This post wraps things up from John and Judith Wilbourn (and a few generations back) to William Harvey Wilbourn.
For the final time, here are the Wilbourn generations, like links in the family chain, at a glance:
Samuel? → John? → John? → Edward? → John → Thomas → William C. → Champion → Amonet Washington → William Harvey → Ella Washington (Rae) (our grandmother)
Recall that the italics for John means we enjoy legal proof that he is our direct ancestor. The previous Wilbourns are educated guesses, based on precious few documents.
This chapter closes out a long line of Wilbourns stretching back to the early to mid-late 1650’s, in Virginia, and all the way to Texas and Oklahoma in the 1870’s and the first quarter of the twentieth century, up to the passing of the final offspring of William and Frances: Ella / Rae, who died in 1982.
But the story is still being told: You carry it forward.
What follows in this section is a brief sketch and review of each generation, plus vital statistics.
The Earliest Wilbourns
They did not leave behind enough documents to sort out family relationships. We descend from Samuel (my best guess) or Robert or Mathew (definitely strong candidates). It seems they left England, not as prosperous landowners or even a poor landowner. Otherwise, they would have appeared in the records more frequently, like the Lamkins or Coxes or Johnstons did in Westmoreland (Samuel) and Lancaster (Robert and Matthew) Counties.
These three Wilbourns were probably indentured servants. After working five to seven years, give or take, learning how to be farmers and craftsmen, they were released with clothing and a new start. Land was not so difficult to acquire back in those days, and our lines moved westward, and a little northward, into the northern Virginia counties.
We also have ancestors in the central counties. They grew tobacco mainly, but they needed other crops to survive, so they grew them too. They also raised livestock, like cattle and hogs. The surviving probate records of all the new immigrant pioneers consistently reveal these basics.
It is possible that this Edward died before February 4, 1746/7, in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. He may have been the father of John (our line) and his brother Edward. If not, then John of Caroline County, who died before May 14, 1752, could be their father.
The best news is that we have narrowed down and probably discovered John’s brother Edward, for DNA tests reveal that the descendant of Edward is related to the descendants of John. Plus, the two appear together in Spotsylvania, as if they belong to the same family. But John drops out of sight from the records after 1746/7. Then he appears in the Lunenburg County tax list, in 1748. As for Edward (Jr.), he died in Surry County, North Carolina, in 1806.
Born: c. 1700, in Virginia
Died: before 1746/7, in Spotsylvania County, Virginia
If we calculate “on the back of an envelope” that a man was married at twenty years old, then Edward was born around the turn of the 1700’s and died rather young in 1746/7.
John and Judith
In 1748, John Wilbourn appears in the tax records, showing he owned land in Lunenburg County, which at that time bordered North Carolina. His estate records show he owned meager possessions. He was not so wealthy, but at least he was a landowner and could be the lord of his domain. He got involved in the same social life that other men did too. He was sued or he sued, but not as often as his neighbors. He was ordered by the court to survey and clear roads. We witnessed documents, like deeds and wills. He served on juries with his neighbors. But he did not own slaves when he passed away. He died young, too, probably around forty, before March 7, 1758.
The records also show John owned a Testament (the Bible) and a Psalter (songbook from the Bible). So music filled the household – and they knew how to read. The Wilbourns will remain musical from him all the way down to our Grandmother Rae (née Wilbourn), who taught voice and piano and sang in churches and at temperance rallies. Her descendants were also musical, notably her grandson David and her granddaughter Janis.
In the meantime, as the generations went on, the Wilbourn became a little more prosperous, but they were not wealthy as Gentlemen were, such as the Washingtons in Westmoreland County, Virginia, long before George was born.
Born: 1720-1725 in Virginia
Married: 1738-1743, Virginia
Died: before March 8, 1758, Lunenburg County, Virginia
Born: Unknown but probably same as or a little later than John, and probably in Virginia
Died: unknown, but probably in Lunenburg County, Virginia
However, one researcher says she was younger than John.
Thomas and Hannah
Thomas, John’s son, started out being bounded out to three families. Being bound out is the outgrowth of the apprentice system. When the father died, boys and girls, from, say, nine to seventeen, were ordered by the court to live with a family to learn the crafts and trades, like repairing wagons and planting the crops at the right time (boys), or sewing and weaving and heating the stove and churning butter (girls). If they did not like their family, or the family mistreated them, the court could assign the orphan to a new family. The fact that Thomas was bound out three times may indicate conflict with the host family. In any case, if the apprentices did not get married before their seventeenth birthday (the years are fluid back then), they were free at that time. Then they may have returned to their mother or start out on their own, acquiring land and getting married and raising a family.
Thomas lived for about five decades in Mecklenburg County. He married Hannah Lamkin, daughter of his neighbor James Lamkin, October 23, 1769, in the central county of Goochland. He went up there undoubtedly because he had cousins up there. Recall that DNA tests of Wilbourn men show connections in the central counties. Back in Mecklenburg Thomas became more prosperous than his father. He appears in numerous records as a juryman, a witness to deeds and wills and marriages. He became security for his (probable) older brother William at one time. The court ordered him to survey and clear roads. But he did not get involved in lawsuits as often as his contemporaries did.
Like his neighbors, he contributed beef-on-the-hoof and corn to the American cause in the Revolutionary War (1775-1781). This means his descendants can join the Daughters of the American Revolution. In their name, a close relative joined the Daughters of the American Revolution, in December 2009.
Then in about 1797 to 1800 Thomas and Hannah decided to move to Edgefield District, South Carolina, where his sister Susannah lived with her husband, James Harrison. Thomas and Hannah’s children came of age in that county. They often pop up in the records. Thomas and Hannah lived there about two and a half decades.
Finally, Thomas, Hannah and some of their grown or nearly grown children (George, Richard, and possibly Thomas, Jr.) went to Alabama in the early to mid-1820s. Their patent is dated June 2, 1825, in Tuscaloosa County, but they probably moved a year or two before then. Thomas lived about another five years, and Hannah lived another fifteen after their arrival.
Thomas’s meager probate records show he left behind a fiddle. So music filled his household too. He no doubt got his musical ability from his father John and mother Judith.
Born: 1746-1749, possibly in Spotsylvania County, Virginia
Married: October 23, 1769, Goochland County, Virginia
Died: Before March 20, 1830, Tuscaloosa County, Alabama
Born: July 28, 1751, Northumberland County, Virginia
Died: Before October 14, 1741, but probably before the 1840 Census was completed in June, in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama
William and Cairy
William carried the Wilbourn prosperity forward. He remained in Edgefield District. He owned lots of land and about twenty slaves. This does not place him the highest ranks of society, but somewhere near them. But he died young, March 24, 1828, and ordered his estate to go up for open sale. This created a lawsuit between his wife Cairy and their son Peter. But a few years later they were baptized together, so they reconciled.
Cairy and all of her family moved to Yalobusha County, Mississippi, in January 1835. Peter may have died young out there or returned to Edgefield, where he still died young. She died before July 3, 1849, leaving behind a meager estate, which revealed she liked to sew.
Born: 1771-1775, Mecklenburg County, Virginia
Married: early to mid-1790s, but possibly January 28, 1793, Mecklenburg County
Died: March 28, 1828, Edgefield District (County), South Carolina
Born: 1774-1777, Mecklenburg County
Died: before July 3, 1849, Yalobusha County, Mississippi
Champion and Elizabeth Ann
It is a sad fact that Champion died young, before his father’s will was written March 3, 1827, citing him as deceased. It is his wife Betsey Ann who lived the most eventful life. As a widow who never remarried, she moved to Louisiana, in early 1836. She probably moved with her mother-in-law in January 1834, to Mississippi and stayed there for about a year, until she met other Edgefield colonists heading out to Louisiana. She went with them. But that reconstruction of those two years is speculation.
She was a co-founder of Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church, Bienville Parish, Louisiana, in 1837. She was a farmer who worked the land and sold it in 1848. Then a letter sent back to Edgefield in June 22, 1851, cites her as deceased. “Old Sister Wilbourne is dead. She died in strong faith.” She left no probate behind, which means her two sons William and (our) Amonet, and possibly her daughter Sarah, took over her possessions and property. Or maybe the courthouse records are spotty.
Her courage was remarkable, moving from her comfortable home in South Carolina to distant Louisiana, with other South Carolina colonists, as a widow with three children when her oldest son William was only in his teens.
Our pioneer ancestors were not so much rugged individualists as community minded.
Born: mid 1790’s, Mecklenburg County, Virginia
Married: before 1819
Died: 1822-1827, Edgefield District (County), South Carolina
Born: mid-1790’s, probably in South Carolina, but possibly in Virginia
Died: Before June 22, 1851, Bienville Parish, Louisiana
Amonet and Nancy Margaret
They lived about half their adult life in Louisiana, where all their children were born. He too was a farmer. He made it through Civil War (1861-1865), though he did not serve (too old). He helped his sons buy land in Louisiana. In the mid-1870s, probably in spring 1876, he decided to more northward to Columbia County, Arkansas, not too far from his Louisiana land.
In the 1870 Census his occupation is “Singing Master.” In the old days “master” meant teacher. He did not tell the census taker he was a farmer. This means music was his life, though he farmed land, so those agrarian chores didn’t disappear. In the 1880 Census he is cited as “unhealthy.” He left a will on December 5, 1889. He died just three days later. So he could sense his health failing fast and moved to secure his legacy with a little property and no probate confusion.
Music filled his household too.
Born: November 7, 1821, Edgefield District (County), South Carolina
Married: April 27, 1843, probably in Claiborne Parish, Louisana
Died: December 8, 1889, Magnolia, Columbia County, Arkansas
Born: January 1, 1827, Claiborne Parish, Louisiana
Died: May 7, 1904, Magnolia, Columbia County, Arkansas
William and Frances
William left Louisiana before his family moved to Arkansas. Family tradition says he was engaged to be married, but he didn’t love her, so he “escaped” or left for Texas. He landed in Palo Pinto County, east of Fort Worth, near the Daniels. He was a man who did not like census records, it seems. He was invisible to the 1880 census taker (and he will not appear in the 1900 Census, though he has a large family). But he was in Palo Pinto County, because he married Frances Daniel August 17, 1880, just two months after the census was completed.
About twelve years later he moved with his family up to Oklahoma in the land rush. Our Grandmother Rae was the last born in Palo Pinto County, so that means she was about two to four years old, during the move by wagon. This is where all of his children come of age. Almost all of them marry except Ernest Hasten and William Oscar. Some die young. Rae lives into old age, outlasting all of her siblings. Their mother Frances died in 1902, from Typhoid that was water transported, says family tradition. William lived another two and a half decades, never remarrying.
William did not carry forward the prosperity of his namesake William who had died a hundred years earlier. Rae said he was a rancher, cotton farmer, and part-time Baptist preacher, but he was not all that prosperous. Rae reports that he preached hell-fire, and he died by accidentally falling into a lit fireplace, passing away February 17, 1927. She noted the irony.
Born: December 9, 1853, Athens, Claiborne Parish, Louisana
Married: August 17, 1880, Palo Pinto County, Texas
Died: February 17, 1927, Mountain View, Kiowa County, Oklahoma
Born: August 1, 1856, Chattooga County, Georgia
Died: October 19, 1902, in Mountain View, Kiowa County, Oklahoma
Since 1994, with some breaks in between, I have been putting together all these facts; the process gives me certain impressions of these ancestors.
Except for William Wilbourn and his wife Cairy Hudson, who were prosperous plantation and slave owners all of our other lines named in this series of posts worked in agriculture, mainly owning farms. Maybe the earliest generations did not own much land and traded tobacco, but they probably had some acreage where they worked the soil and raised livestock and grew crops. But the documented progenitors were all – all of them – farmers. True, some kids not in our direct lineage may have become doctors (Champion Ellis, son of Amonet), but his brother William Harvey (Rae’s father), the last generation in this series, worked a cotton farm and ranch.
Westward into the Deep South and the West Coast
Geography is revealing. When the earliest Wilbourns first arrived in Virginia in the 1650’s, the later generations went further inland into the state. Which way would they go after that? Farther westward into Kentucky and Illinois and Missouri, or southward? They even could have gone north. They chose the South.
Edward or John: Northern Virginia
John: Northern Virginia → southern Virginia
Thomas: Virginia → South Carolina → Alabama
William: Virginia → South Carolina
William’s wife Cairy: Virginia → South Carolina → Mississippi
Champion: Virginia → South Carolina
Champion’s wife Betsey Ann: South Carolina → Louisiana
Amonet: South Carolina → Louisiana → Arkansas
William: Louisiana → Texas → Oklahoma
Ella / Rae (our grandmother): Oklahoma / Kansas → Colorado → Oregon → California
In the big picture the migration from state to state works out like this:
Virginia → South Carolina → Alabama → Mississippi → Louisiana → Texas → Oklahoma → California
That’s America’s story.
In most cases for the early generations, the dates are approximate. We place ancestors here only if we know when they died. In calculating the averages, I took their longest possible lifespan and included the parents.
Edward Wilbourn Sr. and Jr. (recall that Jr. is probably John’s brother, next)
Edward Jr.: 82
John and Judith:
John: 38-42 years, died young (one researcher says he died older and married young)
William: 68 (probably John’s son)
Thomas and Hannah
William and Cairy
Cairy: about 73.
Champion and Elizabeth Ann
Elizabeth Ann: about 55.
We don’t know when Sarah M. died, but she was alive after 1880.
Amonet and Nancy
Eliza Ann: 84
Thomas Amonet: 64
Alex Hargess: 78
Emmaline Gertrude: 94
Sarah Leacie Jane: 46
Champion Ellis: 89
Mildred Frances: 89
Ave: 62.8 (with Judson); 76.5 (without him)
William and Frances
Frances: 48, dying of Typhoid.
William Amonet: 40
Ernest Hastens: 73
Virginia Mae: 85
Alice Beatrice: 25
Abbie Lee: 72
Ella Washington (Rae): 92
Nancy Maggie: 27
Lillian Myrtle: 80
William Oscar: 63
Grady Ellis: 59
People back then died young because in most cases diseases swept through a community and took people out. But sometimes an accident struck.
Number of Children
If the father did not die young, the Wilbourns had lots of kids:
|Name of Father||No. of Children|
|John (died young?)||3 maybe 4|
|Thomas||8 maybe 11|
|Champion (died young)||3|
“Maybe” means the records are inadequate before the 1850 Census, so we can’t be sure if some children are not grandchildren or nephews and nieces or wards of some kind.
The large family may be due to deficient birth control methods, or they may have wanted lots of kids. It was common back then. We’re all blessed they decided to have so many. If not, we wouldn’t be here.
Functional and Dysfunctional
When the family histories become fuller and more thoroughly documented, we discover functional and dysfunctional families, much like today. In the early chapters, the Wilbourns got into lawsuits, either suing or being sued. Americans back then liked to sue each other. In Chapter 5 Peter sued his mother Cairy during William’s estate sale because Peter thought she was showing symptoms of distress and manipulating the buyers who might have paid more. The court mostly favored her. In Chapter 7 Amonet’s son Champion Ellis’s kids fought over any assets he may have had. In one letter, not included in this series, his daughter Verda lit into her Aunt Mildred, Champion’s sister, for passing on false rumors after his death. In Chapter 8 William Harvey’s son William Oscar became mentally unstable due to a blow to the head. He died alone in a mental hospital.
However, we shouldn’t let family conflicts and sadness take up the whole image of the Wilbourns. They got along nicely in most instances. They signed each other’s documents. They sold land to each other. They lived next to each other. Their kids played with their cousins. They wrote pleasant letters to each other. We can be sure they shared food and farming tools and equipment with each other. They helped each other gather in the crops, taking turns. They went to the funerals of deceased kids, when they could make it there. The cried together. They laughed together.
Timeless American Values
They lived these eight values, nurtured them, and passed them on to the next generations.
It was an ordeal to travel in the old days. They had to hitch up the oxen, load up the wagon (not too heavy), and crack the whip. Creak went the wheels. They had to leave behind lots of cherished treasures. Thomas and Hannah moved from Virginia to South Carolina in the late 1790’s, and then on to Alabama, in the early 1820’s, in their old age. William’s wife Cairy moved to Mississippi, in early 1835. Cairy’s daughter-in-law Betsey Ann moved to Louisiana in early 1836. Amonet moved to Arkansas in the mid-1870’s. And William went out to Texas in the 1870’s, and then to Oklahoma in the early 1890’s.
All of them must have believed in Manifest Destiny. More than believing in it, they lived it. Without their belief in it we wouldn’t be out here, so I’m grateful.
But of all these travelers, Samuel, Robert, and Mathew, the three original immigrants in the early 1650’s, gave up the most, voyaging by ship, which often took two to three months to reach these shores. I for one am glad they did. We live a prosperous and peaceful life now.
When our ancestors ventured westward, they did not travel alone; they went with family and friends. When the wagon axle broke, friends pitched in and got it fixed. When an ox went lame, they figured out a way. When one family was running low on food, they shared. They were not rugged individualists, but community oriented; one could say community dependent.
Farmers are hard workers, getting up early to milk the cows, feed the horses, and get the plow ready. They hitched up the team of oxen and plowed many acres to get the field ready for planting. The women got the wood-burning stove heated up to bake bread. They churned the milk to make butter. They sewed and wove clothing for a large family (estate records reveal spinning wheels). This hard work will be passed on to the next generation.
John had a Psalter or songbook, so he sang. Surely he played an instrument. Thomas owned a fiddle, so it is easy to imagine him playing it before a fire in the evening, singing popular folk songs, smiling and winking at the littler children. Amonet was a singing master or teacher. Surely he too played at least one musical instrument. His son William followed the rhythms of a preacher. His granddaughter Rosa (Chappelear) Woods said she saw him dance a jig or two. His sister Emma taught voice and piano for many years. His daughter Rae taught music and sang.
Carrying on through Tragedy
Often enough, kids predeceased their parents, yet the parents carried on during tragedy and afterwards. Maybe living the agrarian life helped them realize the cycles of life. But it still cannot have been easy on the parents and siblings. Their faith carried them on.
John owned a Psalter, which means he sang hymns, so he was devout. No doubt he taught his son Thomas to be strong in his faith. Cairy (Hudson) Wilbourn made sure she herself and her children were baptized at Bethany Baptist in the early 1830’s. Her daughter-in-law Elizabeth Ann co-founded Mt. Lebanon Baptist in Bienville Parish, Louisiana, in 1837. Her son Amonet was on the church rolls at that time. A letter said she died “strong in faith.” Her grandson William Harvey, whom she never met, was a part-time Baptist preacher.
Our Wilbourns were southerners. This region expresses American values in its own way. I can’t speak with authority about the South (Virginia) or about the Deep South (Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana). I lived only three years in West Texas. But the southerners I’ve met are high quality. They have rich traditions of which they are rightly proud. Our ancestors helped instill them in today’s southern generations.
The first generation may or may not have felt attached to the mother country, in the Wilbourn case, to the United Kingdom. But there is no evidence that the Wilbourns yearned to go back. They went further inland, while living in Virginia. They were forging a new nation. The greatest sign of national pride is seen in Thomas and Hannah contributing their fair share to their fellow Americans during the Revolutionary War. Word must have gone around Mecklenburg County, Virginia, that our troops needed help. Patriots in the county stepped up and gave. Thomas made sure his name appeared on the list in the county court order book. Now we can celebrate his love for his fledgling nation. We too have pride in our nation today.
The Old American Story and Today
I don’t like the word “mythology” in the context of our ancestors, so I chose “American Story,” not “American Mythology.” Our ancestors were not mythical, and neither is America. America has a down-to-earth story to tell. We are part of that story; we carry it forward.
And old is not bad, especially in light of those above values.
But maybe I’m wrong about myth. If it means a story about ultimate meaning, then America is indeed an ideal where people’s dreams can be fulfilled. We imbibe and carry on the American values that our ancestors lived out. Today we are in danger of losing her. Too many people denigrate her, becoming constantly negative. It is easier than being positive.
This series of posts has laid out the facts, but the summary in each chapter looks at the positives. Even the article My ancestors owned slaves, dealing with the evil institution of slavery, highlights some positive relationships.
The American story involves life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Our ancestors loved life in community. That’s why they set up local government. They wanted the rule of law so they could have peace and resolves disputes. This creates a peaceful life.
Liberty means they were independent farmers; they did what they could with their farms so they could live independently, without heavy dependence on a centralized government.
One cannot pursue happiness as each man and woman defines it without the first two real-life values: life and liberty. Each generation in this series pursued happiness in simplicity.
Today, however, too many people look to a strong centralized government to meet their needs. Can a nation survive, when the takers are about to outnumber the givers?
That numerical fact runs counter to our founding – our founding in the early 1600’s, culminating in the Framers about 150 years later.
I say the sooner we get back to timeless American values, they better off we’ll be.
I pass this series of posts on as a family heirloom and treasure to increase old fashioned virtues, both Christian and civic.
The most important virtue is gratitude. It prevents us from complaining about our lot in life. We have made great progress from the 1650’s, into the 1700’s and 1800’s and the turn of the twentieth. Our modern conveniences and technology alone should produce gratitude in our hearts and minds. Gratitude is the best antidote to contempt for our country.
But something deeper and more permanent than America must be communicated.
If the Lord does not return in 100 to 200 years, I pray the Wilbourn descendants, many generations from now, can study this series of posts to discover where they have come from. Past is prologue.
Yes, the people dressed in strange ways; they talked differently. Even I notice old photos of myself and say how I odd my hair styles and clothes look. So the ancestors in days gone by must look even stranger. But we can still learn from them – sometimes what not to do – but mainly what to do and how to live.
I pray for the future descendants, that each of you can come to a saving knowledge of Christ. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I would be derelict in my faith if I did not end on a Bible passage.
9 . . . if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified [declared righteous], and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)
God bless you, future generations!