James Cash probably made several trips between his home in Bardstown, Kentucky and his new farm in Hickman County, purchasing land, arranging to transport his household and farm equipment, and seeing to his pregnant wife. Elizabeth gave birth to William Bennett Cash on 12/30/1834. Where exactly he was born and baptized is not known, though it may have been Union County, Kentucky.
The family was likely settled enough to begin some farming by the spring of 1835. They were aided at times by the help of his neighbors and relatives who had migrated with him. His older brother John C. Cash and his wife Dorothy (O’Bryan) settled nearby.
One thing he did not bring was slavery. His mother had owned three female slaves as shown in the 1820 census, but there is no evidence James or his wife ever possessed a slave. Slavery had been very gradually fallen out of fashion except in the cotton south. And too, the price of field hands was rising rapidly due to the opening up of rich cotton growing regions from Georgia to Mississippi.
These lands became available to white settlement due to the Indian removal policy. Under President Andrew Jackson, the United States Army had forced the evacuation of Creek, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole Indian Nations , “The Five Civilized Tribes”, from their lands in the South to what is now Oklahoma.
The tribes refer to the removal as “The Trail of Tears” because of the many lives lost. In 1837, One of these trails, known as the Benge Route, crossed through southern Graves County and may have passed near the Cash farm. About 1100 Cherokees, led by John Benge and escorted by the U.S. Army passed from Dukedom, Kentucky to Clinton and then Columbus, Kentucky. Local oral tradition says they “were driven like cattle” across the Mississippi River at Columbus, a slight exaggeration.
In the 1840 census the James Cash family was listed in Hickman County, a couple of miles from Graves County, with their post office at Milburn, Kentucky. The household consisted of one male under five (James Madison, born February 26, 1840), two between five and 10 (William Bennett and Louis Alexander), and one male from 40 to 50 years of age (James). The females include one under five (Elizabeth Ann who was born February 14, 1837), two between 10 and 15 (Mary Jane and Lucinda) and one between 30 and 40 (Elizabeth).
The seventh and last of the children was Sarah Ann Cash who was born on February 20, 1844.
It is not known what sort of home the Cash family lived in. Log cabins were common, but sawmills were operating in Graves and Hickman Counties.
Many friends and relatives of the Cash family moved to Hickman and Graves Counties in those years. A growing Catholic community formed in western Graves County along the road that lead from the Graves County seat of Mayfield to the Mississippi River. The location is gently rolling with several small streams flowing north to join a major branch of Mayfield Creek, just one mile north. Near the creek is a productive and reliable water source know as Skaggs Spring that slaked the thirst of the pioneer families and several generations of their children. Samuel Willett had been the first Catholic settler in 1829, and he was soon joined by many members of the Hobbs family who were his in-laws.
A log structure was built in 1836 to serve as St. Jerome Catholic Church. Rev. Elisha Durbin made periodic visits to the area from his home base at Sacred Heart parish in Union County, Kentucky. Father Hogan became the first resident parish priest in 1843.
Members of the congregation and their wives were: Stephen Ballard (Lucinda Roberts), Charles Bright (Mary Ann Shanks), Cornelius Carrico (Teresa O’Bryan), Thomas Curtsinger (Sarah Hobbs and later Mary Elizabeth Riley), George Hayden (Elizabeth Melinda Pierceall), Henry Hayden (Ann “Nancy” _?_), John Hayden (Eleanor Hobbs), Alfred Hobbs, Mary Hobbs, John Pierceall (Teresa Mills), Solomon Riley (Mary Ellen Riley), Benjamin Roberts, John S. Roberts (Juliann Adams), William Thomas (Eliza Jarboe), Hilary Toon (Cinthia C Tharp), Stanish Lloyd Toon (Jenny Blandford and later Mary Carrico), William Toon (Perdelia Carrico), and Samuel Willett (Elizabeth Hobbs).
Those living on the Hickman County side were: Henry Carrico, James Cash (Elizabeth Jones), John Cash (Dorothy O’Bryan), James Elliott (Anne “Nancy” Willett and later Margaret Fields), Samuel S. Hayden (Charity Hayden), Thomas Hayden, Sr. (Mary “Polly” Willett), Thomas Hayden, Jr. (Sarah Wilson), William Hayden (Elizabeth Mattingly), Horatio Hobbs (Elizabeth T. Burdette), Jerome Hobbs (Margaret Courtney, later Mary Wooley, and lastly Angeline King), Joseph Hobbs, Samuel W. Hobbs (Rose Ann Mahala Willett), Samuel Thomas (Elizabeth Tharp). This is according to Brother Leo Willett’s Book The History of St. Jerome Fancy Farm, Kentucky 1836-1986. In it he quotes a 1911 article by Rev. Charles Heasely, pastor of St. Jerome, which names the pioneer Catholic families of Fancy Farm.
The growing community got something else about 1843 when they petitioned the U.S. government to establish a post office. The postal inspector stayed at the home of John Peebles, a man who was particular about the appearance and upkeep of his farm. When asked to suggest a name for the post office, the inspector said, “Fancy Farm” in recognition of Peebles’ extraordinarily well kept place.
The new town, eight miles from James Cash’s farm, was in Graves County. With a church and a post office, the community became the center of the Catholic settlers in the area. Not all of the earliest residents were Catholic, such as the Peebles family, but the founding of the church and later a school caused Catholics in the area to gradually relocate their residences buying out non-Catholic’s who had less inclination to live there.
Prejudice against Catholics does not seem to have been especially strong. Graves County voters elected Samuel Willett sheriff in 1843, and he served as a deputy for many years afterward. However, the interrelated families of Fancy Farm had a strong preference for Catholic spouses keeping the community distinct from the surrounding communities.
On the national scene, the 1840s and 50s experienced a wave of anti-Catholic feelings. An increase of immigration of poor Irish and Germans led to a political movement commonly known as the Know Nothing Party. The secretive movement got its name from the practice of the members answering questions by saying, “I know nothing”.
The Know Nothings sought to sharply curtail immigration, particularly from Catholic nations, and sought to elect only candidates of British ancestry and Protestant beliefs. One of their arguments was that if Catholics achieved power they would somehow bring the Pope to America to rule. They also published false lurid accounts of young women being held captive in Catholic convents for immoral purposes. The war with Mexico (1845-1848) further heightened anti-Catholic tensions.
Feelings reached a peak in 1855 when a closely contested governor’s race led to a riot by Know Nothing supporters in Louisville, Kentucky that resulted in 22 deaths. There were riots and incidents in other cities. Two Catholic Churches were burned by mobs in Philadelphia in 1844. The movement subsided as slavery overrode other issues by the late 1850s.
While these happenings were far from the Fancy Farm community, the Catholic families were surely disturbed by them as well as feeling the sting of local bigotry. These events tightened the bonds that held community together and set it apart from the surrounding communities.
“A History of St. Jerome Fancy Farm, Kentucky 1836-1986” a book by Brother Leo Willett