Solomon Murphree (c1757-1854)


This file is broken into two parts.  This page covers Solomon Murphree himself and a separate page covers his children.

Early Life

Solomon Murphree’s age in the 1850 census was 92, indicating a birth date about 1757 — which would place his birthplace in Bertie County.   Whether that was strictly accurate or not is unknown, but it appears to be consistent with other records.  He does not appear on the September 1772 militia lists of Chatham County, meaning that he was not yet 16 and thus born after mid-1756.  His enlistment in the 5th Regiment in early August 1779 suggests he was at least 18 by that date and thus born before August 1761.   If the 1850 census age is accurate, not a sure thing by any means, he was born after 1 June 1757.    That fits with census records that show that he under 45 in 1800 but over 45 by 1810.  The 1830 and 1840 censuses also record an age consistent with a birth year in the 1750s.

Although we know a great deal about Solomon Murphree’s later life, there are few records of his youth.   Solomon does not appear in any records of Orange or Chatham County, North Carolina other than in his father’s will, written when Solomon was about 12 years old.   His father’s will of 1769 leaves “to my well beloved son Solomon Murphree a plantation that I made on the Earl Granvils (sic) land with half the land that shall be saved when the office is open…” and the other half of that land to his brother Moses Murphree.

His father had apparently claimed the land before Granville died and his land office closed in 1763, and was obviously expecting that the grant would be issued whenever Granville’s heirs reopened the office.  Unfortunately, the land office never reopened and for fifteen years there was no means of obtaining title to un-granted land within the Granville District.  When North Carolina passed its Confiscation Act in 1777, permitting grants of Granville’s land by the state, no prior right preference was given to those who had not actually lived on their claims.  This effectively eliminated any claim Solomon might have had as heir to his father.  Neither Solomon nor his brother Moses ever pursued the matter, and neither ever entered any claim to the land.

Since Solomon was only about 14 when his father died, it seems likely that he and his younger brothers Moses and David continued to live with their mother, initially on their father’s plantation which had been inherited by his older brother William.  There is no record of his owning land in Chatham County.

Revolutionary Service

A North Carolina Revolutionary record shows that both “Solomon Murphy” and “Moses Murphy” enlisted on 5 August 1779 in the 10th Regiment, Blount’s Company, Continental line, commanded by Colonel Abraham Shepherd, and barely three months later were listed as deserted in October 1779.1  State records list 15 men, including the Murphys, who enlisted on 5 August 1779 for the duration of the war and another 9 men who enlisted on 5 August for a period of nine months.  Of the total of 24 men, three died in August or September and all the others are listed as deserters in September or October.

The regiment was actually the 5th, not the10th which had been disbanded more than a year earlier.  The error was perpetuated by the published North Carolina State Records2  Col. Sheppard commanded the 5th Regiment in 1779 and Major Reading Blount was one of his company commanders.  Though DAR applications and family genealogies have long claimed this record as the basis for Solomon Murphree’s Revolutionary service, proof that these men were the same persons as the sons of Daniel Murphree has never been offered.

The proof that this was our Solomon lies in the further records of Blount’s company.  The same enlistment record shows that an officer, a sergeant, and at least 24 men joined Reading Blount’s company at the same time.  The 24 men all joined Blount’s company on 5 August, and all  were listed as deserted in October 1779 except for three who had died.    The preceding day, on 4 August, Ensign John Hill and Sergeant Daniel McBane, both of whom were from Chatham County, joined Blount’s company.3   At least half of the 24 men can also be identified as being from Chatham County.4  Both Hill and McBane remained on the rolls well past October, suggesting that the wholesale “desertion” of the privates was perhaps actually a discharge.   A Chatham County history mentions that on 30 July 1779 the county informed the Governor that 47 troops had been raised in Chatham County in response to a draft request.5    Thus it appears that Ensign Hill and Sergeant McBane and 24 men of Chatham County enrolled as a unit in Reading Blount’s company.   Neither Solomon nor Moses received land warrants for their service, as North Carolina required a minimum of two year’s service for bounty warrants.  The modern DAR Revolutionary marker on Solomon Murphree’s grave, as well as other references to his service, are all based on the above record, which we can now conclude does indeed apply to “our” Solomon Murphree.

Solomon Murphree’s First Wife

According to his son Daniel’s family Bible, Solomon’s first child was born in December 1779, meaning that he was married at the time he enlisted.6  The “Whitley Manuscript”, written about 1900 by Sallie Whitley, claims that Solomon’s first wife was Sarah Ward, though no evidence or explanation was offered.7   Presumably, Mrs. Whitley was informed by older members of the family, so it might be true.  I’d note that there were several Wards in the neighborhood of Daniel Murphree Sr. in Chatham County.  In fact, Thomas Ward, a neighbor on New Hope Creek, witnessed Daniel Murphree’s will.  Unfortunately, Ward’s own 1792 will mentions no daughter married to a Murphree.  Other Wards, perhaps his brothers, also lived nearby.

A different Solomon Murphy married Betsy Guion

There is a marriage bond in adjoining Orange County for the marriage of a Solomon Murphy and Betsy Guion [Gunn?] dated 29 October 1781, with John Lynch as surety.  This has confused many Murphree researchers, for it appears to have been a different Solomon Murphy.   The family Bible of Solomon Murphree’s son Daniel Murphree refers to Solomon’s first nine children as “the children of my parents”, suggesting that all had the same mother – the first two of whom were born prior to the date of this marriage bond.

The 1780 and 1781 tax lists of Orange County show a Solomon Murphey in the Orange District, located in the northern part of what is now Alamance and Orange County, bordering Caswell County to the north.   And in March 1781, a Solomon Murphy of Orange County was among the militiamen captured at the battle of Guilford Courthouse who were furloughed by Cornwallis.

It was surely this second Solomon Murphy, located perhaps 40 or more miles northwest of the Murphrees in Chatham County, who married Betsy Guion.   Both John Lynch, the bondsman, and the only Gunn/Gwin families in the area were located near the border of Orange and Caswell counties, the same location as the 1781 tax list entry for Solomon Murphy.  (In the 1790 census,  one “Gwin” was in northern Orange and five Gwin/Gunn families were in Caswell.)  John Lynch appears to have lived on Lynches Creek, which crosses the Orange-Caswell border.  Other Murphy families lived in the same area, and it seems most likely that Betsy Guion’s husband belonged to one of those Murphy clans rather than the Murphrees of Chatham County.  Alexander Murphy, for instance, had lived in Orange County until 1777, when his land fell onto the border of Orange and Caswell, and his own son married in Orange County.  Further, there are two other Murphy marriage bonds in Orange County in 1783 and 1789 for Murphys from Caswell County.

A brief move to Tennessee

Having failed to gain title to his inherited land in Chatham County, Solomon Murphree acquired land in the part of North Carolina that would later become Tennessee.  Solomon “Murphy” was granted 150 acres on Sinking Creek of the Holston River in Washington County in 1784, the claim having being assigned to him by George Vincent.8   Sinking Creek spans the present-day border between Washington and Sullivan counties, Tennessee.  In 1784, all of Sinking Creek was within Washington County, but a border realignment in 1787 placed much of it within Sullivan County.   Solomon’s grant evidently was affected, and fell on the Sullivan County side after the border realignment.  The land description refers to a corner of John Murphrey, evidently his brother.  Solomon either abandoned his grant or transferred it to his brother, though there is no record of a sale.  On 9 August 1797, John Murphree received a grant for 100 acres in Sullivan County described as “including the place where Solomon Murphrey formerly lived”.9  While the precise location of this grant to John Murphree was not determined, it seems likely to have been in the Sinking Creek area, including the 1784 grant to Solomon Murphree, which was by then part of Sullivan County.

The Move to South Carolina

Solomon abandoned Tennessee before it achieved statehood and moved with most of his siblings into western South Carolina.  In 1787, the western tip of South Carolina was opened to settlement, and Solomon and most of his siblings immediately moved there.  Although settlement had begun earlier, the westernmost part of the area was Cherokee land until 1787, after which it was part of what was briefly known as Pendleton County.  It became part of Washington District in 1795, then became Pendleton District in 1798 when the Washington District was abolished.10   Solomon Murphree was granted 115 acres there on the Saluda River on 1 October 1787, the same day as his brother Levi Murphree’s grant.11  Solomon was apparently living on this land when he was enumerated in the 1790 census of Pendleton (which was actually taken in early 1791).  The household consisted of Solomon, his wife, five other females, and one male under 16 – precisely the composition suggested by the Bible of his son Daniel.   Solomon’s brothers Levi, Moses, William, David, and James Murphree were also enumerated in the same district.

He bought another 374 acres from Joseph Duncan in 1797, with the deed witnessed by his brothers David Murphree and William Murphree.12  Solomon Murphree thereafter appears buying or selling land in Pendleton on at least nine occasions.  He made deeds in Pendleton on 29 October 1814 to William and James Hunter, and on 30 October 1814 to Nathan Shotwell.13

While in Pendleton, Solomon belonged to the Secona Baptist Church, which claims to have been organized as early as 1786 in what is now the town of Pickens.  (Some Baptist historians believe 1790 is a more likely organization date.)   Solomon’s brother William Murphree was a delegate from the church in 1790 and served as its pastor from 1791 through 1807.14   The church minutes starting in 1795 are preserved, and show that Solomon Murphree joined the church by letter on 5 January 1799, and, with his brother William, was appointed a delegate to the Baptist Association conference the same day.15)  His brother James Murphree is also mentioned in the church minutes.

Solomon Murphree marries a second time

Mrs. Whitley’s manuscript claims that Solomon’s second wife was also named Sarah.  He was apparently married to her by 1799, for the 1800 census appears to include Solomon’s tenth child born prior to 4 August 1800.  As mentioned above, Daniel Murphy’s Bible lists only the first nine children as “the children of my parents”.   Solomon is in the 1800 census of Pendleton with a household which precisely matches the first nine children as given in his son Daniel’s Bible, plus an apparent tenth young daughter.16   In 1810 he was missing from the Pendleton census but was probably the person enumerated as Solomon Murphy in adjoining Greenville District.17   These censuses suggest that the second wife was in her mid or late 30s when married, for she was under 45 in 1800 but over 45 by 1810.

He sold land in two transactions in 1810.18   He seems to have sold his remaining land in Pendleton beginning in 1814 with sales to James Bynum19, William and James Hunter20, Elizabeth Morgan21, and Jacob Light Jr.22  His wife Sarah released dower in one of these sales, confirming Mrs. Whitley’s name for the second wife.

He moves again to Tennessee

Solomon was still in Pendleton as late as 1814, but at least three of his sons-in-law had moved to Tennessee in time to appear on the 1812 tax list of Franklin County along with several other former Pendleton residents.   Solomon soon joined them.  The records of the Secona Baptist Church contain a letter of dismissal to Solomon when he left for Tennessee, and there is a record of his sale of 50 acres in Franklin County excluding the “school and Baptist meeting house” in 1819.23

The final move to Alabama

He moved across the border into Blount County, Alabama nearly as soon as the area opened for settlement and about the same time as his brother David and the family of his brother Daniel arrived in the area.  While the date cannot be determined precisely, it is traditionally cited as 1818, the same year the county was formed.  Murphree’s Valley, in the central part of Blount County, is said to have been named for Solomon, although one source attributes the name to Daniel Murphree, “father of Solomon L. Murphree” (sic) claiming he arrived in 1817.24   (Since Solomon was the father of Solomon L. Murphree, it isn’t clear whether the author meant Solomon or his brother Daniel, but Daniel was presumably long dead by 1817.)  A descendant, writing a hundred years later, claimed that Murphree’s Valley was named after Solomon Murphree.25   Since Solomon Murphree is not in the 1820 census of Tennessee and the 1820 census for most of Alabama is lost, it does seem he was in Blount County by 1820.  In fact, the minutes of Mt. Moriah Baptist Church show that he organized that church on 18 March 1820.26   The seven charter members were Solomon Murphree, Asa and Rebecca (Murphree) Bynum, Daniel Murphree, Mary Marchbanks, Nancy Murphree, and a black sister named Rachel.  I note that his second wife Sarah Murphree was not among the members, perhaps having died before 1820.  (It’s worth mentioning that a Mt. Moriah Baptist Church operated in Chatham County, North Carolina at the time Solomon lived there, and quite close to his father’s lands.  One wonders if he had been a member.)

Jasper Bynum, a great-grandson, wrote in 1916 that “My great-grandfather, Solomon Murphree, and my grandfather, John Bynum, and his family came by Tennessee.  My great-grandfather Solomon Murphree and my grandmother [Rhoda Murphree Bynum] and her children stopped in Tennessee while my grandfather and a negro man named Dick, who belonged to Murphree, came to Alabama and stopped six miles northeast of Oneonta.  They cleared a field and made a crop….  When the crop was finished grandfather went back to Tennessee after his wife and children and left Dick and the dog to take care of the home.  He came back to Murphree’s Valley in 1818...”27  Jasper E. Bynum knew his grandfather personally and was presumably relating this story as told by John Bynum.  Elsewhere he relates that John Bynum’s brother Asa Bynum, who was married to Rebecca Murphree, came to Alabama in 1819.28

Both Solomon and at least four of his sons-in-law were preachers.  Solomon himself was licensed to preach in April 1823, presumably at the Mt. Moriah Baptist church he had founded in 1820.  So was his son-in-law Asa Bynum.  His nephew Aaron Murphree had founded Ebenezer Methodist Church the same year Solomon had founded Mt. Moriah, and among its ministers was Solomon’s son-in-law Cummings Hallmark.29   Jesse Ellis was another early member of Ebenezer Methodist Church who became a fairly well-known itinerant Methodist preacher in Alabama.30   Solomon and some members of his family received letters of dismissal from the Mt. Moriah Church coincident with their 1832 removal to Benton County where they presumably joined a local church.  Solomon’s inventory shows a payment to build Coldwater Baptist Church, but descendants believe he was buried at Eulation Methodist Church.

Solomon’s Third Wife

Solomon married again to Polly Prator in Blount County on 28 May 1823.  She was perhaps a widow, as the 1830 census household contains two males and at least four females who were not Solomon’s children.31   Also in the household were four children of this marriage, three of whom were alive in 1854 and 1857, listed among his legatees.  The 1830 census shows two females, one aged 40-50 and the other aged 60-70.  Polly is surely the younger female, since she was still bearing children in the late 1820s.  The older female was apparently Solomon’s unmarried sister Mary Murphree.

In the 1840 Benton County census, Solomon is enumerated with his three children by the last marriage.32  Again, there were two older females, one his wife and the other his sister.  The 1850 census of Benton County shows Solomon living next door to his daughter Mary Easley and her husband Benjamin Easley.  Solomon, age 92, had his son Solomon L., and daughter Emily still at home.  Listed after the two children in the household were Mary Murphree, age 85, who was surely his unmarried sister, and his grandson George C. Ellis, a 28-year old schoolteacher.  His third wife was dead.

Solomon’s Will and Estate Records

Solomon Murphree died in Benton County (now Calhoun County), Alabama, probably in early September of 1854 as the inventory of his estate included a bill for his coffin dated 15 September 1854.  He was apparently buried in the Eulaton Methodist Church Cemetery, though the original marker does not exist.  A modern marker, installed in 1972 in Blount County, reads “Solomon Murphree, North Carolina, Pvt. Continental Line, Revolutionary War, 1757-1852.”   The death date is not accurate, for the estate records clearly indicate a death in late summer of 1854.

Solomon wrote his will on 23 November 1852 in Benton County.  It reads as follows, with spelling and punctuation corrected:33

In the name of God, Amen.  I Solomon Murphey [sic] of the County of Benton and the State of Alabama, being of sound mind and memory and considering the uncertainty of this frail and transitory life, do therefore make, ordain, publish, and declare this to be my last will and testament.

First, after all my lawful debts are paid and discharged, the residue of my estate, real and personal, I give an bequeath to my lawful heirs in equal proportion, with the exception that Jesse Ellis is first to be considered as having received five hundred dollars, as he received said amount, and James N. Heaton is to be considered as having received three hundred dollars as he has received said amount out of my estate.

Likewise, I make, constitute and appoint my said son, Solomon L. Murphey and my grandson Benjamin Easley to be the executors of this my last will and testament, hereby revoking all former wills by me made.  In witness whereof, I have hereunto subscribed my name and affixed my seal this 23rd day of November 1852.

Solomon Murphree signed with his mark, evidently too weak to sign his name.  R. H. Wilson, John W. Easley, and B. Murphree witnessed.  [B. Murphree was his grandson Barzilla Murphree, enumerated a few doors away from Solomon in 1850.]  Note that the surname is spelled “Murphey” in the will, but “Murphree” in the estate records, probably reflecting the preference of whoever actually wrote the will for Solomon to sign.  Note also that the will makes no provision for his sister Mary, who had apparently lived with him for thirty years or more, suggesting that she had died prior to the will date.  Nor does it mention his last wife, who was evidently dead by the 1850 census.

The executors, his son Solomon L. Murphree and grandson Benjamin Easley, delivered the will on 2 October 1854 and petitioned for probate, producing a list of the heirs which included eight living children and 39 grandchildren.34  The will was proven by the witnesses a month later, on 3 November 1854, when the executors qualified and posted their bond.  At least one estate sale was held 1 January 1855.  The settlement record, dated 2 March 1857 and recorded a month later, distributed the considerable sum of $9,000 among eight living children and the heirs of five deceased children.35

The Children

Solomon Murphree’s children are addressed in a separate page.
  1. The State Records of North Carolina, Walter Clark, ed., Vol. 16, p1118. []
  2. Clarke consistently lists Sheppard’s regiment as the 10th.  However, the 10th was disbanded on 1 June 1778 at Valley Forge and its men redistributed into the 3rd and 5th Regiments.  Abraham Sheppard was placed in command of the 5th on 1 June 1778, a position he would fill for the remainder of the war.  It was the 5th, not the 10th, mentioned in all military histories of the war. []
  3. Daniel McBane’s pension application confirms that he is the Sergeant mentioned and that he enlisted while living in Chatham County.   John Hill is mentioned as a Chatham County junior officer in Chatham County 1771-1791, by Hadley, Horton, and Strowd. []
  4. The 15 men who enlisted for the duration were:  Nathan Bagley (who appears on the 1772 Chatham militia list), William Bailey, Jesse Brannon, James Brown, William Curby, Richard Copland, John Honeycutt, Othiel McPherson, William McPherson,  James Mathews, Jesse Mitchell, James Walker, Abraham Towell, and the two “Murphys”.  Both of the McPhersons and Richard Copeland appear in Chatham records as well. []
  5. Chatham County 1771-1791, Hadley, Horton, and Strowd, p21. []
  6. Bible in the possession of Paul Murphree of Oneonta, Alabama in 1979, who provided a transcript. []
  7. A summary was provided by Mary Taylor, who wrote that Sallie Whitley authored the paper about 1900, apparently from interviews of family members. []
  8. North Carolina Land Grants in Tennessee, 1778-1791, Goldene Fillers Burger, p25. (NC Grant #657). []
  9. NC Grant #421.  Also recorded in Sullivan County Deed Book 1, p476. []
  10. Anderson County inherited the early deed books. []
  11. South Carolina Land Grants, Volume 18, p546. []
  12. Anderson County Deed Book C-D, p432.  Abstracted in Pendleton District, SC Deeds 1790-1806, Betty Willie, p181. []
  13. Pendleton Deed Book M, p464 (300 acres to the Hunters) and Book M, p603 (455 acres to Shotwell). []
  14. A History of Secona Baptist Church and the Pickens Area, Jean Martin Flynn. []
  15. The Murphree Quarterly, Volume IV, No. 1, p5.  See also Secona Baptist Church, Pickens Co. SC, Church minutes 1795-1938 (FHL film 984,337 item 2 []
  16. 1800 Pendleton census, p113:  Solomon Murphree 00110-44110-1.  The “as of” date was 4 August 1800, and the Pendleton census is actually labeled as such, so this household fits perfectly with the children’s birth dates as recorded by Daniel Murphree.   Daniel (18) was clearly the male 16-26.  The daughter 16-26 must have been Rebecca (age 20).  The four females 10-16 must have been Mary (16), Edith (14), Rhoda (12) and Miriam (10).  The four females under 10 must have been Hannah (8), Elizabeth (6), Sarah (4) and Keziah.  Since Keziah was a child of the second marriage, Solomon must have remarried by 1799 in order to have had a daughter by 4 August 1800.  If Elizabeth was already dead by 1800, then there must have been two daughters of the second marriage in the household. []
  17. 1810 Greenville District census, p525:  Solomon Murphy 10001-20001.   The two females are apparently Nancy and Keziah, but the male is unknown.  He may have been either a son or a stepson who died in childhood.  He is the only Murphy in Greenville District. []
  18. Anderson County Deed Book K, p91 and p198. []
  19. In Anderson Grantor index as Book M, p231 (recorded 1814) but not at that location in the deed books. []
  20. Anderson County Deed Book M, p603. []
  21. In Anderson Grantor index as Book M, p454 but not found in the deed books. []
  22. Anderson County Deed Book O, p244. []
  23. Franklin County Deed Book K, p90. []
  24. History of Alabama and Directory of Alabama Biography, Thomas M. Owen, p1062. []
  25. Historical Sketches of the Bynum Family, Jasper E. Bynum (The Southern Democrat, 1958 reprint, 1916), p1. []
  26. Synopsis provided by Paul Murphree in 1980. []
  27. Historical Sketches of the Bynum Family, Jasper E. Bynum (The Southern Democrat, 1958 reprint, 1916), pp1-2. []
  28. Ibid., p45. []
  29. A History of Methodism in Alabama, Rev. Anson West (1873), p161. []
  30. See West, p294, 462-3, 466, 485, 495-6, 517 for references to Rev. Jesse Ellis’s assignments. []
  31. 1830 Blount County census, p4:  Solomon Murphree Sr. 1011000001-311110101 []
  32. 1840 Benton County census, p36:  Solomon Murphy 00100000001-00200000011. []
  33. From a photocopy of the original, provided separately by both Barnett F. Wilson and Paul Murphree.  Filed in Benton (Calhoun) County Book K, p132.  See also a transcription and other records in  Old Records of Estates and Administrations: Benton (now Calhoun) County, Alabama, Catharine Cleek Mann (Northeast Alabama Genealogical Society, 1976), pp101. []
  34. Benton County Will Book K, pp326. []
  35. Benton County Will Book M, pp411.  Recorded 7 April 1857. []