mistakes and mishaps

I’ve been following this fellow as he struggled to rewind the mixed threads of his ancestral heritage from Northeast North Carolina. Like him, I too grasp at and struggle in an effort to build on the meanings of discoveries as they are revealed. Interpretations of things from the past sometime bring down the walls, allowing us to see clearly to earlier times. And yet, often such finds only serve to reinforce the fact that we simply don’t know and may never know enough to make honest judgments.

The following post by Justin Petrone is refreshing as he addresses an error based on the reality that we can’t safely discuss the past until we’ve gained an idea of what it was like. And in that, we will certainly make mistakes from which much too can be learned. Understanding the unbending relation between present tense and past, we’ve all heard what Donald Rumsfeld once said about the matter: “reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know”.


I’m not a Stanly native and what I know of the place comes from books, legal records, and mostly from what I’ve grown up hearing from relatives on both sides of my family. Recently, friend and fellow blogger Tammie Rabun Hudson wrote an in-depth piece on the “Witch of Big Lick.” Titled “Facts and Fairy Tales: The Real Story of Lynn Bird,” the story told by Tammie is much different than what I have heard  in passing. And in her telling of the story I came to learn that my distant cousin Melinda Pless, AKA Lynn Bird, was “the” person accused in tales as being a local witch  who lived in the community of Big Lick. Before reading this post, I strongly encourage you to read Tammie’s compelling narrative on this local Stanly County lore.  And to say clearly, it seems Tammie was able to connect the dots between the people and the related events though neither she nor myself have found any compelling information verifying that my great grandmother’s aunt Melinda Pless, was indeed a witch. Melinda may have been scary, and surely she was “different”, though records do not support that she was ever one of them boo-scary kind of witches we read about in fairy tales. Let me offer a little back story on why this whole idea is of importance to me.

My father grew up on Big Lick Road in the 1920’s and loved to share stories from his youth. He especially spoke of the hard times, joining the Civilian Conservation Corps and heading west on train during the Great Depression. Of his childhood, dad spoke of those difficult years, of snaring songbirds for basic sustenance. Times were indeed hard though his mother Eva Burris Thomas was an angel while his father Daniel Arthur was known to be a hard sort of man. Until now,  I never realized that as children, my father’s parents once lived on the same piece of land where they likely shared time as children. And it so happens that this piece of land earlier belonged to none other that Lynn Bird, the so-called witch.

I remember, many times, my dad standing on the porch of his old home place, pointing across the turnip patch towards Big Lick Road to where his childhood fears had yet to release their grip on him. He told of walking the road home from school in Oakboro by moonlight late in the evenings and having to gather nerve to run past the old graveyard where he declares he saw spooks. He certainly passed the old Green-Carver Cemetery, once larger and maybe more scary than the sanitized setting and few stones that remain today.  Is that what he remembered? After reading Tammie’s story, and digging a bit into lands I had platted in the area, I realized that my efforts connected to Tammie’s post about the witch.  Little had I known while growing up, my Thomas family’s annual Christmas Eve gathering at the West Stanly Saddle Club occurred at a place important to my father’s grandpa G. W Thomas who happens to be my namesake. The place nearby was also important to my grandma’s parents. And, it is also important in connection to the story of Lynn the witch. The modern-day saddle club is located near the heart of the community and all of the happenings occurred on the route my dad frequently walked in the dark from school. Did he know of the witch? What had he learned from his family and how did those memories play into the stories I never quite understood?

In this post, I’ll tell of the lands in the neighborhood as they relate to Tammie’s findings on the Witch of Big Lick. However, note that the following is a land-based report with no additional  info on the witch herself.  For that, again I ask you to read Tammie’s post. I do hope the two narratives together will provide a more meaningful context for the life of Melinda Pless, who happened to be the daughter of Peter Pless. She was also known as the Witch of Big Lick.  And like every good witch story, I hope the following crumbs of land records will offer a safe path for navigating the landscape where this occurrence took place, a long time ago.


Below, you see the red shaded Ridge Road heading southeast before changing its name to Main Street (Oakboro) at its intersection with Big Lick Road. Once following the basic path of the main ca. 1771 road leading from Charlotte to Elizabeth Town, also known locally in time as the Old Polk Ford Road, Big Lick Road runs to the west, crossing over the blue shaded Cucumber Creek. See them?

Back around 1838, Charles Pless, son of Peter, and many others in the community moved west to Pope County Arkansas for reasons remaining unclear. Charles would settle along the north shore of the Arkansas River on granted land “West of the Cherokee Reservation”. He was joined by his sister Catherine and her husband George H. Teeter who had lived on the Cabarrus/Stanly line north of present-day Hwy 24/27. Others in the Pless family made the trip including possibly Peter Pless, the father who acquired a land grant in Pope County though who is known to have lived out his life and died in Stanly County.

Much later (ca. 1861), and again for reasons not fully known, another migration headed west to Arkansas.  At that time, John Adam Pless, a younger brother in the family, would make the journey. Adam earlier married Winna Julina Murray who Tammie Rabun Hudson indicates may be the child of a mixed-race family, a possibility much more common than tradition would have us believe. Winna died in 1843 and is buried at Flat Rock Lutheran Cemetery in Stanfield. John Adam married second ca. 1845 to Catherine Efird, daughter of Martin and Mary Coble. Mary is the daughter of David Coble and had been married first to Levi Honeycutt.



In 1850, John Adam Pless purchased 119 acres, being a break-up parcel of the Great Tract (Deed 6-44 Stanly). Identified as tract #1 in the master plat illustration above, at the time of conveyance the land joined Jesse Morton to the west and Gideon Morgan to the north and east where the land also joined “Austin Road,” now Liberty Hill Church Road. About the Gideon Morgan tract to the north, originating as a conveyance from Joseph Marshall to Solomon Hathcock and identified as tract 2 above, Gideon purchased the 534 acres from Solomon Burris (Deed 19-517 Stanly). The western half of that large tract was sold to David Burris (Deed 19-519 Stanly) with the eastern half being sold to J. A. Morgan (Deed 8-99, Stanly).

John Adam Pless settled on lands in Arkansas between Pless Mountain and Shinn Mountain north of London Arkansas.  Adam lived a long and prosperous life as appears in the following 1923 announcement of his 100th birthday.

John Adam Pless lived a few years beyond hs 100th birthday as he died in 1927 at which time his grave was marked by family as “Pioneer, Patriarch, and Patriot.” The above photograph of Adam with flowers was, I believe, snapped at his 100th birthday celebration.


Looking back to the plat map above, Jesse Morton sold tract #3 to William A. Morton (Deed 5-396, Stanly). The eastern boundary of the tract joined Austin Road while the northwest corners adjoined the lands of John Pless.  As seen to the left in green, this tract is but a parcel cut from a larger tract conveyed to Isiah H. Coley, being part of the break-up of the Great Tract (Deed 3-148, Stanly). Note that the early conveyance to Isiah Coley identifies both Old Polk Road and Austin Road. Polk Road followed the old Big Lick Rod before crossing over somehow running the path of St, Martin’s Road. Neighboring landowners are mentioned of which one is A. Bird. Remember from Tammie Rabun Hudson’s post that Melinda Pless, Witch of Big Lick and sister of John Adam, married James A. Coble before he died during the Civil War.  Melinda married second the much older Charles Bird, son of the above-mentioned A. or Andrew Bird. Somewhere near his lands records should guide us in visualizing events as they happened.

Before delving into the Bird, Pless, and Coble dilemma, take a look at the illustrated tracts #A-F. In May 1864, the estate of Jesse Morton deceased (Deed 5-456, Stanly) was divided among his heirs as listed:

  1. To Rufus Morton – Absalom Hahn to the north
  2. To Jesse F, Morton – Joining the Coley tract on a line of his old 200 tract.
  3. To Martha Almond – Absalom Hahn to the north and Sidney Smith to the east.
  4. To Elizabeth Hartsell – Sidney Smith to the east
  5. To David Morton – W. A. Morton to the east
  6. To Lucy Smith – W. Irvin Morgan to the west (excluding 1 acre for the [Big Lick] church)

Keeping in mind the location of Andrew Bird’s land and looking at the master plat map above, tract #4 was conveyed in the early 1850’s from George W. Teeter to James A. Coble (Deed 3-336, Stanly). The deed mentions Jesse Morton to the east, Jacob Green to the west, Charles Bird to the south and A. Bird to the southeast. George W. Teeter, not to be confused with George H. Teeter, married Elizabeth, the daughter of Andrew Bird and they later removed to Cabarrus County. Also, note that James A Coble married Melinda Pless about the time of this transaction. This whole idea goes to show that Charles Bird, Melinda’s second husband, was actually a next-door neighbor. And looking at this tract on the Stanly County GIS page, note the southwest side of tract # 4 intersects the end of Saddle Club Road. That’s where the West-Stanly Saddle Club is located happening to be on or next to the lands once owned by my distant cousin Melinda Pless, the so-called witch of Big Lick. It is also the place were I enjoyed many Christmas Eve meals with my family.

George W. Teeter sold a second tract to James A. Coble in 1852 (Deed 34-392, Stanly). Identified as tract # 5 above, the deeded land crosses Cucumber Creek while joining Jacob Hartsell to the south and “The Big Road” to the east. The deed does not give dimensions for the distances of lines along and leading from the road, so I cannot say with certainty whether the eastern side of the tract abutted present-day Swift road or an older iteration running nearby. Of major importance, the trapezoidal shaped western portion of the tract # 5 was later sold by Titus Coble and wife to E. A. Anderson (Deed 43-82, Stanly). See it in the maser plat? This tract was defined in the deed as being “Lot 2 of the lands of Melinda Byrd”. The deed also refers to the easterly abutting land as being Lot 1 of the estate. Per Tammie Rabun Hudson’s article, Everette A. Anderson clearly fits into the family story.

There’s one other tract that’s relevant to the story of Melinda Bird. I’ve yet to find origination in terms of ownership though the title history of tract # 6 connects with two of my direct ancestors.  Going back to the estate of Melinda Bird, J. F. Green, Guardian of Everette and Ida Anderson sold the land to William A. Cagle (Deed 16-470). At that time the land joined John T. Dry to the southeast.

To the right are the three platted pieces of land (tracts 4, 5, & 6) most relevant to this report. Their orientation to the surrounding community is easily discerned on the Stanly County GIS map. Also, note that I’ve penned in the flow of Cucumber Creek. And below, the image orients Jams A. Coble’s larger tract #5 that he purchased from George W. Teeter.

In the next image, we see that tract # 6 nearly doubled in size to the east when S. S. Lilly and wife Martha later sold it to Tabitha J. Rowland (Deed 24-264, Stanly). Tabitha is the daughter of Andrew J. and Mary Ann Crayton Huneycutt.  Tabitha married Thomas J. Rowland. Tabitha purchased the land at a time when the neighbors were identified in the deed as C. A. Huneycutt to the northwest, Yow to the southwest, Huneycutt to the southeast, and Pless to the northeast.  I’ve yet to find a deed for the Pless land.  Tabitha later sold the northeast corner of the tract to William H. Sasser (Deed 127-80, Stanly).

Now a drum roll please ….And as seen below, in 1899 Tabitha J. Rowland sold 68 acres, being the western half of the land, to G. W. Thomas who happens to be my great grandfather (Deed 33-460 Stanly). And then ten years later, for some reason, J. H. C. Flowe sold the same land to George H. Burris who is my grandmother’s father (Deed 40-46, Stanly).

The last tract shown  near the top of this post on the master plat map is tract # 7 which was deeded to Jacob Green as a part of the break-up of the Great Tract (Deed 6-436 Stanly). The large 212-acre tract adjoined Holden Hartsell land to the south and was later conveyed by William Hartsell to William R. Hartsell (Deed 10-154 Stanly). The Green-Carver cemetery that my dad walked by as a child is located along Big-Lick Road within the heart of this piece of land.

Seeing how close the cemetery was located to Melinda’s land, and how both my grandfather and grandmother’s parents had real estate connections to the land, I have to wonder if as children, did my grandparents live in fear of old Aunt Melinda? Did they play around the old home, did they dare the spirits, or did they walk quietly in fear in passing the place as did my dad? I think that as a child my dad likely grew up hearing these stories.  And whether or not Melinda was truly a witch, hearing of the details as told by Tammie Rabun Hudson and others takes on a different meaning when you are able to physically connect landscape, family, and stories occurring long ago.


In researching my family’s histories, it seems most paths of study have led me to the dry fundamentals of land, marriage, and maybe a few telling court battles. From census records I also learned that most were farmers though I seldom get to learn what my folks really felt about the times and ways they lived. It is rare that we are privy to the soulful ways and beliefs of our family past.

A recent post on the Burris, Burress, Burrows, Burroughs Facebook Group by distant cousin John Stevens opened my eyes to things I had not realized existed.  John’s discovery allowed me to see deeper into events of 1863, learning of actual beliefs of opposition held by my family. Ideas opposing the war were more plentiful back then than I had realized. And yet, I think often about the families of those days who gave all for the cause.  Today, we are quick to aggrandize the war in terms of glorious battles and of the struggles faced by kith and kin.

I always assumed my folks were “good soldiers,” following the lead of fellow countrymen into battle ..a war I still don’t fully understand. But beyond the stereotypes often heard, many of us rooted in the south find that our personal histories are born in a different telling of this most divisive time in our country’s past.

Maybe driven by excitement, some of my kin likely enlisted into the Confederacy willingly at war’s first start.  However, as suffering increased and age limits for conscription widened, many had second thoughts. It was during this time that the Republican Party found footing through sympathy and the support of the Union League, being an organization with members, both black and white, who held meetings in support of the Union cause. Many did not believe secession was good, meeting defiantly to discuss their collective support of the old ways.


Dated August 28, 1863, six or seven hundred citizens in Stanly County gathered for a “peace meeting.” Can you imagine what such an event looked like?  Were your folks there in attendance? Leading the event were people near and dear to my family. Merely seeing their names mentioned in relation to the meeting, I am suddenly made aware of a belief system I never knew was held by my family. From a report in the Raleigh Standard, read carefully the following and imagine what such a gathering would look like as they met to craft a statement outlining their political beliefs.

For the Standard


At a public meeting held at Big Lick, Stanly County, on Friday the 28th August, 1863, some six or seven hundred persons were present, including gentlemen and ladies, supposed to be some two or three hundred ladies, and a large number of gray-headed men.

The object of the meeting being understood to be a peace meeting, on motion, J. C. Tucker was called to the Chair, and Henry Reed appointed Secretary. Messrs J. C. Burroughs, Lloyd Hathcock, L. C. Morton, J. C. Gilbert. E. H. Hinson, John Huneycutt, were appointed a committee to draft resolutions expressive of the same, who having reported the following preamble and resolutions which were unanimously adopted.

WHEREAS, We have every reason to feel devoutly thankful to Almighty God for the privileges, advantages, and blessings, we, as free men, enjoyed a republican form of government, therefore, be it:

     Resolved, Whereas, the time has arrived that every true friend of liberty should exercise the right which is guaranteed under the Constitution of North-Carolina to express his opinion with regard to the public good, and whereas, we are fully of the opinion that the condition of our people is such as to demand every lover of life and liberty to be willing to adopt some method, and to put fourth some effort to stop this wicked and bloody war.

     Resolved, That in defense of our rights and liberties we take a position upholding and defending the liberties of the people of this state, pledging our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor in her defense, whether against kings abroad of tyrants at home.

     Resolved, That the course of the Confederate government towards North-Carolina from the beginning of the war has been anything but fair and honorable, and that let her blood flow ever so freely, not a word is said or an act done to honor the valor or patriotism of her sons.

     Resolved, That we approve the removal of the Virginian as chief tithing man.

     Resolved, That we are willing to pay any reasonable tax in Confederacy currency, but we are opposed to paying any part of our produce as a tax, and that we hope the administration at Richmond will repeal that act.

     Resolved, Whereas, this State has been raked for conscripts very closely, while we believe in the law in other states has been only partially executed, we are opposed to sending any more men, at least until all other States have furnished their equal quota according to population.

     Resolved, That we are for a speedy and permanent peace that will guarantee to our rights and liberties.

     Resolved, That we agree to abide by a majority of the voters of North-Carolina in any plan that may be devised in convention assembled or otherwise.

     Resolved, That we, as enlightened and intelligent people, will never submit to be enslaved or annexed to any foreign of kingly government.

     Resolved, That we hate tyranny and oppression, for we had as soon be slaves in New York as in North-Carolina, in the United States as in the Confederacy.

     Resolved, That in our opinion, under the present crisis, the best thing the people of North-Carolina could do would be to go in for the Constitution as it is and the Union as it was.

     Resolved, That W. W. Holden is the ablest and boldest defender of our rights and liberties, and that we pledge ourselves to stand firm to him in the course he has taken in defense of our rights and liberties. Therefore, we say to him to stand firm to his post and to cry aloud and spare not.

     Resolved, That other districts and counties hold similar meetings.

     Resolved, That we are apposed to any more men going, only such as cry out the last man and last dollar. We think if that be the case there will go but few men.

     Resolved, That the proceedings of this meeting be sent to the Editor of the Raleigh Standard, with a request that he publish the same.

     There were three of four Destructives in the meeting, and they behaved themselves very respectfully, and spoke very favorably of all the resolutions passed with the exception of one or two small points.

     We have neglected to state that the meeting was opened with prayer by the Rev. Henry Garmon.

J. C. Tucker, Ch’n

         Henry Read, Sec’y

Son of George Reed and grandson of gold mine owner John Reed, the above-mentioned Henry Reed married Dovey Hinson in 1852.  Note that Rev. Henry Garmon, also mentioned, served as bondsman. The Reed family lived north of present-day Love’s Grove United Methodist Church which may have grown from Love’s Chapel which began as an offshoot of an earlier church known as Love’s Methodist. Of importance, Love’s Grove began as a Methodist Protestant Church which may have first been called Garmon Methodist which was located at the present-day site of Brown’s Hill African Methodist Episcopal Church, located on Hwy. 24/27 in Locust.

I believe Henry Garmon first founded a Methodist Protestant Church at Brown’s Hill which later closed as Love’s Grove Protestant Methodist opened its doors. The vacant church building, along with a small piece of land, was given to the black congregation of present-day Brown’s Hill A.M.E. Church. Henry Garmon was well thought of in his faith as beautiful stained-glass windows at the First Methodist Protestant Church on Hawthorne and Central Avenue in Charlotte (no longer standing) were placed in his memory. More can be found on Henry Reed and the unfolding of his faith in an earlier post.

Looking back to 1863, being no more than a month after Henry Reed served as recording secretary for the peace meeting, he wrote a telling letter to Governor Zebulon B. Vance:

Garmon’s Mills P. O., Cabarrus County

Sept. 26, 1863

To his excellency Gov. Vance,

By my father’s family record, I shall be forty-six years of age on the 20th of March next. I have a wife and four little children, the oldest only ten years of age, and an aged aunt dependent upon me for a support; and have been forced under fear of death to enter the army, as unlawfully I now think, as I did it involuntarily; as many of the parties to this violence acted or claimed to act under commissions as militia officers, I beg most respectfully to call your attention to the manner of depriving me of my liberty and family of their support and protection.

On the 28th of August last a meeting of citizens of Stanly county was held, at which I was chosen secretary and offered certain resolutions which were adopted, and published in the semi-weekly Standard of September 8th. They were in accordance with my private sentiments, and I did not know that there was anything illegal or improper in giving them public expression, or I should not have offered them.

On the 19th Inst. I was arrested at the house of Israel Furr in the county by Messrs. John Long, George Phifer, Henry Plott, [citizens of Ca. County] and Mr. Mooney, citizen of Cabarrus Stanly County. About a mile from Furr’s house they procured a guard and put me in their custody, took me to Morgan’s in this county, where some militia and a few Confederate troops were in camp; shut me up with ten [or] twelve other prisoners they had there, in a barn under guard.

After a while I was called out with another prisoner, and a Dr. Ramsey [Anderson] of our county informed us there was a man to be shot, and militia officers had it to do. We were both marched to camp under guard, where Ramsey [Anderson] announced the fact that a trial for treason was to take place, the militia officers would be the jury. These officers, about twenty in number, were arranged to the right and left of me, the other prisoner removed. Dr. Ramsey [Anderson] acted as judge and appointed Ellic Underwood prosecutor and Mr. Moody, prisoner’s counsel without consulting me in the matter. A rope was then called for by Ramsey [Anderson] or Underwood and produced. Underwood took it, doubled it up, and hung it in a tree near by. Ramsey [Anderson] then instructed the jury that I was to be tried by them for treason, that the punishment would be death if I was convicted. He then called and swore some witnesses about the resolutions above spoken of. Before the witnesses got through, I asked to have the resolutions themselves introduced; a paper with them in was handed to Underwood who refused to give them in evidence, or allow them to be read in my behalf, but put them in his pocket, when the testimony closed for the prosecution. Mr. Moody replied to a suggestion, that I should like some witnesses sworn in my favor, that it was unnecessary, that the prosecution must prove my guilt first. Underwood addressed the jury of officers, to the affect that I was guilty of treason, that the punishment was death, that I deserved it and ought to be hung as high as Haman. Moody had but little to say in my defense, when Anderson as judge, [told] to the jury that if they believed the evidence about the resolution opposing the tax in kind; and my offering the resolutions at the meeting spoken of, it was treason, and so was that about the constitution as it is and the Union as it was, and it would be their duty to bring in a verdict of guilty. The jury went down the road, and returned in a few minutes with a verdict of guilty. Ramsey [Anderson] then told me, that I was tried and convicted of one of the highest crimes in the known world; that the punishment was death, but as enough had been killed he would withold sentence until morning, to allow me to choose between entering the army and [or] being executed. A Mr. Cagle & a Mr. Heathcock were then allowed to hold up to me the terrors of the punishment that hung over me; and to urge me to enlist to avoid them. I was then remanded to the barn prison and a strong guard ordered over me to prevent my escape. In the morning I was taken out again under guard and Ramsey [Anderson] asked for my decision. I told him I wanted the advice of counsel before giving it, as I was ignorant of the law and had not intentionally done anything contrary to it. He replied ignorance is no excuse in times like these.

I was then put to marching up and down the road under guard, while Ramsey [Anderson] and two other armed men, took a prisoner off to the woods, and after a while returned without him, giving me the impression that he had been executed. Ramsey [Anderson] again asked for my decision. I told him I was in their power, if they wished to put me to death they could do so, and that I could not yet give a decision. He said they were bound to execute the law upon me unless I enlisted, but allowed a little further time for consideration. Under these circumstances I was forced to enlist under Lieut. Carter (who was near with some Confederate soldiers) to save my life. I did not do so of my own free will and since I have been allowed a few days liberty by enlisting, and relieved from fears of violence of which I was threatened, I begin to think that a great wrong may have been done to myself and family, and an offense to the laws and customs of the state, by the militia officers allowing the exercise of false judicial and executive powers by themselves, and others that should have been under their orders, at the time I was arrested, imprisoned, tried for my life and condemned to death unless I volunteered, as I was forced to do very involuntarily. I have not and shall not knowingly disobey the laws, nor do I wish to lose my life or liberty through unlawful means. I shall be forced so quickly from my family, that little chance of redress presents itself to me, but I trust, if these officers have permitted or caused me to be forced unlawfully into the army, your excellency will withdraw their commissions, after due inquiry, and let them follow [me] lawfully. The commanding officer of the Stanly county militia, I presume can give the names of all the officers, that took part in the proceedings against me. I know but few myself.

I am very respectfully,

Henry Reed

Stanly County. I Henry Reed of said county being duly sworn saith that the facts in the foregoing letter are true. Subscribed and sworn to before me.

This 29 day of sept. 1863

C. C. Love

(Notation on bottom of letter)
Gen. Gatlin will order the Col. of that County to explain this matter. Z. B. Vance

One thing leads to another and certainly the six or seven hundred people who attended the meeting were ridiculed for their political beliefs. Just as men stood defiantly on the battlefields, so were those who remained at home where they fought in hopes of peace.

Little did I know that family member Joshua Christian Burris was a leader in such service of his country. And as for J. C. Tucker, being the son of Leonard Tucker, he lived next door to J. C. Burris. At times our Burris Family celebrates old photos of a schoolhouse that stands  along the top end of present-day Newsome Road. The photos are a reminder of beliefs passed down by  kith and kin and I imagine many of the school children who once heard the war stories, including how the neighborhood men stood up to a cause they did not support.

In closing, I share the following plat of the lands once belonging to J. C. Burroughs (Burris) and his neighbor James C. Tucker.

[Note: all related deeds refer to the junction of Tracts A, B & C as the “Path” or “Tucker’s Path”]

A – Deed 2-270 Stanly, 182 acres, Joshua Burris to Allen Burris
Deed 14-580 Stanly, James Adderton to Allen Burris

B – Deed 26-77 Stanly, James T. Tucker to George E. Tucker, (Dower of Martha)
Deed 26-546 Stanly, J. A. Eury, Adm. of George E. Tucker to

C – Deed 17-139 Stanly, Daniel Freeman to James C. Tucker (refers to Tract B as belonging to
Lewis Tucker, refers to Tract A as belonging to Allen Burris, refers to land to the southeast            as belonging to J. C. Burris.

D – Deed 16-95 Stanly, Levi Tucker to J. C. Tucker (mentions corner of old mill seat)

E – Deed 16-95 Stanly, Levi Tucker to J. C. Tucker (mentions old mill seat)

F – Deed 19-374 Stanly, J. C. Burroughs & Wife to Eliza J. Hathcock
Deed 29-404 Stanly, Andrew and Sarah Honeycutt to R. M Hathcock

G – Deed 20-163 Stanly, Andrew Honeycutt to C. Fred Beck, “known as the Beck Tract”
       Deed 21-106 Stanly, J. C. Burris and wife to Fred Beck & wife

 H – Deed 32-93 Stanly, S. H. Milton, Commissioner, Adm. of Joshua C. Burris to John Allen Burris

  I – Deed 32-42 Stanly, S. H. Milton, Commissioner, Adm. of Joshua C. Burris to J. C. Murray.

I could delve further into the lands of others, but for now, the area of land above-mentioned happens to be in my immediate research.  The two people mentioned also had adjoining lands further to the west, situated north of present-day Red Cross and east of Locust. Seeing the men living in close proximity, I imagine James C. Tucker and Joshua C. Burris in conversation.  Maybe passing on the road and stopping for a minute to chat. I’d love to hear such conversations. The above stances taken tell volumes pertaining to beliefs, …not only during the times of war, but in more general terms pertaining to how they viewed their fellow man.

Were members of your family true Confederates or did they stand for the United States as it was v=before the Civil War? For me, my past is based on a house divided and in that realization I begin to understand things I have not yet considered.


From a memorable drive with fellow history buffs through Stanly County exploring the homelands of our Burris family past, I remember the hearty discussion as we drove east on Hwy 24/27 passing Liberty Hill Church Road.  It was at that point I asked the gang if anyone remembered a barn that once stood near the intersection. Somehow, my mind recorded the spot as being the place where a photo of my grandparents was taken during a 1910’s wedding celebration.

Pam and Brenda had a good time sharing collective stories of our distant cousins.  Filled with joy to be a part of this time of reminiscence, yet, it was at the moment we passed over the bridge that curiosity drove me to wonder why the store and old road intersection once stood so close to the creek? It didn’t make sense and I knew there must have been a good reason. Time passed and at a later date, Brenda shared a photo of Pettticord at work at his place of business (right).

Some months later, I went to a Wake County Genealogical Society Meeting where member and guest speaker David McCorkle spoke on map resources.  David created the site nclandgrants.com which is a super valuable resource for those of us working the early land records of our state.  And as it turns out, David and me are actually cousins as he descends from Headley Thomas, brother of David who is my second great grandparent. David McCorkle is also an Austin descendant which, as you will see, plays into this post.

In his presentation, David introduced the group to the interactive maps found on the UNC site titled North Carolina MAPS. This is a tool that allows the user to fade and merge various maps for purposes of comparison.  It’s nice to see an old 1800’s map overlaid on top of a present-day road map. It was a good night as I learned a trick that would surely be useful in future research. And then, occurring some time later, I revisited the site David showed us. It was in that effort that I came across a 1916 Stanly County soil map overlaid atop a recent county road map. Just click “Fade Historic Map” to the left on the page and you will be able to zoom in to see the small cropped section below. Notice at one time the bridge over Stony Run Creek served as crossing point for not one, but two roads. And note on the image below that I’ve placed a red dot at the intersection where the two roads cross Stony Run.

In the image above, you can see the old road intersection “on” the bridge and another just to the west showing the modern intersection of Liberty Hill Church Road and Hwy 24/27.  You can also see the old network of roads along with the blue markers indicating modern-day places of business.

On two separate adventures, both heading out from starting points at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, I remember the drives up Frog Pond Road, when almost immediately Pam pointed to an old path leading south.  She spoke of Hinson land and of a cemetery nearby. Looking at the old 1916 map above, you can see the path was once the road that crossed over Stony Run before heading northeast towards the church. Today that road is gone, and yet, those who are at rest nearby likely knew of it well. Looking back in time, I have to wonder if doing away with the section of road was a means of keeping peace between two closely located churches? hmmm…

Doing a little digging in Newspapers.com, according to a February 2,1902 notification in the Albemarle newspaper The Enterprise, it appears that several sections of various roads were discontinued at that time. They including Austin Road from near Pleasant Grove Church to Stony Run:

“ a petition ….to discontinue the old road, and the Austin Road from
D. C. Hinson’s store to Stony Run Creek”

Today we study our family histories and we look at the paved black-top roads around us as if they have real relevance to our distant past.  Sometimes they do, and sometimes not. We think we can place our kin on them as if today were yesterday. It is not as the roads are not always as they once were. Time changes all and to really understand where family lived back in time, we must be willing to overlay every resource imaginable, …maps included, in order to glean clues from the shared foundational elements of our past. Only at that point can we begin to ask the smart questions. Hmmm  …in the above, which came first, the road running west to east or the one crossing Stony Run as it heads towards the northeast? That’s a smart question and what stories do the two roads have to offer?

As it turns out, the road crossing Stony Run in early deeds is identified as “Austin Road,” now Newsome Road, as it passes almost due north beyond Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. Another road running by the church towards the northwest is present-day “Frog Pond Road,” known in deeds as the “old Concord Road.” (See below)

The GIS mapping image above shows two pieces of deeded land from David W. Burris and wife Sarah. Deed 29-282 Stanly is for land going to Timothy C. Burris. Shown in yellow, the southwestern corner of that tract is identified as joining the “Concord Road”. The green tract Deed 53-416 Stanly went to William A. Burris in which the southeast corner is identified as lying on Austin Road. Note that the branch separating the two tracts is identified as Whitley Branch.

Somewhat disconnected from records showing the road passing over Stony Run near the intersection of Liberty Hill Church Road, today Austin Road officially meanders to the north across the heart of Stanly County, beginning north of Locust and ending near New London (right). However, Austin Road appears in records following that path as far back as the mid-1800’s, and yet, “Austin Road” is also mentioned in records much further to the south. The story and origin of Austin Road may have once been important though I believe its meaning has been altered and lost in part through time.

Looking at present-day Hwy 205 between Rocky River and Oakboro, several early land records refer to that stretch of the road as also being called “Austin Road.” I could show you the platted tracts but will instead wait to tell that story on another day. Anyhow, it makes big sense that the road originates to the south as a large enclave of the Austin family first settled on the south side of the river where Hwy. 205 crosses Rocky River into Union County.  Also, this stretch of Hwy 205 leaves the river to Oakboro where it follows Main Street northward. There, its present-day name changes to Oak Ridge Road.  Towards the end of the 1800’s, deeds indicate that Hwy 205 followed Oak Ridge Road well north of the present-day town of Red Cross. However, going back further in time, the road was known as “the Ridge Path.”

So, from Red Cross north, there was once the Ridge Path.  And splitting off easterly from Hwy 205 to the south in present-day Oakboro was the Big Lick/Albemarle Road, known today as St. Martin’s Road. However, heading to the northeast a short distance north from the start of St. Martin’s Road is Liberty Hill Church Road, named for the church just up the hill from where the road intersects Hwy 24/27.  Connecting gaps of what is shown in records of olden times, we can see that Austin Road once followed Hwy 205 from Rocky River north through Oakboro where it turned northeast. It may have run north across Red Cross but for sure later followed the path of Liberty Hill Road across Hwy 24/27 to near Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. From there, Austin Road may have followed present day Newsome Road north.

At one time Austin Road passed Pleasant Road Church before intersecting with present-day Austin Road where it continued to the northeast toward New Salem. I think the section of Austin Road west of the intersection of Newsome Road is a relatively new occurrence. And yet, back in the old days there was Motley Road and Tucker Path.  I’ve not yet got those perfectly figured out though they ran through the present-day woods near the intersection of Newsome Road and Austin Road.

Adding one more twist to this twisted roadway kind of story, Newsome Road, being old Austin Road, may have once turned through the woods, crossing Bear Creek to the south of where Austin Road crosses today. From the 1916 soil map, Austin Road could have run the course of Newsome Road much like how it runs today (red line). However, notice the green line. That could have easily once been the run of early Austin Road. Not knowing for sure how it ran, we should keep our minds open to all possibilities. This stuff gets really interesting when maps begin to reveal their iterations of change much akin to what we seek in exploring our families.



Land records are a great tool for putting back together your ancestral history.  In this case, while researching the area where my Burris family lived in Stanly County, mapping efforts put me in contact with John Perry who wrote Governor Zebulon B. Vance pertaining to her husband’s whereabouts during the civil war. In following up from my last post on that subject, I’d like to share with you a bit about John Perry’s loose estate papers recorded 1865-1871. The following land division of his estate clearly locates neighbors and the old “Concord Road.” And looking at the GIS map for Stanly County, the estate land is identifiable in present-day property lines.

Not included in the estate division is Margaret Perry’s dower rights to one-third of the acreage.  Routinely the widow’s third incorporates the “homeplace” …the house and fields nearby where the couple once lived together. Again, in this case, in the loose estate papers, it is evident Margaret petitioned for her right though the papers do not spell out the location. Knowing Margaret is buried just short distance to the north of land to be shown in this writing, I believe that is the location of John and Margaret’s old homeplace.  That is the dower third, being land that once belonged to Margaret’s family.

As follows, the above image of John Perry’s estate division plat is defined below.  Following that is the above division plat overlaid against the present-day GIS map. Notice the run of the present-day Frog-Pond Road in comparison to what was known as the Concord Road back in 1871. Study the neighbors, and where their lands adjoin those once owned by John Perry. Finding this morsel of detail gives us an anchor point which will be used to learn where others lived nearby. Take a look at the estate division:

State of North Carolina Stanly County   March 3rd, 1871.

Pursuant to an order of the Probate Court issued the 28th of Feby., We the undersigned commissioners after being summoned and duly sworn proceeded on the 3rd day of March 1871 to lay off a lot and value the lands of John Perry, dec’d as follows:

First Division Lot No. 1 (red shaded below) – Beginning at a post oak by a small hickory on the side of Concord Road in Silvia Smith’s line and runs with said line So 14 ½ Et 38 chains to her corner red oak, thence So 66 Wt 2 chains and 70 links to a stake by a red oak, thence So 76 Wt 20 chains to a stake in Benjamin Hathcock’s line by post oak, red oak, and pine, thence with his line & passing his corner no 2 ½ Et 43 chains to a stake in Lloyd Hathcock’s line on the side of the Mill Road by 3 red oaks, a corner of Lot No. 2, thence east 9 chains and 60 links to the beginning containing sixty-four acres allotted to Lewis Perry valued at $160 dollars.

Lot No. 2 (yellow shaded below)– Beginning at a stake on the side of Mill Road in Loyd Hathcock’s line, by 3 red oaks a corner of Lot No. 1 and runs with said Hathcock’s line No 2 ½ Et 14 chains to his corner bunch of sourwoods, thence with line again 86 ½ Wt 55 chains and 75 links passing his corner to a stake by 2 post oaks Green D. Whitley’s corner, thence with his line No 3 Et 11 chains and 75 links to a stake in the said line by a red oak and post oak, thence So 85 Et 55 chains and 50 links to a stake in Sandy Dry’s line by 2 red oaks and a post oak, thence with said Dry line So 21 Et 14 chains and 64 links to a stake in the Concord Road by white oak, pine, and sweet gum, thence with Silvia Smith’s line So 14 ½ Et 11 chains and 75 links to a post oak by a small hickory on the side of the Concord Road, a corner of Lot No. 1, thence with the line of said Lot Wt 9 chains and 60 links to the beginning containing 67 acres allotted to Silvia Smith valued at $150-75 cts.

Lot No. 3 (green shaded below) – Beginning at a stake in Sandy Dry’s line by 2 red oaks and post oak, a corner of Lot No. 2 to a stake in Green D. Whitley’s line by a red oak and post oak, thence with said Whitley’s line No 3 Et 14 chains to a stake by a post oak, thence So 87 ½ Et 37 chains and 50 links to a fallen hickory in a field Sandy Dry’s corner, thence with his line So 2 Wt 5 chains and 50 links to his corner maple near a branch, thence with his line again So 79 Et 7 chains and 25 links to his corner stake by 2 pines, thence his line again So 2 Wt 6 chains to his corner dead red oak by 2 hickories, thence his line again So 79 Et 9 chains and 25 links to his corner stake in the Concord Road by 2 post oaks, 2 red oaks, and a black gum, thence his line again So 21 Et 3 chains to the beginning containing 67 acres allotted to Caswell Perry valued at $134 dollars

And we further report that each distribution shown is 148 dollars and 25 cents and that Lewis Perry whose Lot No. valued at $160 dollars pays to Caswell Perry who drew Lot No. 3 valued at one hundred and thirty-four dollars, the sum of eleven dollars and 75 cents, and that Silvia Perry who drew Lot No. 2 valued at one hundred and fifty dollars and 75 cents, the sum of two dollars and 50 cents to make his share equal.

Given under our hands and seal – B. T. Hathcock, J. T. Tucker, Lewis Tucker.



Grave Stone – Margaret Perry

We often think of the civil war in terms of swords, bayonets, and the deadly exchange of lead. It was a man’s time, a period in our history most remembered in terms of valiant military engagements. However, and regardless of whether Union or Confederate, the ravages of war truly found their way home in the form of private thoughts penned by the soldiers, their wives, family, and friends.  For instance, realizing he was on the losing side, and sitting in camp around a fire, my own family member Michael Garmon Love wrote the following to his wife Phoebe:

November 16, 1863

Deare wife I wish that this civil ware wod stope soe that we all cold come home to live with our famles a gain as we Did Be for this ware tuck plase and I am in hopes that we all will be at home til Spring – hit is thought that N. C. will go back in the Union and I hope that she will and that Be fore Spring for I cant help but think that we are on the wrong side.”

Such sharing of thoughts must have played out many times as soldiers came to grip with the realities of war and how history would eventually record their roles. Much more than the sterile documentation appearing in combined military records, such descriptive letters offer a hugely valuable glimpse into the lives of our soldiers. And as for their families and friends, the soldiers were not alone as during the tumultuous years, communities grew vocal. Like those on the fields of war, families and friends expressed their thoughts concerning the war. Whether writing in complaint or support of actions, they did all that was humanly possible to alleviate very real hardships.

About our remembrances of early letter writing, there is a valuable collection of documentation stored at North Carolina State Archives known as the Governor’s Letter Box. Now contained in a large series of document boxes, all the known letters ever received by each and every North Carolina Governor is chronologically preserved for posterity.

Imagine reading your ancestor’s complaint’s about goings-on during the Revolutionary War? Maybe some letters about business and life in the back country? Thoughts were shared pertaining to everything from slavery to marital infidelity.

Covering the period of the Civil War, the largest availability of such letters was those addressed to Governor Zebulon Baird Vance. It was among letters written to him that I discovered the following which was penned by Ms. Margaret Perry. Her return address was identified as Big Lick N. C.

Feb 7th 1863

Dear Govrnor I once more take my pen to address your Excellency concerning my husband which has not returned to his family yet, nor we have heard nothing of him since he was forced off. Dear Governor I can inform you with truth that if he does not return shortly, nothing but starvation, devastation & final ruin to his family will be the consequence. The news was afloat here that he was released but if he would return to his family. Col. Simpson of Stanly County & others say he is in Castle Thunder in Richmond.

According to Stanly County census 1850 – 1860, John Perry would have been 53-55 years of age in 1862. He was well above the 45 years old age limit enacted in September of that year and was even older at that time than the 50 years old limit set in 1864, near the close of war. John Perry may have been conscripted though something else seems to have been in play. Maybe John had been taken away because of some belief he espoused or possibly for something he had done.

Recorded in records as Lieutenant, Col. John Brantley Simpson mustered out in April 1862 at which time his military record includes a resignation letter which simply reads: “I have the honor of tendering my resignation as Lieutenant in “H” Co. 14th N. C.  Troops, unconditionally for good and sufficient reasons.” Recommending that the resignation be accepted, the receiving officer noted: “as I am satisfied that Lieutenant Simpson is mentally incompetent to perform the duties of his office”. From this point I have no thoughts concerning further roles John B. Simpson may have played in the war. However, mentions by him and others that John Perry had been sent to Castle Thunder is seriously noteworthy. Let’s look deeper.

For every warring party there must be a place to quietly dispose of unruly citizens deemed to be spies, political prisoners, or those having been charged with treasonous crimes. For the Confederacy, such people were sent to a prison in Richmond VA known as Castle Thunder (photographed to the left). A brutal place, many sent to Castle Thunder never returned home as they were quickly sentenced to death.

Is it possible that John Perry had committed treason? Well over age, was he wrongly conscripted and lost among the action or was he being held as prisoner at Castle Thunder? Exactly a year later, following the first letter to Governor Vance, Margaret penned the following:

 Marg’t Perry
Feby 7th 1864

Dear Governor I would be very glad if you would give me an Answer & let me know what I may depend on as I have to break up house keeping in a short time if he don’t return. Also receive my kindest repsects due to your excellency for your kindness – yours truly

Margaret Perry

To His Excellency Z. B. Vance

Address – Stanly County
Big Lick P. O

[I have demanded this —– but heard nothing from it – Z. B. V]

So, for more than a year Margaret Perry was living without her aging husband who she suspected from the word of others that he may have been sent to Castle Thunder. From online family histories, it is said that John Perry died ca. 1865 in Stanly County.  Is that true or did he perish from multiple gunshot wounds from a firing squad occurring out of public site behind the fence at Castle Thunder? Had he been hung for actions? Or, did John Perry ultimately return to Stanly County where tradition says he would later die? It seems those are all valid possibilities.

Below are scanned copies of the  two letters written by Margaret Perry:

The war ended in 1864 with all those involved returning to their homes. Looking into the Stanly County loose estate papers, in November 1865, Margaret Perry petitioned the court (below) for her rightful widow’s dower:

North Carolina          Court of Please & Quarter Sessions
Stanly County            November Term 1865

           To the Worshipful, the Justices of said County, the Petition of Margaret Perry would respectfully show that she is the widow of John Perry who died intestate since the last Term of this court leaving your petitioner wholly unprovided for. She shows that he left a personal estate out of which she is entitled to a year’s provision for the support of herself & family & to this end prays your worship to appoint a Justice of the Peace & three freeholders unconnected with the parties to allot & set apart a year’s provision for the support of her self & family out of the crop, stock, & provisions on hand and in case of a deficiency to make up the same in money. ….is bound your petitioners will ever pray & c.


[Committee chosen:G. D. Whitley, B. L. Whitley,
Benjamin Hathcock, Alex’r Dry]

For some reason, John Perry is not identified above as being “deceased,” which was customary used in such writing. However, Margaret states in the petition that her husband died AFTER the last session of court which would have occurred in the spring of 1865.  That statement indicates he was alive in 1865, well beyond Margaret’s February 1864 letter seeking to locate her husband. Leaving you with that bit of information, I’ll begin to close this post realizing multiple scenarios exist that could account for the sequencing of John Perry’s death. The old man could have followed a regiment into battle, coming home at the end of war unaccounted for along side the unit. He could have been held prisoner at Camp Thunder though surviving, was able to later return home. And yet, I’m poised to consider the words of Col. Simpson. He would not have mentioned Castle Thunder unless he knew of reasons supporting the possibility that John Perry may have been sent there.  From the letter there is no doubt that John Perry had done something wrong in the eyes of the Confederacy. He was not a true Johnny Reb, whatever that means. And as for Margaret, it seems her concerns all along were about bringing her husband home, …but her concerns were also about self-preservation.  Whatever was going on, I would love to have a moment to speak with Margaret. Who was she?

Born ca. 1805 to George and Sylvia Bloom Springer, Margaret married John Perry, son of Elijah and Sarah Perry.  John and Margaret acquired numerous tracts of land in the vicinity of present-day Ridgecrest and Austin Roads in Stanly County. Also living nearby were Joshua Burris who married Margaret’s sister Sarah. There were others including members of the George Whitley family. Having platted the area, for me it is an eye-opener seeing the family lands spread out on a map identifying where the folks lived in the early 1800’s. The stories we hear become imaginable like a kid staging war with little plastic army men. More on that later but for now I’ll leave you with the following concerning Margaret Perry’s resting place.

Dated 30 Aug 1834, and recorded 1844 in the newly formed Stanly County, Lewis Springer sold to John Perry fifty acres (Stanly 1-197) located on present-day Ridgecrest road. This is not your normal fifty acres as one line of the little square tract is identified as joining Lot 1. Another line adjoins Lot 4 and yet another joins Lot 5. The deed occurred before the formation of Stanly County though was later registered in the new county.  It references what appears to be an even earlier estate division. Whose?  More too on that later, though I’ll let you know that fitting together those other tracts (1, 4 & 5) as prior mentioned has been a fun exercise during our present pandemic way of life.

A little graveyard is nested within a tree line along Ridgecrest where the gravestones of Margaret Springer Perry and others stand.  The cemetery happens to be located on the 50 acres possibly acquired from Margaret’s parent’s estate. If so, and I hope that soon you’ll help me make that determination, Margaret was laid to rest on her land she likely was awarded as dower following the unusual death story of her husband John Perry. It may also be the land the couple acquired following the death of Margaret’s parents. Margaret’s gravestone is pictured at the top of this post. The resting place of her husband John Perry remains unmarked.

A final thanks to Pam Holbrook, Brenda Combs, and Tammie Rabon Hudson.  Working lots with land records, it is vitally important for me to make contact with those who live in the area and of those who study and know the families involved. I invite the thoughts of anyone related or of those who now live in the area.  This will especially be true pertaining to my next post which will discuss the lands surrounding the Margaret Perry Cemetery. Wow! …what if her parents were buried at that site? What if she and her husband John had received a share of the George Springer estate upon which he was buried? Wouldn’t that be cool?

Margaret Perry Cemetery


Old Lutheran Cemetery

WHEELS UP IN 30 …Anybody who watches the TV show Criminal Minds knows what I am talking about. But dang, I never thought I would ever use the phrase in writing about family history.  However, I have just learned that a few graves from long ago in Cabarrus County were horribly robbed. Will the victims end up being your family? Mine? If you’ve ever wondered if crazy bad things happened in the past, I can assure you that they certainly did. And if you are at all squeamish about gory things, this just may be the time to change the ole bat channel.

On 14 May 1857, and as appearing in The Daily Journal (Wilmington NC), the following is written about Cabarrus County.

“The people in the neighborhood of Concord, in this state, are very much excited by the discovery of an outrage which one would have thought impossible in this “nineteenth century.” At least, no one would have looked for the delusion and fanaticism which instigated it.

General Means, of Cabarrus county, received information that the graves of two children whom he had recently buried, had been robbed. He hardly believed it; but to be fully satisfied, he had an examination made, when it was found that both the bodies and one of the coffins were gone. Suspicion attached to a sort of Watchmaker and Quack Doctor, named Nugent, who had been a resident of Concord for some six months. He confessed the fact, not only of having taken up the bodies of Gen. Means’ children, but of fourteen others. He was so overwhelmed by the universal outbreak, and the fear of violence, that he died last week of fright’ at least, such is the opinion, as a post mortem examination revealed none of the effects of poison, nor any other cause of death. He said he took up the bodies to get oil  from them, having a theory that oil from a human liver was good for the liver complaints & c. After securing the oil, he was in the habit of burning the flesh and bones up; Gen. Means was shown where the ashes of his children were, and upon examination, some teeth and part of a skull were found.

A man named Baugus, a shoe-maker, has been lodged in jail at Charlotte, as being implicated.

It is one of this horrid, half-craze affairs, that belong to another age, but will sometimes appear in a manner, out of season. Nugent and associates must have been illiterate persons.”

This is not the sort of story one may wish to hear about family though looking at this from what we see today, I wonder if the lives of Gen. Means little children have been lovingly remembered?  Note that General William C. Means and family are buried at the Old Lutheran Cemetery in Concord where you would think a marker once identified his two children. They were victims and yet Find-a-grave, Geni, and Wikipedia say nothing about family who died in 1857.

And even in the case of such mentally deranged acts, family history continues. Hopefully, a place can be found in the future for sharing the lives of innocent people like this who should be recognized.  Isn’t that our goal?  And what about all the others whose resting places were criminally disturbed in this instance? This story certainly impacted more than just the Means family of Cabarrus County. In closing, the same story was retold in the Charlotte Democrat on 12 May 1857:

Dead Bodies Exhumed and Burned.

We learn that great excitement has prevailed in the neighboring village of Concord during the past week, caused by the discovery that several children, who died recently, had been disinterred  and their bodies removed.

There are a hundred rumors in circulation about the affair. After comparing the conflicting stories together, we make out the following statement of the case.

A quack doctor known by the name of Nugent, applied to a man to assist him in taking up a child that had been buried a few days before. The man made the request known, and intimated that two little girls , daughters of a very respectable gentleman residing in the vicinity, had been removed from their graves by this man Nugent for the purpose of extracting medicinal properties from their flesh and bones. To ascertain the truth of the rumor, the father had the graves re-opened, and found the coffins and bodies missing. Of course, this created deep sensation, and we are informed that it was determined to inflict summary punishment upon Nugent; but on visiting his house he was found very sick and in dying condition.  One report says that he took poison learning that his operations were known to the public -and another, that he died from a disease contracted from frequent handling of decomposed bodies.

Nugent died on Wednesday last. He made a statement before death, to the effect that he had exhumed about sixteen dead bodies in Concord and elsewhere, and after using them (for making medicine) he burned the flesh, coffins and everything, to prevent detection. His ash pile was examined and teeth and bones found therein.

His theory appears to have been that a medicine could be made by boiling the liver of a human being, that would cure liver complaint; and so with regard to other diseases. We learn that Nugent was from Forsythe county, and had been living in Concord about two years. He once lived in this town [Charlotte] we are informed engaged in selling peppermint and cinnamon drops. Before he died he gave the names of three or four of his accomplices, one of whom, a white man named Bogus, was arrested in this place last week and committed to Jail.

What the fellow did with the medicine he has been making, no one knows. We heard some one say he had agencies in Salisbury and Goldsboro, where one or more of his accomplices reside. Those persons who ae in the habit o buying and swallowing every kind of nostrum offered to them for the cure of diseases internally and externally, will take a hint from the above.


William Houston came to North Carolina from County Antrim, Northern Ireland in the mid 1730’s. The nephew of wealthy English merchant John McCulloch, William served as agent and trustee of his uncle’s colonization efforts.

Following passage of the stamp act, Houston’s powerful connections likely led to his appointment to the politically unpopular position of stamp distributor.  Public outcry led to his forced resignation after first being hanged in effigy. William’s aspirations realigned with that of the colonists based on the people’s will.

Settling in his home, Soracte, on the Northeast River near Kenansville, William Houston was also an important force in developing Duplin County.  Owner of several large tracts of land, it is in that sort of enterprise, and surely influenced by his uncle, that William appears in the early deed books of Anson County.

In 1768, Dr. William Houston and wife Ann of Duplin County sold 12,500 acres in Anson County to His Excellency William Tryon Esq. Captain General Governor and Commander in Chief in and over his Majesty’s Province in North Carolina …whew. The land sold was situated “in Mecklenburg County formerly part of Anson County on the Branches of Great Pee Dee and Johnston [Rocky] River.” I think the mention of Mecklenburg is in error and hopefully I will be able to convince you of my reasons why. As for Gov. Tryon, I found no deeds of his selling the purchase and following the conveyance he moved north where he served as governor of New York from 1771-1777.

Digging deeper in the deed, the conveyance is described as:

 “subdivided from the tract of land Number Six surveyed by Mathew Rowan Esq. and bound by tract of land Number Fifteen to the west and by Tract Number Seventeen to the north which said twelve thousand five hundred acres of land was granted to the said Doctor William Houston, one of the associates of Murry Crymble and James Huey, by patent bearing the date the third day of March one thousand seven hundred and forty-five …”

This is surely located within McCulloch’s 100,000 acre Great Tract Number Six which I’ve written about from various perspectives. However, though a small corner of Tract Number Six fell into old Mecklenburg [now Cabarrus], no way do I believe the above was situated in the county of Mecklenburg.

Also, it really makes no sense that Tract Six could be bound by tracts fifteen or seventeen. However, if looking specifically at the Great Tract Six (below), note that it is broken into eight lesser tracts. Looking closely, note that sections fifteen and seventeen are properly located per the deed description. Tract 15 is to the west and 17 to the north. That makes me believe the land being sold was tract number 16 and not 6.

Should six have been sixteen? Was six referencing the great tract and not one of the lesser tracts? I think so. Also, what about the description of the land as lying in Mecklenburg? More is needed to answer that dilemma, and to that end the answer was found through a happenchance observance of an important “zero”. Actually, this post is based on working backward from a proposed answer in hopes of learning how it came to be.  Isn’t that the purpose of genealogy and history?


Concerning North Carolina Secretary of State land grant records, a file number beginning with a zero indicates the grant was officially entered, but never issued. The grant never matured and therefore never became property. While working on my previous post about that subject, I visited NC State Archives where I spent time rolling through a reel of microfilm dedicated to grants beginning with zeros.  Rather than merely heading straight to my targeted document, I had the afternoon free and spent a little time visually scanning every document on the reel. There are a lot of cool plans that went wrong and lots to be learned from them!   Passing one image, I had a whoa kind-of moment upon seeing something that caught my eye.

File number 0532 represented a failed grant in the amount of 12,500 acres.  In the name of William Houston, the record included no date of entry or issuance. However, and at first not realizing what I was seeing, I made a copy of the cool survey which is really the subject of this post.

Surveyed on what appears to be 20 Mar 1770 by Robert Edwards, who I think lived in Anson County, the lower left corner of the plat identifies “Long Creek” which is in present day Stanly County. Comparing the plat to the eight lessor tracts making up Great Tract 6, it is clear the failed land grant 0532 represented section 16 from that map. Issues mostly resolved, it remains curious how William Houston acquired land in 1745 that was then entered by grant ca. 1770 …after the said Houston and wife sold it by deed to Gov. Tryon in 1768. I see hands with money under a table.

Now with the large tract physically located, what does that and a nickel do for us? Well …for the 1770 survey date, the plat physically locates lands of several people along with a simple name of an important settlement. Near the top left corner, a “C” shaped bend in Long Creek is identified as “Timothy Taylor’s Settlement.”

Timothy must have been a man of importance and is it possible he relates to a person of same name from even earlier in Chowan County NC?   Notice also at the top of the page that the big bend lies next to Long Lake, the water supply for Albemarle. Amazing how nearly 100 years earlier, a named settlement was in place at/near the present-day town of Albemarle.   This is clearly written on paper and therefore it must be so.

Looking broader afield, note that the plat shows Long Creek, which system forks to the east.  To the west is a creek or branch called Scaley Bark. Looking closer at the plat, you can see Timothy’s Settlement along with his other tract of 100 acres located at a fork further south. And on Scaley Bark Branch, one can see the lands of John Harbert Sugg and John Cooper. Even though this identifies only three different owners, the early documentation of physical location may be hugely beneficial in piecing together connecting properties.  I know from experience that numerous properties in the area mention abutments with the lands of these three people.

For instance, my ancestor is Solomon Burris who acquired land traceable to Nimrod Taylor on Scaley Bark Branch. I believe the land is in the area where Canton Road and Scaley Bark intersect. That location is very near the lands of John Herbert Sugg.

Try as we may, it’s not been possible to identify the heritage of Solomon’s wife Judith Taylor. And yet the name Timothy runs in the family. She may not be related to the family of Timothy though the following gives ammunition on why such thinking may need to be rethought.  Also, it’s cool to know that Albemarle once was located very close to a place with a different name.

I always find it interesting the ways in which seriously impactful information can be buried in unrelated sources. Ferreting out the connective tissue, sometimes accidental, is what keeps me digging. You never know where the next discovery will lead you. I wish now that I knew more about the first people who called present-day Stanly County home.



There’s a branch north of Richardson Creek called “Stegall”. It was there where in 1799 Solomon Stegall received two adjoining grants of 150 acres each. His neighbors at that time were identified as Rebecca Harrington and some fellow named Hinson. You would think the location of Solomon’s land has been lost as the property lines do not appear on today’s GIS (Geographical Information System) mapping site.  However, with a little training of the eye, Solomon’s lands become clear when looking at the forest and field lines in the above satellite image.

Putting pencil to paper, it is possible to visit what time has almost forgotten. Making that happen, in this instance, our quest to learn more about Steagall’s Branch passes through  a piece of neighboring land oddly having two beginnings. 

Back in the 1990’s, a lady from Texas named Karen Griffin contacted me about her ancestor who is named Wiley Griffin. Born ca. 1780, Wiley of Anson served from that county in the War of 1812. He later moved to Cherokee County, Alabama along with neighbors Emory Sharp and my distant ancestral cousin Jonathan Thomas. Late in life, at aged 92 and being in 1871, Wiley Griffin applied for a loyalist claim against the United States government in hopes of recovering the loss of his livestock valued at $968.00. The items were taken by General Sherman’s troops as they trailed the retreating Confederates after the fall of Atlanta.

Karen’s ancestor led an interesting life and in helping her to locate her family land here in North Carolina, I came across a 132-acre land grant in Anson County for Wiley bearing the entry number 0597. At the time I didn’t fully understand land grants …especially the significance of the zero at the front of the file number. Zeros have turned out to be very important so let me explain.

There was a time when all the North Carolina Secretary of State land grant records were poorly organized.  I have no idea as to how bad it was though my mind imagines musty odors and bundles of papers. Around the turn of the 20th century an effort was undertaken in which shucks were labeled with county names, entry, and final issue dates along with a descriptive word or two and most importantly, an identifying “file number”. The file number originates in the orderly listing of entries over time at the point when each was written into an official entry book.

Heck, there are lots of clues in land grants including information hidden within the file number. For example, in Anson County, grant number 1, the first entered, was issued in 1735 for land on White Oak River…wherever that is.  And pulling a number out of my hat, grant number 7000 was issued exactly one hundred years later for land on Rocky River.  From a glance at the size of the file number, one can make a decent guess as to when the lands were issued. But what about Wiley Griffin’s 0597? What do we read into that very different kind of number?

The Secretary of State’s office realized that some of the grants had been entered but had never been issued. Some folks came to the office, paid their fee, and declared the basic location of land to be granted. A surveyor may have even come out to document the land by way of hand-drawn plat. But for some reason, many land histories end there.  Maybe a mistake had taken place and it was later learned that someone else had rightful claim to the same property.  Note that grantees, the fellow receiving the grant, had to sit on the land for three years and make improvements which process makes sense. The delay gave time for any issues to work themselves out without having to involve the court.

For Willie (Wiley) Griffin, the entry date for file # 0597 was in 1827.  From the number, we know that prior to Wiley Griffin, 596 other people had also entered land that was never issued.  That’s a large number!

As for the specific land Wiley entered, the surveyor came out and created a site specific survey plat as appears to the far left below.  From the survey, the land is described as “joining John Coburn & the lands formerly belonging to Solomon Stegall and Rebecca Harrington on the north side of Richardson Creek.”  And then, seven years later, in 1834, Wiley’s friend Emory Sharp entered and was issued virtually the same piece of land …as is seen to the far right below. Indicating a change in neighbors, Emory Sharp’s land was identified as adjoining that belonging to Daniel Smith, Ransom Baucom, and Bryant Austin.  Also, Ezekiel Thomas, father of Emory’s friend Jonathan Thomas served as chain bearer for the grant. Overlaying Emory’s tract on top of Wiley’s (in red), you can see in the middle image how two different surveyors interpreted the land on two different dates.

To make sure you clearly understand the above, Wiley’s land grant entry never reached fruition whereas a few years later, his friend and neighbor Emery Sharp entered the same land which was indeed issued. Knowing the grant was near Stegall’s land, I took a chance thinking it might also be near the branch of same name situated east of New Salem and west of Pleasant Hill Church Road. Sometimes you get lucky and this time the 1830’s grant appears unchanged on the present-day Union County GIS site.  See it below? All those thin black lines represent property boundaries and Emery’s sticks out like a sore thumb.

Anchored firmly on the map, identification of the tract makes it possible to know with 100% certainty that both Wiley Griffin and Emory Sharp of Alabama once had interests in this land.  And in studying the shapes and title histories of surrounding tracts, it is further possible to build a sense of community by using survey and deed descriptions to locate and define the neighboring lands. Using pencil and a topographic map (below), I was able to transfer the hard numbers from old land grant surveys in a manner approximating what we see on today’s GIS map (above).  Note that some tracts are recognizable while others not so much so. That may be due to later agreements between neighbors, resurveys, or issues related to estate divisions, purchases, and recombination.

The following is included so you can verify what I have presented.   I advise you to take a look at  nclandgrants.com and the Anson County Online Deed Book as providing source documentation.  You can also check out my mapping pages which carry the platting effort much further afield.

(Shaded Red)  Grant 0597, Anson NC, ent. 7 Dec 1827, (patent not recorded). Entered by WILLIE GRIFFIN but never issued, being 132 acres on the north side of Richardson Creek joining John Coburn and the lands formerly belonging to Solomon Stegall and Rebecca Harrington beginning at a stake Daniel Smith’s Coburn’s corner two red oaks and post oak pointers and runs with the said line south 60 east 52.60 ch to a stake by 3 post oaks, then north 15.70 ch to a stake in his own line two red oak pointers, then west 6.70 ch to his corner post oak, then with his other line north 45 ch to a red oak two post oak and black gum pointers, then south 55 west 50 ch to to a red oak, then south 20 east 6 ch to the beginning. Chain bearers: Daniel Smith, Jesse Coburn.

(Shaded Red) Grant 6965, Anson NC, ent. 14 Jan 1834, sur. 20 Jan 1835, iss. 20 Apr 1835. Issued to EMORY SHARP, being 128 acres on Richardson Creek adjoining the lands of Daniel Smith and Ransom Baucom beginning at a hickory his own corner and runs south 44.3 chains passing his other corner to a stake by a pine and two post oaks in Daniel Smith’s line, then north 60 west 46.5 chains to a post oak Smith’s and Baucom’s corner, then north 31 east 19.1 chains, to a stake by red oak and small post oak in Bryan Austin’s line, then north 82 east 6.65 chains to his corner stake by three post oaks, then north 55 east 29 chains to a stake by three post oaks a black oak, gum, and dogwood in a hollow, then south 13.75 chains to the beginning. Chain bearers: Daniel Smith, Ezekiel Thomas.

A. Grant 5272, Anson NC, ent. 11 Aug 1796, iss. 9 Mar 1799. Issued to REBECCA HARRINGTON, being 200 acres beginning at a pine among three pines in her own line and runs north 60 west 63.50 ch to a red oak, then north 30 east 31.75 ch to a stake two post oaks and red oak pointers, then south 60 east 63.50 ch to a stake, then south 30 west 31.75 ch to the beginning. Chain bearers: Solomon Stegall, Charles Hinson.

Deed N-165, Anson NC, 8 Jul 1809, reg. Jul 1809. William Lehorn of Mecklenburg to John Lanier of Anson being 200 acres lying near the big branch …a tract of land taken up by Rebecca Harrington. Wit: Thomas Vann Senr, John (x) Taylor.

B. Grant 5367, Anson NC, ent. 23 Jan 1797, iss. 7 Jun 1799. Issued to SOLOMON STEGALL, being 150 acres on the west side of Richardson Creek beginning at a red oak among three pines and runs west 48 ch to a hickory with two post oak pointers, then south 32 ch in or near Rebecca Harrington’s line, then east 48 ch to a stake, then north 32 ch to the beginning. Chain bearers: John Harrington, Stephen Pool

C. Grant 5371, Anson NC, ent. 11 Aug 1797, sur. 10 Jan 1798, iss 07 Jun 1799. Issued to SOLOMON STEGALL being 150 acres beginning at his corner hickory by a pine and black jack and post oak and runs north 25 chains to a stake by a hickory and pine near Hinson’s line, then east 27.5 chains to a stake by two black jacks one post oak, then north 10 chains to a stake by two pines and tree post oaks, then east 22 chains to a black jack, then south 35 chains to a stake in his own line, then a direct course to the first station. Chain bearers: Henry Marshall, Absolem Stegall. 

D. Grant 6298, Anson NC, ent. 8 Mar 1816, iss. 19 Dec 1817. Issued to BRYAN A. AUSTIN, JR., being 300 acres joining Jno. Austin’s line on the headwaters of Austin Branch including near headwaters of Harrington’s branch. Beginning at a pine by two pines and hickory John Austin’s corner and runs with and beyond his line south 45 west 36.5 chains to a stake by three pines, then north 45 west 45 chains to a pine by two pines and post oak, then south 66 west 15 chains to a red oak by black jack and post oak, then south 5 east 50 chains to a stake by two sweet gums, then south 35 east 20 chains to a red oak by two red oaks, then north 80 east 20 chains to a stake by red oak and black jack, then north 45 east 58 chains to a stake, then north 14 west 23 chains to the beginning Chain bearers: Jesse Austin, Bryan Austin Senr.

E. Grant 5391, Anson NC, ent. 16 Jan 1797, iss. 26 Jul 1799. Issued to JNO. COBURN, being 400 acres on his lower corner on Richardson Creek and on Medling Branch beginning on his lower corner pine and post oak and runs north 15 east 15.5 chains to a red oak in Rebekkah Harrington line, then west 8 chains, then south 60 west 36 chains to Rebekkah Harrington’s corner, then north 30 east 26.5 chains to her corner post oak, then north 46 west 15 chains to a pine, then south 70 west 20 chains to a pine, then south 79 west 40 chains to a pine, then south 11 east 43 chains to a pine by a pine by a pine on the south prong of Medlings branch, then south 23 east 11 chains to a scaly bark hickory, then down the branch with the various courses 18.5 chains to a hickory by two hickories, then north 63 east 17.5 chains to a stake, then south 85 east 35 chains to said Coburn’s line, then with it to the first station.

Looking back to Rebecca Harrington’s Grant 5272, note that if we were to look a bit further south, records not shown would show that her husband Charles acquired a small piece of land much earlier.  Knowing that Rebecca was widow, one must imagine that her deceased husband lies at rest nearby.  Such information gives us important clues when trying to identify the ancient cemeteries of first generation arrivals who were buried without the luxury of proper stone.

There is lots to learn in researching land grants.  Take time to enjoy the process and don’t forget to compare your lands to GIS maps and deeds representing the community at large.


Important to our understanding of the family of Benjamin Rush, the following grouping of entries appear in the November 1819 minutes of Chatham County, North Carolina:

On 23 Oct 1799, Benjamin Rush of Franklin County purchased 640 acres adjoining Avent Ferry lands on the south side of the Cape Fear River. And then, dated April 28, 1801 in Chatham County, Benjamin Rush’s will and testament names his second wife Elizabeth Rush, son William Rush, daughter Ann Peyton, daughter Elizabeth Terrell, daughter Alice Devaney, daughter Amy Stringfellow, son Benjamin Rush and three daughters, Ruth, Judie, and Elizabeth.

Note the will names Elizabeth twice. First mentioned is “Daughter Elizabeth Teril” and at the end of the will, “Elizabeth” is mentioned as being one of Benjamin Rush’s three daughters.  Did he have more than three daughters? Are these both referring to one person or two distinctly different children named Elizabeth? Is it possible one daughter Elizabeth was born to Alice Griggs, Benjamin Rush’s first wife while the second was born to his second wife Elizabeth who is mentioned in the will? That’s not a far-fetched possibility and it appears from record there actually were two children named Elizabeth.

Comparing the court entries to the last will and testament, it is easily assumed that Benjamin and Elizabeth Rush’s daughter Judith married a Thomas. And later, court and land records prove that Hardy Christian married daughter Ruth or Ruthy Rush. On 9 May 1817 Christian Hardy and Rutha sold to Sylvanus Stokes land in Brunswick Co. VA. The conveyance was for her dower right following the death of her first husband Wm B. STOKES. So, once again, we see death and a second go round at marriage.  And of that event, as commonly occurs in this hobby, that fact is discussed nicely in published research by a respected family historian and friend. Take a look at Tammie Hudson Rabun’s post on the life of William and Ruthy’s daughter Hannah Stokes as told in “A Trip to Chatham County.”

In 1821, Ruthy and husband Hardy Christian sold their one-third inheritance of the Benjamin Rush estate to Thomas Springfield.  The deed mentions the land as being “one third part of all that tract of land formerly owned by Benjamin Rush Sen Dec’d and from him descended to his son Benjamin Rush who is since deceased and has now descended to his three sisters, Ruthy Christian, Elizabeth Perkins, and Judith Avent, which land is at present occupied by the wife of the said Benjamin Rush Senr, dec’d.” This passage indicates that the three girls’ brother named Benjamin Rush had died by 1821.

Benjamin Rush Sr. in the above, the son of another Benjamin, is at times referred to as both senior and junior. The first in the line died in the 1760s, so the deed could not be referring to him as being the senior. Instead, it appears from the deed that the Benjamin Rush who died in 1801 Chatham was the senior and that he had a son of same name who must have died prior to the above mentioned 1821 deed.

Looking at family pages online, it appears many believe the young son Benjamin moved to Montgomery County NC where he died in 1827.  Either the date of 1827 is wrong or that Benjamin is not the son of Benjamin Rush who dies in 1801. 

And from the above court entries, who is James Perkins who the young Elizabeth Rush married and how does he fit into the family? The 1850 Chatham County census enumerates James Perkins as born 1791 with wife Elizabeth born 1801. That is a match. Is this the same Elizabeth mentioned as being among the three daughters of Benjamin Rush? It appears that, if so, she was born near the time of her father’s death. Found in the newspapers:   

The Spirit of the Age, Raleigh NC, 29 Sep 1862
At the residence of her husband, on Buckhorn, Chatham County, N. C.; Aug. 18th, 1862 Mrs. Elizabeth Perkins. She had been for many years a consistent member of the M. E. Church, South. Although feeble in body she was strong in faith, and we doubt not has entered into the rest prepared for the faithful. She leaves an aged and afflicted husband together with many friends and relations to mourn her demise. A FRIEND

James Perkins died later leaving an 1873 will and testament in which Archibald Murphy Yarborough was appointed executor.  And note that A. M. Yarborough had purchased land adjoining the Rush estate from Glover Avent who had acquired it from his parents Joseph and Judith Rush Avent.

And now, looking back to Judith who is mentioned in the above court entry, what is her story? Family along the river hold rightfully to Judith Rush as marrying Joseph Avent following the death of her first husband whose surname was “Thomas.” Born 15 Feb 1798, Judith’s grave marker at Memphis Methodist records her death as 11 Sep 1868. At the foot of the old carved stone is a concrete marker stating that Judith was the “wife of Joseph N. Avent and William Thomas.”  Born in 1798 and mentioned as being a “Thomas,” Judith in the 1819 court entry is identified as marrying and losing her husband before she reached the age of 21 years. 

The only person in the area fitting the bill is William B. Thomas believed to be the son of the elder Joseph Thomas. William’s father was either Joseph or his son John.  William B. Thomas lived in Moore County before moving to Marion County Georgia after 1830.  William married Mary Shepard per the will and testament of her father John Shepard (written in Georgia). However, it appears the couple may have divorced or for some other reason split as they were living separately in 1850.  Could a similar scenario have played out earlier with William leaving a first wife Judith? That idea is only a guess, a stretch, yet a possibility.

Another thought. Many of us with kin from early Chatham/Moore Counties know of Grissom Thomas. Born 1783.  Both the 1850 and 1860 census state he was born in Virginia.  It appears Grissom is not a member of the Joseph Thomas family from Bertie as they were in Wake County at the time of Grissom’s  birth. Also, DNA verifies the two families as being different; it is impossible for them to be blood kin. With that established, where did Grissom come from?  Knowing Benjamin Rush had ties to the Thomas family back in Virginia is it possible that Grissom is connected? I have no answers to that question though maybe someday Y-DNA will make the case one way or the other.

Now, looking beyond Chatham, chasing the distant past of Benjamin Rush and others who may have made the trip south out of Virginia, pieces of a new and different kind of puzzle have found their way onto my desk.

Years ago, Barbara J. Thomas pleaded with me to look at Benjamin Thomas who died in Franklin County.  At that time, I was wrapped up in other projects, unable to realize the possibility of ties she suggested.

Barbara learned of a family bible that had been discovered in town of Eden behind some hand-crafted fireplace mantle removed for repurposing. The bible mentioned her family descending from Benjamin Thomas of Franklin County NC. There are ties to the Rush family as well as possible links to other families out of Bertie County. Through dogged persistence, Barbara succeeded in acquiring the Bible which is now back in the Thomas family hands. Here is the record as it appears in the Franklin County NC USGenweb page:

Benjamin Thomas was born July 22, 1724
Catherine Thomas his wife was born January 3, 1719
Elisabeth Thomas was born November 28, 1748 –(she was the wife of Richard Duty Granville Co N C )
Susanna Thomas was born February 10, 1751 – ( she is the wife of Turner Harris ) Tombstone has been found with her name Susannah Harris 2/10/1751- 5/1/1799 Montgomery Co N C
Hannah Thomas was born April 1753 – ( she is the wife or Richard Bell) Can’t prove yet)
William Thomas was born February 5, 1755
Benjamin Thomas was born March 1757
John Thomas was born February 1759 – wife was Phyllis Bassett Milles
Anne Thomas was born March 5, 1761 – Martha Anne Ragsdale wife of Baxter Ragsdale II
Jabez Duty was born September 1, 1781
Rachel Duty was born December 28, 1784
Elizabeth Duty was born November 10, 1786
Sam Duty was born June 14, 1789
Sarah Duty was born May 1795

As it turns out, Benjamin Thomas’ wife, born 22 Jul 1724, is possibly Catherine Rush.  The proof is honestly not there, though it is possible she is the sister of Benjamin Rush who died in 1801 Chatham County.

From the 1842 division of the Elizabeth Rush lands (widow of Benjamin Rush) as seen more completely on Roots & Branches – my nc family archives,  Micajah Thomas Hawkins is shown owning 165 acres

“whereas Elizabeth Rush dec’d late of said county died about the 15th day of April 1841 being possessed of at the time of her death in dower right a tract of land in the southwest side of Cape Fear River containing by estimation and survey this day made by Nathaniel Clegg County Surveyor 665 acres and whereas by the death of the said Elizabeth Rush the aforesaid lands became the property of Joseph Avent and Micajah T. Hawkins jr, alias Joseph Hawkins heir at law of Col Joseph Hawkins dec’d .”

That is an important passage! In 1824, Chatham County deeds record a conveyance from James Perkins and others to Joseph Hawkins.  Remember, James Perkins married Elizabeth, the baby girl of Benjamin and Elizabeth Rush. 

This gets really confusing fast and I have found nowhere online that begins to put together what I’m about to lay out. That is, the above document mentions two men of name Joseph. The first being Col. Joseph Hawkins while the youngest was his namesake heir.  And yet it will be shown there were later generations of the name Joseph.  The elder or deceased was Joseph H. Hawkins who was powerfully known with an equally powerful brother named Micajah Thomas Hawkins selling the land on his behalf. Identified in record as being Joseph H. Hawkins, his name was recorded repeatedly as “Col. Joseph H. Hawkins” …just as appears in the conveyance. By the way, the name “Micajah Thomas” likely comes from an aunt Ann Hawkins who married General Micajah Thomas. That’s a hole other family and story for another day.

Living primarily in Warrenton, Joseph H. Hawkins owned large amounts of land in Franklin, Johnston, Cumberland, Moore, Chatham and Wake Counties. From 1820-1825, Joseph purchased lands in Chatham County from Jonathan Harrelson, Phillip Alston, Robert Hinsely, James A. Ramsey, Thomas M. Sturdivant, and James Perkins et. al.  Remember, James Perkins married Elizabeth, the daughter of Benjamin Rush.

On 16 Aug 1827, Joseph H. Hawkins dies. The following obituary appeared in the Fayetteville Observer:

“At Brunswick Mineral Springs, on the 5th instant, Col. Joseph Hawkins, of this city, comptroller of the State. Col. Hawkins was on his way to Mrs. Garnett’s Seminary in Virginia, to bring home two of his daughters, when that secret arrow, which flies unseen, arrested his course, and his vivid hopes of earthly prosperity are laid low in the dust. A widow and five children by a previous marriage, are left to deplore his unexpected death – Ral. Reg.

Penned earlier on 13 Jun 1824, and registered August 1827 in Wake County, Joseph Hawkins appoints “my brother Micajah T Hawkins” as one of the executors. Also mentioned: “I give to my infant son Joseph Hawkins all my lands on the Cape Fear River & Deep Rivers, I mean all my land in the county of Chatham No. Carolina…”

Boom! So, this passage or bequeath from Joseph Hawkins’ last will and testament clarifies the wording from the 1842 conveyance prior mentioned. We know that Joseph’s brother Micajah Thomas Hawkins sold land to Joseph (and Judith Rush Thomas) Avent. We now know that he, as alias, was selling land that had passed to “Joseph Hawkins, heir of Col. Joseph Hawkins, dec’d. It passed somehow to son Benjamin who died, and from there to his siblings.

Online histories don’t make the connection, but I’m thinking Col. Hawkin’s son, who was named Joseph, was Joseph J. Hawkins who married Eliza Savage Pugh, daughter of Maj. Francis Pugh and second wife Elizabeth Barker Tunstall.

Referring to the younger Joseph Hawkins as infant in the 1824 writing of his father’s will and testament, note that the term was not used as we might think today.  In the will, his father was making the point that son Joseph (S.) Pugh had not yet reached the age of maturity. However, he must have been close as by 1828 the son would marry, have a son, …and witness the death of his wife:

6 Nov 1828, The North Carolina Star
– In Haywood, Chatham County on the 17th September, Mrs Eliza Savage Hawkins, daughter of Maj. Francis Pugh, of Franklin County, and consort of Joseph J. Hawkins Esq.

Following the death of his wife, Esq. Joseph J. Hawkins, son of Col. Joseph H. Hawkins, moved to Haywood County TN where he is enumerated in 1830.  Tennessee estate records show Joseph S. Hawkins died ca. 1849. Sarah, his wife at that time, appears in 1850 as 42 years in age. Also in 1850 is M. T. Thomas, aged 25 who happens to have a son Joseph J. Thomas. Apparently, the son of deceased Joseph S. and first wife Eliza Savage Pugh, Micajah named his son for the child’s grandfather.   

Back in North Carolina, in 1842, the lands of Micajah Thomas Hawkins passed from father to son of same name. And at the same time, the land was sold to Joseph Avent as appears in the court ordered division already discussed.   Hawkins would live beyond 1858 when his obituary was published as follows:

29 Dec 1858, The Weekly Standard, Raleigh NC
Death of Gen. M. T. Hawkins – We learn from the last Warrenton News that Gen. Micajah T. Hawkins of Warrenton, died at his residence in that county, on the 22d of December, in the 74th year of his age.

The Hawkins’ lands along the Cape Fear in Chatham County were bounded by lands of important people. The land was bought and sold to and from important people.  And beyond the county, those people had ties back to Franklin, Warren, Bertie, and other counties.  It seems Franklin County provided crossroads for many of the elite on the move.

One of the families passing through Franklin included members of the Pugh family from earlier in Bertie. Elizabeth Savage Pugh married Joseph J. Hawkins. Below is a chart I put together showing the relation of Elizabeth Savage Pugh to a Joseph S. Pugh who owned land next to Josiah Thomas along the Chiska Swamp in Bertie.  Please look at my previous post for those details. Also, the next post will outline competing beliefs on the family of Josiah Thomas in relation with other families who may have also passed through the same lands and social arenas of Franklin County.