Ruth Roach, gave power of attorney to Joshua Wilson in Nelson County, Kentucky, to act as their agent in selling 1,800 acres belonging to George Rice in Nelson County. All signed, with Joseph Baker and Edward McGuire witnessing. Both witnesses proved the deed in Frederick County, Virginia, on 27 October 1808, and on 15 May 1809, Ruth Roach acknowledged the power of attorney in Nelson County and it was recorded.[18]

I have not found a Nelson County deed showing George Rice’s heirs selling this tract of land. I do, however, find a deed dated 22 September 1798 in which Richard and Nancy Easten of Jefferson County, Kentucky, deeded George Rice’s heirs 1,000 acres in Christian County, Kentucky, on the waters of Lost Creek. The deed states that in his lifetime, George Rice paid the Eastens £50 for the land. With the Eastens signing, the deed was witnessed by Thomas Prather, Samuel Smiley, Edward Williams, John Long, and Ga. I. Johnston. Smiley and Johnston proved the deed at Bardstown on 7 June 1799, with Prather proving it on 10 May.[19]

The 1810 federal census lists the family of Joshua Wilson at Lexington in Fayette County, Kentucky, with a household comprised of a male 26-44, 2 males 10-15, a male under 10, a female 26-44, a female 10-15, and 4 enslaved persons.[20]

On 29 September 1810, Henry Clay confirmed the sale of two tracts on the Cumberland River, 668 and 125 acres, to Joshua Wilson. The deed indicates that Joshua purchased the land at an unspecified month and day in 1807 in Lexington, and the sale was confirmed to him in September 1810. John Jordan Jr., owner of the land, had made a deed of trust to Henry Clay and Thomas Hart on 13 September 1806.[21] This was two years before Joshua and Mary left Lexington for Louisville: after the family moved to Louisville, Joshua would quickly begin acquiring property; this shift in his vocational interests, coupled with the land purchase on the Cumberland River, causes me to conclude that Joshua was shifting his business interests from inn-keeping to acquiring land as he moved his family to Louisville in 1812.

As discussed in a previous posting, Joshua and Mary Wilson were among the heirs of George Rice who made a deed in Frederick County, Virginia, on 28 February 1811 to Bartholomew Smith, as a result of Smith’s 1808 lawsuit against them.[22] The deed includes a 4 March 1811 directive to justices of the Fayette County, Kentucky, court to take Mary’s acknowledgement of the action, since she could not travel easily to Virginia. Mary made her acknowledgement on that date and it was recorded in Frederick County on 14 October.

Kentucky Gazette (30 April 1811), p. 3, col. 5

A 20 April 1811 announcement in the Kentucky Gazette for 30 April 1811 shows Joshua acting as one of four commissioners in Fayette County to sell land James Hughes was forfeiting as a result of a circuit court judgment in favor of Mary Usher.[23] One of the four commissioners was a Henry Purviance who may have been connected in some way to the family of William McCormick, whose grandmother is thought to have been a Province or Purviance.

According to C. Frank Dunn, Joshua Wilson relinquished his lease of Wilson’s Inn on 13 January 1812.[24] He returned the inn to John Postlethwaite. Dunn says that travelers “invariably praised the hostelry highly during the Wilson regime.” He also states that Joshua either built or bought a brick house adjoining the inn, giving it an additional frontage of 40 feet. The two buildings constituting the inn, fronting on Main Street at the corner of Limestone, burned in 1820, according to Dunn. After Joshua had relinquished his lease in January 1812, the Wilson family moved from Lexington to Louisville. I’ll pick up this family’s story in Louisville with my next posting.


[1] Province McCormick vs. Exrs. of George Rice, Augusta County, Virginia, Chancery Court 1808-143, case 10.

[2] A digital copy of these notes appears on Susan Pope Faurote’s family tree at Ancestry entitled “Susan Pope Faurote / Scott Fauerbach.” In uploading a copy of the notes to her tree, Susan Pope Faurote provided the information I have cited above about where she found this set of notes.

[3] Frederick County, Virginia, Will Bk. 6, pp. 281-2.

[4] Dixie Hibbs, Bardstown: Hospitality, History and Bourbon (Mount Pleasant, South Carolina: Arcadia, 2002), p. 17.

[5] See supra, n. 2.

[6] Nelson County, Kentucky, Deed Bk. 5, p. 580.

[7] Ibid., pp. 718-9.

[8] The ad is dated 25 May 1803, and was published in the Tennessee Gazette on 8 June 1803 (p. 2, col. 3). Micajah is on a jury list in Nelson County, Kentucky, on 19 October 1802: The minutes for this court session are transcribed by Karen Fowler Caldwell and David C. Fogle at their websiteA Fogle Family History Documenting the Events and Genealogy of John Adam Fogle from Maryland to Kentucky and His Descendants

[9] Hibbs, Bardstown, p. 17.

[10] Biographical and Historical Souvenir for the Counties of Clark, Crawford, Harrison, Floyd, Jefferson, Jennings, Scott and Washington, Indiana(Chicago: John M. Gresham, 1889), p. 119.

[11] As cited in William Elsey Connelley and Ellis Merton Coulter, History of Kentucky, vol. 2 (Chicago: American Historical Society, 1922), pp. 1191-2, citing “an old record book in the Fayette County Courthouse.” The 14 May 1804 license issued to Joshua to operate Postlethwaite’s former tavern is transcribed in J. Winston Coleman Jr., Stage-Coach Days in The Bluegrass (Louisville: Standard, 1935; repr. Lexington: Univ. Press of Kentucky, 1995), p. 56, citing Fayette County, Kentucky, Court Order Bk. 1, p. 153.

[12] See Connelley and Coulter, History of Kentucky, vol. 2, pp. 1191-2; and Charles R. Staples, The History of Pioneer Lexington, 1779-1806 (1939; repr. Lexington: Univ. Press of Kentucky, 1996), unpaginated.

[13] James F. Hopkins, ed., The Papers of Henry Clay: The Rising Statesman, 1797-1814, vol. 1 (Lexington: Univ. Press of Kentucky, 1959), pp. 148-9, n. 6.

[14] See Mary Estelle Delcamp, “The Early Life of Lexington [KY] before the Year 1820,” unpublished M.A. thesis, Transylvania College (June 1916), citing Tennessee Gazette, 3 January 1809. See also Coleman, Stage-Coach Days in The Bluegrass, p. 38.

[15] William A. Leavy, “A Memoir of Lexington and Its Vicinity: With Some Notice of Many Prominent Citizens and Its Institutions of Education and Religion,” Register of Kentucky State Historical Society 40,131 (April 1942), p. 126.

[16] See Robert Peter, History of Fayette County, Kentucky With an Outline Sketch of the Blue Grass Region (Chicago: O.L. Baskin, 1882), p. 281; Peter Brackney and Jim Gray, Lost Lexington, Kentucky (Charleston, South Carolina: The History Press, 2014), saying that Captain John Postlethwait’s Tavern in Lexington was known for its excellence, but after he turned it over to Joshua Wilson in 1804, its prominence subsided (and noting Aaron Burr’s stay in it in May 1805) (unpaginated).

[17] Connelley and Coulter, History of Kentucky, pp. 1191-2.

[18] Nelson County, Kentucky, Deed Bk. 6, pp. 802-3.

[19] Ibid., Bk. 7, pp. 442-3.

[20] 1810 federal census, Fayette County, Kentucky, Lexington, p. 12.

[21] Hopkins, ed., The Papers of Henry Clay: The Rising Statesman, 1797-1814, vol. 1 (Lexington: Univ. Press of Kentucky, 1959), p. 492, which says the original is in Kentucky Court of Appeals Deed Bk. N, pp. 276-7.

[22] Frederick County, Virginia, Deed Bk. 33, pp. 366-7.

[23] Kentucky Gazette (30 April 1811), p. 3, col. 5.

[24] Frank C. Dunn, “Postlethwait’s Tavern,” The Louisville and Nashville Employes’ [sic] Magazine 18, 11 (November 1942), p. 19.

6 thoughts on “Children of Elizabeth Brooks (1747/1750 – 1816) and Husband George Rice (abt. 1743 – 1792): Mary Rice (1776/1778 – abt. 1825) and Husband Joshua Wilson (1769 – 1823)

  1. Interesting! Funny how professions just as inn keeping seemed to run in families. Makes sense, because you’ve seen how it’s done up close. I’ve got an inn keeper in Lunenburg (Robert Estes) whose inn seemed to have been a haven for gambling and drunkenness. One of my “black sheep” lines!

    Wish I knew more about the Rice family.

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    1. It is interesting how professions run in families, isn’t it — and the cluster of children in George and Elizabeth Rice’s family who were innkeepers makes me wonder if there was a prehistory on one or both sides of the Rice-Brooks family who were innkeepers. The pre-history of both families before they show up in Frederick County, Virginia, is such a mystery to me, though. It’s like both just appear out of nowhere! Robert Estes sounds interesting. It wouldn’t surprise me that tavernkeepers may often have drunk and caroused and gambled. It was all right at their doorstep!

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