Eleven generations of a founding American family are examined in this sweeping history that traces the Clays of Kentucky, a true Southern dynasty. The Clays of Virginia and the Cecils of Maryland were second sons of the English aristocracy who gambled on the New World. Some of the most well-known members of this clan include Henry Clay, who ran for president against James K. Polk; his cousin, Cassius Marcellus Clay, prominent abolitionist and Lincoln’s advisor against slavery; and the matriarch Kizzie Clay, who buried the family silver and escaped by flatboat to avoid marauding Union soldiers. The history of the early colonial period in Americafrom the time of their arrival in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1613 and St. Mary’s, Maryland, in 1634 through the trek across Virginia to the Appalachian Mountains, their eventual intermarriage in 1800, and their move across the mountains to Kentuckycomes to life through this well-researched family saga that heralds the adventures and accomplishments of the men in the family, as well as reveals the stories and nontraditional roles of the strong, selfish, and headstrong women.
Reviews for Kentucky Clay: Eleven Generations of a Southern Dynasty
The Clays and Cecils are important families in Kentucky history (and no one is more aware of this than the Clay and Cecil families). In this work, eleven generations of the family are traced, with stops at each generation to focus on the influential family members and their stories. There is love, action, betrayal, affairs, etc. every step of the way. The author intertwines the tales she was repeatedly told while growing up with information supported by historical documentation. The most interesting question addressed in this work is not what happened, but rather why her family history is preserved as it was - what stories are exaggerated, which are invented? Which stories are left out altogether and why? Some of this editing is for obvious reason - being related to generals is always good, as is fighting in the revolutionary war. And its easy to see why a relative's kidnapping venture is not passed down to future generations. But what about the story of a woman in the family running her young children to safety after watching her three oldest killed in an attack by Native Americans? The author's analysis of her family's storytelling choices is just as interesting as the stories themselves.Quote: "It would been such an unfortunate precedent for the clay girl-children, who were repeatedly and emphatically informed that 'no one in our family has ever had a baby out of wedlock."At first I was concerned about reading a book that is first a genealogy - reading about someone else's family tree. Sure, my aunt Sue's stories about great grandma are interesting to me, but would anyone else want to read about them? Perhaps not, but a combination of Katherine Bateman's writing style and the interesting lives of her forebearers make Kentucky Clay work in a big way. Yes, she does occasionally get judgmental of her ancestors (judging 17th century by 21st century standards), but it seems to come from a place of trying internally to reconcile the actions of people in her past with the idealized version she had of early family members.read more
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