The Family of John and Sarah (Owens) Bays



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The Family of John and Sarah (Owens) Bays
Compiled and written by John P. Bays

The Bays Family in Pittsylvania County, Virginia


John and Sarah (Owens) Bays raised their family on Bird Creek in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. This is where they were living at the time of the 1830 census of Virginia. According to accounts left in court documents, three generations of Bays’ had lived there, John’s parents John and Lovisa ‘Vicey’ Bays and his grandparents John and Lucy Bays had all owned land and made their home on Bird Creek. In settling the estate of John Bays, indentures dates October 10, 1811 and December 16, 1811, his widow Lovisa claimed 98 acres of land on Bird Creek, with John and Sarah (Owens) Bays among his heirs.

On the first day of September 1814 John and Sarah’s son Isham joined the Virginia Militia. At this point in time the elder John Bays born 1783 had been dead about three years but his parents John and Sarah were still living in Virginia. Isham served with Nathanial Terry’s Company of Infantry, 4th Regiment, receiving $28.38 for his service of three months and seventeen days. Isham was born August 23, 1795 and married in Pittsylvania County to Mary Polly Taylor on July 4th 1818.
In a War of 1812 pension application dated March 28, 1871 Isham declared the Regiment to which he belonged was commanded by Colonel W. C. Greenhill and the Brigade was commanded by Brig. General Leftridge. Isham stated:

I marched to Old Richmond, Virginia and remained there till the British invaded Washington City. Then we went on a forced march to Washington and arrived there to find the enemy had evacuated that place. We then marched to Ellicott Mills Maryland where I was honorably discharged.”



One of the most famous events of the War of 1812 was a series of British raids on the shores of Chesapeake Bay which included this attack on Washington, August 24, 1814.

The occupation of Washington lasted about 26 hours. The advance guard of British troops marched to Capitol Hill where they were too few in number to occupy the city, so the attack resulted in the burning of the White House, the Treasury and other public buildings.

The same day the British Troops set fire to the Capitol, a hurricane including a strong tornado passed through Washington early that afternoon. The tornado did major structural damage to the northwest residential and downtown section of the city. During its passing more British soldiers were killed by the tornado’s flying debris than by the guns of the American resistance. It damaged numerous homes, blowing off roofs to carry them high into the air, knocking down chimneys and fences and lifting two pieces of cannon to place them several yards away. Though it quickly dissipated the storms rains reportedly doused the fires. The British Army then left for Baltimore hoping to capture the busy sea port which was a key base for American privateers.


The Battle of Baltimore began with a British landing at North Point where they were repulsed. When they attempted to attack Baltimore by sea they were unable to reduce Fort McHenry at the entrance to Baltimore Harbor. All the lights were extinguished in Baltimore that night and the only light to be seen was the exploding shells over the fort. It was bombarded for 25 hours which illuminated the flag over the fort. Seeing the flag wave continuously gave American lawyer Francis Scott Key the inspiration to write a poem that would supply the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner”, which became our National Anthem in 1931.


The Bays Family migration to Kentucky
We can place the date of the Bays Family’s westward migration to Kentucky between 1830 when they were last on the Pittsylvania County, Virginia census and 1831 when they first appear on the tax list of Morgan County, Kentucky. John and Sarah made this move to Kentucky along with what appears to be all their married children and grandchildren. His parents and grandparents had long since passed away.
Isham and Polly were living in Pittsylvania County, when on 18th of June 1820 their son George Washington Bays was born. Isham later moved to Kentucky with his parent’s, first living in Morgan and Floyd and then Magoffin County Kentucky where he received the pension he applied for until his death July 22nd,1874. Isham is buried in the Adams / Kelly Cemetery on Burning Fork, Magoffin County, Kentucky. Polly had apparently died before 1850 when Isham was listed with wife Susan. The burial places of either wife his unknown.




By the time of the 1840 Kentucky census we find George Washington Bays living in Morgan County as the head of his own household. He had met and married Sarah May, a daughter of Caleb and Margaret (Patrick) May. They were married October 11,1838 at her parent’s home in Morgan County Kentucky by Benjamin Caudill, a minister of the Baptist Church. The next summer Sarah gave birth to their first child, Cynthia, she was born July 26, 1839. Sarah was born August 9,1820, a daughter of Caleb and Margaret (Patrick) May.
In 1842 George and Sarah became members of the Burning Springs Baptist Church, which was then located in Morgan County and was later known as the Old Regular Baptist Church. In the minutes of the Burning Springs Church, dated November 1, 1842, it states that Sisters Matilda May, Sarah May and Brothers Washington Bays, James Tackett and John Conley became members of the church when they were joined by baptism. About five years later on January 1, 1847 these same minutes give notice that Brother Washington Bays was ordained a minister. The area of Burning Springs became a part of Magoffin County at it’s formation in 1860, the area being presently located near what is now Salyersville, Magoffin County, Kentucky.
George W. Bays was shown in Kentucky Land Warrants as the grantee of 1,010 acres on Licking Creek in Morgan County. The date of the survey was May 24, 1847. There is an Indenture on record in Morgan County dated October 29, 1856, in which George and Sarah bought property (number of acres not known or specified) on the waters of the Licking River. This is the same property that George sold to Thomas Keeton in August of 1859.



The Bays Family in Greenup County, Kentucky

George and Sarah were only 29 years old when they began making preparations for yet

another move. On March 30, 1859, George W. Bays mortgaged one ox wagon, five yoke or seven head of oxen, one small mule and two head of milk cows to his neighbor, Thomas B. Keeton. He received $418.00 with the understanding that he could redeem his property if he paid back the

$418.00 plus court cost, before the first day of October 1859. George, his wife and young children then moved to Greenup County, Kentucky. We assume he moved his family to Greenup County so he could hire in at the ore furnaces that were a booming enterprise at the time.
Apparently George and Sarah found life in Greenup County favorable as a few months later on August 6, 1859 they sold their land in Morgan County to Thomas B. Keeton. They received three hundred dollars for their land, number of acres not specified. By the time of the 1860 census of Kentucky, George and his family were residents of Greenup County, living on Hoods Run, about a mile from the area where his son William S. would later settle to raise his family.

George enlisted as a Corporal in the Union Army 8 May 1861 at Camp Clay, in Pendleton, Ohio. He Served in Company “F”, commanded by Captain Smith, in the 2nd Infantry Regiment of the Kentucky Volunteers, commanded by Colonel Sedgewick.
The First and Second Infantry Regiment of the Kentucky Volunteers were organized at Camp Clay, Pendleton, Ohio, within the city of Cincinnati. Less than half the soldiers of those two Kentucky regiments were citizens of the State in whose name they enlisted. The Regiment was composed entirely of Ohio men at its organization. The Second Infantry was organized in June 1861 under Col. William E. Woodruff. It performed much valuable service in the early engagements of the war in West Virginia. The unit participated in the battles of Shiloh, Corinth, Stone River and Chickamauga. The Regiment mustered out under Col. Thomas D. Sedgewick on June 19, 1864 on the expiration of its term of service. One hundred twenty four brave men lost their lives during the three years of service. Forty-eight were killed in battle, twenty-seven died of wounds received in battle and forty-nine died from disease.
A forty-two year old Preacher, able to read and write, among a lot of younger men made him a good choice to be made a Sergeant, which he was February 20, 1862. In the latter part of March 1862 his Company was on a train headed for Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, where on April 6th and 7th the Battle of Shiloh Church took place. For unknown reasons (as stated in his military records) his train ran off the tracks near Bowling Green, Kentucky. George was seriously injured in this incident, his side was crushed in and several ribs were broken. He was sent to Nashville Tennessee for medical treatment and then was later transferred to a hospital at Louisville Kentucky where he stayed until his discharge from the army on a Surgeons Certificate of Disability on February 17, 1863.

Three of George and Sarah's sons served in the Union Army during the Civil War.
James Caleb Bays, their oldest son, was born in 1842 in Morgan County, Ky. He enrolled and was mustered in at Camp Cox Virginia December 24 1861. James served in Company “F” 2nd Regiment of Kentucky Volunteers, same Company and Regiment has his father. James was just 20 years old when a few months later, on April 25th, 1862 he contacted typhoid fever and died at Pittsburg Landing Tennessee. His final resting place is not listed on any known record.
George and Sarah’s second son, William S. Bays, was born 6th February 1843 in Morgan County, Kentucky. William was a Private in Company “K” 10th Kentucky Cavalry Volunteers, commanded by J. D. Russell. He was 19 years old at the time of his enlistment. He enrolled on the 11th day of August 1862 at Greenupsburg, Kentucky. He received a $ 25.00 bonus and a $2.00 premium for enlistment. The next month, September of 1862, William was shot in the left hip while skirmishing with the army at Covington, Kentucky and was sent to a hospital. William recovered and returned to duty. He was honorably discharged with Company, September 17, 1863 at Maysville, Kentucky.
The 10th Kentucky Volunteer Cavalry

The 10th Kentucky was organized at Maysville, Kentucky in August of 1862, under

the command of Colonel Joshua Tevis, and mustered into service at Covington, Kentucky

September 9, 1862. The Regiment was immediately put on arduous duty as the

advanced guard of the Army of Ohio in the campaign against General Kirby Smith.
During the Spring and summer the Regiment was employed by battalions in

West Virginia and North Eastern Tennessee. Among others, the Regiment participated

in engagements of Elk Fork, Tennessee; Gladesville, Virginia; Triplett’s Bridge,

Kentucky; Lancaster, Kentucky and Richmond, Kentucky.
Having served their term of one year, the men of the Regiment were mustered out

at Maysville, Kentucky on September 17, 1863

In 1874 William bought 100 acres of land on the North Fork of Oldtown Creek in Greenup County, Kentucky. This same land is presently in the possession of his Grandson John William Bays and Great Grandson, John Paul Bays.


On December 30, 1882, William S. applied for and received a pension. William was living on his farm in Greenup County and receiving $12.00 per month pension at the time of his death on November 4, 1903. His wife, Adeline (Jacobs) Bays, received a widow’s pension until her death in March of 1924. William S. and his wife are buried in the Bays Cemetery on the Bays family farm at North Fork of Oldtown Creek, Greenup County, Kentucky.
George and Sarah’s third son, Pleasant Berry was a Private in Company “K” 40th Kentucky Infantry, commanded by Captain Stephen Young. He enlisted October 10, 1863 at Grayson Kentucky, giving his age as 20, when he was actually 18 years old. Pleasants troop was captured and were on there way to the Andersonville Prison when they were overtaken and released. He was discharged December 30th 1864 at Catlettsburg, Kentucky.
On April 4th 1867 Pleasant married Trinvilla Doyle, and then shortly after 1880 he and his family migrated west to Kansas. Pleasant and his brother John Taylor Bays became well known and respected preachers in Kansas and Missouri. Pleasant died January 6, 1932 and is buried beside his wife Trinvilla in Sedan, Kansas.

After the war George Washington Bays left Greenup County and moved to Lewis County Kentucky. George and Sarah are on the 1870 census of Lewis County with their four youngest children, Henry Clay Bays, Mary Jane Bays, John Taylor Bays, and George Sherman Bays, still at home. Their son Pleasant Berry Bays, their daughter Cynthia, who had married Edwin L. Poynter, and their daughter Martha, who had married Mack Reynolds moved to Lewis County with them. George and Sarah Bays’ son William S., and daughter Sarah Elizabeth, who had married George Cazzell remained in Greenup County. George and Sarah Bays lived in the Esculapia Precinct of Lewis County, Kentucky, where they owned land which was valued at $150.00 with their personal estate valued at $200.00. George died on August 11, 1870 at is home in Lewis County.


His wife, Sarah (May) Bays submitted a widows claim on September 26, 1870, stating that her husband died of wounds received and disease contracted during the war. Sarah also stated that her husband had an application pending for a Pension at the time of his death. After submitting many affidavits over the years until 1879, Sarah eventually received a widow’s pension until her death March 12th 1891 at Mount Carmel, Fleming County, Kentucky.
George and his wife, Sarah (May) Bays are buried in the Isham Cemetery, located between Mount Carmel and Petersville in Lewis County, Kentucky. His original tombstone had the inscription Reverend G. W. Bays but had broken with pieces sinking into the earth. This stone has long since deteriorated, so in May 2003 John P. Bays ordered a new military stone which now marks George’s resting place. This cemetery also contains the graves of three of their children: Cynthia M. Poynter, Henry Clay Bays and Mary Jane Bays.
This Biography was compiled from
Court Records of:

Bath, Floyd, Greenup, Lewis, Magoffin, and Morgan Counties, Kentucky.


Court Records of Pittsylvania County, Virginia.
Military Records received from the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
Personal letters and oral family histories


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