The Marcum Family

By Stephen D. Bowling

The Marcum family in Breathitt County had a long and storied history.  Most associate the Marcum name with the murders of James Marcum and the violence of the Callahan/Cockrell/Hargis/Marcum feud of the early 1900s.  Yet the vast majority of the members of the Marcum family lived quiet, peaceful, and uneventful lives.

The Marcums of Breathitt County descend primarily from Alfred Marcum.  Alfred was born on March 2, 1803, and passed away on October 23, 1888.  He married Joannah “Joan” Strong on January 18, 1837, at the Marcum home on Broadway in Jackson.  Joannah was the daughter of Colonel Edward and Elizabeth (Spencer) Strong.  Joannah was born on March 2, 1821, near Sulphur Gap at Whick, Breathitt County, Kentucky.

The graves of Alfred and Joannah (Strong) Marcum are in an abandoned cemetery near Haddix.

Alfred Marcum was the descendant of a long line of Virginia Marcums.  Alfred’s father, Thomas Marcum, Jr., was born in Stokes County, Virginia in 1781.  Thomas, Jr. married Mary “Polly” Wilson and moved to Clay County, Kentucky.

Alfred’s grandfather was Thomas Marcum, Sr.  He was born in Henrico County, Virginia, the son of William Marcum, Sr. (1734-1801) and Francis “Fannie” Bedlow.  William, Sr. and Fannie Marcum lived on a 300-acre farm with their six children: Edward, Susan, Timothy, John, Thomas, and William, Jr.

Thomas Marcum, Sr. served as a Captain of the 7th Virginia Regimental Line during the Revolutionary War.  William moved from Virginia to North Carolina where William, Jr. was born.

James Buchanan Marcum became the most widely known of the Marcum family after his assassination in 1903.

Breathitt County’s Marcum families all descend from this distinguished line.  Alfred and Joannah provided well for their children: 

America, their oldest child, married Judge James W. Lindon.

Elizabeth married John “Mucker Jack” Little.

James Buchanan “J. B.” Marcum married Arbrilia Hurst.  James served as the Master Commissioner for Breathitt County during the most violent feuds of our history.  His life was cut short by an assassin’s bullet on May 4, 1903, while standing in the door of the old Breathitt County Courthouse. 

Sarah Marcum married George H. Patrick;

Daniel Marcum was born on November 1, 1851, in Jackson and died on December 5, 1864.

For many decades, the Marcums were one of Breathitt County’s most prominent families.  Their large two-story home stood high on the ridge overlooking downtown Jackson and is visible in several old photos.  They were active in county politics and government.  The death and violence that followed the murder of James B. Marcum drove most members of this family from the county.  Today all that remains of the Marcum family in the county are a few descendants, memories, newspaper articles, and faded pictures.

© 2023 Stephen D. Bowling

About sdbowling

Director of the Breathitt County Public Library and Heritage Center in Jackson, Kentucky.
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