Keziah (Bunnell?) Dean – (~1770 - 1847)
(Researched & Written by George J. Farris, December 2017)
There are several documents from the late 1800s and early 1900s pertaining to Keziah based on family information emanating primarily from the families of the five of her eleven children who ended up in Howard and surrounding counties in Indiana. These documents state that Keziah’s maiden name was Bunnell and that her husband was a James Dean. All of her children appear to have been born in Mercer County, Kentucky between 1795 and 1822. However, there is only one document in Mercer County that links her to a Bunnell, that being the 1818 marriage bond for her son Edmund for which Samuel Bunnell was the bondsman. For marriages of her other children the witnesses and those signing the bonds or witnessing her consent for the female marriages were primarily John Dean, his daughter Deana, and Deana’s husband Elijah Thompson. If Keziah was actually the Keziah Dean who was the daughter of Thomas H. Dean and Diana Green then John would have been her brother. Or, if Keziah was married to a James Dean who some have claimed to be a son of Diana Green and her first husband Joseph Dean, then John Dean would have been Keziah’s half-brother-in-law.
Several other researchers in addition to myself have searched through many Mercer and Jessamine County records and have never found any record of a James Dean in the appropriate time period other than an unrelated James Dean who was married to Patience Holeman in North Carolina in 1782 and lived in Jessamine County during the entire period when Keziah’s children were born. Since some of Keziah's children were married in Jessamine County and one of them, Harrison Dean, lived there most of his life, some researchers have confused the two unrelated Dean families – including the 1830 census and 1847 probate records for that James Dean of Jessamine County. (The 1847 probate is actually for Patience but also includes the inventory of the estate of James. He had died in 1838 and Patience and all of his children were named in his will, written in 1833.) In the early 1900s there were some reunions of Keziah Dean's descendants in Jessamine County and reports of those reunions seem to have relied on the earlier documents from Howard County, Indiana in regard to the ancestry of the family.
Some researchers have listed James Dean as a son of Thomas Dean and Sophia. However this seems to be a misinterpretation based on Mercer County court cases involving Sophia Dean in the 1790s and early 1800s. Sophia was a daughter of Thomas, not his wife. Thomas was married to Diana Green Dean at that time. Sophia was a daughter of Thomas Dean and his first wife Elizabeth Pritchett Shenton and had at least four young children as of 1797 but was apparently not married at that time.
Keziah Dean is listed in the U.S. Census in 1810 and 1830 in Mercer County with several of the children living with her – 7 in 1810 and 5 in 1830 (5 others were married prior to 1830 and a 6th was married in 1830). In 1830 an additional female 20-30 and a girl under 5 were also living with Keziah. Keziah was listed as age 26-45 in 1810 and 50-60 in 1830, consistent with the birth year of 1770 on her tombstone in Howard County, Indiana. She only appears in the Mercer County tax lists for two years in 1833 and 1834. It's not clear who she and her children were living with in other years but in the 1830 census she was listed next to John Dean.
The 1898 biography of her youngest son James Harrison Dean in Howard County, Indiana contains some details regarding his alleged father who was said to have died shorty after the 1822 birth of James W. according to the biography in the “Biographical and Genealogical History of Cass, Miami, Howard and Tipton Counties.” This biography lists James H.’s parents as “James and Keziah (Bunnell) Dean.” It also states that he lived with his widowed mother in Mercer County until 1844 when he moved to Indiana. There is nothing to corroborate the details about a James Dean nor any record of the death of a James Dean in Mercer or Jessamine Counties, Kentucky – except for the other James of Jessamine County whose will record includes his wife Patience . Barbara Beall’s account of James in her Ancestry tree implies that James left the family and moved to Indiana and later to Mclean County, Illinois and died there in 1848. We have not been able to discern the source of Barbara’s assertion and have found no record of James Dean in Illinois or in Mercer County, Kentucky.
One court record in Mercer County regarding Keziah Dean in 1809 regards her attempt to prevent her three oldest children from being bound out on the basis that she had not properly raised and educated them. But there is no mention of a husband in this court action and none in the 1810 census. The three children mentioned correspond to Keziah’s known oldest children, Edmund, William and Rosanna and she was involved in their marriages in later years.
The lack of records for a James Dean in Mercer County has led some researchers to conclude that Keziah was actually the daughter of Thomas and Diana Dean and was never married. We know from the wills of Thomas and Diana Dean that they did have a daughter named Keziah. It’s a little difficult to reconcile that conclusion with the fact that Keziah had eleven children and that some of them seem to have believed that a James Dean was their father and that their descendants apparently believed that Keziah was originally a Bunnell. As stated above, the only known connection of Keziah with a Bunnell is the fact that Samuel Bunnell was the bondsman for the marriage of her oldest son. However, that son was allegedly born in Mercer County in 1795, several years before the William Bunnell family moved to Mercer County from Botetourt County, Virgina in 1798. It's possible that Edmund had worked for Samuel Bunnell or, if the older children were really bound out, that Edmund lived with Samuel Bunnell and his family. While it seems rather strange, it appears to me that the entire story of a James Dean as the father of Keziah's children was probably a fabrication by some of Keziah's children or their descendants. The father(s) of her children will probably always be unknown, although future Y-DNA testing by male line descendants might provide some clues.
To date, the only autosomal DNA data available for a descendant of Keziah Dean shows a match with only one other descendant of William Bunnell and his wife. However that match is with a descendant of Jonathan Bonnell and Rebecca Dean so the tested person could, therefore, also be a descendant of Thomas Dean and Diana Green. So that result is indeterminate and could result from Keziah actually being a Dean rather than a Bunnell. The name “Green” has also been associated with Keziah by some descendants as either her middle name or maiden name.
The available records and the accounts by descendants are confusing and contradictory but my conclusion is that Keziah was not part of the William Bunnell family and was a Dean from birth, the same Keziah named in the wills of Diana and Thomas Dean as their daughter, and was never married. Therefore, I suggest that those of us who have included Keziah as a part of the William Bunnell family should probably remove her from that list.