Category Archives: Thomas

About the Thomas Family


Filled with a curious hunger to fully understand our Thomas family, once again we come together to review and build upon prior efforts of telling our story. Some of us have seemingly clear paths through northern tier counties of North Carolina back to Virginia where records become fewer and therefore more difficult to link. There are others, like myself, whose only connection lies in DNA and the educated guess that somehow, we will someday clear a more perfect path into this family.

For us all, there is John Thomas who appears in 1620’s ship lists, a census/muster list, and a later land record near Jamestown VA. And, then there’s the story of Sea Venture, a storm, and Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” Of all the possibilities, the connection to this place and time is nothing less than magical. It’s a great challenge! We’re talking John Rolfe and Pocahontas, the formative years prior to Colonial Williamsburg, the opening chapter of our American story.

Much has been written about this earliest of American Thomas families. Published 1984, there’s Edison H. Thomas and his “Thomas and Bridges Story 1540 –1840.” And in 1977, Robert E Thomas wrote “The Thomas family in 300 years of American history.” There’s the writings of notable researchers like historian Hugh Buckner Johnston whose mother was Ruth Thomas born in Wilson County NC. And, there’s also indispensable research materials such as “Cavaliers and Pioneers. Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants” dealing specifically with records sourced in early Virginia.

As we move forward, we’ll need to work with others in the family who have differing viewpoints. There will be differences with what was believed and written in the past. There will be disagreements both with the traditionally accepted story as well as among ourselves in deciphering the meaning of new finds. Yes, there will be new finds and new stories to tell. Some will merely add to the story while others may figuratively shake the ground from where we believed our beloved ancestors once lived.

For many years I’ve looked towards Virginia with fear and an anxious internalized kicking and screaming of Noooooo….. don’t drag me there!!! It’s a big leap going back through records I have little knowledge. It expands the tree exponentially and with that is a much larger circle of information that’ll need to be verified. There’s much written on this stuff and until now (ha-ha), I was not part of the history. But things have changed, like myself, there is a growing crop of cousins who’ll be paying us a visit in the years to come. We’ll learn of each other through DNA and by improved understanding of the records. We’ll know each other and the story of each other’s family. So, if any THOMAS finds a kinship and is interested in learning more, please don’t be shy. Join us, share, and most importantly, participate in the painless Y DNA testing. We need more participants across the far-reaching spectrum of our Thomas family.




img_20170106_0006_new  History of Wayne County Indiana -1872       …a son of John Thomas, from South Carolina to New Garden in 1811. He not only encountered the unavoidable hardships of pioneer life in general, and among others, that of going on horseback thirty miles to get bread-stuff, but was obliged, with others, to flee for safety during the Indian troubles. Notwithstanding his fear of attacks from Indians, he held his peace principles too dear not to be preserved at any hazard, even of life. He took his lock from his gun, and hid the gun at a distance from his house, lest, in case of an attack, he might be tempted to harm the Indians.   …He was liberal and charitable; and was during his life a member of the society of Friends.       

Francis returned with his parents to Piney Grove Meeting along the NC/SC border following time spent in Guilford County during the Revolutionary War. Francis requested transfer to the Great Contentnea Monthly Meeting in Wayne County North Carolina where in 1807 he married Lydia Woodard and took up a life as farmer. Eventually being honored as the father of the Indiana Yearly Conference, the following was said many years later in memoriam: [while in Wayne County NC] “Francis was visited by an aged Quaker minister named Abel Thomas. After staying the night, the minister got up early and took a walk over the farm. When he returned, he told his host that he had an impression from the Lord, that it would be right for him to sell the farm and move to the territory of Indiana.”

By way of recent contact after seeing this post, a friend of this family has passed on to me a copy of the original land grant Francis Thomas received in 1835. I can imagine the document in his hands and of its journey ending up on this page.  Thank you to those who appreciate and share our history.


Beginning in the summer of 1811, Francis, his parents, and family moved to Richmond Indiana where they were received into membership at Whitewater Monthly Meeting. Also, removing to the same area was Thomas Willcutts and the family Francis’ late uncle James. Shortly upon getting settled, Stephen’s father John died and is buried at nearby New Garden Meeting where most of the family attended. Note that Wayne County Indiana got its name from the Quakers in Wayne County, North Carolina. And, New Garden Meeting (located in Newport, now Fountain City about 10 miles north of Richmond) was named for New Garden meeting in Guilford County North Carolina.molly

I remember calling and arranging to meet the Quaker minister at New Garden Meeting. I drove up from North Carolina in torrential rains that began to subside as I reached my destination. The minister did not make it as he was only helping in interim as the congregation was in decline and the church was without a regular minister. I instead was gladly met by the piano player who had served the church for many years. She gave me a program, told of old traditions including how in the olden days, men and women sat on opposite sides of the little church and the minister did not offer sermons as such. Instead, each and all were called to speak as so moved by God.

Seeking more, I was led to a tiny corner room that served as library. Musty and damp, opening the door we were greeted with water running down the walls and over the few shelves filled with books. As it’s likely they would not survive much longer, my guide told me to please take any books I believed may pertain to my family. It was her concern, and mine, to get the books to a safe home where they would be loved and cared for. Thinking I had found the holy grail of all Thomas history, I later realized that the one catching my attention was actually an ancient leather bound book titled A Journal of the Life and Times of Thomas Story.” I also was given Clarkson and Sarah Jane Thomas’ Union Bible. My immediate family knows why I would choose this book. That’s all! After learning that I am not blood kin to this family, I’ve tried repeatedly to get the books back to the rightful families.

I spent the next week in the area scouring through books at Earlham School of Religion (a Quaker College) and taking in the sites. I toured the home of Levi Coffin, father of the Underground Railroad. It was there I overheard who I believe to be some of his descendants in deep discussion about a possible movie. Apparently, Levi and wife separated and ultimately divorced due to his work and being away from home. The church ordered a period of separation during which time Levi’s wife became pregnant. At a time when National Geographic’s had just completed an amazing article on Levi Coffin, a believed descendant of this child was apparently preparing to make a movie from the child’s viewpoint.

I’d like to tell more about my trip and of the story of this Thomas family. It’s an amazing place, a vacation for the soul, and trip I’ll always hold dear. After leaving Fountain City I traveled across Indiana to the town of Paoli where John’s brother Lewis settled and died. That story will be next, but for now, I’d like to end with a slideshow of images followed by a few excerpts from a memorial: “Incidents in the Life of JOHN THOMAS in connection with the Underground Railroad, as remembered by his sons.”


From the Memorial of John Thomas published in 1913

“When the escaping slaves came to the Thomas farm they would be hidden in the field during the day and their meals furnished them. They traveled mostly in the fall when the weather was warm and sometimes they would live on roasting ears which they cook themselves …father had a rigid rule that no fleeing negro would be permitted to tell his name, or whence he came, or how his master had treated him before his escape. The purpose of this rule was that his own conscience might be clear so that should a slave owner arrive and inquire about the escaped slave, he could truthfully say he did not know ….Luke remembers one morning when he was a boy, he got up in the morning as usual and when he came down stairs to put his boots he discovered that the whole room was full of negroes, the escaping crowd being made up of men, women, and children. It was on a New Year’s morning when the party had arrived in the night from another station.”

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newgardenmtgsmallSitting here on a buggery cold and snow laden Sunday evening listening to Simon and Garfunkel on, I’m sure if the remaining children of the Stephen Thomas from Anson County were up and walking, they’d feel right at home. And to that end, it’s time to share a little of my journey tracing the lives of Stephen’s remaining sons James, and then John and Lewis. All of them were peace lovers by faith, Quaker.

On 13 Oct 1774, James Thomas formally chose to live with his brother John following the death of their father Stephen. James acquired a grant in Anson County (now Richmond) along the west side of the Gum Swamp on the waters of Bear Branch. Located between present day Tatum and McColl SC, James lived not far from and attended Piney Grove, a small preparatory Quaker meeting.

This was a time of war and as sentiment stiffened against Lord Cornwallis’ control of South Carolina, brothers James, John and Lewis sought safety in Guilford County around 1780. Quakers held to a strong peace ethic and many either camped nearby or bought land close to the larger monthly meetings. It really was a difficult time. General Nathaniel Greene, himself born a Quaker, witnessed the many who, living in and amongst New Garden, would not fight for the cause. Correspondence between Greene and the Quaker ministers was to no avail. It was in this time and atmosphere that young James Thomas courted Milly Clark, the sister of his brother John’s wife Molly.

James Thomas and Milly Clark married at the close of the war on 26 Mar 1785 in Guilford County NC. James’ brother Lewis was bondsman. Following the marriage, Milly’s parents Francis and Christian Stone Clark deeded to James Thomas land adjoining John Clark’s mill on the Haw River. Things were going well, but this union would not last as in 1788 James Thomas penned his last will and testament. His brother John and John’s son Isaac along with Milly were named Executors. The will was witnessed by Laban Tharp and Thomas Willcutts. And as you read James’ will below, note several things about this traditional Quaker format:  (1) The date is written “the sixteenth of the ninth month in the year of our Lord 1788,” as Quakers did not believe that months of the year should be named after pagan gods; and (2) James does not evoke the name of God. Being Quaker, who is he to speak for God.tttt

Quaker records indicate James’ widow Milly married second to Thomas Willcutts sometime prior to 1797 when James’ named children were identified in church records as Thomas’ stepsons. The couple returned to Piney Grove in Marlborough County SC where they raised 8 more children.

Times again became difficult for Quakers as numbers of large plantations with slaves grew along the fertile lands east of the Pee Dee River. They voted against slavery and eventually felt the need to remove themselves in order to find a place to live peacefully without the wrongs they saw around them daily. Can you imagine James having to live near his brothers Tristram, Robert, Benjamin, and William who all held slaves? And it’s known that some of this extended Thomas family held hundreds of slaves.

tttttRecorded in 1802, Jonathan Marine and John Mendenhall released “unto the overseers and their successors of Pine Grove Monthly Meeting a certain parcel of land containing four acres including the said Meeting House.” The deed was witnessed by Thomas Morris and James Thomas’ nephew Francis Thomas. The Meeting House closed its doors and its members chose to either stay or to remove themselves to Indiana where slavery was not allowed. Dated 25 Mar 1833, “Piney Grove Meeting House” was deeded to the Methodist Church. Today, south of McColl SC, Pine Grove Methodist stands on this old meeting house site.

In the 1990’s, I made a two-week trip to Indiana to get in touch with my Quaker heritage. This was before learning I was not a part of the family. I spent time at Earlham Quaker College, delved into the underground railroad and walked away with a respect for the Quaker faith that I’ll carry for life. As you’ll see in the following posts, the experience was a life changer for me and one I’ve always wanted to share.




18North Carolina was a divided allegiance without the means of enforcing the tax needed to raise a standing army. To fund the Revolutionary War effort, soldiers were offered land beyond the mountains in varying amounts based on rank and length of service. It was in this reserve set aside for soldiers where in 1795, the town of Palmyra was laid off by Dr. Morgan Brown. The acting commissioners for the new town on the banks of the Cumberland River included Benjamin Thomas, son of Stephen. Note that Morgan Brown had earlier surveyed land in Anson County North Carolina including grants in the upper end of the county where my own Benjamin Thomas family were living at that

As there were no western points of entry into our young nation, in 1796, an act was passed by Congress to establish this new town of Palmyra as the only western port of entry. The only location allowed to receive imported goods, the act provided a federal officer to receive and manage all imported goods. For a brief two years, until Cincinnati came online, this was the northern most and primary point of entry on the Mississippi river chain. And, at the same time, the county of Montgomery was formed from Robertson and Tennessee was introduced as the 16 state in our Union in 1796.

This was the place in Tennessee where many veterans from North Carolina settled. It is where Stephen Thomas’ Benjamin lived for a period of time. It’s also an area of counties where several children of Benjamin’s brother William settled …John, Nathan, and Stephen. Local history and cemeteries are ripe with the stories of this Thomas family. This was a place I wanted to see. It was a place I needed to see to clarify my own Thomas family history as not what I was about to see in Tennessee.

Making my way to Montgomery County, I needed to also visit Stewart County to the west that had formed from Montgomery by 1806. And then to the south, Dickson County was formed and later Hickman was formed from Dickson. So, in the town of Dover in Stewart County, I remember seeing the below photograph of William H Thomas in the county office. Not far away, and from memory in 1997, I also photographed William’s grave monument with background probably of some electrical generation plant along the river.

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Running through the region was the Natchez Trail, an old Indian path that became the primary route transporting a burgeoning population to points south and west. Benjamin, son of Stephen moved a bit south along the trail to point where he built and operated a gristmill on Garner’s Branch of Piney River. Benjamin would later move again, this time following the trail further south to Pike County Alabama where he likely died. But, as for Benjamin’s mill tract, it was eventually sold and assigned to Jacob Humble whose family cemetery still survives. Seeking to locate evidence of the old mill, I made my way south to the Humble Cemetery in Hickman County.

The land bounced along and was green with hills and trees. It did not take long to find an 84 years old Mr. Yates who lived on the creek just up Hwy 48 from Piney River Road. In order to reach his house, I had to cross an old wooden bridge that spanned Garner Creek. Asking Mr. Yates about a mill, his eyes brightened as he began to tell me the story otherwise hinted at only in court records. While a little boy, Mr Yates’ mother told him she used to play on an old mill dam along the creek. Pointing in the direction of the old bridge, Mr. Yates continued to tell of the 1948 storm that revealed part of the mill remains. “Large white oak beams with pinion holes” were exposed and protruded from the cuts in the creek bank. Working with the tractor, he pulled out parts of a tub like water wheel that his wife later used as flower planters on their long front porch. Pointing across the creek to a distant field, Mr Yates pointed to the resting place of those who had purchased Benjamin’s land, the old Jacob Humble cemetery.


Benjamin Thomas’ mill site on Garner’s Branch near the home of Mr. Yates.

Before leaving this loosely written history, I’d like to point out that Benjamin’s nephew Stephen left a last will and testament in Dickson County. He also applied for Revolutionary War pension in Montgomery County. Benjamin’s family is traced to Pike County, Mississippi where descendants applied for a Revolutionary War pension based on his service. And about Mr. Yates, I asked if he had ever heard of Wake County NC?  He answered “oh yes, that’s supposed to be where my family came from though I don’t know the details.”



Some of Stephen’s children remained in the Pee Dee region of North Carolina while others moved to Tennessee or Indiana. In this post, I’d like to share some highlights of this family and of those who did not move far from their upbringing along the river.

ROBERT THOMAS I have no pictures to illustrate Robert Thomas’ life, so let me begin to paint with words. Robert Thomas, likely the oldest son of Stephen is recorded in Maryland records as being involved in the settlement of his grandfather’s estate in that location.   We know Robert grew to be a believer and preacher in the Baptist tradition. Though no records tell it as so, I think Robert Thomas’ walk began at an early age when in the late 1760’s, he purchased land along Hitchcock’s Creek in now Richmond County. From Rev. Morgan Edwards’ notebook, the following 1772 entry about a Baptist meeting house on Hitchcock Creek is gleaned:

In the county of Anson, 200 — from Newburn and — miles from Phila. No meeting house. Const. March 28, 1772, at the house of William Morris. Families 8, Memb. 14, Minister

REV. HENRY EASTERLING Born May 24, 1733, at the mouth of Nuse river. Bred a churchman. Embraced the principles of the Baptists in 1760 in Dobbs County by Rev. George Graham. Called to the ministry in 1762. Ordained March 29, 1772, when he took care of the church. He married Eliz. Bennett by whom he had children Sherdock, Henry, Bennett, John, James, Elizabeth, William, Mary, Martha, Joel. Came here in 1764, and preached in 1770. Baptized the following pursons: Jonathan Lewelin, Wm. Moody, Thomas Summerlin, Wm. Leggate, Wm. Smith, Nathaniel Williams. Mary Smith, Fanny Williams. Constituted March 28, 1772 by Mess. Edwards and Brown.

This is a vital passage as it connects by location the lives of Robert Thomas and Henry Easterling who both moved about the same time into South Carolina. The passage also tells of William Morris whose life traces back through early Wayne, Dobbs, and Bertie Counties where the said Morris or family may have interacted with my newly found Thomas family in northeast North Carolina. If that’s not enough, a likely descendant named William Morris settled just a bit later in Upper Anson County on the waters of Bare Branch. This William, if not the same as in the 1772 entry, had a son who preached at Rocky River and whose name is honored in the children of my own family. Much more will be said on this at a later date, but for now, paths do cross ….get the picture?

Now, back to Robert Thomas. A farmer by trade, Robert Thomas was instrumental in laying down a spiritual foundation for the generations to come. He was a respected Baptist preacher and founder of several churches. Traveling the region during the American Revolution, he preached to the troops and gave moral support to the cause. From Henry Easterling and his wife Elizabeth (446, Mar. Co., S.C.), dated 4 Feb 1794, Robert purchased several tracts totaling 1017 acres. Situated about eight miles south of the present town of Tatum, the land included “the greater part of the plantation whereon the Sd. Robert Thomas now liveth on a pond called the Ocean”.

On 18 Apr 1807, William Beasley deeded one acre “including the meeting house called Daniel’s Meeting house” to “Robert Thomas, minister, and James Bolton and John David, deacons of the Baptist Church of Christ called the Three Creek Church”. Founded on 12 Oct 1793, the name was changed to Salem Baptist church in 1822. Originally located on the Cashway road near the Pee Dee, the church is now located about six miles south of Bennetsville. In a log church with a straw floor, Robert Thomas and William Bennett were the first to preach at Catfish Baptist Church. Located in neighboring Marion County, Catfish Baptist was founded in 1802. While on a preaching tour, Robert Thomas died in 1816 at Britton’s Neck in Marion County.

img_20170106_0002_newTRISTRAM THOMAS I’ve not previously written much on Tristram as learning that I was no longer related had already put a stop to such efforts. But, of all in this family, Tristram was a man of leadership. Active in the American Revolution, he was commissioned in 1775 as a sergeant and later served as a captain and major. He commanded a party which captured a British expedition at Hunt’s Bluff on the Pee Dee. Following the War he held the rank of brigadier general of the Ninth South Carolina Brigade.

In 1785 Tristram conveyed two acres for the construction of publick buildings in the newly created Marlborough County. He hired his brother Benjamin to build the jail. Known as the town of Carlisle, the county seat was moved away from the mosquito infested banks of the Pee Dee to land in the county center (present day Bennettsville) deeded in 1820 by John S. Thomas. Tristram died in 1817 and is buried at Sawmill Baptist in Bennettsville. Much more on Tristram can be found at a well written Find-a-Grave entry.

WILLIAM “RAM BILLY” THOMAS Like his brother Tristram, William was a man of leadership. In 1774-5, he represented Anson County in the Continental Congress. He was a whig and soldier in the Revolutionary War whose involvement in the torment of Tory James Cotton is colorfully told in deposition on board His Majesty’s sloop cruiser at the mouth of the Cape Fear river.

William Thomas was also a learned teacher. He wrote one of North Carolina’s first Almanacs and created a school of “Geography, Natural Philosophy, and Astronomy” at his home in Richmond County. William was involved with the founding of the University of North Carolina where his application to teach astronomy was tabled by the committee. William likely attended Cartledge Creek Baptist Church which hosted a conference founding Wake Forest University. Divided, some of William Thomas’ children remained in North Carolina while some moved to Alabama and to Tennessee where they lived near their uncle Benjamin (more on these in the next post). William Thomas wrote a last will and testament and died in Richmond County.

PHILEMON and STEPHEN JR THOMAS. I’ve researched little on these two as I had already learned that my ancestry to this family was in error. They are two lines I wish to know more about and welcome any guest writer to tell it on this site.

Beyond the family who remained in the Pee Dee Region are JAMES (who died in North Carolina), JOHN, and LEWIS who as Quakers chose to leave the state in the name of peace. Their truly wonderful stories carried me on a journey of discovery that significantly changed my worldly view. More on this story later but first I’d like to pay a visit to BENJAMIN and the children of WILLIAM who removed to the state of Tennessee.




There was a time when everyone, I mean EVERYONE, believed that today’s Thomas families of Upper Union and Anson Counties NC descended from Stephen Thomas whose family settled in the Great Pee Dee river region. This was a prominent family, one filled with shakers and movers, and one whose members were wildly diverse in their individual moral compasses. This was an exciting family to follow and to this day, there’s parts of me that wish I were among its folds. It’s not to be.

Removing from Maryland, Stephen Thomas’ estate was settled in 1774 Anson NC. Deeds and court records naming his children introduced us to one of his sons, Benjamin Thomas. The family lived along Jones Creek in today’s Anson County and on Gum Swamp and against the South Carolina border on David’s Creek in today’s Richmond County. The family also rolled over into South Carolina in the areas of Cheraw and present day Marlborough and Darlington.

Somehow, and likely by misinterpretation of the writings of those such as D. D. McColl, modern day descendants of Benjamin Thomas of upper Anson County latched on to a belief that they descended from Benjamin, the son of Stephen Thomas. The problem with that idea is that Stephen’s Benjamin lived against the South Carolina border near the lands of his older brother Robert. After the war, he moved a bit further south into Marlborough County where he worked with brother Tristram to build the first county courthouse. Stephen’s Benjamin sort of disappears and as there’s no record saying otherwise, it was always assumed that he moved away from family to be ours in Upper Anson. That is, until one day the story line was challenged by way of writing in the deed pictured at the top of this page.

By 1797, Benjamin Thomas, the son of Stephen, had moved to Montgomery County Tennessee. He moved with some of the children of his older brother William. In making the move, and as is clearly written at the top of this page, Benjamin of Tennessee sold his original land in Anson, now Richmond County. He was prominent in Tennessee helping to create the first inland port along the Cumberland River known as Palmyra. It’s impossible for him to be in Tennessee and yet raising a family along Richardson Creek in upper Anson County? It simply did not happen. And in further proof, the naming patterns of the two families are different as well as the DNA. We’re in no way related by blood to the Stephen Thomas lineage.


I had absolutely a wonderful time chasing this other Thomas family until it all came crashing down with the discovery of the above deed. I’ve traveled, learned a lot, and met some good people. I’m sort of sad that so much time was spent collecting memories and keepsakes that no longer have family value. A clean break was needed and for a while I even refused to discuss this other family. But ….that too has now changed as ancient events in Chatham County NC are now serving to reignite a peculiar reconnection that I simply find cool. So, before delving into something new, I’d like to dedicate the next few posts to the times I had searching out the family of Stephen Thomas.   Just remember, they’re not my family.

A PEEK AT 2017

14509223820_15ac8d055c_zGenealogy is much like fishing, it’s ultimately a skilled game of tricking history out of its lost and treasured past. Family history doesn’t just happen, winners in this sport know what records to pull and how best to increase the odds of extending their family circle. And like fishing, we plan, execute and ponder the situation always hungry and hopeful for the next big strike.

backlash-1024x1024With a goal of shaking the tree, records are worked slowly and methodically. Sometimes the results roll out nicely and simply walk you further down a path you’ve been traveling. Sometimes new discoveries are cataclysmic, crashing everything in the past you’ve believed to be true. Much like when a big fish hits, sometimes all goes well while on other days the reel backlashes and throws all expectation to the wind. Driven by discoveries made through DNA, this year has thrown information at us too fast to digest. It’s given us much to consider and as with a fishing backlash, we need to stop and take care of what’s happening now. It’s easy. We simply need to loosen it all up, pick away …pick away some more, and  be willing to tug a little at the line in search of clues and key bits of information that surely must be there.

So, let’s look to the future. In no special order, here’s a list of personal goals for 2017:

  • this past year, my Thomas family of Anson NC connected by DNA to Joseph Thomas who is believed to have relocated to the area of Wake/Chatham/Moore County from a large and well documented family living earlier in Bertie County. DNA testing of other known lines out of Bertie is very much needed to verify the broader tree.
  • the lives of the Joseph Thomas family in Wake County and neighboring Chatham/Moore Counties will be explored. A major part of this effort lies in the platting of family lands.
  • due to finds in Wake and Chatham, a past effort to plat family lands along Richardson Creek in Anson County has stalled for now and hopefully will be worked on in the upcoming year.
  • are we kin? ….I’d like to reach out and connect with descendants of other Thomas families living close to Joseph Thomas in Wake/Chatham/Moore Counties NC.
  • in places like Hancock County GA and Coosa/Elmore Counties Alabama, I’ll continue to explore early Thomas families and seek out living descendants for DNA testing.
  • new discoveries require the updating and rebuilding of my website
  • realizing much of this year will be spent with the new Thomas family discoveries, I remain committed to writing about my Love, Pless and the many other families and of other stories of folks who lived along the Rocky River.
  • and, with the discovery of new family, we need to get to know each other. We need to visit, befriend, and share time. We need to establish opportunities to visit the home lands along with the people and places the family holds important.

So, ‘Happy New Year’ to us all and here’s to the hopes that 2017 will be a year for the record books! With a little organization and added work, I think we can continue to break down the wall leading to our past. There’s light at the end of this tunnel as we’ve witnessed the power of DNA. For now we simply need to chip away at the new crack in our wall. More importantly, we now have new family and will muddle our way forward in hopes of making the discoveries meaningful.

Descendants of Asa Thomas?


The Jones-Johnson Farm features the renovated 1790’s log-built Etheldred Jones House that stands just behind this grand Greek-Revival-turned-Neo-Classical William Wesley Johnson House.

As has been covered in earlier posts, Asa Thomas is recorded as receivig a grant for land.

Living nearby to Etheldred Jones were the families of Joseph, Nathan and Jonathan Thomas. Etheldred Jones is connected to each of these men per various county records. And like Asa Thomas, Jonathan Thomas never received a grant for land in Wake County. Asa was, however, a chain carrier for grants to Nathan Thomas. And later, in 1793, both Asa and Nathan were buyers in the estate of Jonathan Thomas. Per 1800 census we know Asa was at that time living in Anson County NC. His whereabouts are uncertain after that point. And in 1804, the division of Jonathan Thomas’ land names sons Elijah, Elisha, Merrill, and Richard. It’s my belief all these Thomas are kin and that Asa, Nathan, and Jonathan just may be brothers or close cousins. I also believe they relate to Elisha Thomas from Bertie to Johnston County NC. And somehow yet unknown, they relate to Joseph Thomas who eventually died in neighboring Chatham County. We need to find a sampling of descendants from Nathan and Jonathan to see if a connection o Joseph can be verified through DNA.

Jonathan’s son Merrill Thomas can be found living in 1820 Clark County GA near Samuel Braswell who just after 1800 donated land in that county to Freeman’s Creek Baptist Church. There’s a marker at this church for famous Baptist missionary Lottie Moon who died of starvation on a flight back from China. Today the Lottie Moon Christmas offering is celebrated in Baptist churches throughout the south. And I wonder, even though family history indicates she was born in Virginia to a prominent family, could Lottie have ancestry back to Moon’s Chapel Baptist Church in Chatham County?


1850 census – Clarke County GA

Back to the story, …there’s a clear path for the above Samuel Braswell from Chatham County NC through Hancock County GA and on to Clarke County GA. Also of interest, William and James Hales of North Carolina lived near Merrill Thomas in Clarke County. What makes this interesting you ask? …Cynthia, the daughter of Elisha and Lucy Massey Thomas of Johnston County NC married John Hales. Cynthia lived out her life in Johnston County.


It seems to go quiet for the Thomas family in Wake County until when in 1854 a 67 year old David Thomas applied for a Revolutionary War petition based on his father’s, Asa Thomas’ service. David doesn’t name his children in the request and in 1850 he and wife Penny (born South Carolina) are enumerated with no children. Per Wake County marriage records, David Thomas married Penny Jones on 17 Nov 1815.

At this point a huge gratitude goes out to Frances Cullom Morgan whose vast knowledge on the Jones family has been of great help. In 1830, David Thomas is enumerated as having two sons 15-19 years of age. Frances pointed out that in Richard Jones’ 1834 last will and testament, Richard of southern Wake County bequeathed To my son Richard Jones the tract of land where on David Thomas now lives.” And according to Frances, the only line of this Jones family in South Carolina at the time of Penny Jones’ birth was Richard’s brother Nathaniel who had removed from Wake to Kershaw County SC. It is likely that Penny was born to Nathaniel’s first wife and after her death, returned with a sister to live with family in Wake County.

The story takes on new meaning as we identify likely sons of David and Penny Jones Thomas. We know the couple was aging and without children in 1850 and they do not appear in the 1840 census. Instead, in 1840, the only two Thomas families listed in southern Wake county are Etheldred and Kinchen Thomas. Let’s take a closer look.

Etheldred Thomas

Born ca. 1815, and as listed in the Raleigh Register, Etheldred Thomas married 14 Nov 1839 Martha King. In 1840, Etheldred is listed in census while his father and mother were not. From the ages, it appears David and Penny were living at that time in the home of their son Etheldred Thomas. On 28 Jul 1852, “Etheldred Thomas otherwise known as Etheldred Jones” sold 124 acres on the little creek, a tributary of White Oak Creek. Adjoining Utley, Turner, Seagraves and Hunter; the land on Fish Dam road was sold to Archilbald Leslie (deed 19-415, Wake NC). This deed is huge! It indicates Etheldred was changing his surname to Jones possibly due to being illegitimate  or maybe in honor of the man who housed and trained his grandfather Asa. Further linking the stories of Etheldred and David Thomas, in 1812, James Jones was appointed overseer of the road leading from Fish Dam Ford to Fayetteville from Richard Jones to the county line. David Thomas was listed among others ordered to work on the road.

This next bit of information I’d like not to tell. Though being hurtful, it happened and is true. Of all that’s good with this country, slavery is unforgivable and an abomination of God’s loving plan:

“The speculators bought up Negroes as a drover would buy up mules. They would get them together by ‘Negro drivers’, as the white men employed by the speculators were called. Their names were Jim Harris of Raleigh, and yes, Dred Thomas, who lived near Holly Springs in Wake County. Wagon trains carried the rations on the trip to Mississippi. The drivers would not start until they had a large drove. Then the slaves were fastened together with chains. The chain was run between them, when they had been lined up like soldiers in double file. A small chain was attached to a Negro on the left and one to the Negro on the right and fastened to the main chain in the center.”

Sam T. Young’s complete story can be found in the slave narratives. I’ll not go much further on Etheldred other than to say he served in the civil war and was enumerated in 1900 as living in the Wake County soldier’s home.
Henderson Thomas

Born ca. 1815,  Henderson Thomas married Martha Norris on 17 May 1847. Martha is the daughter of Needham Norris and Patience Pearson. In the 1850 census, Henderson Thomas (millwright) and family are enumerated next to Needham Norris. On the same page is a person named Kinchen Thomas (more on Kinchen later). In April of 1851, two tracts purchased by Henderson Thomas were recorded in court. First tract (deed 19-11, Wake NC) from Gaston Jones was situated on Carries Creek adjoining S. P. Harris. The second tract from John Watson was for 44 acres on the north side of Buckhorn Creek. In 1852, Henderson Thomas sold 33 ½ acres on Fish Dam Road “near the Holly Spring Meeting House” Henderson sold the land to Andrew K. Clements, James Rogers and Andrew W. Betts; Masters and Wardens of Holly Spring Lodge # 115. The land was likely purchased as a site to build an academy for the town of Holly Springs.

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At the close of the civil war, in 1865, Henderson sold to Richard Jones, land on the Avent Ferry road adjoining lands of Penny, Burt, A. leslie, T.C and the crossroad at Joseph Norris’ (deed 28-635, Wake NC). This is the same Richard Jones upon whose  land Henderson Thomas’ possible father David Thomas once lived! Note that on the present day map of Holly Springs, the Avent Ferry Road runs two blocks over from the masonic lodge.

In 1870 Henderson Thomas and family are enumerated as follows in the Buck Horn Township of Wake County: record-image_s3ht-xxdq-4j2

An 1871 map of Wake County shows Thomas Mill just south of Holly Springs on waters of Buckhorn Creek:mill

In the 1870’s, Henderson Thomas and wife Martha (now of Moore County) sold their lands to several African American men named Norris and to William Ballentine and William Johnson.  Henderson apparently moved to Moore County where we know Martha died 5 Apr 1882. According to the book Buffalo Creek Chronicles by Kathy Brooks Jones, Martha Norris Thomas is interred at Poplar Branch Methodist Church cemetery in old  Jonesboro.

Kinchen Henry Thomas

Born ca. 1823, Kinchen Thomas married 15 Nov 1847 Sarah Weeks in Cumberland County NC.   The bondsman was Kimbrel Jones, a grandson of Jesse Jones of southern Wake County. Note that Kimbrel married Rebecca Matthews who I believe ties back into the family of Asa Thomas’s wife, Pleasant Matthews. In 1850, Kinchen, wife Sarah, and a newly born daughter are enumerated in Wake County on the same page as Henderson Thomas. Dated 19 Mar 1851, Kinchen Thomas sold 52 acres (deed 19-399, Wake NC) to Archibald Leslie. The land was situated on Rocky Branch, a tributary of Middle Creek near present day Sunset Lake. It joined the lands of Shadrack Barker and B. Holland and the deed was witnessed by Hill Richardson and Young Booker. Note that Young Booker witnessed David Thomas’ Revolutionary War pension request on behalf of Asa Thomas’ service. Also, note that Kinchen, Henderson and Etheldred all had land dealings with Archibald Leslie. Archibald was a store owner and leader in the growing community of Holly Springs.

43888239_129205908237_tonemappedKinchen Thomas and family removed to Campbell County GA in the mid-1850’s. Buried at Powder Springs Methodist Church Cemetery in Cobb County, the story of Kinchen Henry Thomas is further told through a well written Find-a-Grave site. Noting that Henderson Thomas sold his land to the Holly Spring Masonic Lodge, I find it interesting to see the emblem atop Kinchen’s burial monument.


1004671_390242614431172_777391602_nWithout supporting documentation, both online and traditional family histories portray Joseph Thomas of Wake/Chatham Counties NC to be the son of Joseph and possibly Ann Spivey Thomas of Bertie County NC. This may be true, it’s just there’s nothing written from which to base it! And, none of the histories I’ve seen address Joseph’s neighbors in Wake County who he interacted with and who were also named Thomas. And to muddle the situation, just to the east in neighboring Johnston County, there lived Elisha Thomas who had earlier removed from Bertie County. This Elisha may be the son of Barnaby Thomas, the brother of Joseph Thomas who possibly married Ann Spivey. So, Joseph Thomas of Wake County and Elisha Thomas of Johnston County should be first cousins and it seems the two should have known of each other. And, this Elisha Thomas in Johnston County was listed in that county as executor in the 1763 last will and testament of a person named Joseph Thomas. There’s nothing online or in hard copy connecting Joseph and Elisha to each other or to Joseph Thomas in Wake.  And further yet, in Wake County, it appears the descendants of Joseph Thomas’ neighboring Thomas family included at least one with first name Elisha.

It’s mind boggling. How to make sense of this genealogical mess and where do we go from here? I have yet to figure out the full story of Joseph Thomas who appears ca. 1772 in the newly formed Wake County NC.

It’s maybe time to take a breather and let folks know where we’re at and to ponder the future and of where the records may carry us all. Please take in the following status report in hopes we’ll be able move forward with the same understanding. And, if you disagree, please stand up and be heard! Feel free to add to the discussion if you have differing opinions.

About Joseph Thomas of Wake County NC – Joseph L Thomas is believed to be born in Bertie County NC on 24 Feb 1747. What is the source of Joseph’s birth date? Some say his middle name begins with the letter L and some say his middle name is Luther …what is the source? Joseph appears ca. 1772 in newly formed Wake County and is believed to have married Martha Godwin. A neighbor of others with surname Thomas, this Joseph and family lived in Wake County until ca. 1800 when his family spread through Chatham and Moore Counties in a region that became present day Lee County.   The children of Joseph and Martha Thomas are believed to be:

  • John Thomas – born ca. 1770-1775, married Mary Oaks in Wake County and died ca 1850 in Moore County NC.
  • Joseph Thomas, Jr-born ca. 1771, married Dora Paschel and may have died in Moore County NC.
  • Frederick Thomas-born ca. 1770-1780, married Nancy Cox and died 1835 in Moore County NC.
  • Micajah Thomas-born ca. 1770-1780, appeared in records of Wake, Chatham and Moore Counties and disappears.
  • Martin Thomas-born ca. 1770-1790, married to Penelope Gunter and died 1830’s in Moore County NC.
  • Catherine Ann Thomas-born 1770-1800
  • Benjamin Thomas-born ca. 1775, married Priscilla Gunter and died ca 1819 in Chatham County NC.
  • William Thomas-possibly a son, born ca. 1790-1800, enumerated in 1830 Moore County NC.
  • Allen Thomas-born ca. 1798, married Ann Weldon, died 5 Mar 1881 in Moore County NC.

About Jacob Thomas. DNA and a single road order in early Wake County just may connect to a land grant in Anson County NC, leaving open an unproven possibility that the Thomas family of Anson descend through a Jacob Thomas who once lived near Joseph Thomas in early Wake County NC.

Jonathan and Nathan Thomas and others. Jonathan Thomas married in Wake County on 16 Apr 1781 to Sarah, the daughter of James and Sarah Holland. In 1794, Nathan Thomas was listed as administrator to settle Jonathan’s estate. Entered in 1792, surveyed in 1794, and issued in 1797, Nathan Thomas received a land grant in which Jonathan Thomas served as chain bearer. Asa Thomas also served as chain bearer on other grants issued to Nathan Thomas. Nathan Thomas disappears from Wake by 1800 and may be the Nathan listed later in Moore County NC census records.

Asa Thomas. Served in the Revolutionary War in the stead of Etheldred Jones to whom the said Asa lived in the household while learning the trade of blacksmithing. Asa never received a land grant or deeded land. He was listed as chain bearer for grants issued to Nathan Thomas. He married Pleasant Matthews, daughter of Joseph and Ann Matthews. Joseph Thomas’ son Micajah is named in the last will and testament of Redmond Matthews who may be Asa Thomas’ brother-in-law. Asa was listed as insolvent ca. 1797 and removed to Anson County NC where he’s listed in the 1800 census. In 1854 Wake County, and on behalf of Asa’s war record, Asa’s son David applied for a Revolutionary War pension.

Wanting to push the story of our Thomas family beyond the records of Wake County NC, it’s painfully frustrating knowing I must settle in a bit longer to the task of fully exercising this special time in our history. At a point where most have broken off the search to jump an unclear trail of records to another place and time, I’m still amazed and consumed by what’s not being said about our Thomas family. It’s the untold stories of Thomas who lived near and interacted with our own.

Soon, I’ll post possible connections through possible children of Asa’s son David. Note my use of the word possible J   Also, I’ll begin to look across the county line into Chatham to hopefully uncover some interesting connections leading to Indiana and Georgia. Stay tuned!


HilleryThe 1790 Wake County census enumerates Hillery Thomas as not white, and not slave, but as two “others.”  He is enumerated right in the middle of our THOMAS family and also near Etheldred Jones.  Hillery may have been Native American, but could have been a mix or free black:

Etheldred Jones        1-4-0-0-5

Frederick Davidson   1-0-0-0-0

Henry Wheeler          1-2-2-0-0

Hardy Johnson           1-0-1-0-0

Hardy Lilley                1-3-4-0-0

Hillery Thomas          0-0-0-2-0

James Moss                2-1-3-0-0

Jefre Lewis                  2-5-2-0-0

John Strickland Sr      1-1-5-0-0

Jonathon Thomas      1-2-2-0-0

John Stinson               1-2-3-0-0

Looking at the southern portion of the Markham map of Wake County land grants (at the top of the page), you’ll see in blue what appears to be the lands of Hillard Thomas.  Not dated, this has always puzzled me because there’s no land grant, deed, or court record in Wake County for the name Hillard, Dillard or Hillery Thomas!  ….hmmm, Hilliard?  Wasn’t there a Mourning Pope who married William Hilliard before marrying a Joseph Thomas?  Could Hillery be an emancipated slave ….or other?

In Franklin County to the north of Wake, the 1810 census enumerates Lettice Thomas as head of household for four others. Some suggest Lettice is the widow of Hillery Thomas of Wake and that Hillery’s offspring are shown in the 1810 Franklin County census.lettice.jpg

I would normally brush this off, but then there’s the last will and testament of Redmon Matthews (previous post) that names Micajah Thomas and is witnessed by Nathan (L) Thomas. Redmon names his brother David and his mother Lettice! What’s more, the will is also witnessed by Valentine Austin. Valentine was Hiwassee Saponi and was also identified as Melungeon (see family page) in numerous records. Valentine purchased land on Neill’s Creek (identified in red above)  from William Love.

Cool stuff, huh?  Well it’s just starting to get good, so hold on! Note that in Wake County there is an Asa Thomas who never owns land, but who’s clearly identified in many records.  Asa was listed on court ordered road work and was a chain bearer for several grants issued to none other than Nathan Thomas.  Normally chain bearers were family or someone close who walked with the surveyor and who could testify in the event of land disputes.

Asa Thomas married Pleasant Matthews, the daughter of Joseph and Ann Mathews as named in Joseph’s last will and testament dated January 1791. Joseph lived just south of Wake County on Neill’s Creek.

On 15 May 1854, David Thomas of Wake County applied for a Revolutionary War Pension on behalf of the services of his father Asa Thomas. Himself being 73 years of age, David Thomas named both his mother Pleasant Matthews Thomas and his only other surviving sibling named Charity, wife of Alsey Matthews of Cumberland County.  David Thomas stated that he had “been informed and verily believes that his farther [sic, father] the said Asa Thomas served as a Continental soldier in the Revolutionary war, a period of two years and upwards, that he entered the service of the United States from Wake County in the State aforesaid, that after the conclusion of said war he removed to Anson County in the State aforesaid where he died about five1 [?] years ago, the exact date not recollected by said declarant.” Asa Thomas appears in the 1810 Anson County census as:record-image_33S7-9YY6-STTF.jpg

And, in the 1850 census, David Thomas is enumerated in southern Wake County as:record-image_S3HY-6SX7-F85.jpg

This story should rightfully end at this point if it were not for an inquiry years ago about information I might have on a person named Hezekiah Bryant. Hezekiah Bryan (Bryant) lived in North Carolina, served in the revolutionary war and then removed to Tennessee. There, in Marshall County, Hezekiah Bryan applied for a Pension for Services in the Revolutionary War. Hezekiah’s pension request is rich in information including the fact he had lived in the home of Etheldred Jones where he learned the trade of blacksmithing!   And, even more interesting, the pension clearly connects to Asa Thomas of Wake:

As a private in company commanded by Colonel Coulston (Goldston), his unit was raised soon after Gates was defeated at Camden. He went first as a substitute for Asa Thomas who had been drafted. He was received into service on Deep River on which river the Corps to which he belonged was raised. He served under commander Goldston for three months. During the period he frequently was engaged in scouting parties in pursuit if Tories which were in the neighborhood of American Soldiers. And when his duty had expired, he received discharge from his commanding officer for a tour of duty not less than six months. Hezikiah could not state the precise dates as he gave the papers to Asa Thomas.

He served second in place of Frank Jones as a twelve month man in a unit raised in Wake County. The unit was commanded by Capt. Dixon and Lieutenant Dickson, as commanded by a Col. Dickson under General Greene. He entered service as private at Granville Court House in Jun 1782. The unit marched through Hillsboro, Guilford and Rowan counties before going to the hills of Santee in South Carolina. He remained there about two months and then marched to Fort Thompson where he met up with the American Army while in pursuit of the British before the battle of Eutaw. Though under the command of Green, he was not immediately engaged as he served in the rear guards. Hezekiah marched back to the Hills of Santee. Recrossing the Santee, he passed the Edisto River to a place called Round-O and then to a place called Pow-Pow and soon after to Bacon Bridge on Ashley River above Charleston. They marched back to Camden and then to Charlotte, North Carolina. From there he marched through Salisbury and the Guilford Courthouse where his twelve months of service expired.

Following the war, Hezekiah Bryant lived in Mecklenburg County about 25 miles from Charlotte. He married Mary Powell about the year 1786 at the house of John Furr. Later Mary applied for a widow’s pension on 12 Apr 1850 stating “she was married on the 24th day of September, in the year seventeen hundred and eighty five or six, that she was married to the said Hezekiah Bryan at the house of her father John Powell…” She stated that the meeting house was located near the home of her father. After publication of bonds according to law at Haynes Meeting House, they were married by a Rev. Mr. Neussman, a Baptist Clergyman.

As it turns out Rev. Adolphus Nussman was the first Lutheran missionary and minister in the state of North Carolina.  And, from the journal of Rev. David Henkel, it’s known that he too preached at Haynes Meeting House.  David Henkel is responsible for the split of the North Carolina synod and formation of the Tennessee synod.

For me, this is seriously intensely remarkable. While walking lands in support of a personal mapping project in southern Cabarrus County, I stumbled upon an ancient cemetery  that folks related as being of little worth. Described in deeds as located on “Meeting House Branch nigh the Baptist Church,” it turns out that the old abandoned cemetery is the site of Haynes Meeting House.  And, it sat amongst land grants issued to those who had earlier removed from Wake County NC.

 (see #7 on the plat map below and then learn more
about the land from the link to legal descriptions).

Legal Descriptions

One last observation.  Hezekiah Bryant bought land from Bonner Bird just north and west of present day Bethel UMC in Cabarrus.  Bonner Bird eventually moved to Burke County NC.  But, prior to living in Cabarrus, Bonner was enumerated in the 1790 Wake County census.

In this post I’ve covered what I know of other THOMAS families who once lived in southern Wake County. But there’s more, and it’s time to put this post to sleep.  Stay tuned for more on Asa, Nathan and another Thomas family from Wake County NC.