Important to our understanding of the family of Benjamin Rush, the following grouping of entries appear in the November 1819 minutes of Chatham County, North Carolina:
On 23 Oct 1799, Benjamin Rush of Franklin County purchased 640 acres adjoining Avent Ferry lands on the south side of the Cape Fear River. And then, dated April 28, 1801 in Chatham County, Benjamin Rush’s will and testament names his second wife Elizabeth Rush, son William Rush, daughter Ann Peyton, daughter Elizabeth Terrell, daughter Alice Devaney, daughter Amy Stringfellow, son Benjamin Rush and three daughters, Ruth, Judie, and Elizabeth.
Note the will names Elizabeth twice. First mentioned is “Daughter Elizabeth Teril” and at the end of the will, “Elizabeth” is mentioned as being one of Benjamin Rush’s three daughters. Did he have more than three daughters? Are these both referring to one person or two distinctly different children named Elizabeth? Is it possible one daughter Elizabeth was born to Alice Griggs, Benjamin Rush’s first wife while the second was born to his second wife Elizabeth who is mentioned in the will? That’s not a far-fetched possibility and it appears from record there actually were two children named Elizabeth.
Comparing the court entries to the last will and testament, it is easily assumed that Benjamin and Elizabeth Rush’s daughter Judith married a Thomas. And later, court and land records prove that Hardy Christian married daughter Ruth or Ruthy Rush. On 9 May 1817 Christian Hardy and Rutha sold to Sylvanus Stokes land in Brunswick Co. VA. The conveyance was for her dower right following the death of her first husband Wm B. STOKES. So, once again, we see death and a second go round at marriage. And of that event, as commonly occurs in this hobby, that fact is discussed nicely in published research by a respected family historian and friend. Take a look at Tammie Hudson Rabun’s post on the life of William and Ruthy’s daughter Hannah Stokes as told in “A Trip to Chatham County.”
In 1821, Ruthy and husband Hardy Christian sold their one-third inheritance of the Benjamin Rush estate to Thomas Springfield. The deed mentions the land as being “one third part of all that tract of land formerly owned by Benjamin Rush Sen Dec’d and from him descended to his son Benjamin Rush who is since deceased and has now descended to his three sisters, Ruthy Christian, Elizabeth Perkins, and Judith Avent, which land is at present occupied by the wife of the said Benjamin Rush Senr, dec’d.” This passage indicates that the three girls’ brother named Benjamin Rush had died by 1821.
Benjamin Rush Sr. in the above, the son of another Benjamin, is at times referred to as both senior and junior. The first in the line died in the 1760s, so the deed could not be referring to him as being the senior. Instead, it appears from the deed that the Benjamin Rush who died in 1801 Chatham was the senior and that he had a son of same name who must have died prior to the above mentioned 1821 deed.
Looking at family pages online, it appears many believe the young son Benjamin moved to Montgomery County NC where he died in 1827. Either the date of 1827 is wrong or that Benjamin is not the son of Benjamin Rush who dies in 1801.
And from the above court entries, who is James Perkins who the young Elizabeth Rush married and how does he fit into the family? The 1850 Chatham County census enumerates James Perkins as born 1791 with wife Elizabeth born 1801. That is a match. Is this the same Elizabeth mentioned as being among the three daughters of Benjamin Rush? It appears that, if so, she was born near the time of her father’s death. Found in the newspapers:
The Spirit of the Age, Raleigh NC, 29 Sep 1862
At the residence of her husband, on Buckhorn, Chatham County, N. C.; Aug. 18th, 1862 Mrs. Elizabeth Perkins. She had been for many years a consistent member of the M. E. Church, South. Although feeble in body she was strong in faith, and we doubt not has entered into the rest prepared for the faithful. She leaves an aged and afflicted husband together with many friends and relations to mourn her demise. A FRIEND
James Perkins died later leaving an 1873 will and testament in which Archibald Murphy Yarborough was appointed executor. And note that A. M. Yarborough had purchased land adjoining the Rush estate from Glover Avent who had acquired it from his parents Joseph and Judith Rush Avent.
And now, looking back to Judith who is mentioned in the above court entry, what is her story? Family along the river hold rightfully to Judith Rush as marrying Joseph Avent following the death of her first husband whose surname was “Thomas.” Born 15 Feb 1798, Judith’s grave marker at Memphis Methodist records her death as 11 Sep 1868. At the foot of the old carved stone is a concrete marker stating that Judith was the “wife of Joseph N. Avent and William Thomas.” Born in 1798 and mentioned as being a “Thomas,” Judith in the 1819 court entry is identified as marrying and losing her husband before she reached the age of 21 years.
The only person in the area fitting the bill is William B. Thomas believed to be the son of the elder Joseph Thomas. William’s father was either Joseph or his son John. William B. Thomas lived in Moore County before moving to Marion County Georgia after 1830. William married Mary Shepard per the will and testament of her father John Shepard (written in Georgia). However, it appears the couple may have divorced or for some other reason split as they were living separately in 1850. Could a similar scenario have played out earlier with William leaving a first wife Judith? That idea is only a guess, a stretch, yet a possibility.
Another thought. Many of us with kin from early Chatham/Moore Counties know of Grissom Thomas. Born 1783. Both the 1850 and 1860 census state he was born in Virginia. It appears Grissom is not a member of the Joseph Thomas family from Bertie as they were in Wake County at the time of Grissom’s birth. Also, DNA verifies the two families as being different; it is impossible for them to be blood kin. With that established, where did Grissom come from? Knowing Benjamin Rush had ties to the Thomas family back in Virginia is it possible that Grissom is connected? I have no answers to that question though maybe someday Y-DNA will make the case one way or the other.
Now, looking beyond Chatham, chasing the distant past of Benjamin Rush and others who may have made the trip south out of Virginia, pieces of a new and different kind of puzzle have found their way onto my desk.
Years ago, Barbara J. Thomas pleaded with me to look at Benjamin Thomas who died in Franklin County. At that time, I was wrapped up in other projects, unable to realize the possibility of ties she suggested.
Barbara learned of a family bible that had been discovered in town of Eden behind some hand-crafted fireplace mantle removed for repurposing. The bible mentioned her family descending from Benjamin Thomas of Franklin County NC. There are ties to the Rush family as well as possible links to other families out of Bertie County. Through dogged persistence, Barbara succeeded in acquiring the Bible which is now back in the Thomas family hands. Here is the record as it appears in the Franklin County NC USGenweb page:
Benjamin Thomas was born July 22, 1724
Catherine Thomas his wife was born January 3, 1719
Elisabeth Thomas was born November 28, 1748 –(she was the wife of Richard Duty Granville Co N C )
Susanna Thomas was born February 10, 1751 – ( she is the wife of Turner Harris ) Tombstone has been found with her name Susannah Harris 2/10/1751- 5/1/1799 Montgomery Co N C
Hannah Thomas was born April 1753 – ( she is the wife or Richard Bell) Can’t prove yet)
William Thomas was born February 5, 1755
Benjamin Thomas was born March 1757
John Thomas was born February 1759 – wife was Phyllis Bassett Milles
Anne Thomas was born March 5, 1761 – Martha Anne Ragsdale wife of Baxter Ragsdale II
Jabez Duty was born September 1, 1781
Rachel Duty was born December 28, 1784
Elizabeth Duty was born November 10, 1786
Sam Duty was born June 14, 1789
Sarah Duty was born May 1795
As it turns out, Benjamin Thomas’ wife, born 22 Jul 1724, is possibly Catherine Rush. The proof is honestly not there, though it is possible she is the sister of Benjamin Rush who died in 1801 Chatham County.
From the 1842 division of the Elizabeth Rush lands (widow of Benjamin Rush) as seen more completely on Roots & Branches – my nc family archives, Micajah Thomas Hawkins is shown owning 165 acres
“whereas Elizabeth Rush dec’d late of said county died about the 15th day of April 1841 being possessed of at the time of her death in dower right a tract of land in the southwest side of Cape Fear River containing by estimation and survey this day made by Nathaniel Clegg County Surveyor 665 acres and whereas by the death of the said Elizabeth Rush the aforesaid lands became the property of Joseph Avent and Micajah T. Hawkins jr, alias Joseph Hawkins heir at law of Col Joseph Hawkins dec’d .”
That is an important passage! In 1824, Chatham County deeds record a conveyance from James Perkins and others to Joseph Hawkins. Remember, James Perkins married Elizabeth, the baby girl of Benjamin and Elizabeth Rush.
This gets really confusing fast and I have found nowhere online that begins to put together what I’m about to lay out. That is, the above document mentions two men of name Joseph. The first being Col. Joseph Hawkins while the youngest was his namesake heir. And yet it will be shown there were later generations of the name Joseph. The elder or deceased was Joseph H. Hawkins who was powerfully known with an equally powerful brother named Micajah Thomas Hawkins selling the land on his behalf. Identified in record as being Joseph H. Hawkins, his name was recorded repeatedly as “Col. Joseph H. Hawkins” …just as appears in the conveyance. By the way, the name “Micajah Thomas” likely comes from an aunt Ann Hawkins who married General Micajah Thomas. That’s a hole other family and story for another day.
Living primarily in Warrenton, Joseph H. Hawkins owned large amounts of land in Franklin, Johnston, Cumberland, Moore, Chatham and Wake Counties. From 1820-1825, Joseph purchased lands in Chatham County from Jonathan Harrelson, Phillip Alston, Robert Hinsely, James A. Ramsey, Thomas M. Sturdivant, and James Perkins et. al. Remember, James Perkins married Elizabeth, the daughter of Benjamin Rush.
On 16 Aug 1827, Joseph H. Hawkins dies. The following obituary appeared in the Fayetteville Observer:
“At Brunswick Mineral Springs, on the 5th instant, Col. Joseph Hawkins, of this city, comptroller of the State. Col. Hawkins was on his way to Mrs. Garnett’s Seminary in Virginia, to bring home two of his daughters, when that secret arrow, which flies unseen, arrested his course, and his vivid hopes of earthly prosperity are laid low in the dust. A widow and five children by a previous marriage, are left to deplore his unexpected death – Ral. Reg.
Penned earlier on 13 Jun 1824, and registered August 1827 in Wake County, Joseph Hawkins appoints “my brother Micajah T Hawkins” as one of the executors. Also mentioned: “I give to my infant son Joseph Hawkins all my lands on the Cape Fear River & Deep Rivers, I mean all my land in the county of Chatham No. Carolina…”
Boom! So, this passage or bequeath from Joseph Hawkins’ last will and testament clarifies the wording from the 1842 conveyance prior mentioned. We know that Joseph’s brother Micajah Thomas Hawkins sold land to Joseph (and Judith Rush Thomas) Avent. We now know that he, as alias, was selling land that had passed to “Joseph Hawkins, heir of Col. Joseph Hawkins, dec’d. It passed somehow to son Benjamin who died, and from there to his siblings.
Online histories don’t make the connection, but I’m thinking Col. Hawkin’s son, who was named Joseph, was Joseph J. Hawkins who married Eliza Savage Pugh, daughter of Maj. Francis Pugh and second wife Elizabeth Barker Tunstall.
Referring to the younger Joseph Hawkins as infant in the 1824 writing of his father’s will and testament, note that the term was not used as we might think today. In the will, his father was making the point that son Joseph (S.) Pugh had not yet reached the age of maturity. However, he must have been close as by 1828 the son would marry, have a son, …and witness the death of his wife:
6 Nov 1828, The North Carolina Star
Died – In Haywood, Chatham County on the 17th September, Mrs Eliza Savage Hawkins, daughter of Maj. Francis Pugh, of Franklin County, and consort of Joseph J. Hawkins Esq.
Following the death of his wife, Esq. Joseph J. Hawkins, son of Col. Joseph H. Hawkins, moved to Haywood County TN where he is enumerated in 1830. Tennessee estate records show Joseph S. Hawkins died ca. 1849. Sarah, his wife at that time, appears in 1850 as 42 years in age. Also in 1850 is M. T. Thomas, aged 25 who happens to have a son Joseph J. Thomas. Apparently, the son of deceased Joseph S. and first wife Eliza Savage Pugh, Micajah named his son for the child’s grandfather.
Back in North Carolina, in 1842, the lands of Micajah Thomas Hawkins passed from father to son of same name. And at the same time, the land was sold to Joseph Avent as appears in the court ordered division already discussed. Hawkins would live beyond 1858 when his obituary was published as follows:
29 Dec 1858, The Weekly Standard, Raleigh NC
Death of Gen. M. T. Hawkins – We learn from the last Warrenton News that Gen. Micajah T. Hawkins of Warrenton, died at his residence in that county, on the 22d of December, in the 74th year of his age.
The Hawkins’ lands along the Cape Fear in Chatham County were bounded by lands of important people. The land was bought and sold to and from important people. And beyond the county, those people had ties back to Franklin, Warren, Bertie, and other counties. It seems Franklin County provided crossroads for many of the elite on the move.
One of the families passing through Franklin included members of the Pugh family from earlier in Bertie. Elizabeth Savage Pugh married Joseph J. Hawkins. Below is a chart I put together showing the relation of Elizabeth Savage Pugh to a Joseph S. Pugh who owned land next to Josiah Thomas along the Chiska Swamp in Bertie. Please look at my previous post for those details. Also, the next post will outline competing beliefs on the family of Josiah Thomas in relation with other families who may have also passed through the same lands and social arenas of Franklin County.