Doom Family Left Its Mark On Kentucky Frontier History
Nelson County Ancestor Helped Build Part Of "My Old Kentucky Home"

By Matthew T. Patton - 2001

The location of Jacob Doom and wife, Abigail Clark, before their arrival in Kentucky, has not been determined, even after numerous years of research. The legend in the Benjamin Doom family is that the family was in Virginia, then came through the Shenandoah Valley and Cumberland Gap to settle in Bardstown. The Henry and David Doom branch has traditionally said that the Doom family came directly from Germany, perhaps Hanover. Regardless, we find the Dooms in Kentucky by 1780.

One tradition says that Henry Doom was born on the ship voyage to America. One "J. Doom" was in Berlin, Pennsylvania, prior to this time. A will, dated July 19, 1779, mentions land bought from Jacob Doom, located in Bedford County, Pennsylvania. Jacob's will was probated September 4, 1798, in Washington County, Kentucky. (Washington County was created from Nelson County in 1792.)

To the union of Jacob and Abigail Doom were born 11 children: Jacob, Jr., who married Polly Stevenson on May 23, 1795; John, who married Polly Kelly on February 25, 1810; David (1779-1859), who married Charlotte Sullivant in May 1810 (they went to Lyon County, Kentucky); Henry (1781-1848), who married Polly Bennett (also went to Lyon County); Benjamin (1782-1853), who married Cassandra Phillips on December 11, 1811 (spent all his life in Bardstown, Kentucky); Hannah (born 1783), who married Benjamin Meason on August 18, 1801 (they went to Monroe County, Missouri); Sally, who married Griffin Long before 1825 in Washington County, Kentucky; Jesse, who married Ellen Goodlet on September 8, 1812, in Nelson County, Kentucky (they went to Christian County, then to Todd County, and later to Vanderburgh, Indiana); Delila (born ca. 1786), who married Isaac Harrell on August 17, 1803, in Washington County, Kentucky (they went to Preble County, Ohio, and Fayette County, Indiana); Elizabeth (born 1794 in Bullitt County, Kentucky, died May 6, 1854, near Pinkneyville, Kentucky, at age 60), who married Small-wood L. Moreland on Jan-uary 22, 1816, in Nelson County, Kentucky; and Edmund, who married Ann C. Wight on September 3, 1818 (they went to Caldwell County, Kentucky).
After the death of Jacob Doom, his widow, Abigail Clark Doom, married George Summers on November 12, 1803.

This article outlines three of the sons: David, Henry, and Benjamin, who certainly rank among the early frontiersmen of Kentucky.

David Doom Branch

According to records and/or legends, the Doom family gathering on Memorial Day in Lyon County, Kentucky, has been a continual event for more than 100 years. Tradition in the David Doom family says that he was born December 10, 1779, in Germany. In 1781 his family moved to America and settled near Bardstown, Kentucky.

As a young man, David and two brothers set out to find a home farther west, passing down the Ohio River to its mouth in crudely-constructed houseboats up the Cumberland to the eddy, landing there, being among the first settlers in that part of Kentucky.

The grave of David Doom (1779-1859) is located in the Doom Chapel Cemetery in Lyon County)

After reaching this section, David married Charlotte Sullivant, who was born January 18, 1789. They made their home and reared their family of 13 children at a location between the Doom Cemetery and present-day Highways 62 and 641.

It was told by one of his grandchildren that the original homeplace was a one-story house with a semi-circle of slave cabins at the rear. The old cellar can still be seen just outside the cemetery gates. Across the highway is the Doom Cemetery, where the slaves were buried. It still is in use.

The chapel was built ca. 1908 by members of the Doom family. Although regular services were never held in the chapel, many funerals and services of various kinds have been held within its walls. The original handmade pews are still in use, and an old-fashioned organ was placed there in 1961.

An article in the Louisville Courier-Journal and Times stated that "the chapel at Doom Cemetery has never had a pastor, regular worship services, or a formal membership roll; and it has served just one family."

In a 1969 Lyon County Herald-Ledger article, F. G. "Buster" Ordway wrote, "In the old days, those who came to the gathering were greeted by a maze of sassafras bushes, honeysuckle vines, sage grass, and other hard-to-cut-down growth that Mother Nature had seeded in this sacred burial ground. Many of the Dooms who came to clean in those days said it was Mother Nature's way of testing the depth of the Doom religion, because if honeysuckle wrapped around the gooseneck of a hoe (when somebody was trying to cut a sassafras) didn't make a fellow cuss, he pretty much had religion."

The Henry Doom Branch

Henry Doom (1781-1848, born in Caldwell County, Kentucky), married Mary "Polly" Bennett (1791-1859, of South Carolina) in 1809. Henry is buried on the Emmett McKinney farm near Macedonia Church in Lyon County. The tombstone is in poor condition, and an effort is in place to collect enough money from Henry's descendants to erect a stone in the cemetery at Macedonia.

Children born to Henry and "Polly" were Holly, Jacob H., Elijah, John Bennett, Harvey (my direct ancestor), Martha, Stephen Henry, Mary E., Nancy, and Hopie.

Benjamin Doom Branch

Benjamin Doom was born in 1782 near Bardstown. Legend says that Benjamin was the first white boy born in Nelson County, Kentucky. Shortly after Daniel Boone came into the state, the Doom family had come in the company of the Heavenhills, who founded a distillery. Both families settled on sites near the present town of Bardstown. Old Benjamin Doom's son, James M. Doom, and his sister, Sarah Elizabeth, were born on this homestead.

Old Ben Doom, then a young father, was made a colonel of the home militia. He was a man of commanding stature and imposing appearance. He sank the first tanyard in Kentucky. Through this business he amassed a large fortune in lands and slaves, which was willed to his children.

The home of Benjamin Doom at 216 E. Stephen Foster Boulevard in Bardstown.
(Photo by the author)

One story to prove his close attention to business will bear relating. One day before his marriage, Colonel Benjamin Doom quit work at 4 p.m. That evening, he borrowed a pair of shoes and a pair of stockings and rode on horseback to his bride-to-be's (Cassandra) home, located at the mouth of Hardin Creek. The next morning, which was Sunday, he was married. In the afternoon he returned to his home near Bardstown by horse with his bride riding behind him.

Arising the next morning (Monday), the bride prepared breakfast for her new husband's hired hands before 6 a.m., then washed the socks, which the groom returned to their owner, during the dinner hour of the same day.

Colonel Doom built two magnificent Georgian houses in Bardstown. Later, he built a very magnificent suburban residence, which he named "Culpepper," in honor of the Virginian County of his birth. In this country estate, Doom spent his declining years. His fine carriage and piano were among the first, if not the very first, in the community.

The story has been handed down that pranksters once tacked a sign onto the family carriage which read, "Who would have thought it? Wet leather bought it."

There were five children born to Benjamin and Cassandra Phillips Doom: Emiline, Laura, James Madison, William H., and Elizabeth.

Elizabeth S. Doom married Dr. Harrison Wood McGowan. Their family resided in the stately Georgian home at Bardstown, which was bequeathed to Mrs. McGowan by her father, Colonel Ben Doom. This 14-room residence was built in the early 1800s for Colonel Doom by Dr. McGowan's father, James McGowan. Skilled slave labor was used, and the bricks were fired on the site.

Later in life, Ben Doom lived in this house, known as "Culpepper," in Bardstown.
(Photo by the author)

Elizabeth "Lizzie" Doom, the daughter of William H. and Miriam B. Samuels Doom, married Joseph Putnam Wood on December 30, 1844. They lived across the road from her Grandfather Doom's house, "Culpepper." Her estate was named "Willow Valley" and originally was part of the John Rowan estate, "Federal Hill" (more commonly known as "My Old Kentucky Home"), which lay between Stewart's Creek eastward to Pottershop Road.

Another interesting grandchild of Colonel Doom was Benjamin Phillips Doom, the son of James M. and Sarah Phillips Doom. This child's name reflects both in Grandfather Phillips as well as Colonel Benjamin Doom.

Benjamin Phillips Doom, son of James Madison and Sarah Elizabeth Phillips Doom, was born February 13, 1840. He received a good English education in the common schools of Nelson County. In 1863 he engaged with his father, James Doom, in the tanning business at what was called the Old Doom Tanyard at Bardstown. The Doom Tanyard was located in the valley by Stewart Creek in the eastern part of Bardstown. Ben P. married Mollie Murphy of Nelson County. He soon abandoned the tanning trade and turned his attention to agriculture.

When rawhide was brought into the Doom Tanyard, they would cut the initials of the owner on the hide and enter it into a book for reference. When the hide for sole leather had lain in the lime bate, tan bark ooze, and such concoctions that tanners only know, the tail, claws, horns, and hair were then removed; the entire process taking two years. You can find where the vats were located, at one time, if you go down in the valley off First Street.

"Culpepper" is a three-story brick home. Decorators have remarked at the wonderful state of preservation; no cracks in the walls. Four rooms measuring 20 x 20 feet on the first floor, and four on the second floor of the same size, are the main portion of this mansion-type residence.

Ben Doom has been credited with building the kitchen and living quarters at Federal Hill, better known to Kentuckians as "My Old Kentucky Home" in Bardstown.

Each of its rooms has a fireplace, and many of them have beautiful hand-carved Adam mantels. The huge mantels (the one in the dining room measures four yards across) are in sharp contrast to the mantels of today's modern homes. The thick woodwork is enhanced with eight-panel double-cross doors, which carry much of the original brass. Floors are made of ash and pine and are well-preserved.

The owners (the Tom Ballard family) stipulate in their will that the house goes to the oldest son. If he is unable or unwilling to care for the house, it goes to the next oldest son, and so on, right on down to the youngest. It can never be sold. If no heirs can take the house, it goes to the historical society.

James McGowan's son, Dr. Harrison Wood McGowan (1809-1869), married Elizabeth M. Doom, Colonel Ben Doom's daughter. She was bequeathed what is now the Smith's property by her father.

Many a wounded soldier during the Civil War was carried through the stately portals of this house to receive the kindly services of Dr. McGowan. But it was the doctor's wife, an expert with the needle, who fashioned a Southern flag of finest silk for presentation by their daughter to Captain Wickliffe, who commanded the Nelson Greys. The captain, so the story goes, brought this company to the doorway, received the banner, and with grace, thanked the ladies.

According to tradition, the Sweets McGowan Home, located at 212 E. Stephen Foster Boulevard in Bardstown, is where Elizabeth Doom McGowan presented a silk flag on the front steps to a Confederate unit known as "The Nelson Greys."

The Smith property has had only a few owners. It was purchased by the late W. J. Smith in 1911 from Mrs. Ophelia Newman, who had bought it in 1899 from J. W. Cotton. Mr. Cotton purchased the property from James B. McGinnis in 1891.

The Doom Family Forum

The Doom family has thousands and thousands of descendants scattered throughout the United States and elsewhere. Please visit our website at: for more Doom genealogy and information.


  • Ganier M. Doom Families of America, 1988: pp. 22-23.
  • Perrin, Battle, Kniffin. Kentucky: A History of the State, 4th edition, 1887.
  • Personal communication with Don Doom.
  • Smith S. B. The Doom Tannery Of Bardstown In Historic Nelson County, Gateway Press, 1971: p. 344.

Matthew T. Patton, 1317 West Airy Street, Apartment 1-D, Norristown, PA 19401, shares this story and photos with our readers. He can also be reached (via e-mail) at [email protected] com.