An authentic "Slave Bill of Sale" document written in Mason County nearly 200 years ago has come back to its original starting point.
James Alexander Paxton came to Mason County as a young man from Rockbridge, Va. He was an affluent lawyer, having several land holdings in Virginia that he sold when he made his way to Kentucky.
Paxton settled in the frontier town of Washington, becoming a person of some importance in the community.
The structures he built, his home and his inn, still stand on Main Street today. His home has become a visitors center and Paxton Inn has become a museum and home of the Limestone Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
As the owners of Paxton Inn, DAR members throughout the years have been diligent in their task of locating and collecting items with ties to James Paxton and his descendants.
According to DAR member Luellen Pyles, there are now portraits of several Paxton relatives adorning the walls of Paxton Inn, but there is nothing belonging to James Paxton on display.
Luellen said for all the years that she and others have escorted tour groups through the museum, the question always comes up of "What do you have from Mr. Paxton," to which she said the answer has been "nothing."
But that has all changed with the location of an authentic document bearing James Paxton's signature.
Located with the help of history buff and Mason County Sheriff Patrick Boggs, the "Slave Bill of Sale," bearing James Paxton's signature from Jan. 1, 1814, has been purchased by the Limestone DAR and will be donated to the Kentucky Gateway Museum Center for safekeeping.
The document has been scanned and a copy of the original has been framed and will now hang in Paxton Inn.
Luellen said Patrick called her last summer with the news that he had run across something she might be interested in. After hearing about his discovery on Early American History Auctions website, Luellen said she asked for DAR committee members approval to make a bid on the document.
By July 2011, the document was secured for right at the $1,000 limit set for the purchase.
Early American History Auction describes the condition of the document as this: measures 7.75" x 13"...document is in good to very good condition, well written, fully intact and complete with folds as filed, and with some spits at the folds, with trivial loss at some of the fold junctions and at the edges of the sheet from use. It appears to have been written immediately upon the completing of the auction, at which the Negro Slave known as Moses was sold to the high bidder at a price of $400."
Dana Linett owns Early American History Auctions and does frequent appraisals for the reality television show, Pawn Stars.
Linett also notes in his description that it appears the document is written by James Paxton.
"Think of that, 200 years old," said Luellen of the almost perfect condition of the document.
Ironically, James Paxton left Mason County around 1822 because of the issue of slavery. He was a member of the early Colonization Society, a society that promoted the return of slaves to Africa. His second wife was Maria Marshall, of Washington, and the family came back to the area to visit. On one of those trips in October 1825, Paxton sustained an injury to his head while visiting Blue Licks, and later died: he is buried in the Marshall family cemetery in Washington.
Luellen said she has been told on many occasions that she was "wasting her time" trying to find information or tangible items connected to James Paxton.
"It shows not to give in," she said. "You'll never get a chance at something like this again."
The public is invited to the presentation of the Paxton documnet, which will be held Tuesday, Sept. 18 at 7 p.m., at the Kentucky Gateway Museum Center in Maysville.
The following is the content of the document, as transcribed by DAR member Rebecca Cartmell.
Whereas by a decree of the Mason Circuit Court at the August Term 1813 in the suit in Chancery Abraham Dawson against Samuel Cracraft and other Defts
We the subscribers were appointed Commissioners under the said decree, and thereby directed after giving three weeks public notice by advertisement in the Dove to proceed to sell the Said Slaves mentioned in said decree at public auction in the Town of Washington for the best price that could be had for them each separately on a credit of six months.
We having advertised agreeable to the said decree, we this day proceeded to sell the said Slaves each separately at public auction in the Town of Washington the Negro Boy Moses mentioned in said decree being publicly sold at Auction on a credit of six months. Thomas A. Reeder being the highest bidder he was struck off to him at a sum of $400 Dollars. We the Commissioners undersigned under the authority of said decree hereby sell and deliver to the said Thos A. Reeder the said Negro Boy Moses to him and his assigns forever hereby vesting in him all the right title and interest of the Heirs of Isaac Dawson Deceased in Testimony where of we have hereunto set our hands and affixed our seals this first day of back of document
James A. Paxton