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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The West Patriarchs: 2nd in a Series, John West

After an interruption in this series, which I started a couple of weeks ago so that I could address some other topics that were lying heavily on my mind, we will get back to those founding fathers of this West family by discussing my 5th great grandfather and his wife, John West and Margaret “Peggy” Witherspoon.
Previously and frequently, since I have expressed my dismay at finding so little evidence for my sixth great grandfather, Alexander West I, I am reluctant to mention my fifth, John West (about 1760-about 1800), who is even more elusive than his father, with no written records to support his existence.  Only the oral family histories recorded by individuals who lived much closer in time to these ancestors provide us with some information on which to base our claims.   Two of these individuals were John Foster West and Irene Hendrix Basey, whom I have referenced in previous posts.  All of us who are researching this West family are certainly indebted to these two individuals for their contributions in recording this oral history.  Without them, we would have nothing!
Supposedly (Remember, I have no proof!), John West was the son of Alexander West I, was born about 1760 in Orange County, North Carolina, and married Margaret “Peggy” Witherspoon in Wilkes County, North Carolina, in 1796.  Peggy’s parents were supposedly John and Elizabeth Witherspoon.  If indeed, this John and Elizabeth Witherspoon were the parents of our Peggy, some evidence exists that John Witherspoon migrated from New Castle County, Delaware, and died in 1801.  His will was dated March 11, 1801, in Rowan County, North Carolina and also, in New Castle County, Delaware.  Another will, the first in Wilkes County, of another John Witherspoon was probated in 1778.  So, which one is the real father of Peggy West?
Sometime after their marriage, John West and Margaret “Peggy” Witherspoon West moved to upper South Carolina where their three children were born and where he died at a relatively young age.  In researching South Carolina records, finding the “right” John West has been impossible since so many John Wests lived there during this period of time.  And, I do not have a middle name for this John West which makes research additionally difficult. I hope to make a research trip to the State Library of South Carolina in Columbia this fall.
Apparently, after his death, Peggy, as she was called according to John Foster West[i], returned to Wilkes County “to live near her relatives in the same general neighborhood where Alexander West I had lived.”[ii]   She appears in the 1810 census as head of the household with three children: one free white male age 10-15 who would have been John Balus West; one free white female age 10-15 who would have been Melinda West; and one free white female under 10 who would have been an unknown daughter.  The other individual listed in the census was one free white female 45 and over who would have been Peggy, the head of the household.  Other on-line genealogists who are researching this same West family include additional children in their family trees, but my research does not support any other children born to John West and Margaret “Peggy” Witherspoon.  In the 1830 census Peggy was recorded as being between the age of 70-79 and living with “Balus” West who was her son.  Again, in the 1840 census she was in his household and was listed as between 80-89 years of age.  Since she did not appear in the 1850 census, the assumption may be made that she died between 1840 and 1850.
As with Alexander West I, no evidence of a grave may be found for John West or Peggy West.  One may assume, perhaps inaccurately, that he was buried in South Carolina where he died.  But where is Peggy buried?   Was her body placed in a family plot which may or may not exist today?
According to the data from census records, John Balus West was born in South Carolina about 1798.  His sister, Malinda, was born about 1799 in South Carolina.  She is found in the 1880 census at the approximate age of 81 living with her husband, Israel Presnell, age 85, in White Water, Bollinger, Missouri.  According to North Carolina Marriage Bonds, they were married in Wilkes County on December 12, 1819.  This census record indicates that she was born in South Carolina.  Sadly, in the 1880 census, she and her husband were recorded as being paupers.  I have not been able to locate any documented information about the younger sister who would have been born in South Carolina, also.
So many questions to be answered about John West :   his parentage, his middle name, the name of and information about his younger daughter, where he died, where he is buried, why he died apparently at a relative young age, why he moved to South Carolina...   Will we ever know?
The more that I research my ancestors, the more I am saddened that so many died without a trace of their existence. 

[i] West, John Foster, “History of the West Family,” Journal-Patriot of North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. Nov. 8, 1976.
[ii] Basey, Irene Hendrix, “West Family,” Heritage of Wilkes County, 1982.  Mrs. W. O. Absher, ed., Wilkesboro, NC: Wilkes County Genealogical Society, Inc., 1982.

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