Jacob Neace: The Outlaw

There are times when family history can be quite sinister, and the story of Jacob Neace is no exception. Jacob is the brother of Martha Ann Neace, my 3rd great grandmother and the wife of James Hunley.

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Jacob Neace (1867-1897)

It seems that Jacob embraced the spirit of rural Kentucky, where a sense of justice and familial pride dominated societal norms. According to the January 21, 1897 edition of The New York Times, Jacob murdered Deputy Marshal Byrd of Breathitt County, Kentucky on January 15, 1897. On that day, Deputy Marshal Byrd was transporting a prisoner named Sam Neace, who happened to be Jacob’s nephew. It seems that Jacob attempted to stop the Deputy Marshal for the purpose of giving his nephew some money.

Jacob’s trial was held on January 20, 1897 in Lexington, Kentucky. According to The New York Times, Deputy Marshals searched every man in the courtroom for weapons. The search yielded “enough revolvers to fill two flour barrels.”

The article also explains that Deputy Marshal Byrd’s two brothers begged to keep their pistols in the courtroom; however, the Judge explained that he could show no favoritism. According to the article, the two brothers “cried like children when their weapons were taken away from them.”

Jacob was never sentenced as he contracted measles while awaiting trial in the county jail. The measles ultimately developed into pneumonia, which took Jacob’s life. The newspapers say that the case against Neace was pretty strong and that he would have been hanged. Jacob died on February 21, 1897 in Jefferson County, Kentucky.

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Newspaper article explaining that Neace “cheated the gallows”

The Stafford’s (Or Is It The Compton’s?)

The Stafford line – truly an enigma and by far the hardest line to trace. I had always heard that the Stafford’s originated from England and eventually settled in Virginia. So far, my research seems to confirm this. However, unlike the other family lines, I am not able to identify a specific ancestor that traveled to America on a specific date.

The earliest Stafford I found was John Miles Stafford, my 5th great grandfather. John was born on February 17, 1783 in Walkers Creek, Giles, Virginia. On May 10, 1803, John married Nancy Runyon in Tazewell, Virginia – they had eight children.

For the longest time I was unable to identify John’s parents – the line simply stopped at John. Then, in early December of last year, I received a message from someone on Ancestry.com who matched my DNA profile. Here is an excerpt from this message:

We have family lore that John Miles Stafford was “raised by the Compton’s” from the memoirs of one of his grandsons and as it turns out, our Y-DNA is a match for the Compton surname. That tells us that John Miles Stafford was born out of wedlock to a COMPTON male and a STAFFORD female, and we are nearly certain of who the couple is, and believe that it is John Compton Jr. and probably Absolem’s daughter Sarah Stafford. Absolem Stafford and John Compton Sr. (father of John Compton Jr.) shared a property line in Tazewell Co, VA and can also be found living in very close proximity during the years of their migration from the east coast.

Jackpot! It turns out that John Miles Stafford is a descendant of the Compton line. After diving deeper into the family history, I began noticing Stafford males with the first name of “Compton.” Compton Stafford (1805-1890), one of John’s sons, was married to Eleanor McCoy (of the famed Hatfield versus McCoy feud). My second great grandfather was also named Compton Stafford (1847-1905).

Compton Stafford with His Wife Jeanie Simpson (1851-after 1910)

Could it be that “Compton” became a family name out of respect for the Compton family who raised John Miles Stafford?

On December 15, 1889, Jeanie Simpson gave birth to my great grandfather Charlie Stafford. I have been told that Charlie loved to wear three-piece suits.

Charlie Stafford (1889-1973)

On December 20, 1916, Charlie married Draxie Alice Large in Pike County, Kentucky.

Marriage Certificate of Charlie Stafford and Draxie Large

Draxie Alice Large (1895-1942)

Charlie and Draxie had four children – Raymond, Mable Gerie (my grandmother), Florene, and Juanita.

Gerie Stafford (“Grandma G”) and Raymond Stafford, Around 1920

Charlie Stafford with Juanita (Left) and Florene (Right)

On February 14, 1973, Charlie passed away in Gardena, California at the age of 83.

On July 1, 1938, my grandma married Shade Hunley – they would go on to have four children of their own, including my dad.

Gerie Stafford and Shade Hunley

My dad and grandma out on the ocean in a big boat, carried 2,000 people and went a 40 mile trip.