Historical Marker #1722 in Paris outlines John Edwards' contributions to the founding of the state of Kentucky and his prominence in early Bourbon County history.
John Edwards was born in Stafford County, Virginia. After service in the Revolutionary War, he moved to Lincoln County, Kentucky, in 1780, and accumulated about 23,000 acres.
In 1833, Edwards attempted to receive a pension of this service and swore before a court that in 1775 he volunteered in Virginia and served as an ensign in Capt. John Fristo’s company. In 1776, he became a captain in a militia company assigned to guard the exposed western frontier of Virginia until in 1779-80 he went to Kentucky. In Kentucky he served under Gen. George Rogers Clark, as a commissary general. In this position Edwards supplied western troops and helped defend the frontier against Native American incursions. Although his petition for a pension was recorded in Cape Girardeau, Missouri court in 1833, the pension board did not approve his claim before his death.
In 1792, Edwards participated in the drafting of Kentucky's first state constitution. That year he was also elected with John Brown, as Kentucky's first two senators. Edwards served as senator until 1795, when he returned to Kentucky and served in the state legislature.
In 1799, Edwards separated from his family and moved to Duncan Tavern in Paris. At about this time he sold a slave woman, Priscilla Johnson, to a friend in Mason County who promptly emancipated her. In 1800, he deeded "West Wood," his home, and 400 acres, to his wife and children, and proceeded to sell as much of his property as he could to satisfy his creditors. Around 1803 Edwards left Kentucky for Missouri Territory. He had accumulated significant debt, and in his request for his military pension, he refers to bankruptcy proceedings in 1804. Although the marker states Edwards died in 1837, it appears he lived in Missouri until his death in 1833 or 1834.
In his final will Edwards left one-fourth of his land to one of his daughters, Jane Beall; one-fourth to his son John Jr.; and the other half to "Preciller Johnson and her children." He continued, "After all debts are paid all the rest is to be divided equally between 'Preciller' and her children which I have adopted as mine." The will goes on to state that at his death, all slaves he might own would be free from bondage: "I do hereby immancipate them fully and freely and forever and their children after them. . . ."
In the Missouri deeds, Priscilla is described as a free woman of color. In a Missouri deed in 1817, she authorized Edwards as guardian for her children and to act in her defense. That same year he was appointed as her attorney in fact to transact all her business, and as guardian of her children.