By: Hillary Delaney
Investigating family history can bring a wealth of untold stories and characters. The more details that are revealed about our ancestors’ lives, the more we begin to understand them and connect with the person behind the records and documents. Such was the case when a woman with Boone County roots began her quest for family history here at the library.
Beverly Lewis started with lot of information about her family, going back several generations, so she may not have expected anything surprising to emerge as the process continued. Military history is often a great place to look for all kinds of information on an ancestor, including: where they lived, when they died, and where and with whom they fought. It was through the records of Beverly’s 5x Great-grandfather, that an interesting document was found. Her ancestor, Linsfield Bicknell, was a spy.
Early records indicate that Linsfield Bicknell was born in either North Carolina or Kentucky, but was living in Estill County, KY by 1813. Like many other early Kentuckians, Bicknell served as a soldier in the War of 1812. He is found under the command of Captain Farris in March 1813, but is quickly transferred to a small “Company of Spies” commanded by Captain Leslie Combs. Combs had been at the Raisin River massacre, just two months prior, and reenlisted to support the Ft. Meigs campaign on the Maumee River in Northern Ohio.
This small detachment of young men were tasked with getting much-needed military intelligence through British lines to General William Henry Harrison at the first siege of Ft. Meigs. The General was to be notified of the position of the Kentuckians, under Gen. William Dudley’s command, who were sent to help defend the fort from the British and Native American forces.
Linsfield Bicknell, who was undoubtedly chosen for his sharp-shooting and scouting skills, arrived on May 5, 1813, a date now known as “Dudley’s Defeat.” After fierce battle, hundreds under Dudley’s command, including Captain Combs’ “spies,” were captured. Many of the men (including Dudley) were massacred at the hands of the Native Americans after capture, while the British commander watched. Beverly’s ancestor thankfully escaped this fate, but was injured in the melee, and held captive for a full year before being ransomed. He returned to Estill County in 1814, and was married in May of that year.
Linsfield Bicknell’s pension file reveals that he suffered injury from a “tomahawk to the shoulder” during his service, causing his shoulder to dislocate frequently. He applied for an increase in pension in 1834, which he received. Bicknell and his wife Mary had thirteen children, and Linsfield lived to be nearly eighty years old. Having made this discovery, his 5x great-granddaughter Beverly can regale future generations with tales of this brave and interesting ancestor.