Jesse Radford was born July 25th, 1842 in Clay County, Kentucky to Nathaniel Radford and his wife. He married first Grace "Gracy" Holland, daughter of Richard Holland and Margaret Hensley, on 26 Jan 1865 in Clay County, Kentucky. In the 1870 Census, you can find him in Clay County with his wife, Gracy, 4 children, and a Mary J. Bowling. This Mary J. Bowling is his niece by marriage, as she is the daughter of James Bowling and Gracy's sister Delilah Radford. Sometime around this time, Mary became Jesse's mistress. (Please note that her name was not Mary Jane "Mahala" Bowling, nor did her name ever have "Mahala" in it. You can find one of my earlier blogs on this subject here: http://thesaltofamerica.blogspot.com/2012/05/mary-jane-bowling-is-not-mahala-bowling.html) They had several children together, while Jesse was simultaneously having children with his wife, Gracy. It's clear Jesse's wife and children knew full and well that he was having children with Mary, but why Gracy seemingly consented to this relationship, we may never know.
In about 1880, Jesse's mistress, Mary, married her 1st cousin, Solomon Hensley, who was a son of Benjamin Hensley and Margaret Holland, sister of Gracy and Delilah; they didn't go far though, as in the 1880 Census they are shown just 2 households away from Jesse's household, which included all but one of the children he and Mary had had together. Interestingly, despite her marriage to Hensley, it appears Mary may have continued to bear Jesse's children; it appears she gave birth to Mahala shortly before or after her marriage to Solomon, and then gave birth to Clark a few months later. However, if we are to presume that her affair with Jesse ended when she married Solomon, then the most likely course of events would be that she gave birth to Mahala, became pregnant with Clark, and then married Solomon and gave birth after her marriage. No children born between Mary Jane and Hensley have been identified. Around 1883, Jesse and his family moved to the Boston Mountains region of northwest Arkansas. It appears that Solomon and Mary came along to Arkansas with them, as well as much of the Holland clan, including Gracy's siblings Spencer, Richard, Nancy, Henderson, and David.
Jesse served as a Private in the 8th Kentucky Infantry (UN) during the Civil War, so a lot of information about what happened after they moved to Arkansas can be found in his large pension file. Grace died in late November or early December of 1886; different witnesses gave different approximate dates within the same range. Multiple witnesses gave the date as December 2nd, so that's the date I have down in my records. She was most likely buried in the Radford-Freewill Cemetery in Rad Star, Madison County, Arkansas, where Jesse was buried 30 years later, and which is located on Jesse's original homestead. According to descendants of Mary Jane Bowling, she apparently died about 1888 in Madison County, and is buried in the Radford-Freewill Cemetery, but no hard documentation has been found to corroborate this. However, it is most likely correct, as her husband Solomon married one of she and Jesse's daughters, Serena, in 1889 (according to the 1900 Census).
On March 3rd, 1887, just 4 months after Grace's death, Jesse married Sarah "Sally" Eversole, daughter of Joseph Eversole and Lucy Huff. She was the sister of his daughter Eliza's husband, Robert Eversole. According to the pension file, she and Jesse had 4 children together, one of whom died in infancy. Jesse received a pension for a number of years. He passed away on June 12th, 1917 in Boston Township, Madison County, and is buried in Radford's Freewill Cemetery with a Union headstone. Sally then applied for a Widow's pension, which she acquired only after providing a ton of information about her life, which can be found in Jesse's pension file.
Now we get to the most complicated question about Jesse Radford: How many children did he have? Well, it's hard to say, and we will probably never have a complete, perfect list of children for him between his two wives and his mistress, but I am going to attempt to compile as complete a list as possible. I found a post made over 10 years ago by a descendant of Jesse's daughter Polly, which claimed Jesse had 23 children. (http://genforum.genealogy.com/radford/messages/306.html). Then I acquired a book put together by Robert L. Sims entitled Holland-Hollon-Hollen-Hollan - A Compilation of Many of the Descendants of Richard Holland Born 1800 in North Carolina and Elizabeth Margaret Peggy Hensley Born 1802 in North Carolina. He cites a researcher named Sheryl Holland who claimed that "Jesse had 24 children with Gracey and Mary Jane." Now I don't know if she meant to say "and Sally" or if this total is meant to exclude the 4 children he had with Sally Eversole, but if I had to make a solid bet, it would be that she meant he had 24 children total between his two wives and his mistress.
On April 11th, 1915 as a part of his pension application, Jesse himself made out a list of what should have been ALL of his children, living or dead. However, he only included his "legitimate" children, aka the children he fathered with either Grace Holland or Sally Eversole. He does not list any of his illegitimate children. On top of that, he appears to have missed a couple of his legitimate children as well who died young, at least according to Census records. However, that could simply be on account that by that time he was an old man and possibly couldn't remember the names of his many children, especially the ones who died as infants.
So after sorting through Jesse's list of children from his pension, all of Jesse's and Mary Jane's Census records, Sims's book, and my great grandmother's family bible [henceforth referred to as "Marks Bible"] in which she named as many of her aunts and uncles as she could by memory (with what appears to be one error), I have put together a list of what appears to be 24 different children that Jesse fathered. I will list them all here in this format:
No. - Name - Approximate Year of Birth - Mother - Sources/Notes
The list Jesse made himself included notes whether each child he listed was living or dead as of April 11th, 1915, so if they were on Jesse's list, I will include a note as to whether they were living at the time Jesse made his list. (Please note that Margaret's, Davy's, and Fanny's approximate years of birth are complete guesses based only on their places on Jesse's list, which he appears to have attempted to make chronological, but was off in a couple of places.)
[This list was amended in Dec. 2016 to reflect updated information; the list of children was reduced from 25 to 24.]
1. Sally Radford - 1865 - Grace Holland - 1870 Census, 1880 Census, Marks Bible, Jesse's list (Dead)
2. Margaret Radford - 1866 - Grace Holland - Jesse's list (Dead)
3. Eliza Radford - 1867 - Grace Holland - 1870 Census, 1880 Census, Marks Bible, Jesse's list (Living). In the 1870 Census, appears to be listed as "Malissey Ann" or "Malisseyann", indicating that "Eliza" may have been a shortening of "Melissa" or "Meliza". Her father calls her "Lizy". In adulthood, she gave her year of birth as 1866, but unless she was a twin to Margaret, she was more likely born in 1867. The other possibility is that Sally was born 9 months after January 1865 (September, 1865), and Margaret was born less than 9 months later as a stillbirth, and then Eliza was born December, 1866. But I don't think Jesse would have listed Margaret as one of his children if she had been stillborn, so it is most likely that Sally was born 1865, Margaret in 1866, and Eliza in 1867.
4. Nancy Radford - 1869 - Grace Holland - 1870 Census, 1880 Census, Marks Bible, Jesse's list (Living)
5. Nathaniel Radford - 1870 - Grace Holland - 1870 Census, 1880 Census, Marks Bible, Jesse's List (Living)
6. Serena Bowling Radford - 1871 - Mary Bowling - 1880 Census
7. Rebecca Radford - 1872 - Grace Holland - 1880 Census, Marks Bible, Jesse's list (Dead)
8. Polly Radford - 1874 - Grace Holland - 1880 Census, Marks Bible, Jesse's list (Living)
9. Elizabeth Bowling Radford - 1874 - Mary Bowling - She is in Mary's household in 1880 Census; her birth record does not list father. She is born during the same timeframe as Mary's other children, so there is no reason to doubt she is Jesse's child as her siblings are. What became of her is unknown.
10. Dillard Radford - 1875 - Grace Holland - 1880 Census, Marks Bible, Jesse's list (Living)
11. Wright Bowling Radford - 1876 - Mary Bowling - 1880 Census
12. Henry B. Radford - 1877 - Grace Holland - 1880 Census, Marks bible, Jesse's list (Living). Jesse lists him as living, but I have not found any information on him anywhere after the 1880 Census. Sims's book and some online trees say he married a woman named "Carrie", but the Henry B. Radford who married a "Carrie" and was the same age as our Henry and who was from Kentucky was a black man, as proven by multiple census records.
13. Mary Ellen Bowling Radford - 1878 - 1880 Census, Marks Bible. Her mother being Mary Boling conflicts with many genealogies who give her as Grace's daughter, but I base this assertion on Jesse not naming Mary as his legitimate child in his pension. I know she was listed as Mary E. Radford in the 1880 Census, indicating she was legitimate while the other illegitimate childrens' surnames were Bowling, but Serena is listed as a Radford, but she was a Boling, and Mahala and Sallie are listed as a Bowling, even though they were Grace's children. Sally calls her "Mary Ellen Burns" [her married surname] in Jesse's pension records, giving us her middle name.
14. Henderson Bowling Radford - 1878 - Mary Bowling - 1880 Census
15. Mahalia "Haley" "Halia" "Hallie" Radford - 1880 - Grace Holland - Jesse's list (Dead), 1880 Census. She is living with Eliza in the 1910 Census and listed as her husband Robert's sister-in-law. What's interesting here is that she is listed as a Bowling in the 1880 Census, but appears to be listed as a legitimate child in Jesse's pension, unlike Clark, Serena, Mary, and the others. I believe she must have been legitimate. It is also interesting that in Jesse's list he lists her as dead, but in Tom's obituary in 1943, she is listed as a surviving sibling.
16. Eliga Radford - 1881 - Grace Holland - 1900 Census, 1910 Census, Jesse's list (Living).
17. Clark Bowling Radford - 1881 - Mary Bowling - Marks Bible
18. Syrus Radford - 1883 - Grace Holland - 1900 Census, Marks Bible, Jesse's list (Living)
19. Thomas Radford - 1885 - Grace Holland - 1900 Census, Jesse's list (Living)
20. Davy Radford - 1886 - Grace Holland - Jesse's list (Dead)
21. James Robert - 1887 - Sally Eversole - 1900 Census, Jesse's list (Living)
22. Hannah Elizabeth - 1891 - Sally Eversole - 1900 Census, 1910 Census, Jesse's list (Living)
23. Fanny - 1892 - Sally Eversole - Jesse's list (Dead)
24. John Jackson - 1894 - Sally Eversole - 1900 Census, 1910 Census, Jesse's list (Living)
If anyone has any additional information for me, please contact me.