Category Archives: Thomas

About the Thomas Family

WHERE TO GO FROM HERE…

We’ve looked at the early THOMAS lands in Wake County and weighed the possibility that a Jacob Thomas in Wake is the same one who shows up later in Anson County NC.   The family of Joseph Thomas is about to move a few miles south from Wake where they would settle on the Caper Fear along the county line of Chatham and Moore.

Before tracing the Joseph Thomas family further, records are screaming at me that there’s more to see and understand in Wake County. The name Joseph Thomas traces back so easily to Bertie County and I’m afraid that others in the same family migration have been ignored. And, as DNA now links me to this early place and time, I really want to search all options in order to learn as much as possible about my family. So, where to start?

Dated 17 December 1796, Redmond Matthews wrote his last will and testament and bequeathed a bay horse called Richmond to Micajah Thomas. The will is witnessed by Nathan (L) Thomas (jurat) and Valentine Austin. As Micajah is likely the son of our Joseph Thomas, who is this Nathan Thomas?  And, who is Asa and Jonathan Thomas who also lived nearby?

will 1

Last Will and Testament of Redmond Matthews

CONNECTING OUR THOMAS TO WAKE (Part 4)

In the past few posts I’ve identified the THOMAS lands in upper Anson County, raised the possibility that our ancestor Benjamin Thomas may have somehow been related to a Jacob Thomas who also owned nearby land in Anson, and identified a possible path back to a Thomas family whose DNA matches ours and whose story in Wake County overlooks a clue to Jacob Thomas in Anson. As the search light has yet to be focused on the life of Jacob Thomas in Anson County, let’s go there before offering a conclusion based on the findings.

jacoba.jpgSo who was Jacob Thomas of Anson County? Entered 20 April 1779 and issued 14 October 1783, this Jacob Thomas was issued grant #4451 for 100 acres on the south side of Rocky River on the southeast side of Richardson Creek.
jacobb.jpgThe land was near the present day crossing of Hwy 742 around what’s called Green’s or Hudson’s branch and adjoined or was near the lands owned by Joachim Hudson, William Morris, William May, John Wright, Asa Baucom, and William Curlee. The chain bearers for this grant were Joachim Hudson and Thomas Gilbert. There’s no other land or court record for this Jacob Thomas and he may appear in record only one more time. In the 1790 Anson County census, a Jacob Thomas is enumerated next to Frederick Taylor as 1 male over 16, one male under 16 and 3 females. He’s not near Benjamin Thomas and is his location cannot be readily gleaned from the census.census.jpg

The only clues we have are in the strong naming tradition of “Jacob Thomas” used by generations of descendants of Benjamin Thomas. That, and in Thomas Gilbert as being chain bearer. Note that Thomas is the brother of Jesse Gilbert and Jesse married to Sarah Green 28 February 1764 in Edgecombe County. Thomas married Eady Weatherford who was from the family of William and Hillikiah Weatherford. Jesse died in Anson and Thomas Gilbert moved with others including Culpepper and Greed to GA. The first court in Laurens County was held in the home of Major Thomas and the first Grand Jury was: Benjamin Adams, Benjamin Brown, William, Boykin, Robert Daneil, Joseph Denson, BENJAMIN DORSEY, Simon Fowler, Henry Fulgham, John Gilbert, Thomas Gilbert, Leonard Green, Edward Hagan, Andrew Hampton, Charles Higdon, Mark May, Gideon Mays, George Martin, William McCall, Charles Stringer, John Speight, James Sarten, Jesse Stephens, Samuel Stanley, Samuel Sparks, George Tarvin, Joseph Vickers, Jesse Wigins, Nathan Weaver, David Watson, Joseph Yarborough, William Yarbrough.

For Jacob Thomas in Anson, there’s no smoking gun, no proof solid evidence that he’s our guy. However, Jacob Thomas is living amongst others who had migrated from or through Wake County from further north in Bertie/Edgecombe Counties. And in Wake County there is a Jacob who lived near to and joined road crews with other Thomas family who we now connect via DNA. The Clerk of Court’s office in Wake burned and therefore we have no record of Jacob buying or selling land. He’s there in early 1770’s and disappears just in time to be the Jacob who shows up in Anson to enter land there in 1779. It’s my belief he is either the father or brother to Benjamin Thomas of Anson.

CONNECTING OUR THOMAS TO WAKE (Part 3)

grants - CopyA person by the name of Jacob Thomas appears in the earliest court records of Wake County as one of several men ordered to work under Nathan Rowland on a road from Terrible Creek to the Cumberland County line.    The order reads:

Ordered that Nathan ROLAND be overseer of the road from Terrible Creek, to Cumberland line, and that the following persons work under him viz. William ROLAND, Etheldred JONES, William JONES, Role STEDSEON, William WAMMACK, Jacob THOMAS and Smiths BATTEMORE.  1st Tuesday, December 1771, Book A-1, Page 22.

One year later, Joseph Thomas first appears in the records of Wake County as member of a Jury of local citizens ordered to lay off a road that was likely an extension of the road where Jacob Thomas had worked:

Ordered that the following Persons be appointed a Jury to lay of a Road from James Quantocks to the County line agreeable to the Order passed last Court (towit)  Jacob Utley, James Quantock, Christopher Woodward, Lewis Jones, Landman Short, Francis Settles, Christopher Osborn, William Barker, Henry Day, James Holland, Richard Green, Anthony Holland, Lazarus Hood, Joseph THOMAS, and that John Utley be appd. Constable to summons said Jury.

There are no further court records or deeds in the name of Jacob Thomas and he was never issued a land grant in Wake County. However, the location of Jacob’s living in Wake County can be gleaned from a land grant issued to William Jones. Being grant # 973 in Wake County, William Jones was issued 200 acres in the fork of Neill’s Creek. The grant was entered 27 May 1779 by Daniel OLDhands (Oldham) and on 16 Jul 1785, Daniel Oldhands assigned the grant to William Jones who it was finally issued to on 15 May 1787.

S762916072707550From the original entry book and as written in the survey below, the 200 acres was located “on the fork of Niel’s Creek including an improvement made by Jacob Thomas.” From the illustration at the top of this page, you can see William Jones’ 200 acres colored in green. You can compare the information to the survey below. You can also locate the road where Jacob, Joseph and other members of the THOMAS family once worked.

S762916072707550It’s my belief this Jacob Thomas is somehow related to Joseph and others who lived in and around Wake County.  It’s my belief he walked the road a few miles south to the ferry where he crossed the Cape Fear and likely never returned. He obviously lived on the land granted to Daniel Oldham who later assigned it to William Jones. And after doing so, the record of Jacob Thomas in Wake and surrounding area dies. Jacob could have purchased, sold or otherwise lived on lands in Wake, though such records are lost due to the 1832 fire in the office of the Wake County Clerk of Court.

 

CONNECTING OUR THOMAS TO WAKE (Part 2)

There’s John and Joseph Thomas in early Bertie County NC.  Actually, there seems to be lots of them and there’s a pretty good record trail leading their descendants south and west from Bertie to Johnston and Wake Counties NC.  It seems for many, family is identified by what line out of these men named Joseph Thomas one descends. But for me, my ancestor is named Benjamin who showed up in 1778 Anson County NC and had sons David, Ezekiel, Ananias, Jacob, and Benjamin Jr. This Benjamin of mine must have been driven more by religion than the family name ….makes sense?  And I’d guess, based on his children’s names, that he was strongly influenced by the Baptist movement. Do I hear an amen? 

For more than 30 years many people have proclaimed that Benjamin of Anson was the son of prominent Stephen Thomas who removed from Maryland to a location in old Anson County further east.  But, I’m here to tell you that a close study of deeds and court records blows this notion all to pieces.  Also, this understanding is made indisputably false by way of DNA testing.  There’s no family tie …at all! So who is my Benjamin’s daddy? 

All the while, there in Anson County, there’s a Jacob Thomas who acquired land near Benjamin two years before Benjamin himself bought land from Gideon Green. Could this Jacob be the father of Benjamin?  Or was he a brother? We can only guess. And greatly adding to this clue, recent DNA testing has solidly linked the Benjamin Thomas family of Anson NC to the family of Joseph Thomas who once lived in Wake before moving to Chatham and then possibly to Moore County NC.

We have new family. We know there are a lot of us in Anson, Union, and Stanly Counties.  But folks, there’s a pile of us as large or larger to our north in Moore, Chatham and Wake. And like Jacob Thomas hidden amongst the record of our Thomas family in Anson, there was a Jacob too in Wake County whose record is fainter yet. And yes, there were men named Jacob Thomas living in Bertie County whose fathers had names like Joseph.

It’s times like this that I wish I knew my Bible better.  I’d love to tell a story of a father named Joseph. And, of Jacob who quietly went about life without being noticed.

CONNECTING OUR THOMAS TO WAKE COUNTY (Part 1)

The map below locating THOMAS lands in old Anson County is not meant to be highly accurate. However, the locations indicated are closely identified by land grants and deeds.

thomasThe Thomas family in old upper Anson (now also in Union) settled along the waters of Richardson Creek.  Past history holds to the belief that Benjamin Thomas is our family’s earliest known ancestor. His first appearance in the records of Anson County was as chain carrier for two grants issued to Gideon Green:

Grant #4324, Anson NC, to Gideon Green. Ent 15 Jun 1779, Sur 15 Jun 1779, Iss 11 Oct 1783. For 150 acres south of Rocky River and situated on both sides of Richardson’s Creek. One of the lines of this survey follows the courses of Walnut Branch. Chainers were Salathiel Clifton and Benjamin Thomas. Grant # 4629,

Anson, to Gideon Green. Ent 15 Jun 1779, Sur 15 Jun 1779, Iss 14 Oct 1783. For 50 acres lying on the south side of Richardson’s Creek. Chainers were Salathiel Clifton and Benjamin Thomas.

Benjamin Thomas would not be a land owner himself until well after the revolutionary war when on 26 October 1785 he purchased Gideon’s grant #4324 above. Benjamin Thomas went on to acquire other lands to the north and south of Richardson Creek in the same area.  He would later deed land along the north side of Richardson Creek to “my son” Ezekiel (Map Key A).  This land continued to be identified as lying on Walnut Tree Branch of Richardson Creek.  And near to the branch is the old THOMAS cemetery (see cross) now gone and planted in crops.  This is also the location of Charity Ford, possibly named for Ezekiel’s wife Charity.

The elder Benjamin Thomas deeded his lands on the south side of Richardson Creek to “my son” Ananias (Map Key B). East of Gourdvine Creek, the lands were close to an old Baptist Church near the Edmond Davis Cemetery where Ananias Thomas is buried.

David Thomas, believed strongly to be the son of Benjamin Thomas acquired grants of land along the Flag Fork of the Watery Branch (Map Key C). There’s no record stating specifically that David is the son of Benjamin. However, David named a son Ananias and Benjamin’s son Ananias named a son David.   The honoring by name shows relation and it’s always been believed that it signified that David and Ananias were brothers.   Also, David Thomas moved to Chester County SC around 1810 where family remain in part today with others moving to Blount County Alabama. There is also a deed in Chester County SC where David’s brother Ezekiel Thomas is witnessing land transactions from Michael and Gideon Austin.  Michael lived earlier in Anson and his lands were located close to those of David Thomas.

Benjamin’s son Jacob Thomas married the daughter of John and Sarah O’Neal Edwards and began acquiring grants along Crib’s Creek in present day Burnsville (Map Key D).  Jacob is buried in a family cemetery along the fence line at the right angle turn on Jones Pond Road.  However, because the headstones were being destroyed by farming equipment, they were removed across the road to the old Thomas cemetery where slaves and their descendants are buried.

Old Benjamin deeded his son Benjamin Jr. lands north of that deeded to son Ezekiel (Map Key E). Some believe that old Benjamin married the daughter of his contemporary William Gurley. I do not believe this is true as it was Benjamin Thomas Junior who was of right age and who in fact was bequeathed land from William Gurley’s estate.

As far as tradition goes, this is what we know of the family of Benjamin Thomas.  However, there is another THOMAS living nearby whose records will likely open the door to a deepening family history. Two years prior to Benjamin’s purchase of land from Gideon Green, a Jacob Thomas was issued a land grant (Map Key F) in 1783 on the north side of Richardson Creek. Chainbearers were Joacim Hudson and Thomas Gilbert.

 

 

 

 

 

PIECES TO THE PUZZLE

for web.jpgOrdered that Nathan ROLAND be overseer of the road from Terrible Creek, to Cumberland line, and that the following persons work under him viz. William ROLAND, Etheldred JONES, William JONES, Role STEDSEON, William WAMMACK, Jacob THOMAS and Smiths BATTEMORE.  1st Tuesday, December 1771, Book A-1, Page 22.

Ordered that the following persons be appointed a Jury to lay off a Road from James Quantocks to the County line agreeable to the order passed last court (towit) Jacob UTLEY, James QUANTOCK, Christipher WOODWARD, Lewis JONES, Landman SHORT, Francis SETTLES, Christopher OSBORN, William BARKER, Henry DAY, James HOLLAND, Richard GREEN, Anthony HOLLAND, Lazarus Wood, Joseph THOMAS, and that John UTLEY be appd. Constable to summons said Jury. 1st Tuesday, December, 1772, Book A-1, Page 45.

Daniel OLDHANDS (name written OLDhands) enters Two Hundred acres of land in Wake County, lying in the fork of NIELS Creek, including an improvement made by Jacob THOMAS. 20 Nov 1778, Land Entry # 720, Wake County NC.

(Map Key O) Land Grant 1003 to Jesse Jones (assignee of Daniel OLDhand), being 600 acres on  the Horsepen branch of Neill’s Creek near Danby’s improvement. Wake County NC, entered 18 March 1779, issued 15 May 1787.

481(Map Key A) Land Grant 481 to Joseph THOMAS, being 350 acres on both sides of Little White Oak Creek adjoining Lewis LASHLEY line. The warrant states the land adjoins a claim of John UTLEY including improvements by Reuben WISE – the plantation whereon Anthony Holland now lives. Chain Bearers: Anthony HOLLAND, James OLIVE. Wake County NC, entered 27 May 1779, surveyed 13 Jul 1779, issued 11 Apr 1780

482(Map Key B) Land Grant 482 to Joseph THOMAS, being 350 acres on both sides of Little White Oak Creek and Jacob’s Branch Joining a road and the line of James OLIVE. Chain Bearers: Etheldred Jones, Josiah Brown. Wake County NC, entered 2 Jun 1779, surveyed 10 Jul 1779, issued 11 Apr 1780.

35a(Map Key C) Land Grant 450[A] to Joseph THOMAS, being 100 acres on both sides of Little White Oak Creek joining the lands of John Utley. Chain Bearers: John HILL, Anthony OLIVE.  Wake County NC, entered 27 May 1779, surveyed 13 Jul 1779. Issued 11 Apr 1780.

450(Map Key D) Land Grant 450 to Joseph THOMAS, being 100 acres on both sides of White Oak Creek joining the lines of a survey of land purchased by Etheldred Jones from Christopher Osborne including Thomas’ improvement. Chain Bearers Etheldred JONES, John NORRIS. Wake County NC, entered 14 Sep 1780, surveyed 9 Jul 1779, issued 11 Apr 1780.

509(Map Key H) Land Grant 509 to Nathan THOMAS, being 200 acres on both sides of Braswell’s Creek. Chain Bearers John NORRIS, Gerrard STEVENS. Wake County NC entered 27 May 1779, surveyed 5 Jul 1779, issued 11 Apr 1780.

Ordered that George CARTER a poor child and orphan of Wake County be bound Apprentice first day of October last past of the age of eight years of age the said Nathan THOMAS to teach him the trade and occupation of a cooper and perform his duty in every respect comfortable to an act of the General Assembly of this State respecting Apprentices. First Monday of March, 1783, Book 1, Page 248.

A deed from Joseph THOMAS to Lewis LASHLEY was proved in Open Court by the Oath of Drury BURKS? (Burkee) a Witness thereto and Ordered to be Registered. First Monday of June 1783, Book 1, Page 257.

A deed from Joseph THOMAS to Drury BARKER was in Open Court duly proved by the Oath of Lewis LASHLEY a Witness thereto and Ordered to be Registered. First Monday of June 1783, Book 1, Page 258.

A deed from Joseph THOMAS to Ethedred JONES was in Open Court duly proved by the Oath of Bruwell POPE a Witness thereto and Ordered to be Registered. First Monday of June 1783, Book 1, Page 261.

Ordered that the following Persons be a Jury to Lay off a Road leading from Wake Court House to to the Buckhorn Road near John BURKERS towwit; Edward GREEN, Lewis JONES, Philip JONES, Silas GREEN, Solomon SIMMONS, John UTLEY, William SPEIGHT, Christr. OSBORN, William BROWN, William JONES, John TAYLOR, Christr, WOODARD, (issd.); Ordered that the following Persons open said Road towit, Josiah SHORT, John STREATOR, Moses HOWELL, Thomas PEDDY, Jessee JENT, John TAYLOR, David STROHORN, Wyke HONEYCUTT, James SHELTON, Lewis SMITH, Nathan THOMAS issd. First Monday of June 1783, Book 1, Page 266

Scan(Map Key E) Land Grant 886 to Joseph THOMAS (assignee of William Olive) being 300 acres on the south side of Tom Jacks Creek adjoining the County Line and lands of HICKS and TEDDY. Chain Bearers Thomas TEDDER, William BUGG. Wake County NC, entered 30 Sep 1785, surveyed 24 Nov 1783, issued 30 Sep 1785.

1(Map Key F) Land Grant 939 to Joseph THOMAS, being 100 acres on both sides of Little White Oak Creek near a road and adjoins James OLIVE. Chain Bearers Andrew PEDDY, Stuart HAMILTON. Wake County NC, entered 11 Jul, 1783, surveyed 23 Nov 1783, issued 30 September 1785.

957(Map Key G) Land Grant 957 to Joseph THOMAS (assignee of Thomas Tedder) being 200 acres on Tom Jacks Branch including his own improvements and adjoining lands of Thomas HICKS. Chain bearers Isaac HILL, William BUGG. Wake County NC, entered 27 May 1779, surveyed 24 Sep 1783, issued 30 Sep 1785.

Ordered that Richmon LEVENS be Overseer of the Road in the Room of Joseph THOMAS and that the same hands work on said Road as usual. First Monday of December 1787, Book 2, Page 384.

Ordered that the following hands be added to the Road where William HAYES Esq. is Overseer of towit. Joseph THOMAS, Micajah THOMAS, John THOMAS, Joseph THOMAS Junr., and Nathan ALLEN. First Monday of June, 1790, Book 2, Page 424.

A deed from Joseph THOMAS to Abraham BLEDSOE was duly proved in open Court by the Oath of James HUCKABY a Witness thereto and ordered to be Registered. First Monday of June 1791, Book 2, Page 497.

Ordered that Nathan THOMAS be Overseer of the new Road leading to Jca. ATKINS’S ferry, from Segraves to Cumberland County line and that the following hands work on said Road under him (towit);

David JONES, John BURT, William JONES, John JONES, Redman MATTHEWS, Stephen MATHEWS, Asa THOMAS, Jonathan THOMAS, David MATHEWS, Elkin JONES, John SEGRAVES, Daniel BARKER, James Jo__ and their hands. First Monday of June 1791, Book 2, Page 525.

A Deed from Etheldred JONES to Joseph THOMAS was duly proved in Open Court by the Oath of Britain Utley a Witness thereto and ordered to be Registered. First Monday or December, 1791, Book 2, Page 548.

A Deed from Joseph THOMAS to George ____ ____ duly proved in Court by ____ ____ James HUCKEBY a witness thereto and ____.  First Monday of March 1792, Book 2, Page 565.

A Deed from Joseph THOMAS to Stewart HAMILTON was proved in open Court by the Oath and Andrew PEDDY a witness thereto and ordered to be Registered. First Monday of March, 1792, Page 569.

Nathan THOMAS and Benjamin HOLLAND administrators of Jonathan THOMAS decd. returned and Inventory of the estate of the said Jonathan THOMAS, which was duly proved and ordered to be recorded. First Monday of March, 1793, Book 3, Page 41.

Ordered that James GAINES be Overseer of the Road from Chatham County line on the Road leading from Chatham to Wake Court House as far as William SEAGRAVES’S and that the hands of sad James GAINES, and William HAYES, Elijah WATSON, John SELLERS, Joseph THOMAS, Micajah THOMAS, Joshua ELKINS, ad their hands work on said Road under him. First Monday of March 1793, Book 3, Page 49.

Sarah THOMAS Widow & relict of Jonathan THOMAS dec’d. came into Court and relinquished her right of Administration of the Estate of her Deceased husband Jonathan THOMAS, whereupon on motion Administration of the Estate to the said deceased is granted to Nathan THOMAS and Benjamin HOLLAND, who entered into Bond in the sum of L200 and gave Britain SANDERS ad Silas GREEN for their Securities NS Qualified agreeable to Law, at the same time returned an Inventory of the Estate of the deceased which was duly proved and ordered to be recorded. First Monday of March, 1793, Book 3, Page 50.

Ordered that the following hands be added to the Road that Adrew Peddy is overseer of (towit)  Edmund LASHLEY, Daniel OAKS, Edwin STEPHENS, John THOMAS, John NORRIS, Needham NORRIS, James BALLARD, Hardy STEPHENS, Elijah WATSON and their hands. First Monday of December 1793, Book 3, Page 115.

Ordered that Pleasant WOODARD be Overseer of the Road from Thomas GENTS path to Etheldred JONES Plantation on said Road and that the following hands work on said Road under him (towit); John THOMAS, Richard WOODARD, Hardy JOHNSTON, John SEAGRAVES, Thomas JENT, Jesse GENT, William BRYAN, and their hands. First Monday September 1793, Book 3, Page 124.

Ordered that the following Jury, towit; Andrew PEDDY, Thomas Peddy, Elijah WATSON, John BURT, Joseph THOMAS, Joseph THOMAS Junr., Micajah THOMAS, John THOMAS, Daniel OAKS, Stewart HAMILTON, Carnaby STEPHENS, nd Richard HUCKEBY turn the road leading from James GAINES’S esq. to BRASWELL’S Ferry and report thereon to next Court. Third Monday of December 1794, Book 3. Page 192.

Ordered that the following Jury (towit); William COOK, Moses HICKS, Jacob LEVENS, Andrew PEDDY, Yancy THORNTON, Richard HUCCABY, Carnaby Stevens, Rias EDWARDS, B BROWN, William COTTLE, Joseph THOMAS, Micajah THOMAS, William SPIVY, and James HUCCABY or any twelve of them view a piece of road turned by James HUCCABY and report thereon to next Court.  Third Monday of September, 1795, Book 3, Page 264.

1214(Map Key I) Land Grant 1214 to Nathan THOMAS, being 314 acres on the waters of Braswell’s Creek joining his own lands and Silas GREEN and David MATHEWS. Chain Bearers, Jonathan THOMAS, Asa THOMAS. Wake County NC entered 18 Aug 1789, surveyed 21 June 1792, issued 17 Apr 1797.

1215(Map Key J) Land Grant 1215 to Nathan THOMAS, being 200 acres on the waters of Buckhorn Creek joining his own land and that of George WILLIAMS, Silas GREEN and John NORRIS. Chain Bearers Jonathan THOMAS, Asa THOMAS. Wake County NC entered 2 Sep 1788, surveyed 22 Jun 1792, issued 17 Apr 1797.

INSOLVENTS allowed in the District that James HUCKABEE is collector:  Daniel OAKS one poll, Asa THOMAS one poll, William COTTLE two polls, James STRAT one poll, Barnaby BROWN, one poll, Jos COTTLE one poll. Wake County NC, September 1798, Book 4, Page 553.

A WALK FROM WAKE

avent ferry_tonemappedStanding at Braswell’s on the north side of the Cape Fear at what’s known as Avent’s Ferry, the anticipation must have been overwhelming for the folk who were starting their trek west. It was 1778 and times were changing fast. Rooted in the lead-up to the Revolutionary war, a series of General Assembly acts authorized the state to grant unsold colonial lands.  In places like Mecklenburg, unsold acreage in Arthur Dobb’s 100,000 acre tracts was also authorized to be sold by way of Secretary of State land grants.

Situated on the Great Pee Dee Trail, Avent’s Ferry was the primary starting point for many removing from places like Wake and Johnston Counties. It also served those who moved from further north, leaving behind their homes in places like Bertie and Martin Counties. Some moved down the trail and never came back north while others returned home or at least made visits.  The names of families that likely crossed at the ferry include Green, Strait, Kent, Segraves, Traywick, Baucom,  Barker, Holland, Osborne, Gurley, Braswell, Rogers, Pope, Austin, Lee, Hamiliton, Hill, Jones, Honeycutt, Hobbs, Rowland, and maybe even THOMAS.

My family settled in Anson County, but from where did they come?  I’ve suspected they came out of areas surrounding Wake County, but how can I be certain? Rather than delving into the who-done-it of my own family history, I’d like to share several important lessons learned on recent visits to the North Carolina State Archives. In particular, I’d like to share information that may be of help to those of you researching family in southern Wake County.

Named in honor of Governor Tryon’s wife Margaret, Wake County was formed 12 March 1771 out of land cut from Granville, Johnston and Cumberland. The people that really interested me lived in southern Wake County and therefore I asked, …if part of Wake was cut from Cumberland, then where was the line prior to the formation of Wake? If part of Wake was once Cumberland, I should be able to find earlier mention of its residents in the annals of Cumberland County ….right???

Poring through historic county maps and clicking through online formation animations, I was deeply bothered by something I was NOT SEEING. The southern county line of Wake appeared to never move! I questioned the folks at archives and though we all saw the same thing, nobody had a clue as to what happened. This all changed this week when I passed the back corner table where friend Jack McGeachy was working to abstract New Hanover court minutes. Telling him of my concerns, he asked if I had seen the book of North Carolina County Formations that included detail maps? Jack graciously walked me to the Genealogy library downstairs where he showed me the North Carolina Atlas of Historical County Boundaries compiled by Gordon DenBoer and edited by John H. Long. The below overlay map of early Cumberland indicated its northern most county line was “estimated.”  It appears a wedge of land overlapped present day Wake County and that the boundary was disputed through 1782.  That’s important find number one.cumberland

Secondly, I’ve always known that existing court records in Wake were solid though no deed books survive prior to 1782. This week I learned that several deed books covering the early years of Wake County were burned in an 1832 fire at the Clerk of Court office. To a small degree you are able to work around this through a close study of Secretary of State land grants. Also, and since other records are pretty solid for Wake County, you can glean a bit of information from the registering of deeds found in the county court minutes.

So, not only are we robbed of the chance to identify family through their land conveyances, now we have to work around records obviously corrupted by a disputed county line! And for us all, it is what it is and there’s little we can do to make it better.  Our best opportunities lie in understanding the situation and by then making the best of what we have.

As for my own THOMAS clan, Benjamin was fathering his family during the period when the southern bounds of Wake County were in dispute. It was a time he would likely begin to show himself in record. Robbed of that opportunity, will we be able to locate him some other way?  Note, …an important note too, is that a Joseph Thomas and others lived within the disputed wedge of Wake/Cumberland County.  Through DNA, descendants of the Joseph Thomas family match and are therefore related to the descendants of Benjamin Thomas of Anson County. There must be something in the wedge of disputed land that we need to uncover.

One last find, and one that likely plays no role in our family is the learning of a county that I had never heard of.  Have you ever heard of Fayette County?  Formed on 4 Jul 1784, the county was eliminated 25 November 1784:Fayette

 

BEYOND THE WALL

ajaxhelperCPZU9NFLIt’s a big day for my THOMAS family. The culmination of many years of research has solidified the story of our earliest known ancestor, Benjamin Thomas of Anson County NC. We know much about him and research tells us of his neighbors, of whom many came from places like Wake, Chatham and Johnston counties before settling in Anson. It would seem from the old saying “birds of a feather flock together,” that somehow we’d find Benjamin living among neighbors in an earlier time and place. But this is not so. Benjamin Thomas of Anson County is our “Brick Wall;” there is nothing of his past beyond Anson County.

DNA testing has been helpful in expanding our story line. Beliefs have been verified and new family relations have been illuminated. We’ve learned of Joseph Thomas who came from NC through GA before his story comes to end in Coosa County Alabama. There’s also Andrew Thomas (born in NC) who first appears in 1860 Montgomery County Alabama. For both families there is no existing records linking to earlier family here in NC. Like the descendants of Benjamin Thomas, all we have are hunches and a few seemingly meaningful naming traditions.

It truly is a big day for the Thomas family as very new DNA testing now connects us to a family who came from an area we’ve always believed to be within the classical migratory path through NC. For the first time, we’re able to look back in time, to see over our brick wall, and catch a glimpse upstream to the people our Benjamin may have known as family.

Here’s the story. As it turns out, a James Frederick Thomas flew 30 missions as a B 24 Aircraft Commander.  Before that, he drove a mule for his sharecropping daddy, John Edward Thomas in Lee County, NC. Like his father, James Frederick Thomas’ son Daniel Thomas also took to the skies as an Air Force pilot with our former Strategic Air Command. Curious of his past, Daniel was DNA tested and his family tree is as follows:

(Daniel Thomas 1946)

James Frederick Thomas (Dad) 1919  – 2006

John Edward Thomas 1884 – 1966 Moore and Lee County, NC

John Martin Thomas 1849 – 1910, Moore County, NC

Daniel Thomas 1814 – 1880, Moore County, NC

*John Thomas 1772 – 1849, Moore County, NC

Joseph Luther Thomas 1747 – 1818, New Kent, VA to  Moore County, NC

Joseph Thomas Jr  1701 – 1758, New Kent, VA to Moore County, NC

Joseph Thomas Sr 1680 – 1735, Isle Wight, VA to Bertie, NC

Richard Thomas 1629 – 1687, Nansemond, VA (Birth date needs correction)

John Thomas Jr 

John Thomas Sr  Wales to Queen’s Creek, VA

If this holds to scrutiny, the linage may go a long way in identifying our path to the past.  Thus far, in the few days devoted to this new possibility, I am sincerely overwhelmed by the woven web of history of this line and how it links to family and neighbors who made their home along Rocky River. Please stay in touch and if connected, note that a Facebook user group will soon be created to collectively share research, stories, documents and pictures with the idea of extending our family history beyond the brick wall.

IMG_20160611_133632619*John’s marriage bond from Wake County NC to wife Mary Oaks. Note a Daniel Oaks lived close to if not on land adjoining the lands of John’s father Joseph. Family land records in the area around and under present day Shearon Harris Lake connect with families Green, Osborn, Kent, Straight, and others who removed to live along the Rocky River. And today, there remains a Thomas Creek and remnants of a Thomas mill nearby (see map at the top of the page).

PUAH: A NAME WITH MEANING

Many living along and in the region of the Rocky River hold to the belief that at some point in the past there occurred a mixing betwixt their ancestors and the indigenous peoples.   It’s not really a farfetched idea, as we know many who settled in the area migrated from the northeast part of North Carolina where early European settlers sometimes intermarried with “People of Color”, including Algonquin, Tuscarora, Haliwa-Saponi, and black Africans.

I, myself, have been curious about my ancestors’ ethnicity because of how easily and darkly my paternal family tans. Recently, in searching my family roots, my curiosity was peaked after learning of one certain person’s given name.

My namesake ancestor George Thomas was born 9 Feb 1852, the son of David and Alice Newsome Thomas. From the Joseph Newsome family bible, we know that, sadly, Alice died less than three months after the birth of her baby boy, George. And, from an estate book in Union County, we know that George’s father David did not live much longer, dying prior to 1854.

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Thomas Family burial plot at the Edmond Davis Cemetery

The burial location of David and Alice are unknown though I can’t help but think they lay at rest behind or near David’s father Ananias at the Edmond Davis cemetery. George Thomas may have been raised by Edmond Davis, who was his guardian and the administrator of his father’s estate.

 

George eventually moved to Stanly County where in 1870 he was enumerated as living in the home of John Brooks. It’s here that the story gets interesting . . . John Brooks’ son Joshua married George’s older sister, Puah Ellen Thomas. I’d never heard the name Puah before and thought for sure it was a Native American Indian name until I learned better.

As it turns out, Puah Ellen Thomas was named for her mother Alice’s sister, Puah Newsome. Puah Newsome’s birth record is found in the same Newsome family bible that records the death of Alice. Puah Newsome married Edmond Davis’ brother Andrew Jackson Davis and together they eventually removed to Chester County, Tennessee. We’ll hear more from them later.

Given names have meanings and are given with purpose. If not Native American, I wondered, what is the story behind Joseph Newsome’s daughter, Puah? I found the following scripture in the Book of Exodus, Chapter 1: 15-17.

15 And the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives, of which the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah. 16 And he said, when ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live. 17 But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive.

Knowing of Joseph Newsome’s Quaker heritage, an internet search opened my eyes to the above verses used by Quakers and others in the Abolition Movement to end slavery.

Angelina_Emily_GrimkeOne of the prominent voices in this movement was that of Emily Angelina Grimke, born in 1805 in Charleston SC. Her father was a politician and profitable plantation owner in SC. Emily accompanied her father on a trip to Philadelphia where she was introduced to the Quaker religion. She came to the realization that it was no longer possible for her to continue life in the presence of slavery and became a prominent American political activist,  abolitionist, women’s rights advocacy, andsupporter of the women’s suffrage movement.

Published in 1836, Emily Grimke’s Appeal to Christian Women of the South makes the case that women, like their male counterparts, should be held accountable for their actions. She writes:

“We do not make the laws which perpetuate slavery. No legislative power is vested in us; we can do nothing to overthrow the system, even if we wished to do so. To this I reply, I know you do not make the laws, but I also know that you are the wives and mothers, the sisters and daughters of those who do; and if you really suppose you can do nothing to overthrow slavery, you are greatly mistaken. You can do much in every way…”

Rationalizing her argument in the above scripture from Exodus 1:15-17, Emily Grimke includes the following suggestion on how southern women could actively support the Abolition Movement.

“Teach your servants then to read and encourage them to believe it is their duty to learn, if it were only that they might read the Bible. But some of you will say, we can neither free our slaves nor teach them to read, for the laws of our state forbid it. Be not surprised when I say such wicked laws ought to be no barrier in the way of your duty, and I appeal to the Bible to prove this position.

What was the conduct of Shiphrah and Puah, when the king of Egypt issued his cruel mandate, with regard to the Hebrew children? “They feared God, and did not as the King of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive.” Did these women do right in disobeying that monarch? “Therefore (says the sacred text,) God dealt well with them, and made them houses” Ex. I.

What was the conduct of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, when Nebuchadnezzar set up a golden image in the plain of Dura, and commanded all people, nations, and languages, to fall down and worship it? “Be it known, unto thee, (said these faithful Jews) O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the image which thou hast set up.” Did these men do right in disobeying the law of their sovereign? Let their miraculous deliverance from the burning fiery furnace, answer; Dan. III.

What was the conduct of Daniel, when Darius made a firm decree that no one should ask a petition of any man or God for thirty days? Did the prophet cease to pray? No! “When Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house, and his windows being open towards Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.” Did Daniel do right thus to break the law of his king? Let his wonderful deliverance out of the mouths of the lions answer; Dan. VII.

Look, too, at the Apostles Peter and John. When the rulers of the Jews, “commanded them not to speak at all, nor teach in the name of Jesus,” what did they say? “Whether it be right in the sight of God, to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.” And what did they do “They spake the word of God with boldness, and with great power gave the Apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus;” although this was the very doctrine, for the preaching of which, they had just been cast into prison, and further threatened. Did these men do right? I leave you to answer, who now enjoy the benefits of their labors and sufferings, in that Gospel they dared to preach when positively commanded not to teach any more in the name of Jesus ; Acts IV.”

Reading this passionate plea, I can’t help but think that the name of Joseph Newsome’s daughter Puah arose out of readings, sermons, and other connections to a Quaker perspective on the Abolition Movement. What were Joseph’s political leanings and did they change with time? While numbers of his grandchildren served in the Confederate forces, were there any remaining vestibules of Quaker ethic?

(to be continued)

A TRIP TO GETTYSBURG

13With the exception of an occasional passing jogger, I was alone there in the misty Pennsylvania pre-dawn morning. Monuments to the dead rose above the hallowed fields as far as my eyes could see. And peacefully silent, I sat in tearful solitude near what was once the Union Headquarters. The morning glowed surreal as the changing tints of majestic purple washed over the landscape. Far across the fields laying before me, another monument made itself known. The white spot on the distant tree line acknowledged the State of Virginia, the Army of Northern Virginia and atop the large granite block was Robert E. Lee with his horse “Traveler.” Most if not all of the North Carolina troops serving at Gettysburg did so under the command of the Army of Northern Virginia.

Over 620,000 Americans died in the Civil War nearly equaling the combined number killed in all other armed conflicts. For every three men killed in battle, five died of disease. And at Gettysburg alone, over 51,000 were killed in just three days. Though a tragic waste of humanity, it was a necessary war and there was little option but for the south to lose. I can’t imagine this country if the outcome had turned out differently. And as for the State of North Carolina, we lost more men than any other state in the Confederacy and yet our men served valiantly while having the least to gain.

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What was it like? What were the emotions running through the minds of my ancestral neighbors who made their way to Gettysburg for the pivotal battle? Found amongst the private collections at the North Carolina State Archives is the personal diary of Sergeant James E. Green. In the days leading up to Gettysburg, James wrote about the towns and of the people he passed. The unit moved north as the roar of cannons grew louder. And then, without warning, his regiment, CSA Co. I 53rd Reg. NC turned towards Gettysburg where it entered the fight. Take a moment to read the following pages from James Green’s diary:

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Click here to read the diary

 In 1860 my g-grandfather’s older brother Hampton H. Thomas was enumerated as living in Monroe at the home of John Warwick, a shoemaker and emigrant from the state of Pennsylvania. Hampton enlisted 5 June 1861 in Co. B. 26th Reg. NC where he reached the rank of Sergeant.   I imagine the memory of John Warwick weighed on Hampton as he too made his way to Gettysburg.

“No Man Can Take Those Colors and Live”

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Battle Flag -26th Reg. NC

On 1 Jul 1863, the first day of Gettysburg, the 26th faced off with the 24th Michigan at Herbst’s woods. The 26th’s regimental colors were shot down 14 times with 588 out of the initial 843 troops being killed. The CSA 26th NC and USA 24th MI collectively lost more troops than any other units at Gettysburg …day one was over and it would not be their last.

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On 3 Jul 1863, the 26th crossed the fields of Gettysburg in the Pettigrew-Trimble-Picket assault against the center of the Federal line on Cemetery Hill. In this epic struggle, the 26th  regiment’s colors would be shot down 8 more times with another 120 troops being killed. Planting its flag on the Federal works known as “The Angle,” the 26th NC may have advanced farther than any other Confederate unit. Or did they? There’s no doubt that the unit tragically lost more men than any other unit at Gettysburg. The monument at the foot of Cemetery Hill erected in 1986 by the State of North Carolina reads:

 Twenty-Sixth

North Carolina Regiment

Pettigrew’s Brigade Heth’s Division,

Hill’s Corps

Army of Northern Virginia

Although nearly destroyed during its successful attach against Meredith’s Iron Brigade on July 1, the Twenty-Sixth North Carolina Regiment joined in the Pettigrew-Pickett Charge on the afternoon of July 3. Advancing under solid shot hot, spherical case, canister, and musketry, the Regiment charged to within ten paces of the stone wall to their front.

The scene was described by an artilleryman of a Rhode Island battery: “. . .As a regiment of Pettigrew’s Brigade (the Twenty-Sixth North Carolina) was charging . . .and had almost reached the wall in front of us, Sergt. M. C. Onley cried out . . .’Fire that gun! Pull! Pull!’ the No. 4 obeyed orders and the gap made in that North Carolina regiment was simply terrible.” Under this galling fire, the Twenty-Sixth North Carolina was compelled to retire with the Brigade from this point to Seminary Ridge.”

“The men of the Twenty-Sixth Regiment would dress their colors in spite of the world”

Should we trust what’s written on the above monument provided by the State of North Carolina at one of our nation’s most important historical site? Are we certain the information is correct …is it historically accurate? From the history of Capt. William A. Arnold’s Company A of the 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery, much of the information on the 26th’s marker is founded in the writing of Thomas M. Aldrich. Looking more closely at how the battle unfolded, it appears the 26th NC may not have made it front and center to “the Angle,” but rather faced off with the 12th New Jersey and 1st Delaware a bit further to the north. If the monument is incorrect, why hasn’t the State of North Carolina changed it?

hampton

Regardless of how Gettysburg played out, the 26th Reg. NC served the cause valiantly. And as for Hampton H. Thomas, whatever became of him? According to his Combined Confederate Military file, Hampton H. Thomas lost a leg on 3 July 1863 after being captured at the battle of Gettysburg. Following the amputation of his right leg, Hampton was transferred to David’s Island, N.Y., to Fort Wood at Bledsoe’s Island, and then on Christmas eve of 1863, to the Point Lookout Prison in Maryland. Known as “Hell on Earth,” many died from typhoid and other diseases while confined at Point Lookout. Located on a spit of land surrounded by water on three sides, the huge number of prisoners confined in the small space quickly contaminated the limited water supply.

 

H201 Point Lookout, Maryland. Lithograph by E. Sachse & Co., 186

Point Lookout, MD

Hampton Thomas was eventually exchanged at City Point, Va where he stayed until 1865. Returning home to North Carolina, Hampton’s death is recorded in his grandfather Joseph Newsome’s bible. Though Joseph died in 1848, Hampton is listed in the bible as follows:

E - Copy

It’s very likely Hampton Thomas died of typhoid or from some other disease he contracted while in service at Gettysburg or imprisoned at Point Lookout. He’s likely named for a probable uncle Hampton Newsome who also served in the Civil War.  Hampton Newsome removed to TN where he lived out the remainder of his life.