A random fact about me: although I’m currently teaching in an elementary school, I actually majored in political science and public policy in college. I have always loved politics and history–making family history the perfect fit–and I try to incorporate these topics in the examples I provide in my lessons. I had thought I was the first of my family to have an interest in politics and policymaking, but it turns out that this may not be the case. Another random fact about me: my 5th great-grandfather, Uriah McKellup, was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1845, serving as a member of the Whig Party for one term.
Uriah McKellup was born in 1809 in Washington, D.C., to Presley and Mary (Rosser) McKellup. His parents’ stories are entirely a mystery: the couple was married on March 1, 1805 in Fauquier Co., Virginia, and Presley worked as an apprentice to Gideon Johnson, a tailor living in the area. Other than this, though, I have been unable to locate them in any other records, and I am unsure as to whether the couple had any more children. Their only known child, Uriah, married Sarah “Sally” Wilson on May 15, 1834 in Lewis Co., Kentucky, and the pair raised ten children of their own: John (b. 1836); Mary (b. 1837); Ann (b. 1838); Melissa (b. 1840); Sarepta (b. 1841); William (b. 1843); Marcellus (b. 1845); Martha (b. 1847); Elvira (b. 1850); and Robert (b. 1851).
Like his parents, Uriah’s past is mostly a mystery; by 1830, he had acquired 50 acres of land in Lewis Co., and by 1850, he was working as a saddler and a constable in the area. The most concrete information I have on Uriah’s life, though, begins with an article in the Maysville Eagle from July 16, 1845; in his own words, Uriah wrote, “Mr. Collins: I noticed in the Eagle of Saturday last, a call made upon me to become a candidate to represent the county of Lewis in the next Legislature of Kentucky. In response, I beg leave to say to my fellow citizens of Lewis, that this call, (together with many other tokens of confidence and esteem extended towards me) lays me under lasting obligations to them.”
“Notwithstanding it is against my pecuniary interest to enter the political arena at this time, if it is their wish, be it so. I enter the contest heart and hand, regretting only, that such a responsible situation is not assigned to some other, who is my superior in wisdom, age and experience.” Uriah entered the race as a member of the Whig Party, a political party (active between 1834 and 1860) that advocated the rule of law, written and unchanging constitutions and protections for minority interests against majority tyranny. As a Whig, Uriah favored modernization and economic protectionism, and he opposed Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act of 1830 and the eventual Trail of Tears.
After his election, Uriah served for one term in Kentucky’s State House of Representatives. He was a member of the Committee on Military Affairs, and one of the most interesting bills he initiated was a resolution on “the unfavorable reporting in all cases of application for divorce”–he had a curious opposition to divorce and initiated many bills and resolutions to restrict divorces and marriage separations. Ultimately, Uriah was a popular representative among his constituents in Lewis Co., Kentucky, so much so that he was elected to be the local constable at the end of his term in the state legislature.
Uriah died of complications from pneumonia on December 5, 1854 at the age of 45, and I’m left wondering where his interest in politics derived from. Why was Uriah asked, instead of his peers, to run for the state legislature? Did his father (or one of his grandfathers) hold political office in Washington, D.C.? Was there a legacy of McKellup and Rosser ancestors serving the United States in other capacities? Or, like me, did Uriah develop an interest in politics over time, independent of his family’s interests? No matter what, I’m definitely not the first Applegate to pursue an interest in policymaking; maybe I’ll hold office one day, too.