VAN STOCKUM: Joseph Walker Hornsby and his diary

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How the story came to be

By Ron Van Stockum

Chris McManus, a direct descendant of Joseph W. Hornsby (1740-1807), visited Shelbyville years ago, leaving in the Shelby County Public Library a copy of a transcript of his ancestor's diary, together with significant biographical information.

Later, I initiated correspondence with McManus in the hope of finding out more about Ann Allen, his ancestor who happened also to be my late wife Susanne's great, great, great grandmother. Ann Allen died in 1805 and is buried in the Allen Dale Farm graveyard.

McManus sent me copies of some of the research papers he had prepared concerning the Allen and Hornsby families. I was impressed with the quality of his research.

While president of the Filson Club, now the Filson Historical Society, in Louisville, I suggested that McManus entrust the original diary to the club’s Manuscript Department, and he persuaded his mother, Mrs. George McManus, to part with this significant document.

Jim Holmberg, manuscript curator at the Filson Club, established direct contact with McManus, and the Joseph Hornsby Diary is now safely ensconced in Filson’s archives and available to family and to researchers.

Parenthetically, the existence of this diary had been known for some time. In his History of Shelby County, Kentucky, originally published in 1929, George L. Willis, Sr. refers to “a diary written in ink between April, 1798 and August, 1804 by Joseph Hornsby at his home in Southwestern Shelby County near where Clark’s Station on the Southern Railway now stands  . . .”

In preparing my column about Joseph Walker Hornsby, I have relied heavily upon the meticulous research conducted by McManus.

After a lapse in our contact over many years, I have reached him again, in Washington, D.C., by E-mail in order to verify some of my facts.