The Bullitt County History Museum

William Thomas "Bill Tom" Lee

The following article by Charles Hartley was published on 23 Oct 2016.

Bill Tom Lee

William Thomas Lee, better known as Bill Tom Lee, grew up on his parents' farm near Belmont. His parents were Orleans and Mary (Cundiff) Lee, and he was the fifth of their nine children.

His great-grandparents were John and Elizabeth (Thompson) Lee, the ancestors of so many Lees and related folks in our county.

Bill Tom learned from an early age the value of hard work. Later in life, he would be described as "up at three o'clock every morning, busy all day, and ready to retire early in the hours of darkness." Reflecting back some years later, J. R. Zimmerman recalled that "William T. Lee was probably the most energetic man I ever saw."

If you view the deed index books in Kevin Mooney's office, you will find quite a few references to W. T. Lee, both buying and selling land. But the one purchase that stands out took place in 1888. In this instance, he bought 448 acres from Henry and Mary J. Trunnell for $5,000, to be paid in yearly installments. This land lay to the west of Shepherdsville and included a good part of Peter Shepherd's original 900 acre survey, including the old iron forge tract along Salt River where the city park lies today.

Besides farming the land, Bill Tom was one of the largest cattle dealers in the county. In 1916, he was reported as having sold 400 head of cattle to an Indianapolis firm, the largest deal made in the county in a long time. It is said to have netted him between $36,000 and $40,000 which is over $800,000 in today's money.

Bill Tom was very civic minded, and very active in his church work. For many years, he was Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Shepherdsville, always working for the best interest of the town. He was vice-president and then president of the Bullitt County Fair, and a member of its Board of Directors. He was also prominent in working to build up the local Shepherdsville school; was involved in trying to bring a water-works to town, as well as electricity; and was vice-president of the Bullitt County Bank at the time of his death.

He was a trustee of the Shepherdsville Baptist Church for more than twenty years, and zealous in church and Sunday School work. The picture we have of him was taken during the dedication of the church's new sanctuary.

Bill Tom married Sallie Atcher in 1875, and they were the parents of six children.

Their eldest, a daughter named Lora, married Dr. Samuel Woodford Bates, and they had a daughter, Evelyn who married William Lewis Brohm, also a doctor. Dr. Bates was the head of the Hazelwood Tuberculosis Hospital in Louisville when he died in 1925. Lora next married James Gibbs, a Louisville businessman who headed the Gibbs-Inman printing firm. J. R. Zimmerman later described the young Lora as a beautiful, intelligent, fascinating girl.

Herbert William Lee was their next child, and he too was a farmer. He married Eva Bailey in 1916, and they reared seven fine children including Herbert Jr., Wilma, Charles, Eva, Sarah, George, and Shirley, two of whom still live in our community, along with a fair number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Addie Jenette Lee was next. She married Charles Preston Bradbury, and we have written about the two of them before. Preston went from being the local school superintendent, to lawyering, to being the county judge. They had two sons, Charles Lee, who became a pharmacist, and John William who was a doctor.

Next was Curtis Lee who became a chiropractor. He moved to Oklahoma City where he had a large lucrative practice. He married Catherine Stemmer there in 1918, and that's where they spent the rest of their lives.

Maye Lee was Bill Tom and Sallie's fifth child. She married Benjamin Owen, a Baptist preacher. They moved to Missouri and places further west. They had a son, William Jr., who had a distinguished law career, including as counsel for the Trans-Arabian Pipe Line Company in Beirut, Lebanon, and in similar posts in Saudi Arabia.

Robert E. Lee was their last child. He married Lucile Inez Magruder and they had a son, Victor Edward, and a daughter, Sarah Fay. They lived on a farm south of Shepherdsville. J. R. Zimmerman described him this way: "Bob is a fine man, is well read in all matters pertaining to the farm or livestock, and is also well read on and in many other subjects." Their son Victor was tragically killed in a farming accident in 1944. Many local folks will remember Sarah who married Homer Lee Myers. They lived in the Brooks community where he farmed. She taught school for many years.

Bill Tom and Sallie moved to a house on Main Street (now Buckman Street) in Shepherdsville. It was here that poor health and a battle with pneumonia ended Bill Tom's life. After a time, Sallie moved to Louisville where she lived with her daughter, Lora. She died there in 1930.

In the fifty plus years I've lived in Bullitt County, I've known quite a number of good men and women who, like Bill Tom Lee, have served their communities well, and been a blessing to their families. By remembering him, we also honor all these others as well.

Copyright 2016 by Charles Hartley, Shepherdsville KY. All rights are reserved. No part of the content of this page may be included in any format in any place without the written permission of the copyright holder.

The Bullitt County History Museum, a service of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is located in the county courthouse at 300 South Buckman Street (Highway 61) in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. The museum, along with its research room, is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Saturday appointments are available by calling 502-921-0161 during our regular weekday hours. Admission is free. The museum, as part of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization and is classified as a 509(a)2 public charity. Contributions and bequests are deductible under section 2055, 2106, or 2522 of the Internal Revenue Code. Page last modified: 13 Jan 2024 . Page URL: