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Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Newly-Discovered McNeil Cousin!

One never knows whom he will meet during a simple, holiday outing! 
On Friday evening, December 7, 2012, my husband, Doug, and I, accompanied by a few members of my genealogy club, participated in the guided Christmas tour of the Carter Mansion in Elizabethton, Tennessee. 
To set the stage for this account, I would like to provide some historical information about this site.

An Evening at the Carter Mansion
Elizabethton, Carter County, Tennessee

The Carter Mansion on the Watauga River in Carter County, Tennessee, is the oldest mansion in Tennessee.  John Carter of Virginia purchased 640 acres of land in the area, which was known as the “Watauga Old Fields,” where he erected his home between 1775 and 1781.  This western frontier was decreed “off-limits” to settlers by King George III in his 1763 Proclamation.  However, as we recall, little did the adventuresome pioneers heed this degree.  John Carter was a prominent leader in the Watauga Association.  This association is recognized as “the first democratic association of free American-born men west of the Appalachians.”   After his death of smallpox in 1781, his son, Landon Carter, assumed a leading role in the Watauga Settlement.   Carter County was named for Landon Carter, and the town of Elizabethton was named for his wife, Elizabeth MacLin Carter. 
The Carter Mansion is part of the Sycamore Shoals State Historical Museum under the Tennessee State Parks.  Sycamore Shoals was the site where the Overmountain Men mustered and departed as they marched to Kings Mountain, the site of that epic Revolutionary War battle.

Wassail by the Bonfire

As we were touring the mansion and talking with the re-enactors, to my surprise, my discussion with the docent playing the role of Mrs. John Carter revealed that she and I descend from the same McNeil family of Wilkes County, North Carolina.  Immediately, we exchanged our contact information so that we could follow up this brief encounter.
Through our e-mail communications and our trees, we have determined that we are 6th cousins with our most recent common ancestors (MRCAs) being our 5th great grandparents, Rev. George McNeil and Mary Coats.  My newly-found cousin, Linda, descends through George and Mary McNeil’s daughter, Elizabeth who married Robert Bingham, and I descend from George and Mary McNeil’s son, Joseph McNeil and his wife Hanna Wilson. 
What a small world!  Yet, how exciting!
Source:  "The Carter Mansion, Wilderness Elegance on the Watauga River," Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Tennessee State Parks, 2006.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Welcome Followers

I obviously have many followers whom I greatly appreciate.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of my followers and those followers who have “signed on” as followers of this blog.  Recently, a new follower, who signed on with his name, has joined us. 
Thanks Howard for becoming a follower of The Wests of Wilkes.  After I reviewed your profile and family lineage, I discovered that we are 5th cousins with our most recent common ancestors (MRCAs) being Jonathan Land and Elizabeth Isbell.  I look forward to hearing more from you.
In addition, a few months ago, Ron Tipton, my 3rd cousin from my mother’s family—Tipton, Honeycutt, Hughes—signed on as a follower.  Ron’s blog, Tipton Tales and Trails, depicts many of my ancestors from my maternal line.  Thanks, Ron!
Again, anytime anyone wishes to add a comment or include an e-mail address and does not want the comment or e-mail to be published (made public), please indicate that in the comment.  I will not publish those comments that a reader wishes to remain private.  
Followers, I look forward to hearing from you! 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The West Patriarchs, Last in the Series, William Charles West, Jr., My Dad

William Charles West, Jr.

My dad, William Charles West, Jr., was born on July 10, 1916, as the first child and only son of William Charles West, Sr. and Ada Beatrice McQueen.  According to his birth certificate he was born in Newland, Avery County, North Carolina, where his father was a superintendent with the local telephone company.  His mother, Ada, was listed as working at “phone central” which, I assume, implied that she was a telephone or switchboard operator for the telephone company.  Family stories relate that she and “Charlie,” as my grandfather was addressed by his friends, met at the telephone company where she worked as a telephone operator. 

Ada, William Charles,
Christine West

For some time the family lived on Spring Street in Johnson City, Tennessee, where my dad's two younger sisters were born, Alzenia Helen in 1918 and Christine “Jack” in 1921.  Within a few years the family moved to 106 West Poplar Street where they lived until Charlie and Ada passed away.  As a boy and teenager Daddy hunted, fished, and played tennis, activities that he enjoyed the rest of his active life.  In fact, while he was still a teenager, he and some of his friends constructed a clay tennis court on a vacant lot on the corner of Poplar and Spring Streets. In his later life, he continued to hunt, fish, and play tennis, and took up the additional hobbies of archery, mountain biking, billiards, and photography.
Through his work and hobbies, Daddy made many friends with whom he enjoyed those activities.  These friends often chided Daddy about his competitive spirit and determination to win.
According to Fred Lowe, my dad’s first cousin, Daddy spent several weeks each summer on the farm of his grandparents, Thomas Harvey and America Ann McNeil West, in Banner Elk.  During those lazy days of summer my dad enjoyed being with Fred, who was about eight years his junior.  Fred described a time when my dad shot a squirrel out of a tree with a BB gun.  He told Fred, who was barefoot, to stop it with his foot.  I’m not sure exactly how the story ended, but I think Fred said that the squirrel bit him on the foot!  Since Daddy enjoyed the outdoors so much, I imagine that those times in Banner Elk were among some of his happiest.   
Charles' High School

Charles in his ROTC

My dad, “Charlie,” as he became known by his friends in his later life, graduated from Science Hill High School in Johnson City and Johnson City Business College.  In 1934, he began working as a messenger boy for the Western Union Telegraph Company in Johnson City.  For those of you who are too young to remember “messenger boys,” they were young men, likely teenagers, who rode bicycles throughout the town delivering telegrams to residences and businesses. 
WU Messenger Boy
Daddy enjoyed “tinkering” with things and working with wood.  While he was in high school, he made several pieces of furniture—two cedar chests, a writing desk, and some smaller objects.  Even as an adult, he continued to enjoy his woodworking hobby by creating many items around the home and special items requested by my mother, my sister, and me.  In fact, he completed much of the work himself on the two homes that he and my mother built during their lifetime. After my sister and I were married, he was always eager to help with building and repair projects in our homes.

Ruth and Charles West
Wedding Photograph

I don't know exactly how or when my parents met.  I believe that I have heard they were introduced by mutual friends.  He and my mother, Ruth Stella Hughes of Johnson City, were married in the parlor of the home of my West grandparents on February 2, 1937.  At that time Daddy was a telegraph operator with Western Union Telegraph Company in Johnson City.  A few years later, by the time I was born in 1941, they moved to Bristol, Tennessee, where my dad was a telegraph operator in that Western Union office.  In 1943 they moved to Kingsport, Tennessee, where he was the manager of the Kingsport office.  He also served as the manager of the office in Lexington, Kentucky, in 1955 and 1956.  In 1956 he returned to the Kingsport office where he remained until 1972 when, with the dawn of a new age in communication technology, telegraph offices began to close.
Immediately after the closing of the Kingsport office, Daddy took a job with Tennessee Eastman Company in Kingsport. He worked in the communications and treasury departments until he retired in 1982.  He was one who needed to be busy and was not ready to “retire” in 1982 at the age of 66.  Therefore, he embarked on a new career, that of an independent tax consultant and later as a tax consultant with H&R Block Tax Services.  With H&R Block he also served as manager of one of the local offices for a number of years.
My dad worked diligently to provide a good home for us during a period just after the depression and during and after World War II when times were hard.  Because his job in communications was critical to the war, he was deferred from the draft.  Even at the age of 4, I remember the rationing of sugar, the ration books, and the housing shortage in Kingsport where the Holston Ordinance Works was churning out ammunitions and explosives for the war effort.  During those troubled times and shortly after my sister, Sandra, was born in 1945, we could not find adequate housing.  Consequently, we shared a house with another family, living, at first, in only two rooms with a shared bath.  Finally, we “moved up in the world” and were able to have the other side of the house with three rooms and a shared bath!

Son and Father
William Charles West, Jr.
William Charles West, Sr.
My parents stressed the importance of education and provided a college education for my sister and me.  In addition, they were loving grandparents to my daughter and my sister’s son.  Sadly, neither of them lived to see their great granddaughter and great grandson, my sister’s two grandchildren.

I remember my dad as a very conscientious, dependable, hard-working, competitive, and honest man with a dry sense of humor.  I know that I have inherited his “obsessive-compulsive” behavior.  Even though I look more like my mother, without question, I have Daddy’s personality, motivation, and determination!  Even today, Daddy’s former tennis buddy, 85-year-old Buford, jokingly refers to me as “Charlie West!”
Ruth and Charlotte
Charles and Sandy
about 1946
In addition, Daddy was “a man of few words.”  This is a quality that I have noticed in other individuals of West lineage, namely, my grandfather West and my dad’s cousin, Fred Lowe.  Not only does Fred possess this characteristic, but also Fred greatly resembles my grandfather and dad and possesses Daddy’s sense of humor.  In addition to physical characteristics, I am convinced that personality characteristics and mannerisms are also inherited.
Charles, about 1959

As with all things, life has its seasons.  Those later years were difficult for my parents who both died of complications of Alzheimer’s disease after a long siege of that debilitating condition.  Mama passed away on June 20, 2007, and Daddy on June 24, 2007.  My sister and I believe that he waited for her “to go” first before he gave up. 
I recognize the fact that he is a “patriarch” only to my immediate family—my sister, my daughter, my nephew, and my nephew’s two children.  However, I was compelled to end my series on the West patriarchs in tribute to him, the last one of my line.

Charlie, 1970s or 1980s

Charlie, 1979
How difficult this has been for me to write.  That’s why I have waited so long.           

Ruth and Charles West, 2003
Hughes Reunion
NuWray Inn, Burnsville, NC
Ruth Stella Hughes, 1918-2007
William Charles West, Jr., 1916-2007

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Wilderness Trail and the Role of Wilkes County Frontiersmen

Not only is Daniel Boone a national hero, but he was also a Wilkes Countian.  Boone’s parents, Squire and Sarah Boone, migrated from peaceful Oley, Pennsylvania, to the lesser civilized area of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  When they left Pennsylvania about 1750, they likely took the Great Wagon Road to where they settled in Linnville Creek, Virginia.  In the fall of 1751, the Boone family moved to a 640 acre claim on Grants Creek near the Yadkin River.  At that time in history, the Yadkin River Valley in Wilkes County was one of the least civilized areas on the western frontier and has been dubbed “the wild west!”

In 1755 Daniel Boone assembled a group of hardy men, predominately from North Carolina, to help him blaze a trail through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky.  Some of these men were friends and neighbors of the Boone family living in the Yadkin River Valley of Wilkes County, North Carolina.  Among this group of axmen, as they are called, were Squire Boone (Daniel’s brother), Benjamin Cutbirth who was the husband of Daniel’s niece, Elizabeth Wilcoxson (my husband’s 4th great grandparents), Michael Stoner, David Gass, Colonel Richard Callaway and his female Negro servant, William Bush, Edmund Jennings, John Kennedy, John Vardemen, James Hall, William Hayes and his wife Susannah Boone (Daniel’s daughter), and several others from Rutherford County, North Carolina.
Much controversy surrounds the route of the Wilderness Trail cut by Boone and his axmen.  Many confuse the Great Wagon Road with the Wilderness Trail.  The Great Wagon Road, known by various names such as the Great Road and the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road, began in Philadelphia and followed the Great Appalachian Valley between the Blue Ridge range and the Allegheny and Cumberland ranges of the Appalachian Mountains.  The road eventually extended into South Carolina.  Today Interstate 81 approximates the route of this great road as it meanders from Philadelphia through the Virginia countryside.
Various authors disagree on where the Wilderness Trail began.  However, most sources agree that the rendezvous point for Daniel Boone and his axmen was at Fort Robinson, which later became the site of Fort Patrick Henry.  For protection from Indian attacks, Fort Robinson was constructed near the famous Indian ceremonial land, known as the Long Island of the Holston.  Long Island of the Holston is located in present-day Kingsport, Tennessee.  From this site Daniel and his axmen traveled to Moccasin Gap in present-day Scott County, Virginia, and began their trail.  The trail, covering a distance of 120 miles, was completed on what is now the Kentucky side of Cumberland Gap.
View from Cumberland Gap's Pinnacle Point
The trail was no more than 2 or 3 feet wide, wide enough to permit only riders and packhorses to pass through the dense woods and rough countryside.  More than twenty years passed before wagons could be brought through the Cumberland Gap.  Originally, the trail was called Boone’s Trace, Boone’s Road, or Road to the Old Settlements.  The name, Wilderness Road, was first used about 1796.  Today, US25 approximates the route of the trail.

Why was this road important?  The answer lies simply in the fact that it became a door to the land west of the Appalachian Mountains—a door to the new frontier, that of Kentucky and the lands beyond—which had previously been extremely inaccessible to settlers seeking better land and greater opportunities.

·         Kegley, Mary B. Finding Their Way from the Great Road to the Wilderness Road, 1745-1796. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Sheridan Books, Inc. for Kegley Books, 2009.
·         Morgan, Robert. Boone, A Biography. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Algonquin Books, 2008.
·         Rouse, Parke, Jr. The Great Wagon Road: from Philadelphia to the South. Richmond, Virginia: The Dietz Press, 2001.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Reverend George McNiel, a Founding Father

Thanks to my reader and newly found cousin, Barbara, for more information about the McNeil family!
On August 27th, Barbara left a comment on my post, “Poet’s Progress,” which appeared in my blog on December 16, 2011.   Barbara provided me with additional information about the McNeils and shared my connection with her.  As I sat at my computer late that night composing a reply to her, I realized that a blog post would better serve my purpose.  I quickly dashed off a comment to her with the promise that I would address my thoughts to her in a future blog.  So…here it is.
Barbara and I have discovered that we share common grandparents, George McNiel and Mary Coats, our 5th great grandparents, which makes us 6th cousins.  Wow, what a long way back among ancestors!
At this point I must mention that there were several George McNiels/McNeils and will distinguish between them by referring to the George McNiel born in 1720 as McNiel.  I will address the various spellings later in this post.
According to my information, all of which needs additional research, George McNiel was born in 1720.  His 2nd great grandson, James Larkin Pearson, in his autobiography, Poet’s Progress, indicated that George McNiel was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and died on June 7, 1805, in Parsonville, Wilkes County, North Carolina.  In fact, I found an application for membership in the Sons of the American Revolution, filed by my great uncle, Robert McNeil.  His application stated that George McNiel was from Glasgow, Scotland.  Robert was documenting his application with the fact that George McNiel served with the Overmountain Men under Colonel Cleveland in the Revolutionary War battle at King’s Mountain. Actually, George McNiel did participate in that battle; he served as the chaplain with this regiment.
George McNiel was married to Mary Coats, who was born in 1722 in Watauga, North Carolina, and died in1782 in Wilkes County.  James Larkin Pearson stated in his book that George met and married “Miss” Coats in Grayson County, Virginia.  Apparently, since one or more of their children were born there, they lived in Grayson prior to settling in Wilkes, North Carolina.  One on-line researcher indicates that Mary’s name may have been Mary Sarah Coats.  The name Coats/Coates appears to be spelled with and without an “e.”
George McNiel was educated in Scotland as a Presbyterian minister.  One can only speculate as to why he decided to emigrate from Scotland to America.  Was it because he wanted to minister to the people in America, was it for land and a better life, was it from oppression endured in his native land, or did he emigrate with his family?  A letter written on May 28, 1898, by George McNiel’s grandson, G. W. McNeil, Sr., indicates that he (George McNiel) came with his two brothers, John and Thomas.
By the 1740s the emotionalism of Europe’s Great Awakening was translated into the middle colonies with young, “New Side” Presbyterian evangelists encouraging the demand for greater religious freedom.  The settlers were rebelling against the established, formal religions of the Church of England and the Congregationalists. With this “New Side” approach, an emphasis was placed on evangelism and personal conversion which included an emphasis on the hereafter.  This religious movement in America, known as the Great Revival, included not only Presbyterians but also Baptists and Methodists and was dominant in North Carolina.  By the beginning of the Revolutionary War, the Baptist denomination was the largest religious group in North Carolina.  The Presbyterian Church did not get started in Wilkes County until 1837 with the first church in Wilkesboro.  Evidently, these conditions were prime factors in George McNiel’s decision to become a Baptist preacher.
No evidence can be found that he ever preached as a Presbyterian minister in America.  According to his grandson’s writings, George McNiel switched to the Baptist denomination since he felt that he could best reach the people as a Baptist.  He was ordained as a Baptist minister in 1776.   His name is found in the minutes and church histories of several different churches in Wilkes County, and he was a member of several of the area associations. He was instrumental in starting the Beaver Creek Church in 1779.   He worked with some of the famous Baptist ministers of the time, namely Shubal Stearns and John Cane. 
He was affiliated with the famous Sandy Creek Baptist Association which Shubal Stearns started with six local Baptist churches.  This organization was likely the same as the Sandy Creek Association, a precursor of the Regulator Movement that protested government oppression and abuse of funds.   After the battle between the Regulators and the English militia in 1771 in the outskirts of Hillsborough at Alamance Creek, Governor William Tyron assumed that the Baptists were Regulators and concentrated over 3,000 soldiers in their areas to harass and terrorize them.  In the letter of May 28, 1898, G. W. McNeil, Sr. states that “he [George McNiel] joined the Regulators and after the battle of Alamance and fled for safety into Virginia where he lived for a time in Grayson County.”
In Wilkes County, George McNiel established a ministry at the Deep Ford Meeting House in the Reddies River area.  Later in his life he became a “traveling” preacher crossing the mountains and valleys of the Lewis Fork country sides probably on a horse or on foot to preach at the various churches under his domain.  Pearson says, “I suspect that he was an old-time orator of great enthusiasm and power.”  According to my 1st cousin 1R, he was likely a “hell-fire and damnation” preacher.  This was the commonly used style of preaching among those presenting the Gospel in the “New Side” way during the Great Revival of the 1700 and 1800s.
 George and Mary Coats McNiel had eight children: John, William, James (born between 1771-1774, died in 1834 in Wilkes County), Joseph (born in 1769 in Virginia, died April 28, 1855 in Lewis Fork, Wilkes, North Carolina), Benjamin, Thomas,  Elizabeth (born in 1767 in Wilkes, died in 1847 in Watauga, North Carolina), and Mary. 
The spelling of the surname, McNeil, has apparently evolved through several variations (McNiel, Mcneill, McNeill, and McNeil).  A couple of stories circulate concerning the spellings.  James Larkin Pearson, who was the 2nd great grandson of George McNiel, stated in his autobiography that George McNiel spelled his name with the “i” before the “e.”  Later generations either kept that spelling or spelled it as McNeill or McNeil.  According to another McNeil cousin, Milton McNeil (my 2nd great grandfather and George McNiel’s 2nd great grandson), was the first to change the spelling of his name.   In a letter to me, my McNeil cousin stated that Milton McNeil “evidently wanted to distinguish himself from his poorer cousins" by changing the spelling of his name.  In Robert McNeil’s application for membership in the Sons of the American Revolution, he spelled his surname and that of George as McNeill.

According to Johnson J. Hayes, George McNiel was “the ancestor of all the McNeils in this area of the state, including Watauga, Ashe, and Alleghany counties.” He was, indeed, a significant figure with a renowned legacy.

Finally, I am providing a table illustrating the connection between Barbara and me.  I hope that others with be interested in the information that Barbara and I have collected for the table.  Thanks again, Barbara, not only for providing me will additional information, but also for challenging and motivating me to tackle another line of my West family.  And, it’s always rewarding to find another “cousin” in the process.

6th Cousins
5th Cousins
Charlotte’s father
Barbara’s mother
4th Cousins
William Charles West, Sr. (1892-1967)/Ada Beatrice McQueen (1895-1965)
Nora Bessie McNeil (1900-1992)/Wiley Thomas Snyder (1892-1988)
3rd Cousins
America Ann McNeil (1863-1949)/Thomas Harvey West (1858-1949)
George Thomas McNeil (1870-1959)/Clara Eva Hettie Ellen Jarvis (1873-1959)
2nd Cousins
Milton “Milt” McNeil (1846-1929)/Martha Adeline Barlow (1845-1929)
John G. “Blind John” McNeil (1832-1899)/Rachel Eller
1st Cousins
Larkin “Lark” McNiel (1813-1877)/Elender “Nellie” Ferguson (1802-1875)
George McNeil (1802-1878)/Susan Vannoy (1803-1883)
Joseph McNiel (1769-1855)/ Mannah Wilson (d bef 1824)
James McNeil (1763-1834)/Mary “Polly” Shepherd (1773-1869)
George McNiel (1720-1805)/Mary Coats (1722-1782)
George McNiel (1720-1805)/Mary Coats (1722-1782)

*Most Recent Common Ancestors
·         Hayes, Johnson J. The Land of Wilkes. Wilkesboro, NC: Wilkes Heritage Museum, Inc., 1962, 2010.
·         Maple Springs Memorial Booklet. “The McNiel Family,”  Internet:
·         Mobley, Joe A., ed. The Way We Lived in North Carolina. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2003.
·         Pearson, James Larkin. Poet’s Progress, Autobiography of James Larkin Pearson, 1879-1981. Willkesboro, NC: Wilkes Community College, 1965, 2005.
·         Ready, Milton. The Tar Heel State, a History of North Carolina. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2005.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

My Hiatus

I’m still here but have been on an unplanned, unwanted hiatus since my last post on July 7.   For the last 7 weeks, my list of topics has been empty. My research trip to South Carolina was unproductive as far as uncovering information about my 4th and 5th great grandfathers, John West and Alexander West I.  Therefore, I am currently at a stand-still or using the statement of genealogists, “I have reached a brick wall.”
What have I been doing?   I have expanded my research into my other families: the McQueen and Moreland families of my paternal grandmother, Ada Beatrice McQueen West; the Hughes and Honeycutt families of my maternal grandfather, Robert Avery Hughes, Sr.; and the Hoilman and Canipe families of my maternal grandmother, Lillie Mae Hoilman.  Also, I have begun “serious” research of my husband’s Dade and Jones families.  I would love to start blogs about each of these families but am concerned that I would not have time to devote to additional blogging.   In addition, keeping up with my DNA matches and digging for common ancestors that I share with them require much time and effort.
My West readers may be interested to learn than I am gradually uncovering a few West-related cousins among these DNA matches.  Some of these include matches to the McNeils, Fergusons, Tripletts, Carltons, and Lands. Still, I remain optimistic even though no information about my John or Alexander has surfaced.  Eventually, I want to expand my West blog, The Wests of Wilkes, to include more about these families.  I have already written about them in many of my previous posts.  If you haven’t already done so, click on the links to them.
I have had a few comments, all of which have been enlightening and appreciated.  I always respond to my readers’ comments.  I will, indeed, honor your requests not to publish comments that you wish to remain private but will respond to you through e-mail if you provide one.
Soon I will conclude the series on my West Patriarchs with a blog about my father, William Charles West, Jr.  Because he is a patriarch only to me, my sister, my daughter, my nephew, and my great niece and nephew, I must still honor him in such a tribute.
Thank you for your patience with my hiatus, and please let me know if you have a particular interest for a topic.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

My South Carolina Search for John West

No rhyme or reason found in the collected data!
I spent four days, June 27-30, in South Carolina hoping to find a clue that would lead me to John West and his father, Alexander West.  The first two days were devoted to research in Greenville, the county seat of Greenville County.  The second two days were spent researching in the state capitol, Columbia, South Carolina.  I came away with nothing about my 4th great grandfather, John West (about 1760 to before 1810) and nothing about my 5th great grandfather, Alexander West (between 1720-1730 to after 1790).  I planned this research trip to South Carolina for over a year with the hope that I would find answers to my questions.  Needless to say, my feelings are those of disappointment and despair.
My husband, Doug, a patient man, and I spent the first morning in the Greenville County court house where I looked for deeds.  Several deeds with a John West listed as grantor or grantee were noted, but the “dates” and other information did not correlate with my John West.  We spent the afternoon and the following day in the Carolina Room, the genealogy section of the Hughes Library, the Greenville County Library.  I searched land and probate indices and court records, cemetery surveys, published family histories, family records, and Revolutionary War indices.  Additionally, I studied materials devoted to the state of South Carolina as a whole.  Nothing of significance was found regarding John West and his father, Alexander.
The following two days I studied records at the South Carolina State Archives and History at the state capital, Columbia, South Carolina, pouring over state deed and census records and compilations of ancestral and genealogical research data. 
Since some on-line genealogists believe that John West died in Spartanburg County, I looked not only at Greenville records but also studied Spartanburg records and those of South Carolina as a whole.  Fewer males with the surname West were noted in the Spartanburg area during the late 1700s and early 1800s than in the Greenville area.  In fact, I found 41 records that contained a West (Alexander, Alexander, Jr., Isaac, James, John, Solomon, Thomas, and William) in Greenville County and 26 records that contained a West (Alexander, Isaac, James, John, and Solomon) in Spartanburg County.  Of the John Wests, I found 7 listings of a John West in Greenville and 8 in Spartanburg.   Of the Alexander Wests, 5 records with an Alexander West were noted in Greenville and 1 in Spartanburg.  Only one listing for an Alexander West, Jr. was noted in any of the records studied and that one was in Greenville.  My concentrated research spanned the years of 1777 to 1812.  However, I did collect some information dated as late as 1839.  Since my John West’s one son and two daughters (per the 1810 Wilkes County census) were born in South Carolina after 1797 but before 1810, I based my research on the assumption that John West died in South Carolina probably between 1800 and 1810.
I came away with an interesting observation made by one of the librarians in the Carolina Room of the Hughes Library in Greenville.  Because of her experience in uncovering similar information, the librarian wondered if the marriage between John and Peggy had dissolved in a separation with Peggy’s returning to Wilkes saying that John had died!  Her observation does not represent my beliefs nor does it reflect the results of my research.  However, I think her comment should be taken into consideration as “food for thought.” 
With intense research, I collected a plethora of information about Wests whose surnames were John, Isaac, William, Solomon, and James and a few whose given names were Alexander and Thomas.  These men were spread among Greenville and Spartanburg.  But, alas, I found no clues to help me determine if any of these gentlemen were my ancestors!  From various clues that I have gathered over the years, my Alexander West may have had brothers or sons with the given names of Isaac, Solomon, and William.  My Alexander West most certainly had a son named Alexander (whom I have labeled Alexander West II) and one named John who was my 4th great grandfather.
No evidence, however, exists that my Alexander’s son, Alexander West II, who married Hannah Langley, ever lived in South Carolina.  In fact the Revolutionary Pension records of Alexander West II indicate that he had resided in Orange, Wilkes, and Burke counties of North Carolina. The Alexander West and Alexander West, Jr. found in South Carolina deeds and census records may not be my Alexander West I and his son, Alexander West II.
Perhaps, the greatest hindrance in finding my John West is that so many men named John West lived during those early years.  With no middle name and with no definite birth or death dates, determining which John West may be my John West seems virtually impossible.  Another limitation in identifying him is that in those days wives were rarely mentioned in public documents.  Occasionally, a female is listed as an executrix or a benefactor in a will or as one who has “renounced” her dower rights in a deed transaction.
Why did I go to South Carolina to search for John?  I did so because, according to family lore, John West and his wife, Margaret “Peggy” Witherspoon, moved to South Carolina sometime after they were married in Wilkes in 1796.  According to census data, their three children, John Balus, Melinda, and another daughter, were born in South Carolina.  Family lore also relates that Peggy returned to Wilkes with her three children after John died.  Along with her three children she is found in the 1810 U.S. Census for Wilkes County, North Carolina.
Secondly, reflecting a local trend, John Balus West may have been named for a prominent local man, John Baylis Earle, who lived in the Greenville, South Carolina, area.  Variations in the spelling of “Baylis” abound in legal documents.    My Greenville research did reveal a prominent Greenville individual named Balyes Earle who had a son named John Balyes Earle.  Bayles Earle’s name was found in records of court cases and land conveyances along with the names of a John West, Isaac West, and Solomon West.   I, also, found a slave named John Balyes Earle!   Not only, were Bayles Earle and possibly his son, John Balyes Earle, prominent men in Greenville, but also one or both of them may have been a friend(s) of the Wests—John, Isaac, and Solomon.  For more information regarding the possibility of John Balus West’s being named after this prominent man in South Carolina, please see my blog post, “The West Patriarchs:  3nd in a Series, John Balus West,” published September 1, 2011.
A third reason for researching in South Carolina is that I am following the trail of others associated with the Wests of Wilkes County.  In land surveys in Wilkes County, Bray Crisp’s name is found along with those of Alexander and Isaac West.  Bray Crisp, a friend of the Alexander Wests of Wilkes North Carolina and possibly a son-in-law of Alexander West I, lived in South Carolina from approximately 1790 to approximately 1800.  Bray’s father, Mancil Crisp, who is found living in the Surry-Wilkes area of North Carolina in 1777, apparently moved to the Laurens area of South Carolina by 1788 and is found in court records up to 1800.  Two of Bray Crisp’s sons, William Bray Crisp (1790 Laurens, SC) and Alexander Crisp (1797 Greenville, SC), were born in South Carolina.  I find it quite interesting that his sons, particularly Alexander, were given names that were common in the West family.  The name “William” would have been the name of the child’s paternal grandfather, William Mancil Crisp, and may well have been the name of one of his West uncles.  Do these names reflect common naming patterns of the day, that of naming children after the paternal and maternal grandparents, uncles, and aunts?  Yes, they do!  Did Bray Crisp marry one of Alexander West’s daughters (as some researchers speculate) and influence some of the Wests, including my John who would have been Bray’s brother-in-law, to move to South Carolina along with his wife and him?  Yes, this is a plausible scenario.  So much is left to speculation!
A document, “Isaac West’s Family of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Dickson County, Tennessee, 1745-1814,” prepared in 1974 by Blodwen West Boyle (deceased 1996), remains a haunting entity in my mind.  I discovered the document in the State Library of North Carolina in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 2010.  I also found a copy of her document in the Greenville, South Carolina, Hughes Library.  Mrs. Boyle developed a thought-provoking history of her family which is well documented and appears to be based on years of research.
When I discovered Boyle’s narrative in 2010, I thought that it provided the answers to my questions.  So much of her genealogy appears to mesh with my West family with the possibility of her Isaac West (1745-1814), presumed to be the father of her Abner West, being a brother of my John West.  The Isaac West in her study and his wife, Susannah Anderson, were married in Orange County, North Carolina, in 1769.  By 1788 they were living in the Greenville District of South Carolina.  Mrs. Boyle strongly felt that the Solomon West, found in so many of the South Carolina documents, was Isaac’s brother. 
In order to maintain my objectivity and focus on my John West (abt 1760-bef 1810) as I conducted my research in South Carolina, I had to keep in mind the names and birth/death dates of the sons of the presumed 3rd great grandfather of Blodwen West Boyle.  Isaac West and Susanna Anderson had the following sons who were present in the Greenville and Spartanburg areas of South Carolina at the same time that my West ancestors may have been there:  Solomon West (born between 1773-1776), Isaac West (b 1776-d 1864), John West (b 28 Oct 1776 – d Jan 1827), Abner West (born between 1780-84, died after 1833), and Anderson West (b 5 Dec 1790 – d 11 May 1856).  Even with this information in mind, I found it impossible to sort through the various John and Isaac Wests.  I must keep in mind, also, that as Mrs. Boyle was conducting her research, she may not have been aware of the other John Wests who likely lived in the same general areas.
As I reflect on my previous research and on my current research in South Carolina, a couple of other questions come to mind.  Why did John and Peggy wait so long to marry?  According to estimated birth years, both were born about 1760 and would have been about 36 years old by the time they married in c1794.  Did John go to South Carolina before he married and return to Wilkes to marry Peggy taking her back to South Carolina with him?  Deed records were found of a John West purchasing 100 acres in Greenville County, South Carolina, as early as 1789 when my John would have been about 29 years old.  Indeed, this information indicates that the son, John, of Isaac and Susanna Anderson West, at age 13 would have been too young to have purchased land.  Again, I wonder whether this John who purchased land in Greenville in 1789 was my 4th great grandfather John West. 
So many questions!  And, no proof!  Only speculation!  Perhaps, some informed conclusions!
As I reflect on my research trip to South Carolina, I sometimes think what a waste of time and money! Then, I reconcile these feelings by thinking the trip was worth the time and expense in that it revealed that no sound evidence of my John West exists in that state.  Even though “we know” that he and his family lived in South Carolina in those latter years of the 1700s, at this time their existence there cannot be proved. 
P.S. For those of you who worry about my husband, Doug, while we are on these research trips, he filled his time in South Carolina reading John Grisham’s latest book, Calico Joe, and starting Robert Morgan’s Boone, a biography about Daniel Boone.  Doug’s 5th great grandmother was Daniel’s sister, Sarah Boone.  Sarah’s daughter, Elizabeth Wilcoxson, and Elizabeth’s husband Benjamin Cutbirth, Sr. were Doug’s 3rd great grandparents.  Benjamin Cutbirth, a long hunter who hunted with Daniel Boone, was one of Daniel’s axmen as Daniel blazed the Wilderness Trail through Cumberland Gap.  Benjamin and Elizabeth named one of their sons Daniel Boone Cutbirth.  And, guess what, Daniel Boone and Benjamin Cutbirth became friends while they were neighbors in WILKES COUNTY!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

First Anniversary of The Wests of Wilkes

Yesterday, June 30, 2012, marked the first anniversary of this blog, The Wests of Wilkes.  One year ago on that date, I embarked on this literary (?) journey in order to share my findings about my West family and preserve that information for posterity.  Albeit, some of the information may change over time as new data and facts are discovered.
Thanks to you, my readers, who take the time to share this journey and thanks for the comments that some of you have contributed.  As of today, the statistics indicate that I have four followers (those who have registered as followers) and have had 3,056 “hits” over this past year.  This figure indicates that many more people than just my four followers are accessing and/or reading the blog.   By countries, the breakdown of those “hits” is as follows:  United States, 2,390; Russia, 105; United Kingdom, 72; Netherlands, 69; Germany, 57; Ukraine, 41; France, 28; Japan, 27; Latvia, 21; and India, 15.
Again, thank you, for your interest and your readership.  I continue to solicit your comments, additional information, corrections, and specific areas of interest.