This is one of five historic homes of our James family in Pulaski County, Kentucky. Located at the intersection of Route 80 and James Road, the site is about eight miles east of Somerset, Kentucky.
Unclear is whether this home was built by John M. James (1751-1823), or by his son, Reverend Daniel Field James (1795-1871). I believe it was John. Daniel built his own brick home on Highway 461, north of Dahl Road. John’s previous brick home was built at the bend in Dahl Road, circa 1795. This second home was more opulent in its construction with arched windows and doorways, and much larger in size than John’s first home.
This home definitely was occupied by two of John’s daughters and their husbands. John’s third eldest daughter, Betsy, lived here with her husband, Reverend Jeremiah Vardeman. After she eloped with Jerry, John brought the un-godlike Jerry into Baptist ministry. Jerry went on to become an eminent Baptist Divine. Jeremiah Vardeman founded the schools of Theology at Georgetown College in Kentucky, and at William Jewell College in Missouri. He also gave Frank and Jesse’s father, Reverend Robert Sallee James, $20,000 to become a William Jewell College founder, after Robert graduated Georgetown.
Record books today identify this tract as “The Vardeman Tract.” Jerry’s enslaved were buried in a cemetery on this site. Jerry also had a still in the knob behind the cemetery meadow. John’s eldest daughter, Molly, subsequently occupied this home with Senator Jack Griffin Sr.
The home then was occupied by Will James, John’s grandson and a son of Daniel Field James, with his wife Nancy R. Gilliland. Will, it is said, got shot up riding with Frank and Jesse. Will returned to this home partially crippled. The estate sits in clear view of James cemetery, on the knob diagonally across Route 80 at the end of James Road.
It was Jack Griffin’s son, Senator Jack Griffin Jr., who accidentally burned down the house. This photo shows the markings of the fire that consumed the second story bedroom level.
Today, all the bricks are gone. The leveled site is planned as an interchange for the extension of historic Route 66. A gravel pit consumed the former slave cemetery onsite. The Commonwealth of Kentucky avoiding any necessary cemetery mitigation for the enslaved. The Commonwealth also determined the home itself not to be worthy of an archeological excavation. Soon the site will become a road interchange, unless the present delay in construction, caused by the collapse of the national economy, persists anbd national transportation funds are withheld.
We pray to John, Jerry, Daniel, Will, to all their wives, and to all their enslaved, that the history of Route 66 never paves over the history of our James family.