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Michael Tesh Southern

Raleigh, North Carolina

December 1989
Revised October 1991
Revised September 1993
First Posted on the World Wide Web January 1998

Special thanks to Margaret Killgore Reed of Houston, Texas for her research insights

(Note: Footnotes appear as bold numbers in parentheses and are cited at the end of the narrative. To view a footnote as you read the text, click on the footnote number. Then use your "back" button to return to your place in the text. This might not work with the AOL browser, however!)

The first people named Southern to live in North Carolina were William Southern (ca. 1720-1794), his wife Magdalen Southern (ca. 1735-ca. 1805), and their children. The family migrated from Buckingham County, Virginia, into what is now southeastern Stokes County, North Carolina (at the time part of Surry County) shortly before the beginning of the American Revolution, probably in 1774 or 1775. Today the descendants of this group are scattered widely across North Carolina and the United States.

Map Showing Early Distribution of the Southern Family in the Eastern United States

Background of William Southern

William Southern's origins cannot be known with absolute certainty, but the pattern of available evidence suggests he was born about 1720 in Virginia, and that he was the son of John Southern. Of John Southern nothing is known except that between the late 1740s and the mid-1750s he was living in Albemarle County in central Virginia, in a section of the county that was to become Buckingham County in 1761. The first known document showing John Southern in Albemarle County is a deed dated November 14, 1749, for his purchase of 325 acres from William Webb.(1) Three Albemarle County deeds of gift from John Southern to three sons, all dated January 1, 1755, name William as his eldest son, with James second and Samuel third. (2) Later eighteenth century Virginia and North Carolina documents support a Buckingham County origin for the North Carolina Southerns, and it is probable that the William named in the 1755 Albemarle County deed of gift from John Southern is the William who appeared in North Carolina beginning about 1775.

Other than the information contained in these Albemarle County deeds, nothing certain is known about the family before 1773. Inconclusive evidence suggests that they had lived previously in Middlesex County, Virginia, on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. The 1726 Middlesex County will of John "Southren" names sons William, Edward, and John, and daughter Lettice.(3) The Register of Christ Church, Middlesex County, records some of the births, marriages, and deaths of these Southern family members. The wife of the John Southern who made the 1726 will appears to have been named Catherine. In 1720 a John Southern -- possibly the son named in the will of the older John -- married Margaret Kidd, and their first child William was born in 1722. Later recorded sons of that couple included Joseph, Benjamine, and Samuel. It appears that Joseph may have died as a child, leaving William, Benjamine, and Samuel as the three sons of John and Margaret in order of birth. If Benjamine was James (either with a double given name or known as James for some other reason), or if James was another son whose birth was not recorded, or if the name in the Register was in error, this Middlesex group could match with the John Southern family appearing in Albemarle County in the 1740s. Daughters of John and Margaret (Kidd) Southern were Susanna, Margaret, and Averilla.(4) Link to Southern Families of Christ Church, Middlesex

Other Middlesex County names of the early eighteenth century also appear in later Albemarle/Buckingham records, including Kidd, Saunders, Fearn, and probably others, and the Southerns may have migrated with a few relatives and neighbors from Middlesex into the interior of Virginia during the 1740s. John Southern, whether from Middlesex County or elsewhere, descended from one of several Southerns who immigrated to east Virginia or Maryland from England in the seventeenth century, though the founder of the family in America is not identified. There is no doubt that the name is English.(5)

Albemarle County, Virginia records prior to the formation of Buckingham in 1761 are fragmentary, and virtually all Buckingham County records prior to 1869 were lost in a courthouse fire of that year. However, the Buckingham County tithables lists of 1773 and 1774 survive.(6) Both show William Southern as a head of household, in both years with a Reuben Southern in his household also subject to the tithe. This apparently indicates that Reuben was at least age 16 in 1773.(7) Taking later North Carolina records into consideration, Reuben was probably a son of William born by 1757. Other Southerns appearing in the 1773 tithables list are James and Samuel -- probably William's brothers named in the 1755 deeds. The 1774 list does not include Samuel, but does include a Joseph and two Southerns named James. The relations of the Joseph and second James to William are not known. John Southern appears in neither list, and is presumed dead by 1773.

These brothers or other relatives of William Southern are not researched for this report. A James and a Samuel Southern later appear in the 1790 federal census for Greenville County, South Carolina, together with a Gibson Southern, whose relation to William isn't known but who lived briefly among William's family in North Carolina in the 1780s.(8) Southerns from the Greenville, S.C., area, some of whom now live in North Carolina, could descend from one or more of these three men. The evidence is tentative, but it suggests that William's family maintained contact with relatives from Virginia for a generation as they settled in other parts of the country, and perhaps in some cases joined them in new settlements. It does not appear that any Southerns remained in Buckingham County beyond the eighteenth century.

One other consistent Southern family group of undetermined rerlationship to the Buckingham County Southerns appears across multiple census years. In the last two decades of the 18th century a William Southern appears regularly in the records of Mecklenburg County, in southeastern Virginia on the N.C. line, and tax lists there identify his sons as John, Robert, William Jr., Jesse, and Buckner.(9) Robert eventually settled in northeastern Tennesse in Claiborne County, and William Jr. and Jesse settled across the Virginia line in Lee County, Virginia in the southwestern toe of that state. In the early 19th century Buckner was living in Rockingham County, N.C., not far from the Stokes Southerns. How this family may be related to North Carolina Southerns is not known, but the connection perhaps goes back to Middlesex County. For example, a William born in in Middlesex in 1734 to William and Mary (Saunders) Southern could be William Southern of Mecklenburg County, but such speculations are inconclusive until more is known.

Background of Magdalen Southern

Magdalen Southern's maiden name and parentage are not conclusively known. An affidavit signed by her son Ford in 1839, when he was 74 years old, states that Ford was a cousin to Rachel (Vernon) Ward, wife of John Ward and daughter of Jonathan Vernon and Rebecca Worth.(10) This suggests that Magdalen may have been a Vernon or Worth. The Vernons and Worths were in Pennsylvania earlier in the eighteenth century, and Jonathan Vernon and his family lived for many years in Charlotte County, Virginia, before coming to North Carolina. Jonathan Vernon (ca. 1712-1805) was a witness to William Southern's 1794 will, so it is likely that there was a close relationship between the Southerns and Vernons.(11) But no other evidence supports a blood relationship between the Southerns and the Vernons or Worths, and it is not clear what Ford meant in calling Rachel (Vernon) Ward his "cousin."

A second possibility for Magdalen's origins, based on inconclusive but consistent circumstantial evidence, is that she descended from an anglicized French Huguenot family from the Huguenot settlement called Manakin on the James River in Virginia (Cumberland County). Records of Huguenot births at Manakin include the children of Jaque and Anne Faure born between 1730 and 1749, with Magdalaine Faure born August 20, 1736.(12) Siblings were Marie (1730), Judith (1732), Pierre (1734), Anne (1738), Rachel (1739), Jaque (1743), and Ruth (1745). A 1749 entry is shown for "Boos, son of Jaque Ford."

Records of the Ford family of Buckingham County suggest that by the early 1750s these Faures had anglicized their name to Ford (Jaque Faure became James Ford) and moved upriver with several other Huguenot families into that part of Albemarle County that was to become Buckingham County.(13) Writing in Missouri in 1895, an elderly Walter Ford Maxey described his eighteenth century Ford ancestors who moved from "Monocan Town" on the James River to Buckingham County. He names the children of James Ford and his wife, who was "a Bondurant," as sons Peter, James, and Boaz, and daughters Molla, Judith, Maglin, Rachel, and Anna.(14) The names and relative ages of the children (separated in Maxey's list by sex) correspond to the list of children of Jaque and Anne Faure, assuming that Jaque=James (Jacques translates as Jacob or James), Pierre=Peter, Boos=Boaz (the standard French spelling of Boaz is Booz), and Marie=Mary (nickname Molly, Molla). The Maxey list transposes Rachel and Anne by age and leaves out Ruth altogether. But on balance, it appears that the Maxey list and the King William Parish list could be describing the same family of Faure/Ford.

A 1761 Albemarle County deed of gift from James Ford to Anne Chastain (if indeed Jaque Faure, possibly his daughter Anne, married into another Huguenot family) shows that William Southern owned adjoining property, and thus it is likely that William Southern knew James Ford (Jaque Faure) and his daughter Magdalen (Magdalaine, or "Maglin" in the Maxey letter).(15) In North Carolina two decades later, three of the children of William and Magdalen Southern are named Ford, Judith, and Boaz. Magdalaine and Judith were both common given names among female children at Manakin, and though Judith was also a common English name, Magdalen was not. Boaz was a rare given name then as now. The names Ford, Boaz, and Judith among Southern children with a mother named Magdalen suggest a tie to the Huguenot Faure/Ford group.

Like the Southerns, the Fords are also seen in the limited Buckingham records that survive. The fragmentary 1764 tax list (the list is alphabetized and no surnames appear after the letter G) includes James Ford with two tithables, 700 acres, and a slave named Gilbert. Peter Ford is seen with 405 acres, and James Ford, Jr., without land. This could be Jaque Faure with his two older sons Pierre and Jaque, the later just starting out as a separate tithable at age 21 and landless. Boaz would have been 15 or 16 this year, and perhaps the second tithable in his father's household (James himself is the first tithable) but too young to appear separately. A decade later, the 1773 and 1774 tithables lists show James Ford (levy free, thus probably elderly), James Ford, Jr., and Boaz Ford.(16)

One other item of circumstantial evidence supports a "French connection" for Magdalen Southern. In a 1784 Surry County, N.C. power of attorney recorded ten years later after the formation of Stokes County (1789), Jacob Sallee of Buckingham County, Virginia, authorized "his friend" William Southern to sell a parcel of land on Sallee's behalf.(17) The Salle family was one of the largest Huguenot clans at Manakin, and a Jacob Salle was born there in 1744.(18) The power of attorney was witnessed by a Peter Ford. While this Peter Ford may not have been the brother of Magdalen Ford (other sources suggest her brother Peter was in Kentucky before 1780), another "Pierre Faure" was born at Manakin in 1745 to Pierre and Marie Faure, and was perhaps a cousin or other relation. This second Pierre Faure/Peter Ford may have been the witness to the power of attorney.

There is no doubt that the Southerns had associations with the Buckingham County Huguenot descendants, including the Fords. While it seems possible, if not highly probable, that Magdalen Southern's parents were James Ford (Jaque Faure) and Anne Bondurant, the evidence of Magdalen's parentage remains circumstantial. In the absence of a marriage bond or other conclusive document, her origins cannot be known with absolute certainty. It is unlikely that any such conclusive document survives.

William Southern and Magdalen, whatever her background, probably married in the early to mid-1750s, when William was in his early to mid-30s, and Magdalen (if Magdalaine Faure/Magdalen Ford born 1736) in her late teens to about 20. It is possible that William had a previous wife who was the mother of his older sons, Reuben and possibly William II and Gibson, and that the couple was married after 1760. But there is no evidence to support that speculation other than (1) the two decade separation of births between the oldest and youngest children, which is not unusual for the period, and (2) the names "Reuben" and "Gibson" among the older Southern youths do not seem to have any precedent in either the Southern or Ford clans. But whether William had a previous wife remains an open question.

Life in Virginia and the Move to North Carolina

The gifts of land John Southern made to his sons when the area was still part of Albemarle County, and the presence of William and his brothers in the surviving 1773 and 1774 Buckingham tithables lists, are virtually all that can be known of the family's life in Virginia. Like the majority of their neighbors, they appear to have been yeoman farmers of moderate and independent means who did not own slaves.

The first North Carolina document to show William Southern is the 1775 Surry County tax list.(19) This implies that the Southerns moved from Buckingham between the time the tithables list was taken there in 1774 and the following year when the Surry tax list was taken. No other Surry tax lists survive until 1780, and county records during the early years of the Revolution are sparse. (Link to Southerns in Surry and Stokes County Tax Lists, 1775-1801). William (or the younger William Southern) is identified as a chain bearer in a 1779 land survey by surveyor Charles McAnally along Hewins Creek, where the Southerns themselves settled.(20) After 1780, William appears consistently in tax lists and other records until his death in 1794.

Several other Buckingham names -- including Baker, Webb, Walker, Peters, Hughes, Martin, Duncan, and others -- also start to appear in Surry/Stokes, N.C. records by the mid-1770s, and it appears that there was a general migration from Buckingham to Surry on the eve of the Revolution. Other neighbors and friends to the Southerns in Surry/Stokes included the Vernons from Charlotte County in southside Virginia, and Wards, Zimmermans, Vaughans, Vawters, Hickmans, and others from Culpeper County in northern Virginia.

The reasons for this migration are unclear, but they were probably economic. John Southern's gift of land to William in Albemarle County mentions a "tobacco house" on the property, and the area was part of the Virginia tobacco-growing district during the colonial period. This district extended into the northern piedmont counties of North Carolina, including modern Stokes County. Tobacco was probably an important cash crop for these settlers, though they also grew corn and grains and raised livestock. Tobacco depleted soil rapidly, and the search for new tobacco lands prompted migrations across Virginia and the northern piedmont of North Carolina in the eighteenth century. However, it is not clear why these lands in Surry County had not been claimed previously in earlier waves of settlement into the North Carolina piedmont from Virginia and the mid-Atlantic colonies that began in the 1740s. It is also uncertain why some of the new settlers received state grants for land and others (such as William Southern) did not. These questions require a broader study of land occupancy and ownership patterns of the region during the colonial period.

The Composition of the Southern Family in 1775

When they came to North Carolina in 1774 or 1775, William was in his mid-50s, and Magdalen approaching 40. They were accompanied by, or at least later joined by, as many as eight younger people named Southern. While it would be tempting to say that all were their children, only three are positively documented as children of William and Magdalen. Evidence for the others is circumstantial. These younger Southerns and the nature of the evidence, presented in order of their probable relative ages, are as follows:

Gibson: Gibson Southern (ca. 1753-ca. 1833), lived among the North Carolina Southerns for a few years in the 1780s after the Revolution. He had enlisted in Buckingham County, Virginia, in 1776, and thus does not appear to have been with the others in the 1774-75 move to North Carolina, though it is possible he was with them and returned to Virginia to enlist at the beginning of the war. His relation to William is not at all clear. He may have been a first son, perhaps even by a first wife named Gibson(21), or he may have been a nephew or some other relationship. He appears in the mid-1780s state census as a separate householder, though he lived in North Carolina only four or five years and moved to Greenville County, South Carolina before 1790. His pension records establish his birth at about 1753; a secondary source places his death in 1833, and names Mary Peters as his wife.

Reuben: Reuben Southern (ca. 1757-ca. 1835) appeared in William's household in the 1773 and 1774 Buckingham County, Virginia tithables lists and was almost certainly William's son, born by 1757, though there is no positive documentary evidence of their relationship. He bought and lived on a farm adjacent to William and Magdalen in Surry/Stokes County, where he lived until the end or near the end of his life. His wife or wives have not been identified, though another researcher has suggested his wife was Polly Davis. (This may have been the Polly Southern who along with Reuben was a witness to a 1794 power of attorney between Jacob Sallee and William Southern; see Footnote 16). Known children of Reuben are sons Joshua, Stephen, Daniel, and Reuben Jr., and daughter Anny. Most Southerns now living in North Carolina descend from Reuben and his sons Joshua and Stephen.

William (II): A younger William Southern (1758/59-ca. 1835, called William II for this report) was born in 1758 or 1759 and may have been with the family in 1775 when he was about 16. He enlisted in Surry County in 1780, so he was certainly in North Carolina by the time he was 21. However, it is possible that he was a nephew or other relation to the older William and came to North Carolina with another family of a different name. Other aspects of this William's life suggest differences with the rest of the family. He was the only Southern in North Carolina ever to own a slave, and unlike the others, who could at least write their names, he appears to have been completely illiterate (see discussion on William II below). After the Revolution he bought a farm on Snow Creek to the north of the older William's farm, where he lived until the end of his life in the 1830s.

Boaz: Boaz Southern (born early-mid 1760s, died 1830s?) is first identified as a separate householder in the 1789 Surry County tax list with 100 acres that appear to have been taken out of William's 315 acre farm, which is shown as 215 acres that year. This suggests that Boaz was a young man coming out of William's household, though in 1790 he bought land on nearby Town Fork Creek and lived separately from the other Southerns. He could be interpreted as one of the young men in William's household in the mid-1780s state census. In addition, if Magdalen Southern was indeed born Magdalen Ford, the unusual name Boaz could be seen as given in honor of an uncle, Boaz Ford, of Buckingham County, Virginia. Boaz left North Carolina in 1807 and lived in Kentucky and Tennessee.

Ford: Ford Southern (ca. 1765-ca. 1845) is positively identified as William and Magdalen's son in a 1790 deed of gift of the southern half of William's farm.(22) He sold this land in 1803 but would apparently remain in the area until the end of his life. A few of Ford’s descendants remain in North Carolina.

Judith: Judith Southern (1774-1848) is positively identified as William's daughter in William's 1794 will. She married John Burch in 1802 and in 1819 moved with him to Monroe County, Indiana, where they raised their nine children, all of whom were born in North Carolina before the move.(23)

John: John Southern (ca. 1775-18--) is positively identified as a son of William in William's 1794 will and a deed of gift made at the same time.(24) He inherited his father's property and lived there until 1817 when he sold out and apparently moved to Giles County, Virginia, where he raised a family of fifteen children with his wife Elizabeth Duncan.(25) (Link to The Bible Record of John and Elizabeth Duncan Southern).

Other daughter?: The state census of the mid-1780s and the 1790 federal census appear to show a third female (in addition to Magdalen and Judith) in William's household. This may have been a second daughter who has not been identified, or it may have been some other relative, in-law, or friend.

Location of the Family in Surry/Stokes County

The Southerns settled in what is now southeastern Stokes County, north of present day Pine Hall, along a creek known at the time as Hewins or Hewings Creek. (Link to map of Southern family farms on Hewins Creek). The creek is not generally known by the name Hewins or any other name today, though it is positively identified in land grant plats of the 1770s and early 1780s.(26) William settled on about 315 acres in the fork of the creek on the western half of a 640 acre tract that was granted by the State of North Carolina to Joshua Tillery in 1780.

William Southern's connection to Joshua Tillery is not known. Though Tillery was the recipient of two state land grants, he does not appear ever to have lived in North Carolina, and it is not clear why he received the grants. He was a veteran of the Revolution, which may have had a bearing on the grants, but the grants were entered in 1778 and 1780, well before the end of the war.

Tillery was the son of Henry Tillery and Catherine Proctor of Orange Co., Virginia. He married Susannah Zeigler about 1770 in Culpepper County, Virginia. He eventually setttled in north Georgia in Oglethorpe, Wilkes, and Morgan counties. The Tillery and Southern families may have had a connection through the Zimmerman family, a family of German origins in Culpepper, Virginia. Tillery's mother Catherine Proctor had a Zimmerman association, and in 1794 in Stokes County, Ford Southern, son of William and Magdalen Southern, married Catherine Zimmerman of Culpepper County. Other than that, nothing is known. (27)

It is certain that William occupied the land before he actually purchased the 315 acres from Tillery in 1782 as the deed includes "William Southern's improvements." (28) The purchase price was 150 pounds "current money of the State of Virginia."

Reuben Southern bought 457 acres adjacent and east of his father in 1789, also from Joshua and Susanna Tillery.(29) Reuben's purchase included one-fourth of the 640 acre grant to Tillery (of which William had purchased half in 1782) plus an adjoining 300 acre grant that had been made to Tillery on the north. Again, Reuben had probably farmed the land for some time prior to the purchase. Reuben's oldest son was named Joshua, which might suggest more than just a business relationship to Tillery.

A study of Surry County tax lists (Stokes County after 1789), which survive for the years 1775, 1780, and from 1782 onward, suggest the evolution of land occupation and purchase by William Southern and his sons as they reached manhood. William II acquired land in the 1780s on Snow Creek north of William and Reuben. By 1790 Boaz acquired a small state grant on Town Creek to the southwest. Ford and John received deeds of gift from William out of the original 315 acre tract before William's death in 1794.(30) Later sales and purchases of land by the Southerns became rather complex.

Life in the Late Eighteenth Century

Only broad generalizations can be made about the quality of the family's life in the late eighteenth century or the character of its individual members. Of the few documents that provide descriptive information about the Southerns and their surroundings, most are written in conventional legal language of the period and don't reveal much specific to the family and its circumstances. They were farmers of modest but average wealth that lived within the laws and mores of their community. None held positions of authority, but all participated in community life, bought and sold land and witnessed the deeds of their neighbors' land sales, attended sessions of the county court of pleas and quarter sessions, served on court-appointed road committees, and apparently attended worship services such as they were at the time and place. Most of the family appear to have been literate, or at least could write their names, though illiteracy would be widespread in later generations.

Only one Southern in North Carolina ever owned a slave. William II, a veteran of the Revolution, acquired a young slave under eight years of age by 1783. Most tax lists and censuses thereafter show him with one slave until the end of his life in the mid-1830s. Though William II appears to have married, his census records are inconsistent, and it is unclear whether he had any children to survive to maturity. The 1830 census, his last, shows him as an old man living alone with a female slave age 36-54 and two slave boys 10-23. If the woman was the same slave William II owned in 1783, she would probably be in her early 50s by 1830. William II is generally something of an enigma. While it seems that other family members could at least sign their names, all documents pertaining to this William indicate he was illiterate. He lived apart from the others, though various records show that he and his neighbors interacted with the other Southerns.

The tax lists and occasional other documents show that the Southerns and their neighbors raised a few head of cattle and kept horses or mules. They also raised hogs and grew crops -- probably including a little tobacco and a good deal of corn and grains -- planted and tended fruit trees, and hunted and trapped game.

The deed for William's 1782 purchase of 315 acres from Joshua Tillery, "including the said William Southern's improvements," gives an enticing description of the property "and all the buildings, gardens, orchards, lands, meadows, commons, pastures, trees, woods, underwoods, ways, paths, waters, water courses, profits, advantages, ... to the above mentioned and described premises.." The description is more of an idealized convention common to early deeds than a depiction of what the farm was actually like, but the document does reflect the importance of land and land ownership to eighteenth century agricultural people.

Two documents place the family group on a specific day -- December 21, 1779 -- at specific places -- the neighboring houses of William Hill and Jonathan Vernon -- in attendance at a wedding and dinner near Christmas. Affidavits signed in 1839 by Ford Southern and John Terry describe the marriage of Rachel Vernon and John Ward (the affidavits were made on behalf of the widow Rachel Ward's petition for a survivor's pension following the death of John, a veteran of the Revolution .(31) Ford, who was about 14 in 1779, states that he "accompanied John Ward and his cousin Rachel Varnon from his uncle John Varnons ... to the Rev'd Wm. Hill in said County and the said Minister Hill [did] marry the said John Ward & Rachel together as man & wife a few days before Christmas in the year Seventeen hundred and Seventy nine & that he heard the said minister publish the Bans of marriage Several times previous to the Marriage, and that said Wm Hill was a Minister of the Babtist Church ..."

John Terry's affidavit is more descriptive of the gathering: "... [John Terry] was present at his Grandfather Varnons on the day that the said John Ward and his Aunt Rachel aforesaid started to the Reverend William Hills to get married with a company of their neighbors & he was present at his Grandfathers when they returned & partook of a wedding dinner which happened on of Decem. 1779 as appears on the family records."

While the statements have a strictly legal purpose, they conjure up an image of family and friends at a private moment of celebration, gathered at a festive time during the American Revolution, shortly before Cornwallis brought the war to North Carolina. John Ward and the younger William Southern would be leaving soon thereafter to serve in the war.

Religious Practices

The affidavits also show that to at least some degree, organized religion was part of the lives of the Southerns and their neighbors, and may in fact have contributed to their move to North Carolina from Virginia. In Virginia the Southerns appear on the Buckingham County "tithables" lists of 1773 and 1774, showing that at least nominally they were members of, or forced to be members of, the Anglican church while in Virginia. Ford's reference to the services of the Reverend William Hill, a minister of the "Babtist" church, in Surry (later Stokes) County in 1779 places the Southerns and their neighbors within the context of religious developments in the Carolina backcountry.

The Baptist denomination, which had its origins in England as a dissenting voice against the Anglican Church, made great headway in North Carolina as elsewhere in the second half of the 18th century, filling the vacuum among isolated settlers of English origin that the established Church of England was unable or unwilling to fill. Other ethnic groups had come to the state with their own traditional religious practices. The Germans were largely either Lutheran, German Reformed, or Moravian; the Scotch Irish and Highland Scots were Presbyterian, and some of the earliest English settlers in the Albemarle region and the central piedmont were Quakers, another dissenting sect born in England. The democratic and evangelical appeal of the Baptist faith found deep soil among abandoned or disaffected English settlers. In time Baptist ministers would would draw new adherents from other ethnic groups as well, especially during the religious fervor of the Great Revival of the early 19th century, as did preachers of Methodism, another English-born reform movement with origins in the Anglican church that also became firmly rooted in the state during the late 18th and early 19th century.

William Hill was a well known figure in the region in the late 18th century, and was a patriot and well as a religious leader. The Moravian Records make several references to him. He attended the Provincial Congress in Hillsborough in 1775, and served as a chaplain among the American forces at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in 1781.(32) A Baptist congregation was established by the late 18th century at Belews Creek in Stokes County, near the Southern farms. Whether the Southerns and their neighbors were members of that congregation is not known. In the early nineteenth century, Reuben Southern appears to have had a "meeting house" erected on his property reserved for "the intire use of preaching.(33) This was probably a Baptist meeting house. It's exact location has not been determined, but it was to the east of his original purchase of property from Joshua Tillery.

The Revolutionary War Service of William II and Gibson

Two of the younger Southern men served in the Revolution -- the younger William (William II) and Gibson. Their veteran's pension applications of the 1830s provide detailed accounts of their service (Link to Revolutionary War Service of William Southern II). William II served as a private for three months in 1780 during Horatio Gates' South Carolina campaign ending with defeat at Camden. He served again in March 1781 under General Greene at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, only 20 miles from the Hewins Creek farms (William was a guard of the "Baggage & Military stores"). He was again serving in southeastern North Carolina when the war ended the following autumn. Gibson first enlisted in Buckingham County, Virginia, in November 1776. He was taken prisoner at Ft. Morris during the fall of Savannah in 1778, then escaped. He was at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse as a substitute.(34)

The Deaths of William and Magdalen Southern; Subsequent Family Expansion and Relocations

The elder William Southern died in the spring of 1794, when he was probably in his early 70s. William Southern's will, dated May 13, 1794, is the only will in the public record of any Southern until after the Civil War. The will names his daughter Judith and son John, though the chief beneficiary was his widow Magdalen. Ford witnessed the will.

John and Judith remained for several years on the homeplace with their mother. Ford lived adjacent to them on the southern half of the original homeplace, and Reuben remained a neighbor on the east. It is uncertain when Magdalen died. The 1800 census suggests that she was still living then with John and Judith, both still unmarried that year, in what by then was considered John's household.

Judith married John Burch in 1802, and John married Elizabeth Duncan about 1804. Ford sold his share of the homeplace to Joseph Burch in 1803. While Magdalen may have lived on in the household of any of her children for several more years, the flurry of marriages and land sales from 1802 to 1804 suggests she may have died about that time. Whatever, there is no further record of her and she probably died sometime in the first decade of the nineteenth century. William and Magdalen are probably buried together somewhere on Hewins Creek in now unmarked and long forgotten graves.

After selling his portion of the homeplace in 1803, Ford was involved in several land purchases and sales, but ended up on a 200 acre farm on Blackies Branch, a few miles to the north, which he in turn sold in 1823. He was still living in 1839, but it isn't clear where. He may have been in the household of an unidentified son-in-law elsewhere in the area, or possibly even Virginia. His son William, who married Fanny (Frances) Banks in 1815, remained on Blackies Branch on the 25 acres Ford had given him in 1820 until his death in 1846.

John remained on his share of the homeplace until 1817, when he sold out to John Terry and moved to Giles County, Virginia. John's deed to Terry states that the property was "part of the said John Southerns fathers land whereon ... the said William Southern ... lived and died."(35) (Link to The Bible Record of John and Elizabeth Duncan Southern). Judith moved with the Burch family to Indiana about the same time.

Reuben apparently remained on part of his original farm until near the end of his life in the 1830s, though he sold off sections of his property to each of his four sons, and over the years they in turn sold out and moved elsewhere. By the 1830s most of the original Southern lands were absorbed into the vast 19,000 acre Sauratown plantation of Peter Hairston, one of the richest men in North Carolina.

Boaz sold his place on Town Fork Creek in 1807 and appears to have moved first to Kentucky, then to Tennessee. William II lived at his place on Snow Creek until his death in the 1830s.

Since Boaz, John, and Gibson all moved out of North Carolina, and William II appears to have had no sons to survive, most Southerns living in North Carolina today descend from either Reuben and his four sons or Ford and his two or more sons, not all of whom have been identified. The various branches of the family moved into several North Carolina counties, and their fortunes varied widely through the nineteenth century. Some enjoyed modest prosperity and became relatively well educated; others ended up as landless and illiterate laborers. Within a few generations, families sharing the same name no longer remembered how they might be related.

Nineteenth century records are in many ways less complete than those of the late eighteenth century reviewed here, and it is difficult to reconstruct the complexities of the family structure after the 1820s. At any rate, that remains for another time and another author.


1. Albemarle County, Virginia, Deed Book 1, page 128, dated November 14, 1749. Abstracted in Bailey Fulton Davis, Compiler, Albemarle County, Virginia Deed Books 1-3.
2. Albemarle County, Virginia Deed Book 2, pp. 59-60, dated January 1, 1755, contains three successive deeds of gift from John Southern to sons James ("second son"), Samuel ("third son"), and William ("eldest son"). Abstracted in Bailey Fulton Davis, Compiler, Albemarle County, Virginia Deed Books 1-3. Verification with photocopies from microfilm provided to this author by Margaret Killgore Reed of Houston, Texas.
3. Abstracted in The Virginia Genealogist, Volume 6, Number 1, January-March 1962, p. 9 and p. 13.
4. Southern family marriages, births, and deaths are recorded in The Parish Register of Christ Church, Middlesex County, Virginia, From 1653 to 1812. Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., Baltimore, 1975 (Reprint of DAR 1897 publication). Link to Southern Families of Christ Church, Middlesex
5. Various published immigration lists (not properly cited here) show a number of Southerns in Virginia and Maryland in the 17th century. The earliest appear to have been Thomas Southern, who sailed on the George to "James Cittie" in 1620, and John Southern, who came about the same time. Apparently the same "John Southerne, Gent." was granted 24 acres on the "Island of James City" in 1627, in partial payment of the 50 acres due him for having transported William Soane over on the "Georg" in 1621. At least thirteen other Southern men and six Southern women came to Virginia and Maryland before 1680. Most, but apparently not all, were transported to Virginia from England by another party, perhaps indicating they were obligated to work for a period as indentured servants.
6. The lists are published in Edythe Rucker Whitley, editor, Genealogical Records of Buckingham County, Virginia. Genealogical Publishing Co. Inc., Baltimore, 1984.
7. Margaret Reed letter to Michael T. Southern, February 14, 1982. Mrs. Reed cites "Act of Oct 1748 VA" which decreed that "All males 16 and upwards" were subject to the tax.
8. First United States Census, 1790, Greenville County, South Carolina.
9. Jack Barron e-mail message to Michael T. Southern February 4, 2002, describing the information in Mecklenburg County VA tax lists.
10. Ford Southern's sworn and signed affidavit, dated 16 January 1839, is included in the Revolutionary War pension papers of John Ward and Rachel Ward (#W9872), National Archives Trust Fund, Washington, D.C. Photocopies from microfilm in possession of author. The affidavit states that Rachel Ward is indeed the widow of veteran John Ward and that she has not remarried since John Ward's death on 15 September 1838, thus retaining eligibility for a survivor's pension. A similar statement on Rachel Ward's behalf made by John Terry on the same day is quite explicit about Terry's relationship to Rachel Ward: Rachel was "this deposants own Aunt being his Mothers Sister whose maiden name was Varnon;..." Ford's statement says only that Rachel Ward was "his cousin" and does not elaborate on the exact nature of the relationship.
11. Will of William Southern, Stokes County, N.C., May 13, 1794. N.C. State Archives CR 090.801.S. For Vernon family history, see article on Jonathan Vernon, Sr. by Alfred Tuttle (#992) in Stokes County Heritage. Also Vernon Vignettes (Quarterly Newsletter of the Vernon Family Association) for September and December 1973.
12. W. Mac. Jones, transcriber and editor, The Douglas Register. Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., Baltimore, 1977 (reprint). Pages 380-385 contain birth records from about 1720 to 1750 of the French Huguenots of Manakin Town, King William Parish.
13. The more numerous Huguenot family names at Manakin included Amonet, Benin, Bilbo, Bernard, Bondurant, Chastain, David, Dupuy, Faure, Farsi, Guerrant, Lesueur, Martain, Malet, Salle, Sassain, Soblet, and Trabue, and there are several other French and non-French names. Most of these names, and other possible French names such as Maxey and Agee, also appear in later Buckingham County lists of tithables, indicating a general migration upriver.
14. Letter dated July 25, 1895, from W.F. Maxey (Walter Ford Maxey) of Paris, Monroe County, Missouri, to his niece, Mrs. Lucy B. Aldrich of Cascade Rock, Oregon. Transcribed and printed in Nellie F. Ayers, Ayers Kin and Kin to Kin, Memphis, TN, 1961. Published previously in The Huguenot, the Journal of the Huguenot Society of the Founders of Manakin in the Colony of Virginia. In the letter, Mr. Maxey (born 1819) responds to an inquiry from his niece to describe what he knows of his Maxey and Ford ancestors. He names his source for the Ford family list as Jacob Ford, "who died in this county [Monroe Co., Mo.] many years ago." The letter indicates Jacob was a grandson of James Ford through James' son Peter, and was Maxey's great uncle on his mother's side of the family. "Maglin" would have been Jacob Ford's aunt. It should be noted here that some contributors to The Huguenot have objected to the notion that "Faure" became "Ford," though without any particular evidence to the contrary.
15. Albemarle County, VA Deed Book ___, page ___. 28 February 1761. James Ford to Anne Chastain.
16. Edythe Rucker Whitley, Buckingham County, pp. 6, 15.
17. Stokes County Deed Book 2, Page 144. The power of attorney was dated August 11, 1784, but not recorded until a decade later. It was witnessed by Reuben Southern, Peter Ford, and a mysterious Polly Southern, whose name appears in no other record. (Another researcher suggests this Polly may have been Reuben's wife, and that her maiden name was Polly Davis). Sallee had acquired the 133 acre tract through a state land grant in 1783, but there is no evidence he lived very long, if at all, in North Carolina. The William Southern named in the power might actually refer to William Southern II.
18. The Douglas Register, p. 384.
19. Transcription of the 1775 Surry County, N.C. Tax List by the late William Perry Johnson. This author has examined the original list in the State Archives and finds it so faded as to be illegible. Johnson was a widely respected professional genealogist, and may have used some technical aids to decode the document. For now there is no reason to doubt the accuracy of his transcription. Link to Southerns in Surry and Stokes County Tax Lists, 1775-1801
20. N.C. State Land Grant, Surry County # 196, to Joshua Tillery, 630 acres. Entered 5 Oct. 1778; issued 3 Apr. 1780. Charles McAnally conducted the survey in 1779, with Southern and Mark Hardin identified as chain bearers. The elder William Southern later purchased the western half of this tract from Tillery in 1782, after he had already been living on the property for some time.
21. In the early twentieth century Annie Southerne Tardy of Birmingham, Alabama, Gibson's great-granddaughter, was admitted into the National Society of Daughters of Founders on the claim she descended from John Southerne (an early settler in Jamestown, Virginia, and member of the Virginia House of Burgesses) through Gibson and his wife Mary Peters. Tardy's lineage chart names William (b. 1722) and Mary Gibson (b. 1732) as Gibson's parents. This is an interesting claim, because it could be the William discussed here with a first wife. Her source for her claims beyond Gibson seems to be the Parish Register of Christ Church, Middlesex (see footnote 4). This researcher has examined the register and other records of early Virginia marriages and has been unable to find any reference to a marriage between a William Southern and Mary Gibson, so the source for the claim of Gibson's parentage is a mystery. Tardy's relation to Gibson is not disputed, but her claims of Gibson's parentage and his earlier line are open to question without further evidence. Photocopies of Annie Southerne Tardy's entry in the lineage book of the National Society of the Daughters of Founders (Vol. 10) provided to this author by Margaret Killgore Reed, July 8, 1982.
22. Stokes County Deeds, Book 1, page 53.
23. Judith's gravestone in Monroe County, Indiana, gives her dates as August 1774-December 1848. In the 1880 census three of Judith's children gave their mother's birthplace as North Carolina, suggesting that August, 1774 was the latest possible date for the family's move from Buckingham County, Virginia, to North Carolina. It is possible that Judith was born in Virginia and that her children, knowing their mother was raised in North Carolina, were not aware she was brought to North Carolina as an infant. But for the time being their is no reason to doubt either Judith's gravestone or the testimony of her children. Information on Judith (Southern) Burch provided to the author by Margaret Killgore Reed of Houston, Texas, February 24, 1982.
24. Stokes County Deeds, Book 2, page 112.
25. Information on John Southern and his family provided to the author by Margaret Killgore Reed of Houston, Texas, February 24, 1982. Mrs. Reed was provided a transcription of a family Bible record written by a son of John Southern by Verda (Southern) Cornutt, which had been copied by Mrs. Cornutt's cousin. The record gives the birth date of John Southern as "August 25, 1774 (or 1776)." The August 1774 date matches the birthdate on the gravestone of Judith (Southern) Burch and suggests John and Judith were twins. It isn't clear if the "or 1776" note was in the original record or if the transcriber was unable to decipher the original document confidently and provided two dates.
26. North Carolina State Land Grants Records. Several surveys made by surveyor Charles McAnally between 1778 and 1780 along Hewins Creek include plat drawings that show the flow of the creek through each parcel. Drawn to USGS map scale and superimposed on the Belews Lake, N.C., USGS Quadrangle Map (1971), there is no doubt that Hewins is the creek north of Pine Hall identified on that map as "Eurins Creek," which appears to be an unfortunate corruption of the earlier name. Modern tax maps in the Stokes County Tax Office identify the creek both as Hewings and Eurins. Several variant spellings are seen in early deeds, including "Uins," which appears to be a phonetic transition between the original "Hewins" and modern "Eurins."
27. Information no Joshua Tillery provided to the author in email message dated October 23, 2003 from John Davis of Herndon, Virginia.
28. Surry County, N.C. Deed Book B, page 181, 13 July 1782.
29. Stokes County Deed Book 1, Page 14. March 8, 1789.
30. Stokes County Deeds, Book 1, Page 53, and Book 2, Page 112. Ford's deed dated 8/16/1790 for 155 acres, which was the southern half of William's tract, reads that "... the said William Southern and Magdalin his Wife, for and in consideration of the love and good will which they do bear to their son, Ford Southern, Doth hereby Give, Grant, and Confirm..." John's deed is dated the same day as William's will (5/13/1794). It does not mention Magdalen, but states that John is "son of sd. William Southern" and that the gift is made "for and in consideration of the natural love and affection which he ... beareth to the said John Southern." Magdalen inherited the remainder of the tract, which was also to go to John after her death. but tax lists from 1795 show John with both his and his mother's shares.
31. See footnote 9 concerning these affidavits.
32. William S. Powell, Editor, Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, Volume 3 (H-K), UNC Press, 1988. Article on William Hill II by Maury York.
33. Stokes County Deed Book 5, page 462, 8 Sept. 1812. Reuben Southern Sr. to Reuben Southern Jr. "Containing by survey 50 acres of land including a meeting house on said [land] Which said meeting house with two acres of land around said meeting house, and so as to include the spring belonging to the said meeting house is hereby exempted out of the said 50 acres of land for the intire use of preaching." The parcel in question was not part of Reuben's original purchase from Joshua Tillery, but part of a purchase from John Bostick in 1808 of neighboring land (Book 5, Page 211). That purchase does not mention a meeting house on the parcel, suggesting that Reuben had it built between 1808 and 1812. The exact location of the meeting house has not been determined.
34. Margaret Killgore Reed, letter to Michael Southern 7/8/1982. Mrs. Reed cites pension S39084 for Gibson.
35. Stokes County Deed Book 6, Page 27, 4 January 1817. Terry sold the same lands the same year (for the same amount -- $333 1/3) to Peter Hairston, the richest landowner in the area.