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Was born on King's branch of Muddy Creek, in Madison County, Ky., in March 1798. He was of the best French and Virginia stock. His ancestors on both the paternal and maternal sides were distinguished in the colonial and Revolutionary periods of American history, and afterward in the border wars, with the Indians of Kentucky. When he was abo ut ten years old his father removed to the State of Tennessee, and during the second war with Great Britain, though only sixteen years old, he volunteered as a soldier, and in the Creek campaign, under Jackson, was found in the line of his duty, participating in the battles of Horse Shoe and Talladega. On the restoration of peace he removed to the county of his birth, and studied law with his uncle, Archibald Woods, Esq., and was admitted to the bar of the Madison Circuit Court in the year 1818. Col. Caperton had no advantage of a collegiate course, or of the instruction of a law school, but he studied the elementary books, and his strong common sense and popular manners gave him business at once. From the date of his admission to the bar until a few months before his death, he was connected with the most important cases in the circuit in which he practiced, and was often called to a distance, where the fame of his legal abilities and his splendid forensic powers as an advocate, had gone. It is believed in one branch of the profession, the department of criminal law, for success in which the highest intellectual abilities are demanded, he had few equals in the State; both as an advocate and prosecutor he was alike eminent. Those who heard him in the case of the Commonwealth vs. Baker, in Clay; vs. Davidson, in Rockcastle; vs. Barnes, in Madison; vs. Shelby, in Fayette, in all of which he was matched against the first men of Kentucky, will remember the terrible power with which he lashed crime and vindicated public justice; and his arguments in behalf of many charged with similar offenses, easily recalled, attest the power of his eloquence, his pathos, and his logic in wrestling his clients from the stern exactions of the law. But it was not in this sphere alone that Col. Caperton acquired reputation. In causes involving the validity of wills, in the preparation of chancery causes, in which the most careful labor was requisite, he was not less successful. In all, he was ready, able, logical, and more so than almost any other man whom the writer can recall. He was felicitous in the application of an apparently exhaustless fund of wit and anecdotes. Among the members of the bar, he was always a favorite, with kind words for the young and struggling members of the profession, and genial courtesy for all. In the year 1828 Col. Caperton was induced to serve the people in the Legislature, and was among the able men of that body; the peer of the proudest, and most distinguished. He was in his political opinions always conservative and patriotic, indoctrinated in the political opinions of Washington, Madison and Jay, and throughout his life, the ardent political and personal friend of Henry Clay. His labors on the stump in 1840 for Harrison, in 1844 for Clay, and in 1848 for Taylor, were effective, and widely known all over the State. They were solely disinterested, too, for he sought no office. It was the earnest wish of his friends, to give him the nomination for governor of the State, which he remonstrated against; but, unsolicited by him, the office of United States district attorney was in 1850 conferred on him by President Taylor, accepted by him, and its duties discharged with fidelity, and ability. Upon the election of Mr. Pierce being known, he tendered his resignation of that office, and till his death sought no other, but in private life made himself the life of every social party in which he moved, and at his home was the kindest of husbands and fathers. We may add that through the struggles connected with the great attempt to overturn the Government of the country, he was the steadfast friend of the Union, the Constitution, and the laws. During Jackson's campaign, he was sent out with some friendly Indians as scouts. About dark one evening in a swamp, where they had stopped to go into camp for the night, while getting some dry bark from a fallen tree to make the camp fire, he was bitten by a large rattlesnake, he at once informed the Indians and they rapidly scattered in the swamp, and soon returned with some leaves, and told him to chew them, swallow the juice, and apply the pulp to the bitten part, which he at once did, and although suffering greatly with pain, and his swollen limb, the next morning he was able to resume the march and soon got well. He never did know the kind of leaves the Indians used, but that it stopped the effect of the deadly poison and saved his life, he well knew. During the same campaign he was given by some Indians what they called a "mad stone," it was about the size of a large chestnut, of bluish color, rather soft and porous. He kept it up to a short time before his death, when it was in some unaccountable manner lost; its virtues, if it had any, were never tested. He was present at the surrender of Pensacola to Jackson, and saw the Spanish flag hauled down, and the American flag run up, and take its place. When not fully grown he commenced to learn the stone-mason's business with John Parish, and his brother, Westly Parish. He worked only a few days then threw down his hammer, and said "this business don't suit me," and went at once to read law with his uncle, Archie Woods. Nothing afforded Co. Caperton more real pleasure than an outdoor life, free from business cares, confinement of a law office, or professional engagements, enjoying the beauties of nature; and the wilder and more solitary the scene, the more it was appreciated and enjoyed by him. On one occasion, after a great and excited trial, lasting many days, and after he had made one of those powerful and eloquent speeches, for which he was so famous, full of rare eloquence, and falling like a great trip hammer crushing everything in its way, entrancing judge, jury, audience and bar- he said to a friend he was going to the far off wild mountains hunting with some friends, and he wanted to get to some place, for the time being, where civilization was for the time being blotted out, where no house-dog could be heard to bark, chicken crow, nor the sound of the axe in the forest heard, but wanted to enjoy nature in its silent wildness, listening to the wild notes of the mountain birds, the solemn caw of the raven, the howl of the wolf at night, and see and enjoy the wild mountain scenery, and gaze upon its beautiful waters, pure and crystal. This was his nature; he was created so by his Maker, God, and he enjoyed it above all earthly honors. He was a fine rifle shot at game, and fond of hunting deer in the prime of life, by nature and practice a splendid woodsman, and could not be lost in the forest. Deer in the mountains were plenty then, and, in the fall, when the white frosts came, and the leaves changed to a redden hue and began to fall, it was his pleasure every fall to go to the mountains "deer hunting," still hunting, or stalking, as it is called in some countries, with such friends as Col. David Irvine, Col, William Rodes, William J. Walker, Judge Daniel Breck, Col. William Holloway, John W. Walker, or Garrard County, and others, and camp out in the dark forest, near some pure running water, creek, or branch. At night, around the camp fire, each would graphically tell of the day's hunt, tell jokes, spin yarns, and make themselves pleasant and agreeable to each other, and after a royal supper, frequently on a fallen log, of fresh venison, bear meat, wild turkey, hot coffee in tin cups and "Johnny cake," they would lie down on their blankets, with their saddles for pillows, and have that sweet sleep and rest unknown in this day of luxury and ease; these were all marked men of their day, all dead now, but had sense enough while living to have some enjoyment and pleasure in their own way, free from the business cares and worry of active life. Upon their return from their mountain hunt, a round of gaieties and pleasure commenced. At their different homes they would all meet, and with other invited friends have "venison suppers," having a whole saddle of venison cooked and placed at the head of the table, and again talk over their hunt, tell jokes, and enjoy themselves greatly. Col. Caperton, in the latter part of his life, when the wild deer in the mountains could no longer be found, went twice each year, spring and fall, to the mountain streams, with is friends Holloway, John W. Parks, William W. Smith (the latter yet living), James Boggs and others, and they often caught very large pike, salmon and bass, and out of the fishing season he would often, on rainy days, join his friend Boggs, and ride on horseback over the fields, in the eastern part of the county, netting partridges, those fine birds then being plenty in the county. He never cared for money, but always made enough by his profession to gratify every reasonable want of himself and family. He lived in a princely and lavish style, and entertained relatives and friends royally. To his friends he was kind and true, never refusing a favor asked, great or small, and never did any human being knowingly a wrong. To his wife and children, it is doubtful whether any man that ever lived was more kind, affectionate and devoted. he absolutely worshiped them, providing for their every want or even desire without a thought of the word "no," and it gratified him and made him more happy to do it. When any of his family were sick he turned himself into a nurse, remaining by them in their sick bed, calling in the most skillful medical aid he could get. He had a powerful constitution and frame- six feet high, straight as an Indian, and could stand any kind of hardship or exposure without fear of danger. In his family he was simply one of them, and more like a child with them than a great intellectual giant that he was. He was never sick or had anything the matter with him until his last illness, and on his death bed his great brain and intellect was as clear and powerful as ever. He did not have an unsound tooth in his head, and could, and frequently did, crack hickory nuts with his teeth, without injury to them, for the children. Col Caperton wrote perhaps the best and most accurate account of the battle between Capt. James Estill and a band of Wyandotte Indians in March 1784, near Mt. Sterling, Ky., called the battle of "Little Mountain," and by some "Estill's Defeat," in which Capt. Estill was killed trying to save the life of one of his men, Adam Caperton who was desperately wounded by a rifle ball through the head, and was about to be scalped by a large Indian chief, and died on the battlefield. Adam Caperton was a near kinsman of Col. Caperton, and Capt. Estill was the grandfather of Col. Caperton's wife. The account of the battle, as written by him, was published in "Cist's Magazine," at Cincinnati, Ohio. Col. Durrett, and eminent lawyer of Louisville, Ky., has now one of the copies of the magazine, believed to be the only one now in existence. Col. Caperton, in his account of the battle, obtained the exact facts from men in the fight: Col. Irvine, Proctor Cradlebaugh, and the colored man, Monk, who was taken prisoner and carried off by the Indians before the battle, and from others engaged in it. His descriptive powers were vivid and great; in conversation, anecdote, genuine wit and humor, he was unequaled. His laughter was wonderful, and once heard could never be forgotten. It was clear, loud and ringing, and musical as a silver bell, and spread joy all around and put all in a good humor. He was always exceedingly polite, bland and kind to all, and considerate of the feelings of all, even the most humble, even to his own servants, who actually loved him, and they would get up at midnight at any time cheerfully to do what he wanted, without murmur or complaint. He was a man of peace, and never trampled rudely upon the rights or feelings of others, but knew no fear. Once aroused or mistreated, or any member of his family, and his anger and fearlessness were like those of the wild, untamed lion. He was a great reader of the Bible, but was never a member of any church, but his respect for religion and religious people was well known. His wife was a member of the Reformed or Christian Church. His dwelling-house was always open to the ministers of the different churches. During his last visit to Richmond the great Alex. Campbell was his guest, and the blind and eloquent minister and good man, Jacob Creath, often made Col. Caperton's house his home while here, and many others. In the great religious debate at Lexington, Ky., between Alex. Campbell and Nathan L. Rice, he was chosen as one of the moderators to preside at the debate. He accepted and presided until the end, the debate lasting many days. On the return of Gen. Cassius M. Clay from the Mexican war (then Capt. Clay) Col. Caperton was chosen by the citizens of the county to welcome him in a speech for and on their behalf, which he did at the old Methodist Church in Richmond, Kentucky, in a masterly and eloquent manner to an immense audience, civil and military. In a celebrated duel between Gen. D.S. Goodloe and Col. C.I. Field, of Mississippi, fought on Downing Creek, just over the border line, in Estill County, Col. Caperton was chosen by Goodloe, who was his relative, as one of his seconds, and he so acted and was present on that eventful occasion. The contemporaries of Col. Caperton at the bar and on the bench were among Kentucky's great men. The great judge, Wm. Goodloe, was his kinsman by blood, and they were devotedly attached to each other. Maj. Squire Turner, Judge Daniel Breck, John Speed Smith, Richard Runyon, Hon. C.F. Burnam of Madison, all of the Richmond bar, with whom Col. Caperton daily associated and had professional contest with, and many others equally distinguished throughout the State were among his associates. When Col. Caperton came to the bar there was not in all the region where he lived and practiced law a turnpike or railroad, but simply and only old-fashioned dirt or mud roads, and the lawyers of that day traveled from court to court on horseback to the different counties in which they practiced, carrying their "saddle bags" with them, and in the winter riding with their leggings on. They attended the court of appeals at Frankfort, the capital of the State, and went there on horseback on a mud road, as well as to other near towns: Winchester, Lancaster, Mt. Vernon, Irvine, etc., and it generally took them a whole day to make the trip to Frankfort; it required two days to get there from Richmond. Col. Caperton was very fond of so attending the mountain courts; he was very fond of the people who lived in the mountains, and they were equally as fond of and proud of him. He frequently went to the Perry and Letcher Courts, high up on the head waters of the Kentucky River near the Virginia line, and enjoyed his trips there greatly. He was always responsive to the calls of those who needed aid, in times of sickness and distress. When that fearful scourge, Asiatic cholera, broke out in his town in 1849, he went from house to house, among all classes, white and black, waiting on the sick, closing the eyes of the dying, and attending to the decent burial of the dead. The father of Col. Caperton was named William Caperton. He came from Virginia at an early day in the history of the country, and married Miss Lucy Woods, daughter of Archibald Woods, Sr., about the year 1800, and settled on the farm owned by the late Dr. Thos. S. Moberly, on Muddy Creek, in Madison County, Ky. He had ten children- eight sons and two daughters, as follows: Archibald, Hugh, Thomas Shelton, William Harris, Green, John, Milton T., Andrew Woods, Hulda and Susan. Hulda married her cousin, Andrew Woods, and Susan married Wallace Wilson; they are all dead but one, Milton T. Caperton, now an aged and venerable Baptist preacher, living near San Antonio, Tex. Wm. Caperton, Col. Caperton's father, at an early day, with a large number of his relatives and neighbors- the Millers, Woods, Harrises, Estills, Kavanaughs and others- moved from Madison County, Ky., Williamson County, Middle Tenn., and settled on Bean's Creek, Col. Caperton going there with his father and the rest of the family. From there, as the family grew up, they scattered out through the South, over north Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas. John Caperton, a brother of Col. Caperton, died during the late war in Mississippi; his son, Dr. A.C. Caperton, now resides in Louisville, Ky., with his interesting and charming family. He was a brave officer, soldier in the Confederate Army, and is now a Baptist minister of eminence throughout the State, a fine speaker and orator; he is also editor of the Baptist Recorder, published in Louisville, Ky. A great deal of pains, and great care, has been taken to ascertain the true history of the Caperton family, and it has been ascertained, with certainty, that the first man of that name, who came to this country, was a Frenchman; his name was John Caperton, he came from France. landed in New York City, afterward went to Virginia, and there married Miss Polly Thompson, in Monroe County, Va. He had three sons, Adam, Hugh and William. Adam was killed in battle at "Little Mountain," near the present site of Mt. Sterling, in March, 1784, at the time Capt. Estill had the battle with the Indians there; he was the grandfather of Maj. John Caperton, now of Louisville, Ky. Hugh was a man of prominence and ability, and was elected several times to the Legislature in Virginia; the other son, William, was Col. Caperton's father. A number of the family still reside in Virginia, and are highly respectable, honorable people, some of them highly distinguished in the councils of the Nation. The Hon. Allen T. Caperton was a member of the United States Senate from Virginia a number of years, and died in Washington City, while a member of the Senate a few years since. The history of the Caperton name and family, by those who have carefully and vigilantly made it a study (and it has been done by at least one of the family and name), is highly honorable, and will bear the closest in all countries, and in all climes. No man, bearing the name, was ever known or heard of as a rogue, nor a woman bearing the name, or blood, that was unchaste. They are a rare and peculiar race of people, of great intelligence, orators of the first class, many of them. Courtly in manners, kind and affectionate, polite and affable to all, true reliable friends, but once mistreat or injure them, or rudely trample on their feelings or rights and their whole nature instantly changes; they at once become reckless and dangerous, knowing no fear, regardless of all consequences of their acts, and become bloodthirsty, like the wild, untamed tiger, not even apparent or immediate death at the hands of an antagonist checking them for one moment in their struggle of self defense, or to disable, or slay their assailant. The Capertons, in all their generations, have been men of great physical and moral courage. It is believed now by those who have studied, and know the family history, that the true and correct way to spell and pronounce the name is Caper-Ton. Col. Caperton, in early youth, was united in marriage to Miss Eliza Estill, a daughter of James Estill, a wealthy and prosperous farmer of Madison County, Ky., and a granddaughter of Capt. James Estill, who fell at the battle of Little Mountain in March, 1874. Mrs. Caperton had two brothers and two sisters; one of her brothers, Mr. R.R. Estill, still lives at the venerable age of four score years at his beautiful home in Georgetown, Ky., and with him resides his widowed sister, Mrs. Mary (Estill) Holmes, formerly of Louisiana. Another brother of Mrs. Caperton was Gen. James M. Estill, who died many years ago in California; and another sister, Maria, was married to A. W. Goodloe, Esq., a prominent citizen of Madison County, and long the acting sheriff there. He and his wife both died in Arkansas, where he had removed to engage in cotton planting. These family relations united Col. Caperton, directly and collaterally, to a very large number of the most prominent and distinguished people in the Southwest and East, and by all whom his fame was valued as a large part of the family wealth and distinction. Col. Caperton had three children: Woods Caperton, Mary P. Caperton and James W. Caperton. Woods grew to manhood and studied law but had no taste for its practice and never practiced but little law. He was a brilliant young man, a fine natural orator, well endowed naturally with splendid genius, and was a most rare and captivating conversationalist and very affectionate and devoted to his family and friends. He was never married, but had a large number of warm personal friends and admirers. In the prime of his manhood and youth he was shot down and murdered in the streets of Richmond, Ky., by that cold-blooded murderer, Frank Searcy, the day after the presidential election in 1860, when Mr. Lincoln was elected president. His father and brother were both absent at the time from the county, attending the Clark and Estill Circuit Courts. Searcy was indicted for murder for that crime, but the case never came to a trial; it was continued from time to time until the war broke out, and during that period there were scarcely any trials had in the courts in Kentucky. After the war Searcy procured a pardon from Gov. Bramlette, who at the time granted pardons freely for crimes and public offenses. Not long after Searcy received his pardon he murdered Anderson, and shortly thereafter he shot down and murdered Bergin in the streets of Richmond, Ky., on a county court day when the streets were thronged with people. For the latter cold-blooded murder he was taken out of jail in Richmond by the "Kuklux" at midnight and hung on a locust tree in the courthouse yard, where his body hung nearly all of the next day and was gazed upon by thousands who turned away satisfied that justice had at last fallen upon the bloody fiend in human form, and that he would commit no more murders. The entire people approved of his just, though terrible death, and knew the bloody monster could do them no more harm, and felt relieved and at peace once more. Woods Caperton rests by the side of his distinguished father. His sister, Mary P. Caperton, was a woman of splendid sense and a well balanced mind. Her womanly charms and graces were many and rare. In person she was of splendid form; she was a true and splendid woman in every respect- kind to all and popular with all; she made lasting friends wherever she was; she was a pure Christian woman, devoted and affectionate, calm and submissive to adversity, sorrow and affliction. She married Leonidas B. Talbott, better known as Lee Talbott, a brother of the Non. Albert G. Talbott, formerly a member of Congress from Kentucky. She died a number of years ago in Lexington, Ky., leaving an only child, a son, Wm. C. Talbott, named after his grandfather, Col. Caperton. She was a member of the Methodist Church and truly devoted to her church and religious faith, and died as a true Christian woman in the faith of her adoption. Her only child and son, Wm. C. Talbott, was twice married; the first time to Miss Zerelda Baxter, a highly worthy and handsome daughter of Milo Baxter, a highly respected farmer of Madison County, Ky. She survived but a sort time after her marriage without leaving children. Subsequently he married Miss Annie French, the only child and daughter of Dr. Robert French, an eminent physician and farmer, of Madison County, Ky. Mrs. Annie French Talbott is a splendid woman and wife in every respect, intelligent, domestic and affectionate, and fulfills all the duties of a wife, mother, neighbor, friend to the poor and humble, black and white; her kindness of heart is well known and highly appreciated. They have an only child, a beautiful, bright, intelligent and affectionate daughter, Miss Clyde Talbott, now about seven years old, of sweet disposition and temper, and, young as she is, kind, tender in her feelings, and considerate of the feelings and wants of others, and with her playmates sharing her little gifts freely and equally with all. Her father and mother are very proud and fond of her, and watch her growth and intellectual training with vigilant, watchful care and love. Her father, Wm. C. Talbott, was during the late war sent by his grandfather, Col Caperton, to the United States Naval Academy, then at Annapolis, Md. Subsequently the school was removed to Newport, R.I., where he remained several years and became a midshipman, and had several cruises in the Mediterranean in the United States naval training ships, and on board United States revenue vessels. He finally resigned his position in the United States naval service, came home, and engaged in other business pursuits, all of which were honorably, faithfully and intelligently performed. His mother died when he was a child, and his grandfather, Col. Caperton, brought him home with him to Richmond, Ky., from Lexington, Ky., and reared and educated him and made him one of the family. the full equal of and the same in all respects as his other children. He is very affectionate and kind and devoted to his wife and child; no want or desire of either is ever uncared for. He is a kind neighbor and true friend, and of the highest order of intelligence and very popular, and greatly liked by all who know him. His latchstring is always out, and his hospitality well known and greatly appreciated. His house is a welcome home, always open to his friends, and none, whether known or not, no matter how poor, humble or destitute, are ever turned away, but are well entertained, and willingly so, too. When his grandfather, Col. Caperton, died, his uncle, Col. J.W. Caperton took charge of and raised him and finished his education, and he made that his home until his first marriage. He now resides with his wife and child on a farm, a beautiful home near the Red House Depot, on the Kentucky Central Railroad, in Madison County, Ky. Col. Caperton's only living child now is Col. James W. Caperton, of Richmond, Ky., who stands in the front rank of his profession as a member of the bar, and who is the president of the First national Bank of Richmond, Ky., and who has filled many honorable public stations, in which his integrity, capacity for business affairs and high intelligence have been signally displayed. Not the least creditable to him of his many excellent characteristics is the unswerving devotion he retains for his father's memory, and to make his example a beacon light for his own life. It is doubtful whether any father and son were ever more devotedly attached to each other. They were of the same disposition in many respects- fond of out-door life, fishing and hunting, in the mountains, and never were separated in those enchanting, healthy sports and cessation from business cares. after his son became old enough to go with him. They slept side by side in camp and always hunted together, never separating but a short distance in the mountain forest, always in easy call of each other by an agreed signal, the solemn, melancholy hoot of the owl. And during the cholera they visited the sick and the dying together. The unerring rifles of both, in their mountain hunts, always kept the camp well supplied with deer and their fishing rods the frying-pan with fine pike, salmon and bass. They were partners in the practice of law from the time the son came to the bar until the father's death, and always resided together. After the death of Col. Caperton his son and and the Hon. Curtis F. Burnam formed a partnership in the practice of law, and so practiced a number of years in the courts of Kentucky and before the departments of Washington City, D.C. Col. Caperton, in his last illness, lasting several months, was attended unceasingly night and day by his son, and he died in the arms of his son, whose heart was nearly crushed crushed to see his great father die. As priceless relics of his father and of his life he has kept and yet does and preserves and watches with great care his deer rifle, powder-horn, tomahawk, large hunting knife and leather belt in which were they were worn, fishing tackle, rods, reels, gaff-hook and other articles used by him when hunting or fishing, and also his partridge net. Col. Caperton died at his residence on Main Street, in Richmond, Ky., surrounded by his distressed family and friends, on the 4th of July, 1862, just before the battle at Richmond, Ky., aged sixty-four years. He was buried with civil and military honors in the beautiful cemetery there, a large concourse of people, relatives and friends turning out to honor the great lawyer. His funeral was preached and his life and character presented in a true and masterly manner by the Rev. Edmund H. Burnam, then pastor of the old Baptist Church in Richmond. His widow survived him only a few years and quietly passed away. She was buried by the side of her distinguished husband, her grave covered with beautiful fresh flowers, gathered and placed by the gentle hands of kind friends and relatives.


Source:KY: A History of the State