There is a legend in the James family of an orphaned son, a rebel, a misfit
who was among the first of his family to depart the Colony of Pennsylvania following
the family’s arrival in 1682. Where he went has remained a mystery for over 200
years. This orphaned boy, the first son of the first son, has remained something
of an enigma in the annals of James family history. Not until the recent advent of
genetic research has anyone been able to trace the path of this elusive James family
ancestor. For more than two centuries our family has been searching for…. the lost
line of “Enoch.”
The Missing Link Revealed
On or about the year 2010 a gentleman by the name of Joe M. James submitted
his DNA to the James Family Y-DNA Surname Project hosted by Family Tree DNA. This
Joe M. James is a known descendant of Thomas James (1804-1851) who was reportedly
born in Georgia and died in Franklin County, Alabama. Moreover, the results of the
DNA test performed revealed that Joe M. James was a direct patrilineal descendant
of David James (circa 1660-1739) of Radnorshire, Wales who immigrated to Pennsylvania
in 1682. But through which of David James’ children did Joe descend? And more specifically,
through which of David’s grandchildren did Joe’s ancestor, Thomas James descend?
From the DNA evidence compiled by the James Family Y-DNA Surname Project, the
work of Scott Williams and Lee James we are certain that Elias James (c1775-1840)
who died in Franklin County, Alabama, the father of Thomas James (1803-c1850) of
the same location descended from the David James (c1660-1739) of Radnorshire, Wales
who immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1682. With this discovery, our next step was to
deduce the likely path through which Elias James descended.
From an examination of the dates of birth of David’s grandchildren we know
that Elias James (c1775-1840), the father of Thomas James (1803-c1850) must have
directly descended through one of David’s grandsons. This brings us to seven possibilities:
(1) Enoch James (c1739-?); (2) Elias James (1744-1789); (3) Daniel James (1750-1817);
(4) Jonathan James (1751-?); (5) David James (?-?); (6) Griffith James (?-1812) or
(7) Samuel James (1754-1812). That is to say, Elias James (c1775-1840), the father
of Thomas James (1803-c1850) must have descended through one of these seven men.
With regard to Enoch James (c1739-), the first son of Thomas James (c1690-1753),
almost nothing was previously known about his children. All we previously knew was
that he married a woman named “Rachel Richards” whom he likely separated from on
or about 1775 when she reportedly left him for another man. See Supra, Children
of Thomas James (1690-1753).
Elias James (1744-1789), the second son of Thomas James (c1690-1753) began
having children in 1766 and had his last son in 1785. See Children of Elias James
(1744-1789) & Anna Matson (1746-1827). It is certainly possible that Elias James
(c1775-1840), the father of Thomas James (1803-c1850) may have been born to this
Elias. However, the last child of this Elias James born in 1785 was also named “Elias
James, Jr.” It is unlikely that this Elias had two sons, both of which he named “Elias
James.” Moreover, it is even more unlikely that if he had, he would have named the
second “Elias James, Jr.” Thus, we can eliminate this particular line with relative
Daniel James (1750-1817), the third son of Thomas James (c1690-1753), began
having children in the early 1770’s and continued having children through 1783. This
particular grandson of David James (c1660-1739) migrated to central Virginia following
the Revolutionary War and bore nine children in Bedford County, Virginia. Although
Daniel is not known to have had a son by the name of Elias, his family is very well
documented and all his children appear to have remained in the vicinity of Bedford
County, Virginia after their marriage. Thus Daniel James is an unlikely candidate
for the father of Elias James (c1775-1840), the father of Thomas James (1803-c1850).
Jonathan James (1751-?), the fourth and final son of Thomas James (c1690-1753)
also began having children in the early 1770’s. However, Jonathan James is known
to have only had three daughters: Eva, Christina and Elizabeth. Thus we are relatively
certain that Elias James (c1775-1840), the father of Thomas James (1803-c1850) did
not descend through Jonathan.
David James was the one and only known son of Isaac James. Very little is known
about this particular James family line. There are reports, however, that this particular
David James returned to the Society of Friends and migrated to the Ohio Valley.
Griffith James (?-1812), the first son of Evan James (1715-1794), began having
children in the late 1760’s and is known to have had three sons: David James born
in 1773, Moses James who was likely born in 1775 and Isaac James born in 1777. This
James family line is also very well documented and represents the line in the family
that remained in Radnor Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania. Thus, it is unlikely
that Elias James (c1775-1840), the father of Thomas James (1803-c1850) passed through
this particular line.
Samuel James (c1754-1812, the second son of Evan James (1715-1794), married
in 1780 to Hannah Smith but reportedly began having children in 1778. Samuel had
a total of seven children beginning in 1778 through 1795. Thus based on the birth
of his first child in 1778 and his marriage in 1780 we can deduce that Elias James
(c1775-1840), the father of Thomas James (1803-c1850) was born prior to the period
Samuel James began having children.
Consequently, we are left with only one grandson of David James (c1660-1739)
through whom Elias James (c1775-1840), the father of Thomas James (1803-c1850) likely
descended. Of course there is always the possibility of birth out of wedlock to another
woman but with the exception of Enoch James (1739-?) and David James, the son of
Isaac James, the rest of the James family lines are very well documented. And because
there is a high probability that David James, the son of Isaac James migrated to
Ohio, it is less likely that Elias James (c1775-1840), the father of Thomas James
(1803-c1850) descended threw him.
Finally, among all the known descendants of David James (c1660-1739) from the
third through the fifth generation, the names “Elias” and “Enoch” appear in only
one line… the children of Thomas James (c1690-1753). Furthermore, there is only one
line in which the name “Enoch” appears… that of Enoch James (1739-?), the son of
Thomas James (c1690-1753). When the occurrence of these names is contrasted with
the fact that Thomas James (1803-c1850) of Franklin County, Alabama named two of
his sons “Elias” and “Enoch” we are confronted with the ever increasing likelihood
that Thomas James of Franklin County descends through Enoch James (1739-?), the son
of Thomas James (c1690-1753), the son of David James (c1660-1739).
A Look at the Historic Record
According to the 1850 U.S. Federal Census for the State of Alabama and the
County of Franklin, 5th District, enumerated in 1851, the household of Thomas James
reports that Thomas, his wife Mary and their eldest son also named “Thomas” were
all born in the state of Georgia prior to the year 1831. The eldest daughter of
Thomas and Mary James, a girl by the name of Elizabeth was reported to be 17 years
old and born in Alabama as of the date the census was enumerated in 1851. According
to the 1850 Federal Census the family of Thomas James was already in the State of
Alabama as of 1834. By comparing the ages of Thomas' two eldest children and the
reported locations of their birth, we can tell that the family of Thomas James (c1804-c1851)
migrated from the state of Georgia to the state of Alabama between 1831 and 1834.
Moreover, the 1850 Federal Census of Franklin County, Alabama reports that Thomas
James was 47 years of age as of the year (1851) the census was taken. That means
that Thomas was born on or about 1804 in the state of Georgia.
From the family records of Thomas James (1804-1851), past down through the
generations, it is known that Thomas was the son “Elias James” who was reportedly
born around the year 1775 in the Wilmington District of North Carolina. From this
information the question arises, if this particular James family descends from David
James (c1660-1739) who is known to have settled in Radnor Township, Chester County,
Pennsylvania, how did they manage to get from Pennsylvania to North Carolina and
eventually to Franklin County, Alabama?
Welsh Migration South From Pennsylvania
The distance from Radnor Township, Pennsylvania to Wilmington, North Carolina
is considerable. However, there are reports of members of the James family and other
allied families from Chester County, Pennsylvania migrating south to North Carolina
prior to the Revolutionary War. One such example of this can be found in Chatham
County, North Carolina in 1760 where a man by the name of Enoch Pugh purchased 163
acres of land after having migrated from Frederick County, Virginia and prior to
that.... Chester County, Pennsylvania.
Enoch Pugh (1735-1771) was a Quaker and member of the Pugh family of Chester
County, Pennsylvania and closely allied through inter-marriage with the James family.
Enoch Pugh was also a contemporary of the Enoch James born 1739, son of Thomas James
(1690-1753) of Upper Merion Township, Montgomery County Pennsylvania, the first son
of David James (1660-1739) of Radnor Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania.
Another example of Pennsylvania families migrating south can be found in Chester
County, South Carolina. In 1785, Chester County and its county seat, the city of
Chester, were named for Chester County, Pennsylvania. Originally the area that now
encompasses Chester County was located within Tryon County North Carolina. Tryon
County was formed from Mecklenburg County in 1768 and abolished in 1779 to form Rutherford
and Lincoln counties in North Carolina.
At its formation and until the border survey of 1772, Tryon County included
all or portions of the South Carolina counties of York, Chester, Union, Spartanburg
and Cherokee counties. Records of early ancestors who lived in the current area of
Chester County may be found in any of these counties, including the North Carolina
counties of Lincoln, Rutherford and Mecklenburg and their neighbors.
Chester County, South Carolina was formed in 1785 as part of the larger Camden
District but was later transferred to Pinckney District (1791-1800); it became a
separate district in 1800. Settlers from Pennsylvania and Virginia moved into this
upstate region beginning about 1755. Which brings us to the question of whether
Enoch James of Upper Marion may have journeyed south to North Carolina in the same
manner as other allied families had 15 years prior when he disappeared from Montgomery
County, Pennsylvania in 1775.
Enoch James and His Progeny
In 1775, our ancestor Enoch James, the "chairmaker", born 1739 and the orphaned
son of the late Thomas James (1690-1753) disappeared from his last known residence
in Marple Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. The question that has haunted
our family for the past 200 years is, where did he go?
According to "The Early Records of Georgia, Volume I, Wilkes County" abstracted
and compiled by Grace Gillam Davidson, published in 1933 at Macon, Georgia and appearing
on page 233, a man by the name of "Enoch James" is reported to be financially supporting
two "orphans," a Nancy and Mandy Ferrington, the daughters of the late Aaron Ferrington
Moreover, according to same work and appearing on page 318, a man by he name
of "Elias James" residing in Wilkes County, participated in the Land Lottery of 1803.
The land given out in this lottery was obtained from the Creek Indians in a treaty
at Fort Wilkinson, June 16, 1802.
There is also a report from Warren County, Georgia, the county that borders
Wilkes County immediately to the south contained in the 1830 Federal Census for the
state of Georia that shows a "Thomas James" residing there. This is the only "Thomas
James" reported in the state of Georgia in 1830.
These three men: Enoch, Elias and Thomas all residing within close proximity
of each other from 1802 to 1830 in Georgia raises the intriguing question of whetehr
or not the Enoch James of Wilks County, Georgia in 1811 is the same Enoch James of
Montgomery County, Pennsylvania in 1775 And, whether the Elias James of Wilks County,
Georgia reported there in the year 1803 is the same Elias James who was the father
of the Thomas James who eventually settled in Franklin County, Alabama. And finally,
whether the Thomas James who first appeared in Warren County Georgia in 1830 is the
same Thomas James who would eventually show up in Franklin County, Alabama in 1850.
Thus we now have a very plausible theory that the Enoch James of Marple Township,
Montgomery County, Pennsylvania left the colony circa 1775 and migrated towards Wilkes
County, Georgia where he and his son Elias James resided before Elias begot Thomas
James in 1804. The 1830 Federal Census for Georgia shows that a Thomas James (would
be age 27) was residing in neighboring Warren County, Georgia in that year. And because
Thomas' first child "Thomas" was born in Georgia circa 1830 and his second child
"Elizabeth" was born in Alabama in 1833 we can estimate that Thomas James, son of
Elias James migrated from Warren County, Georgia to Franklin County, Alabama between
1830 and 1833. But what about the report of Elias James’ birth in the Wilmington
District of North Carolina?
Connecting Enoch of Pennsylvania with Enoch of Georgia
Buried in the Internet are older inquires dating back to 1999 in which researchers
were investigating an "Enoch James" who served as an officer in the state militia
around the time of the Revolutionary War. His rank was reported to an "ensign."
This Enoch James is said to have lived in the "Welsh Tract" near Wilmington, North
Carolina before migrating to… Wilkes County, Georgia. The researchers examining
this Enoch were, in 1999, trying to determine whether or not this Enoch was the son
of Samuel James of the same Welsh Tract near Wilmington, North Carolina.
These inquiries are very intriguing because they could explain where Enoch
James (1739-?) went following his disappearance from Marple Township, Pennsylvania
in 1775. What makes these inquires even more interesting is that the Enoch James
in question was “Welsh” and had come from the "Welsh Tract" in Pennsylvania. From
this research we are confronted with the distinct possibility that Enoch James migrated
from Marple Township located within the historic “Welsh Tract” of Pennsylvania to
the Welsh Tract of North Carolina just prior to the Declaration of Independence.
We know for a fact that our Enoch James' younger brothers Elias James and Daniel
James both served in the Continental Line during the Revolutionary War. The question
is whether our lost Enoch James also served in the Revolutionary War at the rank
of "ensign" in a state militia either in North Carolina or Georgia.
When we combine this research with the fact that we already know Elias James,
born circa 1775, the father of Thomas James who migrated to Franklin County, Alabama
was born near Wilmington, North Carolina. These inquiries into Ensign Enoch James
begin to fit particularly well with the known history of our Enoch James.
What we find too compelling to be mere coincidence is the fact that the colonial
community known as the “Welsh Tract” just north of Wilmington, North Carolina; the
same community to which Ensign Enoch James purportedly belonged to during the Revolutionary
War period prior to his migration to Wilkes County, Georgia; was in fact composed
of Welsh settlers from Pennsylvania who began migrating there in the 1730’s.
Enoch’s Service During the Revolutionary War
According to the essay “Revolutionary Reminiscences from the ‘Cape Fear Sketches’”
written by John A. McGeachy at North Carolina State University on December 12, 1991
and appearing at Endnote No. 34, “The Welsh Tract was located in what is now central
Pender County, in an area between the Northeast Cape Fear River and the Cape Fear
River. The first land grant in the area was in 1730 to David Evans for 640 acres.
A number of Welsh families migrated from Pennsylvania to the Welsh Tract at this
same time and shortly thereafter. Hugh Meredith, formerly a partner of Benjamin Franklin,
was among those who left Pennsylvania for Wilmington [North Carolina] sic and the
Welsh Tract in 1731. See Powell, North Carolina Gazetteer, 524; Hugh Meredith, An
Account of the Cape Fear Country, 1731; edited by Earl Gregg Swem (Perth Amboy, N.J.:
Charles F. Heartman, 1922).” The fact that the settlers of the Welsh Tract near
Wilmington, North Carolina were originally from Pennsylvania is very compelling evidence
that this is the community to which our lost Enoch James migrated following his disappearance
from Marple and Tredyffrin Townships, Pennsylvania in May of 1775.
On September 9, 1775, the Provincial Congress of North Carolina authorized
thirty-five (35) existing county Militias to be organized. All officers were appointed
and commissioned by the Provincial Congress. At this point in time the Welsh Tract
north of Wilmington lie in New Hanover County. The New Hanover County Regiment was
active until the end of the war. Units of this regiment were known to have participated
in battles and skirmishes from January 1776 through November 1781 including: The
third Battle at Fort Johnson; Briar Creek, Georgia; Siege of Charleston; Little Lynches
Creek, South Carolina; Camden, South Carolina; The First Battle of Wilmington, North
Carolina; Heron’s Bridge; Rouse’s Tavern; The Second Battle of Wilmington, North
Carolina; Lindley’s Mill and the Evacuation of Wilmington. If our Ensign Enoch James
from the Welsh Tract of North Carolina served in a state militia, this particular
regiment would have likely been the one he served in. Interestingly, the skirmish
at Briar Creek, Georgia was only 150 miles to the east of Wilkes County, Georgia
and may explain why he migrated in that direction following the end of the Revolutionary
The Curious Case of Ester James
According to the Find-A-Grave Internet website, Ester James is reported to
be the daughter of Enoch James of Wilkes County, Georgia and a woman with the first
name, “Celia.” Ester is reported to have married John Curry in 1818. Ester James
Curry is further reported to have died at some unknown date in Alabama. See Memorial
of Ester James Cury, No. 166233123, by Sue Walkemeyer, added June 29, 2016. John
Curry reportedly died on August 28, 1879 in Pushmataha, Choctaw County, Alabama.
See Memorial of John Cury, No. 49343991, by David Snow, added March 6, 2010. There
are reports that can be found on the Internet that indicate a large enclave of the
Curry family resided in Franklin County, Alabama – the same county to which Thomas
James (1803-1850) migrated to between 1830 and 1833. These records raise the question
of whether other members of the James family from Wilkes County, Georgia migrated
to Alabama prior to the arrival of Thomas James. The case of Ester James Curry may
represent the first documented migration of descendants of Enoch James of Wilkes
County, Georgia to Alabama.
From the genetic evidence revealed by the DNA testing, we are certain that
the family line beginning with Elias James born 1775 in the Wilmington District of
North Carolina; followed by his son Thomas James (1804-1851) born in Georgia and
their progeny who settled in Alabama descend from David James (c1660-1739) of Radnorshire,
Wales. And from a careful process of elimination of known descendants of David James
we know that line of Elias James of North Carolina and Thomas James of Georgia more
likely than not descended through the grandson of David James whom we know to be
Enoch James born 1739 in Upper Marion Township, Pennsylvania, the son of Thomas James
(c1690-1753) of Radnor Township, Pennsylvania. Hence the following line is ascertained:
David James to Thomas James to Enoch James to Elias James to Thomas James.
From our review of the known historical record we know that Enoch James, born
1739 in Upper Marion Township, Pennsylvania disappeared from that area, Marple Township,
in 1775. We also know that at the same time an Enoch James appears in the Welsh
Tract near Wilmington, North Carolina and serves as an officer, an ensign, in the
state militia during the course of the Revolutionary War. In addition, we know that
our Enoch James of Pennsylvania along with his siblings became orphans in 1753, and,
the Enoch James of North Carolina migrated south to Wilkes County, Georgia following
the Revolutionary War and there took upon himself the responsibility of financially
sponsoring two orphaned girls there.
The final telltale clue to establishing the lost line of Enoch involves the
frequency with which certain names appear among the descendants. In no other line
of the James family does the name “Enoch” appear. Moreover, the name “Enoch” appears
not only to be unique to this side of the family but it is a name that appears with
some frequency among subsequent generations. Also, the names “Elias” and “Thomas”
appear more frequently in this line than any of the other James family lines pointing
back to the forefathers of this particular James line.
It is well documented that Welsh settlers of Pennsylvania migrated south into
the Carolinas prior to the advent of the Revolutionary War. We also know that our
Enoch James of Pennsylvania had a very difficult time making a go of it there prior
to 1775 including incarceration for two years and a failed marriage. These circumstances
provide ample motivation for our Enoch to have departed the area in search of a fresh
start elsewhere. What is truly amazing is that it appears Enoch succeeded in doing
just that. Following 1775 he appears to have served his fledgling nation with honor
and distinction in the Revolutionary War, built a new family that has flourished
and spread across the fruited plane and was even able to serve the needs of orphans
in distress providing a very valuable community service.
Over 250 years ago, our misfit ancestor Enoch James was separated and cut off
from the rest of the family. Whether that was intentional or incidental to the events
surrounding the Revolutionary War, we may never know. What we do know is that this
prodigal son and his progeny have been returned to us and for that we must be truly
grateful. So let us celebrate and jump for joy as we welcome home… The Lost Line