DENTON, Thomas, of North Carolina, Kentucky, and Louisiana

**Under Construction**

Thomas Denton was one of the first Anglo-American settlers in Kentucky, and his wife Elizabeth is generally acknowledged to have been one of the three white women to see that land.[1] It is not known how many times Thomas was married or whether his wife in 1775 was the mother of his children.[2] Even the source of the given name Elizabeth is unclear. Before 1798, Thomas married a woman named Sarah.[3]

Both birth and death dates and places are unknown for Thomas Denton. He may have been born in Virginia around 1730, based on an unsourced gedcom at and the fact that his son was presumably over 21 in 1772. He died in the Louisiana Territory, either present-day Missouri or Opelousas, Louisiana, after 1806 and possibly after 1810.

Before moving to Kentucky, Thomas lived in North Carolina and was probably the Thomas Denton on a 1771 Surry County, North Carolina, tax list[4]; his son Arthur was listed in 1772.[5]

Thomas moved to Kentucky in 1775 along with his wife and at least one of his known children. These were Arthur, Mary and John; any other children were deceased without heirs by 1779, when the estate of John was resolved between his widow Diana and his siblings Arthur and Mary, then Mrs Jonathan Richardson. Although it has been claimed daughter Mary went to Kentucky with her father and probable mother, but returned to North Carolina, no evidence has been located that places her in Kentucky.[6] Son John was married possibly in Harrodsburg, now Mercer County, Kentucky, to Diana How, possibly the daughter of James and Catherine (Cox) How.[7] He died while serving in the Kentucky militia.[8] Son Arthur likely remained in North Carolina.

Thomas settled on Shawnee Run, Mercer Co KY.[9] On 29 Apr 1777, he was court-martialed and fined for failing at guard duty, in Harrodsburg, Kentucky.[10] There are listings of several thousand acres along the Salt River and Sinking Creek given as grants to Thomas and widowed daughter-in-law Diana Denton by James Harrod and his heirs between 1779 through 1783.[11] Thomas Denton was one of the signers from Harrodsburg of a petition in 1785 to the Virginia General Assembly requesting an act to form the town.[12]

The Dentons were involved in militia actions against the Shawnee Indians. In 1779, Col. John Bowman, with 160 men, marched against the Indian town called Chillicothe. Among the nine men killed was John Denton, Thomas’s son.[13]

Later, Thomas Denton is named as a Captain in a July 1780 expedition, according to the Revolutionary War pension record of James McCullough.[14] He is also listed in George Rogers Clark’s papers as an ensign who served with Clark at an unspecified time.[15]

John’s widow Diana was married at Harrodsburg, 12 May 1787, to Jesse Yocum.[16] Thomas Denton and his then wife Sarah were involved in a lawsuit against Matthias Yokum, Jesse’s brother, in 1798.[17] Thomas resided with the family of his son John’s widow for the rest of his life, moving with them to “Louisiana” about 1806, in what is now Missouri. Their home was north of St. Louis in Florissant. He went on to live about twelve years with the Yocums “in Louisiana.”[18] By 1810, Jesse Yocum and family were living in Opelousas, Louisiana, that is the “real” Louisiana, with one male over 45, one male 26-44, one female 26-44, and several children.

Thomas’s daughter Mary was not the woman married to Howell Hargrove in Surry County, North Carolina, on 7 Dec 1785.[19] Instead she was married to Jonathan Richardson, and both were stated in 1796 to be “of Grayson County, Virginia.” A statement at claims she and her husband came with family members to Harrodsburg, Kentucky, but in 1796 went back to Grayson Co VA, then down to Stokes County, North Carolina, which is just across the State border from Grayson.

Mary, along with her husband, and Arthur were the heirs of their brother John. Mary and her brother Arthur sold the land they inherited from John to their father Thomas in 1796.

Jonathan Richardson and Mary his wife of Grayson Co VA though now present in County of Stokes, NC sell to Thomas Denton of Mercer Co KY. Whearas John Denton, son of sd Thomas Denton was entitled to settlement and preemption of 1,400 acres of land in KY, and sd Thomas Denton obtained a certificate for such by virtue of a claim of said John Denton in name of Dianna Denton as heir at law of sd John Denton.  Thomas Denton has purchased sd settlement and preemption from Jesse Yocum and Dianna his wife. Jonathan Richardson whose wife is lawful daughter of sd Thomas Denton is the heir at law of John Denton and not the sd Dianna. Jonathan Richardson and his wife sell all right and title to this land to Thomas Denton for the love and affections they feel towards him and 5 shillings pd by sd Thomas Denton. Signed: Jonathan Richardson, Mary Richardson Stokes Co., NC: Jonathan Richardson & Mary Richardson ack. The above deed 18 Oct 1796. Recorded in Mercer Co KY. Nov. Ct 1796[20]

An additional document proves that Mary and Jonathan Richardson of Pulaski County are the same couple.

Jonathan Richardson & his wife Mary of Pulaski Co., KY to George C. Thompson of Mercer Co., KY for $400 relinquish right, title, claim, and interest about 1400 acres on Shawnee run. Land is settlement to Diana Denton as hers at law from John Denton Particular description of land in patents in the name of Diana Denton land which Mary Richardson claims as heir at law to John Denton.[21]

The marriage record for Mary Denton and Jonathan Richardson has not been found. They were clearly married before 1796, and two males in their household were aged 16-26 in 1810. They were already in Pulaski County, Kentucky, by 1800.[22] Jonathan Richardson is also listed in 1810 and 1820 in that county, although by 1820 no male in his age grouping was listed.[23]

Most genealogists would be happy to find an ancestor with a unique name. There are plenty of Dentons named Thomas, John, Abraham, and Richard, but only one seventeenth century Arthur. This man was the other heir of his brother John:

Arthur Denton of the State of NC sells to Thomas Denton of the State of Kentucky. Whearas John Denton, son of Thomas was entitled by Law of Va. to a settlement and premption of 1,400 acres in Ky. And sd Thomas Denton obtained a certificate of settlement and preemption for 1,400 acres now in County of Mercer claimed of sd John Denton in name of Dianna Denton as his heir at Law to sd JOHN and whearas sd Thomas Denton has since purchased a part of sd settlement and preemption From Jesse Yocum and sd Dianna his wife and whearas it now appears that the above named Arthur Denton is heir at law of sd John Denton and not the sd Dianna now sd Arthur for consideration of the love and affection which he bares to the sd Thomas Denton and for 5 shillings pd by sd Thomas Denton, Arthur Denton sells to Thomas all his right, title and interest both in Law and Equity in and to settlement and preemption to the only proper use of sd Thomas Denton. Signed: Arthur Denton, Catherine Denton Stokes Co., NC. Arthur Denton & Catherine his wife, citizens of sd Co. appeared in Court Oct 13, 1796 & acknowledged sd deed Recorded in Mercer Co KY. Nov Ct. 1796.[24]

Note that in 1820, Mary (Denton) Richardson was in Pulaski County, one county over from her brother Arthur’s son, Isaac Denton, who was in Wayne County, Kentucky.

There are at least three possibilities for the ancestry of Thomas Denton.

  1. He may have been unrelated to other Dentons.

Thomas may have been unrelated to the Richard Denton family of New England. Other Dentons were in Surry County, North Carolina, prior to 1771, especially a Hughgan Denton who lived on the same land later owned by Thomas Denton in Surry Co NC.

From Genforum: On 5 Feb 1787 Arthur Denton entered 100 acres in Surry Co. on Henry’s Br. waters of Town Fork; borders: James Tanner and Lash; includes place Hughgan Denton lived on when he died. (Surry Co NC Deeds 1770-1788 #227). Arthur is listed again on an account book in Stokes Co NC Dec 1798.

4 Apr 1778, Hauser, Michael, 400 acres on Muddy Creek where the Town Fork road crosses the said Creek to Richmond bounded by Hughgan Denton & Henry Hendrakes caveat entered by Philip Shouse – jury finds for Hauser.[25]

From Walter Krumm at Genforum: “There are at least 3 or 4 Denton lines which appear in very early VA records, but their ancestry is unrecorded in that state, except for some wills and changes in land ownership. These appear in the counties around southern Chesapeake Bay, and some lines of descent can be traced a bit. Again a complication is they are all named Henry & James & John. They may have arrived under indentures which had to be worked off before they could acquire their own land. It is quite sketchy.”[26]

Another example of an unidentified Denton family is found in Bradley, Brunswick Co VA Wills, WB 2, p. 83f.

“Will of EDMOND DENTON, made March 8, 1743/4, proved May 3, 1744. Mentions: (1) son, THOMAS, plantation where I now live, with 100 acres on nw side of Walker Branch, joining THOMAS SISSON, decd; (2) son, PETER, residue of home tract, being 100 acres on se side (3) son, EDWARD, 134 acres on Shineing Creek (4) my children, a cow when they come of age or marry (5) wife, ELIZABETH, remainder of estate and use of plantation during her life (6) extr, my wife Witnesses: THOMAS LANIER, STEPHEN SISSON, WILLIAM (x) DENTON Probate indicates that the will was presented by ISABELLA DENTON the widow & exectrx.”

  1. He may have had two known sisters.

It is clear that Thomas Denton and his wife were among the very first white settlers to enter central Kentucky. David A. Blocher writes on a family tree at “Thomas moved to Kentucky about 1775 along with others in his family. He lived on Shawnee Run, Mercer County, Kentucky. Thomas and his wife were among the first settlers of Harrodsburg, Kentucky, in 1775 along with [John] Crow and David Williams and, apparently, their wives, Thomas’s sisters. He moved to Louisiana about 1806 [now Missouri]. His home was north of St. Louis in Florissant. He lived with the Yocums in Louisiana for about 12 years. They were the family of his son John’s widow.[27]

Many online sources have accepted this statement. For example, a gedcom at states: “John Crow, born about 1745, married about 1770, Hampshire Co VA, to Elizabeth Denton (b. about 1750). Elizabeth was daughter of Robert Denton Sr and Jane Moon. John and Elizabeth (Denton) Crow left Hampshire Co VA in the late 1780’s, moving to Harrodsburg, Ky area. They were accompanied by Elizabeth’s brother, John, and his family.

“Elizabeth went to KY in 1775 with her husband and other Denton family members. They sold their land in 1784 to Daniel Walker and by 1788 a portion of that land would be donated for a town site called Danville. Danville for a time was the seat for governmental functions in Kentucky. Crow began work on a stone house which was finished in 1784. The home eventually became an inn.”[28]

It may have been that a brother JOHN Denton did go with the sisters to Harrodsburg. See previous statements. “John came to Harrodsburg in 1775. He and his family fought one hardship after another. If not Indians, it was the cold winter of 1779-1780. If not the lack of food, it was a shortage of powder. The problems seemed endless. Some lost heart and went back east of the mountains. Even Daniel Boone wrote, ‘I have encouraged the people here in this country all that I could, but I can no longer encourage my neighbors nor myself to risque our lives here at such extraordinary hazards.’ However, the Dentons, David Williams or John Crow families did not return to Virginia during this violent period. In 1782, the Battle of Blue Licks proved to be the last major conflict of the Revolution. Indian attacks continued, but not in large numbers.”[29]

Robert Denton and Jane Moon were both residents of Burlington County, New Jersey, when they were married there  on 13 Feb 1738.[30] In addition to daughters Elizabeth (Mrs John Crow) and Sarah (Mrs David Williams), they had other children, including a son Thomas, who married Elizabeth Claypoole. This man does not appear to have been identical with our Thomas Denton. He was born ca 1746 and died 1807 in Jefferson Co TN; the most obvious reason he was not our Thomas is that he left numerous children while our Thomas was survived only by Arthur Denton and Mary Richardson.[31]

A DNA match to a descendant of Robert and Jane’s son John has been found at “TeritaW1942” is a descendant and shares 13 cMs in one segment with Kathy Alvis Patterson’s sister, Arta Sue Snyder. There are no other known matches.

  1. He may have been a descendant of Rev. Richard Denton.

Most Dentons in North Carolina in the mid- and late-eighteenth century belonged to the family of Rev. Richard Denton (1603-1662).[32] But every DNA match I have to this family is also a shared DNA match to another of my lines. Not likely.

The children of Thomas Denton were:

  1. Arthur Denton, born ca 1751 or earlier, married Catherine, and resided in Stokes County, North Carolina. His children included 1) Isaac DENTON, born ca 1773, probably Surry Co NC, and died after 1850, resided Wayne County, Kentucky, married Mary S –, born 1773, North Carolina or Maryland, and died after 1860; 2) Jacob DENTON; 3) Thomas DENTON, who died in 1820, Montgomery Co AL; and also 4-8) two sons, 3 daughters.
  2. Mary Denton, married Jonathan Richardson, possibly in Grayson County, Virginia, later lived in Pulaski County, Kentucky. They had at least three sons and 4 daughters.
  3. John Denton, married Diana How, died 1779.

© 2019 Kathy Alvis Patterson

[1] Samuel Hazard, Hazard’s United States Commercial and Statistical Register, Volume 5, (W. F. Geddes, 1841), p. 19. The other two woman were Mrs Hugh McGary and Mrs Richard Hogan. They arrived on 8 Sep 1775. See also Zachariah Frederick Smith, The History of KentuckyFrom Its Earliest Discovery and Settlement, to the Present Date … Its Military Events and Achievements, and Biographic Mention of Its Historic Characters, (Courier-journal job printing Company, 1892), p. 62. A modern source is Daniel Morgan, Boone (Chapel Hill: Algonquin, 2007).

[2] Thomas Denton was not mentioned in the Denton database of Sue Cook-Montgomery,, accessed 28 Apr 1999, no longer active 29 Dec 2018. Some of Sue’s data is available at Note that no evidence was given for either the ancestry of Benjamin Denton or of his wife, Elizabeth Huff, and neither is consistent with my research.

[3] From Mercer Co KY Genweb site: 1798 Thomas Denton & wife vs. Mathias Yokum, Mercer Co Circuit Court. Box D-5, submitted by Anne Baker. Thomas Denton & Sarah his wife by their atty complains of Mathias Yokum on a plea of trespass of assault and battery. For that whereas sd deft. On __ day of __ 1797 at the sd county came upon the sd Sarah Denton, wife of Plaintiff and assault did make with fists and arms to wit with fists and clubs and to her the sd Sarah did beat and wound and evilly entreat and other wrongs to her then and there did to the damage of sd Plaintiff. Therefore they bring suit. Subpoenas issued 25 May 1798 to Sarah Sportsman & Betsy Froman to appear on the 5th of June to testify on behalf of Thomas Denton and wife.

[4], p. 17. Transcript at North Carolina, Compiled Census and Census Substitutes Index, 1790-1890 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 1999. Original data: Jackson, Ron V., Accelerated Indexing Systems, comp.. North Carolina Census, 1790-1890. Compiled and digitized by Mr. Jackson and AIS from microfilmed schedules of the U.S. Federal Decennial Census, territorial/state censuses, and/or census substitutes.

[5], p. 17. Transcript at North Carolina, Compiled Census and Census Substitutes Index, 1790-1890, loc. cit.

[6] See below, note17.

[7] I’ve been looking for a source for her birth information and parents’ names for many years.

[8] The Virginia Gazette, 10 Jul 1779, p. 3.

[9] Collins, Lewis,. History of Kentucky. Covington, Ky.: Collins & Co., 1874. I: 510, 511; II; 518; 606.

[10] George Rogers Clark Papers: 1771-1781 (Trustees of the Illinois State Historical Library, 1912), p. 29. GoogleBooks, at

[11] “Mercer County’s First Settlers” at Early land grants: Denton, Dianna, 400  Shawnee Run, 12-24-1779  A-6; Denton, Thomas, 400  Salt River, 11-03-1779  A-1; Denton, _____, 400  Salt River, 02-19-1780  A-14. The source listed at note 17 also states that Arthur received land in Kentucky at this time, apparently referring to the unnamed Denton who received land one year after Thomas’s grant.

[12] Max Charleston, “The Oldest Town in Kentucky,” Sep 1929, at Mercer Co KY Online, ttp://

[13] Morgan, op cit. gedcom: “In May 1779, Col. John Bowman headed an expedition against the Indians residing at Chillicothe. Although he was forced to retreat, his men did kill two chiefs, the celebrated Blackfish and Red Hawk. He burned the town and captured 163 horses. Young John Denton was carried down the road home but died before arriving at Harrodsburg.”

[14] NARA M804. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files. Roll 1671.

[15]William Hayden English, Conquest of the Country Northwest of the River Ohio 1778-1783 and Life of Gen. George Rogers Clark (Bowen-Merrill, 1896), “Officers and Privates who served in some of the campaigns of George Rogers Clark, but who were not allotted land in Clark’s Grant and whose names are consequently not on the roll in the twenty-first chapter of this work.” p. 1061. See also

[16] Kentucky, Compiled Marriages, 1802-1850 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA. Original data: Dodd, Jordan, Comp.. Kentucky Marriages to 1850. Electronic transcription of marriage records held by the individual counties in Kentucky.

For further details about the family of Diana (How) (Denton) and Jesse Yocum and their children, see

[17] From Mercer Co KY Genweb site: 1798 Thomas Denton & wife vs. Mathias Yokum, Mercer County Circuit Court. Box D-5, submitted by Anne Baker. Thomas Denton & Sarah his wife by their atty complains of Mathias Yokum on a plea of trespass of assault and battery. For that whereas sd deft. On __ day of __ 1797 at the sd county came upon the sd Sarah Denton, wife of Plaintiff and assault did make with fists and arms to wit with fists and clubs and to her the sd Sarah did beat and wound and evilly entreat and other wrongs to her then and there did to the damage of sd Plaintiff. Therefore they bring suit. Subpoenas issued 25 May 1798 to Sarah Sportsman & Betsy Froman to appear on the 5th of June to testify on behalf of Thomas Denton and wife/

[18] David A. Blocher, “Family of Legends (and the Unknown)” at, Blocher states his information is from a gedcom provided by John Woodward “Jack” Buschman, February 10, 2002.

[19] North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: North Carolina County Registers of Deeds. Microfilm. Record Group 048. North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, NC. See also his 1790 census: Year: 1790; Census Place: Stokes, North Carolina; Series: M637; Roll: 7; Page: 549; Image: 317; Family History Library Film: 0568147.

[20] Mercer Co KY. Deed Book 3, p. 195, 18 Oct 1796.

[21] Mercer Co KY. Deed Book 7, p. 404, 4 May 1810. See

[22] Clift, G. Glenn. Second Census of Kentucky, 1800,  (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co, 2005), p. 246.

[23] Year: 1810; Census Place: Somerset, Pulaski, Kentucky; Roll: 8; Page: 141; Image: 00133; Family History Library Film: 0181353,

Year: 1820; Census Place: Somerset, Pulaski, Kentucky; Page: 40; NARA Roll: M33_27; Image: 65, with one female over 45, and five others including a girl under 10.

[24] Mercer Co Ky. Deed Book 3, pg 197, 13 Oct 1796.

[25] Surry County NC Archives Deed…..1778, Land Entries – County, Surry, 1778. See File contributed for use in USGenWeb Archives by: Anne Livingston February 16, 2007.

Copyright.  All rights reserved.

[26] Genforum message from Walter Krumm, <Re: Arthur Denton of Stokes Co NC>, to Kathy Patterson, 27 Apr 1999.

[27] Blocher, op. cit.

[28], at and “Text: From Sue Montgomery-Cook (MRS SUE COOK)”


[30] New Jersey State Archives. New Jersey, Published Archives Series, First Series. Trenton, New Jersey: John L Murphy Publishing Company. The marriage was also recorded in Monmouth County, New Jersey.

[31] See online family trees, such as Peck-Denton Family Tree at and Herron Family,FBC,201… at .


Published on December 26, 2018 at 7:52 pm  Comments Off on DENTON, Thomas, of North Carolina, Kentucky, and Louisiana  
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