The Mysterious John McCorkle of 1810 Green County, Kentucky


The 1810 Green County, Kentucky enumeration of the family of John McCorkle has puzzled me for a long time. For years I have tried to reconcile this enumeration with the later census enumerations of John McCorkle, who also lived in Green County and later moved to northwest Missouri. Because Green County, Kentucky was near the edge of the American frontier in the late 1700s and early 1800s, information concerning the residents is sometimes difficult to obtain. Only recently have I finally come to believe that the John McCorkle found in the 1810 Green Count census was not the John McCorkle found in the 1820 Green County census and later in the 1840 and 1850 Missouri censuses. The two Green County census enumerations are compared below:


1810 Green Co.

1820 Green Co.

1 male 1810/1820

2 males 1804/1810

1 male 1794/1800

1 male 1775/1794

2 males 1784/1794

1 male bef 1865

2 females 1810/1820

2 females 1784/1794

1 female 1775/1794

1 female bef 1765


To add to the seeming paradox, the yearly tax lists for Green County never show more than two John McCorkles in Green County from 1803 to 1813 (John , the son of Samuel McCorkle Sr., was killed in 1814) and only one in the later years.

In 1802 and 1803, Samuel Jr. and his brother John, sons of Samuel McCorkle of Augusta County, Virginia,  purchased property in Green County. Both Samuel Jr. and John had recently sold their farms in Augusta County, Virginia, so they had the funds to buy land in Green County. The 1809, 1810 & 1811 Green Co. Tax Books include John and Samuel McCorkle with considerable property. In addition, a John McCorkle that was not a land owner paid a Personal Property Tax. In 1805, a John McCorkle married Ann Spear in Green County and in 1840 Samuel McCorkle Jr. named a son John in his will. From these data I conclude the John McCorkle enumerated in the 1820 census was the son of Samuel McCorkle Jr. In the 1850 Missouri census, he was enumerated as born c.1780. The Spears and the McCorkles had moved from Augusta to Green about the same time, but the Spears were not enumerated in the 1810 census. The Spears could have been living with John McCorkle in 1810. This would account for the older individuals in the enumeration, but would not account for the absence of the  younger individuals enumerated in the John McCorkle home in the 1820 census.

There are numerous explanations for this perplexing situation. A few are listed below:

    1. The John McCorkle enumerated in the 1810 census was not the same person that was enumerated in the 1820 census and this family was just "passing through" Green County. That is, this family was in Green at census time, but they were not there at tax time. If so, I have not found a similar family in the United States 1820 or 1830 censuses. This would be a very unusual situation, but not impossible.

    2. The John McCorkle of 1810 was the same person as the John McCorkle of 1820.The census taker just made a mistake and entered all the individuals in the 1810 census one column to the right of where they should have been entered. This seems like a real stretch.

    3. Some/all of the younger individuals enumerated in the 1820 census were not the children of John and his wife/wives, but were the "adopted" children of one of John's deceased brothers. However, the will of John's father, Samuel Jr., provides specifically for the children of his deceased sons and these children seem to have been accounted for. So this explanation does not seem probable.

    4. Another explanation? Please send me yours thoughts.

My conclusion is that the John McCorkle enumerated in 1810 Green County census was a resident of Green for a relatively short period. He was not taxed and probably died before the 1820 census. His identity is a complete mystery to me, but I have discovered two possibilities in my research:

The most obvious explanation is that John McCorkle was related to Samuel McCorkle that died in 1797 in Green County. Nothing is known of Samuel except that the administrator of Samuel’s estate was William Adams, husband of Margaret McCorkle Adams. Margaret was the daughter of William and Martha McCorkle. William was brother to James McCorkle, who emigrated from Ireland c.1770 and became a friend and business associate of William Christian. In researching James, I found that he and James Dysart were sureties for a court case involving a John McCorkle in Fincastle County, Virginia in 1774. This is a very interesting fact, but I have been unable to develop this clue. For more information on James, Samuel and the female descendants of William, click here.

Another alternative:

In 1830, John M. S. McCorkle (b. 1799) married Jane Bruckner in Green County. John was the son of William McCorkle of Greensburg, Pennsylvania. William was the son of James Rae McCorkle (bc. 1752) of Philadelphia; however, I have not seen any research that identifies James Rea’s siblings. James Rae may have been the son of James and Elizabeth Rhea McCorkle. John M. S. McCorkle was a prominent lawyer in Green County and his wife was from a wealthy family. I have always wondered why John M. S. went to Green County, seemingly unaccompanied by other relatives. This would have been very unusual for any of the McCorkles of this period. The enumeration of the 1810 John McCorkle family includes a male born before 1765. This would have been the right age for a brother of James Rae McCorkle. To learn more about this family, click here.


Return to The Children and Grandchildren of Samuel McCorkle Jr. of Green Co., Kentucky

Created Aug 15, 2007
Revised Jan 12, 2012