On the Identity of William Rountree’s Wife Sally

The maiden name of William Rountree’s wife appear only once in the records abstracted by Pauline Jones Gandrud.  Her abstract of William Rountree’s 1822 statement says he had married “Sally Hopt”.1

They must have married about 1790, at a time when William Rountree was living in either Union or Laurens District, South Carolina.  Although we do not know the precise birth dates of their children, it appears that the eldest child was Seaborn J. Rountree, who was born 11 August 1792.  William Rountree’s statement on 2 July 1822 that “about 31 or 32 years ago he married Sally Hopt” suggests a marriage in 1790 or 1791.2   Sally’s statement nearly a year later that “ in the year 1793 they were married in the District of Lawrence [sic] in the state of South Carolina”3 seems slightly off, given the known birth date of the son Seaborn.  If the marriage took place in Laurens District, surely that would have been where Sally’s parents were living at the time.  (Unless she were a widow, which is certainly a possibility, in which case we can assume she, at least, was living in Laurens District.)

One more set of clues lies in the divorce papers.  Sally states that “in 1814, oratrix hearing of the death of her mother, went on a visit to her father in the State of S. C. remaining there seven or eight weeks.”4    William Rountree gives a different date, stating that “ the date of her visit to S. C. was the latter part of 1812 or early 1813.”   So we know that Sally’s mother died about 1812 or 1813, and that her father was still alive at the time and living somewhere in South Carolina.  Thus it appears that we ought to be able to find her father living in or near Laurens District in 1790 and 1800, and somewhere in South Carolina in 1810.

There is no one named Hopt, or anything like it, in the 1790 or 1800 censuses of Laurens District.  In Laurens District 1790-1810, we find names like Hill, Hull, Hunt, Hood, Hitt, Hide, Hall, Hand, Huff, Hanks, and Hazle, none of which seem likely to have been mistaken for “Hopt.”  The closest we can come is a John Hope in Greenville County in 1790-1800, but he appears to have been survived by a wife “Jean” in the 1810 census.  Could Gandrud have misread the name?  Clearly, reading the original record would be most helpful.

Unless a reading of the original record uncovers an abstraction error by Mrs. Gandrud, the “Hopt” lead appears to be a dead end.  Unless Sally was the widow of a Hopt, perhaps one who lived such a short time in Laurens district to leave no record behind.

Sally Gray Rountree

There is, however, one other possibility worth mentioning.  We know that one of William Rountree’s neighbors at the time he married was Isaac Gray, who named a daughter Sally Rountree in his 1829 will:

I Isaac Gray [of Laurens District, South Carolina]… I give & bequeath unto my daughter Salley Roundtree one hundred dollars as her share of my real and personal estate…5

What we don’t know is whether she was the wife of William Rountree or of his son Seaborn Rountree.  We can make an argument for either case.

First, some background.  When William Rountree bought his land in Laurens County, South Carolina in 1790, an adjoining landowner was Isaac Gray.  Both William Rountree and Isaac Gray remained neighbors for the next fifteen or more years, and appear together in several records.  Isaac Gray’s will, dated 26 March 1829 and proved in Laurens County on 1 March 1830, gives $100 “unto my daughter Salley Roundtree.”6   Isaac Gray’s other children, and his wife, were all deceased and the other legatees were his grandchildren, some of whom were old enough to be married themselves.  We can also infer from the will that he had a deceased son named Abraham Gray, who had died just a year earlier, and that some or all of the grandchildren were Abraham Gray’s.   We also know that Seaborn J. Rountree named a daughter Sarah Gray Rountree, though whether for his wife or his mother is unknown.

The argument that she was the wife of Seaborn J. Rountree depends partly on her age, which is not completely clear.  Isaac Gray’s 1790 household in Laurens had two males over 16 and a single female.  In 1800 he and his wife were both over 45, with one female 10-16.  [Note that this is inconsistent with the 1790 household, unless either the daughter was born in 1790 or the wife in 1800 was a new one.]  In 1810, they had a female 10-16 and another 16-26.  [Another inconsistency.]  In 1820 he was a single head of household.  Thus Sally could have been Seaborn Rountree’s wife, born 1790 or later and still in her father’s household in 1800 and 1810.  This fits our only other record of Seaborn’s wife, who was 30-40 in the 1830 census and who had her first child about 1815 or so.  On the other hand, this forces us to explain why and how Seaborn J. Rountree, who had left South Carolina by 1809, might have returned to South Carolina to take a wife.  It is also inconsistent with the statement of a son of Seaborn Rountree’s third wife that his first wife’s name was “Docia” Gray.  Our best argument is the somewhat awkward assumption that Seaborn might have accompanied his mother on a trip back to South Carolina and married at the same time – we know that his mother traveled to Laurens District in 1812 or 1813.

The argument for Sally Rountree as the wife of William Rountree is equally tempting, but has similar problems.  If she was the wife of William Rountree, then she was already married by the time of the 1790 census – she could not have been the single female in Isaac Gray’s household, for we know from her later deposition that her mother was still alive.  (Note that the South Carolina 1790 census was still being taken as late as January 1792.)   A pre-1790 census marriage is consistent with the birth of Seaborn in 1792, and with William Rountree’s 1822 statement that they married “about 31 or 32 years ago” , but not with Sally’s own statement that they married “in the year 1793”. Isaac Gray appears to lose his wife after 1810, which is consistent with Sally Rountree’s statement that she heard of her mother’s death and traveled to South Carolina to visit her father in 1812 or 1813.   On the other hand, we are left with the same problem of explaining why William Rountree’s divorce papers list his wife’s name as Sally Hopt.  Our only explanation (other than an error on the part of the court clerk or Mrs. Gandrud), would be that she was a young widow when she married William Rountree.  That lessens the problem of finding a “Hopt” since her comments about her mother and father would now apply to Isaac Gray rather than to a Hopt family.  And it might explain why we can’t find a male named Hopt.   In addition, the fact that she is called “Salley Rountree” in her father’s will would imply that she did not remarry, and thus is not the same Sarah Rountree who married John Williams in 1825.   If she did not remarry, it seems plausible that she might have returned to South Carolina following the divorce.

A careful examination of both the Madison County court records and Laurens County records may clear this up.  In particular, the Laurens records should be searched to determine if a settlement or accounting of the Isaac Gray estate identifies whether Sally Rountree was still alive in 1832 (when we know Seaborn’s wife was deceased) or if her state of residence is noted.  The probate packet in Laurens District records contain no mention of Sally other than the will.

In the meantime, there is one other argument worth noting.  Wiley B. Rountree, writing about 1914, listed the wives and children of his father Seaborn J. Rountree.  Two of the wives and six of the children had died before Wiley B. Rountree was born, yet Wiley seems to have been able to not only list all the children but do so in birth sequence.  This implies that he had available to him some sort of family record, perhaps a Bible record or a copy of one.  That is, his information may have come from a written record rather than from his own memory, thus strengthening the case for his father’s first wife being named Docia Gray and not Sarah Gray.

Pending further research no definitive conclusion can be reached, but what evidence we have tends to favor the idea that Sally Gray was the wife of William Rountree.

  1. Madison County Chancery Court Record Book A, pp 212-3, as abstracted in Alabama Records, Pauline Jones Gandrud, Vol. 138. []
  2. bid, p212, as abstracted in Alabama Records, Pauline Jones Gandrud, Vol. 138. []
  3. Madison County Chancery Court Record Book A, pp 212-3 as abstracted in Alabama Records, Pauline Jones Gandrud, Vol. 138. []
  4. Ibid., p 359, as abstracted in Alabama Records, Pauline Jones Gandrud, Vol. 138. []
  5. Laurens District Estate Papers, Packet 31, No. 5 []
  6. Laurens County Will Book F, p261. []