Henderson County, Kentucky Biography


THOMAS POSEY moved to Henderson County in the early days of the 19th century and established an estate for part of his large family.  In 1804, he was elected to the state senate and, when Lieutenant-Governor John CALDWELL died two months after inauguration, POSEY was elected speaker of the senate.  Under the Constitution of 1799, this meant he was also acting Lieutenant-Governor, a position he held until December 28, 1807.

Before coming to Kentucky, General POSEY lived in Virginia where, according to his biographer, “He was born of respectable parents, near the Potomac River on 9 July, 1750.  

POSEY’S military career began in the expedition that Lord DUNMORE led against the Indians in 1774; two years later he was a captain in the 7th Virginia Regiment opposing the same Lord DUNMORE.  The year before, at age 25, he was elected a member of a Committee of Correspondence, a state-wide organization that helped prepare the patriots for the Revolution.

Soon after Captain POSEY joined the army, General WASHINGTON directed Colonial Daniel MORGAN to organize a rifle regiment of selected officers and men.  POSEY was selected as one of the Captains and, in at least two instances, was ordered to take command while MORGAN was on furlough.  In 1778 he attained the rank of Major, and at Monmouth served under the orders of Marquis de LaFayette.

In the spring of 1779, Major POSEY took command of the 11th Virginia Regiment of infantry and served under General WAYNE.  On the night of July 15, 1778, he distinguished himself in the assault on Stoney Point by making a successful charge on an enemy battery.  It was POSEY who gave the word, “The Fort’s our own”, in one of the most daring and brilliant achievements of the Revolution.  At the close of the Revolution he held the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, which was raised to Brigadier-General in 1793, while he was serving under General WAYNE in the Indian wars of the Northwest Territory.  In this same expedition his oldest son, John POSEY, earned the rank of Captain.

During the Revolution, General POSEY’S first wife (Martha Matthews, born 21 Jun 1754 and died 7 Aug 1778 VA) died and he was married a second time, in 1783, to Mrs. Mary ALEXANDER Thornton, the widow of Major George THORNTON, a relative of the WASHINGTON family.  Captain John POSEY (born 19 Sep 1774 VA), the son of General POSEY’S first marriage, also moved to Henderson County and married his step-sister on 25 Jan 1798 in Virginia (Lucy Frances THORNTON), making for a closely-knit family.  

Thomas and Mary Alexander POSEY were the parents of ten children:  Fayette, Lloyd, William, Thornton, Thomas, Maria, Alexander, Washington and Sara Ann.

In 1810 Congress sent out a  all for men in anticipation of hostilities with either Great Britain or France.  Thomas POSEY was appointed Major General of the first division of Kentucky Militia.  However, the call was premature and the army was disbanded.  This action drew POSEY’S attention to the Orleans Territory and he moved part of his family there in 1812.

When Louisiana became a state he was appointed senator to fill a vacancy and served in the U.S. Senate until appointed Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Indiana Territory on March 13, 1813.  He filled this office with universal satisfaction until the Territory became a State in 1816 when the Legislature praised him in a written commendation which said, in part, “During your administration, many evils have been remedied, and… we have become as one people.”

His last position was Agent of Indian Affairs, including the Illinois Territory.  He caught cold descending the Wabash River and died at Shawneetown, Illinois on March 18, 1818.  In addition to his brilliant military career, he was politically concerned with the beginnings of five state governments:  Virginia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Indiana and Illinois.  Posey County, Indiana, is named for him, but Kentucky is the only state he served as Lieutenant-Governor.  His son, John, and some of his second family retained Kentucky as their home state and many of their descendants still live in this county.

Story was found on pages 55 - 57 in the “The Annals and Scandals of Henderson County, KY” by Maralea Arnett.

Reference to General Posey’s first wife, Martha Matthews was found in Linda Hallmark’s “200 years Henderson County, Kentucky First Families, Early Settlers and a brief History”.

Contributed by Netta Mullin, HCH&GS

Copyright 2002 HCH&GS