THE DOWNING FAMILY

Francis Downing (1726 - March, 1814) was the first of the Downings to settle in Lexington, coming about 1783 from Harford County, Maryland. He was born in Yorkshire and immigrated to America in 1751. A younger brother, William, came out with him and settled in Mercer County. Francis’s six sons followed him to Lexington in the late 1780s and early 1790s
William (1753 - Mar. 5, 1835) bought land on Todds Rd. where he farmed for three decades. He had fought in the Revolution with the Maryland militia. His son William bought a 322 acre farm on the east side of Hickman (now Nicholasville) Rd. across from what is now Fayette Mall. It remained in the family until the early 1930s. The Wilson-Downing Rd. between Nicholasville Rd. and Tates Creek Rd. is partly named for his farm.
Richard (1755 – Aug. 20, 1812) was a surgeon’s assistant in the Continental Line during the Revolution. He was prominent in Lexington as a physician, a member of the Transylvania Board of Trustees, a founder of the Lexington Public Library in1798, and a charter member of the Jockey Club. He had a large home near the NE corner of Main and Spring Sts. and owned considerable land in the county.
John (1761-?) owned one of Lexington’s first hotels, called “Traveler’s Inn,” and “The Sign of the Buffalo” tavern next door on Main between Upper and Mulberry (now Limestone) Sts.
Samuel (1763 – Jan. 29, 1847) was also a Revolutionary War soldier from 1777 to 1780. He was a dry goods merchant on Main St. from 1790 to the 1820s. He also was a charter member of the Jockey Club. He lived on a large farm five miles north of town on Georgetown Rd. that remained in the family until early in the 20th century.
Powhatan (1766-?) lived in Lexington for a couple of decades and then moved to Missouri.
Francis (1771 – Jan. 8, 1831) remained in Lexington, but little is known about him.
The Downings who fought in the Revolution are inscribed on a metal plate attached to the old courthouse commemorating those veterans who moved to Fayette County
The first four Downing brothers sired at least 24 children (eleven were sons). Many of their surname descendants remained in Fayette County. Some prominent ones:  Joseph Lee Downing, a noted horseman in the 1820-1840 era, had a large farm where UK’s Coldstream Farm is now which stayed in the family until about 1900;  Joseph Milton Downing, a farmer and butcher who died in 1931 as the last Downing owner of the farm on Nicholasville Rd.; Harold H. Downing, Ph. D., taught mathematics and astronomy at UK in for almost 50 years from 1908 until 1957 and also coached UK’s tennis team; Gibson Downing, a prominent attorney, served as a state senator for over a decade in the 1960s and 1970s; C. Gibson Downing, Lexington thoroughbred breeder and management consultant; and Harold N. Downing was a banker with First Security and later headed the UK Credit Union in the 1960-90 period.
Another Francis  Downing family (seemingly unrelated) came to Scott County from Maryland around 1800 and their descendants still live in the Blue Grass.
 

References: 
SOURCES: Harold N. Downing, The Book of Downing (mimeo; 1960); Bradley C. Canon, The Wymores and Downings of Fayette County, Kentucky (2003, copy in Lexington Public Library’s Kentucky Room), William Henry Perrin, History of Fayette County, Kentucky (1882); various U.S. censuses and Lexington city directories.
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