His background before arriving in Tennessee is a mystery. He may have been the John Ferguson listed on the 1798 tax list of Montgomery County, Tennessee as a single white poll, but he was not on the 1800 tax list two years later. The birthplaces of his children suggest he was in South Carolina from 1790 through at least 1800 – all his children gave South Carolina as their birth state in 1850 and later censuses.
He was in Robertson County by 1 November 1805 when a “John Ferguson” bought a cow and calf at the estate sale of Henry Sherod.1 Since his son John W. Ferguson was barely 15, this must have been Jonathan Ferguson. As “Jona. Ferguson” he witnessed the will of Nicholas Conrad in 18112 As noted elsewhere, he died sometime in 1814.
We can guess that he was born around 1760 or so. At least one of his children was born about 1790 and his wife’s census records suggest that she was born sometime in the 1760s. Suppose he was a head of household in South Carolina in 1800. He would have a son and one or two daughters all under ten years, and perhaps one or two additional children but likely no slaves. He and his wife would be in the 26-45 category. There are eight persons named John or “J.” Ferguson in the 1800 census of South Carolina, only three of whom come close to that profile:
- J. Ferguson, Colleton County: 10020-10001
- John Ferguson, Lancaster District: 20010-32010
- John Forgason, Abbeville District: 10010-10010
None of the three seem likely to have left South Carolina by 1805 or so.