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archivesOutpours of raw emotions during the last few months have fueled Covid related fears. The tragic loss of life at the hands of a policeman has challenged the underpinnings of who we are as a people. Sense of due process is nowhere to be found and it seems each of us are pitted against each other based on opinions, that in good times, would remain properly confidential.

Marrying later in life, my wife Christina and myself have devoted ourselves to each other, along with trying to be the best aunt and uncle we believe possible. We also decided early that much of our free time would be spent in our yard and on travels abroad. It has been a great experience and we have loved every minute of our adventures. However, as with others who travel, our “experiences” remain locked within our minds and out of sight as bits of info on the phone or camera card. It is sad and very seldom that we have the chance to share the dirty little details of where we’ve been.

In hopes of dampening the unhealthy stew of reality presently in place, I plan to keep one eye on world events while aiming my heart to better days. I hope you enjoy as my memories are put into word.  If not for you, then at least I’ll have a place to go when retrieval from the eventual failing of memory prevents me from remembering. No rush!

Travels do not happen without planning.  Along with planning come hitches. As my childhood scoutmaster Steve Dubay once said many years ago, the most perfect scouting outings will not be what you will remember most. Instead, you will reflect fondly on the freezing cold, the blistered foot, and knowing you survived the seeming unsurmountable challenges. For me, no better wisdom has ever been spoken. But that really is not true either as when asked what he wanted most in life, my father’s answer was simply “kind words and cool water.” Nothing else matters.  I hear you dad and am reminded once more what that really means.

I will not base the upcoming posts chronologically or in any other order. They will be randomly presented thoughts beginning with a domestic trip made in 2001. This initial post will be followed with tales from excursions mostly to Europe.  My wife and I have witnessed many things in our few years of travel. Two times we saw the sun fall, a policeman silenced a knife wielding terrorist, and watching from the gate window, we saw our plane leave without us. We survived an attempted robbery, sunburn, and numerous mishaps on the motorways.  We could have traveled in the security of a hired tour guide, though I am thankful we did it our way.


As assistant director of the Crafts Center at North Carolina State University, my responsibility back then was over the maintenance of many things mechanical, along with the supervisory role over the best equipped student owned woodshop in the nation. At that time, I would rather be carving a piece of wood than having a fine dinner. I did not even own a pet as my world back then was greedily driven by the need to create.

It was also a time following the passing of my father. It was a time when a newfound interest in family history threatened to upend my love of wood.  It was actually ten o’clock at night and having finished teaching a Wednesday evening introductory woodworking class, I swept up the shop, turned in my class folder, and waved bye to the student attendant as I headed out on my adventure.  Having recently learned of Benjamin Thomas, my earliest known paternal ancestor, my old red truck was packed with blanket and pillow in tow as I headed north to Washington DC.  My goal?  …to learn from what I could find at National Archives. Without any real planning, my interests were primarily centered around Revolutionary War records and War of 1812 bounties. If time allowed, I hoped to swing up to Philadelphia in search of records for a John Love, who once lived there. He may or may not have been related to my mom’s side of the family.

Clicking along I-95 through the dismal darkness of southern Virginia, my mind drifted off to my only other trip to DC …which was made with my family in the mid 1960’s. Surely less than 6 years old, back then I found no interest in the long wait to see a tiny flame they called eternal. Dad, bless his heart, was never good in heavy traffic.  I remember going back and forth, rounding the round-a-bouts and crossing the Potomac river numerous times until we could figure out where we were heading. I also remember seeing the statue of Iwo Jima numerous times though I do not think we ever found the entrance and a place nearby to park. I loved the Washington Monument if only I would have been tall enough to see out of the windows.  And Jefferson and Abe Lincoln were awesome.  Did you know the names of many states are named on a five-dollar bill?  Mostly about DC, I remember the zoo and dad getting too close to the tiger’s cage and of how far a cat of that size can pee. But of it all, my little mind made note of the enormity, especially the impressive granite monuments which were everywhere.

All but falling asleep at the wheel, it was late night and I remember the Pentagon appearing out of the darkness as I approached DC. After being lost for quite a time, I remember passing Lafayette Park to the right with St. John’s Episcopal coming into view on the left. My tired eyes could not grasp what they beheld as the church porch was covered with temporary tents made of cardboard and other rubbish. The nearly 100 people encamped alerted me to an element that my considerations had overlooked. It was sad and a memory I will never forget.

Driving a bit further and winding my way through several blocks of governmental plaza, I came upon Pennsylvania Avenue and knew from the hardcopy map that archives was nearby. At that time, being after three o’clock am, my eyes hurt really badly from sawdust and a lack of sleep. I was absolutely worn out.  Needing sleep, the tree lined curb along Pennsylvania Avenue was the perfect place to get some sleep …so I thought.

No more than thirty minutes into stretching out on the bench seat with pillow, someone knocked at the glass sidelights startling me into a painful existence somewhere less than being fully awake. It was the homeless people. That is all I could think, and then I was fully awake …and scarred. Easing back into driving position and cranking up the trunk, I continued down Pennsylvania Avenue towards the Capital building.  It was at that point that I glanced at the gas gage which was near empty.  Wow, there I was in the land of monuments and no gas in sight.

I turned onto a road and remembered what I had once been told.   “If lost, continue in one direction till you come to a landmark.”  For me, the landmark I sought was a gas pump and I knew driving around the capital would be fruitless. After a few miles all I saw was the gateway over Chinatown as the glaring lights of police cars passed in the distance. In a few more miles I came upon a sketchy all-night gas station. Attempting to pump the gas myself, a person possibly homeless entered my world. He took the pump handle from me and smiled as he began pumping the gas.  I gave the poor fellow a bit of money and we both went on our way.

Realizing I could not simply park and camp on the corner, I decided to make the best of the situation. For the next hour I drove around all the sights in DC seeing the glow of each monument from afar. It is a scene like none other. Somewhat like the somber reverence of a moonlit graveyard, the shades of black were strong, demanding respect and attention. Ever since the experience I have always wondered about leading a field trip to some such field of stone as part of a study in photography. I surely do not have the talent to lead such an activity though would certainly pay to participate.

It was not long before sunrise and I knew I had to find my way back to archives. Regardless of who I met in the dark of night, I decided to pull over once again along Pennsylvania Avenue. Finding my way to sleep, I slept for just a bit before once again being awakened.  This time the source of agitation came from men hollering from the next block over.  I cranked up the old red truck once more and drove around the block to scope out the situation. The noise was from construction workers waiting for the underground parking garages to open for the upcoming day. I pulled behind them where I found peace and real sleep.

At that point, and out of nowhere, suddenly the noise was excruciating as the city had come alive. Cars zoomed by as people passed to my right and left. Quickly cranking up the truck I ducked into the garage where nature demanded of me another hour of sleep. I obliged. Upon reawakening about seven o’clock, I climbed out of the stale underground tomb. It was difficult to push myself in the hot morning air along the brightly lit sidewalks of summer.

I made my way around a building and through the columnade of the Navy Memorial before crossing the busy street to the front entrance of archives.  Better awake than me, the homeless were busily putting their cardboard homes back into hiding for another night.   There were also workers dragging out hoses to wash the sidewalks. The good town was alive and ready for the day.  Turning to visualize where I had been the night before, a smile came over my face realizing my fears had all been unfounded.  There before me was the tree lined curbs where I had spent the night in fear. Looking a little higher I realized I had chosen to camp out under the overhang of the J. Edger Hoover Building.  Really, were those homeless people who had awakened me upon my first arrival? G-men maybe? Hmmmmm …you can always tell the new kid on the block.


National Archives is everything I thought it should be.  Upon entering the first order of business is the filling out of official paperwork authorizing the issuance of an identification card. Within the grand entryway, an ink pen adorned with cardstock resembling a feather quill was used to sign in. Access to microfilm rooms was by way of secure doorways like the ones you would expect on a battleship.

That morning I met with an archivist who scheduled retrieval of the original documents which I later viewed in a reading room while wearing cotton gloves. The day was splendid and as a side note, at one point I noticed people gathering at a window along one wall of the building.  Curious as to what was going on, I had to look. Appearing straight down from the window, a long transfer truck was stuck in the steep and narrow ramp leading to the basement loading bay.  I understand all the records for out-going president Bill Clinton were onboard the truck which was much bigger than those the building was originally designed. My mind was too tired at the time to comprehend the humor though I overheard all varieties of yuck-yuck as I got back on task.

Leaving the archives by four o’clock pm, I had no more than an hour before I really needed to head north. After grabbing a dog and some chips I made my way around to the back side of Archives where the Constitution was on display.  Crossing the street, I had about thirty minutes to tour the National Portrait Gallery. It was wonderful! Even if by way of quick glance, I had the chance to lay my eyes on America’s greatest treasures. This was also the place where once stood a hotel where William Thornton’s National Patent Office was housed. Thornton was interested in North Carolina’s gold and bought up nearly 50,000 acres to search for it in present day Stanly County. Leaving the Gallery, I grabbed a dog and chips before returning to my truck for the next leg of the trip to Philadelphia.


Somewhere in Maryland, or possibly Pennsylvania, I pulled over at a truck stop to grab a bite and catch some zzzzz’s. Waking late in the night, a bird bath was in order before changing into a fresh set of clothes. Ahhh, much better! And back on the road, crossing the bridge into Philly, I made it to downtown in the wee hours of morning.  The ornate courthouse stood tall with the statue of William Penn powerfully lit against the ink blue sky. Luckily, I found a parking deck within two blocks of my destination. The prison styled barbed wire wrapping the deck alerted me that this place was not as civil as I would wish it to be. Crime must be a real issue in Philly.


courtesy of wikipedia 

As there was another hour or so remaining until sun-up, and really wanting to get a better look at the courthouse, I risked the opportunity to get out and explore the surrounding area. The sight was amazing though it was quite eerie walking through the dark passages running underneath the Courthouse.  Trusting the rising hair on the back of my neck, I made my way back to the safety of my truck for a quick nap.

The rising sun was coordinated with steady stream of business folk walking the city street, all heading towards the courthouse. I followed suit though stopped at a breakfast house where I had a good meal while watching the almost military-like maneuver passing by the window.

I eventually made it to the clerk of deeds office where the workers were just opening shop.  Asking about the location of deed indexes, my slow southern voice gave away the fact that I was not local.  And in return, their answers were quick and initially unhelpful until they realized I was on a mission and would not go away until satisfied.  Really, all I wanted were any deeds for John Love ca. 1850-1880 …easy peasy! That, and then estate records, marriages, and were there other things I could find. It never ends.

The man helping me told me I really needed to go to a records office at another location that was put in place for people like me to research.   He told me of the subway and of going across town to reach the facility. Clueless and never having ridden a subway, I asked about a taxi. The man was actually quite kind as nearing lunch time, he told me to give him thirty minutes and he’d ride out to the facility with me. It was a rough ride but glad I the public servant had been there for me.

I found a few deeds and records that will be used someday in a later post.  However, I did not find the smoking gun I had been looking for.  The day was long and it was nearing 4 pm when I decided on one last option.  While walking the area the night before, I had noticed a fine building with plaque reading “Historical Society of Pennsylvania.” Making my way back to the courthouse, I walked down to the building where upon entering I was told that only thirty minutes remained until closing.  I spit out the name John Love and begged if they had anything quickly accessible. The historian walked me to the card catalogue where we found the bible record for the man I sought.  It was not THE smoking gun I had been looking for though I did have the opportunity to hold a document that drove my hypothesis deeper. Often, we drive hundreds of miles only to realize that we have arrived at a place different than what we had envisioned. That, or we learn new information that sends us to a hundred miles in another direction. And, sometimes there is a dead end.

Returning to Raleigh, I slept for days.  My trip north will always remain with me. It was a great summer trip though my fond memories of those days were upstaged and robbed by the deeply sad events occurring a month later on September 11.


I imagine that Miss Thomas and her group of young ladies had a wonderful day at Raven’s Rock along the Cape Fear. It was 1891, a picturesque place and of course all were lovely and brilliant.

Following graduation from NC State, I had the pleasure of teaching middle-school woodworking and other fun subjects in the town of Garner. And then one day, a student came to me after class asking if I’d be willing to help out with their scout troop. Hearing that I was a backpacking enthusiast, the student let me know that their scout master was preparing to move. My answer was of course yes as I always intended to give back those sorts of things that had helped me as a youngster.

For the next eight years, the scouts introduced me to their favorite camping locations with one being Raven Rock State Park. I was not born in eastern NC so the experience was educational.

Now some forty years hence, I’ve learned through Y DNA that parts of my Thomas family once lived in the area spanning from Raven’s Rock up the river past the present day crossing of Hwy 42. And now looking back at the 1891 article, I imagine Miss Thomas is likely my cousin. Hi Miss Thomas!


While browsing I came across the following wonderful article on the 1850’s Cape Fear Region. The writer follows along on the steam boat “The Brothers” which cruised the river from Fayetteville to the Town of Haywood once located in the peninsula between the Haw and Deep Rivers. I find the article fascinating and think its presentation now will be helpful in setting the tone of later posts. Note that the area around the western bank at Buckhorn is important to my family.  Take a look, please check out the links, and of course …enjoy!

21 Jul 1856, The Observer, Fayetteville.
For the Observer

We have frequently been tempted to attempt a description of the scenery on the Cape Fear between Fayetteville and Wilmington; but a belief that nearly half your readers have made the voyage and seen for themselves, has deterred me from the undertaking. The same reason does not apply in reference to the scenery between Fayetteville and Haywood, for until recently that portion of the Cape Fear has been a sealed book, except to the raftsmen and those who live upon the river banks. The recent completion of the locks, dams, sluices, and canals, from Cross Creek to Locksville, has opened a channel for trade and commerce, and already the steamer’s hoarse whistle has awakened the echoes that have slumbered for ages ‘mid the woods and wilds that adorn the banks of the Deep and Haw rivers.

Through the politeness of Capt. L. A. Williams, I was permitted to accompany him on the first trip that the Brothers made.

The steamer left her wharf on Thursday 10th July, at 5 p. m., and rested for the night at Silver Run Lock, immediately above the Bluff Church. In this distance there was much in the luxuriant foliage and lofty trees that adorn the steep abrupt banks, to keep the attention on the alert, and please the fancy – much in the contemplation of the skill and art expended in overcoming the falls in the river’s rocky bed, that was calculated to enhance our estimate of man’s power and capacity. Early in the morning we passed the ancient royal borough of Aversborough, which again begins to lift its head, and feel the beneficial effects of water navigation.

Steaming upwards and onwards we soon reached the head of Aversborough Falls, and were passing McNeil’s Ferry, McAllister’s Lock, approaching towards Fox’s Island Lock and dam, as perfect and beautiful a specimen of workmanship as can be found any where in he U. S. The top of the dam is as true as an air line, and the water in falling into the pool presents the aspect of a polished mirror, without break of flaw from bank to bank.

From this point, the Toomer and Northington’s hills are seen in the dim distance rising one above the other, clothed in he must luxuriant foliage, reflecting back their varied beauties in the crystal pool that swept along their base.

The distance from Fox’s Island to Northington’s Lock is about 9 miles. For seven of those miles the river is skirted on either hand by a profusion of gray willows, and about half a mile of low grounds, upon which grows a rich and beautiful crop.

After passing Purify’s Ferry, and getting in the neighborhood of Fish Creek and McKay’s Landing, we were surprised to behold on the margin of the river, Cedar Rock rising about 40 feet, covered with the moss of ages and clothed with species of Gum, Cedar, Ivey, and Pine. This we deemed the sight of the trip- but judge our surprise, when, on rounding a point on the River, near Northerington’s, we beheld a grayish granite ledge of rocks, rising abruptly from he water’s edge, at least 100 feet towards the sky, and at one point apparently suspended over the channel in which the steamer gracefully moved. The face of the rocks was covered with a white and greenish moss, the accumulation of many centuries. Upon the top of the highest peak we noted a giant pine, that for ages has towered above the undergrowth that covers the mountain side, but which has been recently smitten with the lightning’s flash, and is fast crumbling away. On nearing this tall cliff, and gazing upon its growing front, we felt as if in the presence of an old familiar friend, and memory, ever busy, ran back upon “highland scenes.” We wondered that we had never heard of the “Raven Rocks” of old Cumberland before, equaling as they do in beauty, if not in sublimity, the mountain pass defended by a Helen McGregor, or Rob Roy, and immortalized by the Great Unknown. The scene was to me too interesting and beautiful to pass unnoticed. The Boat was fastened to the shore, and in company of her motley crew, I set out upon a tour of observation.

On landing, the first object that attracted my attention was a rock bearing a strong resemblance to a modern pulpit. Entering between the fissure of the rock, the pulpit stands in front, the solid rock behind, whist a most glorious sounding board is formed by the rock over your head.

Following the path, we found the lower part of the rock had been washed away by the freshets of the Cape Fear, so that we could stand underneath the overhanging mass, and remain perfectly dry, whilst the rain dripped in torrents some 15 feet towards the river. Still lower down we discerned a Cave in the face of the Rock, but left it unexplored, for fear of reptiles and want of light. Between the ledges of these rocks we took advantage of a mountain gorge or ravine and ascended to the summit. We found that we were on the plantation of Major Neill McClean, where we had before been without suspecting that we were in the neighborhood of such objects of interest and curiosity as the Raven Rocks really are.

At Northington’s Lock we saw specimens from the excellent granite quarry that is upon the river bank.

From Battle’s Lock we had a fine commanding view of Buckhorn hills and water falls. Beyond the falls, the hills burst upon the sight. White granite rock seemed to form the base, whilst ranges of receding forest hills appeared to rise and kiss the clouds in the distant west. To overcome these falls, a canal of two miles has been made around them. Into the Canal the Brothers sped, and missed the most luxuriant foliage “walked the waters like a thing of life.”

[ Important to my family history, the above boldened passage is detailed in the following. On the linked image, look to the northeast side of the river and you’ll see the remains of the canal and from there should be able to interactively follow the canal to its reentry point above Buckhorn dam. I see this and sadly imagine the slave labor required to  dig the canal. Please take a look at the this Google Maps link. Also, please look at the images below. You’ll see the run of the Cape Fear from below Raven Rock upstream to beyond Buckhorn dam and locks. Note there are two locks in what appears to be a canal circling  around the rocky rise and dam at Buckhorn.]  Click on Caption to go to source …and make sure to do so and look closely. You’ll see older canals that had been abandoned after a storm referred to as “Sherman’s Fresh”

[Compare the image above to the linked google image. Do you see the two miles of canal? The article continues, telling of the boat passing through one of the two locks at the base of present day Buckhorn dam.]

At one Lock on this canal, within range of the eye I noticed a greater variety of woodland growth than is usual viz: Mulberry, Cedar, Sycamore, Oak, Elm, Willow, Pine, Chestnut, Chinqupin, Gum, Beech, Birch, Poplar, Hackberry, Hornbeam, Persimmon, Alder, Pau Pau, Holly, Ash, Hickory, and Walnut, and undergrowth in the wildest profusion. Emerging from this canal into the Cape Fear, our eyes were greeted with lovely and majestic sights.

Towards the west, hill upon hill, clothed in richest verdure, met the eye. Towards the East, the rich and varied scenery of Buckhorn was bathed in the gorgeous colors of a setting sun. A broad and deep river lay before us to the ancient town of Haywood. Soon its inhabitants hailed us as we passed up Deep River to Locksville, the highest point to which Boats can now run. This is a place that formerly had a historic name and reputation. As Ramsey’s Mills, at which Cornwallis halted, in his retreat before Green after the Battle of Guilford Court House. Here Capt. Williams and the steamer Brothers, at sombre twilight, rested from the labors of the day. Click on Caption to see the full map!

I have thus briefly and very tamely attempted to describe the beauties of the trip. On Saturday we returned to Haywood, and found Col. Williams and Major Stedman, the Electors for the district, discussing the claims of Fillmore and Buchanan to the Presidency.

The town of Haywood consists of 260 acres of land, lying on the peninsula between Deep and Haw Rivers. The two principal streets are 180 feet wide. There is a public square embracing 8 acres. Immediately on the point of the peninsula, where the two rivers meet, lies a plantation containing some 300 acres, forming a fine extensive clearing. Standing for the first time on the grass-covered streets of Haywood, I could not help thinking on its past history, and its truehearted but now departed friend Judge Murphy, and both subjects formed strong examples of the mutability of human things and human schemes.

Nearly three-fourths of a century ago, a point 3 miles north west of Haywood stood prominently before the people of the State as a rival to Chapel Hill. It was by many deemed more suitable and more central as a site for the University of North Carolina. In the Legislature, Chapel Hill triumphed over Haywood by a majority of two. And again, in locating the Capitol of the State, on one ballot, Haywood but needed one vote more to have been the Raleigh of the good old North State. What effect a different location would have had upon the destiny and importance of the Cape Fear country and south eastern portion of the State, I will not attempt to describe. From one point on one of the principal streets in Haywood, there is a beautiful and extensive view of hill and dale, mountain gorge and glen. Following the course of the Cape Fear, the eye rests upon Buckhorn hills and McLean’s mountains, some 12 miles distant, whilst in a north west direction, the hill sides are visible some 4 miles. Running diagonally to this view, there is another, extending east and west some 8 or 10 miles, and but for two points of woodlands that thrust themselves into the range of the vision from the point on which I stood, near Haw River, the eye could embrace a range of 20 miles, and could luxuriate in admiring the oak covered crowned mountains of Wake and Chatham, as well as the pine covered hills of Harnett and Moore. What effect the navigation of the Cape Fear will have on Haywood, is beyond my ken to say; but Judge Murphy always maintained that its prosperity depended upon the happening of this event.

In my trip I had an eye to the useful as well as ornamental, and must confess I was agreeably surprised to find so many solid and substantial Locks and Dams upon the River. In common with most of our citizens, I have hitherto maintained that the Company should have commenced operations at Cross Creek and extended their improvements upwards, and I blamed Mr. Dobbin for not inserting that as a provision in the Bill extending State aid. But after going up and down the River, and observing the stability of Stone-packed Locks and Dams, as compared with Sand-packed, I have materially changed my opinion. Where rock was freely used, the works stand true and firm, where sand and clay were used, the Locks and some of the Dams are out of line, and careening to one or the other side. These defects the Company are now correcting and for that object keep the Haughton and six flats engaged in carrying rock from the quarries to the weakest points. The Brothers and Flat made the trip loaded, and never touched bottom except between Cross Creek Lock and Fayetteville. The whole line of works is in better condition than the public had been led to suppose. Having some idea of the rapidness of our river, and the force against which the works have to contend, we are therefore cautious in saying unhesitantingly that all the Locks and Dams will stand firm. Yet we do say, such is the amount of talent and art expended to break the force of those freshets, and so evenly is the force expanded over the whole surface, that we incline to the belief that the waters of the Cape Fear have at last been caught, bridled, and tamed. So that with proper caution on the part of Lock Keepers, and Superintendents and occasional repairs, there is not apparent reason why the work should not stand.

son is doubtful, but Corn, Wheat, and Flour, will find an outlet through this channel, either to Fayetteville or Wilmington.

The only obstacle that prevents Coal reaching market, is at Locksville – a point where a fall of 35 feet in 1 ½ miles had to be overcome. Upon this distance there are three contractors, two of whom will accomplish their tasks soon. The third it is supposed cannot, owing to changes in the plan, and difficulties not anticipated in the character of the work. To this point, however, the Company’s are now bending all their energies; and it is desirable they should succeed in transporting Coal to Marker before the winter sets in.

The Egypt Coal Mine is about 11 miles higher up the River than Locksville. Of this work you gave a detailed and interesting account in the Observer some time since – and account in which I supposed of so much importance that it would have found a place in our papers.

In company with a friend I called on McMcLane, and found him and his Lady exceedingly hospitable. In the morning we descended the shaft, and I can say I never descended one presenting more points of admiration, or evincing more skill in the Engineer and workmen. The timbers and sheathing were all strong and substantial. The workmanship seemed as perfect as is possible in a shaft; and what speaks volumes in praise of Mr. Mclane and his foreman Mr. Dunn, is that the shaft has been sunk 482 feet, the water pumps put in, a reservoir for water dug out, the Coal excavated about 100 yards from the shaft, and not the slightest accident has happened about the work – a fact that can be stated in their praise, and one that can rarely be said in reference to sinking a Coal shaft.

I tried my hand at digging Coal, and renewed a familiar acquaintance with the Pick.

It is a beautiful a vein of Coal as I ever worked; and if the navigation were but completed to this point, Exchange would soon be abundant in our midst.


Among the photos housed at the Oakboro Museum is the above picture tagged “Drye School.” It is certainly not the same Drye School that once stood on the corner of Rene Ford and River Roads. This is another Drye School supposedly located downstream from my grandfather Daniel Arthur Thomas’ home place along Island Creek. Information attached to the photo states that Daniel Arthur Thomas is the boy standing on the back row …four from the left end. He’s the one wearing a hat.  And, the information also says that that the little girl standing in the front row and seventh from the left is my grandmother Eva Lucinda Burris. From their eventual grave markers, I know that Daniel Arthur was born in 1890 and his wife Eva was born in 1897. In the photo Daniel Arthur Thomas looks like he may be seven years older than Eva …it works for me!

Often, I find myself wishing to talk once more to my deceased ancestors about things I have noticed in photographs and other records from the past. For example, in the above photo, I see a number 8 in one of the panes of glass in the window to the right.  And if you look closely, there’s also a number 325 in one of the panes just above the heads of those standing in the back row. What’s that about?  Was a child doing their homework on the dust covered glass? And, why is there a board nailed across one of the windows? It surely isn’t strategically placed there to hold hats.  Was it put there to protect newly installed glass? …maybe before there was no glass in the window?  I also like what the clapboard siding is telling me.  It seems nice and straight with no warps or signs of wearing.  Is it new wood? Is  the class of students standing in front of a relatively new schoolhouse?

The photo and the question it raises about the age of the school house are of importance only because of a curious notation I later found in a deed of sale. Let me give you a little background and then will get to the deed in question.

Dated 17 Jan 1891, Solomon and wife Eliza C. Pless sold 287 acres (Stanly 18-426) to their daughter Julia Ann Thomas. The land adjoined Nelson Smith to the west and crossed Island Creek. The large tract takes in the entirety of the shaded area in the following image.  The long red shaded area represents a 30-acre land grant issued in 1836 to Solomon’s father Peter Pless (2730 Montgomery). At that time, the tract joined Michael Garmon’s land to the north. And to the southeast of Solomon’s land, the green shaded tract represents a deed (6-484 Stanly) from Mathias Furr to Solomon Pless. The deed mentions Jacob Green to the east, Peter Pless to the north and Holden Hartsell to the south. Note that Mathias Furr’s daughter Elizabeth Caroline Furr married Solomon Pless. This is a great opportunity to share a picture of Caroline Elizabeth Furr Pless whose picture is hands-down the most descriptive image I’ve ever seen of my early family. Also, about the image below, I have included a key listing all the surrounding deeds as far back as I could find (see caption).

 Solomon Pless lands (all shaded)

A.        (6-436 Stanly) Daniel Freeman to Jacob Green

B.        (28-570 Stanly) Elizabeth Green to Andrew Honeycutt

C.        (11-533 Stanly) Sophia Treece to Solomon Pless

D.        (6-49 Stanly) Rowan Garmon to Nelson Smith

E.        (5-06 Stanly) John Howell to John T. Howell

F.        (60 Stanly) grant to Sampson Watts

G.        (574 Montgomery) James Crump

H.        (14-22 Stanly) William R. Hartsell to David C. Curlee

Solomon and Elizabeth Caroline Furr Pless had daughter Julia Ann who married my namesake great grandfather George Washington Thomas. During the early 1900’s Julia and George began splitting up their land among their children. Dated 24 May 1906, the two sold 40 ½ acres (39-121 Stanly) to son Henry W. Thomas:

“Beginning at the Ford of Island Creek and in the center of said creek and the Brook’s ferry road, then with said road N. 84 E. 12 chs to an iron pin at the fork of the said roads; then with the Big Lick Road N. 69 E. 19 chs. to an iron pin center of said road near the School House in the Hinson line; then So. 10 ½ E. 2 1/3 chs. to white o. by a stone; then So. 19 E. 13 ¼ chs. to a stake in Hartsell line; then So. 89 W. 23 ½ chs. to a pine; then No. 85 W. 13 chs. to Island Creek; then up the various courses of the creek to the beginning.”

As you can see in the plat above, the school as identified in the deed should have been situated near the intersection of Big Lick and Hatley-Burris Roads. It may have been located on the land Mathias Furr sold to his son-in-law Solomon Pless, but more likely, the school was situated on either the old Jacob Green land to the east or Holden Hartsell lands to the south. Seeking help from all the older folks I could find; none have ever heard of a school in that location.

At this point, I chose to exercise another angle of attack that has always burned in my mind.  Knowing my grandparents were in school together as children, it only makes sense that they must have lived near each other and were once possibly even been childhood friends. And knowing that Grandma Eva is the daughter of George Henderson and Mary Magalene Burris, do they show up in record living close to my Thomas family?

Dated 8 Apr 1909, S. S. and Martha Lilly sold 138 acres (24-264 Stanly) to Tobitha J. Rowland.  The daughter of Andrew J. Honeycutt, Tobitha married Thomas H. Rowland who died in 1884.  Taking in the entirety of both red shaded tracts below, Tobitha’s land adjoined Charlie A. Honeycutt on the northwest corner, W. H. Sasser to the southwest, Yow along the southeastern line, and Pless to the northwest. Tobitha’s land adjoined land that Solomon Pless purchased from David Treece deceased. Notice that the red shaded rectangular tract was sub-divided with the western half shaded dark red.  See how close that tract is to the yellow shaded lands of George W. Thomas who was father of my grandfather Daniel Thomas? Dated 27 Apr 1899, Tobitha J. Rowland sold the 68 ½ acre darker shaded tract to George W. Thomas. Ten years later, on 18 Nov 1909, J. H. C. Flowe of Mecklenburg sold the same tract to George Henderson and wife Mary Magalene Burris. Five years later, on 23 Aug 1914, Daniel, the son of George Washington Thomas married Eva Lucinda Burris, the daughter of George Henderson Burris.  Looking at the tracts below, we can see why both Daniel Thomas and Eva Burris appeared in the School photo. At that particular time frame we know for sure that the families of Thomas and Burris lived near each other.

Also, among the family photos acquired by my parents is the school picture above.  My dad believed he is the littlest boy wearing a scarf and standing beside the little girl in front of the others. If so, I wonder if his older brother (by one year) Buford is in the photo?  Also, I’m sure his first cousin Vann Thomas would also be in the photo. Where are they? And, is it me or does the person believed to be my father look like some of the others standing nearby.  If so, who are they and how do they relate? It’s important to question oral history just as you would any other form of record.

Assuming for point of discussion that my father’s recollections were correct, then the photograph above raises another question. Knowing my dad was raised on the same farm (yellow tract above) that his dad  grew up on, I wonder if the above image showing my dad was taken in front of the same schoolhouse where both his parents were once photographed?. Remember the condition of the lapboard siding in the photograph showing my grandparents?  Does the image above appear to represent the same construction techniques? If so, did the structure age consistently considering the twenty-year span between generations? Again, is the picture of my dad above taken at the same location where my grandparents were photographed?


Up to this point, my strategy has been family centered. Not finding the answer of my quest concerning education, I knew it time to draw upon a larger circle of influence. In doing so I came across land records which carried me off into a new direction. After moving further south with my mapping initiative i began to question whether the school was located south of Solomon Pless’ land along present-day Big Lick Road?

In 1843, Holden Hartsell received a land grant for 100 acres on Island Creek (Grant 48, Montgomery).  Taking in all the dark red shaded area above (including the checkered area), the tract at that time joined Peter Pless land to the north and George Cagle to the west. Its lines also ran along the “the old Polk Road” between two points marked with black stars.

Holden Hartsell died in 1865 and on 22 Apr 1866, his wife Adeline Coley Hartell  was appointed a 56 ½ acre  widow’s dower or thirds. The platted dower tract (checker boarded above) adjoined Nelson Smith  to the south and B. L. Green deceased to the west. Note in the metes and bounds below that a schoolhouse is mentioned though not precisely located … “after counting out one acre at the school house.”

Wow!!!  ….this is very early and very close to the southeastern end of my ancestral lands. Could it be the same school mentioned in Solomon Pless’s 1898 deed? Possibly, though we have no proof.  I’ve traced the deed above forward when in 1878, William Riley Hartsell and wife Rhoda sold to David C. Curlee 210 acres being the entirety of the above land shaded red (Stanly 14-22). According to the metes and bounds, the conveyance should have encompassed the 56 ½ acres that mentions a school ..and yet, there was no mention of the school.

David C. Curlee died ca. 1885 and his land was ultimately divided into three tracts.  Pertaining to the image below, tract 1 is found in the loose estate papers while tracts 2 and 3 are referred to in later deeds:

(Light Red) Known as Tract 1 of the estate of David C. Curlee, surveyed in 1891, being 77 acres joining Solomon Pless to the north, L. L. Furr to the west, and Nelson Smith to the south.

(Pink) Deed ( 29-406 Stanly) being 48 acres deeded on 29 Dec 1898 from G. W. Thomas and wife J. A. Thomas to Minnie C. Sasser (and her bodily heirs if she has any and if not to her brothers and sisters). The deed mentions Charley Dry to the east and Nelson Smith to the south.

(Green) Known as Tract 3 of the estate of David C. Curlee, conveyed 7 Feb 1905 and being x acres (Stanly 31-316) deeded by C. P. Hartsell to C. C. Little. Mentioned in the deed is Solomon Pless to the north, Lot 1 to the west, Lot 2 to the south, and Charley Dry land to the east.

No further than 100 yards away from the noted corner (red star) where a school should have stood, the estate of Holden Hartsell and later David C. Curlee offer possibilities. However, I have not seen any mention of a schoolhouse in either the estate records or later conveyances. It’s worth noting that the division of the lands of David C. Curlee was contested and resolved through trial reaching the North Carolina Supreme Court.  Is it possible that actions at that time led to the abandonment of the school? Yes, but I can’t weigh in on such possibilities as at this point all clues seem to vanish. To me the memory of the school on Island Creek remains a mystery. What in the world was my namesake ancestor George W. Thomas referring to when he noted that a corner of his land was “ near the school house?” And, if there was indeed a school nearby, did both my father and his parents attend the same school?


It is wonderful to have access to old photographs believed to be of your ancestors. But as time goes by, we lose contact with those we loved, those who we have always depended on to tell us about the way things once were. We end up regretting missed opportunities and we kick ourselves over the questions we’ve failed to ask. It is only natural. My dear grandmother lived to 98 years of age and she certainly could have clarified my curiosity.  And as for my dad, he surely knew where he went to school and could have told me more about the photos. But, how would I have known what to ask? Oh, how I wish I for a do-over! And a word to you and you, if anyone has ideas on  where I need to look, please share, please let me know!  ….time moves on.


geotuck21Out of curiosity I posted the above on Facebook in hopes that someone in Stanly County might be able to identify the mentioned Union Grove Church. Google locates a church by that name in Albemarle, but nothing shows up in Furr township. Tammie Rabon Hudson responded to my post with “didn’t this church become Clark’s Grove near Stanfield?”…to which Tara Talley Tarlton replied “I found Union Grove Church on another- deed 27 page 458, James T Lee and James Taylor, 15 acres excluding church, in 1901. James T Lee gave the land to Clarks Grove Trustees in 1903.”

The online conversation led us to conclude that Union Grove Church predated Clark’s Grove and once stood on or near the site where now stands the defunct Clark’s Grove Primitive Baptist Church. Tara Talley Tarlton also mentioned a scheduled gathering in May at the old church. I understand the service has been cancelled or postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.


geotuck22If you asked me for the best architectural example of a Primitive Baptist Church meeting house, I’d rank Clark’s Grove as being a classic and at the top of the list. Located in the southeast corner of Stanfield and situated on Hwy 200 and Webb Road, the old brick structure stands as a proud reminder of our past. The building stirs thoughts of Sabbath and of it being approached on foot and by wagons filled with the families of hardworking farmers dressed for worship. You can imagine the many feasts that have been spread under the grove of trees. And of course, we’re reminded of sadness and of those who gathered to bury their dead.

Today, technology gives us new looks at the old church. As seen on Google maps (red shaded in image 1 below), the church stands on the northwest boundary line of what appears to be a larger square shaped tract (yellow) that’s slightly askew. Looking for clues in the form of tree and fence lines, I ask of the reader, can you see how I was able to locate both the church lot and the larger square shaped tract? That’s a loaded question as the landmarks are hard to distinguish in this instance. So, let’s look at another source, the Stanly County Geographical Information System (GIS). Providing all the land boundaries for every ownership across the entire county, GIS is a hugely helpful resource for mapping land. Point in question, image 2 below offers yet another view of the lands surrounding and to the southeast of Clark’s Grove. As you can clearly see, boundary lines appearing in this view confirm the square shaped tract I’m looking for …and it’s this tract that reveals a great story that’s been lost to time.

In the GIS image above, you may have noticed that the larger square shaped tract has been subdivided numerous times in which I’m sure the various conveyances spanned what is likely more than 100 years. It’s in one of these subdivisions of that breakup that the church known as Clark’s Grove was founded. And it is somewhere nearby that an earlier church called Union Grove once stood. They may very well be the same church. That story has likely been told and as for me, I see no need in revisiting that aspect of the church history. Instead, I’m looking further back in time in hopes of uncovering some sort of cultural beginnings. I’m looking for events that if never happened, may have made it difficult for a church to be spiritually born. And now, it’s at this point in writing my post that I realize that much time has been devoted to the larger square tract without offering a clue as to why.

The history of the large square tract becomes known by way of information gleaned from the deeds of surrounding lands. Please look at the following GIS study which begins to tell the tale.


As for the green shaded tract above, its earliest known conveyance is in the form of an 1856 deed (6-280 Stanly) from Gabrial Barba to Brittain L. Green. At that time the land adjoined Mary Long to the north, George Cagle Senior and Lewis Springer to the east, and George Tucker to the west. A few years later, in 1861. Gabriel Barbee sold the purple and deep blue tract (6-280 Stanly) to Michael Dry. Gabriel’s tract adjoined Lewis Springer to the east, Drewey Morgan to the south, and again, George Tucker to the west. And, in 1857, Gabriel Barbee is recorded as selling the combined green and purple shaded tracts (4-315 Stanly) to Daniel Freeman. At that time, George Cagle’s land was described as “now occupied by Sarah Cagle, his daughter.” Also, George Tucker’s land to the west was described as “George Tucker’s line, now owned by the Greene family.” Looking a bit further into the future, in 1882 Michael Dry sold the blue shaped tract (28-468 Stanly) to L. C. and wife Maggie L. Ponds. At that time the tract was described as “adjoining the lands of John Furr, Wilson Furr, M. Dry, and others.” And as for the green shaded tract, Andrew Honeycutt later sold it to John A. Furr.

geotuck8Realizing the deeds above were pinpointing George Tucker land that had later been owned by the Greene family, I now had solid clues on the early history of the large square tract upon which now stands Clark’s Grove. Digging into my box of hand-drawn and unplaced land plats, I lucked out and found the following 1857 deed in which John Barba, Sabra Greene, Jacob Greene, and Elbert Greene of Cabarrus sold 152 acres (6-25 Stanly) to Israel Furr. You’d think that John Barba, or his wife, was one of the heirs within the Greene family. And, he and the others were possibly selling off their rights to an estate. And note that the boundary lines of the above green and blue tracts match up perfectly to those of this large square tract sold to Israel Furr. From all of this we now know that George Tucker once owned the land, it fell into the hands of the Green family, and was later sold by what may be the heirs

A succession of family members named George Tucker spread through Cabarrus and Stanly Counties. Second in the chain of the Tucker family is a George Tucker who owned land near the intersection of Love Mill and Honeycutt Roads. Sometime shortly after the year 2000 I met and traveled that area with Hellen Tucker Obermeier who happened to be the most knowledgeable person I’ve ever known on all things Tucker. She led me to Kinza Baptist Church where supposedly the old Tucker homeplace once stood. Helen carried me to the back corner of the cemetery where two gravestones lay flat and slightly below the ground level. Writing was visible though likely not for long as the cascading turf was quickly covering the stones.

Helen and I stood upon the hallowed grounds as she spoke of visiting the graveyard a few years prior. Not seeing the George Tucker grave, Helen and her daughter Diane began probing the turf till they hit rock. Together, the two cleared the stones from beneath inches of sod revealing the engraved markers for the first time in many years. On my visit with Helen I took pictures of the graves with my old film camera. Having the film processed, only the image of George’s wife’s grave was properly exposed (see below). Since that time, and not having a good picture of George Tucker’s grave, I visited the cemetery again in 2017 only to learn that the earth had once again retrieved the stones. I had no idea where to look and certainly did not want to get caught digging in the church lot. At that point I visited Helen once more and her daughter Diane printed copies of their pictures. And as luck would have it, I’ve somehow lost that set of pictures. And sadly, and further complicating the situation, I recently learned that Helen Obermeier passed away in 2019. And now, due to Covid 19 related restrictions, I dare not go south in search of locating the much-needed pictures for this post.

At this point I’m beating myself up and know that loss of such resources may be felt forever. But then two thoughts popped into my head. First, I remember my last visit to the church and of a conversation I had with a devoted member who was cutting the grass. The man said it would be great if the church at least had a copy of the photos. After receiving the prints from Helen, I dropped off a second copy with the fellow who was still at work. Maybe at some point I can get back to the church to inquire about those copies.

In my second thought I had an ah-haa moment upon realizing the importance of something I had heard during a recent presentation by cousin and mapping expert David McCorkle. Going to the Stanly County GIS site, I did the happy dance in learning that the technology gives you several aerial view choices. The land boundaries are overlaid on several optional aerial map images spanning numerous years. It so happens that one of the maps is based on images taken in 2005.  Why is that important? Below you can see that  in 2005 the stones as were visible to the satellite’s camera as they had been recently rediscovered and brought to life by my friend Helen.

geo tuck

Kinza Baptist Church

Born ca. 1764, George Tucker (Jr) is the son of George and Maria Dorthea Tucker who are buried on the east bank of the Rocky River at the end of Smith Road which is located about a mile north of Reed gold mine. During the 1830’s many from the area moved into the southwest corner of Stanly County. I’ve always thought one reason for the movement was due to damage gold mining had inflicted upon the land. The scarred landscape must have been an eyesore. And, there is also the fact that gold was later discovered along Rockhole and Island Creeks in southwest Stanly County. Did that play any role on the move? …likely so.

George Jr.’s sister Caterenah “Catherine” Tucker married John Barba (Barbee) who died in the 1870’s. John Barbee is buried at Meadow Creek Baptist which is near Reed gold mine. Caterenah’s grave does not survive. For me, there’s a confusing problem with this scenario as there is also an earlier “John Barba” buried in the same graveyard where George Tucker Senior is interred at the end of Smith Road. Who is he and how does he relate?!!!

In 1837 John Barba purchased land on Little Meadow Creek from George Linker. The deed was witnessed by George Tucker. In 1850 John and Catharine Barba are listed as living in Cabarrus County:


1850 Cabarrus County, North Carolina

And then during the early 1850’s John Barba deeds his lands to his sons. Located north and west of present-day Locust. There is no deed or grant of origination for the lands of John Barba.

Frog Pond, NC, 1:24,000 quad, 1981, USGS

In 1855, John Barba and others disposed the lands (4-137 Stanly) of Malicha Harwood, deceased. Below are all those who are listed as sellers in the deed along with the implied names of the wives’ parents:

• William Eudy and wife Sabra (daughter of Malachi and Sabra Harwood)
• Hastin Hatley and wife Bathsheba (daughter of Malachi and Sabra Harwood)
• Jacob Green and wife Mary (daughter of Malachi and Sabra Harwood)
• Daniel Lowder and wife Elizabeth (daughter of Malachi and Sabra Harwood)
• Edmond Whitley and wife Susannah (daughter of Malachi and Sabra Harwood)
• Paul S. Furr and wife Sarah (daughter of Malachi and Sabra Harwood)
• Wiley Hatley and wife Mazah (daughter of Malachi and Sabra Harwood)
• Hardy Green and wife Abigail, heirs to wit: (daughter of Malachi and Sabra Harwood)

o John Barba and wife Foreba (daughter of Hardy and Abigail Green)
o Caleb Osborn and wife Mary (daughter of Hardy and Abigail Green)
o Martha Green (daughter of Hardy and Abigail Green)
o Sabra Green (daughter of Hardy and Abigail Green)
o Jacob Green (son of Hardy and Abigail Green)
o Elbert Green (son of Hardy and Abigail Green)

The above is important in that the deed identifies Foreba (Phoebe, Fereby?) and Mary as being daughters of Hardy and Abigail Green. Also, Martha, Sabra, Jacob, and Elbert Green are identified as being the children of Hardy and Abigail. It is probable that Abigail passed by the 1855 dated deed as why else would her children be listed as heirs? A little background info on Hardy Green …he and a brother Jacob are sons of Jacob Green who lived and died on Grassy Creek in Anson/Union County. The elder Jacob is likely a brother or at least contemporary of Gideon Green who I have researched heavily in the past. Hardy was born ca 1795 and his brother Jacob was born ca. 1800.

Hardy is a bit of a mystery as in 1850 he fails to appear in census records as living along our Rocky River. His brother Jacob is 57 years of age and living in Stanly County. At that point, Hardy Green is listed as 60 years old and living far away in Burke County which is in the western part of our state. Others from the Rocky River region living near Hardy include James Gurley who married Mary Keiser, the daughter of George Keiser of Cabarrus. Of note, James and Mary’s son Thomas Dove Keiser was one of the wagon masters for the first Oregon Trail crossing. And, after confirming the deed naming Hardy’s wife, note that Abigail had likely passed by 1850 as she does not appear in the census. Also confirming the deed, the census lists Hardy and Abigail’s children Fereby, Jacob, and Elbert Green.


1850 Burke County, North CArolina

After 1850 Hardy Green and his family returned to Stanly County where they are  mentioned in the deed for the large square tract. Do you remember that? Dated 1857, John Barba, Sabra Greene, Jacob Greene, and Elbert Greene of Cabarrus sold 152 acres (6-25 Stanly) to Israel Furr also of Cabarrus. For sale is the tract upon which now stands Clark’s Grove Baptist Church. And, occurring before this sale by the heirs of Abigail Harwood Green, at some point prior the land had been owned by George Tucker who is likely the same George Tucker whose home once stood on the grounds of present day Kinza Baptist church.

So, now we have a bit of context as to the identification of the sellers of the important large square tract. However, before continuing, I’d like to expand the story a bit further. As you may recall, Mary Long is identified as owning land to the north of the large square tract. The land was at one point owned by Thomas Long who I suspect is linked to the Long family who intermarried with my Love family in eastern Cabarrus. Also, owning or making improvements on the same lands are James Crump, Henry Goodnight, George Cagle Senior and daughter Sarah, L. L. Furr, and Solomon Pless, and Philas Hartsell. Mary Long’s land was adjoined by that owned by Brittain L. Green, Holden Hartsell, Eli B. Honeycutt, and Murphy Hopkins. Expect more on the Mary Long tracts in the future.

Before moving forward, you need to know that in 1861 Mary Long, Melinda Green, Jacob Green, and Susan Long now “of Pope County Arkansas” sold 25 acres (deed 6-290) to W. F. Moss. On the next page in the deed book, and occurring in 1874, Mary Long, George Long, Louiz Long, and Melinda Green “of Ripley County Missouri” sold another 45 acres (deed 6-290) to W. F Moss. These folks appeared in the 1860 Pope County census as seen below. And, you will note that among those living in the household of Mary Long are Elbert Green aged 26 and Jacob Green aged 30, the sons of Hardy and Abigail Harwood Green.


1860 Pope County, Arkansas

And Hardy Green, the father of those who moved to Arkansas, did not make the trip west. In 1860 Hardy Green is listed as living in southwest Stanly County. He is without wife Abigail but note that daughters Sabra and Patsey are still living at home with their father:


1860 Stanly County, North Carolina


I began this post with an 1897 deed from Michael and wife Mary Dry to M. T. and wife S. E. Hartsell. The ill-defined 50-acre tract adjoined the lands of J. A, Furr, Wilson Hartsell, Franklin Teeter, J. T. Lee, and Mathias Furr and was also described as “lying near Union Grove Church.” We know that in 1901 James T. Lee donated land for use by Union Grove Church and then in 1903 he gave land to Clark’s Grove Church. And, this land lay within or adjoined the 152-acre large square tract that once belonged to George Tucker.

We know that George Tucker also had land and a homeplace along present day Love Mill road at the site of Kinza Baptist Church. As a matter of fact, the church cemetery sort of merges with and becomes one with what was once the burial ground for the George Tucker family. And, we know that George Tucker is the brother of Caterenah Tucker who married John Barba. They lived north and west of Locust where John gave land for Meadow Creek Baptist Church. Their son Gabriel Barba happened to own land adjoining the large square tract south of Stanfield. that was once owned by George Tucker. There was also Hardy and Abigail Harwood Green’s daughter Foreba who is mentioned in a deed of conveyance for that tract of land. We know by the deed that Foreba married a John Barba who is likely connected to the John and Caterenah Tucker Barba family. And in all of this, I cannot prove the origin of Union Grove Church. I cannot with certainty find a spiritual tie that binds this story. I can, though, encourage Kinza Baptist Church to embrace a past that includes the story of George Tucker. And likewise, the story is likely not known at all as connects to the lands where Clark’s Grove Church now stands.

In closing, I hope that the deadly virus will one day be behind us. I hope that the church community will once again gather to fellowship on the grounds of Clark’s Grove Baptist Church. I also hope that the life and stories of those who came before will be better understood and shared. They were truly spiritual people and I feel their life achievements had a part in shaping the religious landscape.

And, as for Kinza Baptist, I’ve always been curious why there seems to be a an aire of exclusion in maintaining the memories of a past worth remembering. The George Tucker graves deserve a more honorable presentation. Does the church body have concerns of encroaching upon the hallowed grounds? If so, why not at least place a bronze plaque and corner stones to mark the hallowed space. I’d like to once again see the hidden stones rise again. But then again, I know they have survived and been protected for many years lying just out of reach of human sight and touch. Do we dare risk history? Where do family stand and what do you believe?


Samuel Henry Ringstaff enlisted on 15 Jan 1862 in CSA Co. B, 43rd Regiment. At 24-28 years of age, he had been, by occupation, a merchant living in the town of Monroe, Union County NC. Quickly promoted to rank of 1st Lieutenant by late summer of 1862, Henry Ringstaff was ordered by General Gustavus Woodson Smith to seek and arrest area deserters who had not returned from leave. The mission became violent, ultimately leading to the issuance of an indictment of murder against one of the deserters. And, following the actual crime, Lieutenant Ringstaff, himself, returned to duty only to be captured and imprisoned by the enemy for a period of nine months. The said Ringstaff’s papers, including his order to arrest area deserters, were either lost or stolen while in confinement.

In this post I’ll introduce a new twist to what is already a well told story pertaining to a shooting at the hands of John Medlin. Before moving forward I’d like to thank Julie Hampton whose knowledge and online collection of all things Union County has been of great help. Thank you, Julie.


A resident of Union County, Lieutenant Ringstaff knew he needed additional support to achieve his mission. He summoned Hosea Little, who the said Ringstaff later claimed in court “was not a soldier.” Also brought to help were five others including John Short, Thomas D. Winchester, and Culpepper Austin. Thomas D. Winchester was a merchant and post-master for the town of Monroe. And, Culpepper Austin was a long-term Sheriff of Union County. Together, the men gathered on Friday evening, 5 Dec 1862 at about 10 or 11 o’clock before making way to the home of John Medlin. Eben A. Helms, Calvin Williams, and Hilburn (maybe Wilber) Hasty would also be found hiding out with the said Medlin. Benjamin H. Houston later deposed that “in the summer and fall of 1862 he was a Lieutenant in a company in the service of the Confederate States, and that he was then in the actual command of said company that Eben Helms and Calvin Williams were privates. He deposed that sometime in August or September of said year, the said Helms and Williams deserted and had not returned to their command up to January 1863.”

Lieutenant Ringstaff would eventually testify that “he and another man” went upon the said Medlin’s porch, where was heard someone knocking at the door on the opposite side of the house. Ringstaff said he then ‘put his eye to a crack in the side of the house, and before he had time to see anything, someone in the house said, “God damn you!” and fired a gun, the ball from which cut his whiskers and knocked splinters in his face.’

Ringstaff’s testimony was followed up with a similar statement by Culpepper Austin:

“…when they first went to the house of the prisoner, one of their companions named Short went up on the porch upon the opposite side to Lieutenant Ringstaff and knocked at the door. A female voice within inquired “Who’s there” to which Short replied “it doesn’t matter, I have come here with the proper authority and I intend to come in,” to which the female replied there is nothing here that belongs to you and I will not open the door, that Short continued to knock and said “ if you don’t open the door, I will have it open. That at this time Culpepper Austin looked into the house through a crack and by a light in the fireplace, saw the prisoner advancing stealthily toward the fireplace, with a gun and an axe in his hands. That he raised up his foot and placed the handle of the axe upon it and eased it down on the floor, [John Medlin] then raised his gun to his face, then Austin called out “look out he is going to shoot” and immediately the gun fired which cut Ringstaff’s whiskers, that Ringstaff called on the deceased to open the door and give him a chance, that the door was opened, he does not know by whom or how. The said Austin also deposed to the running on the other side of the house and said that a gun was fired at the man who first ran from the house.”

Lieutenant Ringstaff then asked Thomas D. Winchester to borrow his double barreled gun. Ringstaff then said to Hosea Little, who was standing by, “open the door and give me a chance.” Ringstaff testified that he may have said “I will shoot the damned rascal who shot at me.” The rifle had a hair trigger which accidentally went off at that time. The door was opened afterwards, and Ringstaff thinks it was opened from the outside. The door was not kicked in or broken down.

Ringstaff then testified of hearing someone running on the other side of the house. He heard someone say “here they go” and then ran around and saw his men running off after someone. He heard voices in the house in a low tone and called to his men to come back. When Hosea Little and another started to return, when they had got within about ten paces of the house, a door opened on the side that they were advancing on. Three men stepped from the house and two guns were fired in quick succession by them possibly from a double-barreled gun. It was at that time that Hosea Little fell. The man advancing with the said Ringstaff was also hit. From a letter later written to Gov. Z. B. Vance, it can be deduced that the man advancing with Ringstaff was Thomas D. Winchester. All went quiet after Lieutenant Ringstaff shot at the three men as they into the darkness of night.

Thomas D. Winchester later testified that Hosea Little was shot in the leg. “There were twenty seven or twenty eight holes made by the balls, three or four of the balls had passed through the leg making two holes each, that one ball found in the boot of the deceased weighed nearly an ounce, that the shooting took place on Friday night and the deceased died the next Monday.” Dr. McLaughlin testified that he attended on the deceased from the time he was shot. He described the wounds substantially as had Winchester.

The three had made their escape and were on the move. Dated 4 Dec 1862, Col. J. C. Mullis of Jenkins Store, NC received the following command from the Attorney General:
“Arrest & send to Camp Holmes the following men from your county; should they have left the county, “ascertain where they have gone”: John Medlin about 6’, 175 or 180 lbs, about age 24, fair skin, light hair; Eben A. Helms, about 5’ 8”, fair skin, light hair, 3 fingers off left hand, age 22, about 160 lbs; Calvin Williams 5’10”, “boy faced, rather down look,” round shoulders, swarthy complexion, dark hair, 150 lbs; Hilburn Hasley, about 5’6” to 10”, freckled face, light hair, round shoulders, 150 lbs, age 22. “These men are deserters and have used force against those attempting to arrest them. You will use every effort to arrest them.”

A short time after the homicide, John Short went to the county of Burke where John Medlin, Eben Helms, and Calvin Williams were delivered to him and Major McMurray. While being conveyed on the stage to the railroad, John Short said to the prioners “boys this is a bad scrape, Hosea is dead.” To that, Eben Helms said ‘I am clean of it; I did not shoot and when you knocked at the door I said “Boys, that is John Short, let’s give up,” but John Medlin took his gun and went to shooting.’ Williams also said “I’m clean, I did not shoot.” All this was said in the presence of John Medlin who said nothing but hung his head. John Short also said to the prisoner, “was that you that I ran from the house?” John Medlin replied “…no that was Wilbur Hasty. We three stayed in the house and ran out together.” The said John Short further stated that after they had arrived at the railroad, he had a conversation with Hasty and Williams in which they both said they were innocent of the homicide and that they did not shoot. This was all said in the presence of the prisoner who said nothing. Eben Helms was also asked who did the shooting. The said Helms replied John Medlin did all the shooting, and to that the prisoner made no answer.

Upon reaching the Company Shops on the N. C. Railroad near Salisbury, and following any questioning, somehow John Medlin was able to escape capture by jumping from the train:

$100 reward

Once again things went quiet. John Medlin was either on the run or was remaning low by attempting to shadow service with the military he had once evaded. And as for Lieutenant Samuel Henry Ringstaff, he rejoined the 43rd regiment where he appears on muster rolls through the spring of 1863.

At about 11 A. M. on July 3rd, Ringstaff was “wounded in the head and captured while crossing the mountain” during the battle of Gettysburg.

statue of libertyOn 24 Oct 1863, Henry Ringstaff was transferred from DeCamp General Hospital on David’s Island to nearby Fort Wood, Bedloe’s Island in the New York harbor. After the war, the walls of Fort Wood were backfilled to make the star shaped base upon which now stands the Statue of Liberty. On 29 Oct 1863, Henry Ringstaff was transferred to Johnson’s Island Prison for Confederate Officers which was located on the Sandusky Bay of Lake Erie.

On 4 Oct 1864, the Lieutenant appears on a list of sick and wounded soldiers paroled from Johnson’s Island Prison to be forwarded to Pt. Lookout Prison MD. There, he joined a political party and his signature appears on a lengthy letter from al the officers in support of Governor Zebulon Baird Vance. Records show Lieutenant Ringstaff was transferred from Johnson’s Island to Pt. Lookout Prison MD on 6 Oct 1864. Lieutenant Ringstaff arrived at Point Lookout on 11 Oct 1864 and from there may have been transferred to where he was exchanged at Aikens Landing on the James River.

Looking back to the fateful days leading up to Gettysburg, we’ll see that John Medlin reappears from hiding about the same time Lieutenant Ringstaff marched towards the most fabled episode of the American civil war. We will learn of the said Medlin’s reappearance from a letter written by Samuel Hooey Walkup. Lieutenant Colonel Walkup, also from Union County, was considered by others to be one of the bravest officers in the Northern Army of Virginia. Back in 1858, he and the aforementioned Thomas D. Winchester had provided their views at a Congressional session seeking to locate the birthplace of Andrew Jackson.

In a letter penned to Gov. Z. B. Vance dated 9 Jun 1863, Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Hooey Walkup told of what he had learned upon arriving in Richmond VA two days earlier. Having traveled from Kinston NC, his unit found John Medlin Junior and his father John Medlin Senior in camp where the young Medlin was trying to get into the regiment. Walkup states that the said Medlin had deserted from the 20th regiment and that he is the person who had killed Mr. Hosea Little and crippled Mr. T. D. Winchester. He eludes to the capture and of General Winder of Richmond who had earlier released John Medlin Junior and his father. Walkup called Gen. Winder & inquired on how Medlin Junr. came to be let out. The general replied that he had no authority over the prisoner …that a Confederate court could not try for an offense committed against state authorities. The general wanted Walkup to have him arrested & sent to him so that he could send him to his Regt. What? Not wishing to do the business of General Winder, Walkup told him (Winder) that he ought to send Medlin to the governor to be tried by civil law if the military could not punish for such offense.

The governor responded to Walkup’s letter as follows: Gen Winder that if there is a certain ….of Medlin being shot by the military, I will not send for him, If not, I will. ZBV

Richmond VA. June 9, 1863

His Excellency
Gov Z. B. Vance of N. C
Raleigh N. C.

Dear Sir;

Upon our arrival in Richmond Sunday 7th June from Kinston N. C., we found John Medlin Junr., who was a deserter from the 20th N. C. & who killed Mr. Hosea Little & crippled Mr. T. D. Winchester both of Monroe in Union County N. C. last winter, whilst they were attempting to arrest him & three others, all of which was reported to you by the militia authorities – Gen. Winder of Richmond had released John Medlin Junr. & he and his father who had come to Richmond VA, were in our camp, & young Medlin was about trying to get into our regt. I called on Gen. Winder & inquired how Medlin Junr. came to be let out stating his offense – He replied that he had no authority over him. That a Confederate court could not try for an offense committed against state authorities. But wanted me to have him arrested & sent to him & he would send him to his Regt. I did not care to trouble myself about his for that business but told him (Winder) that he ought to send Medlin to you to be tried by the civil law if the military could not punish for such offense.

Gen Winder that if there is a certain ….of Medlin being shot by the military, I will not send for him, If not, I will. ZBV

S. H. Walkup
June 9th/63

We know from the above correspondence, and from later court records, that John Medlin and the others involved were returned to Union County by order of Governor Zebulon B. Vance. On the 8th Monday after the 4th Monday of August 1863, it being the 19th day of October A D 1863, a Superior Court of Law opened and was held for the County of Union at the courthouse in Monroe. The Honorable John L. Baily Judge presided.

Judge John L. Baily presented jury foreman Eli Stewart the Bill of Indictment. Eli and his fellow jurors are listed below:

jury 1

And then, another judge, the Honorable James W. Osborne, ordered on the 8th Monday after the 4th Monday in February A D 1864, it being the 18th day of April 1864, that the trial be moved to Mecklenburg County:

The said John Medlin Junior, being brought to the bar here in custody of the Sheriff of Union County and it being demanded of him how he will acquit himself of the felony and murder in the said bill of indictment charged against him, he says he is not guilty and for good and evil he puts himself upon the court and Mr. Solicitor Armfield who prosecutes for the state in his behalf doth the like upon affidavit of the prisoner this indictment is removed to the county of Mecklenburg by order of the court for trial, and it is required of the sheriff of Union County that he deliver the prisoner on Thursday of the term to the sheriff of Mecklenburg County.

On the 9th Monday after the last Monday in August 1864, it being the 31st day of October 1864, at the Superior Court of Mecklenburg, Judge R. R. Heath presided over the new trial.

And of keen interest, a most crucial witness, Lieutenant Samuel Henry Ringstaff had been severely injured at Gettysburg and locked away in Yankee prisons for more than nine months. He was basically missing from action for the entire period of John Medlin’s escape. And having only recently been exchanged at Aiken’s Ferry VA on 11 Oct 1864, it’s amazing he was able to made it back to Union County in order to testify. But as records have shown, Lieutenant Ringstaff did in-fact testify.

Up to this point the reader has seen the prosecutorial information gleaned from letters, newspaper articles and witness statements supporting the Bill of Indictment. The prosecution had ended and now it was time for the defense. As written in the Attorney General’s report, the prisoner’s counsel argued that:

1. The prisoner did not do the act of shooting.
2. If he did, it was excusable, as it was done in self-defense — defense of the prisoner’s dwelling.

Sending the jury to deliberation, Judge Baily charged them with five truths that must be adhered to in making their decision. And of that, I ask you the reader to study these closely:

1. That if these men banded together as deserters, with a common understanding and determination to stand together and resist all persons who might lawfully come to arrest them, and if the prisoner killed in consequence of this determination, it would be murder.
2. If the prisoner knew he was a deserter, and sought as such by persons having proper authority to arrest him, and killed to prevent such arrest, it would be murder.
3. If the prisoner believed, and had reason to believe, that a mere trespass only was intended, and killed to prevent such trespass, it would be murder.
4. If the prisoner killed for revenge for anything that had been done to his house, and out of malice, it would be murder.
5. That if the prisoner killed because his house was broken into in the night, he not knowing what was to follow, he would be guilty of nothing; that if the prisoner believed, and had cause to believe, that a known felony was about to be committed on himself, his property, or his family, the parties being in apparent situation to commit said felony, and he killed to prevent it, then he would be guilty of nothing. house; in defense of his person and family, and in prevention of a threatened felony.

Upon the return of a guilty verdict, the court case is recorded as follows:

Being chosen, tried, and sworn to speak the truth of and concerning the premises upon their oath, say that they find the said John Medlin Junior guilty of the felony and murder in manner and form as charged in the bill of indictment. The prisoner John Medlin Junior is placed at the bar and it being demanded of him what he has to say why the court should not proceed to judgement of death on him, he moves for a new trial and for a venire de novo, and their motions are overruled, and the rules discharged, and it is ordered and adjudged by the court that the prisoner at the bar, John Medlin Junior, be taken hence to the jail of Mecklenburg County and there remain until Friday the twenty fifth day of November A. D. 1864, and that on that day he be taken by the sheriff to the said county to the place of Execution for said county between the hours of ten o’clock A. M. and four o’clock P. M. and then hanged by the neck until he be dead.

From the said judgement the said John Medlin Junior prays an appeal to the Supreme Court which is granted upon the prisoner John Medlin Junior giving bond and security.

The case of State vs. John Medlin had already been moved from Union to Mecklenburg County and now, once again, he requested a new trial at a new location. The request was denied though the appear to the Supreme Court was granted. Dated 20 Nov 1864, the N. C. Argus, which is published in Anson County NC, reports the following:

In Union county last week …A man named HELMS, charged with being accessory to the shooting of Little, was tried and acquitted. It will be remembered that MEDLIN, HELMS, and other deserters, were concealed in a house when the deceased Little, and other officers, approached it for the purpose of capturing them. MEDLIN is to be tried here this week. Charlotte Democrat.

…On Friday, John MEDLIN, from Union county, was tried for killing Hosea Little. MEDLIN was a deserter and Little and others were trying to arrest him, when MEDLIN fired and killed Little. The jury returned a verdict, guilty of murder. The prisoner, MEDLIN, took an appeal to the Supreme Court. – Charlotte Democrat

John Medlin Junior won his right to appeal. Seeking information from the depositions and trial results, I immediately went to the Mormon FamilySearch site online which has supposedly recorded all the loose papers supporting past North Carolina Supreme Court cases. But, upon looking there, I did not find the Medlin case. As it turns out, the Mormon effort did not copy ALL the cases. And of those that did not get copied, I have no idea as to why. Then going to NC State Archives, I looked through the card index of cases, quickly pulled the file, and found a treasure trove of depositions which make up most of what’s found in this post. And also included was Justice Richmond Mumford Pearson’s report which follows. Pearson was chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme County.

State vs. Medlin

In State vs. Jarrott, this court taking to the law to be that insolence on the part of a slave to a white man would justify battery, but not an excessive one, awards a veniere de novo on the grounds that the instruction to the jury must be understood as having reference to the testimony, and was in that sense erroneous, and used these words – “the language of his honor indeed is that” if the prisoner used the provoking language testified by the witness the deceased had a right to whip him.” “But by the phrase whip he must necessarily be understood as meaning to whip in the manner testified by the witnesses,” that is with a knife and a piece of fence rail.
In this case, we think the prisoner has ground to complain of the third instruction, i. e. “if the prisoner, believed and had reason to believe that a mere trespass only was intended and killed to present such trespass, it would be murder.” Forsaking the law to be that a mere trespass to personal property does not mitigate where the killing is with a deadly weapon, but that a violent trespass to the person does mitigate, this instruction must be understood as having reference to the kind of trespass spoken of by the witnesses, and in that sense is erroneous. His Honor having in the second instruction presented the case to the jury in the footing that the deceased and the party to which he belonged had proper authority to arrest the prisoner, in the instruction now under consideration assumes that the deceased and the party to which he belonged were acting without proper authority, and that what they did or intended to do was a trespass, and must necessarily be understood as meaning the kind of trespass testified by the witness, that is going to a man’s house in the night time with a number of armed men for the purpose of seizing his body! – – Killing to prevent a trespass of this nature is certainly no more than manslaughter.

It occurred to us that this error might be owed by the fifth instruction. On consideration we are satisfied that instruction cannot have the effect, because it is qualified and reshiated by the words “he not knowing what was to follow.” On the supposition that he did know what was to follow, that is, that they intended to arrest and take him off as a deserter, the killing was mitigated, unless they had proper authority to do so, which view is not presented by this instruction, and consequentially it does not cure the error of the third instruction. The first and second instructions assume that there was proper authority to arrest. The other instructions assume that there was not. This most important question is left undisposed of, and to that omission the want of cleanness in the case is to be ascribed.

As is said in Gaither vs. Ferrebee 1 Winston, 315, “his Honor has left the case to the jury in such a manner as to make it impossible for this court to know what his opinion was on a question of law, arising on the facts of the case, and of course making it impossible to review his decision .” Unless his instructions are to be considered as mere abstract positions of the law without reference to what was testified by the witness, there is error. Veniere de novo.


For me this intriguing story begins to wind down with the above Supreme Court ruling. With little fanfare, it appears John Medlin may have been acquitted due to the improper nature in which his home was approached in the middle of the night. That, and the fact that no official authorization was ever presented. A man has the right to protect himself. But though he was not found guilty, it appears John Medlin Junior and Senior may have felt the sting of community wrath. Less than two years following the trial, the two removed to Lawrence County, Illinois where they lived out the rest of their lives.

Going back to early fall 1864 when the murder case was moving towards retrial in the Mecklenburg County Courts, Col. Samuel H. Walkup wrote a telling letter to Governor Z. B. Vance. Of concern were the actions of a local battalion of the Home Guards. On 2 Sep 1864, Walkup wrote of their combing the county in search of deserters. This, at a time when the sorghum and molasses industry was in high demand and yet, most working aged men were at war. Walkup further claimed that the action was overbearing considering it impacted everyone and yet sought to arrest but a hand full of deserters. To that point Walkup pleaded for a temporary cease in the searches, at least until the demands of the fall harvest ebbed:

Monroe N. C. Septr 2nd 1864
His Excellency Gov Z. B. Vance

Dear Sir

Col. Brown of the 63rd Bat. Home Guard has been in this county from Mecklenburg for three or four days – & Majr Ashcraft has the Battalion out of the Home Guards from this county – I also learn that a Battalion from Anson Co. is ordered here.
Now there is but six deserters reported present in this county. Two of them have come in under your proclamation & two others I am informed will be in in a day or two – So that there appears to be no call for any forces here for purpose of arresting deserters. There are none to arrest. There have been no depredations made by any of them in this county for some time past. Those who had committed any have all been taken & sent back to their Regts sometime since.

If the purpose is to put the Battalions under organization so as to be ready for any emergency, that objective has already been accomplished. They are now organized & will be in a state of readiness for meeting & moving at short notice.

I would most respectfully bring to your excellency’s attention, with great diffidence the citizens of the county – Our county (Union) has very few slaves & the few white men left here are the laborers who are necessary to save the growing & matured crops. It is now in the beginning of tine to save fodder & the Sorghum Molasses are now ready for manufacturing & there is a considerable quantity of it planted. Neither can be saved unless these men are left at home – & this is, I learn the case in Mecklenburg & other places – Our county had to rely for its supply last year beyond its limits for some of these necessities of life & it behooves them to use all their resources to keep from suffering.

I hope you will therefore take the premises into consideration & have the home guard released from active service until they can collect their fodder & Sorghum – or until some greater emergency arises for their surmise & when they can be more conveniently spared – this is the general wish & cannot desires of all concerned in the prosperity of the county & its necessities – whatever may be the condition of the county in other sections. I feel sure that there are not ½ dozen if more than two, deserters in Union County – Nor do I believe there are any worth notice in any adjoining counties fewer in fact than ever before.

You will please excuse me for making so free as to suggest these remarks
Respectfully & Truly
Your Obedient Servant
                                                                                  S. H. Walkup (Col. 48th N. C.)

Again, things go quiet. Then, starting around 1874, estate records for the deceased Henry Ringstaff begin to appear in Union County. Harkening back to his roots, many of the documents originate in Orange County NC as distributions from family there. One last time the spheres of influence coalesce as a member of the Houston family is awarded guardianship of Lieutenant Ringstaff’s children. The order was signed in 1876 by Samuel Hooey Walkup, Probate Judge.

Walkup probate


The accepted start for many of our Carolina families passes through the counties bordering the Chowan River in northeast North Carolina. As early as the late-1600’s, Virginians were drawn to the fertile flood plain previously the home of several tribes of Indian. Records lead us to this place and it is there where dwindling sources fail in linking our story to family further back in time. Responding to this gap in history, most of us pounce on probabilities that we spread with others from early arrivals along the Chesapeake. Sure, it’s possible we first lived in a place like Jamestown though other possibilities shouldn’t be ruled out.

As for my Burris family, we first appear in earnest after 1740 in Bertie County. Our history is tempted by others with variants of our name already established in the area. Provable connections to family prior to 1740 have yet to be made.

During the 1740’s our Burris/Burras/Burroughs family began buying and selling land along the network of swamps south of the Wiccacon River. The Wiccacon snakes west to east emptying into the west side of the Chowan River in the county of Bertie. Bertie was formed from what was previously known as the Chowan Precinct. Family deeds in the area mention Killem, Chinckapin, Flat, and Horse Swamps. Also mentioned are Maul’s Swamp, the River Pocoson, and Blount’s Branch; all of which are part of the intertwining network south of the Wiccacon.

In this area also settled a fellow named Capt. John Campbell who probably came to Carolina during the 1730’s. A native of Coleraine, Ireland and at one point living in London, John established a plantation along the Chowan that he called Lazy Hill. It is said that John Campbell has the esteemed honor of being the first to bring seine net fishing to America. His plantation once stood on the east side of a town he founded that was aptly named Colerain, North Carolina. John Campbell also owned land in other regions of the state. In the 1750’s and 60’s John Campbell of Bertie County purchased three tracts of land totaling 2280 acres on the Pee Dee River and Jones Creek in Anson County. Note that ca. 1778 our Joshua Burris Senior and his son Joshua Burris Junior received land grants on the same waterways in Anson. Curious, and to make it more interesting, John Campbell began selling off his large holdings in Anson County beginning in 1775 with the last sale occurring in May 1778. That’s the same month and year that Joshua Burris entered his land grant in the county! Could Joshua Burris have been introduced to the lands of Anson County by way of some business or personal relation with Capt. John Campbell? How well did they know each other?

In testament to the life of Capt. John Campbell, a full page article dated 8 May 1927 appeared in the Charlotte Observer. The introductory paragraph for that article follows:

john camp artice
Of importance to me is how the life record of John Campbell intersects with the opening chapters of our Burris family history. But first, a word of caution! Please note that just as there is a lack of evidence connecting our family to a past in Virginia, what I’m about to suggest includes its own leaps of faith. Even so, this is radically cool stuff and the historical connections are worth being told.

The following came to me by way of a wonderful site called Sally’s Family Place. As relates to the above mentioned John Campbell, copies of the entries shown below are housed at the British Public Records Office, London. Note that copies of these records are also available on microfilm at the North Carolina State Archives:

Nov-Feb 1739/40 London – Embargo placed on Mary and Mariane by British Public Records Office.

27 th of Feb 1739/40 an Order of Council and Warr for “discharging from the Embargo the Snow Mary and Mariane John Campbell Burthen 100 tons or thereabouts Navigated with five men now in the River of Thames bound for North Carolina loaden with Sundry Merchandise in a perishing condition, and having on board 50 poor foreign protestants and Servts whom he has maintained on board ever since 23rd Dec last.” [PRO, 1734-1740]

Piquing my curiosity, this record offers a possibility that we have never considered. Simply put, is it possible that our Burris family was among the “50 poor foreign protestants and servts whom he [John Campbell] maintained on board?” Sitting in the River Thames and bound for North Carolina, was our family among those poor fifty onboard the ship Mary and Marianne who would soon lay eyes on Campbell’s Lazy Hill Plantation? Did they work off their debt of gratitude through labor in establishing Capt. John’s plantation? I can imagine the men on board a ship crossing the ocean and of their conversations of what they would see and do in the new world.

But, at this point I’ve not seen the names Campbell and Burris jointly named in records prior to the 1760’s. And, there’s certainly nothing linking our family to the ca. 1740 voyage from England to the shores of the Chowan River. Connecting our family to the Captain, it was in 1765 that Joshua Burres witnessed a conveyance from Simon Parker of Edgecombe to Wm. Robinson. The 200 acres adjoined Pettforms meadow, Chinkapen Swamp, and Capt. John Campbell’s land. Joshua Burres who witnessed the transaction is believed to be the son of James Burras who died ca. 1767. And, this James Burrass had a son James whose life is at the center of this article.


It was in 1777 when Stephen White of Bertie sold to James Burroughs [Burras] 100 acres called Jackson’s Landing on the west side of the Chowan. James is the son of James Burras Senior who died per a will recorded in 1768. The actual will does not survive. The above mentioned deed to James Burras states that the land is “where the said Stephen White now lives and lately purchased from John Campbell, merchant.” So, this land had been owned by Capt. John Campbell prior to our earliest known ancestor’s purchase of the said tract. In 1785 James Burras sold the same land to John Moore, merchant of Edenton. James Burras’ wife Ann signed the transaction. Online, I’ve seen Ann’s maiden name as being “Bryant.” I’ve yet to find proof.

From the 1739/40 record in London, we know that Capt. John Campbell was in the business of shipping goods and people across the Atlantic. And like Capt. John, his son James is also recorded as being involved in the maritime industries. In possession of the “handsomest vessel ever built in America,” Capt. John’s son James Campbell placed an advertisement in the North Carolina Weekly Gazette which was published in New Bern. The year was 1777, the American Revolutionary War was heating up, and James sought to hire a crew in order to “cruise against the Enemies of the Thirteen United States.”

campbell ship

Two years before James Burras purchased the previously mentioned land from Stephen White, Joseph Lawrence also sold 100 acres to James Burroughs. This land was situated on the “west side of the Chowan on Mill Swamp joining the road and Burrough’s old line.” Of importance, the deed was witnessed by James Burroughs’ son Reuben as well as a person named Lucy Burroughs. As has already been shown, records prove that James Burris’ wife is named Ann. Could her name be Lucy Ann? Or, is she somebody else?

And then, in 1787, James Campbell [son of Capt. John Campbell] sold 100 acres to James Sorrell. The conveyance was for “part of land belonging to James Burras who conveyed it to Joseph Laurence, who sold it to sd. Campbell on south side of Flatt Swamp joining Dempsy Kail and the Wiccacon Road.” Here again there is a connection between the Campbell family and our earliest known ancestor. Truly an important deed, this transaction names neighbors whose connections with our family extend into the 1830s. The deed also provides us a glimpse of where our family land might be located. Signaling a move west, in 1787 James Burroughs now of Orange County sold to James Askew 100 acres of land. Again, James Burroughs’ wife Ann signed the deed.

The following year, on 1 May 1788, James Campbell placed a notice of reward in the paper for the return of a run-away mulatto named Arthur. The slave did not take his “negro cotton jacket and trowsers, but took away with him a new suit of blue cloth clothes.” Arthur “went to one James Burras’s on Orange County where he has a wife” and “soon after let out for Georgia, Cumberland, or South Carolina and will try to pass so a free man. Any person apprehending him to me on Chowan River, in Bertie County, shall receive a reward of TWENTY POUNDS.” Once again James Burras is linked to the Campbell family though this has to be James Burroughs Junior as we know his father passed ca. 1767.

Run away Arthur -

Time flies and in 1802, and being for love and the affection towards his son, James Burroughs of Orange County gave Reuben Burroughs 200 acres on the waters of New Hope Creek. The deed states that the tract was “part of the land James Burroughs purchased from John Moore.” Could this be the same John Moore, merchant of Edenton, who purchased James Burroughs’ land in 1785 Bertie County? There would be more land transactions for the Burroughs’ family including an 1808 land grant to Reuben Burroughs for 106 acres adjoining his father’s land. From what I can tell, the family lived somewhere near the crossing of New Hope Creek and present day Hwy 15/501 between Chapel Hill and Durham.

James Burrows/Burroughs, the father, died ca. 1807 as per his loose estate record filed in Orange County. And, before the estate was settled, on 30 Jan 1813, the life of James’ son Reuben Burress came to a brutal end. From newspapers we learn that he was murdered while on horseback along the road leading to Chapel Hill. The following article appears in the North Carolina Star which was published in Raleigh:

Reuben Burris murder

The murderer was apprehended and the case was quickly ruled upon. The following appeared in the local newspaper back home in the area where the Burroughs family had once lived:

reuben burris murder II
With father and son now dead, settlement of the estate of James Burras Jr moved forward. From the loose estate papers, survey below represents the New Hope Creek lands of James Burroughs and how they were divided among his heirs:


We knew of Reuben and now the estate papers introduces us to James and Ann Burroughs’ other children. By 1818 Zacchaeus and Bryant had moved south and are recorded as purchasing land in southern Chatham County where The History of the Sandy Creek Baptist Association records the two as representatives of Fall Creek Baptist Church:

burrough church

I could carry the children’s story further but for now will end with final thoughts on the family of Reuben Borroughs. To that end, I’ve always wondered how, in the old days, tragic events such as the fatal shooting of Reuben Borroughs impacted the family. Did they cave in sadness to such devil’s play or do they move forward with head held high? From another newspaper article we learn of Reuben’s wife Jane and what kept her busy following the untimely death of her husband.

In reading the above, I’d love to learn more about Jane Burroughs …of the school and how it evolved. This is special and I can imagine somewhere near the school was the family plot and resting place of James Burras and his son Reuben. But, knowing the area has now been overtaken by roads and businesses along the 15/501 corridor, is there any possibility? I wonder.


In closing, it’s plain to see that there was a real connection between our Burras/Burroughs family and that of Capt. John Campbell. But, when did any ties begin and do they span the great pond. In honesty I kind of doubt the latter though facts leave open the very real possibility that we indeed came over as late as 1740. And, this is but one possibility luckily brought to light by way of another’s blog post and the discovery of a legal record housed in London. I’m sure there are more possibilities if only we knew what they were. To those who subscribe to, please take a look at the crazy wonderful article written in 1927 about Captain John Campbell of Coleraine, Ireland.


shopping 2
Above is the home where Solomon Burres and his wife Delilah once lived. Solomon is the son of Dempsey Burres who we know to be the paternal ancestor of Ken Burres whose family history was hinted at in Part 1 of this posting. Knowing that Ken descends from the family seen in front of the old home, it’s interesting that his DNA provides us the only known path from western Tennessee to others who share his surname here in North Carolina.

chowrivThere must be more like Ken …like his ancestor Dempsy who we believe grew up on the waters of the Chowan River. I introduced some of the others in the first post of this two part series. I also discussed the Burrus/Burras/Burris lands on the west side of the river within the area known as Pell Mell. There was Blount Branch and the land Joshua Burris acquired from Mordecia White. Some say Modecai’s brother Luke ran a ferry on the east bank of the river going back to 1716. Records are not definitive in making that case. But it’s there where I’d like to begin this post. Some 33 years after Luke White’s ferry first appeared on the Mosely map, it shows up again in the 1770 Collett map (right). Entering the Chowan to the south of L. White’s Ferry is the green shaded and unlabeled creek known as Rockyhock. And before entering the red shaded town of Edenton from the north, the old Virginia road crosses the eastern prongs of Rockyhock. It’s in this vicinity where the home of “Hoskin” is located. And as will be shown, Thomas Hoskins who lived there is certainly connected to our Burris family.

Born ca. 1739, Thomas Hoskins is the son of yet another Thomas and his wife Mary Halsy Hoskins of Chowan County. Mary Halsy’s brothers are named Daniel and Miles Halsey. Is it possible the two brothers are the namesake for Daniel Burres who, from the first part of this post, had a son Miles Burres? Could the naming be a tenuous thread tying the family of Daniel Burres to the Hoskins and Halsey families?

At the height of the Revolutionary War, the younger Thomas Hoskins dies as is indicated by the writing of his of his last will and testament. In the instrument penned 1 Jun 1781, Thomas names his sister Mary Burris:

Item I give to my sister Mary Burris one hundred and twenty five eakers of land joining where Bucker now lives.

Who was the above Buckler and where was the land located that Thomas Hoskins bequeathed to his sister Mary Burris? Further down in a bequeath to his sister Keziah, Thomas gives the full name of Buckler which may in time help us to better understand the family lands. To Keziah Hoskins he left “200 acres of land where now Richard Bukler now lives.”

The following is also found in the loose estate files. It’s from an 1800 petition for dower raised by “Mary Dolby, the widow and relict of Thomas Hoskins”:

“…that her said husband departed this life in the month of April 1783 seized of a considerable tract of land in the county.”

And from another document among the loose papers, Richard Buckler recovered approximately 43 pounds from John Cofield who was the executor. The legal heirs in that paper are identified as: “Mary Burrows, wife of Joshua Burrows, Keziah Hoskins, Sarah Hoskins, and John Cofield, the younger.”

Bizare! At this point I have to wonder, have other Burris family researchers seen this set of documents? If so, how do they explain the naming of Joshua Burris as being the husband of Mary Hoskins? Is Mary the wife of our Joshua Burris Senior? Joshua Burris Junior? Is she the wife of some unknown Burris who also happens to be named Joshua and is contemporary to known members of our family?

It must be said that Thomas Hoskins who wrote the 1781 last will and testament is said to have been born ca. 1739. Based on that birth, if in fact Thomas’ sister married either Joshua Burris Junior or Senior, wouldn’t Mary’s probable age mean that she is better suited to be the wife of Joshua Junior? At this point I urge the reader to keep the powder dry.


In the 1790’s, Joshua Burris and wife Mary gave unto Job Leary and wife Rachel two tracts of land. The first is 100 acres “formally belonging to my grandfather Thomas Hoskins deceased.” The second tract containing 320 acres is located on the “Rockahock Swamp on the east side of the Piney Woods.” Also, note that this land action was actually a gift: “ …in consideration of the natural affection and fraternal love which we have and bear unto Job Leary and Rachel Leary his wife forever and also for —– other good causes and considerations Me at this time especially moving …”

According to Chowan County records, Job Leary married Rachel Hoskins 1 Jan 1776. And, from online genealogies, both Job and Rachel descend from an earlier generation of the Thomas Hoskins family. One such writing connects Rachel and Mary Hoskins Burris though I’ve yet been able to understand how. Also, there is another Mary Hoskins who married a fellow by the name of James Bond on 8 Oct 1787. This person cannot be the same Mary who was the wife of Joshua Burris as Mary and Joshua were both alive and active at the time of the Bond-Hoskins marriage. However, the marriage of Mary Hoskins and James Bond does raise serious questions as the loose estate of Thomas Hoskins (Joshua Burres’ father-in-law) contains a document or petition from James Bond.

In another deed (A2-26 Chowan), Joshua Burris and wife Mary sold a tract of 62 acres to John Crutchlow and Robert Goodwyn of Southampton County VA. Witnessed by John Halsey and Nathaniel Woodward, the tract is located “in Chowan River near Jeremiah Cannons.” It is identified as being “part of a tract of land formerly granted to Thos. Holladay bearing date 1730 and conveyed by deed to Samuel Farlee (Farless?) & from sd. Farlee to Thos. Hoskins.” Could this be part of Holladay’s Island, within the area of Cow Island on the west side of the Chowan? Could this be part of a recreational spot known today by the name of Holladay’s Island?

Neither Joshua nor Mary appear in the 1790-1800 census. I’d like to move forward though two deeds in 1809 need to be mentioned. Dated 15 May 1809. Mary Burrows gave to her daugther Polly Burrows 16 ½ acres (E2-166, Chowan) that she, Mary Burrows “bought of Levi Jones – joining Joseph Bozeman, James Rhodes, Samuel Tredwell, and Wm. Bennett.” The deed was witnessed by Ab’m Pritchard and Moses Buckley who must be related to Richard Buckley whose land adjoined that of Thomas Hoskins …who was Joshua Burris’s brother-in-law. On the next page in the deed book, Mary Burrows gives all her kitchen and utility items to the said Polly Burrows.

And then in Chowan County, Mary Burris of Chowan County, by herself, deeded 4 ¼ acres of land to James Harrell, her son-in law. Dated 21 Jun 1816, the deed (H2-422 Chowan) reads: “Knowye that I Mary Burris of the county of Chowan and state of North Carolina, having by these presents and goodwill that I bear towards my son in law James Harrell …give unto him the said James Harrell a certain tract of land lying in Chowan on the west side of Juniper.” It being part of the land I bought of Joseph Bozeman of Edenton. Wit: Abr’m Pritchard, Wm. Coffield.

Could any or all of these be Mary, wife of Joshua Burris as appears in the last will and testament of Thomas Hoskins? As for Joshua, he seems to disappear with no final record or deed to mark his passing. The above deed from Mary to daughter Polly may or may not reflect the family of Joshua Burris. But what if it does? What if Joshua died sometime in the 1790’s. He and Mary may have had other children who like Polly, would eventually become known by the marks they made in life. Though Daniel Burres who lived in Bertie County lives and dies without clear tie to Joshua and Mary, he is of age to be a son or grandson. He may not even be their son but rather a child of another member of the Burres family living in that day and time. Note there is a James Jr. Burris and William Burris whose records we have yet to review. And, with that said, I’d like to introduce you to Solomon Burres who also acquired land on the Rockyhock clearly in the area where Joshua and Mary Burres once lived.


Dated 2 Jul 1803, a person named Solomon Burris married Ann Harris in Chowan County. The bondsman for the marriage was E. Norfleet. Though Solomon does not appear in the 1810 Chowan census, a 26-44 year old John Burrus does appear. Who is he? And then in 1820 Solomon is enumerated as:

1m 0/10, 1m 26/44/ 1f 10/15, 2f 26/44

And, we know Solomon served in the war of 1812 as the following pay voucher was punched, indicating it had been received and paid:



Signaling the loss of his first wife, Solomon Burris marries second on 2 Oct 1824 to Rachel Jones. And then, per 1828 probation of his last will and testament, the passing of Solomon Burris is duly recorded:

In the name of God Amen, I Solomon Burris am weak in Body but thanks be to God sound in mind and memory and as its appointed for all men once to die I make and ordain this to be my last will and testament in manner and form as followeth – –
First I give my soul to God that gave it to deal as pleaseth him and my Body to the dust of the earth to be buried in a Christian line manner by the care of them that I leave behind me.
2nd I give and bequeath unto my deare beloved son David Jones my plantation whereon I now live and all the land belonging there to bounded by the Rockehock road and Ferry Road
3rd I give and bequeath unto my daughter Elizabeth Burris all the lands of mine on the west of the Ferry road to Jesse Smith’s line
4th I give unto my Grandson in law James Jones all my land on the south side of the Rockehock Road to Tho’s Satterfield’s line to him and his heirs and forever if the said James Jones should not live and his mother Lediah Jones should not have any more children that should not survive twenty one for the land to come in my family again
5th I give unto my son William Halsey all my land on the west side of the Juniper and if he should die without an heir lawfully begotten by him the land to come back to my family again
6th I lend unto my Mother in Law the plantation whereon the Juda Jones the Plantation whereon she now lives during her widowhood [or until she moves of] with the privilege of timber for plantation use
7th It is my desire that my dear beloved wife Rachel Burris shall have the use of the plantation whereon we now live during her natural life Likewise I give to her one bed and furniture her choice one wheel and cards one loom and gears and hog enough to make her pork for one year and three head of cattle
Likewise I give unto all my children namely James Jones [five head] David Burris and Elizabeth Burris three head of cattle a piece and two head to William Halsey
All the rest of my property to be sold by my executors and my just debts and funeral charges paid and the remainder of the money to be equally divided between my two youngest children.

Last of all I appoint my two friends George White and Noah White and Zachariah Evans my soul executors of this my last will and testament.
Confirmed and declaring this my last will and testament as witness my hand and doth affix my seal in this year of our Lord God one thousand eight hundred and twenty eight the 17th of October 1828.

In presence of Ab’m H. Pritchard Jurat Solomon (X) Burris
Sophia Jones

Solomon Burris’ last will and testament offers a treasure trove of information likely connecting deep within our family. Starting off, you see Abraham Pritchard serving as Jurat just as he did in the gift deed from Mary Burrows to her daughter Polly. Solomon also appoints his two friends George White and Noah White …and Zachariah Evans to be executors. Is this Noah the same person who later moved to Tennessee along with Miles and Dempsy Burres? And who is George White? Note that the 1799 last will and testament of Medey White in Bertie mentions a son George White.  And, the instrument is witnessed by Abraham Pritchard who for some reason has witnessed other legal documents over on Chowan.  I believe there is a connection between the Bertie and Chowan families of White. Are those mentioned here the sons of Luke? William” or could they be cousins?  And as for Zachariah Evans, he married 8 Mar 1808 to Elizabeth Cofield who is said to be the daughter of Jeremiah and Sarah Banks Coffield. Zachariah Evans was an itinerant Methodist Minister and later founded Evans’ Meeting House in the area of Rockyhock along the old and important Virginia Road. Zachariah’s father Jeremiah is the son of John Coffield Senior who married Elizabeth Hoskins who was the aunt of Mary Hoskins. Mary appears in the estate of Thomas Hoskins as being the wife of Joshua Burres. All of this is intertwined and I believe the records bring the story full circle.

And as we’re just getting starting, there’s also William Halsey who in Item five of the will is bequeathed land on the west side of the Juniper. Remember Mary Burrus who gifted 4 ¼ acres to her son-in-law James Harrells? That land was also described as being located on the west side of the Juniper. Could this be pointing to the possibility that Solomon of Chowan County is the son of Joshua and Mary? It appears so though no proof.

Solomon Burres also mentions his “Grandson in Law James Jones.” James is ordered, that following the death of the said Solomon, that a bequeath of land should return to his mother Lydia Jones. Solomon also lends to his mother-in-law the “Judah Jones Plantation.” A grenadson? Was Solomon married prior to his first recorded marriage to Ann Harris? This one baffles me as I do not yet understand the Jones connections.

The above provides wonderful detail connecting family and land. Note that Solomon’s land was located near the ferry road within Rocky Hock. His land was liklely near Evans Church on the Virginia Road. It’s within the same area where Luke White was ordered to operate a ferry some 100 years earlier. I haven’t found any significant family deeds that predate Solomon’s ownership though would like to learn more of this place and of how members of our family came about living there. There’s still some pieces missing in this story.

Following the death of Solomon Burris, his widow Rachel Jones Burris soon after married second to Wiley Haste, the son of Charlton Haste. John Jones was bondsman. And note, that Charlton Haste likely comes out of Henry Haste whose land in Bertie County was deeded to the Burris family. The loose papers for the estate of Solomon Burris names Wiley, the new step-father, as being appointed guardian of Solomon’s minor children David and Elizabeth. Below are briefs of four documents from those files.

  • 21 June 1830, Chowan. Wiley (x) Haste appointed guardian of David and Elizabeth Burris. Wit: Charlton (x) Haste.
  • 12 Feb 1834, Chowan. Wiley Haste, guardian of David Burris and Elizabeth Burris, you are hereby notified that at the next county court of Chowan County, I as the next friend of the said orphans shall move the said …….court to remove you from guardianship of the said David and Elisabeth Burris on the account of your mismanagement of the said —– estate and neglecting the case of their education.” Signed: Willis Elliott.
  • May 1837, Chowan. Willis Elliott, guardian of David and Elizabeth Burris summoned to court.
  • 7 Aug 1837, Chowan. Willis Elliott, Jordan D. Elliott, & Zachariah Evans are bound in the appointment of Willis Elliott as guardian of David and Elizabeth Burris.

Solomon Burris’s son David did not live long. As per his loose estate record, David died ca. 1842. From one of the documents in the estate papers:

The petition of Lydia Jones [of full age] widow of Joseph Jones and of Elizabeth Burrows an infant by her guardian Jordan D. Elliott all of Chowan County, shows unto your worships, that, as heirs of law of David Burrows, a minor now deceased son of Solomon who died leaving in his last will and testament a tract of land to the said David, they are the only tenants in common, of the said tract of land situated in Chowan County in the district of Rockyhock and bounded in the north by the lands of Cullen Jones and the lands east by Miles Halsey & Jack Parker, on the south by the main road leading over Rocky Hock Bridge and on the west by the main ferry road, …being the tract wheron the said Solomon Burrows lived, containing by estimation 50 acres.


At this point the significant records seem to end for the Burris family east of the Chowan River. In it all, I’ve not found a smoking gun leading to how that family connects to ours who eventually settled in Stanly County NC. And then, on top of everything, there is the history of Joshua Burris who is believed to have married Sarah Chamblee before moving to South Carolina. That Joshua and wife Sarah are clearly named in deeds selling family lands along Blount’s Branch of Flat Swamp in Bertie. The history for that Joshua seems to follow a clearer path of records back to family when they first appeared on the Pocosons of eastern Bertie.

It’s easy to look at all this and make the snap decision that something’s out of place. Could Joshua of Rockyhock be the son of Joshua Senior? Could he actually be Joshua Senior, the father? Could we have mixed up the two generations? It’s possible just as is the idea Joshua may be a cousin named for our Joshua Senior. For me, I wonder about Solomon of Rockyhock and his son David. When our Joshua Burris Senior left the Chowan for lands in Anson County, a person named David Burris also made the trip and served as chain bearer for his 1778 land grant. Is David a son, a brother? And, it’s important to point out that the same Joshua had a son Solomon who in turn had a son named Joshua. Did the naming honor his father or brother? Also, our Solomon had a son David whose namesake could be the David Burris named as chainer in the said Solomon’s father’s grant.

In the same manner above, could Solomon of Chowan be named for an uncle or cousin? How about his son David? Does this naming pattern link the family to our Solomon of Stanly County? I’d say yes, though such ties are not proven to be direct lineage. This, because we are sure the family was larger than just the traditional story of Joshua and Solomon. There is James Jr, and likely Samuel and possibly John not to mention the girls who at this time remain unknown. Out of any one of these, there could have been a son Joshua named in honor for Junior or Senior who passed through Anson County. And, such a scenario could easily be at the root of Joshua, and Solomon, who once lived in the area of Rockyhock. We just don’t know. And likewise, the path back for Ken Burres of Tennessee is much like our own.  I do believe that he and a person named Miles Burrres are close kin. I also believe the naming patterns of his family are in honor of others just as with ours. But for now, and truthfully said,  the exactness of how his family ties back to the Carolina gamily eludes us all.

At this point I’ll end for now so as to enjoy the Christmas holidays with family. I hope the best for you and yours and look forward to the New Year. Knowing more work needs to be done on the families of Joshua and Sarah … and of the other brothers/cousins, I look forward to 2020 and the times that’ll be spent plowing new fields of early North Carolina history.



Dated 17 Apr 1716, a court session held for Chowan Precinct took place in the house of Robert Hicks on Queen Anne’s Creek where the following was recorded:

“Ordered that a ferry be kept at Luke White’s, or some other convenient place in Rockyhock, and that a road be cleared from thence at Ballard’s Bridge, with least inconvenience to the owners of the land”

In the above1737 Mosely map you can see Luke White’s Ferry on the east bank of the Chowan River. South of the ferry is Rockyhock Creek where a bridge once called Ballard’s must have crossed. Of importance to my Burris family history, I discovered the above in a published report by fellow researcher Frances Cullom Morgan. More than any other I know, Frances has succeeded in the inimitable task of untangling the Jones Family of eastern North Carolina. As is with the families in her story, my family once lived along the Chowan River too. Generations of our Burris family must have crossed the waters at Luke White’s Ferry.

paul johnsonIn response to my questions asked about our Burris family lands on the west or Bertie County side of the Chowan River, friend Gregory Tyler directed me to read K. Paul Johnson’s book Pell Mellers (Race and Memory) in a Carolina Pocoson. I was told to read it because, as Gregory put it, “these are your people.” You see, some of my Burris family lived in the area called Pell Mell and are certainly related to Paul Johnson through his ancestor Alexander Hawkins Johnston who married Sarah Burris in 1795. Paul’s family is my family.

In his enlightening book, Paul tells the story of Pell Mell and the tri-racial mixing of races which was prevalent in the area around this uniquely Carolina land feature known as a pocosson. He tells how some folk refer to pocossons as being swamps on hills. He goes on …”where the town of Askewville now stands, the Pell Mell Pocoson is a huge peat bog covered with thick forests of long leaf pines. The pocoson’s soil was so poorly drained that much of it remained uninhabitable until modern drainage systems were introduced.” And as for naming, some believe the Pell Mell Pocoson of Bertie County honors the grand plaza of London running the north bank of the Thames River. Paul, on the other hand, conjectures that in this case, the descriptive “implies sarcasm in the Windsor gentry’s use of Pell Meller to refer to the poor and illiterate residents of the pocoson.”

My introduction to all this lies with my ancestor Solomon Burris who served in the American Revolution out of Anson County. Located nowhere near Bertie County, Anson is situated far away in the southern piedmont of North Carolina. According to his pension request filed in Stanly County, Solomon Burris states that proof of his life record lies in a bible. Asked “have you any record of your age and if so, what is it?
Solomon responded:

I have no record of my age. My father has my age down in his bible and he carried it to Bertie County in this state and has long since died –and I know not what became of the record.

And from a 1772 tax list, we know that Solomon is identified as being the son of Joshua Burris. Documents in Bertie further imply that Solomon has a brother named Joshua Junior and that Joshua Burris Senior’s father may be a person named James Burris. However, Solomon’s perceived relation to Joshua introduces us to the Burris family conundrum. We know from the tax list that Solomon is the son of Joshua. But, as family land and other records are so plentiful and mixed, it’s difficult to correctly attribute each one to the right Joshua. For instance, was it Joshua Senior or Junior who moved to South Carolina? Do we really know?

Beyond the believed descendants of Joshua Burris Senior, it’s important for you to understand that there are others of our name whose identities and relations have yet to be determined. To this end, discussion in a recent Burris Family User Group has awakened in me the need to look deeper into our story. There’s got to be more beyond what I believe to be a comfortably written history settled upon by past research efforts. We are a large and complex family and it seems the mysteries and bits yet untold should be made known.

Enter Ken Burres.

Joining our Facebook usergroup Solomon Burris and Family of North Carolina, Ken quickly introduced his family as descending from a person named Dempsey Burres who first appears ca. 1840 in Marshall County TN. By the way, all who descend from any Burris/Burrus/Burres family out of Bertie County are welcome to participate in our usergroup!

In the 1850 Marshall County census, Dempsey Burres is identified as being born in North Carolina (see below). Proving beyond doubt that he is a blood cousin, Ken Burres’ Y-DNA matches a known descendant of our Solomon Burris. He is certainly one of us and represents a branch of our family seeking to find their way back home. Note that Y-DNA accurately follows the paternal line and unlike autosomal DNA, does not easily degrade. Therefore, we know Ken’s father is a Bures as is his father and so on back to the day where his ancestor and ours share a common Burres/Burris parentage.

Dempsey Burros [Burrop] 55m tar NC
Cela 24 f SC
Matilda 22 f TN
Martha 18 f TN
Solomon 18 m TN
Alfred 14 m TN
Ja’s Rone 7m TN
Cela Rone 6m TN

Giving this a serious stab and wanting to learn more of our new cousin, I’ve made multiple visits to North Carolina State Archives. And as for this post, it’s not at all to be seen as a conclusion of that effort. Merely a beginning, there’s value in gathering and presenting initial findings along with any hypotheticals in prediction of where we may be heading. And, as we’re in the holiday season, I’d especially like to offer something worth passing on, worth reaching across the mountains and sharing around the dinner table with turkey and gravy or a big ham. In this post I’ll outline what’s been found to date along with suggestions of where we may go from here.

The following report connects our people to two areas along the Chowan River. This post looks primarily at records for our family on the west side of the river within the Pell Mell Pocoson along a stream called Blount’s Branch. Secondly, we likely have family who once lived on the east side of the Chowan on a creek called Rockyhock near Luke White’s old ferry. I’ll discuss those records in my next posting.


In 1750, John Wynns sold to James Burros 200 acres on the south side of the Flat Swamp of Killam and east side of the old road and bridge. There are other Burris related transactions for land on Flat Swamp that also mention a stream called Blount’s Branch. Adjoining the lands of “White,” James Burros’ 200 acre purchase was witnessed by Thomas Hansford. Sixteen years later, in 1766, James Burrous happened to be one of the buyers at the estate sale of Thomas Hansford deceased. Then, in 1778, Thomas Hansford’s son Jenkins Hansford made the trip west to Anson County where he served as chain bearer for a land grant issued to Joshua Burris. The two must have been friends. Remember, it is assumed that Joshua is the son of the above James Burros. As is with our Burris family, Jenkins Hansford made his way west though is known to have returned to Bertie where an estate record marks his death in the 1790’s.

In 1759 Burrell Bell sold to John Kaile 100 acres on the westward side of Blount’s Pocoson joining Luke White Sr., James Burros, and Burwell Bell. Luke White Senior in this transaction is the son of Mordecai and Mary Hardy White and Mordecai is the brother of Luke White the ferryman. And, note that the deed mentions Blount’s Pocoson.

Who was John Kail in the above conveyance? Of coincidence (or not?) in all this, my paternal Thomas family once lived within ten miles of Pell Mell Pocoson. In telling the story of his Kail ancestors, my possible very distant cousin Gerald Thomas of nearby Hertford County researched family lore of Native heritage pertaining to his early Kail family. Gerald’s work is very much worth reading and can be found at: A Critical Examination of a Family Legend: John Cale Purported Indian.

The following three deeds mention Blount’s Creek in connection with Flatt Swamp:

Burrell Bell to Henry Haste, 125 acres on Flatt Swamp, the main road, James Burris, Yeates, and Blount’s Branch.”

• On Sep 7, 1759, Burrell Bell to Joshua Burross for 171 acres on the south side of Flatt Swamp joining Absolum Harrell.

• Sep 8, 1759, Burell Bell, gent to Joseph Harris for 228 acres on Mare Branch joining James Fletcher, Wm. Williamson, James Burress, and Flatt Swamp.

In 1773 Mordecai White sold to our Joshua Burrass, 420 acres adjoining the Pell Mell Pocoson. And, Mordecai’s 420 acres originated in a land grant (Grant 777, Bertie) issued to him on 27 Nov 1760. Only the paper shuck which held the survey and warrant survives along with the following description gleaned from the entry book:


The naming of Morbin Branch in the entry record offers a huge clue in helping to place this piece of our family land. The description from the entry takes on new meaning after reading the following which was found at the old Genweb page Geographic Features of Bertie County:

“A small tributary stream that enters Cucklemaker Swamp was called Marvel Swamp [Branch] as found in the first Bertie land deeds dated 1760 when Mordecai White received a royal grant from Lord Granville for 420 acres of vacant land. Marvel Branch/Swamp was also spelled Morben, Morbin and Morrville. This waterway can be located and identified as it crosses Polly Road between Ross Church and Askewville.”

Platting Mordecai White’s grant and crosschecking the same against the Bertie County GIS site, it appears in the following that the entry description is likely accurate. One line of the survey follows Morbin Branch while the southwesterly line crosses the Pell Mell Pcososon. The running of several roads was likely dictated by the shape of the grant. And nearby, the town of Askewville lies to the northwest with the historic Ross Church located near a southeast corner of the tract. Of huge importance, note that Flat Swamp enters Cucklemaker Creek in the extreme southeast of the image. Cucklemaker is believed to be named for an Indian Chief and it’s some place on the run of Flat Swamp where Blount’s Branch is located. So, truly not far from the lands of Joshua Burris, his believed father James once acquired land on Blount’s Branch in Bertie County.

Windsor North, NC, 1:24,000 quad, 1981, USGS

Joshua Burris did not hold on to the above land for very long as in the late 1770’s his branch of the family moved to Anson County where he entered a land grant dated 1778. Possibly in reflection of the move, Joshua sold the above to James Adams of nearby Halifax County. For sake of record, the following is a brief title history for the above tract of land:

Grant 777, Bertie, ent. 27 Nov 1760. MORDECAI WHITE 430 acres.

Deed M- —, Bertie, 10 Feb 1773, reg. May 1774. MORDECAI WHITE planter and wife MARY of Bertie to JOSHUA BURRASS planter of Hertford 420 ac joining Pall Mall Pocoson, George Mewborn, Merbin Branch, Jonathan Miller, Also signed by Mary White Wit: Herbert Pritchard., Joseph Laurance. [Mordecai White married Mary Hardy]

Deed M —, Bertie, 14 Feb 1776, reg. Feb 1776. JOSHUA BURRASS of Martin Co to JAMES ADAMS of Halifax 420 ac at Pell Mell joining George Mitchell, Morbin Branch, Jonathan Miller. Wit: Watkin William Wynns, Thomas West Whitmell.

Records show that Joshua Burris and his namesake son maintained ownership of parts of the family lands in Bertie after their removal to Anson County. However, as mentioned before, sorting out the various pieces of land is difficult. I imagine that part of the family continued to live on land in Bertie or at least visited back and forth between the two locations. Holdings in Bertie were eventually sold by Joshua Burris. Again, would that have been Junior or Senior? I’ve yet to work those records so at some point we may glean more things which may possibly change our history. However, with all said, our family story told through documentation seems to go quiet ca. 1780’s. Is the problem due to a cease in the appearance of our family in records or is it due to an overlooked hiccup in our family research? Believing the latter to be partially true, most of the past research aimed at ferreting out our family only covers the years prior to our removal to Anson County. This winter I hope to push the effort seriously past the late 1700’s through 1840 in hopes of filling in this void. For now, let’s pick up with the 1800 Bertie County census at which time there were no Burris living in the county. None! Hmmm, there were none of us listed as living in Bertie County in 1800 …and then our story takes a twist.

In May 1802, a “deed of gift for the lands upon which John Laurence lived was divided “equally between his two daughters Sarah and Elizabeth.” The transaction further states that “Daniel Burris did on the — of —- intermarry with the said Elizabeth Laurence and that the said Daniel and Elizabeth Burris …” Daniel and wife Elizabeth transferred their rights to a person named Alexander Hawkins Johnston. At issue was 50 acres adjoining the lands of Thos. H. Pugh, Henry Hall, and William Laurence. The land was deeded over to Alexander H. Johnston who happens to be the paternal ancestor of K. Paul Johnson, author of Pell Mellers (Race and Memory) in a Carolina Pocoson. In his book, Paul tells of the Johnson family reunion, of driving down Hwy 13 from Akoskie, and of convening at the old Johnson Cemetery where Hardy Johnson is known to be buried. The old Johnson Cemetery is located near Polly Road which is identified in the above illustration as dead ending within Joshua’s 420 acres. Note that Alexander H. Johnson married Sally Burras 31 Mar 1795 in Bertie County. Bondsman was Lewis Redit and the bond was witnessed by Stevens Gray. No less so than Ken Burress or you or I, Paul Johnson is our cousin. It’s my belief that Sally may be Daniel Burris’ sister. That’s only my idea as nothing at this time is known of Sally Burras. And as for Daniel and Elizabeth Laurence Burris, their marriage bond survives so we can rest assured that they married 6 Jan 1801.

Aniel Burris

Moving forward, in 1810, the name Daniel Burris first appears in Bertie County census as follows:

1 m 0-5, 1m 16-25, 1m 26-44, 1f 26-44

Remember that cousin Ken Burres above shares our DNA and is a known descendant of a person named Dempsey Burris who, in the 1850 Marshall County census, is listed as being born ca. 1795 in North Carolina. I believe Dempsey is the male above who is identified as being 16-25 years old. As for the younger male, I believe he’s going to be another son named Miles Burris. Ken’s Dempsey was 55 years old in 1850 Marshall County at the same time Miles appears as 50 years old in neighboring Maury County TN. Yet to find further mention of Dempsey, Miles first appears in the following Bertie County deed:

Deed BB-568 Bertie, 4 Oct 1823 Bertie. JOHN SORRELL of Hertford, George Wynns of Bertie to MILES BURRIS of Bertie. Being one third part of a tract of land (on Mouths branch) Island Creek running thence up the said creek various courses to a pine in Forky Branch, then along a line of marked trees to a pine in a small branch No. of said branch, thence southerward along a line of marked trees along the edge of Gramphin Hill to a white oak in Isaac Speight’s line, then on the said Speight’s line to a red oak, then along a line of marked trees through the pocoson south 35 east to the river, thence up the river to the first station. Wit: Daniel Burroughs, Hardy H. Johnston.

I’m not at all certain of the location of the above land. But, here is Miles Burris and his probable father Daniel Burroughs involved in the same transaction. Also, another deed will indicate that Miles Burris’ marriage to Elizabeth, a sister to the above John Sorrell. Elizabeth and John are children of Benjamin and Rhody Sorrell. And, serving as witness with Daniel Burroughs, Hardy H. Johnston also appears in the above transaction. Hardy is believed to be the son of Alexander H and Sarah Burris Johnston. And note that generations earlier Mordecai White married to a person named Mary Hardy. I’m curious …any family connection to the naming of Hardy Johnston?

Before moving on with the above, it’s important for you know that our Burris family and the Sorrell/Sowell family were close from the earliest days. As early as 1747 James Campbell sold to James Sorrell 100 acres being “part of the land belonging to James Burrus who conveyed it to Joseph Laurence.” Situated on Flat Swamp, the land adjoined the Wiccacon Road and lands of Demcy Kail. Then, in 1787 and possibly being the same land, James Campbell sold part of the tract to James Sorrell. The deed states that the land once belonged to James Burras who conveyed it to Joseph Laurence.

Dated 10 Nov 1805, Elizabeth Sorrell’s father Benjamin Sorrell wrote his last will and testament naming among others, wife Rhody and daughter Elizabeth Sorrell. Then, during the 1820’s, records seem to give us a lucky glimpse at what I believe was a closing chapter of Burris life in Bertie County. While some of our family remained in North Carolina, others were about to make the move to Tennessee. In the deed below, Miles Burris and wife Elizabeth, along with others, were selling estate lands once belonging to the said Elizabeth’s parents:

Deed BB-573 Bertie, 4 Oct 1826. Jesse Brinn, Miles Burris and his wife Elizabeth Burris, Ruben Farless, and Rhody Sorrell of Bertie to Ruben Farless of Hertford. Being 50 acres beginning at the old road in Blount’s Branch, thence running down the said branch along the line belonging to the estate of George McGlorhorn dec’d to a line belonging to Jane Perry dec’d, thence along the said Jane Perry Dec’d line to the road, thence down the road to the first station, reference to the land history can be “found from an old deed given by Dempsey Kail and wife to Benjamin Sorrell.” Wit: William N. Pearce, Daniel Burross.

As seen above, by 1826 Elizabeth Sorrell is identified as “Elizabeth Burris.” And, who is Ruben Farless? Appearing as both seller and buyer, I believe either Reuben or his wife must somehow descend from Benjamin Sorrell. In 1840 “Ruben Farless” appears in the Madison County TN census and likely dies soon after. In 1850, Reuben’s children appear in neighboring Gibson County where some of Ken’s folks resided. There, names in the Farless family harken back to earlier days in Bertie County. One likely son of Reuben Farless is named Media which surely reflects the White family. And, Media happened to marry Elizabeth Haste who I’d guess is likely a descendant of Henry Haste who once sold land to James Burris on Flat Swamp in the Pell Mell of Bertie. You can’t make this stuff up but it all needs to be looked at thoroughly in a comprehensive study.

Prior to his move west, Miles Burris is listed in 1830 Bertie County as living beside his father Daniel:

Miles Burris 20-30 with wife
Daniel Burris 15-60 with son 15-20

I’ve yet to find any deeds or other relevant records registered beyond 1830.  As has been hinted at, the next appearance of this line of our Burris family takes place in Tennessee. There, Miles Burris is listed in 1840 as living in Maury County. And, in neighboring Madison County TN are the above Ruben Farless and others.

According to the 1850 Maury County census, Miles and Elizabeth Sorrell are still married:

Miles Burrows 50 male laborer NC
Elizabeth Burrows 49 female NC
Mary Burrows 15 female TN

Nearby are the family of 68 year old John Johnston who is likely kin to Alexander Hawkins Johnston who married Sarah Burris. Also nearby are 65 year old Meda White and 66 year old Noah White who as brothers are sons of Luke White Junior of Bertie County. Luke White Junior is the son of Luke White Senior who is the son of the same Modecai White who earlier sold 420 acres of land to James Burris. Mordecia White is brother to Luke White the ferryman. Let’s look back to those earlier days.

In 1768, the last will and testament of James Burrus was recorded in the Hertford County courts. Though the actual document is lost, the court record shows that Easter Burrus, Joshua Burrus and Joshua Burrus were named Executors. I believe this marks the passing of our Solomon’s grandfather with his family coming into play at the time of his death. In 1768 the court record lists James’ believed son (or brother?) Joshua as executor of the estate. There is also a second Joshua listed who you’d think is the son of Joshua [Sr] and therefore the grandson of James Burris. …and then there was another death.

In May 1775, the last will and testament of Ester Burrus was proven in court by Sarah White. Who was she? It’s my belief Esther is our Solomon’s grandmother, the widow of our James Burrus Senior. As for Sarah White, she’s just one more of many family interactions taking place between the White and Burris families.

A bit later, in Nov 1775, recorded in Bertie County was the “inventory of estate of Ester Burrus dec’d and sworn by Luke White admin.” It is this Luke, who is the father of Luke and Meda who appears in the 1850 Maury County census near Miles Burres. The White family always seems close to the Burrus family as if there is some yet unknown relationship. Not only did Luke White serve as administrator, Sarah White witnessed the last will and testament of Esther Burrus.

At this point I will end my writing for now. This introduction of records surrounding Miles Burris/Burres and others should illuminate  the need for further research. We now have an idea of where we need to go from here.  But, what do we know of Ken’s Dempsey Burres/Burris? We know from DNA that his family is ours. And from the above, all that can be said is that the 1810 census hints at Dempsey being a brother to Miles. Furthermore, and not yet said, the given name Dempsey is nothing new for our Burris family. Dempsey must have once been a prominent surname as it’s been honored by many families in the form of a given name.

The following tax list from 1759 introduces us to James Burras, his likely son Joseph Burras (could this be Joshua?), James Burras Junior and to DEMSY BURRAS. So, nearly 100 years prior to Dempsey Burres appearing in Tennessee, another of his name was listed as living in Bertie County. There’s no other record of this earlier Dempsey and at this time we can only look at the document in amazement. It’s possible our Tennessee family passed down some thread of family back to this earlier Dempsey. It’s also plausible that they passed down a thread with naming patterns honoring this early family member.





lohrncombss2Guided by Mr. Ned Huneycutt, this past weekend a small group of us scoured the countryside in search of things only his mind could recall. It was our goal to glean any and everything Burris from what the 85 year old’s memory could recall. Being a cold and dreary Saturday, most of our time was spent in the confines of the van which actually offered the perfect space for serious discussion.

Our mission and the topic of our discussion abruptly changed as we headed south through what was once the lands of Solomon Burris Jr…

We had just left the 200 acres of Solomon Burris Senior’s deeded land along Burris Road and had turned and were passing over what were once the farms of John and Caswell Perry. Heading south on Gaddis Road before nearing the old David D. Burris home site, it was at this point that Brenda Combs became particularly excited. Conversation quickly changed to a tree, a chimney, a hole, and a graveyard nearby. A descendant of David Burris and wife Sarah Vanderburg, over the years Brenda has heard and researched family stories like none other. And in 2017, Brenda’s cousin, the late Carl Burris, told of David D. Burris’ experience during the war days. David did not own slaves and was dead set against any participation in the war effort. The grandson of David’s oldest son Zachary Ephraim Burris, Carl’s story was written down as follows by Pam Holbrook:

“Apparently David D. Burris did not want to go off to fight in the Civil War, so he dug out a cave in a hillside along Stony Run Creek. He would hide there when someone came looking for deserters or looking for David to take him to war. Nobody would tell where David D. Burris was if anyone came looking for him. He must have come out at night for family to take food and other things to him so he could survive.

When Carl’s grandpa, Zachary Ephraim Burris,(David D. Burris’ son) was a young boy (probably 10-15 years old), some men came looking for David D. Burris. Nobody would tell where David was so the men grabbed Zachary Ephraim and said they would take him to war instead. They started off with Zachary Ephraim but David’s wife, Sarah, followed them. She had a big pine knot in her hand. Sarah told the men Ephraim was not old enough to go to war and to let him go. The men let Ephraim go but grabbed her instead. She hit one man in the face or head with the pine knot and it bled so he let her go too.”

In the 1880’s, David D. Burris and family left out for a new life in Arkansas. All made the trip accept for Carl’s grandfather Zachary Burris. Zachary had already married and chose to remain in Stanly County. The following is a letter from David D. Burris to his son Zachary Ephraim:

December the 30th 1897

(Z.E.Burris) Dear Son

I write you these lines once more to inform you that we are all in common health, hoping you are all the same. I read your kind generous letter in our time ( ???) I was glad to hear from you & that all was well. People here generally well. There has been some little fever and chills on the River but not in our settlement. On the 17th –(???) we had the largest sleet here that I have ever seen in Ark. The roads has been almost impassable from the broken timber, Orchard much damaged. They have rec’d, a letter from John Burgess lately. Ephraim & he is in Prison in Detroit State of Michigan, he says ” for living in adultry’ & was arrested in Texas (make no talk of this). I do not see into it. Tell Filmore as it is him I will let him have the old place this year for a 400 lb. Bale of cotton if it gets no lower than it is now. (But what if he should raise no cotton must I get nothing.) If the orchard hits Ephraim you & Filmore have the fruit stilled & send me a jug of good Brandy by —( ???). That you sent me Ephraim was an amiable flavor, though Philip claimed a gallon & got it, yet I got to drink some of it. Filmore you had better to a come out here. I could have put you on Land that would make from 1/2 to one Bale to the Acre without the least fertilizing as hard work as there.

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Make all you can Filmore on the poor old place. Trim up the orchard & take care of every thing and all the overgrown patches that you clear up will be yours.
I would be glad to see you Filmore, hope I may yet. Ephraim I see a few Bluebirds here. But——-
Ephraim you make use of all the dead limbs on my land freely, without pay, you are welcome. I wish to know Ephraim how much taxes to pay on that old place & if you have had the valuation reduced or not. Philip is working at the carpenters rate here at $ 1.25 per day (you may know they are hard run for carpenters). Ephraim when you send me that little money, you must send it to Malvern as Opal is not a money paying office. I have sowed my 4 Acre field in wheat ( –Gideon) finished 30th of Nov. it is just now coming up. Ephraim I have nothing of interest to write only hard times, but I hope times will soon be better for some, but I see no better coming for me. I only wish you was here & your family, where I could see you & talk with you. Try & sell that old place if possible, for I am now needing the money for it. If I don’t sell that I shall have to sell the one I live on I fear, for I am owing some & no way to pay up. Write often & state how all our people there is doing. Give my best respects to all inquiring friends & tell them I have not forgotten them yet.
D. Burris
I will try to write more soon Deovolente.

Unlike with Carl, Brenda’s ancestor, Magdalene (Maggie) Burris actually made the trip west with her father. She married Phillip Swim Honeycutt who was not enchanted by the rocky lands of Arkansas. With Phillip wanting to return to North Carolina and Maggie pregnant with child, the couple eventually made their way back home. Phillip returned immediately while Maggie waited until the following year to make the arduous trip east.

Life moved on with the family clan remaining in touch primarily by mail. I don’t know if any from North Carolina made the trip west to visit though in 1935 a contingent from Arkansas made the trip back east. It was then that the Burris family gathered once more in reunion at the old home site our little band genealogy explorers was about to pass. Note that merely four years after the 1935 reunion, more than a 1000 attended yet another reunion at which time the reburial of Solomon and Judith took place at nearby Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. And in the photo below from the 1935 gathering we can glean that this was definitely a proud family time with picnic tables spread below the old oak tree. See the tree? The location was perfect for such occasion as it is said that David cut the top out of the sapling oak prior to the family’s removal in the 1880’s. We really don’t know why he did it …maybe he topped the tree as some sort of recorded mark of the momentous event? The tree in the photo below is said to be the same tree that David D. Burris topped before heading west:


Left to right front row:
1-Ida Belle Huneycutt Murray, 2-Elizar Coley Burris, 3-Laura Jane Huneycutt Huneycutt, 4-Laura Ruth Burris Huneycutt, 5-Gideon Lafayette Burris, 6-Clarence Huneycutt, 7-Fred Lee Huneycutt
Left to right back row:
1-Betty Burris (never married), 2-Unknown, 3-Unknown, 4-David Franklin Huneycutt, 5-Floyd S. Huneycutt, 6-David Burris, 7-Eugene BurrisEnter a caption


Front and center in the photo above, we can also identify David D. Burris’ son Gideon Lafayette Burris who made the trip from Hot Springs County Arkansas. Another image from that day of celebration, to the left Gideon is photographed in front of what’s believed to be the original home place. This is believed to be the house that David built. And, on such a dreary Saturday, exploring this home place became the highlight of our jaunt through Stanly County.


Sue BurrisBack in 1993 Sue Burris Burton of Malvern, in Hot Springs County Arkansas felt the urge to learn more about her family. Making the pilgrimage to North Carolina, Sue credits Layton O. Burris as providing a treasure trove of documents. He lead her and her brother Elam to several key sites. Layton shared his copies of documents including the pictures above taken at the 1935 reunion. He carried his Arkansas cousins to the epicenter of their dreams, the home site of their ancestor David D. Burris (photo to the right). Unlike at the time of the 1935 reunion, the home was no longer standing and the chimney had collapsed. All that remained was a pile of rocks that that were once fit together in the making of the chimney. In memory of her journey, Sue was given a rock from the old chimney stones.

Sue made more trips east with her sister and others in her Arkansas family. On one trip she noticed that the old oak was showing signs of decay. In response she collected five little acorns. Carrying them back to Arkansas, Sue Burris Burton planted the acorns in hopes of perpetuating the memories she knew her eye and the realities of life would at some point fail to remember. While in hospital following a surgery, four of the plantings died as they were not watered properly. The remaining sprout grew and survives in representation of so many others that have lived and are now gone. The little Carolina tree is growing well and reaches proudly into the Arkansas skies.

Getting back to Brenda’s excitement on a dreary Saturday afternoon, we brought the van to a stop in the middle of the road in front of the old David D. Burris home site. Our minds jumping around trying to remember all grades of things, Brenda and Pam Holbrook looked out of the window in one direction as they discussed an old barn and the Solomon Francis Burris Cemetery just across the road. Brenda pointed to the other side of the road to a stump in the yard in front of a house. She exclaimed “that’s the tree!!!” Brenda repeatedly said she’d love to get out and walk around the old place …but, it was rainy and we had not notified the owners. In the midst of all this, I hopped out of the van to snap a few pictures of the stump. This was all new for me and the stories I had only heard were quickly coming into focus. Honestly, with us all dealing with our own thoughts, the situation was much like a group of 1950’s high schoolers participating in what was referred to back then as a Chinese fire drill. And, while focusing my camera on the stump and house behind it, the gleeful sounds of our adventure turned to silence when the owner stepped out asking across the yard, “can I help you?” For those that don’t know, in southern terms, the expression means “what the heck are you doing? Thinking fast, all I could say was “Sir, this was an important tree and your house sits on what was once an old family home place.” To that, Mr. Lohr introduced himself as the new owner and that he would love to learn more about the history of his land. How wonderful, he invited us to drive up to the house at which time a celebration of sorts broke out.

Exclaiming “this is great!,” Brenda simply could not get over what was going on. She and Mr. Lohr made an immediate connection quickly reaching a common goal of understanding and caring for this special place. They exchanged contact information so that photos etc could be shared.

DSC_7991What a wonderful day …here was the owner eager to learn more and he truly embraced his newly realized role as family caretaker. Yes, equal to those of us who seek and restore the memories of our past, the importance of people who are positioned to preserve it is equally important. And as for Brenda, not seeing any remains of the old chimney, she was curious as to whether any remains survived. Offering her a bit of what little was left, Mr. Lohr walked Brenda to the family fire pit built upon a few of the remaining stones. Happy as a clam, Brenda walked away with a few small pieces of her family past.


joshua Burris Jr 1Until now we’ve only been able to assume Solomon to be the son of Joshua Burris Senior. There really has been nothing telling us with certainty that such claim is true. This reality is no longer as per my last post outlining the discovery of a 1772 Bertie County tax list naming “Joshua Burris Senior and Son Solomon.” Assuming a minimal age limit of 16 years, from the tax list we further know that our Solomon was born prior to 1766.
From this find we can move forward without hesitation. We are cleared to interpret our history laden tea leaves from a new perspective. The door has been flung wide open allowing us a less cluttered glimpse into the records we hope will further enhance our ancestral story.

In this post I’ll begin the search anew with a critical look at our Burris family’s first acknowledged records accounting for events along Rocky River in southern North Carolina. I’ll start with a look at the family’s first land holdings in the region.


In Anson County, and dated 27 May 1778, Joshua Burris Senior made a formal request for 100 acres of land (Grant 3987, Anson) situated on Jones Creek. First appearing as a book recorded entry, the land in question was identified as adjoining those of William Ratliff and Daniel Murphy. The land was officially surveyed three months later on 29 Aug 1778 by Wm. Love. And then a little over a year later, on 3 Sep 1779, Joshua Burris Senior was issued a patent for his 100 acres:

Having been entered, surveyed and issued on the same dates as his father, Joshua Burris Junior also received a patent for 100 acres (Grant 4134, Anson). However, Junior’s land  was not on Jones Creek, but rather, was situated on waters of Island Creek. Some may believe this refers to land on Island Creek in now Stanly County as at the time issued, the lands of Stanly fell into Anson County. That’s not the case as from the image at the top of the page we know that branches of both Jones and Island creeks rise just east of present day Wadesboro flowing east into the Great Pee Dee. Both Junior and Senior lived near each other in the area of present day Gum Springs. See below, the lands of Joshua Burris Junior:

From a present day Google map, below we see that both Joshua Burris Sr and his son Joshua Burris Jr. received land grants within a few miles of the area of Gum Springs Baptist Church. And as you would hope, the father and son may have been neighbors, acquiring land fairly close to each other.

island jones

Looking back to the land grant records, there’s one bit of information I’ve not discussed. As part of the survey process, two persons are chosen to walk with, assist, and carry the chains and equipment used by the surveyor. Known as chain bearers or chain carriers, the two also witnessed the metes and bounds called out in the survey. As for Joshua Burris Senior’s 100 acre grant, Jenkins Hansford and David Burris are recorded as chain bearers. From this we can imagine that Joshua Senior had a son named David. There’s still no proof that’s the case, but the naming will certainly guide future research. Also mentioned is Jenkins Hansford. An odd name and not found anywhere else in Anson County, who is this person and why would he be there assisting the businesses of our Burris family?

As it turns out, back in Bertie County, the Hansford family had close contact with our Burris family. At this time I’ll quickly brush over the information introducing a few important points worth further consideration.

From deed G-453 dated 1751, Jenkins Hansfords and William Hansford are identified as sons of Thomas Hansford who lived at that time on “Malls Haven” west of the Chowan River. I think this is in the area of a place known as the “Pall Mall” located along the present day line between Bertie and Hertford counties. And a year before the transaction naming the children of Thomas Hansford, in 1750, John Wynns deeded land to James Burrass land on the south side of Flatt Swamp. The land adjoined White with witnesses being Thomas Hansford and Wm Hansford (registered Aug Court 1750).

The above links Jenkins to his brother William and father Thomas Hansford. And as James Burras is believed to be the father of Joshua Burris Senior, the information above  is but a small bit of the evidence linking the Hansford Family to our Burris family. And lastly, it locates the two families as living near each other in northeast Bertie County on its line with Hertford County.

Carrying this line of thinking a bit further, in 1730, a register of cattle marks in Bertie County lists: “Thomas Hansford …for his son Jenkins Hansford.” From this we know that Jenkins was not of the generation of Solomon and Joshua Burris Junior. Of a similar age  as that of Joshua Burris Senior, Jenkins must have been quite old in the 1770’s when he walked the lands of Anson as a chain bearer.

And, there’s an important story regarding another Thomas Hansford, likely being a distant family member. Participating in Bacon’s Rebellion,

“it is said that he [another person named Thomas Hansford] took a conspicuous part in the insurrection, brilliant as it was brief, and when he was captured after Bacon’s death, he supplicated no other favor than that “he might be shot like a soldier, and not hanged like a dog.”

You can read more on this story at Thomas Hansford: The First Native Martyr to American Liberty.

A person named Jenkins Hansford died ca. 1795 at which time his estate in Bertie County was inventoried by Luke White. Luke and his family will be  important in understanding ties to other branches of the Burris family who moved west.

Along with Jenkins Hansford, David Burris was also chosen to be a chain bearer in Joshua Burris Senior’s land grant. Who is David? I’ve yet been able to locate David but suspect him to be the son of Joshua Senior …or possibly a brother. He’s there as chain bearer for the land grant and then is gone. Who is he!?

Likewise, and turning to the land grant of Joshua Burris Junior, the names of his chainbearers were William Garrison and Adom or Odum Cook, Coak, or Cake. And as with David Burris, these two people are a mystery. I’ve yet to find anything else in Anson connecting them to our family. Much more work is needed.


In closing it must be pointed out that per his revolutionary War pension request, Solomon Burris served in the war out of Anson County. And by 1784, just after the close of the Revolutionary War, Solomon had married and fathered his oldest son named Taylor. His brother Joshua picked up and moved again to Anderson County SC. Somewhere in all this Joshua Burris Senior dies.

While his brother moved from the state, Solomon remained put though did make a bit of a move north into now Stanly County. Why did Solomon not make the move to South Carolina with his brother? What was there in old Montgomery County that drew Solomon to that area? Without proof, I believe the answer lies in a woman with maiden name Taylor. As Solomon married Judith Taylor, the couple moved to an area of Montgomery County thick with members of a Taylor family who once lived in the area just west of Bertie County. Coincidence? Giving their first born the name Taylor, all that’s left for us is to figure out the exact reason why.