Joseph Witt (c1749 – 14 November 1819)

The record of Joseph Witt’s death in November 1819 gives his age as 67, implying a birth year of 1752, but we have good reason to think that he was actually as much as five years older.   His father’s will of 30 January 1771 names him a co-executor, a role he could undertake only if he were at least 17 but traditionally reserved for persons over 21.   Further, a court record in September 1766 assigns “Charles Witt’s tithables” to a road crew.1 Since Charles Witt did not own slaves his only tithables would have been his sons aged 16 or more, the eldest of whom was Joseph Witt.   Both records suggest a birth by 1749.  Charles Witt’s will also implies that Joseph’s brother Elijah was also of age in 1771, further indication that Joseph was born before 1750.

Joseph Witt appears only three times in the records of Halifax County before his father’s death in 1781.  He and Elijah Witt witnessed a neighbor’s deed on 21 December 1775.2  Then on 6 October 1777 he witnessed two deeds; one from Charles Henderson to Sherwood Walton and another from Sherwood Walton to William Mayes Jr.3   Unlike his father, he signed his name in each case.

Charles Witt’s will, dated 30 January 1771 and proved ten years later on 23 June 1781 in Halifax County, left his plantation to his wife Lamina during her widowhood with reversion to Joseph Witt at her death or remarriage.4  It also requested “my son Joseph Witt shall oblige to take care of his mother during her life or widowhood also the small children to keep them together with her while they come to age…”  Joseph Witt and Lamina Witt were named co-executors.   Lamina apparently had died in the intervening ten years,  as Joseph Witt was the sole executor when the will was proved and a month later when the inventory was recorded.5  Joseph appears in the 1782 tax list of Halifax County, next to William Mayes, with a single white poll. His brothers Caleb and Elijah probably had already joined Thomas Jarnigan in Tennessee, as neither appears on the tax list. The younger children of Charles Witt by then must have reached maturity or married, since Joseph Witt almost immediately moved to Tennessee himself. On 11 May 1783, Joseph Witt sold his father’s land on Mirey Creek in Halifax County to his neighbor James LeGrand, “…which is the same land on which the said Joseph now dwelleth, and is the same which the aforesaid Charles Witt, late deceased, purchased from Sherwood Walton…6  That is the last record of Joseph Witt in Halifax County.

Joseph Witt moves to Tennessee

He then moved to the western part of North Carolina, which would shortly become Tennessee, to stake out a land claim.  Five months after selling his inherited land, on 22 October 1783, Joseph Witt entered claim #103 at the land office in Hillsboro, North Carolina for land in Greene County which included “Joseph Witt’s improvements.7  That suggests he was actually living on the land at the time, as does the fact that he declared himself to be a resident of North Carolina when he applied for the grant.8  The warrant and survey describe the tract as 160 acres bordered by the north bank of the French Broad River, Buffalo Branch, and the land of John Walker.  (John Walker received grant #1647 for 250 acres on the north bank of the French Broad on the same date.) The survey was made a year and a half later on 26 May 1785 and the grant was issued on 1 November 1786.   Joseph Witt had clearly traveled from his claim in Greene County to Hillsboro (in central North Carolina) with his brother and brother-in-law.  His brother Elijah Witt had filed a claim the same day for land about 18 miles away on Long Creek adjoining Thomas Jarnigan, and his brother-in-law Thomas Jarnigan filed claims in Hillsboro both the day before and the day after.

[Contrary to numerous published statements, Joseph Witt’s grant was not for Revolutionary service, but rather was a simple purchase.  All the land claims of Joseph Witt, Elijah Witt, and Thomas Jarnigan were straightforward purchases.  A brief explanation of the NC grant process, and of the grants mentioned above, is on a separate page.]

He settles in or near Dandridge, Tennessee

Joseph Witt’s claim lay in what was still North Carolina at the time.  It lay on what was later known as Inman’s Bend about three miles southeast of a settlement that later became Dandridge, Tennessee.9  Greene County had been formed a few months before he filed his claim and covered essentially everything east of the Tennessee River. In 1792, the area of his claim became Jefferson County and at its first court meeting, held on 23 July 1792, the jurors chosen included Elijah Witt, Caleb Witt, Jesse Kimbrough, and Thomas Jarnigan.10  Joseph Witt himself served on a jury a few months later in January 1793.11  In March 1793, the court’s meeting place was changed to what would become the town of Dandridge12 and Joseph Witt subsequently appeared as a juror in nearly every court session over the next few years.13  The Sheriff typically rounded up jurors from among those who lived nearby or who had business at the court, from which we can conclude that Joseph Witt must have lived very near the town. As further confirmation, he appears in the 1800 tax list of Captain Carson’s company of fewer than 100 white polls and encompassed the town of Dandridge.14

He joins the French Broad Baptist Church

We have additional evidence of his location in church records. On 25 March 1786, the Lower French Broad Baptist Church was established about two miles east of what would become Dandridge — and less than two miles from Joseph Witt’s land claim — at the home of Michael Coons. Though there were only twelve charter members, the first complete membership roll lists 27 people, including both Joseph Witt and his wife Sarah Witt.15  Nearly all the other names, including Michael Coons, were in the same 1800 tax district as Joseph Witt.  By 1794 the congregation was petitioning to establish itself as a permanent church and in May 1795 the church minutes show “Br Gentry and Br Joseph Witt appointed as helps for the Constitution on Dumplin”.  In July 1797 “the Church nominates Br James & Br Gentry & Br Witt & Br Kimbrough & Br Snelson to attend the New Constitution on Dumplin the 29th of July.16  The Dumplin Creek Baptist Church was established later that year, on land donated by John Cate Sr., several miles west of Dandridge.

Michael Coons was evidently close to the Witt family. When he wrote his will on 17 March 1803, “friend” Joseph Witt was named an executor and Joseph’s sons John Witt and Nathaniel Witt were witnesses.17

On 6 April 1798 two deeds were consecutively recorded in the Jefferson County deed books, both dated 10 January 1797. One was from William Galbreath to Joseph Witt for 7 ¾ acres on the north bank of the French Broad River “joining the old survey belonging to said Witt”.18  The other from Joseph Witt to William Galbreath for apparently the same 7 ¾ acres, “being part of a tract now occupied by Witt”.19  Both deeds were witnessed by neighbors Joseph Sullins and John Henderson. Only the deed from Witt to Galbreath was proved in court.20  It seems likely that one of these deeds was actually a lease or mortgage deed, mis-transcribed by the abstractor.  William Galbreath had earlier bought John Walker’s 250 acre grant adjoining Joseph Witt to the west, and sold it two weeks later on 23 January 1797 to David Russell.21   Whatever the story of these deeds, Joseph appears on the tax list of 1800 with only his original 160 acres.

There are no censuses available for Jefferson County until 1830. There is, however, a tax list for 1800 and later tax lists for 1822 and subsequent years. In Captain Carson’s company in 1800, Joseph Witt appears with 160 acres and one white poll, indicating that no sons were yet 21.22   Carson’s company, of less than 100 polls, included the town of Dandridge as well as the Dumplin Church and most of its congregation. The next available tax list in 1822 contains only the name of his son John Witt.

On 2 August 1804, Joseph Witt purchased 200 acres on the head of Immanuel’s Branch from Elizabeth Johnson, the widow of Samuel Johnson, and her children.23  Samuel Johnson had been on the same 1800 tax list with 400 acres – his heirs sold half this land to Joseph Witt and half to John Henderson.  This land was clearly somewhere near the land he already owned, in the same tax district, but its exact location is unclear. Joseph Witt may have moved onto this land and installed one or more of his sons on the original land grant.

[A record that has confused some genealogists is a deed on 11 March 1815 wherein a Joseph Witt purchased 232 acres of land in Jefferson County on Regan’s Branch “wheron the said Joseph Witt now lives” from James Russell.24   This was the son of Caleb Witt, not our Joseph Witt.]

His wife and Children leave the French Broad Church

Although Joseph Witt apparently remained a member of the Lower French Broad Church, his wife Sarah Witt “Senior” and her daughter “Sarah Witt Jr.” joined the Dumplin Creek Church by letter on 10 July 1813.25  Her daughters Mourning Witt and Patsy Witt joined the church by experience on 13 July 1817 and 9 August 1817, respectively.26  I’m not sure why they would join a church that was apparently several miles from their home. It may be that Joseph Witt had moved onto the Immanuel Creek land, and that it was located west of Dandridge, between the two churches. However, as noted below, he was living near Dandridge when he died two years later.

Joseph Witt dies intestate in 1819

Joseph Witt died intestate on 14 November 1819. The minutes of the French Broad church mention “the death of Joseph Witt the Deacon of this church who deceased 14 Novr. last aged 67 was taken note of.”27  [As noted above, I have doubts that his age is correctly stated.] An inventory of his estate was taken 7 March 1820 by co-administrators John Witt and Sarah Witt.28  The inventory included woodworking and blacksmith tools, books, a pair of spectacles, household goods, and livestock. Also included were notes due from John Witt ($426) and James Witt ($300) and a $16 note from Silas Henry, a neighbor. An estate sale is dated 30 March 1820, as is a provision for the widow Sally.29  Buyers at the sale included Sally Witt, James Witt, Nathaniel Witt, Mourning Witt, John Witt, Thomas, John, and William Cate, Edward Sellers, and several neighbors.30  From the names of these persons we can assume he was still living on or near his original grant, as nearly all these names appear on the 1822 tax list for Dandridge. The sale totaled $299, with Sally Witt buying the bulk of household goods. A supplemental inventory was filed on 12 June 1820 by John and Sally Witt, consisting of small cash payments to the estate by his son “N. Witt” and by “H. Franklin”.31  There was no final settlement of the estate found in either the court or probate records of Jefferson County.32

On 6 March 1821, Sally Witt and eight children (John Witt, Nathaniel Witt, Silas Witt, James Witt, Mourning Witt, Edward G. Sellars, Patsy Witt, and Joseph L. Witt), all of Jefferson County, sold to Charles Cate Jr. the 200 acres on Immanuel’s Branch in Jefferson County that Joseph Witt had purchased in 1804.33  Sally Witt, the widow, signed with her mark, but the others signed their names. [Joseph L. Witt is listed twice in the body of the deed but did not sign it, evidently because he was a minor at the time.]  By the time this deed was finally proved in 1829, the entire family had left the county, and a witness was required to depose that he saw all the Witts sign their names to the deed.  The eldest child John Witt evidently took, or already had, possession of the original 160-acre grant, upon which he was taxed in 1822. As best we can tell, it appears that the children in the 1821 deed are listed in birth order from oldest to youngest.

The widow and children move to McMinn County

John Witt, with one white poll and 160 acres, is the only member of the family on the 1822 tax list of Jefferson County. His father’s widow and all his brothers and sisters had already moved away. Sarah Witt, Patsy Witt, Mourning Witt, and Sarah Witt (the wife of James Witt) had all requested and received letters of dismissal from the Dumplin Creek Church in early 1821 just prior to their sale of the inherited land.34

They went to McMinn County, where Joseph Witt’s son Nathaniel Witt entered a claim for land on Mouse Creek on 3 July 1824.35  He had apparently lived on the land for at least a year, as the minutes of the Eastanallee Baptist Church for July 1823 mention a meeting to be held at “the widow Witts on Mouse Creek”.36   Tax lists for McMinn County survive for the years 1829-1832 and 1836.37)  Silas Witt Sr., Silas Witt Jr., Joseph Witt, and Edward Sellars, all appear in the same tax district in 1829. Mourning and Joseph Witt appear together in 1830. Joseph, Mourning, Mary, and Silas Jr. appear in the same company in 1831 and 1832. Joseph, James, Silas, and Mary Witt (the widow of Nathaniel Witt) appear in the same district in 1836. All the children, except John Witt, are also found in the McMinn census for 1830. Joseph Witt’s widow Sally Witt is not listed as a taxpayer in the tax lists but she was enumerated consecutively with Joseph Witt, Edward Sellars, and Polly Witt in the 1830 census of McMinn County. She was aged 60-70 with four young men in the household, whose identities are uncertain.38

The widow Sarah leaves a will

She died in late 1839. Her will was dated 9 April 1837 and proved at the January court 1840.39   She calls herself “a widow…being very old and weak in body but in perfect mind [and] memory”. The will had only one provision: “to my son Joseph Witt the eighty acres of land I now live on with all my household furniture and living stock and my farming tools and he shall decently maintain my daughter Patsey as long as she lives.” Mordicai Rucker and James R. Witt were witnesses. The eighty acres referred to in the will, which were adjacent Nathaniel Witt’s grant, had been purchased by Sarah Witt from her son Silas Witt on 15 January 1834.40  The 1836 tax list shows her son Joseph Witt being taxed on the land. After writing the will, she sold this land to Willis Wright on 23 January 1838.41  When Willis Wright resold the land on 6 December 1839, it was described as the land he bought of Sally Witt, deceased.42

Was the widow Sarah Kimbrough?

Joseph Witt’s widow was named Sarah, but her maiden name is unknown.  A 20th century tradition, the original source of which I haven’t discovered, is that she was Sarah Kimbrough.  This claim appears in print in several sources (for example, Sevier Family History, Cora B. Sevier and Nancy S. Madden (1961), p420.)  The earliest reference I have found is in an undated typewritten manuscript (author unknown) filmed in 1972 and on file at LDS Library on reel #873927, item 7. This is entitled “Joseph Witt Sr. Family History and Genealogy” but I will refer to it as the “CLHW” paper.  It was apparently written in the 1930s or 1940s from information supplied by descendants.

If she was Sarah Kimbrough, then it seems likely that she was a second wife and not the mother of all the children.  The two eldest children were obviously born before Joseph Witt left Halifax County, and there were no Kimbroughs in or around Halifax County whose daughters cannot be accounted for.  There were several Kimbroughs in Jefferson County, Tennessee but none were in the area of Halifax County at the time Joseph Witt first married.  A troublesome gap in the ages of the children raises the possibility that Sarah may have been a second wife whom he married in Tennessee. If so, she was probably related to one of the Kimbroughs of Jefferson County.

Eight children:

Joseph Witt had eight children, though perhaps only the last six were by Sally. The nine persons who sold Joseph Witt’s land in 1821 clearly were his widow and his eight children. Mrs. Mary Latham Norton43  of the Huguenot Society provided the names of nine children in 1927, adding a daughter named Elizabeth to the list: “Joseph Witt born in Halifax County, Virginia about 1750, died in Tennessee in 1824, served from North Carolina. Married Sarah. Children: Nathaniel, Joseph, Mourning, Sarah, Mary, Silas, James, John, and Elizabeth. War Department and Family Records.44  The source of these “family records” is unknown, but this statement has apparently been taken on faith by virtually all his descendants. The evidence for claiming Elizabeth as a child is unknown, and none of the family records I have found mention her at all.  Nor have I been able to confirm that Joseph Witt served in the Revolution as Mrs. Norton claimed.  I suspect that she assumed, incorrectly, that his Tennessee land grant was related to Revolutionary service. I also doubt the reliability of this information, especially since Mrs. Norton was apparently unaware of any of the estate records for Joseph Witt. The eight children we can prove are the following. Marriage dates below are from a single Jefferson County source.45   Note that it appears highly likely that the children appeared in birth order sequence in the 1821 deed.

  1. John Witt (c1780 –?) He was administrator of his father’s estate, from which we can infer that he was the eldest. He does not appear as a poll in the 1800 tax list, so was born 1779 or later. He first appears in Jefferson County records as a witness to the will of Michael Coons dated 17 March 1803.46 The large note due to his father’s estate was almost certainly a mortgage on Joseph Witt’s original land grant, as John Witt appears in the 1822 tax list for Dandridge with 160 acres that was presumably that same land.  He was surely the same John Witt who married Susannah Walker (daughter of James Walker, a founder of the French Broad Church) on 25 January 1809 in Jefferson County.47   I have not attempted to track this line, but he apparently left Jefferson County before 1830 since he doesn’t appear in the census.

    He is thought by some to be the John Witt (5 Nov 1785 – 1834) who married Rebecca Wear in Sevier County, but that was clearly a different person, probably related to the Witts living further north in Jefferson County in 1800.48

  2. Nathaniel Witt (c1782 – 1826) married Mary Cate on 30 July 1804 in Jefferson County, Tennessee. (See separate document.)
  3. Silas Witt (25 May 1790 – 15 July 1881) He married in Jefferson County on 30 June 1812 to Susannah Randolph, daughter of James and Sarah Randolph, charter members of the French Broad Church. Silas served in the War of 1812, enlisting in 1814, according to his pension application. Silas apparently moved to McMinn County with his mother and siblings, where he apparently acquired 80 acres adjoining Nathaniel Witt’s grant. He appears in the McMinn tax lists of 1829-1832 and in the 1830 census.49   On 15 January 1834, Silas Witt sold this land to his mother Sally Witt, describing it as adjoining Polly Witt (Nathaniel’s widow).50    Sarah Witt sold this tract, “with the exception of one acre where the meeting house now stands”, to Willis Wright on 23 January 1838.51   The “meeting house” was evidently Hopewell Baptist Church, for which Silas Witt was a delegate to the Hiwassee Baptist Association in 1828.

    He must have left for Alabama immediately after the sale, for he was the minister of New Hopewell Church in Benton County later that same year. He was in the Benton County 1840 census52  and, as Silas Witt of Benton County, was granted land in neighboring Cherokee County in 1845.53  He and Susannah are in the 1850, 1860, and 1870 censuses of Cherokee County, listed as a “Baptist Clergy” in 1860 and as “Preacher” in 1870.54  The 1850 census of Cherokee County shows Silas as a “Baptist minister”.

    He moved to Texas, in 1871 according to family stories.  Silas (age 90) and Susannah (age 85) appear in the 1880 census of McLennan County in the household of their son John Witt and two of his grown sons. Susannah Randolph Witt died within days of this census, on 15 June 1880, and Silas died the following year. Both are buried in Old Perry Cemetery near Moody, Texas, where there is a Texas historical marker at their graves. For more detail on this family, in Alabama and Texas, see Our Heritage (San Antonio Genealogical and Historical Society), Vol. 21, “Rev. Silas Witt Family”, Raymond H. Bostick, (21 July 1980), pp165.  I note the possibility that Silas Witt’s first three sons may have been named after his brothers. The children, according to secondary sources and census records were:

    3.1.  James Randolph Witt (23 August 1813 – 1895) married first Delilah Harkrider (1833) and second Melvina Willhite (1868).

    3.2.  Nathaniel Witt (c1815 – ?) married Mary Ann Cook on 17 November 1839 in Benton County.

    3.3.  Joseph Lockhart Witt (30 October 1817 – 25 April 1889) married Nancy J. Penn.

    3.4.  William Carroll Witt (3 February 1820 – 14 July 1892) married Joicy Elizabeth Hollingsworth on 19 September 1843 in Benton County.

    3.5.  Robert Wesley Witt (10 April 1822 – 1 May 1898) married first Anita (Nettle) Lewallen on 27 December 1843 in Benton County.

    3.6.  Sarah J. Witt (c1824 – c1891) married Augustine Alexander Bridwell on 28 December 1843 in Benton County.

    3.7.  John Witt (26 February 1826 – 8 May 1898) married Elizabeth Taylor afer1850, then two more wives.

    3.8.  Isaac Martin Witt (24 January 1828 – 8 May 1898) married Sarah Taylor about 1850.

    3.9.  Eliza Jane Witt (13 December 1829 – ?) married Martin VanBuren Lewis, Apr. 13, 1852.

    3.10.  Lucy Witt (c1832 – c1848)

    3.11.  Silas Witt, Jr. (c1834 – ?) married Maranda Owens, died in Battle of Missionary Ridge.

    3.12.  Pleasant Francis Witt (c1838 – 12 August 1862) married Eliza Louisa Llewellyn, died in Battle of Cedar Mountain.

    3.13.  Francis Marion Witt (c1842 – ?)

    3.14.  Emeline Witt (c1840 – before 1850) Her name was provided by descendants, but she was not in the 1850 household.

  4. James R. Witt (29 November 1791 – 29 November 1846) His middle initial was “R” if he is the same James Witt who witnessed the will of his mother. I suspect he was named after James Randolph. He married Sarah Cate on 23 November 1814 in Jefferson County, Tennessee. James must have bought land in Jefferson County, otherwise we are hard pressed to explain the large note due his father’s estate. Thus he is presumably the same James Witt who appears in the 1829-1836 tax lists of McMinn County. He is in the 1830 census of McMinn and the 1840 census of Bradley County. His widow Sarah Witt (age 60) is in the 1850 census of Bradley County with an apparent daughter named “Alzira”. Next door is Simeon Witt (age 33) and his wife Sarah Geren. The 1830 and 1840 censuses suggest he had two sons and four daughters.

    A descendant, Kay Witt Potvin, had a family record of some type that listed his children as follows:55

    4.1.  John Simeon Witt (22 July 1817 – 29 November 1881) married Susan Geren. He is in the 1850 census of Bradley County next door to his mother, listed as Simeon Witt age 33. He died in Bradley County.

    4.2.  Mary Witt (13 January 1820 – 20 May 1874) married Andrew Duncan.

    4.3.  Wilford Barton Witt (c1823 – ?) He is apparently the male 5-10 in 1830 and 15-20 in 1840. He was in the 1850 census of Newton County, Missouri with wife Nancy and three children. In 1860 he was in Taos County, New Mexico and in 1870 was in Trinidad County, Colorado where he served as deputy sheriff and sheriff. (Oddly, his wife Nancy and children were left behind in Scott County, Arkansas.) Mrs. Potvin’s record says the wife was Nancy Ann King and that he died in Taos, New Mexico.

    4.4.  Elizabeth Witt (? – ?) Apparently one of the three females born 1825-30, she married James E. Kirkpatrick. They moved to Hickory County, Missouri about 1868. The birth certificate of one of their sons lists his mother as Elizabeth Witt of Rhoane County, Tennessee.56

    4.5.  Silas >Witt (c1829 – 25 December 1857) married Thomas Ross, and is in the 1850 census near her mother.

    4.6.  Alizira Permelia Witt (14 June 1831 – 1 September 1899) married W. P. Palmer, and later George F. Erwin.

  5. Mourning Witt (c1797 – aft1860) She is reported by one source to have married a man named Moore.57   He was Littleberry Moore, in whose Bradley County household Mourning appears in 1850 (age 53) and 1860 (age 62).58   When they married is unclear but Mourning was his second wife and they had no children. Mourning Witt was unmarried in 1821 when she was among the heirs selling Joseph Witt’s land. She was also unmarried when listed in the 1829, 1830, and 1831 tax lists of McMinn County. She is not in the 1830 census, and it’s not clear whose household she was in – if she was one of the younger females in Polly Witt’s household, her age was dramatically understated. My best guess is that she married Moore sometime in the 1830s. Littleberry Moore had first married in 1813 in Barren County to Nancy Bond, by whom he had at least five children. Littleberry Moore had bought land in McMinn County in 1826 and appears in the 1830 McMinn census with what is apparently his first wife, and in the 1840 Bradley census with a wife of the right age to be Mourning.59
  6. Sarah Witt (c1799 – c1859) Sarah joined the Dumplin Creek church in 1813. She married Edward George Sellars in Jefferson County, Tennessee on 8 March 1818. Edward Sellars sold his wife’s interest in Joseph Witt’s land three years later, and they moved with the rest of the family to McMinn County. They are in the 1830, 1840, and 1850 censuses of McMinn County, located near the rest of the Witt family. In 1850, Edward is age 56 and Sarah age 50. Children in the 1850 household were: Nathaniel Sellars (17), Silas Sellars (15), Morrison Sellars (13), Samuel Sellars (11), Blount Sellars (9), George W. Sellars (7), and William Sellars (5). There were probably several older children as well, one of whom was said to be a son named John.
  7. Patsy Witt (c1802 – aft1850) Patsy never married and was enumerated in the 1850 census as an 47-year old “idiot”. I suspect Patsy was a bit older than that 1850 census record suggests. She joined the Dumplin Creek Baptist Church in 1817 and her mother requested her letter of dismission in 1821. Patsy Witt was one of the sellers of Joseph Witt’s land in 1821 and was still unmarried in 1837 when her mother’s will charged Joseph Witt with “maintaining my daughter Patsey Witt as long as she lives.” Joseph Witt apparently did so until he died and his widow assumed the duty. Patsy is certainly the second female 30-40 in the widow Matilda Witt’s 1840 household. In 1850 she was still in Matilda’s household, as Patsy Witt, age 47, “idiot”.
  8. Joseph L. Witt (c1805? – 1839)  This son is almost universally misidentified in genealogy circles as the Joseph Witt who married Sarah Earles. However, all the evidence indicates that Joseph Witt Jr. was the youngest son of Joseph Witt Sr. He was mentioned twice (as “Joseph L. Witt”) in the 1821 deed disposing of his father’s land, though he did not sign the deed. That suggests he was a minor at the time, which is consistent with later census records. [I note the possibility that his middle name may have been “Lockhart”, since his brother Silas named a child Joseph Lockhart Witt.] He is in the 1829, 1830, 1831, 1832, and 1836 tax lists of McMinn County located near Mary, Mourning, and Silas Witt.  In the 1830 census of McMinn he is consecutive with Edward Sellars, Sally Witt, and Polly Witt, with one male under 5, he and his wife both 20-30.  He was evidently quite newly married.

    The Rucker book mentions him only briefly as the husband of Matilda Rucker (born c1809), and erroneously calls him Nathaniel Witt’s son rather than his younger brother. He did indeed marry Matilda Rucker, as in 1839 they sold their interest in James Rucker’s estate.  He was apparently the Joseph Witt who served as a delegate to the Hiwassee Baptist convention in 1828 from the Big Spring Baptist church in southern McMinn County. He seems to have lived on his mother’s land, as he was taxed on her 80 acres in 1836.

    His mother’s will, written in 1837, left him her land and property on the condition that he care for his sister Patsy. His mother subsequently sold the land, and Joseph Witt apparently removed southward into newly-formed Meigs County, where he died sometime between 2 September 1839, when he appeared on a road jury60  and 6 January 1840, when Matilda Witt and James E. Rucker were appointed administrators of his estate.61   The widow Matilda Witt is a head of household in the Meigs County 1840 census, with five children and a second female 30-40 who is surely Patsy Witt.62   She remarried to a neighbor named Avery Hannah on 3 January 1842.63   Their 1850 household in Meigs County include the five children of Joseph Witt, as well as Patsy Witt.64  I can’t find either Matilda or Avery after 1850, but three of the Witt sons are together in one household in 1860.

    8.1. James Witt (c1829 – 15 March 1878) James was the eldest son of Joseph Witt. Although the 21-year old James in the 1850 household might have been Avery Hannah’s son, it seems certain that he was actually James Witt. As James Witt he married Catherine Gross, the daughter of a neighbor named Jacob Gross, on 16 September 1856 and appears in the 1860 census just a few households away from the other Witt children. I note that he named his two sons Jacob and Joseph, presumably after their grandfathers, and named one of his daughters Violet. In 1870 he was farming in Hamilton County with Catherine and four children in the household. He died on 15 March 1878 according to the widow’s claim for a Civil War pension. (He served as a sergeant in the same unit as his brother Nathaniel Witt.) Catherine appeared as head of household in the 1880 census of Meigs County with children Mary J., Violet, Jacob, Margaret E., Harriet M., and Joseph.

    8.2. Nathaniel Witt (23 August 1830 -?) Nathaniel married Janetta Wood in Meigs County on 1 March 1860, though they were childless. The 1860 Meigs census shows “Nat” as head of a household with his wife and his brothers Silas and Jesse. He joined the Union Army (5th Tennessee Volunteer Infantry) as a Lieutenant and by late 1864 was made a Lt. Colonel. He applied for a pension in 1881, when he declared his age to be 51.65   His brother Jesse was in the same company. He was a single man in his brother Jesse’s household in 1870, and in 1878 married Margaret Hicks. He and Margaret and two small children are enumerated in the1880 census of Bradford County, Florida.

    8.3. Violet Witt (c1833 – ?) married Thomas D. Conner about 1859.

    8.4. Silas Witt (c1834 – ) He appears in his brother’s household in 1860 and in his own household in 1870. I did not attempt to track him.

    8.5. Jesse Witt (c1836 – ?)  Jesse married Harriet E. Shiflett. The 30 October 1874 will of her father, Austin Shiflett, gives “to daughter Harriet E. Witt, land she now lives on, the balance being owned by her husband Jesse Witt”.66  They must have married about 1865, as the 1870 census has two children, the eldest age 4. Jesse had been a sergeant in the same company in which Nathaniel Witt was an officer.

  1. c1749? – 14 November 1819 []
  2. Halifax County Deed Book 10, p98. (Thomas Justice to Thomas Wilson Jr. for land on Astin’s Creek). []
  3. Halifax County Deed Book 10, p331 and p332. Both dated 6 October 1777. []
  4. Halifax County Will Book 1, page 414. []
  5. Ibid. []
  6. Halifax County Deed Book 12, p427. []
  7. North Carolina Grant #103, Greene County (original file at NC Archives contains warrant, survey order, and survey), Warrant #235, Grant #61, filed in Book 59, p422. []
  8. At that time, only citizens of North Carolina could claim land in that part of Tennessee. []
  9. From Joseph Witt’s survey and John Walker’s survey, their adjoining lands were located at a point where the French Broad River ran east-west, then turned sharply north. Joseph Witt’s land was on the bend. The only location that fits this description is about three miles southeast of Dandridge. The area is now under water, thanks to Douglas Dam, but can be identified on early maps. It would have been only about a mile south of the location of the Lower French Broad Baptist Church. []
  10. Jefferson County, Tennessee, Court Minutes 1792-1795, James L. Douthat & Roberta D. Hatcher (Mountain Press, 1985), p3. []
  11. Douthat & Hatcher, p9. []
  12. Dandridge, the county seat, was laid out in 1793 on the land of Francis Dean near Robert Henderson’s meeting house. That meeting house was later known as the Hopewell church. []
  13. Douthat & Hatcher, p9, 13, 25, 33, 34, 42, 47, 56, 83, 86, 172, 186, and 188. []
  14. Early East Tennessee Tax Lists, Mary Barnett Curtis (Arrow Printing Co.). []
  15. Tennessee Cousins: A History of the Tennessee People, Worth Stickley Ray (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1950) The Witts were not among the charter members, but are on the list of members in the church minutes. []
  16. French Broad Baptist Church Minutes (secondhand, from internet). []
  17. Jefferson County Will Book 2, p38. []
  18. Jefferson County Deed Book C, p354 as abstracted in Land Deeds of Jefferson County, Tennessee, 1792-1814, Boyd J. Holdaway (Southern Historical Press, 1991), p64. []
  19. Jefferson County Deed Book D, p1 from Holdaway, p65. []
  20. Douthat & Hatcher, p200. []
  21. Jefferson County Deed Book D, p161 from Holdaway, p80. []
  22. Early East Tennessee Taxpayers, Pollyanna Creekmore (Southern Historical Press, 1980), p125. []
  23. Jefferson County Deed Book G, p88 from Holdaway, p141. Elizabeth Johnson was first the widow of John Keith and later of Samuel Johnson. []
  24. Jefferson County Deed Book N, p44. []
  25. Minutes of the Dumplin Creek Baptist Church, as reproduced in The Romance of A Bi-Centennial Journey: The Bi-Centennial History of the Dumplin Creek Baptist Church, Glenn Alfred Toomey (1988), Volume I, p56. []
  26. Toomey, p62.  A first-time church member was generally received “by experience”, while a transfer from another church was generally received “by letter”. []
  27. “French Broad River Baptist Church Minutes 1786-1859”, (WPA Historical Records Project, 1936), p104, provided courtesy of Gerald Witt. []
  28. Jefferson County Will Book 2 p217. []
  29. Ibid., p291 and p294. []
  30. Other buyers were Samuel Carson, Henry Haggard, William Dotson, William Pettus, James Adams, Joseph Shadden, George Leeth, John Laurence, and others. []
  31. Ibid., p288. Douthat’s abstract calls the entry on page 288 a settlement, but it is actually a sale. []
  32. Douthat’s abstract of Will Book 2 shows a settlement of the estate of “Joseph Witt” at page 338 (Douthat page 32), but this is a typo. At the referenced location is the settlement of “Joseph White”, who had died a few months previous. []
  33. Jefferson County Deed Book ?, p219. ( I have a photocopy of the page, but am unsure of the book.) Note that the names are entered in the sequence shown, quite possibly in order of birth. []
  34. Minutes of the Dumplin Creek Baptist Church, as reproduced in The Romance of A Bi-Centennial Journey: The Bi-Centennial History of the Dumplin Creek Baptist Church, Glenn Alfred Toomey (1988), Volume I, p68. A Sarah Witt requested a letter on the same day (10 February 1821) as “Sister Witt…for herself and daughter Patsy”. That second Sarah Witt was probably the wife of James Witt. A separate list of members includes both Sarah Witt “Sr.” and Sarah Witt “Jr.” (apparently the mother and daughter) as well as a third Sarah Witt (apparently the wife of James Witt). This separate list of members indicates all three Sarah Witts were dismissed at about the same time, although the minutes note only two letters. []
  35. Grant #3040, the southeast quarter of section 25, township 2, range 2 west, “beginning on the southwest corner of said quarter” apparently on Mouse Creek. []
  36. New Hopewell Baptist Church, Mabel Lorene Norwood Boylston, p95. The Church secretary confirmed in April 2002 that the date on the page is actually 1823, not 1819 as in Ms. Boylston’s book. And the entry quite clearly reads “widow Witt” and not “William Witt” as is erroneously reported elsewhere. []
  37. Index to McMinn County, Tennessee, Tax Lists, 1829-1832 and 1836, Harald Reksten & Reba Boyer (Heritage Books, Inc., 1996 []
  38. McMinn 1830 census, p181: Sally Witt 00112-000000001.  Who these four males are is unknown, since all of Sally’s children are otherwise accounted for.  Since she was not a landowner at the time, I doubt they were employees. One possibility is that they might be children of John Witt if he were deceased by 1830. []
  39. McMinn County Will Book C, p195. []
  40. McMinn County Deed Book C, p149. Abstract from McMinn County, Tennessee Deeds and Other Data 1820-1880, Reba Bayless Boyer (1986). []
  41. McMinn County Deed Book F, p288, abstract by Boyer. []
  42. McMinn County Deed Book F, p289, abstract by Boyer. []
  43. Mrs. Norton was the founder of The Manakin Huguenot Society, and has not proven to be completely accurate regarding this Witt family. []
  44. Virginia Soldiers of 1776, Volume I, Louis A. Burgess, (Richmond Press, 1927), p163. []
  45. Marriages of Jefferson County, Tennessee 1792-1836, Edythe Rucker Whitley (1982). []
  46. Jefferson County Will Book 2, p38. []
  47. Marriages of Jefferson County, Tennessee 1792-1836, Edythe Rucker Whitley (1982). []
  48. John Witt’s administration of his father’s estate implies that he was the eldest and, if so, would have been born before 1785. Further, descendants claim that John Witt was in Lincoln County, Tennessee at a time when we know he was still in Jefferson County. []
  49. McMinn County census 1830, p178: Silas Witt 2122001-111001. []
  50. McMinn County Deed Book C, p149 as abstracted in McMinn County, Tennessee Deeds and Other Data 1820-1880, Reba Bayless Boyer (1986). Joseph Witt and Silas Witt Jr. (Nathaniel’s son) witnessed the deed. []
  51. McMinn County Deed Book F, p288, as abstracted by Boyer. []
  52. Benton County 1840 census, p56: Silas Witt 11211001-0111001. []
  53. Certificate #7703 for 40 acres, granted 1 July 1845. []
  54. Cherokee County census 1850 (p79), 1860 (p330), and 1870 (p278). []
  55. Letter with manuscript dated 7 November 1973 from Kay Witt Potvin of Questa, New Mexico []
  56. Information courtesy of (Mrs. Jerry) Eavline Samples. []
  57. CLHW manuscript. []
  58. Bradley County census, 1850 p254 and 1860 p253. Littleberry aged 64 and 72, Mourning aged 53 and 62. []
  59. 1830 McMinn census, p202: Littleberry Moore 0001001-0120101. !840 Bradley census, p46: Little Berry Moore: 00000001-0001101. []
  60. Meigs County, Tennessee County Court Minute Book 1, Vol. 1, Bettye Broyles (1993), p113. []
  61. Ibid., p118-121 []
  62. Meigs County 1840 census, p226: 112001-010002. This entry is not in most indices for this census. []
  63. Meigs County marriages (e.g., from Meigs County website). []
  64. The household consisted of Avery Hannah (55), Matilda (40), Patsy (47, “idiot”), James (21), Nathaniel (20), Violet (17), Calvin M. (17), Silas (16), and Jesse (14). No surname is identified for the children, but Avery Hannah’s 1840 census includes only two males, one 5-10 and one 10-15. Later records strongly suggest that all these children were Witts, with the exception of Calvin M. Calvin and Violet seem to be identified as twins in the census, but the handwriting for “twins” is different suggesting that might be a later entry. The 1840 census does not suggest that they were twins. Only four males were in the 1840 Matilda Witt household, and the one in the same category as Violet was clearly Silas from later records. It appears to me that Calvin M. was actually a Hannah but the remainder of the children were Witts. I would note that Calvin was a common name among the Hannahs at the time, and while there are no subsequent references to a Calvin Witt, there were at least two other Calvin Hannahs in the area. []
  65. Pension File # SC392726 []
  66. Meigs County Will Book 1858 – 1881, p344-5. []