Elijah W. Worsham

by Edmund Starling, 1886

ELIJAH W. WORSHAM. The father of Elijah W. Worsham moved from Indiana to Kentucky in the year 1820, settling upon a farm, purchased by him, some half mile or more above Evansville, on the Ohio River, in the then wilderness of this locality which was comparatively uninhabited. At the time, and for many years afterwards, all of the country lying between what was known as the pole bridge slough and the point opposite Evansville, was covered by a dense undergrowth of cane higher than a man's head while riding on horseback.

     Wild beasts made their abode in this cane, notably some bear and many wolves. Mr. Ludson Worsham married Miss Margaret King, daughter of Elijah King, one of the early pioneers, and to them was born, February 12th, 1823, the subject of this sketch.

     In 1832 John Collins secured the contract for carrying the mail once a week between the towns of Henderson and Evansville and sub-contracted to Ludson Worsham. At nine years of age, young Elijah was appointed to perform the then arduous duty of making this weekly trip on horseback, exchanging the mails between the two towns. At the time, there were but few settlers in this territory, Samuel, William, Joseph, James, Harbison, Luke and Wash Butler, Eggleston Matthews, James McClain, Ludson Worsham, John Eakins, and a Mr. Scott, comprising the whole list of inhabitants from the Water Works to Evansville, and not over five of this number were men of family.

     Manfully did the young boy perform his duty for three long years, and many a time was he frightened almost out of his wits. His father furnished him a very fine horse, so thus far he was comfortably equipped. A strange incident occurred the first year he was employed in carrying the mail, which is worth relating. His trips were made on Friday of each week, and one day, in the summer of 1832, as he was coming from Evansville, mounted upon his mail sack, he met at the pole bridge slough, Mr. Samuel Butler, who stopped and advised him to proceed no further, telling him at the same time, that the cholera had broken out and was depopulation the town; that men had been seized with the frightful disease and fallen in the streets. This information, of course, unnerved the young mail carrier, and regarding not only the advice of Mr. Butler, but believing discretion the better part of valor, determined, and did return to his father's house, where he was justified, after relating what had been told him. He put up his fine horse and returned to the house, wondering what the postmasters of the two places would think of his non-appearance, for it was the first time he had ever missed. That evening he went to the stable to feed his horse, when, to his amazement, he was found dead, having died during the afternoon from a severe attack of colic. The young man was greatly distressed at the loss of his horse, and while contemplating his death in connection with the story told him the day before, on the road, a messenger came up with the still more startling intelligence of the death of Mr. Butler, from cholera, only a few hours prior to that time. Young Worsham's early education was to a degree fragmentary, being obtained at such schools as were then in the country, and during the intervals of labor. During the winter months he was sent to school, but the summer months were devoted to working on the farm and chopping cord wood. He continued to live upon the Worsham homestead until the year 1847. In 1844, at the age of twenty-one, he married Miss Miriam Jane Graham, a young lady of great native beauty, and yet handsome. In the year 1847, his health having failed him, and attributing it to river bottom life, he purchased a farm near Bloomington, some nine miles out on the Knoblick road, to which he removed and continued to reside for three years, at the end of which time he returned to his father's old place. Mr. Worsham had always taken an active interest in politics, and shortly after the organization of the American or Know Nothing party, he became a member, and in the summer of 1855 was nominated by that party, for representative, in the following Legislature. The canvass was a warm one, and his opponent was a keep, astute, political manager, yet he was elected over Colonel C. W. Hutchen, defeating him by a handsome majority. Mr. Worsham served during the terms of 1855 and '56, with great credit to himself and the county.

     Returning from the Legislature, he again applied himself to farming on his river place, where he remained until 1859, when he purchased of W. B. Woodruff, the farm now owned by the estate of T. W. Witt, two miles out on the Owensboro road. In the year 1863 he built the Overton tobacco factory, and embarked in the tobacco stemming business on a large scale. In 1867 he moved with his family from the country into the city. In 1870 he purchased of C. A. Rudy the three-story brick store house, on Second street, now owned by A. S. Winstead, then unfinished, and completed it.

     He then formed a co-partnership with A. S. Winstead, and under the firm name of E. W. Worsham & Co., bought and sold liquors in large quantities.

     Added to this, was a splendidly arranged labratory, under the supervision of an expert, where the firm manufactured bitters and several kinds of malarial medicines. In 1873 he was seized with the Tule land fever, and in company with several other gentlemen, purchased a large lot of these lands off the coast of California. He removed with his family to the Golden Gate, and there raised two crops of wheat, without ever ploughing[sic] a furrow. The first year the sod was burned off of the land and wheat sown; six hundred sheep were then run over it, and from this labor alone, a magnificent crop was harvested. Next year a volunteer crop was grown from the roots of the first year's crop. The uncertain condition of the lands, however, induced him to sell, which he did, and, at the end of two years removed into the City of San Francisco, where he remained for one year, going from thence to Los Angeles, Southern California, where he engaged in grazing sheep, having on hand at times as many as twenty-five hundred head. In 1881 he returned to Henderson, formed a partnership with Joe. B. Johnson, built a large and finely arranged sour mash distillery, and commenced distilling under the firm name of E. W. Worsham & Co. Mr. Worsham was Deputy Sheriff in 1852 and '53, has served the city in the Council and School Board, and has been twice elected president of the Fair Company, to-wit: in 1882 and '83. He was made an Odd Fellow in 1844, and has during his life been an active, earnest and useful member, being now, by appointment, Deputy District Grand. In 1846 he joined the Baptist Church, and remained an earnest working member until 1870, when he applied for and was granted a card of withdrawal. The fruit of his marriage has been ten children, only four of whom are now living, Andrew Jackson, Dr. Ludson, DeWitt Clinton, and William Graham, all intelligent, promising young men. The ups and downs of life, to which Mr. Worsham has fallen heir, have been many, yet by superior judgement, keen foresight, and close management, he has not only held his own, but has amassed a handsome fortune. Although sixty-five years of age, he looks as young as most men of forty-five. 

Return to the Henderson County KyGenWeb Home Page