Thomas Gadberry

By Russell Gadberry

Previously I discussed how usually only the famous and infamous are recognized and their deeds recorded for history. While this is true most of the time, there is an outstanding example of a man who was simply recognized for being the good man he was. This was Thomas Gadberry.


We believe Thomas was the eldest son of Nathaniel Gadberry (b.1755) and that he was born around 1775-1780. Thomas married Sarah (Sally) McKie Smith on May 4, 1805 in Rowan County N. C. He and Sarah moved to Barren County Kentucky before 1808 when his son Theodore ‘Dora’ was born. Thomas and Sarah lived in the small town of Hiseville, Ky and raised their two children there. Their first child was Martha who went on to marry Robert H. Young.


Thomas in his later years came to be called "Uncle Tommie", and as such made quite an impression on the young man Cyrus Edwards in the mid-1800's. Years later at Horse Cave, Kentucky in 1921 Cyrus would record his stories of Hiseville and the man he knew as Uncle Tommie. In his book entitled "CYRUS EDWARDS, STORIES of EARLY DAYS and others" Cyrus tells of Uncle Tommie:


I now come to the last house heretofore mentioned as standing in the little village when I first knew it, which was the little cabin of Uncle Tommie Gadberry. It stood on a ridge In the field, some three or four hundred yards east of the Edwin Vincent barn. The door was at the east side, and there was a four-pane window at the west side of the house. A very large and wide spreading post-oak tree stood near the south end of the house, and the limbs reached well out in every direction, extending over the house and affording a fine shade. The old man’s arm chair and a small table stood, in warm weather, under the tree where he spent most of his time on pleasant days. There was always a Bible on the table, and a few other books and papers were generally in reach; but he was always ready to lay them aside and talk with any visitor. He was well informed and gifted as a talker, and he had many visitors, but he visited little except in cases of sickness and death. The ladies of the neighborhood visited him frequently in groups of two or three or more and they reported him as being wonderfully entertaining. The men and boys often sat with him by the fireside in the long winter evenings. He was a past graduate in the now nearly-forgotten profession of story telling and was consequently often visited by groups of children and other persons and was very popular with them. His stories were of the pure type and were suited to the age and capacity of his hearers. He was a member of the Mt. Zion Church and he always attended there when the weather was good, and at election, (held at the same place) he was always present and the first voter, and as soon as he voted he would immediately return home, always walking to both church and the election. He was the cleanest looking man that I ever saw. He must have had some means, as he was always well dressed. In summer his clothes were of pure white cotton, home made, with a wide brimmed white straw hat; in winter he always wore a suit of mixed blue jeans, with a broad brimmed fur hat of rather fine quality; his shoes were always neatly polished and his shirts, summer or winter, were of fine white linen, and every article about him seemed at all times to be as clean and neat as soap, water, brush, and irons could make them. When I first saw him he must have been at least eighty years old. He was about six feet high and as straight as any young man. He had a heavy suit of snow white, wavy hair, which he wore rather long; his eyes and teeth were good; he was always clean shaven; complexion was fair, color possibly a little too white, and his face had none of the splotches usual with old age. I have heard that he was never sick. I never could understand why such a man insisted on living alone. I don’t think he did any cooking. One or the other of his granddaughters, sometimes both, visited him every day, and his grandsons saw to his fires, etc. He died about 1856, as well as I remember. He once lived a little southwest of Hiseville, and gave a sulphur spring there to the public, and I think it is yet known as the "Public Spring". I never learned where he came from, or any more than is here related, and I do not think any one now living could tell more. I think his cabin was never occupied after his death, and it soon disappeared. He was a kind old man, a true type of the old gentleman, and his descendants may well be proud of him.


Cyrus also spoke in high regard about the son of Thomas, Theodore or ‘Dora’ as he was known.


The next settlement, in the village . . . was made by Dora Gadberry, who was a son , and I think the only child of Uncle Tommie Gadberry above mentioned. He had married a Miss Walton, and about a century ago-possibly a little less-he built a small two-room house and dug a well a little south or southward of the present residence of W. J. Forbis and commenced housekeeping. He was prosperous and a few years later he built and moved into a large house (now the Forbis house) close by, but allowed the small house to remain. He was appointed postmaster when the office was moved from the grove and kept the office at his residence for a while, and afterward had it kept at the Walton store until he resigned and Walton took his place as postmaster.


Reverses came to him in later life, and on the death of Mrs. Gadberry the fine home had to be sold, paying every dollar of indebtedness, but the family (three sons and two daughters), all of them single, retained the small house as a home.


No family ever met a change of fortune with a braver front or more successfully than did this younger generation of the Gadberry family. All were industriousness and well skilled in the usual work of that day, and they all pulled together. As a consequence they soon attained and later maintained a position of comfort and independence. Their reputation was of the very best in every way, and no family stood higher than they in the best society of the neighborhood.

Their devotion to their aged grandfather (Uncle Tommie) who lived near them, and the way in which they waited upon and cared for him up to the time of his death, has rarely been equaled. Eliza Gadberry, the oldest daughter, married Willis Settle, who opened a shop in the village, and John Gadberry and one of his brothers learned the blacksmith trade and worked with him. After the death of the grandfather all of the family except John Gadberry moved toIndiana, and I have heard that they did well there.




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