Elizabeth (Langley-Bass) Humfleet
(aka Umphleet, Umfleet)
Glenn Earl Perry
William &Piety(Sasser) Humfleet
the spelling of whose name previously was "Umfleet" and sometimes varied
from "Umphleet" to "Umphlete," go back to the early period of English
settlement (at least to the mid-1600s) in America. The first account we
have locates them in what is now Nansamond Co, VA. They generally are
thought to have come from England, and there are suggestions that the
name indicates some early association with that country's "home fleet."
In any case, following many generations of marriages to people in other
families, the Humfleets must have come to represent an amalgam of various
European nationalities. From the Old Dominion, the family spread to the
adjacent colonies, particularly to Edgecombe Co, NC, by the early 1700s.
We now know that our ancestry goes back to
who died in North Carolina in 1806.
Job's father may have been named William,
but we still are not sure about that.
To read a transcript of Job's will,
(will open a separate browser window)
Job named one of his sons
James "Jim" Umphleet,
who was born perhaps as early as 1765
(or possibly as much as ten years later),
in either Chowan Co or Gates Co, NC.
It is with Jim for whom the fog begins to make way for the clear light of
history. It was Jim and his wife, Elizabeth (Langley) Umfleet, who moved
westward in the footsteps of Daniel Boone along the famous Wilderness Road
across the mountains through Cumberland Gap to Kentucky shortly after 1810
from their previous home in Wayne Co, NC. Apparently two of Jim's brothers
and some of the Langleys moved with them or perhaps followed them soon
afterwards. We know from Elizabeth's "church letter" that before the family's
westward migration Elizabeth had been a member of the Baptist Church at
Little Buffalo, in Johnston County. Paralleling the story that has often
explained how the Appalachians came to be settled, tradition says that
these pioneers, like so many others, had their eyes on the rich lands of
the Bluegrass region of central Kentucky but that a member of the family
-Jim's brother, according to one version- became ill and the family
stopped to care for him. As the story goes, the Umphleets then decided
that the land right there in Knox Co, KY
-at the place that would always be known as Mt. Olivet-
was as good as any they might find elsewhere and that there was no need to
go on to the Bluegrass. After all, the hills in that part of Southeastern
Kentucky (near the Laurel County line today) are not typical of the rough
terrain of areas further east that are less suitable for agriculture.
Jim acquired about a thousand acres of land at Mt. Olivet. With their
numerous sons and daughters, they must have been prosperous farmers.
There is a tax receipt for the year 1844 -fourteen years after Jim's death-
showing payment of $205.00, certainly no small amount for that time. It is
said that Jim's brothers went further west, one to Boyle Co, KY, and another
one to Arkansas. Also representing the continuing process of dispersal, one
of Jim's and Elizabeth's sons is said eventually to have moved to Iowa. The
Umfleets of Mt. Olivet hardly epitomized the stereotypically isolated
Kentucky Mountaineers. After all, they lived right on the main road along
which so many funneled eastward and westward though Cumberland Gap.
It would be interesting to speculate about what famous figures in early
nineteenth century American history stopped to spend the night at
Jim's and Elizabeth's house at Mt. Olivet.
William "Bill" Humfleet
born 1806, was the son of Jim and Elizabeth(Langley) Humfleet.
He married Piety Sasser, who was born in Johnston Co, NC,
Henry &Nancy(Kirby) Sasser.
With Bill and Piety heading a very large household at Mt. Olivet, the
Humfleets had a renewed front-porch-view of history as rival armies
alternately poured along the road during the 1860s. Although most people in
the Mountains of the eastern parts of Kentucky and Tennessee
(where the absence of large-scale agriculture made slavery fairly uncommon)
favored the Union cause, the Humfleets embraced the Confederacy.
Why they did so is not clear.
Perhaps it was a matter of loyalties developing after members of
the family got recruited by whatever side. In any case, considerable
enthusiasm seems to have developed, for there is a story about a female
relative visiting at Mt. Olivet who stood outside the house chanting
"Hurrah for Jeff Davis!" as the Union troops passed by on< their way to
Cumberland Gap and decisive battles beyond. But these years did not produce
much fun. Even the house is said to have burned, with what had been started
as a barn now being finished by the women and boys to serve instead as the
Humfleet home, for all the men were now gone. The three sons who served in
the Confederate Army eventually returned home. But Piety's brothers in the
Union Army were not so fortunate; her brother, Jesse Sasser, died
during the war, and her brother, Adin Sasser, became terribly disabled
and did not long survive the end of the conflict.
Still, the saddest news at Mt. Olivet related to Bill's arrest
on accusations -false, as tradition says- that he had cut a Union Army
telegraph line. He was taken away as a prisoner of war to Johnson's Island,
Sandusky Bay, Ohio, in Lake Erie. His suffering there must have been
horrible, for in November 1862, when Bill's ordeal was only beginning,
it inspired a fellow prisoner to write a poem, a Hymn that some believe
was written in Bill's honor.
To read the Hymn,
(will open a separate browser window)
According to one tradition,
President Lincoln finally pardoned Bill, but the attempt to get home
-by foot much of the way, or so the story has passed down to us-
proved worse than prison. In January of 1865 word reached Piety that her
husband had perished from pneumonia only a few miles away, at East Bernstedt,
in Laurel County, where she took the wagon to bring his body the rest of the
way home. According to one of his granddaughters who was born only ten
years later, even the body did not get all the way back for burial at Mt. Olivet,
and instead Bill was laid to rest up the road at the Robinson Graveyard.
A new generation flourished as Bill's son,
Arthur "Arter" Humfleet,
born in 1847, and his wife, Manerva (Sprinkle) Humfleet, reared their nine
children at the old home place. Arthur's siblings -only ten of whom reached
adulthood- mostly lived nearby. One brother, Harvey, married Minerva's sister,
Sarah, while his brother, Jonathan, wedded another Sprinkle sister, Melvina.
The three Sprinkle sisters who married Humfleets were daughters of
Herl Smith Sprinkle & Tabitha (Trent) Sprinkle.
One of Arter's brothers and one of his sisters married siblings from the
Tuttle family and eventually moved with their children to Indiana. Minerva
died, in 1900, when she was only fifty-three, while Arter lived on to 1929
-to the ripe old age of eighty-two. Several of Arter's and Manerva's
children excelled in school and became teachers, while the children's
double first cousin, Daniel Humfleet, son of Jonathan and Melvina, was to
become a dean at Union College during the 1920s.
These people merely represent some examples of the achievements of
Jim's and Elizabeth's descendants -later generations have repeated such
accomplishments many times over- as members of the family increasingly
left the land for a variety of occupational pursuits, often in faraway
places. Some of the descendants of these early Humfleets have continued to
keep the connection with the place alive. After retiring from careers as
teachers in Michigan, Lois (Humfleet) Warfield (granddaughter of Arter
and Manerva) and her husband, Edward Warfield, now live at the site of the
old Humfleet home. The Warfields symbolized the family's continuity and its
connection with that spot by incorporating stones from the old chimney,
which had stood for decades as the only remnant of the nineteenth century
structure, into their fireplace. Perhaps even more moving is the metal box
kept in the Warfield's home in which Elizabeth's church letter from Little
Buffalo, the tax receipts going back to the 1830s, and the hymn in honor of
Bill, along with so many other papers that document the life of the
Humfleets during these past two centuries, have amazingly survived.
The Mt. Olivet Baptist Church,
to which Elizabeth's membership was transferred from Little Buffalo
and for which the Humfleets donated the land, stands close by.
The graveyard to the back of the house makes this a place of pilgrimage
for the many descendants of Jim and Elizabeth (Langley) Humfleet,
and guarantees that the family's presence at Mt. Olivet will never end.
of the overall
Cobb-Sasser Family Lineage Website
Please do sign the book!
To return to the page you came here from,
use your browser's "BACK" button,
or clickon for:
(will open a separate window)
bars and clipart created by
Webmistress(Bobbie Sue) from
graphics of unknown origins.