Josephine Russell Erwin Clay family papers

Abstract

The Josephine Russell Erwin Clay family papers (dated 1823-1901; 0.45 cubic feet; 2 boxes) consist of letters, receipts, a slave deed, and a scrapbook, documenting the Clay, Erwin, and Russell families of Kentucky.

Descriptive Summary

Title
Josephine Russell Erwin Clay family papers
Creator
Labach, Karen Mitchell
Extent
0.45 Cubic Feet
Subjects
Horse industry
Horse racing -- Kentucky -- Lexington.
Slavery -- Kentucky.
Agriculture -- Kentucky.
Thoroughbred horse -- Breeding -- Kentucky
Finding Aid Author
Megan Mummey
Preferred Citation
2014ms174: [identification of item], Josephine Russell Erwin Clay family papers, 1823-1900, University of Kentucky Special Collections Research Center.
Repository
University of Kentucky

Collection Overview

Biography / History
Josephine Erwin Clay (1835-1920) was the daughter of William Henry Russell (1802-1873)--a political ally of Henry Clay. When she was seven her family visited Ashland, home of the Clay family, where the famed statesman signed her autograph album. Ashland, renowned as Kentucky's finest stock farm, stabled Henry Clay's wonderful assortment of cattle, jacks and jennies, swine, and horses. Clay made his mark on the early thoroughbred industry in Kentucky with a stallion, Yorkshire, and two brood mares, Magnolia and Margaret Wood, whose descendants greatly influenced breeding and racing in the United States. Eleven Kentucky Derby winners can trace their lineage to Clay's brood mares.
In 1853 Josephine Russell married Eugene Erwin, the grandson of Henry Clay, in Missouri. The union yielded four daughters, one of whom, Eugenia, died in 1864 not long after her birth. In 1861 Erwin joined the Confederate Army and rose to the rank of Colonel in command of the 6th Missouri Infantry Regiment. In 1863 Josephine and her nine-year-old daughter joined Erwin at Vicksburg. One week before the end of the Union siege at Vicksburg, Eugene Erwin was killed on June 25, 1863 while leading his unit as it repelled a Federal attack. On July 18, 1863 Josephine met with General U.S. Grant and obtained passes from him allowing her and daughter Lucretia (Lula) to return to Missouri.
Josephine remarried in 1866 to Henry Clay's son, John M. Clay (1821-1887) who, following his mother Lucretia's death, inherited a portion of the family's racing stock. The couple teamed to train and race horses through the mid-1880s with Josephine charged with running Ashland Stud during her husband's frequent trips on the racing circuit throughout the East, South, and Midwest. The couple raced several famous horses including Skedaddle, Survivor, Star Davis, Sauce Box, Squeeze 'em, and Victory. The latter was eventually acquired by General George Armstrong Custer and was present at the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876. During this time Josephine studied and became an expert on pedigrees.
Following John M. Clay's illness and subsequent death in 1887, Josephine redirected the business from racing to breeding and the annual sale of yearlings. Included in his estate were twelve brood mares, all descendants of Henry Clay's brood mares Magnolia and Margaret Wood. Between 1889 and 1900 she built her stock to over fifty brood mares and two stallions and became recognized as the first female to own and operate a successful thoroughbred horse farm. Her notoriety and that of The Ashland Stock Farm reached national proportions when a horse that she sold named Riley won the 1890 Kentucky Derby.
Josephine dispersed her stock in 1903 because of failing eyesight and the anti-gambling reform movement in New York and other states which prohibited betting on horses. Clay was also the author of several novels and short stories, many of which had themes related to racing. She died on March 29, 1920 at age 85 leaving behind a well-earned reputation as a business woman and a large and active circle of descendants in central Kentucky, Missouri, and other locations.
Scope and Content
The Josephine Russell Erwin Clay family papers (dated 1823-1901; 0.45 cubic feet; 2 boxes) consist of letters, receipts, a slave deed, and a scrapbook, documenting the Clay, Erwin, and Russell families of Kentucky. The papers include seven letters written to Henry Clay, most of them regarding livestock such as Poiton asses and the Arabian horses Stamboul and Kocklani. One of the letters is from Clay’s brother, Porter Clay, and another is a letter of introduction for Clay’s future-son-in-law James Erwin. Henry Clay’s materials also include a stud account for the Arabian horse Kocklani and a receipt for the care of Stamboul and Kocklani.
The papers also include letters written by Henry Clay’s children Anne Clay Erwin and John Morrison Clay to their mother Lucretia Clay. Anne Clay Erwin’s letter concerns trees and plants she sent to Ashland, the impending birth of Henry, Jr. and Julia Prather's first child, and business in New Orleans. The letters written by John Morrison Clay concern her health as well as horse racing in New Jersey and Philadelphia. John Morrison Clay’s materials also include a Kentucky Association handbill from 1858, listing John Morrison Clay as an entrant in the spring horse racing meet and a certificate that the horse Jennie P. won a race at the Magnolia Jockey Club in Mobile, Alabama, in 1866 directly after the Civil War.
The papers include a slave deed from Zaenett Russell (Josephine Russell Erwin Clay's mother) to Josephine Russell Erwin and Eugene Erwin, selling a slave named Caroline to them for 5 dollars in 1854. Finally, the papers also contain the scrapbook of Mary Webster Erwin Anderson (1961-1931), daughter of Josephine Russell Erwin Clay and Eugene Erwin, and her copy of the Illustrated Kentuckian Journal from June 1893.

Restrictions on Access and Use

Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Access Collection is open to researchers by appointment
Use Restrictions
Property rights reside with the University of Kentucky. The University of Kentucky holds the copyright for materials created in the course of business by University of Kentucky employees. Copyright for all other materials has not been assigned to the University of Kentucky. For information about permission to reproduce or publish, please contact Special Collections.

Contents of the Collection

N. Camon letter to Henry Clay, introducing James Erwin, 1823 October 4

  • Box 1, folder 1
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E. N. Berryman letter to Henry Clay, regarding the horse Stamboul, 1832 August 6

  • Box 1, folder 2
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Porter Clay letter to Henry Clay, mentions livestock and cholera epidemic, 1833 June 7

  • Box 1, folder 3
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B. H. Payne letter to Henry Clay, regarding the horse Stamboul, 1833 July 22

  • Box 1, folder 4
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P. B. Hockaday letter to Henry Clay, regarding the horses Kocklani and Warrior, 1834 February 15

  • Box 1, folder 5
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R. M. Shepherd letters to Henry Clay, 1836

  • Box 1, folder 6
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William Jones letter to Henry Clay, regarding a painting of the schooner UST Whig, 1848 July 4

  • Box 1, folder 7
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Gales and Seaton receipt, regarding the horses Stamboul and Kocklani, 1833 March 13

  • Box 1, folder 8
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Kocklani (horse of Henry Clay) stud account, 1833

  • Box 1, folder 9
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Mr. [Armillard] receipts for Poiton asses, 1836 November 19-28

  • Box 1, folder 10
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Anne Clay Erwin letter to Lucretia Clay, 1835 February 2

  • Box 1, folder 11
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John M. Clay letters to Lucretia Clay, 1863

  • Box 1, folder 12
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Kentucky Association handbill for Spring Meeting, 1858

  • Box 1, folder 13
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John M. Clay certificate that Jennie P. won the two-year race at the Magnolia Jockey Club in Mobile, Alabama, 1866 March 30

  • Box 1, folder 14
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John M. Clay letter fragment, 1851 February

  • Box 1, folder 15
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Slave deed from Zenett Russell to daughter Josephine Russell Erwin and Eugene Erwin, 1854 February 11

  • Box 1, folder 16
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Letter fragment, Marie [?] to Joe [?], San Francisco, 1852 April 8

  • Box 1, folder 17
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John M. Haychigg vs. R. Apperson, unpaid account for a sorrell horse, 1865

  • Box 1, folder 18
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Mary W. Anderson scrapbook, 1895-1900

  • Box 2, folder 1
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Mary W. Anderson - The Kentuckian Journal, 1893 June

  • Box 2, folder 2
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Researchers are required to have an SCRC Researcher Account in order to request or order digital copies of materials. Research Account set-up and use instructions can be found at: http://libguides.uky.edu/SCRCaccount

If you are visiting the Breckinridge Research Room, please request materials at least 48 business hours in advance of your arrival.

For all other questions, contact us at: https://libraries.uky.edu/ContactSCRC.

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