An American Family History

John Prior Oxley

Oxley is also spelled Owsley, Oxleigh and Oxly.
Fleming County, Kentucky was established in 1798 from part of Mason County. Some of Fleming County was taken to form Floyd County in 1800 and Rowan County in 1856.
Rowan County, Kentucky was formed from sections of Fleming and Morgan counties in 1856 and the village of Morehead was laid out the same year.
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Kentucky was originally a Virginia county and included the lands west of the Appalachians. In 1780, it was divided into Fayette, Jefferson, and Lincoln counties. Kentucky officially became a state on June 1, 1792.

John Prior Oxley was born about 1798 in Fleming County, Kentucky. His parents were Eli and Margaret Oxley. The Oxley children were listed in an 1820 Fleming County, Kentucky deed.

Before 1825, Prior married and had two daughters.

Prior Oxley married Isabella (Abby) Neal in 1825 in Mason County, Kentucky. Isabel was born in 1810 in Virginia.

Prior and Isabella's children included:
Celia Ann Oxley (1831, married Thomas Isaac Trumbo),
William P. Oxley (1832, married Mary Goodan),
Mary Jane Oxley Keeton (1838, married Allen Keeton),
Amanda Oxley 1839, married Philip G. Day),
Thomas J. Oxley (1844, married Cassandra Nickell), and
James R. Oxley (1848, married Matilda Waddle and Sandra Henderson).

By the time of the 1830 census they were in Switzerland, Indiana. The household consisted of:

two girls under 5 - Celia and Mary Jane
a girl between 5 and 9 - Unknown daughter
a woman between 15 and 19 - Isabelle age 19
a man between 20 and 29 - Prior

In 1840, Isabel appeared by herself in the Fleming County, Kentucky census. The household consisted of

a boy between 10 and 14
a girl under 5 - Amanda age 1
a girl between 5 and 10- Celia age 9
a girl between 10 and 15 - Mary Jane
a girl between 15 and 19 - unknown daughter
a woman between 20 and 29 - Isabel age 30

In 1850 the household consisted of Isabel age 40, Celia Ann age 20, William P. age 18, Amanda age 11, Thomas J. age 6, and James R. age 2.

According to Kentucky birth records, on September 9, 1852, Celia Ann Oxley gave birth to an illegitimate daughter named Lucy Ann Oxley in Fleming County, Kentucky.

In 1860 Isabel was in Morehead, Rowan County, Kentucky. In 1863 Thomas enlisted in the Confederate Calvalry. During the Civil War, the residents of the county were often threatened with attack by guerrillas who, on March 21, 1864, burned the new county courthouse.

In 1870 Isabel was still in Morehead, Rowan County, Kentucky. She donated five acres to Rowan County for public buildings and in 1872 received $300.

Whereas, It is represented to this General Assembly that Isabella Oxley, a widow woman, donated to the county of Rowan five acres of land upon which to erect its public buildings, and after erecting the same the said county laid off into town lots about three acres of said land, and realized by the sales thereof about the sum of $1,000; and whereas, said Isabella Oxley is now old and very poor; therefore,
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky:
1. That the county court of Rowan county be, and the same is hereby, authorized, at the court of claims thereof in the year 1872, to allow Isabella Oxley a sum of not exceeding three hundred dollars, to be listed by the county clerk as a claim against said county, and to be paid by the sheriff of said county out of the county levy for said year 1872 as soon as collected. 2. That said county court may make a sufficient levy to pay off said claim, in addition to any other claim or claims that may be allowed for said year against said county.
3. That said sum shall be exempt from attachment, levy, or appropriation in any way, except as herein provided, and the same shall be paid directly to Isabella Oxley by said sheriff as aforesaid.
4. This act shall be in force from and after its passage. Approved January 24, 1872.

The family was involved in the Rowan County War. James was charged with the murder of Ben Rayburn and released.

Boone Logan's Letters to the Sentinel-Democrat (Mt. Sterling, Ky) Pertaining to the Rowan County Feud And Other Matters.
Morehead, Ky., Aug. 24. James Oxley, one of the parties tried for the murder of Rayburn before the examining court was on the Grand Jury, but was selected, as before stated, by the Jury Commissioners six months ago, and is a man against whom naught had ever been said until he was charged with the murder of Rayburn.

He (Oxley) was the only man on that Grand Jury that was charged with or tried for killing Ben Rayburn. He (Oxley) and T. J. Trumbo, father of John Trumbo, one of the men tried for killing Rayburn were excused from the Grand Jury on the 2d or 3d day of sitting on their own motion, and other men, unconnected with the trouble, put in their places. I defy, challenge and will pay a liberal reward to the author of the infamous article to show up any member of the Grand Jury in any other light than that of a law-abiding, peaceable, honest citizen.

Isabella died in 1890 and was laid to rest in Old Town Cemetery, in Morehead, Rowan County, Kentucky.


Children of Margaret and Eli Oxley
  • William Oxley
  • Elizabeth Oxley Ricketts
  • Celia Oxley McDowell
  • Polly Oxley Busby
  • Prior Oxley
  • Samuel Oxley
  • Rachel Oxley
  • Eli Oxley, Jr.
  • Mason County, Kentucky was established by the Virginia legislature in 1788 from Bourbon County. Nineteen Kentucky counties were formed from the original Mason County.

    Learn more about the Rowan County War.

    The Confederate States of America (CSA), also known as the Confederacy, was a government set up by southern states during the Civil War. The states who left the Union were Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

    The Civil War had more casualties than any other American war. Disease and infection were the biggest killers.


    Celia Ann Oxley married Thomas Isaac Trumbo in July 1855 in Fleming County, Kentucky. Their children included: Lucy Trumbo Martin (1852)), John Milton Trumbo (1866), and George Trumbo(1869).

      Philip G. Day was born in 1843 and was the son of John W. Day.  



    The Trumbo Family by Conrad W. Feltner, 1974, p. 70

    Lucy Trumbo was born in 1852 and died in 1921. She married John P. Martin and they had five children. He was born in 1836 and died in 1883. This family as well as the other Trumbos in Rowan County were caught up in what has variously been called the Logan-Boone Feud, the Tolliver-Martin Feud, and the Rowan County War. Even those not active participants were in danger because of their family connection. Through marriage there were members of the family on both sides. Parents sent their boys out of state so they would not become involved.

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    ©Roberta Tuller 2020
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