A summary of research into Philip Higdon's family


This iconic building in Bardstown, Kentucky, is the old Nelson County Courthouse. The old Municipal Cemetery is two short blocks to the right and to the rear of this building.


While the 'outline descendant tree’ listing is very useful in dealing with basic facts about Philip Higdon and his descendants, it sometimes is more clear to create a narrative about Philip Higdon & Some of His Descendants. The basic narrative below is based on all the facts gathered from images of two tombstones, several Find A Grave memorials containing photo images and text, a county cemetery survey, and about three hours of research on Ancestry.com. We hope you enjoy reading the following narrative:

Philip Higdon & Some of His Descendants

Philip Higdon was born on 11 May 1798 in Maryland. His first wife, Nancy Rogers, was born on 3 May 1807. Philip was about 9 years older than Nancy.

They were married on 20 Mar 1834, with Philip at about 36 years old, and Nancy at about 27 years old. 

Two years later, heir first child Sarah Frances Higdon was born on 14 May 1836, and she died on 4 Nov 1840, at 4 1/2 years old.

When Philip was about 45 years of age, and Nancy was about 36 years of age, a second child, John Higdon was born on 5 May 1843, John died on 1 Sep 1844, at 1 1/2 years old.  In the early 1800’s, many children died before the age of 10 due to the pervasive existence of diseases and periodic epidemics, most of which were poorly understood by medical doctors of the time. 

When Philip was about 49 years of age, and Nancy was about 40 years of age, a third child, Phillip Jefferson Higdon was born on 12 Feb 1847, and he died on 17 July 1894, at 47 years old.

Philip was born in Maryland on 11 May 1798. He emigrated to Kentucky sometimes before he married Nancy in 1834. There was a covenant agreed to over several decades by about 60 Maryland Catholic families that they would, when possible, support and send groups of Maryland Catholics, comprised of members from each covenant family, to Kentucky over a 50 year period. Most of these Maryland Catholic covenant families lived in St. Mary’s County or Charles County south of present-day Washington, D.C., on the Potomac River side of St. Mary’s peninsula.

These Maryland Catholic emigrants began their treks into Kentucky in 1795, and continued to emigrate into Kentucky for the next 30 years, ending in the last group emigrating to Kentucky in 1825. Philip could have emigrated with his family as a new-born baby in 1798, or as a 27 year-old in 1825, or at some other time within that 27 year period. As of 2017, genealogy researchers have not been able to identify Philip’s parents in Maryland; this is an area for continued research. 

Another point to consider is that Nancy Higdon and her first born son were buried in the public municipal cemetery of Bardstown, Kentucky, not in a cemetery connected to a Catholic parish church. Most Higdons in the 1790-1825 time period were Catholic. Some Higdons began to change to other religions because it took about 30 years after the American Revolution to begin to graduate trained native-born priests. The Catholic Church in what became the United States literally had to build the facilities and staff the English Catholic Church in America from the ground up. Another explanation is that Philip and his family survived as subsistence farmers. They produced enough food to live for themselves and their child who had offspring, but no by much. Therefore they may have simply stopped attending any church because of the lack of resources used for the various liturgical ceremonies, and the regular weekly donations. In other words they may not have been able to afford church membership. Occasionally in genealogy studies, researchers get to a point where they will never be able to figure out why what happened actually happened. This point concerning Philip Higdon and his family’s religion and religiosity never may be understood. 

When Philip married Nancy Rogers, he married into the large family of Andrew Rogers and Sarah Andrew Hogland. Their Rogers family consisted two parents of nine children born from 1807 and 1843. Andrew Rogers was born in Pennsylvania in 1778, and died in Wakefield, Nelson County, Kentucky in 1853. Nancy Rogers was the first child of the his and Sarah Andrew Hogland’s nine siblings. Nancy Rogers was was born in Nelson County, Kentucky. Philip married Nancy Rogers in 1834 in Spencer County, Kentucky. Spencer County, founded in 1824,  was, and still is, a small county situated between Nelson County and Jefferson County. Bardstown is the county seat of Nelson County, Taylorsville is the county seat of Spencer County, and Louisville is the county seat of Jefferson County (Bardstown is about 35 miles from Louisville). In addition, Bardstown is at the historic center of the 8 Maryland Catholic settlements established by the Maryland Catholic migration into Kentucky between 1795 and 1825. All existing  information leads to the conclusion that Nancy Rogers lived in or around Bardstown her whole life. 

Philip married Nancy in 1834 and lived in or around Bardstown from at least 1834 until 1873, a period of 41 years. Philip lived with Nancy Rogers after their marriage until her death in 1851. Philip then married Susannah Rogers, Nancy’s younger sister who was 17 years younger than Philip, and who was born in 1815 and died in 1855. There is no record of the marriage date or place of Philip to Susannah. However, 5 years after older sister Nancy’s death, Susannah also died. Philip and Susannah had no children. 

Three years after Susannah’s death, Philip married America Fewell Sale, the widow of Anthony Sale. America was born in 1815, and was therefore another wife who was 17 years younger than Philip. They were married in 1858. In 1859, at 45 years of age, America gave birth to a daughter, Sarah J Higdon. Sarah appears under the name of  “Sarah J Higdon, Age 1,” in the 1860 Federal Census. No other records for Sarah J Higdon have been found. It’s possible that Sarah J Higdon was born with one of a variety of developmental issues due to the late age of her mother America during pregnancy. It’s also possible that Sarah J Higdon was born healthy, but died of one the many edpidemics that swept through cities and towns in the United States during the 19th century. 

Philip and America moved away from Bardstown in 1873, 14 years after her daughter Sarah’s birth, to Carmi, White County, Illinois. White County, in far southern Illinois, is located on the Wabash river just north of its junction with the Ohio River. In the right season, between flood or drought, a river boat trip from Louisville to Carmi would take about 2 days. At the time of this move, Philip was 75 years old and America was 58 years old. America died in 1880 at the age of 65. Sometime between 1880 and 1892, the widower Philip moved back to his son Phillip Jefferson Higdon’s residence in Jeffersonville, Indiana, just across the Ohio river from Louisville, Kentucky. At this time in life, Phillip Jefferson was Philip’s only surviving child. Philip died at the age of 94, on 13 Jan 1892, and was buried in Eastern Cemetery in Jeffersonville, Indiana.

Philip’s only child to live to adulthood, Phillip Jefferson Higdon, married Mary Catherine Nelson. They had six children, five daughters, and one son, Philip Jefferson Higdon. He in turn married Mary Ellen Harris and they had two sons, Philip Earl Higdon and David Jefferson Higdon.

In Kentucky history, even when medical care was poor, it has often happened that a healthy male would live to their early 90s in age. Specifically many Higdons have lived into the 90-95 year old range. If some men could live a long life, but many women died young, often in childbirth, it was not unusual for a man to have 3 wives who were all relatively younger than him. Often these men had children by all three wives. So Philip Higdon and his three wives is an example of the difficulties of mating in the 1800s. While not typical, Philip’s situation was not uncommon.   

At this time in this story, it becomes difficult to track the children, grandchildren, and particularly the great-grandchildren of Philip and Nancy Higdon, since many of them are now alive. Genealogy researchers may well update this story, probably after the 2020 census is completed.

Last update for this page:

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