John Buford

John Buford was born on July 29, 1778 in Culpepper County, Virginia. He was the first son and oldest of ten children born to Simeon and Margaret Kirtley Buford. John's father was a Captain in the Continental Line during the Revolutionary War under Colonel Abraham Buford. John moved from Virginia to Kentucky with his parents, two brothers, William and Simeon Jr. and a sister Judith in 1789. They settled on land grants in the Smoking Springs area in Barren County, Kentucky. John's father was a representative for Barren and Warren Counties in the Kentucky Legislature from 1801 to 1803.

John owned in excess of 10,000 acres in Woodford County, Kentucky. This was probably a land grant for John's service in the Kentucky Militia during the War of 1812. His farm, "Rose Hill" was located just outside of Versailles. The Beautiful farm of Rose Hill was the epitome of country life in the very center of the Blue Grass region of Kentucky during the antebellum period. In the 1810 census done by William E. Railey, John is shown as having five people in his household and owning eleven slaves. When reading about the Kentucky farms the reader must remember that these farms were truly farms which primarily raised thoroughbred horses, cattle and stock of all kinds. They were self sufficient farms in that they either raised or grew everything they needed to stay alive. So, if the number of slaves in this household seems small, it is because of the difference of the "farm" in Kentucky and the "plantation" in the South which required sometimes, hundreds of workers. His friends and neighbors were, most often, either his blood kin or kin by marriage. John was well thought of through out the state, serving in the Kentucky legislature from Woodford County from 1824 through 1827, John had the "Midas touch" when it came to business ventures and amassed quite a fortune before moving his family to Illinois in 1836.

John married Nancy Hickman on September 1, 1798. This marriage produced two children, a daughter Helen born in 1800 and a son Napoleon Bonaparte who was born on January 13, 1807. It is not known for sure if John and Nancy named Napoleon after the hero of Austerlitz or not. Helen married General William Johnson on December 18, 1817 and Napoleon married Miss Sarah Childs of Cassanovia, New York. After the untimely death of Nancy in 1825, John eventually married Ann Bannister Watson who was the widow of Dr. John Watson of Frankfort, Kentucky. This union produced three sons; John Jr., Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe who were also born at Rose Hill farm. Ann Bannister Buford died in 1835 during a Cholera epidemic, which may have been the reason for John's selling every piece of property he owned in Kentucky plus the beautiful farm house of Rose Hill and moving to Illinois.

John served as an Illinois state Senator for four years beginning in 1843. He was a personal friend of Andrew Jackson and presided at some of the Kentucky state and Illinois state Democratic Conventions. He was postmaster for Rock Island, built the first mercantile store on the levee which was at first, a rather small building with an ugly high front to it and painted to resemble granite which he jokingly said reminded him of a man wearing a ruffled shirt and nothing more. He quickly learned to love Rock Island and called it "New Jerusalem." Always acting in the cities best interest, he was a highly respected man and one who was listened to when he had an idea or voiced his opinion on matters concerning the development of the city.

John died on March 25, 1848 in Rock Island, Illinois. John Jr. was attending the United States Military Academy, (West Point) at the time of his father's death and was unable to make it back to Rock Island for his funeral. John produced two Brigadier Generals, Napoleon Bonaparte, also a West Point Grad and John Jr. who was the hero of Gettysburg. His sons, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe, both became Mayors of Rock Island. They also started a large Iron foundry at First Avenue and Sixteenth Street. James was in banking from 1861 until his death on December 27, 1905 and served as Rock Island City Treasurer from 1862 to 1874. James, like his father, was a very religious man and followed the Presbyterian faith. He built his home at 1117 Second Avenue.

John Sr. was a typical Buford male, being large in stature, sometimes seeming a bit unpolished around the edges, robust and full of vitality and always having his finger in the pot so to speak. He was an honest, religious and moral man; a credit to his name and to the country that he loved so dearly.

Please contact Fern Walker, the author, for permission to use anything from this page. e-mail: Fern K. Buford Walker

To read more about John Buford Jr. and Gettysburg go to Fern's website HERE

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