Large – In life and in death

52 Ancestors

Each of these families had a family member who had a large personality – at least in the memories of their descendants.

Let me tell you about the Batey’s most well known character from the family archives. Even his name evokes an image of a unique personality – Squire Batey, Philip Batey’s brother.

A picture of Squire Batey, from the New Albany Floyd County Public Library. He was featured in several newspapers articles of the area, especially at his death.

According to the newspapers, Squire W. Batey may have been born Woodson G. Batey. This is the only source that makes this claim. His family always refered to him as Squire and that is how he is consistently named in the census. Also, he appears to never have used any other name – but Squire. He was born between 1845 and 1847 in either Virginia or Kentucky.  Squire did not have any children, but his great-nieces and nephews (and their descendants) have remembered Squire as much as they remember their own grandparents. My father-in-law knew who Squire was, through stories told by his grandmother, Sarah Batey. She was one of Squire’s many nieces.

He moved with his parents and younger siblings from Kentucky to New Albany, Indiana while his older brother, Philip, was galavanting about during the Civil War.  According to Squire’s obituary, his parents, William and Catherine, died sometime after arriving in Indiana and Squire became the caretaker of his younger siblings.

At the age of 8 (sometime around 1853), Squire contracted Typhoid while the family lived in Lincoln County, Kentucky.  He survived the ordeal, but it left him with a syndrome called “dwarf legs”.  Despite his deformity, Squire appears to have been a very active and productive adult employed as an excavating contractor by getting around in a goat drawn cart. He contracted Typhoid again as an adult, in 1877, and recovered from that episode as well. I guess we can say he was one tough fellow.

Clipped from on 18 April 2017, New Albany Daily Ledger Standard, New Albany, Indiana Sat, Sep 1, 1877 – Page 4

Squire married Nannie Merity on 10 December 1891 in New Albany, Indiana where they lived for the duration of their lives.  I like to think that despite their not having children of their own, they were a loving and family oriented couple. At the death of one of Squire’s young niece’s, they adopted her daughter, Mary Canner. Another orphaned niece, Nettie Blust was living with them by about 1900 and through 1910 (she became Nettie Hubert who was the informant on his death certificate.)

Clipped from on 20 April 2017, The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky) · Thu, Jun 1, 1911 · Page 12 

He was a well-known character in New Albany who made it into the local newspapers, sometimes as a well respected hard-working man, and sometimes as a rule-breaker. These news stories help us “see” Squire not just as an ancestor to research, but as a real person who had ups and downs in life, was a family man and father figure to many, and was a community personality that everyone knew about – even if they never personally met him.

Clipped from on 25 Jan 2017, The Indianapolis News (Indianapolis, Indiana) · Sat, Dec 2, 1905 · Page 3.

At the age of eight years he emerged from a serious attack of typhoid fever with dwarfed legs…obliged to begin life over again at nineteen to–to rear and educate a family consisting of three sisters and a brother. At present time, Squire Batey…, is a contractor and grader, employing from three to twenty men on such contracts. He also superintends street digging and the felling of trees, and pays taxes on a tidy little home at the end of North Second street…He lauds the patience and good qualities of goats, and says he has never been run away with in his goat cart. He goes out in all weathers, and works ten hours in summer and nine hours in winter.

The Indianapolis News, 2 December 1905

Squire died on 8 March 1912.  His death and funeral notices are two of the most interesting I’ve come across.  He is buried at Fairview Cemetery in New Albany, Indiana with his wife Nannie and his sister, Jennie Batey (Nettie Blust’s mother).

The funeral of Squire Batey took place yesterday afternoon at DePauw Memorial Methodist Episcopal church and the burial was in Fairview cemetery. The Rev. A. L. Bennett conducted the services. On account of his physical deformity Batey feared that at his death medical students would want his body for dissection, and he had often expressed a request that his body be kept four days after his death and then placed in a vault in the cemetery. His wish was observed.

The Courier -Journal, 13 March 1912

One thought on “Large – In life and in death

  1. Whilst it might make us cringe somewhat today to see someone described as “thrifty cripple” or “legless man”, that is quite an impressive amount of press coverage you’ve managed to collate! And definitely a large personality …!

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