THE MCPHEETERS FAMILY
By Helen McPheeters Rice 1956
The Early Ancestry of the
McPheeters families and their related lines can be traced back through
Ireland to their original home in Scotland. The history of these families
is closely linked with the early days of the Protestant movement in
Scotland. The struggles of the new faith produced men of determination and
fortitude., men who would sacrifice even their lives in defense of their
convictions.. Among the clergy who were prominent in resisting coercion..
the Rutherfords and the Alliens were leaders in Scotland and England. The
Campbells, Walkers, Logans, Moores and many others were staunch followers
of this cause. During the religious troubles of Great Britain from the
reign of Henry VIII to William III, these Scotch families chose to leave
their native land rather than compromise their religious beliefs. North
Ireland was convenient and available for settlement.
But their sojourn in Ireland
was brief. They soon found again restraints against their religious
observances; tithes and taxes were levied upon them to support an
established church other than their own, and they were even threatened
with physical violence by their unfriendly neighbors. In the midst of this
animosity, they remained aloof from mixture with the Irish; hence the term
"Scotch-Irish" denotes simply this group of Scotsmen who lived
for a time in Ireland. Their quest for a permanent home finally led them
The Scotch-Irish Settlers
landed on the banks of the Delaware River. Some chose to stay in
what is now the state of Pennsylvania, but the majority found that they
were still too close to their neighbors. Now we who are their descendants
boast of our independence of spirit, self reliance, strict code of honor
and many other admirable traits; yet we must also admit that these early
settlers were noted for unbending stubbornness and sour temper. They just
did not get along well with other people. So they pushed on farther into
the interior and found the beautiful valley of the Shenandoah protected on
both sides by mountain ranges, secluded and remote. It was here that they
established their new home.
Located as they were., on the
frontier, isolated from the rest of the colonies, these hardy people took
care of themselves. They formed companies of volunteers and maintained
them at their own expense scarcely recognized by the Virginia Assembly.
They often had to defend themselves against the Indians; in the summer of
1758 alone there were 60 white persons massacred in their homes. These
Scotch-Irish settlers supplied many experienced riflemen in the French and
Indian Wars. Their knowledge and understanding of Indians and their
familiarity with frontier environment made them valuable fighters.
The military record of
the-Scotch-Irish of Augusta County, Virginia, during the Revolutionary War
shows their staunch support of the cause for independence. For a time,
their traditional urge of intense loyalty held them to the crown in spite
of the injustices they had suffered in the past. But when they finally
realized that it was time to join the other colonists in their resistance
against the increasing oppression, they threw themselves into the fight
with all the rock-bound determination for which they have always been
One incident is related about
Rev. Archibald Scott. On a quiet Sunday evening, the inhabitants
learned that the British were approaching Rockfish Gap. Rev. Scott
at once turned his meeting into a patriotic one, invoking his people
"in thrilling tones to drive back the invader.” He hurried
the wives and daughters home to prepare their men. "They marched
forth with the blessings and under the command of their patriotic pastor
who hesitated not to exchange the Bible for the sword and saddle."
(From "The Scotch-Irish Settlers in the Valley of the Virginia",
an Alumni address at Washington College, Lexington, Virginia, by Christian
of Staunton, published 1860.) Among the Scotch-Irish soldiers from Rev.
Scott's congregation were doubtless several of the McPheeters family.
After the Revolutionary War,
the call of the new lands beyond the Cumberland Mountains, coupled with
economic developments, resulted in many of these Scotch-Irish-Americans
again searching for new homes. Their routes led them into and through the
area of the Cumberland Gap, some dropping down into the Tennessee Valley,
but most of them into eastern and central Kentucky. A generation or so
later many of them scattered into Indiana, Illinois and Missouri.
The Civil War or War Between
the States again called McPheeters sons to their country's service. But
this time their allegiance was divided. The location of each family's home
determined its loyalty and cousins faced cousins in the battle.
Fortunately, the remoteness of their homes in this still sparsely settled
pioneer country had served to draw the families apart, and relationships
and family lines had long since become almost legendary. From my own
family records I have drawn the following story.
Dr. John Snyder McPheeters
#293 wrote home from his camp with the Union Army at Vicksburg. In one of
his letters he related that a darky working around the camp had asked if
he were related to Theophilus McPheeters #W69 and his brother James #W71
living at Natchez, Mississippi. This negro had formerly been in their
service and knew they had come from Virginia. No one in Dr. John
McPheeters’ home in Indiana knew of these Natchez people. Dr. John's
grandmother, widow of James McPheeters #19) replied that "Grandpa had
an Uncle Robert living in Virginia and that is all they know of them. His
wife's name was Scott." From this answer came valuable help in
establishing our McPheeters line from the Virginia family.
Today there are McPheeters
families all over the United States. While I have been able to trace most
of them to known "trees", there are still a few that cannot be
identified from the material at hand. Some of these families have come to
America in more recent years than the colonial migrations, and it is
interesting to note that they have come from the north part of Ireland. It
is not improbable that we are all of common origin, even with differences
in spelling the name. Perhaps someone after me will be interested in
following this premise, and will go to Ireland to dig out the needed
information. If it is you, I wish you the best of success in this most
The Ancestral Lines in
Scotland which are claimed by the McPheeters family begin with John
Rutherford. He married Isabella Allein and lived on the River Tweed in
Scotland. Driven from their homes by religious persecution, they moved to
County Down., Ireland: where they died in their eighties. Their eighth
child was Katherine Rutherford who married John Walker in Wigton,
Scotland, in 1702. They moved first to Newry, Ireland, then sailed for
America, landing in Maryland on August 2, 1728. They settled in Chester
County., Pennsylvania, where they died; both are buried at Nottingham
Meeting House. The first of their eleven children was Elizabeth Walker,
born April 1703. She married in Ireland John Campbellof Kirnan, heir of
the Duke of Argyle, who had been banished from Scotland in April 1721.
They came to America with Elizabeth's father and settled near Staunton,
Virginia about 1744. Elizabeth died in 1787. The sixth of their nine
children was Jane Campbell who married Alexander McPheeters #2.
The Origin of the McPheeters
Name is attributed to one Peter Hume, a Scotch Highlander. He had several
children by his first wife; after her death he married again and had one
son, William. It seems that William Hume was not too happy with his older
half-brothers and sisters and left home when quite young. He was called
"MacPeter”, meaning "son of Peter". From him is descended
the McPheeters family according to tradition. His son or grandson, William
McPheeters, went to Ireland when about 16 years of age with several older
brothers. The name of his first wife is not known and all of their
children died young. He married Janet McClellan and they had three
daughters and only one son who was eight years old when his father died.
This son’s name was also William. He married Rebecca Thompson in Ireland
and came to America about seven years later. While this colonist was not
my ancestor, some account of his descendants is included in this genealogy.
Alexander McPheeters who came
to America about the same time that William McPheeters did,, is referred
to in old records as "a cousin of William". Though the term
"cousin" was rather loosely used in those days, it is likely
that Alexander's father and William's father were brothers. On this
hypothesis we claim that this tradition of the origin of the McPheeters
name applies to the ancestors of Alexander McPheeters as well as William
McPheeters. There may have been other "cousins" of the
McPheeters family who came to America in those early days. Occasionally a
name is found in early records that cannot be connected with either the
Alexander or William lines.
Here is another phase of the
genealogical puzzle that might be worked out by someone more enterprising
The First Recorded Date
Concerning Alexander McPheeters that this writer was able to find is
August 13, 1747. In Augusta County, Virginia, Deed Book Volume 3. page
262, is recorded the deed to Alexander McFeeters for 10 pounds current
money 303 acres in Beverly Manor, on the North Branch of Christy's Creek
and described as follows: 1ying and being on a branch of Christy's Creek
in Augusta County beginning at a black oak and hickory corner to Samuel
Downey and John Turk run with Turks line due east 180 poles to a white oak
and south 59 degrees east 14 poles to 2 black and one white oaks. North 26
degrees east 288 poles to a black oak on the top of a hill, thence north
64 degrees west 100 poles crossing the creek to two black oaks on a hill,
south 60 degrees west 59 poles to a black oak two hickory saplings on
McNabbs line., then with said line due south 96 poles crossing the creek
to a black and white oak corner,, then south 49 degrees west 240 poles to
This acreage, then, on Boy’s
Run, a branch of Christian Creek in Augusta County., Virginia., was the
ancestral homestead of our family. It lies about 10 miles south of
Staunton. It was the heritage of Alexander #2 and at his death was willed
to his youngest sons, Robert and James. James followed his two older
brothers in their westward migration and sold his share of the old
plantation to Robert in 1812. Robert and his descendants owned and lived
on this land down through the generations. Finally 55 acres that had been
laid off as a dower for Mary Jane Brown McPheeters were purchased in 1907
by Frank Wright, owner of the Beaconville Guernsey Farm. I talked to Mr.
Wright on the phone in 1948 and he stated that none of the original
buildings are left now. Soon after he purchased the property, he had the
old log house torn down and a modern home built on the site.
The old log house on the
McPheeters farm had been mistakenly said to be the William McPheeters home
to which Mary Moore first returned after her captivity. The interesting
story of her capture by the Indians and her stay with them until her
release was finally obtained is related in a little book "Captives of
Abb's Valley" by Brown-Woodworth published 1942.
The will of the Scotch-Irish
immigrant Alexander McPheeters was filed January 21, 1761 and proved May 9
of the same year, recorded in Will Book III, page 32. A complete copy of
this will and the itemized appraisal of his estate are included in the
chapter on "Documents".
This will gives us the only
record of the names of Alexander's wife and daughters. The last named,
Elizabeth Speers, might have been her married name, and the legacy of half
of his "moveable" estate being divided between her and the widow
might indicate that she made her home with her parents. What the widow's
maiden name was, and what became of the daughters is not known.
Alexander McPheeters #2 was
surely born in Ireland since his first son was born about 1756,but we have
no proof. His birth date cannot be conjectured since the dates of his
sisters is not known and even their order according to age is unknown. At
the time of his father's death in 1761, Alexander #2 had a son Alexander.
But another son ,John, was also born before that date and it seems a bit
odd that he should not be mentioned in his grandfather's will along with
his brother Alexander unless the perpetuation of the favored name
especially met with the old man's favor. At any rate, we might assume from
all this that Alexander #2 was born about 1725 or 1730.
Alexander #2 married Jane
Campbell, thus bringing into the family the Rutherford-Walker-Campbell
lines. The name of Campbell was common among the Scotch-Irish settlers and
crosses the McPheeters lines in several generations. This is shown in the
chapter on "Related Lines".
Alexander and Jane had eight
children living at the time of his death in 1798, according to his will.
This will and estate appraisal are also copied in full in the chapter on
"Documents". By comparison with his father's estate, it will be
seen that Alexander #2 had increased his heritage, Apparently he had also
added to the plantation since his son James' share amounted to 215 acres
when he sold out to his brother Robert.
Tombstone-hunting, sooner or
later beckons the ancestor hunter. It may even get to-be an obsession and
he will accumulate all sorts of equipment which he keeps handy in the
trunk of his car. All he may need to put him in a trance is the sight of a
weed-grown, neglected burial ground of apparently ancient vintage. Then he
dons the hip boots to fight briars and possible reptiles, takes his wire
brush in one hand, tracing paper in the other, and his notebook in his
pocket and he is off again. Though the results are often negative,
sometimes a very important stone is located. Frequently the information to
be found on a monument is the only source for that individual's vital
In an effort to establish
dates of the early generations of McPheeters', I investigated burial
places in Augusta County, Virginia. There seemed to be two likely places
where Alexander #1 and Alexander #2 might have been buried. The oldest
plot was the Glebe Cemetery near North Mountain southwest of Staunton.
This place is on the top of a knoll, surrounded by a fence. It had
recently had some attention but was still rather brushy and desolate.
There were not a great many stones, and some were broken or sunken below
the lettering. The only stone that was of interest was that of William
McPheeters, #W6. The other old burying ground was at the site of the old
North Mountain Meeting House. This colonial church was abandoned when the
Bethel congregation was formed and a new location chosen. Now there is no
trace left of the old Meeting House and the burial ground is part of a
pasture with a few stones sheltered by a clump of trees. Most of the
stones were taken away in the 1930’s to be used in the foundation of a
barn! So I still do not know where the first two Alexanders were buried
but it is fairly safe to point to the Glebe or North Mountain.
Robert McPheeters #14 was the
easiest to trace of the four sons and four daughters of Alexander #2 since
he and his descendants stayed in Augusta County on the family plantation.
He married Jane Scott, daughter of Rev. Archibald Scott, already
mentioned. They had only one daughter who died young, and one son,
Archibald Alexander McPheeters. For much of the information about his
descendants, I am indebted to Duncan Scott McPheeters of Downer's Grove,
Illinois. He not only had the family record pages from Robert McPheeters'
Bible, but had a record of subsequent generations also.
Rev. Archibald Scott came from
Ireland in 1763 while still in his teens. He married Frances Ramsey who
lived only a short time after his death on, March 4., 1799. They left
eight children; the eldest, Sarah (Jane) was only seventeen, but she kept
the children together, winning the praise and admiration of the
settlement. Eleven years later she married Robert McPheeters.
"Bethel and Her
Ministers" written by Dr. Herbert O. Turner in 1946, relates the
story of the Bethel Presbyterian Church. It was founded in 1779 as a
successor to North Mountain and Brown's Meeting Houses. Rev. Scott was
pastor during this transition, from 1778 to 1779. Robert McPheeters was an
elder of this church. Dr. William McPheeters #W49 was pastor from 1805 to
1810. Bethel Church is about eleven miles south of Staunton and perhaps
four miles from the Alexander McPheeters land. The present building is a
modern brick structure and the adjoining cemetery is well cared for. There
are buried Robert McPheeters and his family, their graves well marked. The
oldest grave there is of the son of William McPheeters #49 who died in
infancy in 1806.
Published Genealogies are
extremely valuable to the genealogist. He hardly expects to find his
family already written up, but he hopes that some branches of it may have
been touched upon in the records of other families. The tendency is to
accept such printed matter as true beyond any doubt, since it has been put
down as truth by some other genealogist. Indeed, only proven facts belong
in any family history, printed or otherwise. So I have accepted such data
at its face value unless I had good reason to question it.
My first searchings for the
colonial beginnings of our family revealed the fact that the family of
William McPheeters had kept careful records of which more will be said
later. But the only published account that I found at the beginning of my
search, pertaining to the Alexander McPheeters family of colonial
Virginia, was contained in "Genealogical History of the Descendants
of John Walker of Wigton, Scotland" by E. S. White, published in
1902. On page 5 the author lists the children of Alexander McPheeters #2
followed by-a very sketchy account of his son Robert, naming his children.
The only other member of the
Alexander family that is mentioned in the Walker Genealogy is his son
James #15. It is related that the British Parliament passed a special act
in the 1850s laying aside certain monies for the benefit of the heirs of
John Campbell, rightful Duke of Argyle, who had been forced to leave
Scotland at the time of the religious persecutions. This John Campbell was
the grandfather of James McPheeters and the line was traced at that time
by a family in Bloomington, Indiana claiming direct descent through James'
daughter Martha. This is the only child of James named in the Walker book,
but the statement that she married Samuel Orchard in 1830 was, for me, the
key statement on the whole page of printed matter. This definitely linked
the McPheeters families of southern Indiana to the Virginia Alexander
line, for I already knew of this James whose two daughters, Jane and
Martha, had married two Orchard brothers.
James McPheeters #15 probably
remained in Augusta County until after his father died. His older
brothers, Alexander and John, were thought to have gone to Kentucky
already. James married Polly Crockett in Clark County, Kentucky, in 1802.
He sold his share of the Virginia plantation to his brother Robert on
October 26, 1812, containing 215 acres.
The recent popularizing of
Davy Crockett brought forth the suggestion from several descendants, that
they "thought that Polly was a sister of Davy." This is a good
example of the haze that clouds family tradition and the ease of jumping
at conclusions. In the chapter on "Related Lines", it is shown
that they were cousins. The source of this data also lists the children of
James McPheeters and Polly Crockett and some descendants of their daughter
Martha McPheeters Orchard.
Records in Southern Indiana do
not show when James and Polly may have lived there. A highly complicating
factor in searching Washington County records at Salem, Indiana, was that
James had a nephew there of the same name, only 11 years younger, and his
wife was also named Polly. The only sure date of James McPheeters #15 in
Washington County was 1822 when his daughter Jane married John Orchard.
Finally, a clue to his subsequent whereabouts turned up in an unexpected
A telephone directory search
in St. Louis found several McPheeters among those listed who were able to
help with my work. One of them referred me to Mrs. Webb Pell and Mrs. W.
E. Walker of Cape Girardeau, Missouri. As soon as I saw the name James
Alexander Crockett McPhaeters in the data they sent, I knew that here were
some of the descendents of James #15. They gave me more names and
addresses and soon the line of this family emerged. Paul D. McPheeters of
Peoria referred me to his sister, Mrs. Addie Pool of Fulton County,
Illinois, who had the family Bible of James #15 as well as other records
and old papers. An old letter dated 1844 is copied in full in the chapter
In the Newberry Library,
Chicago, is a little book called "Canton., Pioneers and History"
by Swan, published in 1871. Among those listed as voting to make Canton
(Fulton County, Illinois) a town in 1837 were James, Robert, John and
Alexander McPheeters. The early history of the First Presbyterian Church
in Canton is also mentioned in this little book giving some of the members
in 1830 as James, Mary, Robert, Eliza, Ann, John, Alexander, Elizabeth and
On a visit to Canton I was
privileged to examine the original records of this church. Names of
members, records of baptisms, dates of acquisitions and dismissals were
invaluable. This record should certainly be preserved in a more permanent
form than its present fragile state. In fact, church records from the
early days are full of vital information that should be properly
duplicated and made available for study. They often contain data of
frontier days that cannot be found anywhere else.
From the Canton library and
the cemetery I collected more details. According to the old church
records, James McPheeters #15 and wife Mary (Polly) were dismissed
November 11, 1851, but no destination was named. At any rate, they
probably went to Bloomington, Indiana, for they died there and are buried
in Rose Hill Cemetery, their monuments showing clearly the dates of their
deaths and ages.
You may think that this
account of the eight children of Alexander #2 is being told in a most
un-chronological order, taking the seventh, then the eighth child, and now
skipping back to the sixth. But the logic of such procedure will be
evident. Having just explained about families of McPheeters’ who lived
in Fulton County, Illinois, in the 1830s, it is convenient to deal next
with another child of Alexander #2 who also lived there, namely Rebecca.
Rebecca McPheeters #13 married
Robert C. Culton in Rockbridge County, Virginia, in 1796. When I found the
name of Robert C. Culton and other Cultons in the early history of Fulton
County, Illinois, along with the McPheeters families as related above, it
caught my attention. When I was told by living descendants of both names
still in that locality that they thought they were distant cousins, I was
encouraged in forming a hypothesis about Rebecca.
A favorite device in ancestor
hunting is to work from a hypothesis. If a few facts point to a possible
development, but the proof is lacking, one may plot a likely solution;
then working both known ends of the line toward the middle, he may narrow
down the search and the exact data is more easily found and the puzzle
solved. Such was my method in tracing the line of Rebecca McPheeters
It was significant that Robert
C. Culton,, Mary Ann Culton, John J. Culton and Abigail Culton should be
members of the early Presbyterian Church in Canton, along with the
McPheeters'. In those days family ties were very close; they held families
together in matters of civil and religious affairs. The old church record
covers the trying times when congregations everywhere were divided over
the issue of "old church" and "new church". In this
difference of opinion were listed those in favor of "old church"
as follows; James McPheeters, Mary McPheeters, Robert McPheeters, Eliza
Ann McPheeters, John McPheeters, Alexander McPheeters, Elizabeth
McPheeters, William McPheeters, Robert C. Culton, Mary Ann Culton,
Elizabeth Henderson, John J. Culton, Abigail Culton, Rebecca Henderson,
Archibald Henderson, Joseph M. Kelso, Nancy Kelso. (and four other names)
all recorded by James McPheeters, Clerk of the Session. The conservative
McPheeters’, their families and in-laws held firm and made up almost all
of the "old Church" adherents.
Living in Canton now is Willis
Culton whom I found to be interested and very helpful. To him and his wife
Margaret I owe the rare opportunity of seeing the old church records
already mentioned. They took me to the minister who loaned us the precious
documents overnight and we sat in the Culton living room until a late hour
going over every word and reading aloud some of the quaint minutes of the
Session telling about their concern over those who needed to be
These Illinois Cultons were
traced back into Washington County, Indiana, where three of Rebecca's
children were married in the 1820s. They lived in or near Livonia, the
home of a whole cluster of McPheeters', nephews of Rebecca McPheeters
Culton, and their large families.
In Bourbon County records at
Paris, Kentucky, I found the estate record of Robert C. Culton, husband of
Rebecca. In Court Book E. page 229, under the date of May 1814, is
recorded that Rebecca Culton, widow of Robert Culton, relinquished right
of administrator to Alexander McPheeters, her "children being infants
under age of 21"; security Hugh McPheeters and John C. McPheeters
(two of her nephews who went to Washington County, Indiana). It was a keen
disappointment to find the "infant children" not listed by name.
There was not even the usual court order concerning guardianship of the
minor children whose father had died which would have given that very
desirable information. The estate was appraised in June 1814 by Alexander
McPheeters at $367.97, listed in Will Book E., page 93.
The Cultons appear to have
lived in various places between 1796, the date of their marriage, and
1814, the date of Robert's death. The biography of their son Robert in
"History of Fulton County, Illinois" published in 1879 by
Chapman, says that he was born in Maryville, Tennessee in 1804. Family
records of another son, John J. Culton, state that he was born in
Tennessee in 1806.
After the death of her
husband, Rebecca McPheeters Culton married a Mr. Henderson, according to a
letter from Mrs. Julia Graves in Alaska to whom I am indebted for the very
fine data on John J. Culton #38. Mrs. Graves also wrote that Rebecca was
known to her family in central Illinois as "Grandma Henderson"
and that she lived to a ripe old age. She was the Rebecca Henderson in the
old Canton church records. That name also appears in Court records in
Washington County, Indiana, coupled with her son-in-law Joseph M. Kelso.
No record of her marriage to Mr. Henderson has been found, nor any account
of what became of him.
Proof of the children of
Rebecca McPheeters Culton Henderson has not been found in the usual manner
such as Bible records or county records. I am reasonably certain, however,
that they are listed correctly in the pages of this genealogy. Scraps of
evidence picked up from. various sources amply support this conclusion. By
way of example, Robert C. Culton #31 went into business with his
"brother-in-law Arch Henderson", (husband of Elizabeth Culton");
he also "went into merchandising" with his nephew J. W. Culton"
(son of Alexander M. Culton #25), etc.
The place of death and burial
of Rebecca #13 is still not known. I feel that it could be found
eventually in central Illinois. The date was after 1861 and she must have
been in her 90s.
Other Daughters of Alexander
#2 were Martha, Jane and Ann. Of the first two nothing is known beyond
their being mentioned in their father’s will in 1798. Ann McPheeters
married Samuel Downey in 1794. I did not attempt to follow this Downey
family; no doubt a search of Augusta County records would yield some
information that could be the basis of tracing this family tree.
John McPheeters #9 is buried
at Horner's Chapel in Washington County, Indiana. In 1931 a D.A.R. marker
was placed there indicating that he was a Revolutionary War soldier. The
historian for this occasion was Mrs. John L. Martin who lives on the
original farm of John McPheeters and who has been active in county
historical affairs for many years. She wrote to my father, Thaddeus
McPheeters #726 thinking that he was a descendant of soldier John. While
my father was sure that his great grandfather James was not a son of John
#9, he could not offer proof because his family records did not go back
any farther than James. This incident aroused his interest enough that he
wrote down all that he knew about his ancestry, as well as all that he
could recall of family tradition. Not being in a position to enter the
ancestor search actively, he had to be content with some ineffectual
correspondence and got exactly nowhere. Some years later when I was
looking through my father's personal effects and papers, I became
interested in his notes on family history and decided to see what could be
done about the family tree.
The place to begin in building
a family tree is to gather known facts about the current generations, and
as far back as is known at the time. The first compelling problem for me
was to seek for the father of James #19, my great, great grandfather.
Since it had been suggested that he was a son of John #9, 1 started by
finding all I could about the family of John and especially his son James.
Mrs. John L. Martin was a
great help here. She told me all that she knew about John’s family and
made available to me all the material that she had gathered for the D.A.R.
ceremony, but she knew little of the two eldest sons, Alexander and James.
They had left home before their father had died and James had gone later
to Wisconsin. From the standpoint of dates, my ancestor James could have
been the son of John #9, but he certainly did not go to Wisconsin. So I
searched Washington County records for three full days, The books were
full of McPheeters’ and there were obviously a dozen or more different
men named James McPheeters living in that county between 1820 and 1840!
This was most baffling. It took some months and even years to untangle
this maze and I even have a few left over to this day.
James McPheeters #29., the son
of John #9, married Betsy Royse in Washington County, Indiana in 1829.
Deed records showed that they moved to McDonough County, Illinois, before
1837. At this point in my search, a letter came from Walter F. McPheeters
of Long Beach, California, in which he showed his descent from one James
of Richland County, Wisconsin. A hasty trip to the Wisconsin and Illinois
counties involved indicated that this was the same James, son of John #9.
That fact, along with other data, disposed of any supposition that my
ancestor was that James, at the same time adding James #29 to his proper
place in the family tree.
Alexander McPheeters #26 was
the other son of John #9 whose later whereabouts were not known. It
developed that he died on his farm near Livonia in Washington County where
my folks had also settled. Of course people confused him with the other
families in that area and today some will insist that he was identical
with my great grandfather Dr. Alexander. Two sons of Alexander #26, James
and John, went to Orange County on Lost River. Now the descendants of
"Lost River John" meet every June at Bond’s Chapel near Huron
for a McPheeters Reunion. Through their excellent cooperation I have a
good account of this family. The older generations are recorded in the
Garr Family genealogy kindly loaned to me by Everett and Cora Pruett who
still live in that locality.
But to get back to the
Revolutionary soldier John, the father of James and Alexander that caused
this lengthy digression, John was born in 1758 in Augusta County,
Virginia. His marriage to Margaret Anderson in 1787 is recorded in the
First Marriage Record of Augusta County. Some time later they moved to
Bourbon County, Kentucky, then in 1809 to the territory of Indiana where
he settled on the east fork of Blue River near the present town of
Fredericksburg. In 1813 he built a large frame grist and sawmill, four
stories high which was operated for more than 80 years after his death.
The first school taught in Washington County was in a deserted cabin near
Blue Spring, on John's farm, in 1809. Horner's Chapel where John is buried
stands at one corner of the farm on ground given by Jacob Horner, father
of Elizabeth who married John’s son Robert.
John McPheeters #9 bequeathed
the bulk of his estate including the mill and farm to his son Robert who
also was to inherit items left to John's widow upon her death. He was to
care for his unmarried sister Rebecca and "if at any time she should
go elsewhere, to provide her with horse and saddle". John’s estate
was of considerable extent for those days and Robert, besides being
favored, was named executor. Widow Margaret and some of the children
became very bitter and took the matter to court having him removed as
executor, and when she died some five years later the estate was still in
litigation. This estrangement explains why Margaret is buried at Palmyra
and left only 2 cents to Robert in her will. However, the dispute over his
father’s will was finally settled and Robert came into his inheritance.
Recollections of Robert
McPheeters #32 from a letter of his granddaughter, Mrs. Lela Hainey
Greenslade: "Grandfather was known for miles around as ‘Uncle
Bobbie’. Men would drive their load of corn and wheat to the mill to be
ground and always stayed until it was ready for them, as Uncle Bobbie made
them welcome at his table and the spacious barns had plenty of hay they
could sleep on. No doubt they stayed as long as they could. Grandma made a
barrel of apple butter, a barrel of sauerkraut, maple sugar and syrup, and
sorghum molasses by the barrel, meats of all kinds, milk and butter, all
in great quantities. All the clothing was made at home, linen from flax,
spun, dyed and woven at home. Wool from sheep was spun and woven into
blankets and cloth for all their clothing. Cooking was done mostly by the
fireplace." This description would fit many of the homes of that day
and locality. These hardy pioneer women provided for their families from
the material at hand.
Alexander McPheeters #8 the
first of the eight children of Alexander #2 was the most difficult one to
trace. After the history of his three brothers had been determined and
their descendants charted, there still remained this Alexander about whom
very little information was available. It was known that he was born
before 1761 the date of his grandfather's will. He was probably married
before 1786 because his name was not in the First Marriage Book of Augusta
County which began at that date. It was likely that he had gone to
Kentucky with his brother John before 1798, the date of their father's
will. This was the limit of the data at hand about Alexander #8. So in
this case, as with his sister Rebecca, it was necessary to work back from
the current generations hoping to find the connecting link.
About 1816, four McPheeters
men and their families moved from Kentucky to Washington County, Indiana,
and helped establish the town of Livonia. Alexander #17, James #19 and
John C. #20 with some 60 of their descendants are buried in the cemetery
there, the largest concentration of McPheeters graves known to me. Hugh
#18 is buried at Salem, the county seat. It was known that James and John
C. were brothers, and some said that the other two were also their
brothers. Their birth dates of 1782, 1785, 1788 and 1790 indicated they
were a generation later than John #9 of Washington County, but they were
not his sons. It appeared not only possible but highly likely that they
could be the sons of John's brother Alexander #8. Working from this
hypothesis, I searched records in southern Indiana and the part of
Kentucky from which these four men had come.
Deed-Records are among the
most valuable sources of genealogical data. Besides showing where a person
lived (usually), the deed had to be signed by both man and wife. If they
had removed to a new location, then sold the land, their new county and
state would be named. If the owner had died, the disposal of the land
would be an estate matter and the deed would name all the heirs, their
places of residence and proportionate share of the estate.
The definite proof that linked
the unknown Alexander #8 to the Washington County brothers was contained
in a deed. In 1819, a parcel of land was bought in Orange County, Indiana,
by Alexander McPheeters of Jessamine County, Kentucky. This same land was
sold in 1839 by the heirs of Alexander as recorded in Orange County Deed
Records, book 16, page 31 and is quoted in chapter on
"Documents". Besides naming the four mentioned above, James,
John C., the heirs of Hugh and Alexander #17 who had died, this deed
showed that Alexander #8 had four more children, two sons Robert and
William living in Callaway County, Missouri, and a daughter Margaret in
Woodford County, Kentucky; another daughter had died and her heirs were
listed, living in Woodford County and Callaway County. Estate records in
Jessamine County, Kentucky, confirmed the heirship of this generation in
the family tree, completing the line of descent from the colonial
beginnings to the present.
"The Henderson Chronicles", published in 1915, was loaned to me
by Miss Ema McPheeters of Mexico, Missouri. This little book furnished
most of the data on the descendants of Robert and William McPheeters of
Callaway County, Missouri. Their mother was Florence Henderson, second
wife of Alexander McPheeters #8.
Much of my interest in
beginning and continuing my family research is due to the encouragement of
my mother's brother, Will H. Mitchell of Indianapolis. He had gathered
some old Bible records and given copies to the D.A.R. and among them was
the record from my great grandfather’s Bible. This record was seen by
Mrs. Josephine McKee Green living in Richmond, Virginia, who wrote to Mr.
Mitchell asking if he could help her contact any descendants of that
McPheeters because she hoped to learn more about her ancestor Mary
McPheeters Hutchison. Now this Mary was the daughter of Alexander #8 who
had preceded her father in death, her children being listed on the deed
mentioned above. Mrs. Green was a very ready correspondent and her
long-time interest in her family history made her a valuable source of
detailed and accurate information.
Examination of Jessamine
County records at Nicholasville was not altogether satisfactory. Alexander
#8 bought land there in 1819 on Hickman Creek for $12000. He seems to have
been a man of considerable means, his personal estate having been
appraised at $3763. The appraisal covers two and a half pages in Will Book
F, page 122, dated November 1838 and includes 3 slaves. He was one of the
first elders in the Nicholasville Presbyterian Church organized in 1830.
The old cemetery there has been replaced with buildings so I was unable to
locate his grave from which I had hoped to obtain dates. Bourbon County
records show that he bought land there on Green Creek in 1809 and sold it
in 1817. Perhaps he made a visit to Indiana in 1819 and bought the land
there as an investment. At any rate, I am personally grateful that he left
his name in Orange County records where I could discover it more than a
hundred years later.
"Cousin" is a very
elastic term. To say that the two Scotch-Irish settlers in old Virginia,
William and Alexander McPheeters were "cousins" may have meant
that their fathers were brothers, or the relationship may have been more
remote. Since the traditional origin of the McPheeters name ante-dated
these two men by only a few generations, it would seem that their
relationship was really rather close. Following this line of reasoning, we
might also conclude that today, two centuries later, the various
McPheeters families are all related, more or less remotely, all springing
from the original Peter Hume of Scotland. On this assumption, I have kept
in my records all information I have found about anyone with the name
McPheeters. Most of this material has fitted into one of four lines;
Alexander, William, John Conrad or Andrew. The actual connection between
these lines has not been determined. Since my personal interest lay in the
completion of the Alexander line, I concentrated my efforts there and made
little effort to develop the other three. However, what information has
come my way from correspondence and published records is included in the
last pages of this geneology and should prove of some interest and value.
William McPheeters #Wl was
born in Ireland. He married Rebecca Thompson and seven years later
migrated to Pennsylvania. After several years they moved to Augusta
County, Virginia, where they spent the rest of their days. William and
Rebecca had ten children and were the progenitors of ministers and
educators known throughout the south. The Walker Genealogy already
mentioned devotes considerable space to the history of this family.
William McPheeters #W49, a
grandson of #W1, compiled a register of his family in 1842. This
interesting and lengthy manuscript has been quoted and copied in a number
of books and periodicals and doubtless is familiar to many who read these
lines. It relates the traditional origin of the McPheeters name and tells
about the early generations in this country.
Dr. Samuel B. McPheeters
#W113, a son of William #49, was a controversial figure in the
Presbyterian Church during the Civil War period. The full story of his
case is related in "Memoir of Rev. S. B. McPheeters" by Grasty,
published in 1871. Twenty-nine pages of this book is devoted to the 1842
manuscript of William #49 and makes interesting reading.
Samuel McPheeters #W9 is
barely mentioned in the above manuscript. This is the only one in that
generation that is not dealt with in detail. It simply states that he
"married Margaret Searight and went to Holstein where he died, an
elder in the church; they had 7 children.” A few years ago, Andrew 0.
McPheeters of Fairdealing.. Missouri, and James H. McPheeters of
Inglewood, California, wrote me about a history of their family published
in 1942 "The Scism and Allied Families" by Deloss M. Scism. This
book states that Samuel McPheeters #W9 lived at what became known as
"McPheeters Bend" on the Holston River in Tennessee. Only 3 of
his children are listed in the book, one of them being Samuel Jr. whose
two daughters married Scism men.
Andrew McPheeters #A1 is
designated in my record as head of a separate line. While he was born in
Pennsylvania, his Revolutionary War record shows his first enlistment from
that state and his second from North Carolina. He married first in Georgia
and his children and some grandchildren were born in Georgia and
northeastern Tennessee. He could have been a son of Samuel #W9 in the
William McPheeters line. But this is purely conjecture on my part,
entirely without attempt at proof.
John Conrad McPheeters #Jl is
likewise treated in these pages as a separate line. From scraps of
evidence gathered from records in Woodford County, Kentucky, and Lewis
County. Missouri, we might see the possibility that John Conrad was a son
of William McPheeters #W36. A more thorough search along this direction
might be very rewarding, but in the light of the facts at hand this family
must still stand alone.
Unattached to any of the above
lines is a McPheeters family in Canada. Mrs. John E. McPheeters of Toronto
writes that her husband's grandfather Duncan was born and educated in
Scotland. He taught school in Ontario, had one son and three daughters.
This family is the last one in the pages on Genealogy.
0ther spellings present a
complication. While I suspect a common origin, most of these families
today stoutly maintain that their name has never been spelled any other
way. It is well to note here that my family name is spelled several ways
in the old Virginia records, sometimes using the F instead of Ph., one e
or ea instead of ee.
McPheters families appear in
Maine records. In the 1870 Census of Penobscot County there are 12
families of that name. From the ages given, four men were born around 1800
and the place of birth is given in Maine for every name.
McFeeters families have been
found in several places. William R. McFeeters of Swanton, Vermont, and his
sister Mrs. Ruth Megert of Kezar Falls, Maine, have sent full particulars
about their family. Their grandfather William was born in Ireland in 1808
and came to Vermont with his parents, James and Ann
(McFee) McFeeters in 1827. Part of this family appears in the 1850 Census
of Sheldon, Vermont, spelled McFeters.
A few isolated McFeaters and
otherwise variously spelled names have found their way into my letter
files, most of them claiming a fairly recent migration from Ireland.
Now, my dear readers of Scotch
blood, may I appeal to your natural instincts of thrift and good sense?
I am sure you will agree with me that this book is no place to fill extra
pages with speculations about these
might-be-related-through-differently-spelled names. And though I
would like to be generous with those who have been generous in giving
their information to me, it is hardly practicable to give their genealogical
data here in detail. If any of you is interested in this phase of my
explorations, please feel free to write me. Perhaps you too will be
bitten by this ancestor-hunting bug and decide to trace all these lines
back to Ireland and Scotland and prove eventually that, no matter how we
spell our names, we are all from the original William Mac Peter, the son
of Peter Hume.