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Thursday, September 1, 2011

The West Patriarchs: 3rd in a Series, John Balus West

John Balus West was the first child and only son of John West and Margaret “Peggy” Witherspoon.  Various census records indicate that he was born between 1795 and 1798 in South Carolina. The only documentations found for the year and location of his birth are those given in the North Carolina census records.  Since his name was written on land records as “Balus” West, his friends and family must have called him by that name. I have always been puzzled by that name, Balus.  As I have mentioned in previous posts, the name is spelled several different ways.  I use the spelling, Balus, which is one spelling most commonly found on the latest court documents.  Where did the name come from?  Was it a surname of a maternal grandmother?  However, I have found no evidence that it was a maternal grandmother’s surname.  The best explanation is that provided by Irene Hendrix Basey.  Mrs. Basey indicated that he was probably named for a prominent figure, John Baylis Earle, in the Greenville District of South Carolina, which is now Greenville County, South Carolina.  Mrs. Basey said that John Baylis Earle’s “local popularity was such that numerous male infants were named for him.”  She continued that the name “still occurs with some frequency in that part of South Carolina.”[i]
John Balus West’s father, John West, died while the family was living in South Carolina.  His mother, Peggy, returned to Wilkes County, North Carolina, with her three young children.  Peggy West is found in the 1810 Wilkes County Census with these children: 1 FWM of 10 and under 16, 1 FWF of 10 and under 16, and 1 FWF under 10.  The head of the household was Peggy West (1 FWF of 45 and over).  Other than some of the census records listing John Balus West as born in South Carolina (1850 census) and his sister, Melinda, as born in South Carolina (1880 census), no other documentation for this family having lived in South Carolina has been discovered at this time.
John Balus West married Mary Ann “Polly” Swanson on August 21, 1818, in Wilkes County, North Carolina.  Mary Ann was the daughter of William Swanson and Elizabeth Stations.  She was born about 1799 in Mount Zion, Wilkes County and died after 1880 in Mt. Zion, Wilkes County.  She was noted in the 1880 census as living with her son Franklin West but was not listed again in the 1890 census.  John Balus West died on July 20, 1871 in Mount Zion, Wilkes County.  At this point in time, no burial site can be found for John Balus and Mary Ann.  Again, how sad, it is when no evidence exists of one’s remains.
According to John Foster West[ii] and Mrs. Basey, John Balus and Mary Ann Swanson West continued to live for several years in the same section between Elkville and Ferguson of Wilkes County where Balus had grown up.  According to land records that I have researched and documented, in 1835 John Balus purchased 200 acres of land from John B. Ferguson on the waters of Stony Fork and Mason’s Branch. In 1842 he received a land grant for 50 acres on the waters of Redy Branch.  His sons Franklin and A. B. West served as chain carriers – those who carried the heavy metal chains, which were about 66 feet or 4 poles, used to measure the land.  In 1847, he received another land grant for 30 acres on Stony Fork for which he paid $5.00 per hundred acres.  In 1855 with another land grant he received 86 acres on the waters of Stony Fork.  In 1860 he purchased 73 acres from A. M. Foster on the waters of Naked Creek.  Recently, I found an abstract which indicates that John Balus received a land grant for 100 acres on the Yadkins River as early as 1832.  This, perhaps, was in the vicinity of Lewis Fork. With about 560 acres of land, I would assume that John Balus West could be considered a somewhat, well-to-do farmer in his time.  He was relatively uneducated according to “schooling” as was evident by the “X” that he made for his name on legal documents.  The fact that he could not read or write may be the reason for the various spellings of his name.
In 1847 John Balus sold 230 acres on the waters of Stony Fork for $300 to his second son, Alexander Balus West.  Then in 1860, he sold 86 acres on Mason’s Branch for $86 to his eldest son, Franklin W. West.
John Balus and Mary Ann “Polly” had nine children:
·         Franklin W. West (born bet. 1818 and 1820- died 1897) who married Cynthia Adeline   Holder;
·         Margaret “Peggy” West (1828 -?) who married Wilson Hendrix;
·         Alexander Balus West (1828-1864) who married Nancy Land;
·         William Thomas Jefferson West (1830-1863) who married Nancy West, his third cousin, the daughter of Thomas Jefferson West and Elizabeth McCrary of Caldwell County[iii];
·         Melinda “Linda” West (1832-1919) who married Tom Cox;
·         Elizabeth West (1835- bef 1850);
·         Mary Ann “Ann” West (1837-1917) who married William Hamilton Barnett;
·         John Witherspoon West (1840-1915) who married Catherine West, his third cousin, the daughter of Thomas Jefferson West and Elizabeth McCrary of Caldwell County[iv]; and
·         Lucy West (1842-?).

Franklin West’s tombstone(s) reflect(s) the inscription of 1818 for his birth year.  However, census records indicate that he was probably born in 1819 or 1820.  His parents married on August 21, 1818. The mystery surrounding his tombstone(s) will be a saga for another post.

No records can be found for Elizabeth West. Her birth date is undocumented, and she is not found in any census records in which the names of the family members are provided.  The first census which included names of household members was the 1850 census; she was not listed in that census.  However, Lucy who was born in 1842 or 1843 was included in the 1850 census as being 7 years old.  No other evidence of Lucy exists; she would have been 17 by the 1860 census and might have been married by that time.

Sadly, for this family two of their sons were killed in the Civil War fighting with the Confederate States of America.  William Thomas Jefferson West was killed at Petersburg, Virginia, in 1863, and Alexander Balus West, my 2nd great grandfather, was killed at Winchester, Virginia, in 1864.  Franklin West, who would have been about 40 or 41 years old in 1861, too old to serve in the regular army, served in the North Carolina Senior Reserves.  John Witherspoon West was of an age to serve with his brothers but was not eligible because of a crippled hand.[v]
John Balus and Mary Ann “Polly” Swanson West left a quite a legacy with many descendants, many of whom still reside in Wilkes and neighboring North Carolina counties.  I have been so fortunate to have made contact with several of these cousins, my “Internet cousins,” descended from our common ancestors, Alexander West I, John West/Margaret “Peggy” Witherspoon, and John Balus West/Mary Ann “Polly” Swanson.  These Internet cousins are my second, third, fourth and sixth cousins with some being one or two times removed. I haven’t yet discovered any fifth Internet cousins. I have actually spoken with a few of them on the telephone but have never yet met any of them in person.  However, I am excited about meeting a fourth Internet cousin in the near future!  I truly appreciate and enjoy my contacts with them and thank them for the assistance that they have given me in my ancestral quest for our West ancestors.

[i] Dunn, Linda Basey, Nov. 2, 2010,        
[ii] West, John Foster, “History of the West Family,” Journal-Patriot of North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. Nov. 8,
[iii] Thomas Jefferson West was the son of Alexander West II and Hannah Langley and the brother of John West who
   was John Balus West’s father.
[iv] Ibid.
[v] West, John Foster, “History of the West Family,” Journal-Patriot of North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. Nov. 8,


  1. Hello! I am a great, great, great granddaugher of William Hamilton Barnett. There has been very little information handed down about him in our family, and I find the information in your blog fascinating. I wonder if you have any more information about him? Also,is there a way I can contact you through this site via e-mail to share some more information about his story? Thank you so much!

  2. Hello Anonymous Reader,

    Thank you so much for your comment and interest in pursuing information about your ancestors. I do have a little more information about William Hamilton Barnett and his wife, Mary Anne West, who was my 2nd great aunt. My information is documentation that both of them shared, and I will be most happy to share it with you. Also, I would like to learn more about him. I don't have any information specifically about his family.

    You and I are fourth cousins with John Balus West and Mary Ann Swanson being our most recent common ancestors, our 4th great grandparents.

    I, too, would like to communicate with you via e-mail. You will need to send me your e-mail in a comment in this blog. Before any comments are published in my blog, I review them and post them personally. If someone asks that I not post his/her comment, I will not do so. Therefore, I will not publish your comment with your e-mail address. After I have your e-mail, I will e-mail you. I look forward to hearing from you.


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