Speed and Fry Family

John Speed (1772-1840) and Lucy Speed (1788-1874) came from wealthy Virginia families that moved to what was then Kentucky County, Virginia before 1790. Both of their fathers, Captain James Speed, and Joshua Fry, fought in the Revolutionary War. The elder Speed was badly injured and, after the war, he, like many others, sought to make his fortune in land speculation in the newly opened territory west of the Appalachian Mountains. In 1782, he took his young family and his enslaved people over the Wilderness Road and settled near Danville. Lucy’s father, Joshua Fry, was a highly respected scholar who moved to Kentucky in 1788. Fry established an important school in Mercer County attended by many distinguished early Kentuckians.

The Speeds and Frys had important connections to prominent families in Virginia including the family of Thomas Jefferson. Lucy Fry’s great-grandfather, Joshua Fry, surveyed and drew maps with Thomas’ father, Peter Jefferson, and also served as Thomas Jefferson’s tutor.  When Peter died, Lucy Gilmer Fry’s maternal grandfather, Dr. Thomas Walker, became one of Thomas Jefferson’s legal guardians.

John Speed was married twice. He and his first wife, Abby LeMaster, (1768-1807) settled at Mann’s Lick (now Manslick in southern Jefferson County) where he owned a salt works. They had four children, only two of whom, Mary and Eliza, survived to adulthood. After Abby’s death, John took his family back to Mercer County and, in November 1808, married Lucy Gilmer Fry, sixteen years his junior.

The Speed Family at Farmington

In addition to Mary and Eliza, from his first marriage, John and Lucy Speed had eleven children, nine of whom survived to adulthood.  The last one was born when Lucy was forty-three.  Farmington must have been a busy place over the years with the thirteen Speed children – seven girls and six boys – in residence at various points.  These children were in order of age: Mary, Eliza, Thomas (died at age three), Lucy, James, Peachy, Joshua, William Pope, Susan, Philip, J. Smith, Martha, and Anne Pope (died at age seven).  We also know that the Speeds raised at least three, and possibly four children who were not their own.

All the Speed children were well educated.  For part of their school years, James and Joshua attended schools near Bardstown where some of the region’s best schools were located and where Thomas Speed, John’s brother lived, enabling him to keep an eye on them. The same may be true of the other boys. Mary and Eliza spent at least one term at Nazareth Academy outside Bardstown in 1816 when they were sixteen and eleven respectively.  Martha, the youngest surviving Speed daughter, was sent to Rev. P.S. Fall’s Female Eclectic Institute near Frankfort.  Perhaps some of the younger children attended school at one of the private one-room schoolhouses that were beginning to appear in the vicinity by the 1840s.  Music was an important form of entertainment at Farmington, and in 1819, Anton Heinrich, a Bohemian composer and violinist, came to Farmington for a year and a half to teach Mary and Eliza, to compose and to give concerts. While both Speed daughters became accomplished pianists, Mary inherited her father’s pianoforte.

In addition to managing Farmington, John Speed had varied financial and community interests.  Often called “Judge Speed,” he served as a lay judge.  He and his brother Thomas Speed owned a salt works near Mann’s Lick.  John Speed owned stock in the Louisville and Bardstown Turnpike Company, which owned and operated Bardstown Road from which Farmington was accessed. In 1832, he was president of the company.  Enslaved Blacks at Farmington provided the manpower to build and maintain the section of the road that Speed was responsible for.  Speed valued education and, in approximately 1801, served on the second board of the Jefferson Seminary, the institution that eventually became the University of Louisville.  With his partners and neighbors, William Pope, Jr., and David L. Ward, he was involved in many land transactions involving several thousand acres of land.

In 1843, Austin Peay, married to Speed daughter Peachy, purchased the main house and 143 acres from his mother-in-law, Lucy Speed.  HI wife, Peachy, is the last Speed family member to own Farmington.  She began selling plots of her share of the acreage and, in 1865, the last Speed family member left the property.

John Speed

Lucy Gilmer Fry Speed

Lucy Fry Speed Breckenridge

James Speed

Peachy Walker Speed Peay

Joshua Fry Speed

William Pope Speed

Susan Speed Davis

Philip Speed

J. Smith Speed

Martha Speed Bell


3033 Bardstown Road
Louisville, Kentucky
United States




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