The following 1959 memoir by William Howard Courtenay (1890-1960) is an historical account of the nineteenth and early twentieth century American descendants of John Henry Courtenay. William Howard Courtenay was the great grandson of John Henry Courtenay. John Henry Courtenay was the son of John Courtenay (1733-1798) and Jane Rhames (m. 1764, d. 1814), both of Newry, Ireland.John Henry Courtenay (d. 1823) had a first son, John (b. circa 1801), from a first marriage to Esther Rhames of Dublin, Ireland (m. April 7, 1795). His second marriage was to Anna Maria Graham, formerly of Liverpool, England. John and Anna Maria had three children: a first daughter (name unknown), a son named Robert Graham (b. 1813 Dublin, d. 1864), and a second daughter, Emma (d. 1872 - Mrs. James B. Wilder). John Henry Courtenay emigrated from Newry, Ireland to the United States circa 1818. John Henry Courtenay came to America aboard the ship "Achilles" sailing from Bristol, England and arrived Boston, MA and soon thereafter settled in Illinois. The family story is that he was a toll collector in Newry, Ireland [source: Patricia M. Rankin, West Palm Beach, FL]. Two prominent American Courtenay lines have descended from sons John Courtenay (son, first marriage) and Robert Graham Courtenay (son, second marriage). This memoir by William Howard Courtenay is reprinted by permission of Dr. Thomas A. Courtenay of Shelbyville, KY. All copyrights are reserved by Dr. Thomas A. Courtenay and the Courtenay family of Louisville, KY, Copyright © 1997.
The following list of names used might
help to give more definite identification:
Aunt Isabel, who was the only one of the
family who had real ability
in writing genealogy, has given to posterity a splendid record of the
Courtenay and some of the allied families in charts, and also printed
articles in books which will be listed later. We owe a real debt of
gratitude to her. Aunt Emma was the only other member of the family who
was interested in keeping records pertaining to the family, and she has
handed down to us some very interesting and revealing bits of
information in note books.
John Henry Courtenay of "Courtenay Hill,"
Newry, Ireland which
is in County Down, North Ireland came to America bringing with him his
second wife who was Anna Maria Graham, a member of a shipbuilding
family in Liverpool, England, a son John by his first wife, a daughter,
name unknown, a (5 year old?) son named Robert Graham, and an infant
daughter Emma. (It seems probable that she was born after reaching
Illinois in 1818 as she was said to be 12 years old in 1830 when she
was sent to England to be educated). John Courtenay said his father had
been in the United States for 5 years when he died in 1823.
Our grandfather, Robert Graham Courtenay
did not like his much
older half brother John and it appears to have been mutual. John
dropped out of the family entirely, starting a numerous one of his own
which has had no contact with our branch except on one or two occasions
which I may mention later.
Neither Grandpa Courtenay nor his sister Emma knew just how old they were, hence the various dates given in former accounts of the family. Circa 1813 has been accepted by both Aunt Isabel and Aunt Emma as the date of birth of Robert G. Courtenay who stated in his application for naturalization papers filed in 1844 that he was brought to this country by his father when he was less than 8 years old.It is surprising how Aunt Emma's terse notes are corroborated by contemporary English travelers to Illinois. Two English farmers, Morris Birkbeck and Richard Flower bought the Boltenhouse prairie in Southern Illinois and established what has become known at the English Prairie Settlement. Aunt Emma writes, "The Courtenay and Graham families and others were persuaded by a man named Flower to come to Illinois where they could have large estates, I think about 1817 or 1818." George Flower (son of Richard) wrote a history of the settlement in which he says, "Our call had received a response from the farmers of England, the miners of Cornwall, the Grovers of Wales, the mechanics of Scotland, the West Indian planter, the inhabitants of the Channel Isles, and the Gentlemen of no particular business of the Emerald Isle." Later on he says, "Early in March 1818 the ship Achilles sailed from Bristol with the first party of emigrants destined for our settlement in Illinois." ... "For a moment let us glance at the situation of these settlers, a thousand miles inland at the heels of the retreating Indians, a forest from the Atlantic shore behind them, but thinly settled with small villages far apart from each other. To the west, one vast uninhabited wilderness of prairie interspersed with timber extending two thousand miles to the Pacific Ocean...One or two small American settlements were forming a few miles east of the Mississippi as we were planting ourselves a few miles west of the Wabash."
Strangely enough, we have no account from the family respecting
the death of Anna Maria Graham, wife of John Henry Courtenay; and she
is our great-grandmother who helped even gave her life - to establish
our branch of the family in America.
But another Englishman, John Woods spent two years on the
English Prairie and wrote a book in which he tells of that part of his
trip from Shawneetown on the Ohio River, "The next day we intended to
commence our journey...towards the prairies although the news just
received from thence was unfavorable, that of three deaths, the wife of
an Irish Gentlemen and two Englishmen." (From entry in his Journal
dated September 21, 1819), the baby, Emma Courtenay, was turned over to
her mother's sister, Mrs. Emma Sorgenfrey, for whom she evidently was
Flower in his history says, "Mr. Robert Grayham (formerly an
English merchant), a gentleman who spoke the French language
fluently...was at the time living with his brother-in-law, Mr.
Sorgenfrey in a prairie west of the Little Wabash. Their former habits
not suiting them to prairie life, Mr. Sorgenfrey went to Carmi."
I think the Courtenays, Sorgenfreys and Grahams were all there
together at a place called Belgrade which might be the name of a
prairie - they had names. The only Belgrade, Illinois I have been able
to find is Netropolis, Illinois - formerly called Belgrade (Audobon's
Sketches). One glance at the map will show that the Belgrade of the
Courtenays is in an entirely different location.
It was sometime during 1822 that Mr. George Flower employed
Robert Grayham (Flower spells it Grayham, just as Grandma and all her
children always pronounced it) to go to Haiti to investigate the
feasibility of sending freed slaves and other free negroes there to
live. Mr. Graham returned in October 1822.
It is not known whether John Henry Courtenay and his two sons
went to Carmi with the Sorgenfreys or not. Carmi is on the Little
Wabash River and Belgrade evidently was also, but it was this river
that John Henry Courtenay plunged into one March day in 1823 to rescue
a boy who had gone under. A few days later he died of pneumonia,
according to family tradition. Before he died he told his little son,
Robert, now 10 years old, to go to Frankfort, Kentucky, to live with
his Uncle and Aunt Mary Graham. Robert Graham had returned from New
Orleans with a stock of merchandise with which to start in business
when he was ready to quit the prairies.
The same Little Wabash River took our grandfather away from
Illinois. Aunt Emma shows this entry in her book as coming from R. G.
Courtenay's Memorandum Book: "Left Belgrade July 1823 for R. G.'s.
Arrived in Frankfort, Sept. 1823."
My father loved to tell us the story his father told him so many
Little is known of Grandpa's life in Frankfort, Kentucky. His Aunt
Graham taught him the 3 R's and was good to him in other ways. He was
grateful to her and showed his gratitude was real by seeing to it that
she was cared for in her later years. After Grandpa's death Grandma
supplied a regular sum of money to Aunt Mary Graham until her death at
Newport, Kentucky, where she had lived for years. No such affection
seems to have existed between Grandpa and his Uncle Robert, for whom he
was named. I hope to include a portion of a letter Grandpa wrote to
Robert Graham in 1849 which tells about all that is known of the 6
years spent in Frankfort - but it belongs to the Louisville portion of
Aunt Emma gives another entry from
Grandpa's Memorandum Book: "Left
Frankfort for Louisville Sept. 7, 1829." He came to work for the
wholesale auction house of Thomas Anderson & Co., at $50 per year
and his board and lodging. Aunt Emma says that he took his meals with
the Anderson family and slept over the store. Louisville was the
gateway for merchandise sold in the South in those days. Eastern
merchants would ship to Anderson & Co., who would sell at auction
to buyers from the South who came in large numbers to the advertised
sales. From here goods went down the Ohio River to all points south. My
father was told by a man who had worked for Anderson & Co. after
Grandpa had become a member of the firm, that Mr. Courtenay would have
the bill for a long list of goods ready to hand the bidder as soon as
the last bid was closed, that no one could equal him on figures. An
item in Aunt Emma's note book indicates that while Grandpa was employed
at $50 per year, he actually was paid $100. Mr. Anderson liked him well
enough to later make him a partner in the firm. And Grandpa liked Mr.
Anderson so much that he named a son for him. But all this did not come
overnight. He worked hard, studied hard, saved hard. I have heard
nothing of his playing.
The next item from R. G. C.'s Memorandum
"Journed to Carmi Jany 1830-$25." Then,
"Emma Courtenay left Carmi for England March 1830."
The baby sister he had left in Illinois
had become 12 years old
(so I've always been told) and was to go to her Aunt Mary Georgina
Graham who lived at No. 18 St. Paul's Terrace, Camden Town, London, to
be educated. Then a boy about 17 years old, Grandpa rode horseback in
January to Carmi, Illinois to tell Emma good-bye. I have a little
leather-bound pocket memo book whose pages had been erased to be used
over again, in which the expenses paid out on this trip were carefully
put down. In the pocket of the little book is a paper carefully
enfolding two little rings of tightly plaited hair - one light, the
other dark. Written on the outside in the handwriting of Robert G.
Courtenay is: "A token of Remembrance - 12 Jany 1830 - Emma Courtenay."
Little did they know that in 3 years he
would be financially
able to send for her, but she returned to America in August 1833. They
boarded several places, but as a matter of record, in December 1836
they were boarding with Grandma Courtenay's relatives - the C. E.
Beynroths, where Robert Graham Courtenay met Miss Annie Christian
There was for many years a very prominent
girls school at
Steubenville, Ohio. To this school, Robert G. C. sent his sister Emma.
I do not know for how long, but I have a memorandum which I believe I
copied from the Hast Scrapbook in the Filson Club recording the
marriage of James Bennet Wilder and Emma Courtenay on the 12th of March
1840 in Jefferson County, Ohio. Steubenville is in that county.
Robert G. Courtenay and Annie Christian
Howard were married two years later.
The two couples lived side by side in a
double house on Green
Street (now Liberty) south side between Second and Third Streets which
was then a good residential neighborhood, later each moving to larger
and more pretentious quarters as they prospered and their respective
families grew in size.
This leaves only the half brother John to
account for. He had a
recorded birth date, was born June 25, 1801. Of him Aunt Emma says,
"Robert G. Courtenay had an older half brother named John who married a
plain woman, had a large family who went down." She also says he had 14
children and he died Sept. 16, 1864, and that he married against his
father's wishes. In a letter to Grandpa written in 1863 John mentions
among other things that his son Edward had moved to Iowa.
One day at noon I returned to my hotel
room in Nashville, Tenn.,
and found a note on my dresser from a Mrs. Marshall, housekeeper at the
hotel, saying that she was a Courtenay - her father was Joseph Heep
Courtenay, and that she would like to meet me. I got in touch with her
and we had a nice talk. She knew nothing of her ancestor John, but said
her father had visited the Wilders in Louisville and Mrs. Wilder after
talking with him told him he was spelling his name the wrong way. So,
ever since, her own family had spelled it the way we do. She told of
Joseph Heep Courtenay living in Ottumwa, Iowa when she was a girl, that
he was one of a large family of children who had been scattered when
young so that they did not know each other. Later in life as many as
eight brothers and sisters had found each other, but neither her father
nor any others knew whether that completed the list. I like to think
(and I believe) that Mrs. Marshall was a granddaughter of the Edward
who moved to Iowa.
My father told us of a boy, descendant of
John Courtenay, who
visited them when he, Father, was a boy. He was rough looking and very
poorly dressed. Father did not remember much about him except that
Grandma gave the boy one of his shirts to replace the dirty one the boy
was wearing. This could have been Joseph Heep Courtenay.
Many years later someone made a demand on
my illustrious uncle,
William Howard Courtenay, whose name I proudly bear, claiming the
fortune of "Sir John Courtenay," saying that he was a descendant of the
eldest son who should have inherited the fortune. He was promptly set
straight in no uncertain terms and nothing more was heard of it.
This about completes the story of the
"Prairie Years" except to
mention that both Grandpa and half brother John died the same year,
1864, just before the close of the Civil War. Much has been written
about the English Settlement in Edwards County, Illinois. Morris
Birkbeck and the Flower family became estranged in the very early days
of the Settlement. They divided the property and each formed a separate
settlement near each other. Birkbeck called his Wanborough - and Flower
called his Albion, the ancient name for England. There is nothing left
of Wanborough except Birkbeck's well, sitting by itself in a field.
Albion became a pretty little city or town located 25 miles south of
Olney, Illinois and is the home of the Edwards County Historical
Society which is just as proud of Morris Birkbeck as it is of George
Flower who was the guiding spirit in building up the permanent
settlement. The Courtenays and Grahams stuck with the Flowers who had
induced them to come to America, although no land records of Edwards
County show an entry in the Courtenay name.
Just as an echo from the dim, distant
past into which we have
been delving, my son Tom was in the wedding of Miss Elizabeth Flower of
Winnetka, Illinois in 1957, nearly 140 years from that day in 1818 when
the Birkbeck and Flower emigrants set sail for America. Mr. Wallace
Flower, a direct descendant of Richard Flower, was surprised that Tom
knew about and had been to Albion. Mrs. Flower, the genealogist in the
family was delighted to hear about the Courtenay connection with the
When Robert Graham Courtenay married
Annie Christian Howard on
October 3, 1842, a family was started which has been favorably known in
Louisville business and social circles for well over a century now. The
two persons were very different in many ways including a disparity in
age (Grandma always spoke of Grandpa as Mr. Courtenay) but two things
they had in common were unhappy childhoods and very old English
bloodlines going back to the Magna Charta and before. Of the 17 Barons
of Runnymede who were known to have left issue, Grandpa could be traced
back to 6 of them at least and Grandma to at least three.
John Howard, father of Annie Christian,
came to Kentucky in 1800
from Montgomery County, Maryland and settled on a farm about five miles
from Louisville on a lane or road leading off the present Taylorsville
Road opposite Bowman Field Airport. The road is now called Bon Air
Avenue. Grandma was born in the large two-story log house on the farm.
John Howard is buried in the family burying ground which was reserved
for family use when the farm was sold. It is now perhaps less than half
the quarter-acre original size and is situated at the junction of Bon
Air and Goldsmith Lane almost directly behind the Speed farm,
Farmington - the Howard's nearest neighbor. I have seen only one marked
grave there, that of "Aminta, Relict of C. E. Beynroth." I last saw the
house about the middle 1930's. It had been vacant for years and in a
state of dilapidation. The farm is covered with modern houses now and
surrounded by subdivisions.
His son, Luther Howard, is quoted as
saying that John Howard
came to Kentucky with $1,200, a new wagon, four horses and three
slaves. Also that he was a serious man who talked very little with his
children. Twenty-five years later his tax assessment covered a farm of
209 acres of first rate Jefferson County Beargrass land, nine horses
and 33 negroes with a total assessment value of $17,327.00. He came
with his bride, Mary Latimer, whom he married October 15, 1799 in
Maryland. She died in 1810 leaving five children who left many
descendants through the Howards, the Millers, the Mardys and the
On February 4, 1819 John Howard married
Annie Christian Bullitt,
the daughter of his neighbor Alexander Scott Bullitt of Oxmoor. This
second marriage from which we originate produced five children, three
of whom lived to maturity. They were William Bullitt, Helen and Annie
Christian Howard. Our grandmother was the youngest of John Howard's
children, having a 25 year old half brother when she was born on
February 1, 1825. Three years later her mother died. Her most intimate
childhood companion was her sister Helen who was about two years older
than she, but she was always fond of her brother William who was four
years her senior. He moved to Missouri when he grew up but kept in
touch with Grandma through correspondence and visits the rest of his
When Helen, to whom Grandma was so
devoted, died she was crushed
with grief and loneliness. In less than a year she married while she
was seventeen years old. Her half sister Aminta had always been good to
her, teaching her to read and write. Grandma would write "poetry" and
notes to Aminta and she would write back with criticism and corrections
for Grandma to read. I have not heard of any formal education for
In spite of loneliness in a large family
much older than
herself, with a father for whom she seemed to hold no affection,
Grandma had robust health and a wonderful sense of humor throughout her
87 years. She dropped the Howard from her name and became Annie
Christian Courtenay for the rest of her life when she married Robert
Graham Courtenay, born on the Irish Sea in 1813 - therefore some dozen
years older than his bride. He was naturally serious, innately kind,
scrupulously honest and a hard worker who came up the hard way. Both
were brought up in the Episcopal Church. He remained a member of Christ
Church Cathedral while she continued in the old St. Paul's Episcopal
Church where she had sat with her Aunt Key. Grandpa was considered more
deeply religious than Grandma by their daughter, Aunt Emma. They became
the much beloved parents of the six of their eight children who lived
past infancy, all calling them Ma and Pa pronounced Mow and Pow (to
rhyme with cow). Two little boys Robert and Henry, are buried in the
Oxmoor Cemetery. I was about grown before I found out that Oxmoor was
not Grandma's childhood home. She talked of Oxmoor all her life. I did
not hear her mention the Howard home. She seemed to consider Oxmoor
home because she had spent so much of her life there in such congenial
surroundings with the Bullitt kin. Even after she was the mother of
several children it was to Oxmoor that she went when ill enough to be
cared for by others.
About 1850 the Courtenays moved into a
much larger house on the
south side of Chestnut Street between Seventh and Eighth Streets. This
was the place called home by all the Courtenay children. Most of them
were born in the Chestnut Street house which they occupied until 1872
when Grandma built the house on the hill she bought on Brownsboro Road.
Chestnut was a new and fashionable street in the 1850s. Louisville put
in a water works about this time and Grandpa was one of the first to
have running water put into the house. Four servants, two women, a man
and a boy did the household chores before the Civil War. The two women,
Phillis and Caroline, were inherited by Grandma - they being children
of John Howard's slaves. Grandpa, like most Englishmen, abhorred
slavery but as he wrote to someone of like sentiments, it was the only
way one could have servants in a slaveholding State. Aunt Phillis was a
much revered and beloved member of the household. She lived until 1887
when Aunt Emma made an entry in her memo book recording her death which
occurred while the family was living on the Brownsboro Road. Phillis
was called "Aunt Phillis" by the Courtenay children as a mark of
respect shown to elder slaves. Caroline and the boy whose name I have
not heard both ran away during the war. She was called Caroline by the
children. After the war she came to see Grandma dressed up and wearing
long yellow gloves to her elbows. When Grandma asked her why she ran
away she replied, "Well, Miss Annie, I just wanted to be free." Aunt
Emma said the children all sided with the slaves on that question.
Aunt Emma also told of how her father
would start out for market
with Uncle Fortune walking behind him carrying a basket in which to
bring home the groceries from the market houses which were then located
in the center of Market Street. Uncle Fortune was the driver of the
carriage and did the yard work. He and the horse were both commandeered
during the war when the Federal forces in Louisville built the dozen
defenses against General Bragg who was expected to lead the Confederate
Army against Louisville. When my father was a baby, Uncle Fortune made
a cute little shuck bottomed chair for him which was kept in the
kitchen by Aunt Phillis and has been called "Aunt Phillises chair" to
this day. It is now the property of the original owner's grandson and
namesake, Thomas Anderson Courtenay, III.
It was in the Chestnut Street house that
Grandpa spent a good
deal of his spare time on Sunday afternoons working mathematical
problems on the dining room table just for his amusement after he
became Engineer of Louisville's first Gas Company, becoming President
in 1853 following the death of its first president, L. L. Shreve. From
this time until his death he held the two titles of President and
Engineer. I have a printed monograph on the subject of illuminating gas
which was written by him. Louisville was one of the very earliest
cities to adopt gas light - I think about the same time as Philadelphia.
Grandpa had great faith in the future of
railroads which were
comparatively new in his day. He was a director of two of them. Perhaps
a very lucrative source of income in addition to his Gas. Co. office
was the administration of private estates, notably those of Martin,
Tenbroeck and Wentzel. Being a successful business man in whom implicit
confidence would be placed he performed many of the duties that Trust
Companies take care of today. He did not relinquish his partnership in
the firm of Thomas Anderson & Co. until January 1, 1857 after
spending 27 years with the firm.
Before he had become so well established
in Louisville, Grandpa
had received requests for help from his Graham relatives. His Uncle
Robert and Aunt Mary Graham and the Sorgenfreys wanted to move to
California in 1849 - not to hunt gold, but to raise chickens. His
advice was sought with a view to obtaining the necessary financial
help, no doubt. Grandpa advised against the trip but did not become
disagreeable about it until he received his Uncle Robert's reply,
extract from which I quote: "That I never received from you even a
letter of thanks for taking you a poor orphan boy in Illinois, taking
you with me to Frankfort there educating and teaching you your present
business, and when I left Kentucky soliciting and obtaining for you a
situation in the house in which you have gained independence." This was
too much for Grandpa to swallow. The excerpt from his reply to Uncle
Robert Graham which I shall quote tells about all that is known of his
six years spent in Frankfort. "The education spoken of, you never gave
me. Your friends might ask why you never sent me to school. Why you
never spent one cent on the orphan boy's education and I might plead
that I served you faithfully from the day you took me in charge, that
my services more than compensated you for all this vaunted liberality
of yours. The same duty I rendered you, you would have had to pay a
stranger double all I cost you. Yet I never considered this debt of
gratitude fully settled, and this prompted me to offer yourself and
wife a comfortable maintenance during the remainder of your days, and
truly I own I always felt that to my aunt I owed more than to you, she
was always kind to me.
I suppose you will state that you gave me
a business education
and this you must have meant when you spoke to your friends of
Then as to business qualities you endowed
me with you at least
must have valued them lightly for when Mr. Wm. G. Bakewell procured me
the situation at the house of T. A. & Co. you told Mr. Thomas
Anderson that I had everything to learn, and engaged my services to him
for the trifling sum of $50 per annum with board and lodging. A
perfectly green boy would have received this pay if wanted at all.
I always knew that I had to depend on my
own efforts to obtain a
living both while under your charge and after I left you. I also knew
that I would remain extremely ignorant unless I obtained an education
by my own perseverance and industry, and all my leisure hours in
Louisville were spent in trying to obtain a smattering of education.
All my relations agree with me that you
ought not go to
California. This matter of opinion expressed to you in the most
friendly manner seems to be the unpardonable offence that I have
committed against you, an opinion too, expressly solicited by you."
The War between the States might have
affected Grandpa more than
was realized at the time. His private letter book indicated that he
felt very keenly the damage the war was doing. The largest estate he
was administering, that of John L. Martin, was largely located in the
Mississippi delta. Grandma's brother, William Bullitt Howard, came with
his family to refugee in Louisville, having been practically wiped out
financially by the Jayhawkers and soldiers in Missouri and Kansas. At
any rate, Grandpa's health failed and he died from a serious intestinal
trouble October 1, 1864. Although only 51 years old he left his family
comfortably provided for.
Aunt Emma has left this interesting memo:
"Pa died when I was ten years old. We
were dressed in mourning
two years from head to foot, even black hair ribbons. In summer the
nuns made our dresses which were white with black spots."
Grandpa's death left a heavy burden of
responsibility on his
forty year old wife with six children to bring up, but Grandma made a
splendid success of the undertaking. My mother said Grandma had more
good old hard common sense than anyone she knew. That is high praise
from a daughter-in-law. The adjustments in family life had to be made
at the same time the country was adjusting to changed conditions
resulting from the close of the Civil War which occurred a few months
later. However, life in the Chestnut Street house seemed to be the
happiest that the Courtenay children remembered in looking back over a
life span. The house on Brownsboro Road had been more house than home.
In the winter months they came into town and either rented or boarded.
In June 1887 Grandma bought and moved into the Fourth Street house
which became "Grandma's" to some thirty grand and great grand children.
That part of Fourth Street was fashionable at the time and for long
On Sunday afternoons (in my own
recollection) there was a steady
stream of family and company coming and going all afternoon. The Fourth
Street car line was the busiest one in town. In summer it carried the
immense crowds to what we then called Jacobs Park, now Iroquois, as
well as the baseball crowds to old Eclipse Park. The cars stopped in
front of Grandma's for the fans to walk through the alley alongside her
house. This is still called Baseball Alley and is so marked with street
signs. Sunday was a great day for social calls before the advent of the
automobile. This gave us grandchildren the opportunity to meet many of
the older generation of Louisville society, but the streetcars were
much more interesting to us.
Grandma was fortunate in having her two
maiden daughters to keep
house for her. In my day they presided over the house and servants. It
was said that Grandma had never cooked a meal in her life. Even her
daughters after her had never been without the benefit of servants
throughout their entire lives. Aunt Emma and Aunt Nellie also took in
some of the grandchildren when there was contagious disease among their
brothers or sisters. Aunt Nellie was the beauty of the family but could
not resist teasing us children. Aunt Emma was the society loving member
of the household and went out a great deal. She was a remarkable person
in many ways and a great favorite with the children.
Grandma had two hobbies - growing roses
in her greenhouse, which
nearly covered the back yard, and making silk quilts. The men saved
silk ties for her to use in the beautiful crazy-quilts she made until
she became so blind in her later years that she had to give up both
hobbies. These three persons made up Grandma's household when I was a
boy, so I do not mention her other children in this connection. The
whole family was a clannish one, loyal and courteous to each other. I
have not heard of meanness in any one of them.
One trait of the generation of Courtenays
under discussion at
present was their ability to handle money to advantage. They bought
good quality when they bought and did not waste resources on things
which they did not really want or need.
In 1891 Grandma contracted to sell to
real estate developers who
formed a corporation under the name of Courtenay Land Company the small
acreage west of Louisville out the Dunkirk Road which she had inherited
from her father. Grandpa had bought and added to it some adjoining
acres and put a man on it as a tenant. This small farm then became a
little more than self supporting. It was named Glen Annie in honor of
Grandma. The contract price paid by Courtenay Land Co. was $1,800 per
acre. When John Howard's estate was distributed, the part of Glen Annie
inherited by Grandma was valued at only $1,800. But this contract was
some 50 years later. She realized ninety thousand dollars from the
whole tract of about fifty acres. I have an old handbill advertising
100 first class building lots at auction by the Courtenay Land Co.
"City lots at suburban prices." and "the Broadway, Chestnut, and Market
& 18th St. cars direct to this property to be operated by
electricity within six months." I also have an old survey map (N. B.
Beale to John Howard) showing the boundaries of the land, part of which
was inherited by Grandma. It was bounded on the north by Dundirk Road,
west by Shippingport and Salt River Road, east by the Elizabethtown
Turnpike Road. No name to the southern boundary.
Glen Annie could be located on a present
day map as
approximately Broadway to Garland Avenue, from 22nd Street to 26th
Street. Through this area the streets running from east to west are
Maple, Lewis (which formerly was Courtenay Street), and Howard. Just
keep the record straight, Grandma had already sold a part of Glen Annie
to Fred and Phill Stitzell - the 26th and Broadway end, leaving 48½
acres for Courtenay Land Co. The Stitzells paid either $4,000 or $6,000
for the corner they bought.
At this time (1892) Grandma sold the
Brownsboro Road place, a
large frame house on a hill of about 10 acres then occupied by her son
Thomas A. Courtenay. The proceeds of the sale of these properties
produced a sizeable capital to be invested. She bought residential
property in a good residential area in the central part of Louisville.
These houses were solid brick walls on stone foundations with metal
roofs, commanding a good return in rent, most or all of them being
three stories high.
Grandma with Aunt Emma and Aunt Nellie
did a good deal of
traveling. Having already toured Europe with her son William Howard
Courtenay after he had finished college, the three ladies made many
trips around this country - mostly to the various watering places while
the "Springs" were still popular (and numerous). Later Florida was
visited several times. The daughters kept on taking trips after their
mother's death until Aunt Nellie fell and broke her hip. These sisters
had a quaint way of talking that strangers they met away from home
lingered around them to listen. Grandma had an old fashioned way of
speaking, too. In fact, they were still old fashioned even though
electric lights had been put into the gas fixtures and of course a
telephone installed. Grandma would never use it herself. They still
burned coal in the fireplaces in each room and the range in the
kitchen. Aunt Emma, who lived to be 93 years old (in 1947) always spoke
of automobiles as carriages. None of the three ever lived in a house
with central heating. A furnace could not be installed in their house
because the inside walls were solid brick.
Their great-grandson, Frederic H.
Courtenay, has asked me to tell what
Robert G. and Annie Christian Courtenay were like. I have tried. But
perhaps I have not done justice to Grandma's sense of humor. One story
she loved to tell on herself, always with a hearty laugh, was about the
time she had sharply reproved Uncle Willie when he was a very small
boy. He went out into the yard to feel sorry for himself. His brother
Lewis, only one year older, went out to cheer him up by saying, "Don't
pay no 'tention to her. Her ain't nothing but a old squinch-eyed cat."
When Aunt Emma and Aunt Nellie were taking care of my twin brother
Lewis and myself because of contagious disease at home, Grandma
encouraged us to be impudent to our aunts. Lewis responded with
pleasure which gave Grandma a good many laughs at her shocked daughters
efforts to correct us.
Most of what I have written has been
gained from Aunt Emma's papers
which she turned over to me. For genealogical data I would refer you to
the following Bibliography:
Wm. H. Courtenay
October 6, 1959
All copyrights are reserved by Dr.
Thomas A. Courtenay and the Courtenay family of Louisville, KY.
Copyright © 1997.
The following biography is reprinted from: "The Biographical Encyclopedia of Kentucky" published by J.M. Armstrong & Company, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1878 [A copy was located at the Huntsville Public Library, Huntsville, AL in 1993].
"Courtenay, Robert B., Merchant, was born in 1813, in Dublin
Ireland, and, at the age
of five, was brought to America by his parents. Losing his parents when
young, he was reared by his uncle, at Frankfort, Kentucky. At the age
fourteen, he went to Louisville, and became a clerk in the house of T.
Anderson & Co., on a small salary. By his fine business capacity he
advanced rapidly, and by his economy was soon able to apply his
to his advantage in the city. His successful outset met fully his
expectations, and his business habits and strict integrity gained for
not only an unlimited credit, but also the highest respect and
of the community. In 1853, he was elected to the Presidency of the
Louisville Gas Company; and, shortly after, became administrator of the
extensive estate of his decesed friend, John L. Martin. The duties of
these trusts compelled him to abandon mercantile pursuits entirely in
1857. He continued at the head of the affairs of the Gas Company until
death, and carried its workings to a high source of perfection. He was
only well informed on general topics of interest, but was decidedly
scholarly in his attainments, possessing a large store of information
almost every subject. He was a man of earnest, independent convictions;
was strong in his friendships; had uncommonly fine administrative
was characterized for his deep sense of justice, for his openness,
liberality, and high moral character; and was one of the most popular,
upright, influential men who have figured in the business history of
Louisville. He died October 1, 1864. Mr. Courtenay was married, in
to Miss Annie Howard, of Jefferson County, Kentucky, who, with their
children - Julia C., Thomas A., Helen M., Emma W., Louis R., and
C. Courtenay - survived him." [Note: William C. Courtenay is a
typographical error - it should read: William H. Courtenay]