The Peays from Cuckooville, Virginia (Louisa Co.)



Austin “Buggy” Peay (b. 1844) with his second wife, Annie Lewis, Austin's children Annie Pendleton Peay (standing) and her husband Harry Wesley Watts (standing), Austin Leavell Peay (seated), and Cornelia Frances Peay (seated on floor). The Picture was taken probably around 1895, although it could have been taken as late as Feb 1898, when Austin II died. Harry and Annie married on Oct 30, 1895, while Austin IV married Sallie Hurst on Sept 19, 1895, but Sallie is not pictured, and neither is their sister Mary Bell Peay. Harry Watts has his wedding ring on in this photo.


 Peay of Louisa Co at

Austin Peay and his wife Maria Anne Pendleton moved their family from Louisa Co, VA, near the town of Cuckoo (sometimes called Cuckooville), to Christian Co Ky, and settled near Garrettsburg in 1835 according to Perrins History of Christian Co. (1884). Louisa County marriage records show that Austin and Maria married on Dec. 3, 1835 in Louisa Co, so either they made a very quick trip, or one source or the other has the date wrong, probably the Perrins book. Maria's death record in Christian Co from 1779 indicates she had lived in Christian Co for 44 years however, lending credence to the 1835 arrival. At about the same time, Austin’s parents Anthony and Barbara Peay moved, along with some of their other children George, John, William, Polly (sometimes known as Mary), Milly and Caroline Peay, to Pike Co, Missouri and purchased land in Nov. 1835. The Peays sold their farm of 97 acres in Louisa Co in August, 1835. Folks began moving west in search of fertile lands around this time, and as families found good property west, they relayed the word back to friends and relatives. Many families in Montgomery Co, TN, and Todd and Chrisitan Co, KY trace their ancestors to Louisa Co, VA.

In the early 1800’s, there were numerous Pendletons in Christian Co, I have discovered in my research, many of which were born in Virginia. In Louisa Co, there was a prominent Pendleton family who lived in a brick house in Cuckoo which still stands today (2016), and was quite near the Peay land. It is likely that these Pendletons in Christian Co, KY were relatives of Maria Anne Pendleton Peay, and when Anthony and family went to MO, son Austin and his wife Maria went to Kentucky to be near Maria’s family. I have not determined who Maria's parents were, but it appears logical that the newlywed Peay's went to live near or with the Pendletons. There was a John Pendleton in Christian Co at the time who is purported to be Maria's brother, and John Pendleton and Austin Peay bought land together in Christian Co. Austin and Maria apparently prospered; by 1840 they owned 34 slaves, while Anthony and family had none in Louisa Co. Perhaps the Pendleton's helped get the young couple established, or perhaps there was an inheritance. Interesting is that all of Austin's immediate family had left Louisa Co prior to their marriage. The wedding was witnessed by John P Smith, who certified that Maria was aged 21 and “stayed about” with friends. Based on this timeline, I would surmise that: Austin and Maria were pro-slavery, and this caused a family split. Anthony and his family were probably anti-slavery (they held no slaves in the 1840 census) and they went to Missouri, where many anti-slavery families migrated to in that era. Although, Pike County, MO is in a region of Missouri that was known as “Little Dixie” due to the high slave ownership it exhibited then. But Anthony had no slaves in Virginia or Missouri, and perhaps this caused a family split. The split might explain why Austin and Maria's family bible has no mention of Anthony/Barbara; it begins with Austin and Maria and their family, and new life away from the other Peay ancestors and siblings, who had gone to Missouri.

Once in Kentucky, Austin devoted his life to farming and was a man of substantial worth to the community according the History of Christian Co, 1884. He died of typhoid fever at the age of 45. His son, Austin (born 1844), prepared to enter the University of Virginia, but at age 17 he enlisted in the First Kentucky Confederate Calvary. He was tried under a court martial for an incident involving disobeying an officer and drunkenness (family legend says it was peach brandy), but acquitted and paid back-pay. Upon return from 5 years at war, entering and exiting as a private, he resumed farming his farm, "The Oaks." For twelve years he was Magistrate for Garrettsburg, and lost an election to State Legislature in 1880 as a Democrat, running agains Edward Breathitt. (according to his campaign log book, “Austin Peay family papers” in TN state archives.) In 1882, he received the nomination for and was elected to the state senate (Perrin's History of Christian Co.) He attended Salem Baptist church. He resigned his state Senate position a few years later in order to serve as Tobacco Inspector in Clarksville, TN.

Meanwhile in Pike Co Mo, Anthony's son George was supporting the Union Army . A family story relayed to me by Marilyn Fisher of Thompson, Ohio, says that during the civil war several bands of outlaws were traveling around MO raiding the countryside. When George would hear that they were in the area he would send his daughters and slaves to the cornfield to hide with the family valuables. Another story is that George sent one of his sons to take some mules to the Union army. It seems every time he would take the mules, they would never reach the Union army, but instead be given to the Rebels. This son was wounded (how is unclear) and when he was brought home George would not let him on the property until he swore allegiance to the North. Ms. Fisher believes the son involved was Robert. This story clearly points out an anti-slavery feeling among the Missouri Peays, and could lend credence to my theory as to the reason for the family split.

John Peay and the Pike Co and Gov Peay lines: I have determined Anthony to be the father of Austin Peay (b 1807) through compelling evidence. Anthony Peay's census records through the years in Louisa Co, VA show a male in the household whose age would match Austin, but matches none of Anthony's other known children. Additionally, Austin's death record in Christian Co, KY lists his parents as “Andr and Barbara Peay”, with the birthplace of Louisa Co, Virginia. I suspect “Andr” was an error, and actually represented Anthony, as I find no Andrew Peay in Virginia in that era. Finally, I have taken a DNA test and compared my Y DNA to a known 3rd great grandson of Anthony Peay, and our Y-DNA matches on 65-67 markers. estimates that we share a common paternal ancestor within 8 generations with about an 80% probability. Additionally, Anthony's 3rd great grandson's DNA matches a person who would be Anthony's 3rd great granddaughter in the Austin Peay/Christian Co line with 38cM of autosomal DNA, indicating a likely kinship at 4 to 5 generations. This DNA evidence in conjunction with DNA evidence to me confirms that the Christian Co Peays are indeed descended from Anthony and Barbara Peay.

Anthony Peay's father was named John, and John Peay's wife was Mildred Waddy. We know that Anthony’s father was John Peay (proven by Mildred's will), and that he was married to Mildred Waddy of Louisa Co. I theorize that John's father was Elias Peay, who fathered George W. Peay (b 1734). Elias is also believed to be the father of Austin Peay (b 1741, m Mildred Turner). John was in the right area at the right time, and was the right age to be Elias's son, and all 3 suspected sons of Elias used many of the same given names for their children. This theory is now supported by DNA testing done in 2016: I located a man with the Peay surname who has George W. Peay (b 1734) as a 5th great grandfather. If my John and his George are indeed brothers, he and I would be 7th cousins. My DNA matches this man on 36 of 37 markers, indicating a 95% probability that we share a common paternal ancestor withing the last 8 generations. While this DNA test cannot pinpoint the exact generation of kinship, the strength of the match coupled with the circumstantial evidence of location, ages, georgraphy, and naming patterns among the suspected brothers certainly supports the theory.

Austin Peay and the Little Rock, Arkansas Peays: Austin Peay, b 1741, married Mildred Turner. This family was in King William Co and Caroline Co, VA, and the couple had 13 children,. Austin died in Caroline Co in 1796, at which time his family moved to Jefferson Co, KY. The male children were named George, Nicholas, Austin, John, and Turner. This information comes from the bible of John and Mildred Lightfoot Peay, which was among the furnishings of "Farmington" home in Louisville, KY. The bible was located and chronicled by Gordon Miltenberger. Farmington was the home of John and Mildred's son, Austin Lightfoot Peay and his wife Peachy Speed. This Austin Peay line also sprung Gordon Neill Peay, who served as mayor of Little Rock, Arkansas. Gordon was a grandson of Austin and Mildred. There are still Peay descendants today in the Little Rock area, and several Peays from this line living out west who carry the surname.

North and South Carolina Peays: George W. Peay (b 1734) married Mary Eubank. The names Austin, John, Nicholas, and George permeate this line as well. The couple moved to Rockingham Co, NC from VA, and there are many Peays in that area today, including the man whose DNA I tested recently to confirm the kinship. Some from this line moved to the Fairfield, SC region to become wealthy planters, while others moved to Middle Tennessee, including Nashville and Davidson County. The Nashville area still has many of these Peay descendants carrying the surname, though I am unsure if the SC area still does.

Huguenot Legend: Our family legend says that the original “American” Peay was a French Huguenot, and interestingly, the Mattaponi Huguenot settlement (near Manakintown) indeed listed a Peay family among its ranks. This is according to an article by Cameron Allen taken from Genealogical Research by the American Society of Genealogists (1971, 2 volumes). Additionally, the paper “The Huguenot Bartholomew DuPuy and his descendants” indicates that the Dupuy family had made its way to the Huguenot settlement at Manakintown by 1700. Family legend also says the name Peay was derived from the French name DuPuy. Most other Peay genealogist who's reports I have read have the same legend of the name DuPuy and Huguenot ancestry. My father said his grandmother Sallie Hurst Peay compiled and ancestry report when he was a child, and it too traced the Peay line to DuPuy from France. He recalls seeing the research report, but does not know what became of it. One Peay researcher in Nashville, TN tells me that her family legend is that “our” Peay patriarch was a Francois DuPuy, who lived in and fled the Languedoc region of France. All Peay family legends claim Huguenot ancestry, and interestingly, the “hotspot” for our Peay haplogroup (J2 - L25) on the National Geographic website is indeed the Languedoc region of France. Other Peay researchers claim kinship to Nicholas DuPuy, or Bartholomew DuPuy – I have seen nothing concrete to prove any of these kinships, but I do not refute the idea of Huguenot ancestry. In fact, the J2 haplogroup that the Peay DNA carries lends credence to the theory.

From Louisa Co to Kentucky: Early Louisa County, Va deed records confirm John and Anthony Peay living in that county. According to a deed (see Descendants of John Peay link on John Peay bought property on Cub Creek in 1784. This property is probably just south of present day Hwy 33, near Cuckoo. Tax records over the years show he owned a few less acres by the time the property was sold. John owned the property until about 1824, then it was owned by the John Peay estate until 1832, and finally the remaining 93 ¾ acres were sold in August of 1835 by Anthony Peay to Archibald T Goodwin. Anthony and family were in Pike Co, Mo purchasing land in November of 1835 after selling in Louisa in August.

Many families were leaving Louisa Co in 1835 and heading west in search of better opportunity. Dabney Smith moved his family from Louisa Co. to Todd Co KY in 1837, and they settled about halfway between Trenton and Mt. Zion, west of the Clarksville Highway. There they built a log cabin, then a small house, and finally in 1850 a two story frame house, which today still stands on Seay Rd near Trenton, and is owned by descendants of Dabney Smith. The graveyard is within sight of the old home place, and contains the graves of Dabney and Agnes Smith, and many other relatives.

On September 19, 1895, Dabney Smith’s great granddaughter Sallie Hurst married Austin Leavel Peay (sometimes called IV.) These families had been neighbors on Cub Creek in Louisa Co 60 years earlier, and the families may have kept in contact. Their courtship may have even been arranged by relatives, as Austin was living in Christian Co, and had just been admitted to the KY bar at age 19 when he married Sallie, who lived in Clarksville, Tenn.

In 1922, Austin Leavell Peay (Austin IV) was elected Governor of Tennessee (Democrat), and was later re-elected for two more terms. He was known as a statistician concerned more with facts and figures than politics. He was responsible for increasing the length of the school-year, shrinking and reorganizing state government, road building, the establishment of the Smoky Mountains Park (now a National Park,) reducing property tax, and initiating the tobacco tax. Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee is named in his honor. On January 1, 2000 Gov. Austin Peay was named the most influential public figure of the millennium by The Leaf Chronicle, Clarksville's daily newspaper. Austin IV died in 1927 while in office.

From France, to Colonial Va around 1700, then to Christian Co, KY in 1835 my direct family has moved very little in our young country. In 2016, almost 200 years after Austin and Maria braved the wagon trails to start their family in southern Kentucky, I choose to live only 20 miles from their old farm. The Peay's farm that was known as “The Oaks” today is within the Ft. Campbell military base that straddles the TN/KY border.

If you are researching the Peay family or Smith family, or any of the other families outlined in these reports, I would love to hear from you, and perhaps exchange information. You can Email me at