Part 3 of ?: Identifying John Burke’s Children and Other Matters

This article continues an apparently never-ending series on John Burke, born in Virginia in about 1785 and died in 1842 in Jackson County, Tennessee. This Part Three contains information from two very dissimilar sources: (1) two family histories written by grandchildren of John Burke and (2) newspaper and court records. As to the histories, John’s great-grandson Victor Moulder wrote one of them. Victor and his brother George B. Moulder collaborated on the second. Images and information from both are ubiquitous on Ancestry.com. Unfortunately, some of the information about John Burke’s children from the histories is wrong, particularly regarding their migration history.

I do not mean to denigrate the Moulders’ histories, for which I am grateful. The brothers probably had no information other than oral family history handed down for three generations – over a century. I don’t know about you, but I can rarely tell the same story exactly the same every time. Inaccuracies due to the distance of time and fading memory creep in, and occasional, um, embellishments are introduced to keep the conversation lively. Some of the Moulders’ information was probably incorrect two generations before they wrote it down, and the oral tradition guarantees that new errors were introduced over time. Obviously, the Moulders didn’t have easy access to census records, court filings and tombstones to supplement their information. Fortunately, we do.

With that in mind, let’s begin with some more information from the Moulders before we get on to the other sources. This deals with “lite” facts and easily-resolved issues. If you need to get up to speed, here are links to Part One and Part Two of the John Burke series. And here is some of what the Moulders’ history said about their great-grandfather:

John Burke was born … in 1783 (died 1853) … took up a claim on War Trace Creek at Cumberland River near Gainesboro, Jackson Co. Tenn.; married Elizabeth Graves, who was born 1786 of Irish extraction (died 1831) … second wife [was] Janie Lamb.

John Burke’s dates of birth and death. As noted in Part Two, a birth year of 1783 is consistent with John’s age ranges according to the 1820 and 1830 federal censuses. He died on June 6, 1842, not 1853, according to his widow and several court filings reciting the month and year. John’s widow appeared in the 1850 census for Jackson Co. as Jane D. Byrk. Her household included her five children by John Burke and a sixth child named Burke who was too young to have been fathered by John.[1]

John Burke’s wives. Yes, John Burke’s first wife was Elizabeth Graves, daughter of Esom Graves and Judith Parrott. Elizabeth could have been born in 1786 since the 1820 census shows her as having been born during 1775–94. An 1831 date of death for her is wrong, because there is no female the right age to be Elizabeth in the 1830 census. Her last child was born in 1828.

Whether Elizabeth was “of Irish extraction” may be unprovable. I haven’t been able to prove her paternal line any earlier than her grandfather, John Graves. He was born in Virginia about 1735 (a rough guess based on his eldest son’s age) and lived in at least Spotsylvania and Halifax counties, Virginia.[2] Many, if not most, of the Graves found in colonial Virginia were descended from Capt. Thomas Graves, who arrived in Virginia in the early 1600s. Y-DNA tests prove that Elizabeth’s line wasn’t descended from Thomas Graves, but don’t (so far as I know) provide evidence of her Graves line’s country of origin. Elizabeth’s maternal line, the Parrotts, had been in the colonies since the 1650s, and they were from England.

John Burke’s second wife was Jane D. Basham, not Lamb, as she herself stated on her widow’s application for pension for John Burke’s War of 1812 service. That was almost certainly her maiden name.

The identity of John Burke’s children.

Let’s switch gears in terms of source material. No more “facts lite,” we are now into dense legal language. There are two documents which conclusively establish the identities of John Burke’s children: a newspaper ad[3] and a chancery court complaint.[4] They are a veritable genealogical gold mine. One of them even names a number of grandchildren (including my great-grandfather William Logan Burke, an early sheriff of McClennan Co., TX) and states the locations of many of John’s heirs. Let’s look closely at each document.

The Newspaper Ad. The first document concerns Jane D. Basham Burke’s application to a Jackson County court for a “writ of dower” to allot her dower portion of John Burke’s land. The law required her to give notice of her petition to John’s heirs. Requisite notice could be accomplished by taking out an ad or ads in local newspapers.[5] The notice, dated August 19, 1842, was published in the September 8, 1842 issue of The Republican, a local newspaper, and apparently reprinted in The Smith County Democrat.[6] It has the benefit of being contemporaneous evidence, which is inheritantly more reliable and persuasive than evidence provided at a later date. Furthermore, two very good witnesses – John’s widow Jane and his son John Carroll Burke, one of the estate administrators – undoubtedly provided the names of the heirs for the notice. The notice names only fifteen children. Jane was pregnant at the time with their daughter Matilda, who was born after the date of the notice.

Here is an image of the Newspaper Ad.

Note that John Burke’s two sons-in-law are identified in the notice. Until the twentieth century, a married woman in most states had no legal existence apart from her husband. Thus, a son-in-law, rather than a daughter, was actually the party to any lawsuit and was the designated recipient of any notice. Fortunately, the notice also names John’s married daughters. Note also that the children are not named in birth order: the last two were sons of Elizabeth Graves Burke.

Here is a transcription of the first paragraph of the article, with some additions. I have numbered John Burke’s children, added punctuation and spacing for clarity, and included some annotations in italics:

To

(1) Henry F. Burke,

(2) William G. Darwin and his wife Polly (formerly Polly Burke, a nickname for Mary),

(3) Alva Graves and his wife Parmelia (formely Parmelia Burke),

(4) James Burke (this is James W. Burke),

(5) John Burke (John G. Burke),

(6) William C. Burke (middle name Carroll),

(7) Elizabeth Burke and

(8) Paresiba (usually spelled ParesiDa) Burke by their guardian William G. Darwin (Darwin was the guardian of Elizabeth and Paresida, the only two in the preceding list who were still minors),

(9) Esom L. Burke (middle name Logan),

(10) Elvira Burke,

(11) James F. Burke (sic, this should be Jonas Burke),

(12) America O. Burke,

(13) Milly Jane Burke,

(14) Francis M. Burke (middle name Marion), and

(15) Franklin P. Burke (middle name Parrott),

by their guardian pendente lite, Richard P. Brooks (the guardian of children 9 through 15, all still minors in 1842), heirs of John Burke, deceased, and [notice is also given to] Richard P. Brooks and Carrol C. Burke (sic, William Carroll Burke), administrators of said John Burke, dec’d.

And that’s all the news that’s fit to print from the Newspaper Ad.

The Chancery Court Complaint

The second piece of fabulous evidence is an original complaint filed in the Jackson County chancery court in 1884 concerning John Burke’s estate. Briefly, some of John’s heirs alleged that Richard P. Brooks, one of the administrators of the estate, defrauded them regarding John’s land. I have no idea how the suit turned out, although there might be records to be found among the Jackson County microfilm. That film is a tough slog.

Like the application for dower allotment, all of John Burke’s heirs had to be named as parties to the lawsuit — because all had an interest in the estate. If one of John’s children had died by that time (in fact, several had died by 1884), then their children were heirs to the estate and had to be named. For this, we can be grateful that John Burke died without a will.

The list of heirs in the Chancery Complaint was obviously not contemporaneous with John Burke’s death in 1842. Because it is forty years later, it is obviously less reliable than the newspaper notice. The Complaint contains errors and omissions, as well as “blanks” where the complainants didn’t know the facts. Most of the “holes” can be filled with other evidence, though. Just the locations are worth their weight in gold for tracking this family.

Here is the Chancery Court Complaint’s list of John Burke’s children: Henry F. Burke, John G. Burke, Polly Burke, Permelia Burke, William C. Burke, James W. Burke, Esom L. Burke, Francis M. Burke, Parazidia Burke, Franklin P. Burke, Elisabeth Burke, Elvira Burke, America Burke, Matilda Burke, Jonas Burke, & Jane Burke, his only heirs at law. This list is closer to birth order than the other list, but still not quite accurate.

I am going to reproduce my transcription of the Chancery Court Complaint in its entirety, below. In the next article in this series, I will (finally!) take up information about the children themselves.

_________________

Transcription of the Original Complaint dated July 28, 1884 in the suit John G. Burke et al. vs. R. V. Brooks et al., Chancery Court of Jackson County, Tennessee. Transcribed from original document on TSLA Microfilm, Jackson Co., TN Roll No. 53, folder titled “Burke John G. & others vs Brooks R. V. & others, Chancery 1884.” Xerox copy made from FHL Film # 985,278.

“To William G. Crowley, Chancellor, holding the chancery Court at Gainsboro, Tennessee:

The Bill of Complaint of John G. Burke, Leonidas Darwin, William H. Darwin, Hiram C. Darwin, George C. Darwin, Mary A. Suite, Elizabeth Kelly & her husband Miles Kelly, Mary Carter & her husband William Carter, Milton E. Burke, John M. Burke, Sarah E. Hornbuckle & her husband [first name struck through] Hornbuckle, Angelina McCarry & her husband _______ McCarry, Elizabeth Padgett & her husband James Padgett, Ella Buhler & her husband Alexander Buhler, Adda Bettis & her husband William Bettis, Lucy Moore, Parazidia Lipscomb & her husband ______ Lipscomb, Permelia Lipscomb & her husband ______ Lipscomb, William L. Burke, John P. Burke, Franklin P. Burke, James P. Burke, Uhley Woollard & her husband Henry Woollard, Sally B. Burke, Francis M. Burke, Franklin P. Burke Sr., Elizabeth Simpson & her husband Thomas D. Simpson, W______ P. Hopkins, M_____ B. Hopkins, John O. Hopkins, M______ E. Hopkins & her husband Sydney Hopkins [additional interlining unreadable], Andrew L. Hopkins, Mary Ann Hopkins, Nannie B. Hopkins, John Anderson, Juda Anderson & her husband ____ Gibson?, Henry Burke, Jno R. Burke, Thomas Burke, Elizabeth Parker & Marion Burke, complainants

against

V. Brooks, personally, and as Executor of the last will of Richard P. Brooks, deceased, Caleb Roberts, Josiah Roberts, Meredith Brown, & Asa Denson,

of Jackson County, Tennessee,

and Matilda Long & her husband Lane (?) Long of the State of Kentucky,

Defts. [sic, Defendants]

Your complainants, aforesaid, complaining, state that they are heirs at law of John Burke who died intestate in Jackson County, Tennessee where he resided about the year 1842, leaving surviving him a widow named Jane Burke and the children whose names follow to wit:

Henry F., John G., Polly, Permelia, William C., James W., Esom L., Francis M., Parazidia, Franklin P., Elisabeth, Elvira, America, Matilda, Jonas & Jane Burke, his only heirs at law.

Richard P. Brooks was appointed and acted as administrator of his personal estate and he has lately died and deft R. V. Brooks is his Executor appointed less than two years & six months ago. There are no debts against the estate of said John Burke.

Said John Burke the common ancestor of complainants, at his death owned several valuable tracts of land lying in Jackson County, Tennessee, on one of which he resided at the time of his death, and about 200 acres of it, the homestead, was duly allotted and assigned by the Circuit Court of said County to his said widow as her dower, and a decree of said court duly entered to that effect, and she took possession of it as such and resided on it for a considerable time and until she conveyed it or transferred it in some way as such dower and estate for her life to said Richard P. Brooks who went into possession of and held it as such during her natural life, which terminated on the ____ of _______, 1881, less than seven years before the filing of this bill; and it has been less than seven years since the right of action of the heirs of John Burke dec’d accrued for said dower land.

Said dower tract lies on the Cumberland River on the south side of it and is bounded North by Cumberland River, East by the lands of Joshua Haile Jr., South by the lands of R. A. Cox & Hoover and West by __________________ and lies in White’s Bend of said river. The lines cannot now be given by complts but reference is to be had to the lines of said dower as laid off by the Court, the records of which were destroyed & burned up some years ago without the intention or knowledge of complts.

It is believed and so charged from belief that deft Brooks or if not he some of the other claimants under his testator the defts have a copy of the decree allotting the said dower. If so let them answer as to it & produce it & file it with their answer.

Complts further allege that some time after the death of John Burke their ancestor said Richard P. Brooks the admr procured some of the heirs to join him in filing a bill or petition in the Circuit Court of Jackson County against others of the heirs to procure a sale or partition of the lands of said John Burke not covered by the dower and under it they were sold in or about the year 1843, as now remembered, by the clerk & commissioners of said Court and they were purchased in by said Richard P. Brooks or at least part of them were bought by him, including that part of the home tract not covered by the dower. There was a large quantity of the lands & quite valuable.

At the same time of the sale of the other lands outside of the dower said Richard P. Brooks fraudulently procured a pretended sale of the remainder in the land covered by said dower allotted to the widow, and pretended to purchase it in himself at the grossly inadequate price of three hundred dollars, or thereabout, although there was no application in the bill or petition to the court for a sale of it and under the law the court had no jurisdiction to sell it – the widow being then living.

The Heirs were all then young and most of them, including several of complts & their ancestors, under 21 years of age, and all ignorant in matters of law and conveyancing etc, and all relied on and confided in said Brooks, the admr., who was a shrewd person, versed in such matters, and, afterward, if not then, a lawyer.

They objected at the time of the sale, in the presence & hearing of said Brooks & others there to the sale of the dower land, and contended that there was no application to sell it; but, Brooks fraudulently & wrongfully went on and had it sold & bought it in, over their objections, and, as they now believe, & so charge, for the purpose of cheating the heirs out of it; for, among other badges of fraud, he afterward admitted to friends, at times, that he had no title to it, and that it was really the rightful property of the said heirs.

He, soon after this sale, purchased of the widow her life estate in dower and took possession of it as such, and held it up to her death, & to his own death about two years past, acknowledging the rights of the heirs to the remainder.

Complts charge that during the time said R. P. Brooks so held and occupied said land, he committed and permitted great waste and injury to it, and to the injury & damage of the heirs, by permitting it to dilapidate, by bad cultivation and husbandry of himself & tenants, by taking down & removing the fences & houses, etc., from it to his other lands; by cutting down & removing & deadining (?) & destroying the valuable timbers of which there was much; by destroying and permitting to be destroyed & injured the valuable orchards, to the damage of the heirs to large amounts. He also took the rents & profits of said land to large amounts, after the death of the widow, to which the heirs were entitled. And the other defts R. V. Brooks, Caleb Roberts, Josiah Roberts, Meredith Brown & Asa Denson have continued all these wrongs since, to the damage of the heirs. But the amounts of the rents & damages for which each or any of them is liable cannot be stated or ascertained without an accounti[ng] thereof; it being a matter of complicated account, fit, & fit only, to be ascertained by a court of chancery, and not fit or considerable in a court [remainder of this page is missing. The complainants are just asserting that the case must be tried in the chancery court, that the county court of law doesn’t have jurisdiction.]

They all claim under the title of John Burke the common ancestor of complts whose title papers are supposed to be in possession of deft Brooks, or if they are not they are so unintentionally lost or mislaid or destroyed that complts cannot find them & that the registration of them is also so unintentionally destroyed.

Said R. V. Brooks, Caleb Roberts, Nathan Roberts, Josiah Roberts, Meredith Brown & Asa Denson are the present occupants of said land, and claim it wrongfully, and refuse to give it up or, surrender the possession of it to the heirs of said John Burke, dec’d, or pay the rents & damages; though the heirs have duly demanded the same of them, and said rents and damages, with the interest thereon, are due and unpaid to the heirs.

Your complainants are informed & believe, and, so, charge, that Richard P. Brooks did not pay any thing for the said remainder interest in the land covered by said dower; and, therefore, he is not entitled in any event to any reimbursement. Yet, if it turn out that any of the heirs did in fact get any part of its proceeds, they are, respectively, willing to refund it & do justice, upon the land being surrendered or decreed to be given up to them; and they have offered this to the present occupants. But they refuse, as aforesaid, to surrender & pay. So, complts must sue for their rights.

At the death of said John Burke the common ancestor of complts his said lands descended to his aforesaid children, then living, equally. After his death some of them died and some of them died leaving issue who inherit through them their portions of said lands, and they are as follows: Polly, a daughter of said John the common ancestor, married William Darwin, and died leaving children to wit: Leonidas Darwin of Texas, William H. Darwin of Arkansas, Hiram C. Darwin of Texas, George C. Darwin of Jackson County, Tennessee, Mary A. [might be Ann] a daughter who married a man by name of Suite, but he is dead and she is a widow & resides in Texas; Elizabeth, who married Miles Kelly, and they reside in Kansas; Granville Darwin who died leaving one daughter Mary who has married ___________________ Carter & they reside in Jackson County Tennessee; Parasidia, a daughter, who married Alexander Taylor, & they reside in Arkansas; and Polley, a daughter, who died without issue after her mother died and her share descended to her brothers and sisters the children of Polly Darwin, aforesaid, equally.

Henry F. Burke, a son of the common ancestor, died about Nov., 1845, leaving four children, to wit: Milton E. Burke, John M. Burke, Sarah E. a daughter who has married _____________ Hornbuckle, all of the state of Missouri, and Angelina a daughter who has married _____ McCary who resides in Kansas.

Parasidia, a daughter of the common ancestor, married W. W. More [sic, Moore] and afterward died intestate, leaving the following children, to wit: Elisabeth a daughter who has married James Padgett of Wilson County, Tennessee; Ella, a daughter who has married Alexander Buhler of Wilson County, Tennessee; Adda(?), a daughter, who has married William Bettis of Wilson County, Tennessee; & Lucy Moore, a daughter, of Wilson County Tennessee;

Permelia, a daughter of the common ancestor, married Alva Graves, and they are both dead, leaving two children, daughters, to wit, Parasidia, who married _____ Lipscomb, and Permelia, who married ____________ Lipscomb, all of the state of Missouri.

Esom L., a son of the common ancestor, died, leaving the following children, all of whom reside in Wilson County, Tennessee, to wit: William L., John P., Franklin P. & James R. Burke, sons, and two daughters, to wit Uhley, now wife of Henry Woolard and Sallie B. Burke, the said F. P., Sallie B., & Jas R. are minors without guardians and sue by their brother & next friend William L. Burke.

The following children of the common ancestor are living to wit John G. of Wilson County, Tenn., Francis M. of Texas, Franklin P. of Missouri, sons, & Elizabeth the wife of Thomas D. Simpson of Texas, and Matilda, the wife of Lone(?) Long, of Kentucky.

Elvira, a daughter of the common ancestor, married Otey Hopkins, and died, leaving the following children, her only heirs, to wit: W.____P., M_____ D., John O., M_______ E., Sydney, Andrew L., Nannie B. & Mary Ann Hopkins. Sidney Hopkins Andrew Hopkins Naney B. Hopkins & Mary Jane Hopkins (John Anderson & Frances) Anderson minors who sue by their next friend George C. Darwin. [Note: I have transcribed this paragraph exactly as it appears in the original, so far as I can tell. The draftsman was clearly getting tired.]

America, a daughter of the common ancestor, married _______________ Anderson, and died, leaving the following children surviving her, to wit: Judey & John Anderson, who reside in Jackson County, Tennessee.

James B. Burke [sic, should be James W. Burke], son of the common ancestor, who died, leaving the following children & heirs to wit: Jno R. Burke, Thos. Burke, Elizabeth Parker, widow of ___________ Parker, and Marion Burke, citizens of the state of Kentucky.

Wm. C. Burke, son of the common ancestor, who died, leaving one child & heir Henry Burke, a citizen of the state of Kentucky.

The common ancestor had one son named Jonas at his death and a daughter born in lawful time a few months after his death whose name was Jane, as now remembered, who both died intestate & without marriage or issue many years ago, before the death of the widow and their shares descended to the other surviving heirs of the common ancestor to wit those herein stated in the same proportions as the other parts of the estate descended to them from said common ancestor. One error about John Burke’s sixteen children: Milly Jane wasn’t the afterborn child, who was named in the Newspaper Ad. The afterborn child was Matilda Burke Long.

Your complts further state that the said land sued for is not susceptible of partition among the owners of it owing to the number of owners being so great, for want of timber & water and being bounded and hemmed by adjacent owners’ lands and by the natural obstructions so that roads & ways for ingress & egress could not be had to & from it by reason of all which & perhaps other good reasons the value would be much diminished so that it is not susceptible of such partition in kind without manifest injury to the owners and it would be manifestly to the interest & advantage of the owners that the land be sold and the proceeds partitioned among them.

Prayer. The premises being considered, your complts pray that this bill be filed in said court, on behalf of Complts and of said Matilda Long & her husband, if they shall choose to avail themselves of its benefits under the rules of law & practice; that the persons named in the caption as defendants be made such by proper process & orders of publication etc; that they be compelled to answer fully, not on oath; that they answer as to the said copy of the decree & other title papers aforesaid and file with their answers if they have them; that upon hearing decrees be entered declaring the rights & title of complts & Long & wife and setting up their title to be complete in & to said land and vesting the same in them according to their several rights and that they be put in possession thereof; that the defts in possession & claiming the lands be held liable for the rents, waste & damages of the lands with interest thereon; that deft R. V. Brooks as Executor of the will of said Richard P. Brooks, deceased, and the estate of said Richard P. Brooks be held liable also for the same; that all proper & necessary accounts thereof be taken and reports made and all proper & necessary decrees entered to declare & enforce the rights of said heirs or if complts have mistaken their relief that such other and further relief be granted them as may seem right & lawful.

As the rental is quite valuable and some of the defendants not solvent complts pray that a Receiver be appointed to rent out the lands and secure the rents pending the litigation and such orders made & proceedings had as may be necessary & proper.

Complts also pray that defts be injoined from committing further waste or damage to the lands.

This is the first application for an injunction in this matter.

A. Swope

A. Witt? or Mott? Solicitors for complts

State of Tennessee              Personally appeared before

Jackson County                    me H. W. Winn? Clerk & Master of the

Court of said county G. C. Darwin Jr.? one of the complainants in the foregoing bill and made oath that the facts stated in said bill are true as stated according to his information & belief. And those allegations made from information he believes to be true & subscribed this affidavit? before me on the 28th day of July 1884.

Sworn to                               G. C. Darwin [signature]

Test M. W. Winns? Clerk

[1] 1850 federal census, Jackson Co., TN, Jane D. Byrk, sic, Burke, 35, with Jonas Burke, 13, Elvira L. Burke, 12, America Burke, 10, Milly Burke, 9, Matilda Burke, 8 and Margaret Burke, 1. Margaret was not a child of John Burke, who died in June 1842. Nor was she a grandchild of John Burke’s.

[2] Virgil D. White, Genealogical Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files, Volume II (Waynesboro, TN: The National Historical Publishing Co., 1991), abstract of the pension application of Reuben Graves, who testified that he was mustered into VA militia between age 15 and 16 as a substitute for his father John Graves; soldier lived in Halifax County, Virginia at enlistment, and was born 23 May 1760 in Spotsylvania County, Virginia; in 1805 he moved to Wartrace Creek in Jackson County, TN and he applied there 2 October 1832, aged 72. See also Catherine Lindsay Knorr, Marriage Bonds & Ministers Returns of Halifax County, Virginia 1753-1800 (1957), 11 Jan 1787, Esom Graves and Judith Parrott were married by Rev. James Watkins; 27 Nov 1786, Reuben Graves m. Elizabeth Yarborough. See also Halifax Co., VA Plea Book No. 14, Aug. Term 1789 to July Term 1790, original viewed by the author at the Halifax courthouse, an April 1790 road order tithables included both Reuben Graves and Esom Graves and established that they lived in the same fairly limited area. Finally, see Smith County, TN Deed Book B: 295, deed dated 3 Jun 1805 from Rencher McDaniel of Wilson to Reuben Graves, 250 acres on the waters of War Trace Creek on the north side of the Cumberland River adjacent Easom Graves, deed witnessed by Easom Graves. Reuben and Easom/Esom were brothers.

[3] Issue of The Republican dated Thursday, Sept 8, 1842 printed in the September 8, 1842 issue of the Smith County Democrat, page 3, column 5. A copy of the article is also available in the vertical files at the TLSA, filed under “Burke.”

[4] TSLA Microfilm, Jackson Co., TN Roll No. 53, folder titled “Burke John G. & others vs Brooks R. V. & others, Chancery 1884,” Original Complaint dated 28 July 1884. See also Family History Library Film # 985,278.

[5] Notice of Jane’s application for dower was required because every heir at law had an undivided ownership interest in John’s land. Because John died without a will, his estate was subject to the Tennessee law of intestate descent and distribution. Such laws provided that property was distributed to all heirs, with different treatment among the states between real and personal property and between children and the widow. Here is an article about legal issues relevant to genealogy.

[6] I obtained a copy of the ad via snailmail back in the pre-internet era. The TSLA staff had a really hard time finding it, and the librarian who mailed it to me wasn’t exactly clear about which newspaper she found the notice in. Here’s to the good ol’ days.

Part Two of Several: John Burke, b. abt. 1785, VA, d. 1842, Jackson Co., TN.

I need help with John Burke. The problem with John calls for the ability to look at facts in creative ways and do some outside-the-box critical thinking. I’m more of a two-plus-two-equals-four kind of person, and my linear logic is not working well. I hope anyone with ideas will leave a comment. The issue is what to make of a family legend saying that John Burke’s older brother and his family, with whom John was migrating, were killed by Native Americans. It matters because it is part of a larger issue: where was John Burke’s family of origin, and when?

The massacre legend comes from the second of two written family histories about John Burke. I posted an article on 8/11/17 about the first history, a document written by John Burke’s great-grandson Victor Moulder — Part 1 of this series. The second history is titled “Burke Family in Tennesse [sic] and Kentucky by Victor and Geo. B. Moulder 1946.” George and Victor were brothers who had a good bit to say, most of which I will defer for a later article.

The massacre story – if taken literally with respect to time and place – is not consistent with historical facts. Of course, every genealogist who has dealt with oral family history legends knows that they are rarely 100% factually correct. Nevertheless, they virtually always contain an element of truth, or at least point toward some truth. So far, I have been unable to figure out the “true facts” to which the massacre story points.

Here is the relevant part of the Moulders’ story:

“John Burke … migrated [from Virginia] at the age of 14 to the Upper Yadkin River Country, North Carolina with an older brother and family who were killed by Indians … joined a company of immigrants to Tennessee, walked and worked his way as a cobbler.”

To place the timing of the story, the Moulders say John Burke was born in 1783. That date is consistent with the 1820 and 1830 censuses, which show John as having been born during 1780 to 1790.[1] A birth date in 1783 would put the date of the Burke family migration at 1797. Glossing over the precise dates, the gist of the story is that a teenage John Burke’s older brother and his family were killed by Native Americans in the late 1790s in the Upper Yadkin River Valley.

Either the date, the location, or both must be incorrect, because there weren’t any hostilities between Native Americans and European settlers in the Upper Yadkin River Valley in the 1790s. At least I haven’t been able to find any.

At this point, we need briefly to address some geography and Native American history. This is emphatically not a scholarly treatment by any stretch of the imagination, so please alert me to anything that doesn’t jibe with what you know.

First, location: the Upper Yadkin River Valley

The Yadkin River roughly bisects North Carolina, flowing generally from north to south into South Carolina, where it becomes the Pee Dee River. Here is a map of some colonial migration routes in North Carolina which highlights in the upper gray circle the “Yadkin River Settlements.”

The area includes parts of current NC counties of Wilkes, Surry, Yadkin, Forsyth, Davie, Iredell and a sliver of Alexander. As of 1790 (before several of those counties were created), the relevant counties would have been Wilkes, Surry, Iredell and Rowan.

Native American players

Google was unable to answer my simple-minded question, “what hostile Native American tribes lived in the Upper Yadkin River Valley in the late 1700s?” Deprived of an easy answer, I started at the very beginning, with a map of Native American tribe locations in North Carolina before European settlers appeared.

The map shows three tribes whose range probably included part of the upper Yadkin River valley, although not necessarily during the 1790s: the Catawba, Cheraw, and Keyauwee. The map also shows the Cherokee in western NC in the area of the Blue Ridge Mountains, just a bit west of the Yadkin River Valley.

None of those first three tribes threatened settlers in the Upper Yadkin Valley in the late 1700s, so far as I have been able to find.

The Catawba, who were friendly to European settlers, lived prior to the Revolution in the Catabaw River Valley around Charlotte, NC and into South Carolina. They were virtually extinct by the end of the 18th century, decimated in large part by smallpox.[2]

By the 1720s, the Cheraw (or Saura) were located on the upper Pee Dee near the NC/SC border, well south of the Upper Yadkin. By 1768, the Cheraw numbered about 68 people.[3]

After 1716, the Keyauwee were located along the NC/SC border.[4]

All three of these tribes were either decimated or not located in the Upper Yadkin River Valley – or both – well before the Revolution. None of them threatened the Upper Yadkin River Valley at any time after John Burke was born, so we need to look for other possibilities among Native American tribes in North Carolina.

I found one: the only Native American tribe which continued to wage war into the 1790s, anywhere within range of the Upper Yadkin River Valley, were the Cherokee – especially the Cherokee who came to be called the Chickamaugua. Let’s talk about their history in some detail to get the big picture for you out-of-the-box thinkers, whose creativity I badly need.

The Cherokee and Chickamauga[5]

At the start of the French and Indian War (1754-1763), the Cherokee joined the British and colonists in fighting the French. However, when some Cherokee were killed by Virginia settlers, they began attacking European settlements along the Yadkin and Dan Rivers. Although that is decades too early to play a part in the Moulders’ massacre story, it shows the Cherokee’s range beyond their hunting grounds in the mountains of western North Carolina.

In any event, the Cherokee attacks were short-lived. An army of British regulars, American militia, and Catawba and Chickasaw destroyed fifteen villages and defeated the Cherokee in June 1761. This ended Cherokee resistance, at least temporarily. The tribe signed a peace treaty in 1761 ending their war with the American colonists.

Two years later, King George III issued a proclamation purportedly defining the permissible western edge of European settlement. The so-called “1763 Proclamation Line” ran from north to south through western North Carolina at the eastern foot of the Appalachian mountains. European settlement was limited to the east of the line. To the west was the so-called Indian Reserve. Here is a map of the proclamation line.

Despite King George (who did not, in the end, get much respect on these shores), western settlement proceeded. In the face of continued encroachment on their hunting grounds, the Cherokee announced their support for the Loyalists at the beginning of the Revolution and began waging war on the colonists. In July 1776, a force of 700 Cherokee attacked Eaton’s Station and Ft. Watauga, two U.S.-held forts now in east Tennessee that were then in North Carolina (which at the time extended west to include all of Tennessee). Both assaults failed, and the tribe retreated.

During the spring and summer of 1776, the Cherokees joined with a number of other tribes to raid frontier settlements in North and South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia in an effort to push settlers from their lands. The response to these raids was immediate and brutal. A large force of South Carolina militia and Continental Army troops attacked the Indians in South Carolina, destroying most of their towns east of the mountains. They then joined with North Carolina militia to do the same in NC and Georgia. Captured warriors were sold into slavery.

By 1777, Cherokee crops and villages had been destroyed and their power was broken. The badly defeated tribes could obtain peace only by surrendering vast tracts of territory in North and South Carolina at the Treaty of DeWitt’s Corner (May 20, 1777) and the Treaty of Long Island of Holston (July 20, 1777).[6] Peace reigned on the frontier for the next two years.

Cherokee raids flared up again in 1780. Punitive action by North Carolina militia (led inter alia by Col. John Sevier, the first governor of the short-lived state of Franklin and 6-term governor of Tennessee) soon brought the tribe to terms again. At the second Treaty of Long Island of Holston (July 26, 1781), previous land cessions were confirmed and additional territory ceded. The terms of the 1781 treaty were adhered to by all but the Chickamauga branch of the Cherokee. Here, apparently, were the only Native Americans who may have been involved in the Moulders’ massacre story in the 1790s.

The Chickamauga story began in 1775, when a land speculator named Richard Henderson convinced a group of Cherokee leaders to sell the tribe’s claim to twenty million acres, an area that included a large part of Kentucky and Middle Tennessee (a deal called “Henderson’s Purchase”). The area was an important hunting ground for the Cherokee and other tribes. For perspective, that is slightly more acreage than contained in the entire state of Sorth Carolina (19.2 million acres).[7] It encompassed that part of Middle Tennessee north of the Cumberland River and south of the Kentucky border – including Jackson County, where John Burke first appeared as a grown man in 1811.

One powerful Cherokee chief named Dragging Canoe and his followers strongly objected to the sale. Under the Cherokee system of government, anyone who disagreed with cessions of tribal territory was not expected to abide by the terms of the deal. Soon thereafter, Dragging Canoe’s towns, originally located in East Tennessee, moved father southwest due to military raids. In 1779, they settled on Chickamauga Creek: thus their name. Their location was near present-day Chattanooga, on the Tennessee River at the Georgia/Tennessee border and about 40-50 miles west of the western tip of North Carolina.

An early attempt to settle the Middle Tennessee area of Henderson’s Purchase occurred in late 1779. It ran headlong into the Chickamauga. A group of men led by James Robertson went overland from East Tennessee to French Lick (i.e., Nashville), which is on the Cumberland River. Another group led by a John Donelson – made up largely of the families of the men in the Robertson group – went by boat down the Tennessee River heading for the Cumberland River, planning to go upstream on the Cumberland to join Robertson. Donelson’s party came under heavy fire from Chickamauga towns on the Tennessee River. One boat was captured along with 28 people on board, although most of the settlers eventually reached their destination at French Lick in the spring of 1780.

That, of course, took place before John Burke was born in the 1780s (or 1783, according to the Moulders). However, for the next fourteen years – 1780 through 1794 – the Chickamauga and their Creek allies continued attacks on Cumberland River settlements. Chief Dragging Canoe died in 1792, but his followers continued to fight against the Cumberland settlers for two more years.[8] Hostilities finally ended with the Treaty of Tellico Blockhouse in 1794, ending the long so-called “Cherokee Wars.” Peace followed.

Peaceful Cherokee remnants stayed in the eastern TN/western NC area until the 1830s, when the U.S. government forced most of them to move to Oklahoma. You may know this relocation as the “Trail of Tears,” when 17,000 Cherokee were removed by federal troops and marched to Oklahoma. A quarter of them didn’t survive the journey. Where and when I went to school, history books didn’t mention either the Trail of Tears or the Jim Crow lynchings of black men, women and children. The victors — white, in this instance — wrote the history books.

Summary, of sorts

At this point, I can think of only limited alternatives for interpreting the Moulders’ massacre story:

  1. Take it at face value, and assume a renegade batch of still-hostile Native Americans killed some settlers (including some Burkes) in, perhaps, Surry or Wilkes Co., NC in 1797-ish. This flies in the face of the history that I have read. I readily acknowledge that the information I have seen is only about an inch deep.
  2. Toss out the entire story as a tall tale. This flies in the face of the fact that oral family histories/legends almost always contain some element of truth. I have a hard time discarding the legend altogether, although it is quite possible that John Burke was a teller of tall tales. More on that later.
  3. Imagine an alternative story in which some Burkes were killed some time other than the late 1790s in the Upper Yadkin River Valley.

Somebody please come up with a viable idea …

And that’s all I can do with the Moulders’ massacre story. Next up: John Burke’s children by his wives Elizabeth Graves and Jane D. Basham.

[1] I give John Burke’s year of birth as “about 1785,” because the 1820 and 1830 census records (both showing that he was born during 1780-1790) are the only evidence of his date of birth in any official records.

[2] Historically, the Indians who came to be called “Catawba” occupied the Catawba River Valley above and below the present-day North Carolina-South Carolina border in the southern part of the Piedmont. Disease, especially smallpox, decimated the tribe. The tribe abandoned their towns near Charlotte, NC and established a unified town at Twelve Mile Creek in what was then South Carolina but is now Union County, NC, southeast of Charlotte. They also negotiated a land deal with South Carolina that established a reservation 15 miles square. By the time of the American Revolution, the Catawba were surrounded by and living among the Europeans settlers, who did not consider them a threat. In September 1775, the Catawba pledged their allegiance to the colonies, and fought against the Cherokee and against Cornwallis in North Carolina. Upon their return in 1781, they found their village destroyed and plundered. By the end of the eighteenth century, it appeared to most observers that the Catawba people would soon be extinct. By 1826, only 30 families lived on the reservation. See http://www.ncpedia.org/catawba-indians, http://catawbaindian.net/about-us/early-history/ and http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/united-states-and-canada/north-american-indigenous-peoples/catawba.

[3] Around 1700, the Cheraw were located near the Dan River on the NC/VA line. About 1710, they moved southeast and joined the Keyauwee (see the next footnote). Between 1726 and 1729, they joined with the Catawba (see the prior footnote). Although the Cheraw were noted later for their persistent hostility to the English, they were not in locations in the Yadkin River Valley. By 1768, surviving Cheraw numbered 68 people. See

http://www.carolana.com/Carolina/Native_Americans/native_americans_cheraw.html, http://www.sciway.net/hist/indians/cheraw.html, and http://www.ncpedia.org/saura-indians.

[4] Around 1700, the Keyauwee lived around the junction of Guilford, Davidson, and Randolph Counties in north-central North Carolina near the city of High Point – a bit east of the Yadkin River Valley. They ultimately settled on the Pee Dee River (i.e., the Yadkin after it flows into SC) after 1716 and probably united with the Catawba. In a 1761 atlas, their town appears close to the boundary line between the two Carolinas. They were no threat to the Upper Yadkin River Valley.

http://www.carolana.com/Carolina/Native_Americans/native_americans_keyaunee.html

[5] https://www.britannica.com/event/Cherokee-wars-and-treaties. I read several other sources on the web, trying to seek out scholarly articles. I did waaaay too many clicks for me to record in an orderly fashion, but the one source to which I’ve linked here is a good one.

[6] http://teachingushistory.org/lessons/treatyofdewittscorner.htm

[7] http://www.statemaster.com/graph/geo_lan_acr_tot-geography-land-acreage-total

[8] http://www.nativehistoryassociation.org/dragging_canoe.php

Part 1 of Several: John Burke, b. VA abt 1785, d. 1842, Jackson Co., TN

Who says there is no humor in genealogy? It’s everywhere you look, from ol’ One-Eyed Sam Rankin of Lincoln Co., NC to my second favorite watercourse in Virginia, “Soak Arse Creek.”[1]

My favorite watercourse in Virginia is in Lunenburg County, where my Estes, Winn, Bacon and Andrews lines came together in the mid-1700s. There are deeds, land patents and court orders referencing land on “Effing Creek,” except that the records expressly spell out the Anglo-Saxon gerund.[2] I am not making this up. Thomas Winn (or Wynne), my common ancestor with my friend and cousin Bill Lindsey, owned land on that creek.[3] At some point, some wimpy-arsed cartographer changed its name to “Modest Creek” – conclusive proof that there is also irony in genealogy.[4]

Here’s a fine example of some more contemporary genealogical humor…

A film of Wilson County, TN loose chancery records at the Tennessee State Library and Archives is preceded by a filmed page titled “How the Records Are Filed.”[5] The explanation was signed by Linda Granstaff, a friendly and helpful woman who can evidently still be found most days at the Wilson County Archives in Lebanon, TN. Here’s a link to Ms. Granstaff at the Wilson County Archives.

Ms. Granstaff had this to say by way of explanation for “how the records are filed:”

“The Chancery Court Loose Records have been microfilmed beginning with Box 1 and going through Box 122. Boxes 1 through 108 were done and then files that should have been filmed earlier were found in places under and behind things that could not be found in time to film in the order used first. These boxes are filmed following Boxes 1 through 108 beginning with Box 109 through 122.”

This nicely captures the difficulty of organizing old county records that have been “filed” willy-nilly. At the state Archives, it doesn’t get any easier. I cannot begin to explain the byzantine process required in order to find the microfilmed records concerning a court case in which, say, Esom Logan Burke – a proved son of John Burke – was plaintiff.

Yes, that was a long way to get around to John Burke. It may have been a subconscious delaying tactic: I am still trying to postpone writing about my Burke line, something I have been doing for roughly 20 years. There are several reasons for my reluctance to tackle the Burkes.

  • I cannot prove the identity of John Burke’s parents. He was definitely born in Virginia. As luck would have it, there are a plethora of Burkes in that colony/state, in a dizzying number of counties. Many of them are in so-called “burned” counties with lost records.
  • There are two extant family legends in the form of documents handwritten by John’s descendants that purport to identify his parents. Unfortunately, I have not found any supporting evidence. One of the legends contains at least one obvious whopper. Both contain errors about names, dates and locations, a couple of which are fairly significant. This puts them in the same category as all family legends: they always contain some truth, or at least a grain of truth, and they are always wrong about some stuff. The obvious problem is separating the wheat from the chaff. Here is an article about unpacking another family legend.
  • John Burke’s first wife was Elizabeth Graves, whose family came to Tennessee from Halifax County, Virginia. The Graves Family Association website identifies John’s birthplace as Albemarle County, Virginia and his father as William Burke – without, of course, providing proof for either assertion.[6] We will look at this theory in a later post. However, it just complicates the situation. What to believe?

In short, John’s family of origin hides somewhere amidst obfuscating clouds of dust and hails of gravel. The search has been frustrating. I hope somebody who reads this can help me out.

Until that happens, let’s look at the two written family legends, starting with the shorter, less colorful version. It is a one-page document apparently written by John Victor Moulder.[7] Victor, who lived from 1867 – 1949, was a great-grandson of John and Elizabeth Graves Burke, so Victor presumably acquired his information through family oral tradition.[8

Here is the first part of Victor’s document verbatim.

“1793. John Burk Sr. was born on the James River in Virginia and then married Elizabeth Graves who bore him 10 children. He migrated to Tenn. and settled on Flinn’s Creek, on Cumb. R., where he had a large plantation and a number of Negro slaves. His first wife died there and he married Jenny Lamb who bore him 6 children. He died in 1853. His father was James Burke.”

Let’s try to separate the wheat from the chaff in that paragraph.

  • Year of birth: wrong. The document seems to say John was born in 1793, although the 1830 and 1840 federal censuses for Jackson County, TN put John in the age group born during 1780-1790. There doesn’t seem to be evidence for a more precise date. The first time he appeared in the records is an 1811 entry for fifty acres on Bullard’s Creek “to include where John Burke now lives.”[9] His eldest child was born that same year. I have settled on “about 1785” for his date of birth because my observation has been that 18th and 19th-century men tended to marry about age 25.
  • Born in James River, VA: partly correct, partly unknown. John Burke was definitely born in Virginia. Some of his children lived until 1880, when the federal census included information about the birth states of a person’s parents. His children usually responded that John and his wife were born in Virginia.[10] Whether John was born “on the James River” is another matter entirely. I just don’t know whether that is correct. Counties along the James River in the latter 1700s included Isle of Wight, Prince George, Chesterfield, Suffolk, Surry, York, James City, Charles City, Henrico, Goochland, Elizabeth City, Nancemond, and possibly others. Do note, however, that birth in a county along the James conflicts with the Graves Organization website’s claim that John Burke was born in Albemarle Co. The Rivanna River, a tributary of the James, flows through Albemarle. The James River does not.
  • Wife Elizabeth Graves, mother of 10: partly true. John Burke’s first wife was undoubtedly Elizabeth Graves, daughter of Esom Graves and Judith Parrott.[11] She was the mother of eleven children, not ten.[12]
  • John and Elizabeth married in Virginia and then migrated to Tennessee: The Victor Moulder document seems to suggest that the family moved to Tennessee after John and Elizabeth Graves married. The Graves family lived in Halifax County, VA before they moved to Jackson County, TN.[13] Esom Graves had moved to Tennessee by no later than 1805, when he was a party to a deed reciting that he was a resident of Smith County.[14] John and Elizabeth Graves Burke’s eldest child, Henry F. Burke, was born in 1811.[15] Given the couple’s well-demonstrated ability to produce offspring, it is a good bet they were married in Tennessee in 1809 or 1810.
  • John settled on Flynn’s Cr.: probably incorrect. John Burke did own land on Flynn’s Creek, but it is doubtful he lived there.[16] In 1811, his first appearance in the records, John was living on Bullard’s Creek, on the south side of the Cumberland.[17] By a year later, he had left that tract.[18] On the 1836 tax list for Jackson County, John is listed with a 289-acre tract on the north side of the River near War Trace Creek, and a 250-acre tract on Bullard’s Creek on the south side of the river. Esom Graves and some of his family lived on the north side of the River, and I’m betting that is where the Burke homestead was, too.[19]
  • Large plantation and slaves: more or less correct. As noted above, the 1836 tax list for Jackson County showed John owning a total of 539 acres. The 1840 census shows 6 slaves. He clearly wasn’t a poor man, although dividing that estate among a widow and 16 children would not produce much of an inheritance. John died intestate, so his estate would have been divided among all of those heirs.
  • John had 6 children with second wife Jenny Lamb: mostly incorrect. The Victor Moulder paper is the only reference I have seen to a given name of Jenny. Both written legends give her surname as Lamb. The widow’s War of 1812 pension application, however, says that John’s first wife was Elizabeth Graves and his second wife (the applicant) was Jane D. Basham. Jane and John Burke had five children, not six.[20]
  • John died in 1853: wrong. Jane Basham Burke’s widow’s application for a pension states that John died on 6 June 1842. Several court filings also recite that he died in June 1842.[21]

The Victor Moulder paper also identifies John Burke’s father as James Burke and has some information about John’s children, but let’s save a discussion of those matters for another article in this Burke series.

Next up: the second legend.

 

[1] I cannot recall the county in which I saw a reference to Soak Arse Creek, but I promise it is not a figment of my rather pedestrian imagination.

[2] E.g., June Banks Evans, Lunenburg County, Virginia Order Book 1, 1746-1749 (New Orleans: Bryn Ffyliaid Publications,1999), abstract of OB 1: 397, court order of 4 Apr 1748, Thomas Wynne appointed surveyor of the road across Fucking Cr.; Lunenburg Deed Book 7: 231 (my copy of microfilm), Thomas Winn to John Winn, 762 acres, part of grantor’s 2,959-acre patent on the south side of Fucking Cr.

[3] E.g., Cavaliers and Pioneers Volume VI: 1749-1762 (Richmond: Virginia Genealogical Society, edited by Dennis Ray Hudgins, 1998), abstract of 7 Aug 1761 patent by Thomas Wynne, 2,959 acres on both sides of Hounds Cr. and the south branches of Fucking Cr.

[4] E.g., Lunenburg Deed Book 32: 73 (viewed at Lunenburg Courthouse), John P. Winn and wife Elizabeth P. of Scott Co., MO to James W. Hudson of Lunenburg, 148.75 acres on Modest Cr. An online group claims the name of the creek was changed by “local gentry.” Search for “modest” at this website, a group apparently dedicated to the topic of “offensive names on maps” who clearly need to get a life: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/alt.appalachian/MrukWgk_uwc

[5] Wilson County Microfilm Roll #B-1230 at the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

[6] http://www.gravesfa.org/gen145.htm.

[7] An image of the document is available online at https://ancestry.com/mediaui-viewer/tree/6832610/person/24678785473/media/82eb6aaf-46de-418a-80cf-9132e30d7d2b.

[8] Victor’s mother was Elizabeth Burke, a daughter of James W. and Matilda Richmond Burke. James W. was a son of John and Elizabeth Graves Burke.

[9] Jackson County Deed Book 25: 153.

[10] E.g., 1880 federal census, Wilson Co., TN, dwelling 76, John G. Burke, 61, farmer, born TN, parents born Virginia, with wife Lucy (Moore) Burke, 51 and two sons; 1880 federal census, Collin Co., TX, Marion Burke, 53, b. TN, parents b. VA, with wife, 5 children and 2 grandchildren; 1880 federal census, Harrison Co., TX, dwelling 147, T. E. and “Elezzie” (sic, Lizzie Burke) Simpson, born TN, father born VA.

[11] Jane Basham Burke’s widow’s application for War of 1812 pension states that John’s first wife was Elizabeth Graves. There is only circumstantial evidence that Elizabeth was a daughter of Esom Graves and Judith Parrott, but it is darn good: she named two sons Esom Logan Burke and Franklin Parrott Burke.

[12] The widow’s War of 1812 pension application states that John died on 6 Jun 1842 and that he had married Jane Basham in 1835. Among the proved children of John Burke, the eleventh child – Franklin Parrott Burke — was born in 1828 and was thus Elizabeth’s son. Jonas Burke, the eldest child of Jane Basham and John Burke, was born in 1837.

[13] E.g., Halifax County, Virginia Wills, 1792-1797 (Miami: T.L.C Genealogy, 1991), abstract of Will Book 3: 180, 11 July 1795, jury for coroner’s inquiry included John Parrot, Reubin Graves, and Easson [sic] Graves.

[14] Smith County Deed Book B: 294, Rench McDaniel of Wilson County to Easom Graves of Smith County, 250 acres on the north side of the Cumberland River adjacent the grantee. Jackson County was created from Smith County in 1801.

[15] Henry F. Burke’s tombstone in Platte Co., MO gives his date of death as 25 Oct 1845, aged 34 years, 6 months. It is hard to read. https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=pv&GRid=24041218&PIpi=122893512.

[16] See Tennessee State Library and Archives microfilm, Jackson Co., Roll No. 95, original complaint dated 12 July 1842 from the suit Sam E. Stone and Leroy B. Settle v. Henry F. Burke, Richard P. Brooks and William C. Burke. The complaint is misfiled in the folder titled “McClellan Andrew & others vs. Graves Alvey & others Chancery 1843 – 1845.” The complaint lists land owned by John Burke on Flynn’s Creek, the Cumberland River, and War Trace Creek.

[17] Jackson County Deed Book 25: 153, July 1811 entry for 50A on Bullard’s creek where John Burke now lives.

[18] Jackson County Deed Book 27: 350, August 1812 entry by Jonas Bedford on Bullard’s Cr. including part of the improvements where “John Burke formerly lived.”

[19] See Family History Library Film No. 985,334, file folder labeled “Hopkins John O. & others vs. Brooks R. P. & others, Chancery 1855,” answer of Esom L. Burke et al. noting that John Burke owned a large tract on the Cumberland River near the mouth of War Trace Cr. when he died.

[20] The 1850 federal census for Jackson County lists a Jane D. Byrk [sic] with Jonas, Elvira, America, Milly, Mitilda and Margaret Byrk, age 1. Since John Burke died in 1842, Margaret, born about 1849, cannot be his child.

[21] https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/1133/miusa1814_114115-00803?pid=83087&backurl=http://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv%3D1%26db%3DWarof1812_Pension%26h%3D83087%26tid%3D%26pid%3D%26usePUB%3Dtrue%26_phsrc%3DnSQ31%26_phstart%3DsuccessSource%26usePUBJs%3Dtrue%26rhSource%3D4281&treeid=&personid=&hintid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=nSQ31&_phstart=successSource&usePUBJs=true

The John Willis Family and the Maryland Supply Tax of 1783

A friend recently pointed me toward a great resource, the Maryland Supply Tax of 1783. The Continental Congress periodically levied a tax on each state to pay for soldiers’ salaries and supplies during the Revolutionary War. Many of the Maryland records of the 1783 tax survive and are preserved in the Maryland State Archives (MSA). Best of all, the records are available online so you can review them from home.

MSA published an index of the records for some counties at: http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/stagser/s1400/s1437/html/ssi1437e.html

Most importantly, the Maryland Society of the Sons of the American Revolution (MDSSAR) scanned the surviving records and posted them on their website at: https://www.mdssar.org/membership/marylandtaxlists

Like most tax records of the era, these contain a wealth of information about the property owners. The records list all heads of household along with details such as land holdings, names of the tracts, numbers of slaves by age and gender, numbers of horses and cattle, the value of each asset and the total tax assessed. Some jurisdictions also describe the real property as to location, condition of the soil, and improvements. Additionally, the lists show the number of white inhabitants for each household, sometimes divided by gender. Males without taxable property between the ages of 18 and 50 were listed and assessed a default tax of 15 shillings. Paupers were listed as such and assessed no tax.

I recommend beginning at the searchable MSA index to identify the pages and tax district where a person of interest or a named tract of land is listed. Then logon to the MDSSAR site and scroll to the proper location. The scanned records are alphabetical within each tax district, making the site easy to use. I was pleased to find my family, the descendants of John Willis, listed here.[1]

The John Willis Family

In 1702, the John Willis who settled in Dorchester County patented 50 acres of land named Wantage located on the Little Blackwater River about three or four miles from Cambridge. John had four sons: John Jr., Thomas, Andrew, and William. We know from county land records the following information:

John, Jr. bought land in 1717 on Marshy Creek in what would become Caroline County. John’s land became known as Willis’s Regulation and stayed in the family for several generations.

Thomas purchased land on Marshy Creek adjoining John’s tract. However, he died without issue.

Andrew ultimately lived in Dorchester County on his second wife’s inherited land located west of the main Blackwater River. He expanded his holdings with a patent called New Town in 1730.

William inherited Wantage from his father John, Sr. in 1712 and lived there until 1734 when he sold to William Soward, one of his wife’s brothers.

Sons John, Jr. and Andrew, Sr. had proven children. Son William had one likely son Thomas, who does not appear in the records. The Caroline County assessment lists the following sons of John, Jr.: Joshua, John III, and Jarvis; and his grandsons Henry, Andrew, Richard, Thomas, Joshua, and Robert. The Dorchester County assessment lists three grandsons of Andrew, Jr.: Andrew, John, and Jarvis.[2] That list also shows William Soward as the owner of Wantage, the Willis family’s original tract, and Levin Hughes as the owner of New Town, previously owned by Andrew’s family. Let’s turn to the detail within each county’s assessment.

Caroline County Assessment

The 1783 assessment divided Caroline County into three districts – Upper Choptank, River, and Lower Choptank Districts.[3] All the sons and grandsons of John Willis, Jr. listed on the 1783 rolls are in Lower Choptank. There are other Willis families in the county not related to the John Willis of Marshy Creek. Those Willis groups can be identified and distinguished generally by their lands.[4] Here is what the record reveals about each Willis related to John, Jr., grouped by family:

Isaac Willis, son of John, Jr., was alive until 1789 when Letters of Administration issued on his estate. However, he is not listed in the 1783 tax assessment. We can conclude he did not own land and was too old to be otherwise listed. Therefore, he was exempt from taxation. Neither of his sons owned land either.

Henry Willis, listed as “of Isaac” in the 1778 Loyalty Oath records, is shown in the tax assessment. He does not own land and heads a household consisting of one male and two females. His property including 3 horses and 3 cattle are valued at £30.

Andrew Willis, listed as “of Ic” in the 1783 tax assessment, is shown with no land and a family of one male and three females. His personal property is assessed at £10.

Apparently, these Willis men worked land owned by others, possibly relatives. As seen below, many in the family owned significant acreage.

Richard Willis, son of John, Jr., died in 1764. His four sons listed below owned 1,000 acres of land and total property valued at £727.

Richard Willis, son of Richard, Sr., owned 200 acres called Sarah’s Delight, Addition to Sarah’s Delight and Newfound Land. Only 20 acres was cleared while the rest was forested. Richard lived alone in 1783, however he had a female slave age 14-36 and two older slaves. He did not marry until five years later. His property was assessed at £185.

Thomas Willis, son of Richard, Sr., owned 400 acres being part of Perry’s Delight and part of New Land, 100 acres of which was under cultivation. He owned one slave and 5 cattle. His household apparently consisted of just him and his wife (known from other sources to be Elizabeth Perry). Thomas was one of the more prosperous young men in the region with property valued at £260.

Joshua Willis, Jr., son of Richard, Sr., owned 200 acres named Good Luck and part of New Land adjoining his brother Thomas. The improvements on his land were noted as “Bad,” presumably in need of repair. He owned one slave and 22 cattle with a total property value of £190. He headed a household of two males and four females.

Robert Willis, son of Richard, Sr., owned 200 acres of land, which was part of Perry’s Discovery. The improvements on his land were also noted at “Bad.” His household consisted of three males and three females. Robert’s property was valued at £92.

Joshua Willis, son of John, Jr., owned 464 acres called Painters Range, Bank of Pleasure and Willis’s Luck. Acreage under cultivation totaled 180 acres and property improvements were listed as “Good.” Joshua owned ten slaves, three of them males ages 14-45. He also had seven white males in his household, which explains his ability to farm so much acreage. He had 23 cattle and nine horses. His property assessed at £676, clearly the wealthiest individual Willis on the list. His total household was seven males and five females.

John Willis III, son of John, Jr. and his second wife Elizabeth Sharp, owned 163 acres called Addition to Willis’s Regulation. This land combined the original tract on Marshy Creek purchased by John Willis, Jr. with other patents and resurveys. John III inherited the land under his father’s 1764 will after the death of his mother Elizabeth. Improvements on the land were in Bad condition, but 100 acres were under cultivation. John had four slaves, five horses and 11 cattle, and headed a household of seven males and two females. His property value totaled £192.

Jarvis Willis, son of John, Jr. and his second wife Elizabeth Sharp, did not own land. He headed a household of one male and three females and had property assessed at £10.

The Willis families descended from John, Jr. owned 1,627 acres and total property valued at £2,105 – quite impressive for a group that began from the humble beginnings of John Willis of Wantage. Sadly, the record also shows that among their “property” were nineteen human beings. Their aggregate white households totaled 24 males and 23 females.[5]

Dorchester County Assessment

The Willis families in Dorchester related to John Willis of Wantage were descended from John’s son Andrew. This branch of the family was not as successful in the state of Maryland as the John Jr. branch. Many of them migrated to the mainland, seeking improved fortune in Virginia, North Carolina and other places. The descendants who remained did not have significant property. The Willises or the lands related to the Willises are scattered among Dorchester County’s three districts – Upper, Middle, and Lower.[6]

Andrew Willis, Jr., son of Andrew, Sr., is not listed because he died in 1778.

Andrew Willis, son of Andrew, Jr., owned 60 acres called Fisher’s Venture located near Staplefort’s Creek in the Lower District. Cleared acreage amounted to 8 acres. Andrew had eight cattle and a total property value of £71. His household included seven people total. Dorchester County records do not indicate gender of the white household members.

Richard Willis, son of Andrew, Sr., is not listed because he died in 1773. He had inherited in 1738 half of land called New Town from his father. Richard willed his half of New Town to his daughter Mary, wife of Benjamin Meekins. Richard willed other land he owned called Buttons Chance to his daughter Elizabeth.

After her husband died, Mary Willis Meekins, daughter of Richard, sold her share of New Town to Levin Hughes in 1782. Therefore, she is not listed.

Elizabeth Willis, daughter of Richard who inherited Buttons Chance, is not listed as its owner. Instead, a Budd Shinton is shown as the owner of 27 acres called Buttons Chance in 1783. I found no purchase of Buttons Chance by Shinton. It is possible that he married Elizabeth Willis. He owned two other tracts: 54 acres being part of Johns Delight plus 93 ½ acres unnamed.

John Willis, son of Richard, is listed as a pauper with no assets yet a household of eight people. There are three Johns who could be this pauper. One is John, mentioned below, who inherited and sold part of New Town. He was not likely to be without assets in 1783. John who inherited New Town also had a son John, but he was too young to have a household of eight people. Therefore, I eliminated both of these men leaving the listed pauper as John, son of Richard.

John Willis, son of Andrew, Sr., is not listed. He inherited the other half of New Town from his father through the demise of his brother George. Andrew’s 1738 will gave New Town to sons Richard and George with their share to fall to son John should either die without issue. George apparently died without children because John sold half of New Town to Levin Hughes at some time before the 1783 assessment. That sale was recorded in 1784. I surmise that John had moved away before 1783. Levin Hughes is therefore listed as the owner of 85 acres called Addition to New Town in the Lower District of Dorchester.

Jarvis Willis, son of John, is listed in the Upper District without any land. He has two horses and five cattle and total property valued at £23. He headed a household of eight people.

The last land of interest to the Willis family is the original 50-acre tract called Wantage. John of Wantage willed it to his son William. William and his wife Judith sold it in 1734 to William Soward, one of her brothers. The 1783 tax list shows William Soward as owning 50 acres being part of Bridge North and 50 acres called Wanton [sic Wantage] both in the Middle District of Dorchester. Improvements on the property included an old frame dwelling, two logged houses and an orchard.

One possible disparity in the record is that the lands are stated as situated on the Little Choptank. That is certainly true of Bridge North, which is located in the neck region of Dorchester on Hudson’s Creek. However, Wantage is located near the Great Choptank River which might be in the Upper District. The custom of the day was that property owners rendered their own property, sending a notice to the tax assessors of the tally of acreage and other taxable property. William Soward likely lived in the Middle District on Bridge North, property long held by his family. I suspect as a matter of convenience, Soward rendered both properties to the Middle District commissioners rather than making separate submissions to the Middle and Upper District. In any event, I am confident the property in question was the original Wantage.

I highly recommend everyone take a look at the data available in these records. They help form a better picture of the life and circumstances of folks who lived so long ago.

*************

[1]Note: The Willis surnames in Caroline County appeared in the MSA Index but were missing on the MDSSAR site. However, knowing where they should be from the index, I requested and got copies of those pages from the Maryland Archives.

[2] See separate Appendix to The John Willis Family and The Maryland Supply Tax of 1783 for an abbreviated descendant chart for John Willis of Wantage highlighting the names of people mentioned here and related land.

[3] Caroline County’s normal jurisdictional subdivisions or “Hundreds” were Great Choptank, Fork, Tuckahoe, Bridgetown and Choptank. The 1783 tax districts were as follows: 1) Lower Choptank District – made up of Great Choptank Hundred and Fork Hundred. This district encompassed the entire southern part of the county bordering Dorchester and bounded on the east by the Choptank River and on the west by Delaware; 2) River District – parts of Tuckahoe and Bridgetown Hundreds; and 3) Upper Choptank District – the remainder of Tuckahoe and Bridgetown Hundreds and all of Choptank hundred.

[4] The Willis data are found on pages 57-59 of Lower Choptank District, Caroline County.

[5] Other Willis listings in Caroline County include two families descended from Quakers Richard and Frances Willis. Elijah, Thomas and William are clustered around land called Timber Tree Neck. The second group includes Andrew. Joseph, Ezekiel and Thomas associated with land called Friendship Regulation. Needless to say, none of these families owned slaves.

[6] The Upper District included Great Choptank Hundred and Nanticoke Hundred, which bordered Caroline County and Delaware, respectively. I do not know the western or southern boundary. The Middle District covered Transquakin and Little Choptank Hundreds. The Lower District was everything south of Transquakin and Little Choptank.

 

Alexander Family History: a “Must-Read”

If you follow this blog, you know that Gary and I do not cite compiled family histories as sources. Alexander Family History by John Alexander  will be an exception. It has many things to commend it, beginning with excellent, easy-to-read writing and meticulous research. It is an absolute “must-read” if you are from the line of James and Ann Alexander of Amelia County, Virginia and Anson/Rowan, North Carolina.

Before we get into the book itself, you can order it by contacting John Alexander at this email address:

jfalex37@comcast.net

The book is also available as an html version at this link. Make a note of that link, because John will continue to add to and correct the html version. John strongly encourages other Alexanders to add to the accumulated knowledge of this family via your own research. He is also happy to hear differences of opinion, provided they are backed up with citations to records.

Alternatively, John says he will send you a copy of the pdf file of the current book, and you can print away to your heart’s content. For those of us who are addicted to highlighting, this is clearly a good option.

Despite these nice alternatives, I strongly recommend that you order a bound copy of the book from John – even if you aren’t connected to this Alexander line – and donate it to your local library. Such donations are deductible. John says about $20 will cover the cost of the book plus postage.

For some information about the book, let’s just have it tell you about itself. The cover page, a good place to start, says this:

“James and Ann [Alexander], born around 1700 or shortly after, may be original American colonists or may have been born in the colonies. The story follows four of their sons, James, John, David, and Robert, and their only daughter, Eleanor, from the earliest-discovered records several generations toward the present.”

Here is some very brief information about these children that might help you determine whether any of these lines are of special interest to you …

  • James Alexander, son of James and Ann, was probably born about 1730 in the colonies. He appeared in the Anson, Rowan and Tryon records, and ultimately lived in Spartanburg County, SC. His wife was named Mary, MNU. He had four children of whom John is fairly certain, perhaps more. John identifies the four as James Jr., Matthew, William and Thomas. Matthew and William went to Logan County, KY, while most of the family remained in Spartanburg.
  • John Alexander, son of James and Ann, also born circa 1730, married Rachel Davidson and moved to the area that became Buncombe County, NC. Their four proved children were James, Ann, Mary and Thomas.
  • David Alexander, son of James and Ann, was born about 1736-37. He married Margaret Davidson (also spelled Davison) in Rowan County in 1762. They lived in Pendleton District, SC. David’s 1795 will (proved 1795, Anderson Co., SC, filed in Will Book c: 77) named his children Anne Gotcher, Jane Moore, David Alexander, Margaret Davis, Catherine Brown, Ellenor Read, James Alexander, Elizabeth Woods, John Alexander, William Morrison Alexander, and Ruth Alexander. 
  • Eleanor Alexander, the only daughter of James and Ann, married Samuel Rankin in Rowan County about 1760. The Rankins and their children lived in Lincoln (later Gaston) and Mecklenburg counties, North Carolina. Four of their ten children migrated to Rutherford County, TN and Shelby County, IL.
  • Robert Alexander, the youngest child of James and Ann, appeared in Rowan, Tryon, and Lincoln county records. He served in the Revolutionary War and was a Justice of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions in Lincoln County, where he died. His first wife was Mary Jack; his will names his wife Margaret, MNU. His children (not necessarily in birth order) were Lilly, Ann, Robert J., Polly, Margaret, Elisa, Evalina and Charity Amanda

For the record, James and Ann had a fifth son, their eldest, William Alexander. Unfortunately, there are apparently no records that can be attributed to him with any degree of confidence after the 1750s.

The book also includes copies of many original records, photographs, and a discussion of Y-DNA analysis. Again, the best thing to do is to let the book tell you about itself. Here is the table of contents:

Preface and Dedication

Chapter 1: What They Knew

Chapter 2: The Genealogical Digging

Chapter 3: James (died 1753) Alexander and Ann

Chapter 4: James Alexander of Spartanburg County, SC

Chapter 5: The Alexander Family in Western Kentucky

Chapter 6: Henry County and Beyond

Chapter 7: James C.’s Fayette County Branch

Chapter 8: James Alexander Jr. and the East Tennessee Branch

Chapter 9: Thomas Alexander and Mary

Chapter 10: Other Alexander Kin, Parentage Not Certain

Chapter 11: Family of John and Rachel Davidson

Chapter 12: Family of David and Margaret Davidson

Chapter 13: Family of Eleanor and Samuel Rankin

Chapter 14: Family of Robert and Mary Jack

Appendix A: Pension Applications Of Matthew And Eleanor

Appendix B: Documents from Amy Riggs, Born Amy Gore

Appendix C: South Carolina Deeds, James of Spartanburg

Appendix D: Records Relating to James (died 1753) and Ann

Appendix E: Legal Documents Relating to the Death of William McMillin

Appendix F: Siddle Documents and the Alexanders in Robertson County

Appendix G: Descendants of James (d. 1753) and Ann

Appendix H: 19th Century Marriages in Western KY and Western TN

Appendix I: Deeds of Trust, William and James C. Alexander, 1847

Appendix J: SC Documents Relating to Thomas Alexander

Appendix K: Documents from James Alexander and Rhoda Cunningham

Appendix L: Documents Relating to Ann (Alexander) Craig

Appendix M: Wills of Samuel, Alexander and James Rankin

Appendix N: Published Histories that May Be Difficult fo Find

Appendix Y: YDNA and YDNA Testing

I plan to sit down with this book, one chapter at a time, and make sure that my own family history software reflects John’s information. If it doesn’t, then I have some work to do.

Enjoy!
Robin

Samuel and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin: a Few Corrections to the Record

Here we are, tilting at windmills again, just for the fun of it. The idea is to correct some frequent errors about Samuel and Eleanor Alexander Rankin, who appeared in the records of Rowan, Tryon, Mecklenburg, and Lincoln Counties. A cousin has asked why I write these “correction” articles. That’s an easy one. Thanks to the the ease of “copy and paste” and importing other peoples’ family trees in a few clicks, online genealogy errors have multiplied exponentially, like the Tribbles in the original Star Trek. Anything that has appeared in print is taken as gospel. While it is a truism that every family history contains errors, I assume that most people prefer to eliminate them when possible. Thus, cousin, I’m providing a Tribble extermination service here, even though some of these errors are minor. <grin>

So let’s turn again to Samuel and his wife Eleanor. Two previous articles on this website dealt with erroneous theories about Samuel’s parents. The first article dealt with the persistent notion that he was a son of Joseph Rankin of New Castle County, Delaware. The second article addresses speculation that Samuel was a son of Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford County, North Carolina. Y-DNA testing has conclusively disproved both possibilities. So far as I have found, there is no evidence on this side of the Atlantic as to the identity of Samuel’s parents.

And now, on to new territory. Here are the positions I’m taking with regard to some of the conventional wisdom on Samuel and Eleanor:

  • Samuel was probably born in 1734 (not 1732) and he probably died in 1816 (not 1814).
  • There is no reason to believe that Samuel was born in New Castle County, Delaware. There is no evidence where he was born, so far as I know.
  • He and Eleanor married in Rowan County, North Carolina, and not in Pennsylvania.
  • Samuel had arrived in North Carolina by no later than April 1760.
  • His wife’s given name was Eleanor. “Ellen,” the name on her tombstone, was a nickname.
  • Eleanor was born in 1740, not 1743.
  • Eleanor’s father was not the David Alexander who sold Samuel a 320-acre tract on James Cathey’s Mill Creek aka Kerr Creek. David was her brother. Her parents were James and Ann Alexander.

Let’s start at the top.

What were Samuel’s dates of birth and death?

Samuel’s birth: many Rankin researchers, including a “findagrave” website for the Goshen Presbyterian Cemetery in Belmont where Samuel was buried, say that he was born in 1732.[1] His tombstone has disappeared, or at least my husband and I couldn’t find it when we visited the cemetery in August 2001. I haven’t seen any evidence that he was born in 1732, although that doesn’t mean there isn’t any. So far as I have found, the only evidence of his birth date is on a film titled “Pre-1914 Cemetery Inscription Survey, Gaston Co., prepared by the Historical Records Survey Service Division, Works Progress Administration.”[2] That survey, taken during the Great Depression when the tombstone was obviously still extant, says that Samuel Rankin was born in 1734. Of course, even in the 1930s, the stone was already more than a century old and could easily have been misread. Or Samuel’s children might not have known his actual date of birth – and Samuel wasn’t around to correct them. However, the WPA survey is apparently the only available evidence.

Samuel’s death: findagrave and many online family trees give Samuel’s date of death as December 16, 1814. That is the date that Samuel executed his will, and the probability that he died on the same day is slim to none.[3] In fact, the actual probability is zero, because he appeared in the Lincoln County records in 1816. On July 26 of that year, he conveyed to his son James a tract on Stanleys Creek adjacent James’ brothers William and Alexander (and Thomas Rhyne, see my article about Samuel’s grandson Sam, son of Richard).[4] That is the last entry I found for Samuel in the Lincoln records until his will was proved in 1826.[5] The WPA cemetery survey says Samuel died in 1816.

Where was Samuel born?

Many Rankin researchers claim Samuel was born in New Castle County, Delaware. That is probably a holdover from when many believed he was a son of Joseph Rankin of New Castle. Since that has been disproved, there is no logic for placing Samuel’s birth where Joseph lived. In fact, I found no evidence of a Rankin named Samuel in New Castle County in the relevant time frame, although there are many records concerning Joseph’s proved sons (Thomas, Joseph Jr., John and William) and possible sons (Robert and James). There seems to be no evidence for any place of birth for Samuel, or even any evidence that he was born in the colonies rather than on the other side of the Atlantic.

Where did Samuel and Eleanor marry, and who were her parents?

The couple undoubtedly married in North Carolina, not Pennsylvania, despite the view of Minnie Puett, who wrote a history of Gaston County. Eleanor’s family – her parents James (not David) and Ann and her brothers William, James, John, David and Robert – were in that part of Anson County that became Rowan by at least March 1752, when there was a Granville grant to James Alexander “of Anson Co., Gent.”[6] Eleanor Alexander was the grantee in a gift deed of livestock from her father James on January 12, 1753, when she was not quite thirteen. Before they came to North Carolina, the Alexander family was in Amelia County, Virginia. Here is an article about Eleanor’s family.

 When did Samuel come to North Carolina, and from where?

It is possible that Samuel came to North Carolina from Pennsylvania, as many Rankin researchers think. So did many other Scots-Irish settlers of the Piedmont Plateau. If you had to guess, you would probably say that Samuel came to NC from either Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, or Virginia. The only evidence I have found for a man who might be the same man as Samuel Rankin prior to his arrival in NC is in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Some Samuel Rankin is listed as a freeman (i.e., age 21 or over and single) on the 1753 tax list for Sadsbury Township of Chester County.[7] There are no other Rankins on that list, although there are a number of other Scots-Irish whose names will be familiar to Lincoln/Rowan County researchers. There were several Moores, Beatys and Campbells, as well as a McCleary, Erwin and Kerr. The Samuel Rankin taxed as a freeman in 1753 was born by at least 1732, which might be why some researchers have deduced that date for his birth.

Wherever he came from, the evidence establishes that Samuel was in North Carolina earlier than some researchers believe, including Minnie Puett. His first land acquisition was a purchase from David Alexander in a deed dated July 14, 1760.[8] The tract was on James Cathey’s Mill Creek (also known as Kerr Creek), and not on Kuykendahl/Dutchman’s Creek, where the family eventually settled. The Revolutionary War Pension application of Samuel’s son William says that William was born in January 1761 in Rowan County, which puts Samuel in NC no later than April 1760.[9] Assuming he took more than a few months to court Eleanor and that William was their eldest child, one would conclude Samuel was in NC by no later than 1759.

Samuel’s wife was named Eleanor and she was born in 1740, not 1743

Her Goshen Presbyterian Cemetery tombstone, which was still intact (although barely legible) when we visited in 2001, calls her “Ellen.” So did the Rev. Samuel Meek Rankin in his book about the Rankin and Wharton families, probably based on that tombstone.[10] Her family and friends undoubtedly called her Ellen. Almost all Rankin researchers do the same, and I have been corrected more than once for calling her Eleanor. Nevertheless, I persist. <grin> The records establish that her given name was Eleanor. Period. Her father called her “Elener” [sic] in a gift deed.[11] A Rowan County court called her “Elinor.”[12] At least three deeds (one with her signature as “Elender”) do the same.[13] She and Samuel had a daughter and at least five granddaughters, all named Eleanor rather than Ellen.[14] Those facts surely establish that her given name was Eleanor, or I will eat my hat. If I owned one. Her nickname was Ellen.

Eleanor was almost certainly born in 1740, not 1743. The Rowan County court allowed her to choose her own guardian in 1755.[15] Doing so required her to be at least fourteen, so she must have been born by at least 1741. Two tombstone surveys say the date of birth on her tombstone was 16 April 1740.[16] The date is now so eroded, however, that it could reasonably be read as 1743 – although that date is foreclosed by the court record.

… and that’s it for now. I’m not done with this family, though: there is more to come.

[1] The findagrave website contains several errors about Samuel and Eleanor, mostly minor, some not so minor. https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Rankin&GSiman=1&GScid=1192379&GRid=127500305&

[2] Family History Library Microfilm No. 0,882,938, item 2.

[3] North Carolina State Archives, File Box C.R.060.801.21, will of Samuel Rankin of Lincoln County dated 16 Dec 1814, proved April 1826. Recorded in Lincoln County Will Book 1: 37.

[4] Lincoln County Deed Book 27: 561, conveyance from Samuel Rankin to James Rankin witnessed by William Rankin and Benjamin Hartgrove. The grantor is not Sam Jr., who owned land in Mecklenburg, not Lincoln and had already sold his Mecklenburg tracts before 1816.

[5] There was no hurry to probate Samuel’s will because he left each of his surviving children $1, except for James, to whom he left the rest of his estate. With nobody anxious for their payout, there was no reason to rush to the courthouse.

[6] Rowan County Deed Book 3: 547, Granville grant of 25 Mar 1752 to James Alexander, 640 acres in Anson adjacent Andrew Kerr. James gifted half of that tract to his son David Alexander, and David sold it to Samuel Rankin in 1760. See Anson County Deed Book B: 314 et seq. for charming gift deeds of land and livestock from James Alexander and his wife Ann to five of their six children, including Eleanor.

[7] J. Smith Futhey and Gilbert Cope, History of Chester County, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1881), reproduction facsimile by Chester County Historical Society (Mt. Vernon, IN: Windmill Publications, Inc. 1996).

[8] Rowan County Deed Book 5: 272, deed dated 14 Jul 1760 from David Alexander to Samuel Rankin, 320 acres both sides of James Cathey’s Mill Cr. (AKA Kerr’s Cr.).

[9] Virgil D. White, Genealogical Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files, Volume III: N-Z (Waynesboro, TN: The National Historical Publishing Co., 1992).

[10] Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families and Their Genealogy (Greensboro, NC: J. J. Stone & Co, 1931).

[11] Personal copy of Rowan County Deed Book B: 315 (obtained by mail from the clerk of court), gift deed from James Alexander to his daughter Elener.

[12] Jo White Linn, Abstracts of the Minutes of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, Rowan County, North Carolina, 1753-1762 (Salisbury, NC: 1977), abstract of Order Book 2: 90, entry of 22 Oct 1755, David and Elinor Alexander (spelling per abstractor) came into court and chose their mother Ann Alexander as their guardian.

[13] Jo White Linn, Rowan County North Carolina Deed Abstracts Vol. II. 1762 – 1772 Abstracts of Books 5, 6, 7 (Salisbury, NC: 1972), abstract of Deed Book 6: 225, deed dated 31 Aug 1765 from Samuel Rankin and wife Eleanor (spelling per the abstractor) to John McNeeley, 320 acres on James Cathey’s Mill Creek; original of Lincoln Co. Deed Book 1: 703 (viewed by me at the courthouse), deed of 26 Jan 1773 from Samuel Rankin of Tryon to Philip Alston, 150 acres on Kuykendall Creek signed by Samuel Rankin and Elender Rankin.

[14] At least five of Samuel and Eleanor Rankin’s children named a daughter “Eleanor” (not “Ellen”), including Samuel Rankin Jr., Jean Rankin Hartgrove, Robert Rankin, David Rankin, and Eleanor (“Nellie”) Rankin Dickson. See, e.g., an image of the tombstone of Eleanor, wife of Joseph Dickson, Ellis Cemetery, Shelby Co., Ill., died 4 Apr 1848, age 62, at www.findagrave.com.

[15] Linn, Abstracts of the Minutes, abstract of Order Book 2: 90, 22 Oct 1755, David and Elinor Alexander came into court and chose their mother Ann Alexander as their guardian; the court appointed Ann guardian for Robert, about age 12, son of James Alexander, dec’d.

[16] Family History Library Microfilm No. 0,882,938, item 2. See also Microfilm at Clayton Genealogical library titled “North Carolina Tombstone Records, Vols. 1, 2 and 3,” compiled by the Alexander Martin and J. S. Wellborn chapters of the DAR; transcribed lists were filmed 1935 by the Genealogical Society of Utah. Tombstone of Ellen Rankin, b. 16 April 1740, d. 26 Jan 1802.

More on the Line of Samuel and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin: Richard Rankin’s son Samuel

This article is about a Samuel Rankin – just call him “Sam” – who last appeared on this website playing a minor supporting role as the spouse of Mary F. Estes Rankin. She was a daughter of Lyddal Bacon Estes and “Nancy” Ann Allen Winn Estes, whose nine children shared the spotlight in my most recent Estes article. The only mention of Sam in that article was a brief description of him as an “incorrigible character.”

Sam earned that characterization fair and square. First, his year of birth varied so wildly in the census that he must have fibbed about his age for the fun of it. Second, he named a son Napoleon Bonaparte Rankin. What kind of merry prankster lays that on a newborn? Third, I had the very devil of a time trying to identify his parents: it seemed he was being deliberately evasive. I spent months poring over North Carolina records in the library, back when there were virtually no records available online. Fourth, there is evidence that Sam may have been an unmanageable child, but that’s getting ahead of the story.

There isn’t much information in the records about Sam’s adult life. He was a farmer in Tishomingo County, Mississippi, and then he was a farmer in Jefferson County, Arkansas. He and his wife Mary married about 1836 in Tishomingo, moved to Arkansas about 1849, and had ten children who reached adulthood. Sam died in 1861 or early 1862, when his youngest child was on the way. One branch of the family thinks he died in the War, but that is highly unlikely. He was too old to be conscript fodder, four of his sons enlisted, his wife was pregnant, and the National Archives has no record of him.

Let’s begin at the beginning of the search for Sam’s family of origin. A researcher typically starts with two basic questions in the search for an ancestor’s parents: where and when was he/she born? Here are the facts about Sam. Federal censuses prove that he was born in North Carolina.[1] Unfortunately, his birth year is elusive. The 1837 Mississippi state census and the 1840 federal census suggest Sam was born between 1792 and 1820.[2] The 1850 census gives his age as sixty-two, or born about 1788.[3] In the 1860 census, Sam was sixty-one.[4] Thus, during the decade of the 1850s, Sam managed to get a year younger, a skill I wish I could master. If one had to pick a sort of median value, one might guess Sam was born circa 1800.

Mississippi records reveal one other thing: Sam almost certainly had a brother. A William Rankin was listed near Sam in the 1837 state census in Tishomingo County, Mississippi.[5] William did not own any land, but Sam had ten acres under cultivation.[6] Neither man owned any slaves, and they were the only two Rankin heads of household in Tishomingo in 1837 and 1840. William was born between 1800 and 1810, so that he and Sam were probably from the same generation.[7] Finally, William married Rachel Swain, and the JP who performed the ceremony was Sam’s father-in-law Lyddal Bacon Estes.[8] Sam’s wife Mary Estes Rankin had a sister who also married a Swain.[9]

On those facts, it is likely that Sam and William Rankin were brothers and that they were farming Sam’s tract together. If that is correct, then I was looking for a Rankin family having sons named Samuel and William who were born about the turn of the century in North Carolina.

Big whoop. If you have spent any time among the many North Carolina Rankin families, you know the above information is a wretchedly slender reed upon which to hang an ancestor’s identity. I therefore left the records and turned to oral family history. It led me to conclude that Sam’s parents were Richard Rankin and Susanna (“Susy”) Doherty, who were married in 1793 in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.[10] There is no doubt about the identity of their parents. Richard was a son of Samuel Rankin (“Sam Sr.”) and his wife Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin.[11] Susy Doherty Rankin was a daughter of John Doherty and his wife Agnes, maiden name unknown.[12]

I found the key oral family history in a biography of Claude Allen Rankin, a grandson of Sam and Mary Estes Rankin. Claude reported that his grandfather Sam Rankin “reached manhood in Lincoln County, North Carolina,” and then “removed to Murfreesboro, Tennessee,” which is in Rutherford County.[13]

My instinct told me to accept those facts as the gospel truth. For one thing, the specific locations convey a bulletproof certainty. Moreover, there is no reason on God’s green earth that Claude would have invented those locations out of thin air. Consider the odds: Lincoln is one county out of one hundred in North Carolina; Rutherford is one county out of ninety-five in Tennessee. The odds are therefore 9,500 to one that Claude would have identified both of those counties as places his grandfather Sam had lived in just those two particular states. Claude no doubt heard those locations from his father Elisha Thompson Rankin, who, in turn, learned them from his father Sam.

If Lincoln County, North Carolina and Rutherford County, Tennessee are places where Sam lived, then it is a virtual certainty that Sam was a grandson of Sam Sr. and Eleanor Rankin, who lived in Lincoln (Gaston) County, North Carolina. Three of their sons and one daughter moved to Rutherford County.[14] I have found no other Rankin family that was in both Lincoln and Rutherford counties for the relevant time period.

The search thus boiled down to identifying which of Sam Sr. and Eleanor’s sons could have been the father of Sam. Four of the couple’s sons – William,[15] David,[16] Alexander,[17] and James[18] – are eliminated by their locations and children. The three remaining sons – Robert, Sam Jr. and Richard – were possibilities to be Sam’s father.

I started with Richard Rankin and his wife Susy Doherty because Sam and Mary named their eldest son Richard, and the Anglo naming tradition dictates naming the first son for his paternal grandfather.[19] Richard and Susy lived on Long Creek in Mecklenburg County, just across the Catawba River from the home of Sam Sr. and Eleanor in Lincoln (now Gaston) County.[20] Richard’s brother Sam Jr. also lived in Mecklenburg with his first wife, Susy’s sister Mary (“Polly”) Doherty.[21] Richard Rankin and his sister-in-law Polly Doherty Rankin are buried at Hopewell Presbyterian Church on Beatties Ford Road, just northwest of Charlotte, alongside John Doherty, father of Susy Doherty Rankin and Polly Doherty Rankin.[22] Richard’s headstone is in the left foreground of the photograph below, which is the banner photo for this website. The headstones of Richard’s sister-in-law and father-in-law are in the right foreground.

Richard and Susy appeared in the 1800 census for Mecklenburg with three sons and a daughter, all born between 1794 and 1800.[23] The “family tree” of Sam Sr. and Eleanor (a somewhat mysterious source mentioned in Gregg Moore’s book about Sam Sr.’s family) indicates that Richard and Susy had five children, one of whom was born between 1800 and 1804.[24] Only four children survived until 1807, however. In April of that year, the Court of Common Pleas & Quarter Sessions for Mecklenburg County appointed Richard’s brother Sam Jr. as guardian of Richard’s four children: Joseph, Samuel, Mary and William Rankin.[25]

When I found that record in a Clayton Library abstract, I sprang from my chair and did a little victory jig, earning some disapproving glares from a couple of blue-haired ladies at the next table. It was my first real break in the search for Sam’s family of origin. First, it eliminated Sam Jr. as a candidate to be my Sam’s father. Second, it put Richard and Susy at the very front of the pack, since they had sons named Sam and William. After tracking Richard’s brother Robert from Rutherford County, Tennessee to Shelby County, Illinois and identifying some of his children, I concluded that Richard was the only son of Sam Sr. and Eleanor who could have been the father of my great-great grandfather Sam.

I don’t know how Richard Rankin died, although the fact that he was only thirty-five and left no will indicates his death was probably sudden and unexpected. He was a sheriff, patroller, justice of the peace and tax collector, all public positions of trust and responsibility; he ran unsuccessfully for other county offices (coroner and high sheriff).[26] He had a hard time managing money in the course of performing his official duties, because the court had to haul him up short more than once.[27] Unfortunately, that was a harbinger of things to come.

Richard died up to his eyeballs in debt, although that wasn’t immediately apparent. Right after he died, Richard seemed to have been a reasonably well-to-do man. The estate administrator’s bond was either £1,000 or £2,000, neither of which was inconsequential.[28] The sale of his estate (excluding land) brought in £935.[29] The 1806 and 1807 Mecklenburg tax lists indicate that Richard’s estate owned 800 acres there.[30] The honorific “Esquire” with which he appeared in court records squares with the image of a prosperous and respected man.

Reality soon reared its ugly head in the form of lawsuits and  jugments against Richard’s estate. I quit taking notes on these suits, although there were many more, after the trend became painfully obvious.

October 1804, Andrew Alexander’s Administrator v. Richard Rankin’s Admr., verdict for plaintiffs, damages of £103.50.[31]

April 1805, William Blackwood’s Administrators v. Richard Rankin’s Admr., verdict for plaintiffs, damages of £38.18.1.[32]

April 1805, Robert Lowther v. Richard Rankin’s Admrs., verdict for Plaintiff, damages of £34.18.9.[33]

January 1806, Trustee Etc. v. Richard Rankin’s Admrs., verdict for Plaintiffs, damages of £18.9.0.[34]

October 1807, Richard Kerr v. Richard Rankin’s Admrs., judgment for Plaintiff for £7.15.9.[35]

Here is the most depressing court record of them all. Creditors finally had to go after Richard’s land because the estate had no more liquid assets with which to discharge judgments:

Oct 1807, John Little v. Richard Rankin’s Admrs, judgment and execution levied on land for £16, administrator pleads no assets. Ordered that the clerk issue scire facias against Samuel Rankin, guardian of the heirs, to show cause.[36]

The minute book abstract is silent regarding the purpose of the show cause hearing. In context, it is clear that Sam Jr. was to show cause, if any, why Richard’s land should not be sold to pay the judgment creditor. Sam Jr. made no such showing, because the Mecklenburg real property records contain a sheriff’s deed dated October 1807 reciting as follows:

“[B]y execution against the lands of Richard Rankin, dec’d … being divided by the administrator and Samuel Rankin off a tract of 500 acres held by Richard Rankin … [the tract sold] containing 200 acres including the old house, spring, meadow and bottom on both sides Long Creek.”[37]

Wherever Susy and her children were living, it was clearly not in the “old house.” Some of Richard’s land remained after this sale, but I did not attempt to track its inevitable and dreary disposition.

It eventually dawned on me that I was mucking about exclusively in the records of Mecklenburg County looking for evidence of Susy’s family. However, Claude Allen Rankin’s biography said that Sam “reached manhood” in Lincoln County, not Mecklenburg. I belatedly went to the Lincoln records looking for evidence regarding Susy’s whereabouts after Richard died.

Lo and behold: Susy was living in Lincoln County by at least 1808, when she was a defendant there in a lawsuit.[38] I did not find her listed as a head of household in the 1810 census, although she was alive until at least 1812.[39] The family was undoubtedly still residing in Lincoln County in October 1812, when the Lincoln court ordered that “Samuel Rankin, about thirteen years old, an orphan son of Richard Rankin, dec’d be bound to John Rhine until he arrive to the age of 21 years to learn the art and mistery [sic] of a tanner.”[40]

If the indentured Sam Rankin was the same man as my ancestor Sam Rankin, which is highly likely, then there is no doubt that Sam “reached manhood” in Lincoln County, as Claude said. That is where John Rhyne lived, and the indenture lasted until Sam reached legal age.[41]

Sam’s indentured servitude was not an unusual fate for a destitute child whose father had died. Five years before the indenture, it was abundantly clear that Richard Rankin’s estate was rapidly vanishing. None of Richard’s other three surviving children were indentured, however, which is puzzling. Why just Sam? And why wasn’t he indentured earlier?

Perhaps Sam had become incorrigible – the child who was designated to “act out” the Rankin children’s collective anger and grief at the loss of their father and economic status. It would certainly go a long way toward explaining a man who didn’t marry until his late thirties and who named a son Napoleon Bonaparte. Perhaps it would also explain why the prominent and wealthy Rankin family of Lincoln County did not prevent the indenture of a 13-year-old Rankin whose father died when he was five. Indentured grandsons/nephews don’t exactly enhance a family’s reputation in the community.

Nothing like a strict German master to straighten out a wild Scots-Irish teenage boy, I guess.

Whatever Sam’s temperament, or the reason his rich Rankin relatives consented sub silentio to his indenture, his mother Susy had been having an abjectly miserable time of it. In 1803, she lost her sister Mary Doherty Rankin, the wife of Richard’s brother Sam Jr.[42] In 1804, her husband Richard died, leaving her with minor children.[43] One of their children also died, because (according to the Rankin “family tree”) Richard and Susy had five children: the court appointed a guardian for only four in 1807.[44] Also in that year, Susy’s mother Agnes Doherty died[45] and a part of Richard’s land was sold to pay a judgment debt.[46] In 1809, Susy sold via a quitclaim deed her dower right to a life estate in one-third of Richard’s land.[47] Do you think she may have needed cash?

In the midst of those excruciating losses, Susy’s brother-in-law William Rankin (and former co-administrator of Richard’s estate) sued her.[48] In 1808, William obtained a judgment against Susy for £106.7.6, about half of which he collected by garnishing the funds of a man who owed Susy money.[49] William is enumerated in the 1810 census (immediately followed in the list by Thomas Rhyne, John Rhyne, and Samuel Rankin (Sr.), which indicates geographic proximity) with eleven slaves, so the suit against Susy was obviously not a matter of economic need. I trust that his orphaned nephews and niece were not going hungry. He was obviously a vengeful and greedy sonuvabitch, and I don’t like him one whit. Whatever Susy’s sins may have been, Richard’s children deserved better from his brother.

As for Susy, I haven’t found a worse record of persistent and pernicious emotional and financial calamity among any of my other ancestors. If she managed to remain moderately sane through all that, she must have had some backbone. However, she evidently couldn’t cope with her son Sam, about age thirteen.

It turns out that John Rhyne, to whom Sam was bound, was connected to the family of Sam Sr. and Eleanor Rankin. William Rankin (the mean SOB) and his son Richard Rankin both witnessed the will of John Rhyne’s father Thomas.[50] Thomas Rhyne was bondsman for William’s marriage bond to Anne Moore Campbell. The Rhynes lived on land adjacent to Samuel Sr. and Eleanor’s plantation on Kuykendall Creek (later renamed “Dutchman’s Creek”).[51] Susy’s son Sam Rankin therefore served about four years of his indenture within walking distance of his wealthy grandfather Sam Sr.[52] No wonder Sam declined to pass on his given name to any of his eight sons. Sam did, however, have children who shared the name of each of his three surviving siblings: Joseph, William and Mary.

Sam probably remained with his master John Rhyne through the 1820 census.[53] There was a male age 16-26 listed with Rhyne that year who was not the Rhynes’ child and who would most likely have been Sam, the indentured tanner, born about 1799.[54] The 1820 census for John Rhyne also indicates that one person in the household was engaged in manufacturing, and tanning was deemed a manufacturing business.

Meanwhile, some of the Lincoln/Mecklenburg Rankins had begun moving to Rutherford County, Tennessee in the early 1800s. Richard’s brother David and his wife Anne Moore Campbell may have been in Rutherford by August 1806, when David acquired a tract there.[55] In 1810, both David and his brother Robert Rankin appeared on the Rutherford County tax rolls.[56] By the 1820 census, David, Robert and their brother Sam Jr. were all listed as heads of households in Rutherford County.[57] Sam undoubtedly made a beeline for Tennessee the day he turned twenty-one: recall that his uncle Sam Jr. had been Sam’s guardian, and his siblings may have migrated with Sam Jr.

For various reasons, I vacillated for years as to whether my great-great grandfather Sam Rankin was, in fact, a son of Richard and Susy and grandson of Sam Sr. and Eleanor Alexander Rankin. At bottom, all I had were Claude’s oral family history, family migration from North Carolina to Rutherford County, a guardianship record, an indenture, and the name of Sam’s brother. Most disconcerting is the fact that Sam Rankin essentially disappeared from all records after that 1812 indenture until he showed up in Tishomingo County – a lapse of a quarter-century. That would make anyone uneasy. Fortunately, Y-DNA testing resolved my uncertainty. My first cousin Allen Rankin is a close match to proved descendants of Samuel Sr. and Eleanor.

MORAL: if you are a Rankin male (or have a Rankin male relative) and you/he have not done Y-DNA testing, please go to FTDNA.com ASAP, sign up for a 37-marker or 67-marker test, and join the Rankin DNA project. There are now enough participants in the project that you are almost certain to find a Rankin match, assuming there is no “non-paternal” event among your male Rankin line (e.g., an adoption or illegitimate birth). I would be thrilled to help you and to provide whatever information I have about your Rankins.

See you on down the road!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

[1] 1850 federal census, Jefferson Co., AR, dwelling 426, Samuel Rankin, born NC; 1860 federal census, Jefferson Co., AR, dwelling 549, Samuel Rankin, born NC. Several of Sam’s children lived to be counted in the 1880 census, which asked where each person’s parents were born. Sam’s children fairly consistently identified their father’s state of birth as North Carolina. E.g., 1880 census, Dorsey (Cleveland) Co., AR, dwelling 99, Richard Rankin, 43, b. MS, father b. NC, mother b. AL.

[2] Laverne Stanford, Tishomingo County Mississippi 1837 State Census, 1845 State Census (Ripley, MS: Old Timer Press, 1981), Samuel Rankin, age 21 < 45, born 1792-1819; 1840 federal census, Tishomingo Co., MS, Samuel Rankin, age 20 < 30, born 1810-1820.

[3] See note 1, 1850 federal census, Samuel Rankin, age 62.

[4] See note 1, 1860 federal census, Samuel Rankin, age 61.

[5] Stanford, Tishomingo County Mississippi 1837 State Census, listing # 54 for William Rankins, age 21 < 45, a female > 16, no slaves, and no acreage under cultivation.

[6] Id., listing # 64 for Samuel Rankins, age 21 < 45, no slaves, 10 acres under cultivation.

[7] 1840 census, Tishomingo Co., MS, listing for William Rankin, 1 male 30 < 40 (born 1800-1810) and 1 female 60 < 70 (born 1770-1780). The woman with William in the 1837 and 1840 census, which were taken before William married in 1843, may have been his mother.

[8] Irene Barnes, Marriages of Old Tishomingo County, Mississippi,Volume I 1837 – 1859 (Iuka, MS: 1978), marriage bond for William Rankin and Rachel Swain dated 7 Sep 1843, married by L. B. Estes, J.P., on 14 Sep 1843. Lyddal Bacon Estes was Sam Rankin’s father-in-law.

[9] Martha Ann Estes, Mary Estes Rankin’s sister, was married to Wilson Swain.

[10] Brent H. Holcomb, Marriages of Mecklenburg Co., NC, 1783-1868 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1981).

[11] Richard was not named in his father Sam Sr.’s will because Richard predeceased Sam Sr., but other evidence is conclusive. First, William and Alexander Rankin, proved sons of Sam Sr. and Eleanor, were administrators of Richard’s estate along with Richard’s wife Susy. NC State Archives, C.R.065.508.210, Mecklenburg County Estates Records, 1762 – 1957, n.d. Queen – Rankin, file folder labeled “Rankin, Richard 1804,” original bond of Susy, William, and Alexander Rankin, administrators of the estate of Richard Rankin. Second, Samuel Rankin Jr. (another proved son of Sam Sr. and Eleanor) was the guardian for Richard’s children after Richard died. Herman W. Ferguson, Mecklenberg County, North Carolina Minutes of the Court of Pleas Volume 2, 1801-1820 (Rocky Mount, NC: 1995), abstract of Minute Book 4: 663, court order of April 1807 appointing Samuel Rankin guardian for the children of Richard Rankin.

[12] Herman W. Ferguson and Ralph B. Ferguson, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina Will Abstracts, 1791-1868, Books A-J, and Tax Lists, 1797, 1798, 1799, 1806, & 1807 (Rocky Mount, NC: 1993), abstract of Will Book C: 21, will of John Doherty of Mecklenburg dated 20 May 1786 naming wife Agnes, son James, and daughters Susanna and Mary; id., Will Book C: 34, will of Agnes Doherty of Mecklenburg dated June 19, 1807, proved Jan. 1808, naming daughter Susanna Rankin and granddaughters Violet and Nelly Rankin. The latter were children of Sam Rankin Jr. and his wife Polly Doherty, who died before her mother Agnes.

[13] D. Y. Thomas, Arkansas and Its People, A History, 1541 – 1930, Volume IV (New York: The American Historical Society, Inc., 1930), biography of Claude Allen Rankin at p. 574.

[14] Sam Sr. and Eleanor’s children who moved to Rutherford County were David, Robert, Samuel Jr., and Eleanor Rankin Dixon. Eleanor Rankin married Joseph Dixon; David Rankin married Jane Moore Campbell, a widow. Jean or Jane Rankin, another daughter of Sam Sr. and Eleanor, married James Rutledge. The Rutherford County records are full of entries in which the Rankins were associated with Dixons, Rutledges and Moores. E.g., WPA Tennessee Records Project, Records of Rutherford County, Tennessee Vol. C, Minutes 1808 – 1810 (Murfreesboro: 1936), abstract of Minute Book C: 197, entry of 1 Jan 1810 regarding a lawsuit styled William Dickson v. Robert Rankin, George Moore, Robert Rutledge and Joseph Dickson, Jr.

[15] William Rankin, the eldest son of Sam Sr. and Eleanor Rankin, remained in Lincoln County and did not have a son named Samuel. See A. Gregg Moore & Forney A. Rankin, The Rankins of North Carolina (Marietta, GA: A. G. Moore, 1997).

[16] Id. David Rankin and his family moved to Rutherford County. Their son Samuel King Rankin, born 1818, is not the same man as the Sam who married Mary F. Estes.

[17] Id. Alexander Rankin remained in Lincoln and had no son named Samuel.

[18] James Rankin had a son named Samuel, but he was born in 1819 and married Nancy Beattie. See also NC State Archives, CR.060.508.105, Lincoln County Estate Records, 1779 – 1925, Ramsour, George – Rankin, John, file folders for James Rankin labeled 1832 and 1842, naming the heirs of James Rankin as Robert, Rufus, Caroline, James, Louisa, Samuel, Richard, and Mary Rankin.

[19] Sam and Mary F. Estes Rankin’s children were, in order, Richard Bacon Rankin, William Henderson Rankin, Joseph Rankin, John Allen Rankin, Elisha (“Lish”) Thompson Rankin, James Darby Rankin, Mary Jane Rankin, Washington (“Wash”) Marion Rankin, Napoleon (“Pole”) Bonaparte Rankin, and Frances Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) Rankin.

[20] Microfilm of Mecklenburg County Deed Book 18: 365, Sheriff’s deed dated Oct. 1807, execution against the lands of Richard Rankin, dec’d, 200 acres off a tract of 500 acres owned by Rankin crossing Long Creek, widow’s right of dower excepted.

                  [21] Holcomb, Marriages of Mecklenburg, Nov. 16, 1791 marriage bond of Samuel Rankin and Mary Doherty, bondsman Richard Rankin (Sam Jr.’s brother); 1800 federal census, Mecklenburg Co., NC, household of Samuel Rankin, 1 male age 26<45 (Sam Jr., born 1755-1774), 1 female same age, 3 males < 10, and 2 females < 10.

[22] Charles William Sommerville, The History of Hopewell Presbyterian Church (Charlotte, NC: 1939, 1981). This source incorrectly states that Richard Rankin was married to Mary (nicknamed “Polly”) Doherty Rankin because their graves are side-by-side. The records, however, are clear that Richard married Susy Doherty, Sam Jr. married Polly Doherty, and Richard’s surviving widow Susy was still alive after Polly died.

[23] 1800 federal census, Mecklenburg Co., NC, Richard Rankin, age 26 < 45, with four children under the age of ten, a female 26 < 45, and a female > 45, most likely Richard’s widowed mother-in-law Agnes Doherty.

[24] The Rankin “family tree” is referred to as a source in Moore and Rankin, The Rankins of North Carolina.

[25] Ferguson, Mecklenberg Court Minutes, abstract of Minute Book 4: 663, April 1807 order appointing Samuel Rankin guardian of Joseph, Mary, Samuel and William Rankin, orphans of Richard Rankin, dec’d. “Orphan” just meant fatherless. Susy, the children’s mother, was still alive in 1807.

[26] Id., Minute Book 4: 314, entry in Oct 1801 recording votes for the election of two coroners (John Patterson 11 votes, Robert Robison 8 votes, Richard Rankin 2 votes); Minute Book 4: 375, Oct 1802, Richard Rankin was appointed “Patroller” by the court, having authority to search for and recover runaway slaves; Minute Book 4:387, Jan 25 1803, Richard Rankin et al. “being commissioned by his excellency the Governor to act as Justice of the Peace in this county, appeared in open court and was duly qualified as by law accordingly;” Minute Book 4: 397, Jan 1803, records of the County Trustee indicated that Richard Rankin was sheriff, 1797-1798; Minute Book 4: 409, Apr 1803, Magistrates appointed to take tax returns included Richard Rankin; Minute Book 4: 421, Jul 1803 election for high sheriff (7 votes for Wm Beaty, 5 for Richard Rankin).

[27] Id., Mecklenburg Minute Book 4: 281, entry for Apr 1801, notice issued to Richard Rankin, former sheriff, to appear and show cause why he hasn’t satisfied a judgment; id., Minute Book 4: 300, entry of Jul 1801, motion of County Trustee, Richard Rankin ordered to appear and render to the trustee all money due him for county tax & stray money collected by Richard for 1797 and 1798. Richard confessed judgment for £104.12.2.

[28] Ferguson, Mecklenburg Court Minutes, abstract of Minute Book 4: 458, April 1804, ordered that Susannah Rankin, William Rankin and Alexander Rankin administer on the estate of Richard Rankin, Esquire, dec’d, bond of £2,000. Another record shows the bond as £1,000. See North Carolina Archives, C.R.060.801.21, copy of original bond.

[29] Ferguson, Mecklenburg Court Minutes, abstract of Minute Book 4: 478, Jul 1804 inventory and amount of sale of the estate of Richard Rankin returned by William Rankin, Alexander Rankin and Susy Rankin, £ 935.1.11.

[30] Ferguson and Ferguson, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina Will Abstracts, abstract of the 1806 and 1807 tax lists, entry for Richard Rankin’s estate, adm. by Wm. B. Alexander, 800 acres.

[31] Ferguson, Mecklenburg Court Minutes, abstract of Minute Book 4: 501.

[32] Id., Minute Book 4: 530.

[33] Id., Minute Book 4: 531.

[34] Id., Minute Book 4: 592.

[35] Id., Minute Book 4: 704.

[36] Id., Minute Book 4: 706.

[37] FHL Film No. 484,186, Mecklenburg Deed Book 18: 365.

[38] Anne Williams McAllister & Kathy Gunter Sullilvan, Courts of Pleas & Quarter Sessions, Lincoln County, North Carolina, Apr 1805 – Oct 1808 (Lenoir, NC: 1988), William Rankin v. Susy Rankin, court case record for Jan 1808. The county court had no jurisdiction over a defendant who was not a resident of the county, so the fact that Susy was sued in Lincoln and the case was not dismissed for lack of jurisdiction proves that she lived there.

[39] Ferguson, Mecklenburg Court Minutes, abstract of Minute Book 5: 277, entry of Aug 1812, on petition of Susannah Rankin, widow of Richard Rankin, regarding her right of dower in the land of her deceased husband. Although a court did not have jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant, anyone could petition a county court for relief, whether a resident or not. The land in which Susy had a dower right was located in Mecklenburg. She therefore had to file in that county and nowhere else in order to assert her dower right.

[40] North Carolina State Archives CR.060.301.4, “Lincoln County, County Court Minutes Jan 1806 – Jan 1813” at p. 589.

[41] 1820 census, Lincoln Co., p. 224, listing for John Rhyne.

[42] Sommerville, History of Hopewell Presbyterian Church, tombstone of Mary (“Polly”) Doherty inscribed, “Here lies Polly Rankin, died Jan. 30, 1803 in her 33rd year. She left 5 motherless children and a discomfortable husband.”

[43] See notes 25 and 28.

[44] See note 25, appointment of guardian for four children of Richard Rankin; Gregg & Forney, Rankins of North Carolina, citing the Rankin “family tree.” None of Richard and Susy’s children were of age in 1807, since they were married in 1793. Thus, all of their living children would have required a guardian in 1807.

[45] Ferguson & Ferguson, Mecklenburg Will Abstracts, Will Book C: 34, will of Agnes Doherty dated June 19, 1807, proved Jan 1808, naming daughter Susanna Rankin.

[46] See note 37, sheriff’s deed for part of Richard Rankin’s land.

[47] FHL Film No. 484,186, Mecklenburg Deed Book 19: 606, quit claim deed dated 15 Apr 1809 from Susy Rankin, widow and relict of Richard Rankin of Mecklenburg, $200, to David Smith, her right of dower in all land which her late husband died owning.

[48] See note 38.

[49] Anne Williams McAllister and Kathy Gunter Sulliver, Court of Pleas & Quarter Sessions Lincoln County, North Carolina April 1805 – October 1808 (1988), abstract of court minutes for January 1808, William Rankin v. Susy Rankin, jury awarded plaintiff damages of £106.7.6, of which judgment was rendered against Samuel Lowrie Esq. for £48.16.

[50] Miles S. Philbeck & Grace Turner, Lincoln County, North Carolina, Will Abstracts, 1779-1910 (Chapel Hill, NC: 1986), abstract of Lincoln Will Book 1: 405, will of Thomas Rhyne naming inter alia son John Rhyne, witnessed by William Rankin and Richard Rankin, 2 Jun 1834.

[51] E.g., microfilm of Lincoln Co. Deed Book 2: 543, deed of 19 Apr 1780 from James Coburn of Lincoln to Samuel Rankin, same, 180A on Kuykendall’s Cr. adjacent Thomas Rhine’s corner.

[52] NC State Archives, C.R.060.801.21, Lincoln County Wills, 1769 – 1926 Quickle – Reep, file folder labeled “Rankin, Samuel 1826,” original will of Samuel Rankin of Lincoln County dated 16 Dec 1814, proved April 1826, recorded in Will Book 1: 37. According to a transcription of Sam Sr.’s tombstone, now lost, he died in 1816.

[53] 1820 census, Lincoln Co., NC, p. 350, listing for John Rhyne, 26 < 45, 1 female 26 < 45, 1 male 16 < 26, 4 males < 10 and 2 females < 10; one person engaged in manufacturing.

[54] John Rhyne didn’t marry until 1808, so it is fairly certain that the male in the 16 < 26 age bracket listed with him in the 1820 was not John’s son. Frances T. Ingmire, Lincoln County North Carolina Marriage Records 1783-1866, Volume I, Males (Athens, GA: Iberian Publishing Co., 1993).

[55] Helen C. & Timothy R. Marsh, Land Deed Genealogy of Rutherford County, Tennessee, Vol. 1 (1804 – 1813) (Greenville, SC: Southern Historical Press, 2001), abstract of Deed Book A: 194.

[56] FHL Film No. 24,806, Item 3, Tax List, 1809-1849, Rutherford County, Tennessee.

[57] 1820 census, Rutherford Co., TN, listings for Robert Rankin (p. 109), David Rankins (p. 121), and two listings for Samuel Rankin (p. 94 and p. 116).

Identifying the Children of Lyddal Bacon Estes and “Nancy” Ann Allen Winn: the “Follow the Land” Theory of Genealogy

©Robin Rankin Willis May 2017

First, a disclaimer. This is a very long article because (1) there are nine children to discuss, (2) there are some nice stories about the family, two pictures, and partial transcriptions of two 1888 letters, and (3) I have religiously provided evidence in a mind-boggling plethora of footnotes. The extensive proof is included because several people have told me they really like to see it, and we aim to please.

OK, you’ve been warned. On to the article …

My husband Gary calls our favorite family history research tool the “follow the land” theory of genealogy, since family relationships can often be identified in land transactions. Proving the children of Lyddal Bacon Estes (hereafter, “LBE”) and his wife “Nancy” Ann Allen Winn[1] is a case study in that approach. The identities of all but one of the children who survived LBE are conclusively proved by Tishomingo County, Mississippi deed records. And that lone holdout is Lyddal Bacon Estes (Jr.), about whom there can be little doubt.

As a bonus, the deed records also paint a charming picture of the Estes family.

LBE’s land is our starting point. Tishomingo probate and deed records identify the Estes tracts, about 800 acres in all, as follows:[2]

  • Northeast Quarter of Section 30, Township 2 South, Range 7 East;
  • Northwest Quarter of Section 13, Township 2 South, Range 6 East;
  • Southwest Quarter of Section 12, Township 2 South, Range 6 East;
  • Southeast Quarter of Section 12, Township 2 South, Range 6 East; and
  • Northeast Quarter of Section 12, Township 2 South, Range 6 East.[3]

LBE died intestate between January 1, 1845, when he performed a marriage as a Tishomingo J.P., and March 3, 1845, when his widow Nancy and Benjamin Henderson Estes obtained a bond as administrators of his estate.[4]

For almost a decade after he died, LBE’s 800 acres – which eventually sold for more than $4,000 – remained in the family, rather than being liquidated or partitioned. That is highly unusual. LBE had nine surviving children, including three married daughters. Any heir (or son-in-law) had the right to petition the court for either a sale of the estate’s land or a partition. As a result, the land of an intestate – i.e., someone who died without a will devising land to someone specific – was usually either sold or partitioned fairly promptly.

That didn’t happen in this family. Nancy and two of her sons, LBE Jr. (age 24), and Allen (18) were still living on family land in 1850, five years after LBE died.[5] That was apparently fine with the extended family, which seems downright loving. At minimum, it was generous. There is no right of usufruct in the English common law, so there was no legal requirement to let Nancy and the unmarried children remain in their home.

Moreover, in 1852, LBE Jr. married.[6] By 1854, the youngest son – Allen, who was born about 1832-33 – had just became an adult.[7] Also in 1854, Nancy and B. H. Estes petitioned the court for permission to sell the land in order to distribute the proceeds to the heirs.[8] The timing of that petition was surely not accidental. It suggests that the Estes family agreed after LBE died to keep the land together, with Nancy and minor children continuing to reside in the home place until all the children were grown.

The sweet family story doesn’t end there. At the 1854 public auction, LBE Jr. bought the entire 800 acres for $4,392, roughly $5.50/acre, a premium price.[9] Mind you, there is no way LBE Jr. had that much cash, or anticipated having that much cash in the immediate future. He was a farmer, and claimed only $1,400 in both real and personal property in 1860.[10]

A reasonable bet is that the family agreed LBE Jr. would bid on their behalf at the public auction, and then divide up the land later. For the cynical among us, the court records reveal that attendees at the auction included “several of the next of kin … as well as divers other persons.”[11] The court allowed the land to be sold on twelve months’ credit, so LBE Jr. didn’t have to fork over cash at the auction. Instead, he posted a bond, bought it on credit, and sold it in pieces to (1) Benjamin Henderson Estes (320 acres for $2,160 in August 1854, about $6.75/acre),[12] (2) Martha Swain (160 acres for $472 in August 1854, $2.95/acre),[13] (3) Riley Myers (160 acres for $1,400 in November 1856, $8.75/acre),[14] and (4) Nancy and Allen W. Estes (176 acres for $882 in January 1857, a bit over $5 per acre).[15]

Those deeds, of course, don’t prove that any of the parties were children of LBE and Nancy. For proof, we will have to look at each child. Here they are, in what I believe is birth order.

Benjamin Henderson Estes, b. Lunenburg, VA, 12 Dec 1815, d. 6 Jan 1897, buried in McLennan Co., TX.[16]

Benjamin H. Estes used his middle name in most records. Out of respect and affection, we will do the same. Henderson is proved as an heir of LBE and Nancy by a Tishomingo County quitclaim deed dated 15 Jun 1872. Henderson conveyed to Lyddal B. Estes (Jr.) any interest Henderson had in the northwest quarter of Section 13, Township 2, Range 6 East in Tishomingo, “which said claim and interest [Henderson] has by reason of being an heir and distributee of L. B. Estes, deceased, and Nancy A. Estes, deceased, the widow of said L. B. Estes.”[17] To be an heir at law of an intestate who had children, one had to be a child (or grandchild whose Estes parent had died). Since Henderson was too old to be LBE’s grandchild, he was necessarily a son.

Every census in which Henderson appeared from 1850 through 1880 identified him as having been born in Virginia, alone among LBE and Nancy’s children.[18] His birth in December 1815 in Virginia clearly marks him as the eldest child, since LBE and Nancy were married in March, 1814 in Lunenburg County, VA.[19] LBE made his last appearance in the Lunenburg records on March 22, 1816 on a personal property tax list as Lidwell [sic] B. Estes — so LBE and Nancy were still living in Lunenburg when Henderson was born.[20]

Henderson was involved in Tishomingo public life. He was a Justice of the Peace, a Constable, and a school board trustee.[21] He was apparently a family caretaker, serving as co-administrator of LBE’s estate and as sole administrator of a Winn cousin’s estate.[22] In October 1839, he married Mary A. Ducse, about whom I know nothing.[23]

Although he was 45 when war broke out, Henderson was a Captain in the 11th Mississippi Cavalry, Company A (aka Ham’s Cavalry).[24] LBE Jr. and Allen W. Estes were also officers in that unit, which I suspect (but cannot prove) Henderson helped organize. He was proud of his service, notwithstanding that he was on the wrong side of history and justice. And decency. His tombstone states his rank and unit.[25]

After the War, Henderson and his family moved to McLennan County, Texas, near Waco. He still identified himself as a farmer.[26] He didn’t own any land that I could find, so he must have been farming with family, probably his son Lyddal Bacon Estes (LBE the 3rd). In 1880, he and LBE 3rd were both listed in the Brown County census, several counties west of McLellan.[27]

Henderson returned to McLennan County one last time, as he and his wife Mary are both buried in the Robinson Cemetery there. The identity of their children is disputed. I identify them as follows from census records, their migration from Tishomingo to McLennan, and burial of Mary and Nancy in the Robinson Cemetery.

  1. Mary A. Rebecca Estes, b. 19 Oct 1849, Tishomingo, d. 12 Jul 1909, McLennan Co., TX. Married William Griffin 18 Sep 1871, McLennan Co.
  2. Lyddal Bacon (“Bake”) Estes, b. about 1855, Tishomingo, d. 22 Mar 1918, Grant Co., NM. Married Martha (“Mattie”) Brandon 15 Nov 1885, McLennan Co.
  3. Nancy California (“Callie”) Estes, b. 29 Oct 1856, Tishomingo, d. 12 Nov. 1937, McLennan Co. Husband Benjamin P. Hill.

Mary F. (undoubtedly Frances) Estes Rankin, b. AL 1817-18, d. after 1888, Cleveland Co., AR.

Mary is my ancestress, although I don’t know much about her. She was LBE and Nancy’s eldest daughter. Her year and state of birth vary in the censuses, but she was likely born in 1817-18[28] in Madison County, Alabama.[29] About 1836, she married Samuel Rankin in the area of the Chickasaw Nation that became Tishomingo County in the northeast corner of Mississippi. The Rankins moved to Jefferson County, Arkansas in late 1848 or 1849.[30]

Another quitclaim deed proves that Mary F. Rankin was a daughter of LBE and Nancy. It was dated 31 August 1872, from Mary Rankin as grantor to L. B. Estes (Jr.), grantee. The deed did not state that Mary’s claim to the land conveyed arose via heirship, as did Henderson’s. The description of the land is all the evidence we need, however. Specifically, Mary conveyed her right to land in the northwest quarter of Section 13, Township 2, Range 6.[31] The only way Mary had a claim to that tract was as an heir of LBE and Nancy. Like Henderson, she was too old to be a granddaughter.

I have a portrait of Mary with her grandson John Marvin Rankin by her side. My grandmother, John Marvin’s wife, identified them in writing on the back of the portrait as “JM” and “Mary,” so there isn’t any doubt about her identity. It was taken about 1878, when she was about sixty – but she looks 80 (although perhaps I am underestimating the benefits of sunscreen, moisturizers, good nutrition, and birth control). She is not attractive, to understate the matter wildly. She has large ears, accentuated by the fact that her hair is parted in the center and pulled back severely in a bun (two of my uncles had the misfortune to inherit those ears). It is difficult to imagine that she ever smiled, looking at her downturned mouth and the lines around it.

Here is the photo.

It’s easy to sympathize with Mary. Her husband Samuel was almost two decades her senior and an incorrigible character, although that’s another story. She had ten children who survived her; the first eight arrived less than two years apart like clockwork. There were still seven minors at home when Samuel died in 1861 or 1862, and her youngest child was born about the time he died or soon thereafter.[32] Mary couldn’t read or write, although her siblings for whom I could find that information were literate.[33] Four of her sons fought in the Civil War, two on each side. That’s another story, too. The family was apparently not poor, but they didn’t have much and the children didn’t inherit anything, judging from their subsequent economic situations. Mary undoubtedly worked from sunrise until past sunset all her life.

In short, Mary qualifies as what we Texans call “rode hard and put up wet,” and my heart goes out to her. Ten children survived her:

  1. Richard Bacon Rankin, b. May 1837, Tishomingo, d. Mar 1930, Cleveland Co., AR. Married three times. He has a military tombstone inscribed Co. H., 5 Kansas Cavalry, a Union unit.
  2. William Henderson Rankin, b. Nov 1839, Tishomingo, d. Sep 1910, Little Rock, Pulaski Co., AR. Married Eliza Jane Law, 1858, Drew Co., AR. Private, Owen’s Battalion, Arkansas Light Artillery, CSA, enlisted at Monticello, Drew Co., in Feb 1862.
  3. Joseph S. Rankin, b. Aug 1841, Tishomingo, d. Arkansas? Married Nancy J. White.
  4. John Allen Rankin, my great-grandfather, b. Jul 1843, Tishomingo, d. Oct. 1888, Claiborne Par., LA. Married Amanda Adieanna Lindsey, July 1865, in Claiborne Parish. Private, 9th Arkansas Infantry, enlisted Jul 1861. Deserted October-November 1863, twenty-one months into his one year enlistment term after a disastrous battle for the CSA, a newly issued uniform, and several months’ back pay.
  5. Elisha Thompson Rankin, b. May 1845, Tishomingo, d. Apr 1911, Pike Co., AR. Married Martha Willie Daniel. Enlisted 1863, Private, 5th Kansas Cavalry, Union pension approved May 1898.
  6. James D. Rankin, b. Apr 1848, Tishomingo, d. Nov 1930, Drew Co., AR. Married Mary Allen “Mollie” Matthews, 1870.
  7. Mary Jane Rankin, b. 1850, Jefferson Co., AR, m. Nick Scott, 1875, Jefferson Co.
  8. Washington Marion Rankin (“Wash”), b. Mar 1852, Jefferson, AR, d. after 1920, probably Pulaski Co., AR. Married Victoria A. Hall; divorced.
  9. Napoleon Bonaparte Rankin (“Pole”), b. Jul 1855, Jefferson, AR, d. after 1928, probably Dallas Co., TX. Married #1 Ivy Lee Brooks, #2 Alice Austin.
  10. Frances Elizabeth Rankin (“Lizzie”), b. Feb 1862, Jefferson, AR, d. 1919, Grant Co., AR. Married Robert Bearden, Dec 1877, Cleveland Co., AR. Had 11 children; widowed at age 40.[34]

Martha Ann Estes Swain (b. Madison Co., AL, Sep. 1819 – d. 2 Mar 1905, McLennan Co., TX).

Martha was seemingly as sunny and upbeat as her sister Mary appeared to be dour. Martha was still describing herself as a farmer at age eighty.[35] I have copies of transcriptions of two letters Martha wrote to Mary in 1888, and they are charming, chatty, gossippy, kvetchy, and full of love for the extended family group she called “the connection.” (See excerpts below in the discussion of Lucretia Estes Derryberry).

Her 1905 obituary is worth quoting in full:[36] “Mrs. Martha Swain died on March 2, at the home of her son L. B. Swain, at Golinda, at the advanced age of 87 years. She died of pneumonia and was sick only a few days. She leaves two children, one son, L. B. Swain, of Golinda, and Mrs. J. N. Strahan, of the Hillside community. Also a large number of grand and great-grand children to mourn her demise. The entire community extends sympathy to the mourning relatives and friends and also feels the loss of a noble woman. We could write at length of the good deeds of this good woman, as it was our privilege to know her for over thirty years. –Eli Gib.”

She had nine children and outlived all but two of them, which strikes me as the worst thing that can befall a human being.[37] Nevertheless, she persisted. I found no marriage record for Martha and Wilson Swain, but other records suggest they were married by the mid-1830s.[38] Wilson died about 1849, because Martha was a head of household in 1850 with the youngest child in the family only one year old.[39]

Martha bought one of the Estes family tracts from her brother LBE Jr. in 1854, which she sold in two pieces in 1871.[40] Also in 1871, she executed a quitclaim deed to LBE Jr. for – you can undoubtedly guess this by now – the northwest quarter of Section 13, Township 2, Range 6 east.[41] By 1871, Martha was clearly about to move to Texas.

Four of Martha’s nine children apparently did not live long enough to be named in the 1850 census. She also had two children – Armistead and Josephine – about whom I found nothing in the records except census listings in 1850 and 1860. Her other three children moved to Texas with Martha, although only two of those outlived her. Here are the children who evidently survived to adulthood:

  1. Nancy J. Swain, b. 1837-38, Tishomingo. She married M. W. Oldham in McLennan Co., TX, 25 May 1882. She has a Robinson Cemetery joint tombstone with John Neil Strahan on which her date of birth is shown as “abt 1837” and her name as “Nancy Jane Swain Oldham,” death in May 1912.[42] John N. Strahan was obviously her second marriage, date unknown.
  2. Mary Ann Swain, b. about 1840, Tishomingo. She married J. N. Strahan in McLennan Co., 28 Feb 1872. I found no death or cemetery record, but she apparently died before May 1882, after which J. N. married her sister Nancy J. (who must by then have been the widow of M. W. Oldham).
  3. Lyddal Bacon (“Bud”) Swain, b. Dec. 1846, Tishomingo, d. Dec. 1923, McLennan Co. Confederate veteran. Wife Martha Ann Hill.

Martha Ann Estes Swain also features prominently in her sister Lucretia’s story, up next.

Lucretia Estes Derryberry (abt. 1822-23, Madison Co., AL, d. after 1888, probably in Little River, AR).

Lucretia (nicknamed “Cretia” or “Creasy,” as was her maternal grandmother, Lucretia Andrews Winn) and her husband Henderson D. B. Derryberry were married in January 1844 in Tishomingo.[43] In 1858, the couple executed a deed to her brother Henderson Estes, for $100, “all right, title, claim and interest” the Derryberrys had “as legatee of the estate of Lyddal B. Estes” in all of LBE’s land, described by section, township and range.[44]

Cretia and H.D.B. left Tishomingo shortly thereafter, moving first to Nacogdoches County, Texas, and then to Little River County, Arkansas. They appeared faithfully in the census records in 1850 (Tishomingo),[45] 1860 (Nacogdoches),[46] 1870, (Little River)[47] and 1880 (ditto).[48] I cannot find a death or cemetery record for Lucretia, but H.D.B. died in 1887 and is reportedly buried in the Campground Cemetery in Winthrop, Little River Co., AR.

Identifying their children is difficult because the names and years of birth vary from census to census, although I confess I haven’t looked at anything but census records. All of their children except for John were born in Tishomingo, and he was born in Arkansas. I’m confident about the names of only 5 children, although there were at least three more.

  1. Isaac Derryberry, b. 1844-45.
  2. Nancy Derryberry, b. 1846-48.
  3. Virginia Derryberry, b. 1848-49.
  4. Martha Caroline Derryberry, b. 1850-51.
  5. John Derryberry, b. 1858-59.

In between Martha and John were three sons born 1851-1857: Calvin, William and Gilbert (according to the 1860 census). Two of them had the middle (or first) name of Scott and Anderson, according to the 1870 census. I’m baffled, and haven’t sorted it out. If this is your line, please set me straight.

Here is some fun stuff: family gossip. By way of necessary background, Cretia and H.D.B. had a granddaughter Martha Derryberry, whose parents I have not identified. In 1880, Martha, age 9, was living with H.D.B. and Cretia. By 1887, H.D.B. was dead. Here, verbatim (including “xxx” where the transcriber couldn’t interpret the handwriting, as well as question marks) are excerpts from two 1888 letters Martha Estes Swain wrote to her sister Mary Estes Rankin. My comments/interpretations are in italics. Martha opens the first letter by demanding in no uncertain terms to know why the hell her sister hasn’t written, and then moves on to the gossip.

Excerpt from first letter, written to Mary when Martha was visiting Cretia in Little River

“April the 24 1888, Little River Co. Little River PO.

Well mi dear sister i will write you a few more lines to let you no how i am getting along i rote to you when i first came out here and i have not heard from you yet i would like to no what is the mater that you don’t rite we are all well at this time and i do hope that these few lines will find you all well and doing well   well i am going to start home tomorrow morning Cxxxx [Cretia] and isac? [Isaac, eldest son of HDB and Cretia] will go to Texar kana and then we will part I hate to leave Cxxxxx [Cretia] for she xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx run away and married and now Cxxxxx will bea left alone and that is mity bad because she is to old to bea left alone … and write to Cxxxxx she wants to hear from you all mity bad   well   i will bring mi letter to close me and Cxxxxx send our love to all so good by for this time

M A Swaine to Mrs M A [sic] Rankin”

Summary and excerpt from second letter, after Martha has returned home from Little River, June 16th [1888]

Martha begins by thanking Mary for her letter and complaining about her rheumatism. She says she hasn’t seen Mary and Henderson since she came home, talks about crops, asks about Mary’s lost cows, and mentions some family, noting who has written to her and who has not: Lizzie (Mary’s youngest child), Mr. Strahan (an in-law, who is moving to Wilbarger Co., TX), Minnie (Bearden, a granddaughter of Mary’s), John (several possibilities), Judge (a son of Richard Bacon Rankin), Pole (Mary’s son), Wash (ditto), Aunt Jane and Dulo (I have no idea), and Joe Estes (Allen W. Estes’s only child, a nephew of Martha and Mary’s). Then Martha gets down to the nitty gritty with obvious relish.

“well Mary I will tell you something about my trip home i stayed with sister Creby [sic, Creasy or Cretia] til the 25th of April her and isac come with me to Tex arcance i taken the train at 11 in the morning I got at Waco at 12 20 at night. bud [Lyddle Bacon Swain, Martha’s son] met me there and we came 9? miles at brother henderson I stayed there until saturday morning and started home saturday morning and got caught in a big rain before I got to brother tonys? [Martha’s brother LBE Jr.] I hant been well since I got home the first day of may i never hated to leave anybody as bad as i did Cxxxx [Cretia] Martha [the granddaughter, married 8 Apr 1888] she run away and murried and left Cxxxx a lone i think she could do as well without her as with her although she was left a lone she was mighty disobedient to her grandma i am afraid she has done bad business in murring I got a letter dated the 15th of may and she [Cretia] said she was still liveing a lone and she said they was all well write soon and often and give me all the news a bout all of the connection be sure and come if you can I will bring my few lines to a close your sister until death

Martha Swain”

On that note, let’s leave Cretia, Martha, and Mary with a smile, and go see about the next Estes sibling. I wish I had known those three women.

John B. Estes (b. Madison Co., AL 1822-24, d. between 1872-1880, Nacogdoches Co., TX)

John B. Estes is a mystery because the records reveal very little about him. He wasn’t listed in the 1850 census, so far as I can find. Perhaps he was on the move. He had clearly arrived in Nacogdoches County by August 1851, when he married Avy Ann Summers there.[49] She was a widow, née Parish,[50] and had three children. John B. Estes was listed in the 1854 school census as their guardian, and he gave Alabama as his state of birth.[51]

The couple executed a deed dated 19 August 1853 conveying to LBE Jr. for $200 all “right, title, claim they may have as legatees of the estate of Liddal [sic] B. Estes, dec’d, late of Tishomingo,” to LBE’s land. Like the Derryberry deed, it included a description of LBE’s tracts by section, township and range, leaving no doubt that John B. was LBE’s son.[52]

John B. owned several tracts in Nacogdoches County. I have not delved into the county probate records to see if there was an estate administration, although there must have been in light of his land ownership. The census records reveal only one child, a daughter Nancy A. Estes, born about 1861. Nancy was listed in the 1870 census with John B. and Avy Ann and in 1880 with her mother, who was widowed by then.[53] Ancestry.com trees give John’s middle name as “Byron,” without citing any sources except other online family trees. I would love to hear from anyone having actual evidence about that name.

Lyddal Bacon Estes Jr. (b. McNairy Co., TN? 20 Sep 1826, d. McLennan Co., TX, 18 Apr 1903).

Ironically, LBE Jr. didn’t execute a deed reciting heirship, although I can’t imagine there could be any reasonable doubt about his parentage. The entire record of his land transactions among family members, and his unusual name, and the fact that he appeared in Nancy A. Estes’s household in 1850, constitute sufficient circumstantial evidence to establish him as a son of LBE and Nancy.

LBE Jr. was a Confederate veteran, a First Lieutenant in the same cavalry unit in which his brothers Henderson and Allen W. Estes served.[54] A county history identifies him as “Toney” Estes, as does one of Martha Swain’s letters excerpted above. Interesting nickname for a family of solidly British Isles heritage on both sides.

In 1852, LBE Jr. married Elvira Caroline Derryberry, a sister of H.D.B. Derryberry, in Tishomingo.[55] LBE Jr. was apparently the last of LBE and Nancy’s children to remain in Tishomingo – or Alcorn County, by the time he left. He last appeared as a resident there acknowledging a deed dated November 1876.[56] By March 1879, he was in McLennan County, where he executed what appears to have been his last deed to Mississippi land.[57]

LBE Jr. was a landowner in McLennan County and left some helpful estate administration records, including one identifying his children.[58] His widow Caroline applied for letters of survivorship on August 5, 1903, reciting that her husband died intestate in McLennan in April 1903 and giving his children’s ages and residences.

  1. Louisa Russell, 50, Hill County, TX.
  2. Harriet Wood, who predeceased LBE Jr., leaving 2 surviving children in Jones Co.
  3. F. (Margaret Frances) Garner, age 46, residing in McLennan Co.
  4. Mark L. Estes, 44, Jones Co., TX.
  5. Mattie Coyel, age 42, also a resident of McLennan.
  6. Emma? Moore, 34, resident of Bosque Co., TX.
  7. Florence Cooksey, 32, McLennan.

LBE Jr. was also kind enough to leave a picture of himself and Caroline that is widely available in family trees online. Here it is. He was clearly a snappy dresser, which might account for his nickname.

Alsadora Estes Byers, b. abt. 1828?, McNairy Co., TN, d. ???

Alsadora was named for her mother Nancy A. Winn Estes’s youngest sister, Alsadora Abraham Winn Looney, and that is the only interesting thing I know about her. Alsadora married Edward Byers in Tishomingo on September 16, 1845. In 1850, she and Edward were listed in the Tishomingo census with three children.[59] That census gives her age as 20, but earlier census records for LBE’s family, and her brother William’s likely birth year, suggest she was born a year or two earlier.

There is, of course, the inevitable deed proving that Alsadora Estes Byers was a daughter of LBE and Nancy. On 14 March 1847, Edward and Alsadora conveyed to her brother Henderson all of the “right, title, claim and interest they have as a legatee of the estate of Lyddal B. Estes” in LBE’s land, all tracts described by section, township and range.[60] No doubt about that parentage. I would almost have deemed her proved just on the strength of that highly unusual given name and the fact that LBE’s was the only Estes family in Tishomingo in the mid-1800s.

William P. Estes, b. abt 1830, McNairy Co., TN?, d. unknown (San Francisco Co., CA?)

William P. was probably born about 1830, because he first appeared as a taxable on the Tishomingo tax rolls in 1848. He is listed on the tax rolls again in 1849, but he is not in the 1850 census in Tishomingo. I found only two other records for him. One was a general power of attorney he granted to Henderson in 1853 which identified him as a resident of San Francisco County, California.[61] Second, there was the 1872 deed reciting that William, Alsadora Byers, Lucretia Derryberry and Henderson Estes were heirs and legatees of LBE, from B. H. Estes of McLennan Co., TX to Lyddall B. Estes of Alcorn Co., Mississippi.[62] Specifically, Henderson quitclaimed for $100 any interest he had in the northwest Quarter of Section 13 Township 2 Range 6 East, “which … the party of the first part having previously bought and had conveyed to him the interest of Lucretia Derryberry of Elsidora Byers and of William P. Estes thereafter other heirs and distributees of the said L. B. Estes and Nancy A. Estes, dec’d.

Given the timing of his departure in about 1850 and his destination, one might speculate that William was bitten by the gold rush bug. Please let me know if you have any info on him.

Allen W. Estes, b. 1832, TN, d. 29 July 1864, CSA Hospital in Atlanta, GA

Allen W. (and my money is on Allen Winn), LBE and Nancy’s youngest child, died at the Battle of Ezra Church. In 1864, that was west of Atlanta. Now it is just off I-20 at MLK Boulevard, well inside the city limits. He was a Captain in his cavalry unit, the same one in which his brother LBE Jr. and Henderson served. They fought “dismounted” at Ezra’s church, meaning as infantry. They were commanded by an incompetent general who had his troops repeatedly charge a well-fortified position on higher ground against orders. The general was ordered to contain the Union troops, not advance.

The same foolish general – Steven Dill Lee, no relation to Robert E.– commanded my great-grandfather John Allen Rankin’s unit at the Battle of Champion Hill near Vicksburg with similar incompetence, so I have a real grudge against him. My husband and I wrote an article about the three Confederate Estes brothers in Ham’s Cavalry, which you can find here. Gary, a graduate of the Air Force Academy and an amateur military historian and tactician (and grizzled Vietnam vet), provided the battle information. There is also an article about John Allen’s war story on this website, with Gary again contributing military savvy.

I just hope Nancy had already died before she learned about Allen’s death. He was, I can guarantee, still her baby at 32.

The only other thing that stands out about Allen is the puzzle he created by failing to leave a deed proving his parents’ identity. Other records provide compelling circumstantial evidence, although not conclusive proof, that Allen W. was a son of LBE and Nancy. The deed records come through for us again, though. First, here are the census and marriage records, which also identify Allen’s only child:

  • Allen Estes, 18, was living with Nancy A. Estes in the 1850 census.
  • In 1859, Allen married Josephine Jobe, and Allen W. and Josephine Estes were living with Nancy in 1860.
  • In 1868, Josephine Estes married G. L. (Grimmage) Leggett.
  • In the 1880 census, Jos. Ester [sic] was listed in the household of Grim Leggette along with his wife Josephine. Joseph, 18, was identified as Leggette’s stepson, and thus a son of Allen W. and Josephine Jobe Estes Leggett.

Of course, that still isn’t conclusive proof that Allen W. was a son of LBE and Nancy: he could have been a nephew. We need the deed records. They get a bit esoteric …

Back in 1857, Allen W. and Nancy bought one of LBE’s tracts – and this one is key: the northwest quarter of Section 13, Township 2, Range 6 East, the only tract in Section 13. As a matter of law, Nancy (who was a single woman in 1857), could actually own property in her own name. Imagine that! She and Allen each owned an undivided interest in the tract. I never found a will or estate administration for either Nancy or Allen. Both probably died intestate.

Under the law of intestate descent and distribution, Nancy’s half of the tract would have descended to Nancy’s heirs — her surviving children, plus any children of a deceased child. Allen’s half of the tract would have descended to his sole heir, Joseph. By 1872, LBE Jr. owned all the children’s claims to that tract except for Allen’s: (1) LBE Jr. had purchased all of John B. Estes’s interest in LBE’s land; (2) Henderson had purchased all of William, Alsadora Byer’s, and Lucretia Derryberry’s interest in all of LBE’s land, which he quitclaimed to LBE Jr.; and (3) LBE had quitclaim deeds to that specific tract from Henderson, Martha and Mary.

In short, the only surviving heirs who had claims to any part of Allen and Nancy’s Section 13 tract were LBE Jr. and Joseph Estes. You’ve got to appreciate the English common law obsession with orderly land transfers and records. And being in a county that William Tecumseh Sherman missed.

LBE Jr. asked the court to partition the tract between him and Joseph Estes. A commission did just that, laying out 9/16ths of the tract to LBE Jr., and 7/16ths to Joseph. I have no idea how they came up with those fractions, except that one of the partitioned tracts must have had improvements that the other lacked.

And, my friends, that is it. Whew! I congratulate anyone who made it through this entire piece. The secret word is “footnotes.” Put it in a comment on this article and I will buy you a Starbucks coffee. Or send you a gift certificate for same.

[1] Either “Nancy” or “Ann” was a nickname, probably Nancy. She appeared in the Lunenburg Co., VA records as Ann Allen Winn (Lunenburg Will Book 6: 204, FHL Film 0,032,381, her father Benjamin Winn’s will), Nancy Allen Winn (Lunenburg Guardian Accounts 1798 – 1810, FHL Film 0,032,419, at p. 136), and Nancy A. Winn (Emma R. Matheny and Helen K. Yates, Marriages of Lunenburg County Virginia 1746 – 1853 (Richmond: 1967, reprinted by Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, 1979), Nancy’s marriage to LBE).

[2] Tishomingo Probate Records Vol. M: 484, court order of 14 Mar 1854 to sell the land of Lyddal B. Estes, identifying the tracts by section, township and range; id. at 438, court order regarding notice and citation; Tishomingo Deed Book R: 15, FHL Film 0,895,878, deed of 30 May 1854 conveying the land and identifying the tracts by section, township and range.

[3] There is a minor question about this tract. At least four Tishomingo court and deed records identify it as the northeast quarter. Online BLM records identify it as the northwest quarter.

[4] See Irene Barnes, Marriages of Old Tishomingo County, Mississippi, Volume I, 1837 – 1859 (Iuka, MS: 1978), LBE presided as J.P. at a marriage on 1 January 1845; FHL Film 0,895,897, Tishomingo Probate Records Vol. C: 391, 3 Mar 1845 bond of Benjamin H. Estes and Nancy A. Estes as administrators of Lyddal B. Estes.

[5] 1850 U.S. census, Tishomingo, Nancy Estes, 62, b. VA, with Bacon Estes, 24, b. TN, and Allen Estes, 18, b. TN; see FHL Film 0,895,878, Tishomingo Deed Book R: 15, deed of 30 May 1854 reciting that the 1854 auction of the land was held at LBE’s house.

[6] Thomas Proctor Hughes and Jewel B. Standefer, Tishomingo County, Mississippi Marriage Bonds and Ministers’ Returns, January 1842-February 1861 (1973), 11 Feb 1852 marriage of L. B. Esters [sic] & Emaline C. C. Derryberry.

[7] 1850 U.S. census, Tishomingo, Allen Estes, age 18 (born about 1832); 1860 U.S. census, Tishomingo, Allen W. Estes, age 27 (born about 1833). Allen was living in Nancy’s household in 1860 along with his wife Josephine (Jobe) Estes. See Hughes and Standefer, Tishomingo County, Mississippi Marriage Bonds, marriage of W. A. Estes [sic, should be A. W.] and Josephine Jobe, 13 Oct 1859.

[8] I could not find the administrators’ petition among the county records, but the court order to sell the land references it. Tishomingo Probate Records Vol. M: 484, court order of 14 Mar 1854.

[9] FHL Film 0,895,878, Tishomingo Deed Book R: 15, deed of 30 May 1854 reciting inter alia the following: B. H. Estes and Nancy Estes, administrators of L. B. Estes, dec’d, to Lyddal B. Estes Jr. of Tishomingo … whereas the probate court on 2nd Monday in March 1854 ordered to sell on 12 months’ credit all the land of dec’d containing 800 acres … on a portion of said land L. B. Estes resided at his death and had thereon a dwelling house, stables and other appurtenances. Notice of the time and place of sale was given in a newspaper and by posting copies of the notice at public places. The sale was held between 12 noon and 5 p.m. at LBE’s residence on May 1, 1854. The highest bidder was Lyddal B. Estes Jr.: $4,392.

[10] 1860 U.S. census, Lyddal Estes, 33, farmer, $1000 realty, $400 personal property, b. TN, Caroline Estes, 23, b. TN, Louisa Estes, 6, b. MS, Harriet Estes, 3, b. MS, and Marcus Estes, 2, b. MS.

[11] Tishomingo Probate Book 5: 255–56 (original viewed at the chancery court in Iuka, MS, administrators’ report of the sale).

[12] FHL Film 0,895,878, Tishomingo Deed Book R: 19, deed from L. B. Estes and wife to B. H. Estes.

[13] FHL Film 0,895,878, Tishomingo Deed Book R: 18, deed from L. B. Estes and wife to Martha Swain.

[14] FHL Film 0,895,881, Tishomingo Deed Book U: 570, deed from L. B. Estes and wife to Riley Myers. I’m not sure what Riley’s relationship to the Estes family might have been, if any.

[15] FHL Film 0,895,881, Tishomingo Deed Book U: 155, deed from L. B. Estes and wife to A. W. Estes and Nancy A. Estes.

[16] Central Texas Genealogical Society, Inc., McLennan County, Texas Cemetery Records, Volume II (Waco, TX: 1973), tombstone for B. H. Estes in the Robinson Cemetery.

[17] FHL Film 0,895,389, Tishomingo Deed Book 2: 590.

[18] 1850 U.S. census, Tishomingo, B. H. Estes, 35, farmer, b. VA, with Mary Estes, 32, b. TN, two children sometimes identified as Henderson and Mary’s, and their daughter Mary, age 1; 1860 U.S. census, Tishomingo, Benj. H. Estes, 43, farmer, b. VA, Mary Estes, 41, Mary Estes, 11, Siddle (sic, Lyddal) Estes, 5, and Nancy Estes, 3 (plus Thadeus Gossitt, 15, who was also listed in this family in 1850); 1870 U.S. census, McLennan Co., TX, Waco P.O., Benjamin Estes, 55, farmer, b. VA, Mary Estes, 51, Rebecca Estes, 21, MS, Bacon Estes, 15, MS, and California Estes, 14, MS; 1880 U.S. census, Brown Co., TX, Benjamin Estes, 64, b. VA, and wife Mary Estes, 60, TN.

[19]Henderson’s stated year of birth varies from 1815 to 1817 in the census records, but his tombstone says 1815. https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&amp;GRid=7096040&amp;ref=acom; see also Matheny and Yates, Marriages of Lunenburg County, Virginia, Lyddal B. Estes of Lunenburg and Nancy A. Winn, married 10 March 1814.

[20] Clayton Library microfilm #239, Lunenburg County, Virginia Personal Property Tax Records, 1805 – 1835, 1816 personal property tax list, Upper District of Lunenburg, Lidwell [sic] B. Estes, one taxable poll, visited on 22 March 1816.

[21] Fan A. Cockran, History of Old Tishomingo County, Mississippi Territory (Oklahoma City: Barnhart Letter Shop, 1969).

[22] Tishomingo Probate Records Vol. C: 606, FHL Film 0,895,897, petition of Benjamin Estes for administration of the estate of John Winn.

[23] Cockran, History of Old Tishomingo County.

[24] Id.

[25] See note 19, link to an image of his tombstone.

[26] See note 18.

[27] 1880 U.S. census, Brown Co., TX, Benjamin Estes, p. 443, dwelling. 90, age 64, b. VA, parents b. VA, Mary A. Estes, wife, age 60, b. TN, parents b. VA; adjacent listing in dwelling 91, Luddell [sic] Estes, 25, b. MS, father b. VA, mother b. TN, Rebecca Estes, wife, 19, and Newton B. Estes, b. Sep 1879, TX.

[28] 1850 U.S. census, Jefferson Co., AR, household of Samuel Rankin, Mary Rankin, 31, b. MS; 1860 U.S. census, Jefferson Co., household of Samuel Rankin, Mary F. Rankin, 42, b. AL; 1870 U.S. census, Jefferson Co., household of Mary F. Rankin, 50, b. AL; 1880 U.S. census, Dorsey Co., AR, household of Robbert Bearden, Mary F. Rankin, mother-in-law, 63, b. AL.

[29] I have not found LBE and Nancy in the Madison County records, but it is clear from the extended Winn family in McNairy Co., TN and Tishomingo that the couple migrated with Nancy Winn Estes’s family of origin. Nancy’s mother, Lucretia Andrews Winn, definitely migrated from Lunenburg to Madison Co., where she and several of her children appeared in the records.

[30] See 1860 U.S. census, Jefferson Co., AR, household of Samuel Rankin, indicating that James Rankin was born in Mississippi about 1848 and the next child, Mary Rankin, was born in Arkansas about 1850; Tishomingo Deed Book M: 219, FHL Film 0,895875, deed dated 18 Nov 1848, Samuel and Mary Rankin acknowledged it the same day. It was their last appearance in person in Tishomingo.

[31] Tishomingo Deed Book 2: 588, FHL Film 0,895,389.

[32] In the 1861 tax list for Jefferson Co., AR (which I viewed at the county courthouse in Rison, AR), Samuel Rankin was taxed on 280 acres. In 1862 and 1865, his son Joseph S. Rankin was taxed on that acreage, although there was no deed conveying it. Samuel and Mary’s youngest child, Frances Elizabeth (“Lizzie”), was born in Feb. 1862, see 1900 U.S. census, Cleveland Co., AR, household of Robbert Bearden.

[33] 1870 U.S. census, Jefferson Co., Mary F. Rankin, cannot read or write. Compare the 1870 the census for LBE Jr. (Alcorn Co., MS), Henderson Estes (McLennan Co., TX), John Esthers (sic, Nacogdoches Co., TX), Lucretia Derryberry (Little River Co., AR, where the census taker marked the literacy columns exactly backward); see also 1900 census, Martha Swain (McLennan Co.).

[34] https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&amp;GRid=7127018&amp;ref=acom

[35] 1900 U.S. census, McLennan Co., TX, Martha Swain, b. Sep 1819, widow, age 80, farmer (!!!), has had nine children, 2 living.

[36] Waco Weekly Tribune, Waco, Texas, Saturday, March 11, 1905, p. 11.

[37] Id.; see also note 35.

[38] 1837 Mississippi State census, Tishomingo, Wilson Swain, listing #65 (next to Samuel Rankin), 1 male 18 < 21, 1 female > 16, and 2 females < 16; 1840 U.S. census, Tishomingo, household of Wilson Swain, 1 male, 20 < 30, 1 female, 15 < 20, and 2 females < 5; Tishomingo Deed Book S: 340, deed dated 1 Jan 1846 from Wilson Swain to Seaborn Jones signed by Wilson Swain and Martha Ann Swain.

[39] 1850 census, Tishomingo, household adjacent to Nancy A. Estes, Martha Swain, 30, b. AL, with Nancy Swain, 13, Mary Swain, 10, Bacon Swain, 4, Armistead Swain, 2, and Josephine Swain, 1, all children b. MS; 1860 census, Tishomingo, household adjacent to LBE Jr., Martha A. Swain, 42, farmer, b. TN, with Nancy J. Swain, 22, Mary A. Swain, 20, Bacon Swain, 14, Annista (sic, Armistead, male), 12, and Martha, 11, all children b. MS; 1870 census, Alcorn Co., Martha Swain, 50, farmer, b. TN, with Nancy Swain, 30, MS, Mary Swain, 27, MS, Lucius? Swain, should be Lyddal Bacon, 25, MS, Martha Swain, 25, MS, and Alice Swain, 4 (not Martha’s child).

[40] Tishomingo Deed Book R: 18, FHL Film 0,095,878, deed from L. B. Estes and wife Elvira C. C. Estes to Martha Swain, 160 acres for $472; Alcorn Deed Book AA: 563; Alcorn Deed Book 1: 176 and 184.

[41] Alcorn Co. Deed Book 2: 436, FHL Film 0,895,389, deed dated 11 Dec 1871, quitclaim for $1.

[42] https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=pv&GRid=35256937&PIpi=16426853.

[43] Barnes, Marriages of Old Tishomingo County, Mississippi or Tishomingo County Mississippi Marriage records 1837 – 1900 (Ripley, MS: Old Timer Press). I am not sure which abstract I used.

[44] Tishomingo Deed Book M: 188, FHL Film 0,895,875, deed dated 23 Sep 1858 from the Derryberrys to Henderson Estes conveying all their interest in LBE’s land.

[45] 1850 U.S. census, Tishomingo, H. B. Derryberry, 28, farmer, b. TN, Lucretia Derryberry, 29, b. AL, Isaac Derryberry, 6, Nancy Derryberry, 4, Virginia Derryberry, 2, and Martha Derryberry, 6 months, all children b. MS.

[46] 1860 U.S. census, Nacogdoches Co., TX, Henderson Derryberry, farmer, 37, $862, b. TN, Lucretia Derryberry, 38, b. TN, Isaac Derryberry, 14, Nancy Derryberry, 12, Virginia Derryberry, 11, Carolina Derryberry, 9, Calvin Derryberry, 7, William Derryberry 5, Gilbert Derryberry, 4, and John Derryberry, 1, all children b. MS except for John, b. Arkansas.

[47] 1870 U.S. census, Little River Co., AR, Henderson Derryberry, 45, b. TN, Lucretia Derryberry, 44, b. MS, Isaac Derryberry, 26, Catherine Derryberry, 24, Andelina Derryberry, 23, Caroline Derryberry, 20, Scott Derryberry, 19, Anderson Derryberry, 14, and John Derryberry, 12, all children b. MS except for John, b. AR.

[48] 1880 U.S. census, Little River, H. D. B. Derryberry, 58, b. TN, wife Lucresa Derryberry, 59, b. TN, and granddaughter Martha Derryberry, b. AR, father b. TN, mother b. MO.

[49] Pauline S. Murrie, Marriage Records of Nacogdoches County, Texas 1824-1881 (1968).

[50] Nacogdoches Co. Deed Book W: 505, FHL Film 1,003,601, deed dated 15 Apr 1872 from Ava Ann Estes to William Parish, all her right to a tract of land known as the estate of David Parish dec’d. Signed Ava Ann and John Estes.

[51] Carolyn Reeves Ericson, 1854 School Census of Nacogdoches County. The U.S. census records are inconsistent: the 1860 census says he was born in Alabama, the 1870 census says Mississippi.

[52] Tishomingo Deed Book Q: 305, FHL Film 0,895,878.

[53] 1870 U.S. census, Nacogdoches Co., TX, household of John Esthers, sic, 48, with Ann Estes, 50, Nancy Estes, 11, and William Somers, 20; 1880 U.S. census, household of her brother David Parrish, Avy Ann Esthes, [sic] 59, and Nancy A. Esthes, 19.

[54] Cockran, History of Old Tishomingo County, says that Henderson Estes was a Captain in the 11th MS Cavalry, Co. A, and that Toney Estes was 1st Lieut. That is consistent with their military records from the National Archives. Allen W. was originally a Sergeant, but had been promoted to Captain by the time he fought at the Battle of Ezra Church.

[55] Barnes, Marriages of Old Tishomingo County, Mississippi.

[56] Alcorn Co., MS Deed Book 4: 473, original of deed book viewed at the county courthouse in Corinth.

[57] Alcorn Co., MS Deed Book 8: 29, original of deed book viewed at the county courthouse in Corinth.

[58] McLennan Co., TX Probate Packet #2757, original viewed at the county clerk’s office in Waco.

[59] 1850 U.S. census, Tishomingo Co., E. Byers, 24, farmer, b. AL, Alsadonia [sic, Alsadora] Byers, 20, b. MS, Mary Byers, 4, b. MS, Francis Byers, 2, b. MS, Joseph Byers, 2 months, b. MS.

[60] Tishomingo Deed Book H: 417, FHL Film 0,895,875.

[61] Tishomingo Deed Book Q: 307, FHL Film 0,895,878.

[62] Tishomingo Deed Book 2: 590, FHL Film 0,895,389.

Who Were the Parents of Lyddal Bacon Estes of Tishomingo Co., MS?

A post on this website in June 2016 (see it here) dealt with three men named Lyddal Bacon Estes or Lyddal Estes who have been the subject of considerable “same name confusion.” One of the three was the Lyddal Bacon Estes (hereafter, “LBE”) who married “Nancy” Ann Allen Winn in 1814 and then moved to Madison County, AL (probably), McNairy County, TN, and Tishomingo County, MS, where he died.

At the end of the post about the three Lyddals, I promised to address the question of LBE’s parents, who are unproved. Better late than never, I hope.

First, let’s dispose of the erroneous theories. Some trees on Ancestry.com identify LBE’s parents as Benjamin and Frances Bacon Estes, a “same name confusion” issue: Ben and Frances were the parents of Dr. L. B. Estes of Maury Co., TN — not LBE of Tishomingo. Other trees on Ancestry identify LBE’s father as Chesley Estes, another son of Benjamin and Frances Bacon Estes. However, Chesley never married; he lived with his parents most of his life. There are also researchers who identify Lyddal Estes of Troup County, GA as LBE’s father, a theory that is disproved by the locations/migration patterns of the two men.

It’s usually not difficult to disprove incorrect theories. It’s not as easy to formulate a good one and marshal convincing evidence. Moreover, the uncertainty about LBE’s parents is understandable, since there appears to be no conclusive proof that I have found. Any theory about his parents must consequently be deemed speculative. My own theory relies largely on the process of elimination, which is a tough sell, proof-wise.

Let’s begin this quest for LBE’s parents with some undisputed facts about him that are relevant to the issue.

Place of birth: LBE was born in Virginia, according to five of his children who survived to participate in the 1880 or 1900 census, both of which reported the birth state of each person’s parents.[1]

Date of birth: 1790 – 1794. The 1830 and 1840 censuses establish that LBE was born during 1790 – 1800.[2] He first appeared on the Lunenburg personal property tax lists in 1815, at which time free males were taxable beginning at age twenty-one. That suggests that he was born in 1793-94, assuming that he was listed when he first reached taxable age. However, close examination of the tax lists reveals almost routine failure to report young adult males in a timely fashion. In any event, LBE was undoubtedly at least age twenty-one by 1815, the year after he married. Thus, the tax list and the census records establish that LBE was born in 1790 or after, but not later than 1794 (or he would not have been taxable in 1815).

Date and place of marriage: LBE was identified as a resident of Lunenburg in 1814 when he and Nancy were married there that year.

Other: LBE never owned any land in Lunenburg. Since he was a Lunenburg resident in 1814, he must have been living in another’s household prior to his marriage, almost certainly with his family of origin (if still living).

On those facts, the best bet in genealogy is that LBE belongs to the line of Robert Estes Sr., a son of the immigrant Abraham Estes and his wife Barbara LNU. Robert Sr. was the only one of Abraham’s sons who migrated to Lunenburg and stayed there until he died.[3] All of the Estes men who lived in Lunenburg during the last quarter of the eighteenth century can be identified as Robert Sr.’s descendants with considerable confidence. Given LBE’s unusual name, it is also reasonable to presume that he belongs somewhere in the line of Frances Bacon (niece of Lyddal Bacon) and her husband Benjamin Estes, a son of Robert Sr. In light of LBE’s date of birth, he would probably have been Frances and Benjamin’s grandson, whose children were born beginning in 1758.[4]

But that’s getting ahead of the story. The obvious first place to look for LBE’s parents was in Lunenburg probate records. However, I found none that shed any light on the issue. The Lunenburg deed, court and tax records were similarly unproductive.

Census records were the last alternative, although some assumptions are necessary since the census prior to 1850 names only the head of household. Specifically, I assume (or hope?) that LBE’s father was still alive and living in Lunenburg in 1810, and that LBE was residing in his household. With those assumptions, it might be possible to identify LBE’s family of origin by spotting him in a household in the 1810 census. (There is no extant Lunenburg census for 1800.)

There were seven Estes men enumerated as heads of households in the 1810 Lunenburg census:

  1. Abraham Estes, over 45, thus born by 1765, a proved son of Robert Estes Jr. and a grandson of Robert Estes Sr.
  2. Benjamin Estes, over 45, with a second male over 45 in his household, . Benjamin is a proved son of Robert Estes Sr.; Chesley, the second male, is Benjamin’s son, born in 1762.[5]
  3. Elisha Estes, age 26 < 45, thus born between 1765 and 1784. He moved to Maury County, TN and then appeared in Giles County, created from Maury. The 1850 and 1860 censuses indicate he was born 1784-1785.[6] The identity of his parents is not proved, so far as I know. He is almost certainly the Elisha Estes who was bondsman for the 1814 marriage of LBE and Nancy, and is likely (IMO) LBE’s elder brother.
  4. John Estes, over age 45. John was a proved son of Robert Sr.’s son Elisha (not the same man as the Elisha named immediately above).[7]
  5. Thomas Estes, over age 45. Thomas is a son of either Robert Sr.’s son Elisha or George. Both Elisha and George had sons named Thomas. I have not found conclusive evidence one way or the other which one is the man who was still in Lunenburg in 1810.
  6. Matthew Estes, over 45, a proved son of Robert Estes Jr.
  7. Samuel Estes, over 45, a proved son of Robert Estes Jr.

LBE, born during 1790 through 1794, would have been enumerated in the 16 < 26 age bracket in the 1810 census. There are only two people in the above list, both of whom were grandsons of Robert Estes Sr., whose household included a male in that age category: John (son of Elisha) and Samuel (son of Robert Jr.). Samuel can be eliminated as a reasonable candidate to be LBE’s father because he left Lunenburg shortly after the 1810 census, and was therefore no longer in Lunenburg when LBE married Nancy there in 1814.[8] Samuel moved to Madison County, Tennessee, and his children are well established by a lawsuit concerning his estate.[9] They do not include a son named Lyddal Bacon Estes.

If, in fact, LBE was (as assumed) living in his father’s household in Lunenburg in 1810, that leaves John Estes, son of Elisha, as the only Estes head of household who is a reasonable candidate to be LBE’s father. John is the last man standing, so to speak.

John Estes, son of Elisha Estes and grandson of Robert Estes Sr.

So what do we know about John Estes? Although the Lunenburg records establish that John spent his entire adult life there, they don’t reveal much about him. He evidently died sometime between 1840 and 1850, when he disappeared from the census. I have found no record of a will or estate administration for him.

The Lunenburg deed records and land tax lists establish that John never owned any land there. He appeared in the deed records only once, when he mortgaged some property in 1822. The pledged property included five feather beds, suggesting a reasonably large family.[10] He was not terribly poor, because he did not apply for a Revolutionary War pension until 1833, after the law was changed to remove the requirement that an applicant had to prove he was destitute to qualify.

John’s pension application indicates that he was born February 7, 1756 in Louisa County, Virginia. He served two tours, having been drafted in September 1777 and again on January 1781, both times from Lunenburg.[11] His war record included no major battles, and his most colorful military memory was of a colonel who rode in front of the troops waving his hat when he discharged them from service. John continued to live in Lunenburg after the War. His pension affidavit was attested on 11 February 1833, which confirms along with the details of his testimony that he is the John Estes who was enumerated in Lunenburg in each census from 1810 through 1840.[12]

John was married at least twice and perhaps three times: (1) Mary Estes (bond dated 23 Jan 1778), (2) perhaps Elizabeth Pamplin (9 March 1804), and (3) maybe Patsy Locke (16 Oct 1806), all Lunenburg marriage bonds. Some researchers identify John Harrod Estes, a son of Benjamin and Frances Bacon Estes, as the man who married both Elizabeth Pamplin and Patsy Locke. They might well be correct. However, John Harrod Estes typically used his middle initial, while the marriage bonds for both Elizabeth and Patsy just identify the groom as John Estes, with no middle initial.[13]

It is impossible to say for certain that the groom in both the marriage to Elizabeth and to Patsy was John, son of Elisha. However, Elisha’s son John was surely one of them, because his household in 1820 included six children born between 1810 and 1820.[14] Those six were not likely the children of the Mary Estes who married John in 1778, who would have been past childbearing age by then (and, if I am right about her identity, died in 1799).

Taken together, the census records for 1810 and 1820 suggest that John may have had thirteen children and/or stepchildren, possibly more, since some children born to his 1778 marriage to Mary would most likely have left his household before the 1810 census (including, in my opinion, a son Elisha). In short, it is quite possible and at least reasonably likely – although still speculative – that John Estes, a proved son of Elisha and grandson of Robert Sr., was LBE’s father.[15]

Question: who was the Mary Estes who married John in 1778?

Answer: his first cousin Mary Estes, who was identified by Charles Estes in Estes Genealogies as a daughter of Benjamin and Frances Bacon Estes. She was the only Mary Estes who was “available” to be John’s bride in 1778. The other young women named Mary Estes (also granddaughters of Robert Estes Sr.) either married someone else, moved away, or were not available to marry John because of close kinship. The process of elimination – the only apparent way to reach that conclusion – is a bit tedious and fairly lengthy, so I will put it in a footnote with a bit of information on the sons of Robert Estes Sr.[16]

The bottom line is that, among the Lunenburg Estes families, only Benjamin Estes and his wife Frances Bacon had an unmarried daughter named Mary who resided in Lunenburg and was “available” to marry John Estes. According to Estes Genealogies, Mary was born in 1761 and died in 1799. In 1778, she was of marriageable age – seventeen – and her family lived on Couch’s Creek on a tract immediately adjacent to Elisha Estes and his son John.[17] Mary had undoubtedly known John, her first cousin, all her life. She was still alive when LBE was born in 1790-94. Finally, Mary had a brother named Lyddal Bacon Estes (namely, Doctor L. B. Estes of Maury Co., TN) and a prominent great-uncle named Lyddal Bacon. It would not be the least bit surprising for Mary to name a son Lyddal Bacon Estes.

At the risk of beating a dead horse, I would like to close by emphasizing again that my conclusion – that LBE was a son of John Estes and his cousin Mary Estes – must be deemed ***speculative***. Unfortunately, with no probate records for John, no known family Bible, no gift deeds identifying a parent-child relationship, and no tax lists identifying taxable males in John’s household by name, there appears to be no conclusive proof of the identities of his children. However, anyone who traces his or her Estes ancestry to a brick wall in Lunenburg should consider taking a hard look at John and Mary or a later wife! I would be happy to trade information with anyone who is interested in that possibility.

[1] 1880 census, Brown Co., TX, listing for Benjamin Estes, b. VA, both parents b. VA; 1880 census, McLennan Co., TX, listing for Lydal P. [sic] Estes, b. TN, both parents b. VA; 1880 census, Little River Co., AR, listing for H. D. B. Derryberry and wife Lucresa Derryberry, b. TN, both parents b. VA; 1880 census, Dorsey Co., AR, listing for Robert Bearden with mother-in-law Mary Rankin, b. AL, both parents b. VA; 1900 census, McLennan Co., TX, listing for Martha Swain, b. MS, both parents b. VA.

[2] 1830 census, McNairy Co., TN, p. 119, listing for Lyddal B. Estes, age 30 < 40; 1840 census, Tishomingo Co., MS, p. 231, L. B. Estes, age 40 < 50.

[3] Elisha Estes Sr., brother of Robert Sr., lived in Lunenburg briefly prior to 1772 along with his son William and William’s child Lyddal Estes, later of Troup Co., GA.

[4] Estes Genealogies gives precise dates of birth for the ten children of Benjamin and Frances Estes.

[5] Chesley was listed by name in the 1810 Lunenburg personal property tax list, but not as a head of household in the census. He owned no land, so he was undoubtedly living with family. His father Benjamin’s household is the only Estes census profile with two males in the over-45 age category.

[6] 1850 census, Giles Co., TN, p. 348, listing for Elisha Estes, age 65, b. VA; 1860 census, Giles Co., TN, p. 22, Elisha Estes, 76, b. VA.

[7] For information about Robert Estes Sr.’s son Elisha and his family, see Robin Rankin Willis, Estes Trails, Vol. XXIII, No. 2, June 2005, p. 11 – 16, “Using the Tax Lists to Correct Longstanding Published Errors: Elisha Estes of Lunenburg County, Virginia.”

[8] Samuel and his wife Rebecca sold their 213.25-acre Lunenburg tract in August 1810, the last year Samuel was taxed on that acreage. Lunenburg Deed Book 22: 97, deed of 8 Aug 1810 from Samuel Estes and wife Rebecca of Lunenburg conveying 213.25-acre tract. Samuel was taxed on 213.25 acres in 1806, 1807, 1809 and 1810.

[9] See Joy Herron, Estes Trails, Vol. XXIV, No. 2, June 2006, p. 5-7, “Samuel Estes Family,” and Robin Rankin Willis, Estes Trails, Vol. XXIV, No. 3, Sept 2006, p. 11- 21, “The Estes Family of Lunenburg, Virginia and Samuel Estes Sr. of Madison County, Tennessee.”

[10] June Banks Evans, abstract of Lunenburg Deed Book 25: 440, deed of trust.

[11] John Frederick Dorman, Virginia Revolutionary Pension Applications, Vol. 34 (Washington, D.C.: 1980) at 52.

[12] Lunenburg Co. census listings for John Estes in 1810 (p. 642, 21101-20010), 1820 (p. 165, 220001-4101), 1830 (p. 9, 0012100001-00121001), and 1840 (p. 281, 00002000001-10000001, with John listed as a Revolutionary War veteran, age 84).

[13] See, e.g., Maury Co., TN, Will Book A-1: 220, debtors of the estate of Dr. Lyddal B. Estes included John H. Estes; 1830 census, Maury Co., p. 47, listing for John H. Easters.

[14] 1820 census, Lunenburg Co., VA, p. 165, listing for John Estes, 220001-4101.

[15] Elisha’s son John was the only John Estes of marriageable age in Lunenburg in 1778. Further, the bondsman at the marriage of John Estes and Mary Estes in 1778 was John White, the husband of Elisha’s daughter Francis Estes White. FHL Film 30,804, Charlotte Co., VA Order Book 16: 175, lawsuit naming Elisha’s heirs.

[16] The six sons of Robert Estes Sr. who survived him were Robert Jr., Elisha, George, Bartlett, Zachariah, and Benjamin. (1) Robert Estes Jr., whose 1784 will named his children, had no daughter Mary. June Banks Evans, abstract of Lunenburg Will Book 3: 387, will of Robert Estes Jr., naming sons Abraham, Benjamin, Matthew, Bartlett and Samuel and daughters Sarah, Elizabeth and Martha Estes. (2) Elisha Estes, the father of John, had a daughter named Mary, but she married a man named Anthony Hundley – and she was obviously not a candidate to marry her brother John in any event. Charlotte Co., VA Court Order Book 16: 175, lawsuit naming Elisha’s heirs. (3) George Estes, who died about 1777, had a daughter Mary who had married either James Moore or William Thompson by 1791. See 10 Jun 1791 account of the orphans of George Estes, Lunenburg Will Book 4: 8b, listing payments to George Estes, James Moore & wife Nancy, Wm. Dixon & wife Francis, Thomas Estes, Bartlett Estes, Wm. Rudder & wife Milly, Wm. Thompson & wife Mary. Another record identifies Mr. Moore’s wife as Mary. In any event, George’s daughter Mary did not marry John Estes in 1778. (4) Bartlett Estes most likely had no children. He was definitely not married when his father Robert Sr. wrote his 1775 will. He died intestate in 1796, the Lunenburg probate records do not identify a wife or heirs, and his estate inventory strongly suggests he was a bachelor. Bartlett was unmarried when his father Robert Estes Sr. wrote his will. Robert Sr. attempted to structure his will so that the spouses of the sons and son-in-law whom he deemed irresponsible would have no control over their inheritance. Instead, Robert Sr.’s will attempted to devise property to their spouses. Bartlett clearly had no spouse who could fill that role, because Robert Sr. provided instead that Bartlett must give security “for the return [of his inheritance] to estate in case he does not entirely refrain from drunkenness and gaming.” Lunenburg Will Book 2: 417. Bartlett doesn’t sound like an attractive marriage prospect. See also July 1796 inventory of Bartlett’s estate, Lunenburg Will Book 4: 136b. (5) Zachariah or Zachary Estes made his last appearance in the Lunenburg tax lists in 1769 and moved away well before John and Mary Estes married. (6) Benjamin Estes and his wife Frances Bacon had, according to Estes Genealogies, a daughter Mary Estes, born January 22, 1761 and died October 12, 1799.

[17] Landon C. Bell, Cumberland Parish, Lunenburg County, Virginia 1746 – 1816, Vestry Book, 1746 – 1816 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1994, originally published in Richmond, VA, 1930), vestry book entry of 15 April 1784, the boundary line between Benjamin Estes and Elisha Estes was processioned. See also FHL Film 32,393, deed of 14 May 1778 from Robert and Elisha Estes of Lunenburg, executors of the estate of Robert Estes Sr., to Benjamin Estes, 92 acres on Couches Creek; FHL Film 32,393, Lunenburg Deed Book 13: 92, 93, deeds conveying 170 acres on Couches Cr. from the estate of Robert Estes Sr. to Nicholas Hobson and then to Elisha Estes.

Two Rankin Revolutionary War Pension Applications

Robert Rankin of McNairy Co., TN and Robert Rankin of Gibson Co. TN

A comment from a reader on an earlier post illustrated how easy it is to confuse some of the Rankins who lived in North Carolina and Tennessee in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. That includes two men named Robert Rankin who fought in the Revolutionary War. They were both originally from North Carolina and then moved to Tennessee about 1825 – 1830.

I wrote about these men in two different articles on this website, which undoubtedly made it more difficult to distinguish between them. Who can remember which Robert is which? To clear up the confusion, let’s revisit each man briefly to contrast their histories and pension applications. We will look first at the man I call “Rev. War Robert Rankin” and then his fellow soldier “Mystery Robert Rankin.” There is no proved family relationship between these two men, although their descendants are a very close Y-DNA match (assuming that I am correct about Mystery Robert’s identity).

Rev. War Robert Rankin of Rowan/Guilford, NC and McNairy, TN (1759 – 1840)[1]

Rev. War Robert was a son of George and Lydia Steele Rankin of Rowan/Guilford County, North Carolina.[2] He married twice: first, to Mary (“Polly”) Cusick, probably in the early 1780s, and then to Mary Moody in 1803.[3]

He applied for a Revolutionary War pension in McNairy Co., TN on May 20, 1833.[4] Among other things, he testified as follows:

  • He was born in Guilford Co., NC on May 29, 1759 (at the time, it was Rowan County; Guilford wasn’t created until 1770).
  • He was in the battle of Guilford Courthouse on March 15, 1781.
  • He lived in Guilford until 1830 and then moved to McNairy County, Tennessee, where he was residing when he applied for a pension.

Here is an online transcription of his full pension application (and additional information from his widow’s application) prepared by Will Graves. Rev. War Robert died in McNairy County and  is buried in Bethel Springs Cemetery, see military tombstone here.[5] For more information on Rev. War Robert and his children, see the article at this link discussing him and three other men named Robert Rankin from the Guilford County line of Robert and Rebecca Rankin.

“Mystery Robert Rankin” of Gibson County, TN (1748 – after 1835)[6]

I refer to the second Robert Rankin as “Mystery Robert” because his family of origin is not proved. In fact, the records of Gibson County, Tennessee, where he filed for a Revolutionary War pension, reveal very little about him. I found no probate records naming Robert, one gift deed in which he may or may not have been the grantor, and no court records other than his pension application. He only appeared in the 1830 census and a few tax records in Gibson County.

One thing, however, is certain: the Robert Rankin who applied for a Revolutionary War pension from McNairy County, Tennessee (“Rev. War Robert”) was not the same man as Robert Rankin of Gibson County, Tennessee (“Mystery Robert”). Their pension applications leave no doubt about that.

Mystery Robert testified in open court on September 7, 1832 in support of his application. He said this, inter alia:

  • He was 84 years old, and thus born about 1748.
  • He served in the North Carolina militia. This almost certainly means that he lived in North Carolina when he enlisted.
  • He was in the battle of Ramsour’s Mill, where, he testified, “I lost a brother, killed by the Tories.” That battle took place in June 1780 in Lincoln County, NC.

You can find his pension application testimony online here, also transcribed by Will Graves.

Most of the patriot troops who fought at Ramsour’s Mill were from Iredell County, NC. About forty patriots died in that battle. The Philip Langenhour (I am uncertain of the spelling of that surname) papers owned by the Iredell Genealogical Society in Statesville establish that one of the dead patriots was named Rankin. Other Iredell and Lincoln County records lead to the conclusion that a James Rankin died at Ramsour’s, and that he was a son of David and Margaret Rankin of Iredell.[7] David and Margaret also had a son named Robert, who appeared frequently in the Iredell County records through the 1820s and then disappeared without leaving any probate records. Given the real and personal property ownership of the Iredell Rankin family, it is unlikely that Robert died there. Instead, he probably moved on.

The evidence strongly suggests that Robert, son of David and Margaret Rankin, moved to Gibson County, Tennessee, where he stated in his pension application that he had a brother who died in the battle of Ramsour’s Mill. I marshaled the evidence for that conclusion in this article.

I hope you will take the time to read the pension applications of these two men. The amount of detail these old vets recalled is amazing – in 1832 or 1833, a full half-century after their service. I shouldn’t be surprised, though. My husband is a Vietnam vet, and it is abundantly clear that a war experience leaves one with very strong memories.

See you on down the road! The Rankins and I are not yet finished with each other … <grin>

[1] National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 4, December 1937, Revolutionary War Pension Applications. The pension application of Robert Rankin of McNairy Co., TN gave his date of birth as May 29, 1759. His widow, in her pension application, said he died on Dec. 21, 1840.

[2] Rowan County, NC Will Book A: 141, will of George Rankin dated May 1760, proved Oct 1760, naming minor sons John and Robert and wife Lydia; autobiography of Rev. War Robert’s brother John Rankin, “Auto-biography of John Rankin, Sen.” (South Union, Ky., 1845), transcribed in Harvey L. Eads, ed., History of the South Union Shaker Colony from 1804 to 1836 (South Union, Ky., 1870), Shaker Museum at South Union, Auburn, Kentucky. The autobiography identifies Lydia Steele as George Rankin’s wife and the mother of John and Robert Rankin.

[3] See Guilford, NC Will Book B: 435, will of William Cusick naming three daughters of Robert Rankin (Lydia, Isbel and Thankful) and testator’s deceased daughter Polly Cusick Rankin; National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 4, December 1937, Revolutionary War Pension Applications, identifying Rev. War Robert’s second wife as Mary Moody, married in Guilford County Nov. 22, 1803.

[4] Id., National Genealogical Society Quarterly.

[5] The Findagrave site claims that Rev. War Robert married Mary (“Polly”) Cusick in 1781, although there seems to be no evidence in the records for a specific year. A compiled Rankin family history by Gregg Moore and Forney Rankin makes that claim without citing any records, so far as I know.

[6] Gibson County Robert’s pension application states his age, establishing his date of birth as about 1748. He was on the Tennessee pension roll in 1835, and may have been the grantor in an 1837 deed and a poll on the 1838 Gibson tax list.

[7] See the evidence concerning the family of David Rankin and his sons Robert and James Rankin in this article.