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James William and Lucy C Abert

Article by Jim Reis and used here with his permission.  A copy with photos and additional information is in the family files at the Campbell County Historical & Genealogical Society in Alexandria, Ky.


Lying in the shadow of the monument to Newport founder James Taylor in Evergreen Cemetery is the tombstone of James William Abert. Soldier and surveyor, he was among the first American troops in New Mexico. He traced the source of the Canadian River, explored Colorado and Utah, helped plat the Great Lakes, was an instructor at West Point Military Academy and saw extensive action in Virginia during the Civil War.

James was born 18 Nov 1820 in Mt Holly New Jersey, the son of John James Abert, a War of 1812 veteran who became a colonel and Army topographical engineer.  James had a brother, William Stretch Abert who served in the military and died in New Orleans of yellow fever.  His brother Charles died in Washington DC 9 Aug 1897.  James grew up in New Jersey and at age 18 graduated from Princeton College in 1839.  From Princeton he entered West Point. After graduating from the military academy in 1842, he served first in the infantry and then was transferred to a topography unit under his father.  That group helped survey the Great Lakes in 1843 and 1844.

The following year, 1845, he was part of an expedition exploring New Mexico, then still part of Mexico.  He also was placed in command of a unit to discover the source of the Canadian River in northern Texas. He discovered that its headwaters are in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Colorado.  When war broke out with Mexico Abert was assigned under Gen Stephen Watts Kearny and they invaded New Mexico and mapping the area.  After the Mexican War Abert was appointed an instructor and assistant professor for drawings and paintings at West Point.

In 1850 Abert was sent to Kentucky to help with repairs to the falls on the Ohio River in Louisville.  During this time he met and married Lucy C Taylor 14 July 1851 in Newport. She was the daughter of Colonel James Taylor and Susan Barry. 

Children  of Lucy C Taylor and James William Abert

1. Susan Barry Abert b-5 Apr 1852 in Newport; d-15 Nov 1928 in Ft Thomas; br-Evergreen
2. Nellie M Abert b-4 July 1855 in Louisville Ky; d-6 Sep 1942 Ft Thomas; br-Evergreen
3. Jennie Abert b-Mar 1859 in Louisville; m-Ambrose White Neff 15 June 1891 in Cincinnati; d-12 April 1856 at the Bishop Rest Home in Covington. br-Evergreen
4. James William Abert born 1862 in Louisville; no other information found on this son
5. Child born 1865

Abert also oversaw the mapping of the the state of Utah in the 1850s.  When war broke out in 1856 with the Seminole Indians in Florida, he was dispatched there and saw service for three years.  He and his family were then sent to Europe about 1860 as an observer of European military techniques.  They returned to the United States by the beginning of the Civil War in 1861 to serve in the Union Army.  In the summer of 1861 he was in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.

On 25 June 1864 Abert retired from military service as a major.  He was later honored with the title of colonel. He worked as a time as an examiner of patents in Washington DC before becoming a professor of math and drawing at the University of Missouri at Rolla.  He also wrote articles for history and science journals.  The Aberts finally returned to Newport where in 1892 the Abert sisters organized a trip of Newport people to the Chicago World's Fair.

James Abert filed for a military pension on 22 March 1887. After he died his wife, Lucy filed for widow's benefits on 6 Nov 1897.

On Memorial Day 1894 in Newport Colonel Abert was one of the featured speakers in a large program that included a parade, music and several talks at the Ringgold School in Newport. On 10 Aug 1897 James Abert died at his home on Front Street in Newport. Funeral services with full military honors were held at St Paul Episcopal Church in Newport.  He was buried in Evergreen Cemetery.

James William Abert 1897 Obituary

Lucy Abert would outlive her husband by 20 years.  She died 16 May 1916 at her home at 126 west Front Street in Newport.  Her funeral services were held at St Paul Episcopal Church in Newport.  Among her pallbearers was a young Brent Spence, who would later become a longtime US Representative from Ft Thomas.  She was buried in Evergreen.

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