Marion Duncan

by Edmund Starling, 1886


The subject of this sketch was born in the Southern portion of Henderson County, near the Union County line, on the sixth day of December, 1838. He was next youngest of a family of six children, of whom there were four girls and two boys. His father was Nathan Benjamin Duncan, of Virginia; his mother, Martha Tyree, of Caswell County, North Carolina. They were married in North Carolina and came to Kentucky at an early day. Mrs. Duncan died in 1879, aged seventy years. Mr. Duncan's grandfather, Nathan Duncan, of Virginia, immigrated to Henderson County, and died near Corydon. When our subject was less than two years of age, his father died, leaving a widow and children in a badly embarrassed financial condition. She had no means to educate her children, and there were no public schools at that time. Young Marion was hired at hard labor before he was large enough to hold a plow handle, and  this life was continued until he arrived at the age of twenty. His wages, amounting from two to thirteen dollars per month, were paid to his mother for her and his sisters' support. At the age of twenty, his sisters having all married and his mother giving up house-keeping, young Duncan started out into the world to seek his own fortune. How well he has performed that duty we shall see before this brief sketch closes. Yes, he started out into this merciless world, without a dollar, influence or education. Health, energy and a determined will was his entire stock in trade. Having grown up as a farmer, and having gained a reputation for industry, integrity and great capacity for directing and controlling labor, he was sought for by men of means to take charge of large plantations. The first two or three years he exercised the most rigid economy, saving every dollar he was not necessarily compelled to part with. This he did for a wise purpose; he had now found out the value of an education, and though twenty-three years of age, determined at all hazards to educate himself. To this end, therefore, he entered school at Corydon, and studied throughout two ten months' sessions. During this time he spent no idle time, but applied himself with an assiduity of purpose that brought to him a good common school English education; nor was this all, during vacation he studied at night and worked during the day, in order to earn something to assist in paying his board and tuition. His money fast evaporating in necessary expenses, and not having the means to take a collegiate course, in order to fit him for professional life, he determined to return to that occupation his early condition in life had forced upon him. In January, 1863, he was employed to take charge of the farm and laborers of John W. Alves. He remained two years with Mr. Alves at a good salary. During the years 1866, '67 and '68 he was in charge of William McClain's lands and business in the Horse-shoe Bend, at a salary of $600, $700 and $800 per year. IN 1869 he was employed by Mr. George Atkinson, in charge of his Union County farm, opposite Shawneetown, Illinois, at a salary of $1,300. At the beginning of 1870 he was employed by Mr. Joseph Adams, to take charge of Diamond Island, which he did. He remained in the employ of Mr. Adams for eight years at annual salaries ranging from $1,600 to $1,800. The highest price ever paid a manager was paid to subject of this sketch. Mr. Duncan then determined to work no longer for others, but to launch out on his own hook. During the entire fourteen years he managed for others, he had never an unpleasant word with any of the gentlemen for whom he did business, and so successful was he, it was only a question of salary who would or could secure his services. Furthermore, during the fourteen years, he never demanded a price for his services that was not paid him willingly. At the close of 1877 Mr. Duncan formed a co-partnership with A. S. Nunn, of Henderson, and purchased Slim Island, lying in the Ohio River, in the upper or northwest corner of Union County, and containing four hundred and seventy-five acres of very find land. For this Island they paid the sum of $14,000 cash. Since that time they have purchased about eleven hundred acres of land near Henderson, and are working from forty to sixty-five laborers.

On the nineteenth day of April, 1871, Mr. Duncan was married to Miss Julia Elizabeth Mullen, in Henderson, Rev. Dr. Talbird of the Baptist Church officiating. Mrs Duncan was born on the twelfth day of December, 1846, and is a woman of many most excellent traits. Mr. Duncan and his wife are both members of the Episcopal Church. He is a steadfast Mason, and one of great influence. He has filled nearly every chair in the three lodges. He was twice elected Worshipful Master of the Blue Lodge, and declined. He has served as High Priest of his Chapter, and twice Eminent Commander of his Commandery, Knights Templar. He is also a Knight of Pythias. Mr. Duncan is a large grower of tobacco, corn and wheat, and a large buyer and raiser of cattle. His life, though a hard one, has been crowned by a success few men under similar circumstances have ever attained.

The History of Henderson County, Kentucky by Starling 1887 page 675-77;

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