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In Search of the Lost Line of Enoch

by Larry P. James, November 3, 2016


      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.

A Process of Elimination    


      To begin with, David James of Radnorshire, Wales is known to have had three sons: Thomas James (c1690-1753); Isaac James; and Evan James (1715-1794).  See Children of David James (c1660-1739) & Margaret Jane Mortimer. There are therefore only three possibilities among the second generation through whom Elias James could have descended. Thomas James, the first son of David, is known to have had four sons: Enoch James (born 1739); Elias James (1744-1789); Daniel James (1750-1817) and Jonathan James (born 1751) before he died in 1753.  See Children of Thomas James (1690-1753), Mary Jones & Sarah Henderson. During his lifetime, Thomas James is known to have had five children in total from the years 1739 through 1751. His children are clearly documented in the Guardianship Petition of Sarah (Henderson) James (1753). Isaac James the, the second son of David, is known to have had one son, David James.  See Supra, Children of David James (c1660-1739). Evan James, the youngest son of David, is known to have had two sons: Griffith James (died 1812) and Samuel James (1754-1812). See Children of Evan James (1715-1794) & Margaret Jones (-1790). Evan, being the youngest child of David James, was known in his lifetime to have had five children in total from the early 1750’s through the 1760’s.


       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-ukn); (2) Elias James (1744-1789); (3) Daniel James (1750-1817); (4) Jonathan James (1751-unk); (5) David James (ukn-ukn); (6) Griffith James (ukn-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-ukn), 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 ease.


       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 in 1811.


       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 whether 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 War.


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 can conclude that Enoch James, born 1739 in Upper Marion Township, Pennsylvania disappeared from  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, I.e., 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 took upon himself the financial sponsorship of two orphaned girls.


       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 of Enoch!


Revised January 10, 2021