charles m. meacham




Col. William Christian; The Revolutionary Officer and Indian Fighter for Whom Christian County Was Named; His Descendants in Christian

Col. William Christian, for whom Christian County was named, was descended from the earlier settlers in Virginia. The Christians were originally from Scotland, but in 1422 went to the Isle of Man, where the family descendants still hold estates.

Israel Christian, the first to come to America, was born there about 1714 and came to Virginia about 1740 and settled in what afterwards became Augusta County, near Staunton. He married Elizabeth Starke and they were the parents of one son and five daughters. William was the oldest, born about 1743. The daughters were Annie, who married Col. William Fleming; Elizabeth, who married Col. William Bower; Mary, who married Col. Stephen Trigg, for whom Trigg County was named. (One of Mary Trigg’s daughters married Preston Breckinridge and the other David Logan.) Priscilla died young and unmarried. The youngest, whose name is not recorded, became the wife of Judge Caleb Wallace. The Christian family was thus connected by marriage with many of the most distinguished families of Kentucky.

William Christian, who became distinguished as a pioneer settler of Kentucky, was a farmer, soldier and statesman and was a brother-in-law of Patrick Henry. He was educated at Staunton, Va., and his military experience antedated the War of Independence. He served in command of a company on the frontiers during Braddock’s War, where George Washington won his first spurs. He was a brave and efficient officer. After peace with the Indians, he removed from Augusta to Botetourt County, married Annie Henry, a sister of the great orator and statesman whose descendants are numerous in Kentucky and Tennessee, and settled down to the life of a Virginia planter, and was at the same time a Colonel of militia. He was of martial spirit and a born leader of men. In 1774 he raised three or four hundred volunteers and marched to join Col. Lewis at the mouth of the great Kanawha to fight the Indians. He arrived too late to take part in the battle, but was present at Dunmore’s treaty with the Indians that followed. The next year he was a member of the General State Convention of Virginia in 1775, and in 1776 was made Lieutenant Colonel of the First Virginia Regiment, of which he soon afterwards became Colonel. As such, he commanded an expedition against the Indians on the frontier and concluded a peace. When the war came on he resigned his commission in the regular service and was the right-hand support of his brother-in-law, Governor Henry, as Colonel of militia looking after the disturbances created by the Indians and the Tories, rendering great service to the colonies. After the war closed he was, for several years, a member of the Virginia Legislature.

He first came to Kentucky perhaps as early as 1780, and in about 1785 settled with his family in Jefferson County, where he again became active in the border troubles, as the Indians were gradoally driven from their “Happy Hunting Grounds.” He was distinguished for his leadership, his valor, intelligence and patriotism. In 1786 a body of Indians crossed the Ohio into Kentucky, committing depredations in his own locality. Col. Christian quickly raised a small company of men and pursued the Indians across the river. He overtook them near the present site of Jeffersonville, Indiana, and a running fight ensued. Leading his men he came upon the Indians first, and was fired upon and mortally wounded, being one of only two of the pursuing party to fall. There are two versions of this affair given in Collins’ History, pages 221 and 223. One says:

“In April of 1786 a body of Indians crossed the Ohio and stole a number of horses on Beargrass, and with their usual celerity of movements recrossed the river, and presuming they were in no further danger of pursuit leisurely made their way to their towns. Col. Christian immediately raised a party of men and crossed the Ohio in pursuit of the marauders. Having found their trail, by a rapid movement he overtook them about twenty miles from the river and gave battle. A bloody conflict ensued, in which Col. Christian and one of his party were killed, and the Indian force totally destroyed.”

The other version says: “Two of the Indians were overtaken about a mile north of Jeffersonville, Ind., and finding escape impossible, they turned upon their pursuers, and one of them fired at Col. Christian, who was foremost in the pursuit, and mortally wounded him. Next to Col. Christian was the subject of this sketch (Alexander Scott Bullitt, who had married his daughter Priscilla the fall before), and Col. John O’Bannon, who fired simultaneously, bringing both Indians to the ground. Under the impression that the Indians were both dead, a man by the name of Kelly incautiously approached them, when one of them who, though mortally wounded, still retained some strength and all his thirst for blood, raised himself to his knees and fired with the rifle which had not been discharged, killed Kelly, fell back and expired.”

The historian gives preference to this version. Bullitt, who became Lieutenant Governor, lived till 1816 and probably handed down to his children the correct account of their grandfather’s death.
In the end the Indians were completely routed and most of them destroyed. His death, when only forty-three years of age, was a very great loss to his adopted state. He had already been mentioned for Governor of the territory, although he was a soldier and not a politician and had not been in the conventions. When the state entered the Union in 1792, he was one of the first men to have his memory perpetuated. Col. Christian and his wife, Annie Henry, were the parents of five daughters and one son, John, the youngest of the family, who died at the age of eighteen years. He has no descendants bearing the family name, but all of his daughters married into the leading families of the new state and there are many lineal descendants of the pioneer, some of them in Christian County, though there is no evidence that Col. Christian himself ever visited the territory still included in the large county named for him.

His oldest daughter, Priscilla, married Alexander Scott Bullitt, whose descendants are among the prominent citizens of Louisville and Jefferson County.

Sarah Winston Christian married Dr. Warfield, who was a surgeon in the Revolutionary War, with the rank of Major, and after the war settled in Lexington, where he practiced medicine. He had but one son, William Christian Warfield, who entered the Baptist ministry after graduating from Princeton University and came to Christian County. He died of fever when forty-eight years of age and is buried on the Tandy place between Pembroke and Fairview. It is this branch of the pioneer’s family with which Christian County is most closely identified. Rev. William C. Warfield first married Rachel Edwards. They had two children, Walter Edwards Warfield and Matilda. The daughter died at nineteen unmarried. The son, W. E. Warfield, born Sept. 18, 1825, lived to be ninety-two years of age and died Nov. 22, 1917, and sleeps in the soil of Christian County. He was twice married. His first wife was Caroline Wallace and they had two sons and two daughters. His second wife, who survived him, and was living in 1929, was Sarah Elizabeth Nelson, who bore him three sons and two daughters.

Going back to the children of Col. Christian: The third daughter, Elizabeth, married Mr. Dickenson. Dorothea, the fourth, married Dr. Fishback, and Annie, the youngest, married Gov. Pope. Information is not at hand concerning their descendants. Rev. William C. Warfield’s first wife, Rachel Edwards, died when her two children were small and they were reared by an aunt, Mrs. Matilda Edwards Cossett. Their father was married to a second wife, who was a Miss Duiguid, by whom he had one child, Sarah, who married Capt. John Dortch. They left five children.

The children of W. E. Warfield, who was long a very prominent citizen of Christian County, were Maude, who married Sam W. Taliaferro, and Caroline Wallace, James Wallace and William Christian. The last died in infancy. The other son, Wallace Warfield, married Effie Payne and two  children were born to them, Maude and James Temple. Maude married Eugene Thompson and had three children, Eugene, Mary Caroline and Bertha Temple.

Mary Churchill Warfield, daughter of W. E. and Sarah Elizabeth Warfield, married Phil Gaither and died leaving Caroline Wallace Gaither and Phil Gaither, Jr. The latter was married to Marguerite Buckner in 1922 and a son, Phil Buckner Gaither, was born Dec. 27, 1923.

Other children of the second union were Walter E. Warfield, Jr., John Nelson Warfield, Presley Edwards Warfield and Annie Clayton Warfield.

W. E. Warfield, Jr., married Cora Hargraves and died in 1900, leaving William Christian, Mary Elizabeth and Ruth Brown Warfield. William C. Warfield was married in 1923 to Kitty Callabon. Mary Elizabeth was married in 1923 to Geo. H. Allen. Ruth died in infancy. J. N. Warfield married Cara Bishop and has one daughter, Lida Bishop Warfield. P. E. Warfield married Charlie Radford and died in 1917, leaving one daughter, Charlie Radford Warfield. Annie C. Warfield married Dr. John E. Bell. They have two children, Elizabeth Nelson Bell and John E. Bell, Jr.

Col. Christian was buried in a historic graveyard on his own grounds, now known as “Oxmoor,” in Jefferson County. The place was later owned by his grandson, William Christian Bullitt. There are about forty graves in this cemetery, including that of Col. Christian. his daughter, Priscilla Bullitt, and other members of the Bullitt family.

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