Giving clarity to the first Ledbetter’s in America–from colonial Charles City to Appomattox River to Brunswick Co to Rutherford Co to Broad River

James River at Berkeley Plantation at Charles City, Virginia

An ancestral blog by Terrell Ledbetter; picture is of James River at Berkeley Plantation, Charles City, Virginia (site of original landing in America for Thomas Ledbetter)

I have seen many family trees with incorrect entries, “Find a Grave” entries with false imformation and numerous ancestral posts with false assumption concerning the Ledbetter tree.  Everyone’s tree is going to vary.  Not every Ledbetter descendent comes from the first to land in Virginia, but the first two generations of the first Ledbetter’s in America should be corrected.  The following blog states my arguments for the tree that follows.  Everyone is certainly entitled to their own opinion based upon their own records and research. After the second generation, the Ledbetters scattered. New Ledbetter immigrants began to settle in America. My direct line and comments may be informative to some who share a common Ledbetter ancestor.

I was fortunate to have the basic generational Ledbetter tree handed to me by my great Aunt, Lillie Mae Ledbetter  who was born in 1909 and was the daughter of my great -grandfather, Higgins Ledbetter.  The tree had  been built, corrected, and handed down over seven generations when she gave me the tree in 1990. It gave the name of each grandfather, birth and death dates, and the spouse.  This was a direct line tree where most of the non-direct line siblings were not tracked.  I trust this direct line as the information was handed down directly from generation to generation, probably recorded in family bibles.  My dad had also told me stories over the years, some of which were of the five brothers who were the second generation.  My dad’s sister, Aunt Edith Ledbetter Fortune, also told me stories from her childhood memories of the Broad River Ledbetters from George Ledbetter/Lizer Murphy and Higgins Ledbetter/Lafaria Searcy. I also received confirmation of my findings from Stuart Nanney, married to Luther Ledbetter’s daughter, showing the true lineage back to Richard Ledbetter Sr.

There are a lot of Henry’s , Richards, Johns etc, so you have to be very careful with your tree. My Richard I, born in 1644 was the father to Drury, John, Charles, William and Richard II, all born just after 1700. Some trees shows my Richard Ledbetter I as the son of Henry’s son John.  Ages and other trees disprove this. There are just to many Richards period.

Tradition for naming sons were as follows, but be careful, some did not follow tradition:

• first son named after paternal grandfather

• second son named after mother’s father

• third son named after the father

• fourth son named after the father’s older brother

By the time the fifth (5) generation was born, around 1720-1735, I roughly calculate there were 150 Ledbetter males descending from Thomas, the first to come. 

This is the tree below.  Full explanations, stories, and supporting documents follow the tree, Direct line in blue


1st Generation in America

Thomas Ledbetter (1600-1658) – Mary Molisse Thomas (1603-1673)


2nd Generation child of Thomas

Henry Ledbetter (1635-1698) – Mary House (1624-1672)

Francis Ledbetter (1653-1743) – Martha Jones  (1648-1745)  Possible son of Thomas Ledbetter  or son of Henry.  No sure determination has been established.  I have a direct line to Francis as well as the direct line to Thomas. Francis received land, along with John Ledbetter (Henry’s son) and William Jones (Francis’ brother-in-law) south/southwest of Appamatox River in 1678.

Thomas would have been fifty-three at Francis birth if that scenerio was true.  If Francis was Henry’s son, he would have been born nine years ahead of the second son, John and five years before his marriage to Mary House. Speculation is that Henry was married twice, and the second wife was Sarah Tolman. There is credible evidence that Sarah Tolman and another Henry Ledbetter  in the similar timetable were born, married, and lived in Massachusetts.  Also the information I had handed down to me confirms that Mary House was the mother of all the boys and that Mary lived until 1672.

The LDS geneology indicates that Francis was the son of Henry Ledbetter and Mary House and was born in 1660.  This lends more credibility that the other source that list the birth of Francis as 1553.


3rd Generation Children of Henry

Francis Ledbetter (1653 or 1660 -1743- Martha Jones (1648-1745)

John Ledbetter (1662-1730)

Henry Ledbetter (1664-1771)

Richard I (July 4, 1666-1759) – Hanna Honour (1675-1758)

Drury Ledbetter (1666-1740)

William Ledbetter (April 10, 1668-1743)

Martha Ledbetter


4th Generation children of Richard I

Henry Ledbetter (1690

John Ledbetter (1701

Charles Ledbetter (1703

William Ledbetter (1709

Richard Ledbetter II (1700-1751) – Mary Walton (1720-1779)


5h Generation children of Richard II

Issac Ledbetter (1732-1785)

Mary Ledbetter (1733-1741)

Drury S. Ledbetter (1734-1761)

Charles Ledbetter (1738-1774)

Richard B. Ledbetter III (1738-1841) – Nancy Ann Johnson (1745-1821)

Arthur Ledbetter (1740-1814)- Francis Brooks

William Ledbetter (1740-1818) _Mary Cheves

Captain George Ledbetter (1742-1792) – Elizabeth Walton (1740-

Elizabeth Walton’s mother was Elizabeth Ledbetter (1730-1802) and daughter of Henry Ledbetter (1690-1751)/Edith Williamson (1690). Henry was the son of Francis Ledbetter (1653-1743)/Martha Jones (1648-1745).  This Francis Ledbetter is either the brother or son of Henry Ledbetter (2nd generation). This Francis, therefore, is either second or third generation. With either case, I am fortunate to have two separate lines from Thomas Ledbetter.

6th Generation children of Captain George

Elizabeth Ledbetter  (1773-1790) – James Bradley

George (Walton) Ledbetter (1775-1866) – Sally Goodbread (1780-1875)

Isaac Ledbetter (1776-1837)- Ursala Bradley/Nancy King

William H. Ledbetter (1783-1849) – Ruth Lewellen

Nancy Ledbetter (1784-1840) -James Murphree/James Bowem


7th Generation children of Walton

William (George) Ledbetter (1815-1864) – Eliza Murphy (1823-18970

Madison Ledbetter (1809-1889)- Mary Lyda

Temperance Ledbetter (1816) – William Bertus Murphy

Squire Thomas Ledbetter (1819-1863)- Zillah Murphy/Malinda Gilliam

James Ledbetter (1830


8th Generation children of George

William Higgins Ledbetter (1862-1932) – Lafaria Searcy (1868-1925)

Katherine Ledbetter (1845-1914)- Watsell Avery Lyda

James Ledbetter (1842)

Aunt Harriet Ledbetter (1863-1963)


9th Generation children of Higgins

Luther B. Ledbetter (1887-1969) – Kate Nanney

James (Jim) Lancaster Ledbetter (1880-1950) – Gardie Elliott (1891-1973)

Cletus L. Ledbetter (1894-1968) -Maggie Elliott

Ethel Pauline Ledbetter (1898-1994) -Charles Meese

John Long Ledbetter (1900-1957) – Hettye Nanney

Annie Eliza (1902-1998) – William Morris

Sam Ledbetter (1909-1927)

Lillie Mae Ledbetter ( (1909-1995) – Perry Melton

Bryan Ledbetter (1896-1967)- Maggie Taylor


Discussion of each generation and background information:

1) Thomas Ledbetter (1600-1658)

As written by James A. Mc Clain in, the Ledbetter family home was in Durham County, Northumbria, England from after 1570 until Thomas immigrated.  His family reportedly were French Hugenots who had fled France some years before the Massacre of St. Bartholomew in 1572.  William Leadbetter had left the area for Ireland in early 1740’s and his wife, Mary Shackleton, published a short history of the family in 1744 where she said the family had fled from France and their family name was LeBete. The family located at Seaham, an old Viking fishing village on the North Atlantic Coast of Durham County. The family apparently was in England for only two generations before Thomas immigrated.

My great-great Aunt’s records indicate that Thomas and his wife Mary Thomas immigrated to Charles City, Virginia in 1721.  Edward Tunstall had sold 125 acres to Thomas earlier (probably 1637 when Tunstall moved to Henrico Country) and Thomas  had received an additional 99 acres due to arranging transportation of Margary Lucus and Mary House to America in 1638.  Governor Berkely transacted with 224 acres south of the Appamatox River on April 29, 1668 to Henry Ledbetter.  By this time, Thomas had been deceased by ten years.  Due to the fact that no immigration records have been found, nor land records until after 1637, it is my own personal theory that Thomas and Mary were endentures and only after working off their transportation costs, were they able to by the land from Tunstall in 1637.  Some have stated they were landed gentry and purchased land after they arrived in 1635.  I trust my information handed down to me on the immigration period so I do not agree they were landed gentry after 1635.

This land was south of the Appamatox River and between the current cities of Petersburg and West Petersburg, Virginia.  A branch of the Appamatox in this area was called Ledbetter Creek for years.  The first three generations lived here for over ninety years.

In the late 1680’s, the family attended the Church of England, the Blandford Church in the Bristol Parish.

It should be noted that the LDS indicate Mary Thomas to have been born in 1627 in Durham, England.  This is obviously incorrect as we have the above mentioned land transactions in 1637 in Virginia when Mary would be ten.

2.Henry Ledbetter (1635-1698)

i have seen Henry’s birthdate as early as 1625.  Due to lack of women in America, colonialists were granted land in exchange for transporting women to Virginia in the early 1600’s. Such was the case for Thomas as he received 99 acres for transporting Margry Linsal and Mary House (1624-16720}.  This is the Mary House that Henry married in April, 1658. They had six sons and one daughter.

I have seen reports that Henry had a second wife named Sarah Tolman.  The Henry that married Sarah was born in 1633 and died in 1722.  This couple lived and died in Dorchester, Massachusetts.  I believe there is a big incorrect jump to assume the Charles City Henry Ledbetter was the same as the Massachusetts Henry Leadbetter.

The land deed to Henry Ledbetter by Sir Berkely in 1658 establishes his residency in the Appamatox River area of Virginia.

A judgement on record of October, 1673 to Mary Ledbetter verifies her continued presence in the area  and marriage to Henry.

3.Richard Ledbetter I (1666-1759)

Lived in Appamatox River area until 1729 when many of the Ledbetter kin purchased land and moved to land adjoining each other in Brunswick County, Virginia near present day White Plains :

∗ both sides of the Meherrin River

∗south to Rattlesnake Creek

∗Fountain Creek

∗Swiss Creek, Little Creek and Hounds Creek

4.Richard Ledbetter II (1700-1751)

He also made the move from the Appomatox River area to Brunswick County.  Produced a huge number of male offsprings in his short lifetime. He was the first Ledbetter to purchase land in the then pioneer County of Brunswick.  Richard owned the most land followed by brothers William and Henry.  Richard became constable in 1738 and oveseer in 1739.

5. Captain George Ledbetter (1742-1792)

Moved to Rutherford County in 1775. A well educated man who was involved with ratification of the continental congress. Served as a Captain in the Battle of Kings mountain under Colonel Hampton.  Served as a sheriff and Justice of Peace for Rutherford County after the Revolutionary War.

6. Walton Ledbetter (1775-1866)

Walton married into the Goodbread family, an immigrant family from Germany.  His wife Sarah Goodbread’s grandmother was Mary Ledbetter (1742-1625) who was the daughter of Richard Ledbetter III (1717-1751). Walton lived in the Montford Cove area of McDowell County.

7. George Ledbetter (1815-1864)

My details on George Ledbetter were told to me by my dad and Aunt Edith who heard stories from their grandfather Higgins Ledbetter and grandmother Lafaria when they were children.

George was a skilled craftsman, blacksmith and farmer who provided food and support for those in the region who needed help. His wife’s family, the Murphy’s, had a wagon road inn.  George was handy with repairing wagons and wheels as necessary.

murphy tavern

He was over thirty-five at the outbreak of the Civil War so he was allowed to continue farming while serving as a home guard.  In 1864, George was ambushed and shot in the head by a deserter.  His wife, Liza Murphy, picked up a rifle and shot the deserter.  Liza cleaned up George’s body and buried him.  At the time they had several girls and my great-grandfather Higgins who was two years old.  The death was a serious burden to the family and was felt for generations.

The family lived in the Broad River area which is now on Hwy 9 about a third of the way between Bat Cave and Black Mountain, North Carolina.

8. Higgins Ledbetter (1862-1932)

Like his father before him, Higgins was a skilled craftsman, blacksmith and farmer. Aunt Edith told me that his wife Lafaria was a likeable woman. They lived in the Broad River area.

william higgins ledbetter family two

I believe the above picture was taken around 1905. My grandfather was Jim who died when I was five.  I remember visiting my dad’s uncles Bryan and Luther on Sundays during the 1950’s.  They all live in Broad River, Buncombe County, North Carolina.

9. Roy, Frank, Holly, Grady and Mary Elizabeth (Edith) Ledbetter children of Jim Ledbetter

The generation I have known well. May they all rest in peace.  They will be remembered.







“Sings a nobler song now…”

an ancestral blog by Terrell Ledbetter

A hundred forty-four years ago, a cruel and relentless war reached into the beautiful valleys, high Balsam peaks, and cold water streams of the North Carolina Blue Ridge and pulled our great-grandfathers into a harsh, deadly campaign.  My four great-grandfathers (and two of their fathers) who lived along the banks of the Pigeon, Swannanoa, and Broad Rivers happened to be in that eighteen to thirty-five year old range needed for enlistment on conscription. Their stories were typical and the effects of the war placed on their families went on for decades.  

A story you are most likely familiar with is one told in the movie “Cold Mountain” where Jude Law portrayed Private W.P. Inman and also starring Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger.  The Confederate unit in which W.P. Inman served was the 25th Regiment, North Carolina Infantry, Company F.  Serving in the same unit was my great-grandfather Jonathan Kimsey Reese, his younger brother Isaac Newton Reese and Captain James Cathey. The 25th fought in the horrible Battle of the Crater at the siege of Petersburg, Virginia on July 30, 1864. On that day, 3,798 Union and 1,491 Conferate casualties were suffered.

Jonathan, Isaac, W.P., and Captain Cathey lived in the (now) Nantahala National Forest along the banks of the East and West Forks of the Pigeon Rivers just north of the Blue Ridge Parkway and north of Cold Mountain which lay between Asheville and Sylva, in Haywood County.  The unit was assembled at Camp Patton, Asheville in August of 1861. One of the field officers was Col. Thomas L. Clingman.  During the course of the war, the 25th had a total of 1694 men enlisted; 669 were killed,captured, disabled or deserted.

Isaac Reese was killed at the Battle of Malvern Hill in Virginia on June 12, 1862. Captain Cathey was killed in battle on July 30, 1864 during the siege of Petersburg, Virginia.  This terrible battle on this date was the Battle of the Crater. According to the book and movie “Cold Mountain,” W.P. Inman was separated from his unit and departed for his home in the Blue Ridge at that point.  Western Carolina University has collected the obituary for Capt. James M. Cathey and made public at:

This eloquently written obit captures the intelligence, sensitivities, and perspectives of the time from the war.  Of particular note is the line that says “Cut down in the bloom of his young manhood, in the discharge of defending the sunny South from Invasion, his death like that of many others may be viewed as an offering to his country.”  In the mountains of western North Carolina, there were no plantations and very few slaves.  These young men fought and died for their state, their communities and their families.  North Carolina supplied the most men to the Confederacy (155,000) and as a result lost 40,000 deaths.  It was a rough time in American history and they were caught up in it due to now fault of their own.

Jonathan Reese finished the war and he, with his Father’s family, left the Pigeon River and settled in Swannanoa. It is not know if the war was responsible for this move.

Further east from Nantahala to Rutherford County, along the Broad River, my great-grandfather William Harris Elliott was a little older than most during the start of the war; at the breakout of the war, he lived in Montford’s Cove.  He enlisted on September 2 1861 at the age of thirty into the North Carolina 34th Infantry Regiment, Company C called “Rutherford Rebels.” The 34th was sent to Virginia and placed in General Pender’s and Scales’ Brigade.  It was a very active Brigade from the Seven Days’ Battles to Cold Harbor and the operations around Appomattox.  At Gettysburg, twenty-one percent of the 310 engaged were disabled. After the long four year campaign, William returned to Rutherford County and married Mary Etta Lancaster in 1867 at the age of 36 and moved to Bat Cave.  Starting a family at this age was uncommon in those days and even more uncommon was that my grandmother, Gardie Elliott was born in 1890 when William Harris was 59 years old.  Because of his age when Gardie was born, her children (including my Dad) did not get to know their grandfather as he had deceased when they were infants; in fact very little was known about Gardie’s parents because of this. He had survived the war but the effects of the war influenced the lives of his descendents.  Gardie married by grandfather James (Jim) Ledbetter, the son of Higgins Ledbetter, whose story begins as follows:

My great-grandfather Higgins Ledbetter was not born until a year after the war began, but his life was forever changed because of the effects of the war on his father, George Washington Ledbetter, and future father-in-law, William Bryson Searcy.

George Washington Ledbetter was thirty-eight when the war broke out and he had a large family, mostly  girls, and one young boy.  He was skilled as a blacksmith, carpenter and farmer and his success was shared with many others in the wide neighborhood of the Broad River region of Rutherford Country which is just north of the small town of Bat Cave, North Carolina. George served as a home guard for the community while still maintaining his work as a farmer/blacksmith.  On May 13, 1864 he was ambushed and killed by a rifle shot to the head by a deserter (Union or Confederate not known).  His wife Rebecca Liza Murphy Ledbetter was able to shoot and kill the deserter, clean her husband for burial and bury him before assuming the large chore of maintain support for her many children. By 1870, she also added the chore of caring for her aged mother-in-law, Sarah Sally Goodbread Ledbetter now 86 years of age.  It wasn’t until about 1874 until my great-grandfather was skilled and mature enough to take on a large burden of caring for his mother and siblings.  Higgins Ledbetter assumed those duties at a very early age and became very skilled in carpentry, blacksmithing and farming as was his late father. By 1880, he was the only man in the family farm with his mother and four sisters. There were several tax/land disputes in those years with Rebecca Ledbetter (Higgin’s mother and widow of George) and the Sheriff of Rutherford County.  I haven’t fully placed the family farm but a land deed indicates (two) one hundred acre tracks in upper Broad River adjacent to Mr. William A. Garrison’s land and near Lacky Gap Creek. This land was on the left hand side of the road on Upper Broad River just past Lacky Gap.  Rebecca Liza Murphy Ledbetter’s sister Sarah Emmeline Murphy Garrison were sisters and their farms were close by.

After his mother died in 1887, Higgins married Lafaria Viola Searcy.  Lafaria’s father was William Bryson Searcy who had a compelling Civil War history of his own.

William Bryson Searcy enlisted into Company C of the 60th Regiment of  North Carolina confederacy forces on January 1, 1862 at the age of twenty-two. This regiment fought in the Tennesse and Mississippi fronts including Murfreesboro and Chicamauga.  Field officers were Col. Washington Hardy and Col. Joseph A. McDowell. William was captured months after the battle of Missionary Ridge in Tennessee.  He was taken to a POW camp in Ohio where he was offered freedom if he would go to Kansas to help gather the wheat harvest. After that was completed he was allowed to go home.  He later collected a pension from the Union as well as the Confederacy.

william higgins ledbetter family two

Just south of the Blue Ridge Parkway between Clingman’s Dome and Mt. Mitchell lays a beautiful and wild forest that stretches downward to the Swannanoa.  Here my great-grandfather Albert Washington Walker was only seven when the war broke out and his father, James Washington Walker was nearing forty and thus not within the enlistment age range.  However there were influences from the war on this family due to Albert’s mother and James Washington’s wife, Sophronia Burnett Walker.  Sophronia lost five of her brothers from battle, disease or hardships of the war.  Her father, Fed Burnett, had many grandchildren without fathers and he had to help support.  

north fork reservoir

The war changed the trajectory of many lives as did my family above and the effects could be felt for generations.  These were tough mountain people in hard times and they came through it strongly.

Terrell Ledbetter

March 1, 2016

Family Tree From the Ancients

alexander vs. elephants

an ancestral blog by Terrell Ledbetter

There are common themes for many family trees; the long lines back to ancient times are possible because the line contained some or many historical or famous persons.  Most lines do not stretch very far back into history as the tree members lived their lives in unrecognized fashion.  Many trees stretch only as far back as family Bibles take them.  Over time, the famous historical figures had their ancestors and descendants recorded and maintained.  

I have been adding onto my tree for over forty years now and my grandfathers and grandmothers number over 7800 now (no sibling or cousin members were added to tree, only direct line parentage).  The long lines in my tree contain historical men, or women, and the short trees have records of ancestors long lost because no one cared to preserve their family history or the historical records or family Bible records were misplaced or destroyed.

charlemagne sword

The best way to further explain this is to render my lengthy line of my tree:

Seleucus I Nicator was my 77th great-grandfather (358 BC-281 BC) who was a General for Alexander the Great.  Seleucus was commander of the elite fighting unit called silver shields or “Shield Bearers”, who were the lead unit to face the elephants of King Porus.  On the same day and ceremony where Alexander married the daughter of Darius III, Seleucus married a Persian Princess called Apama.  He became leader of huge provinces in the Near East and founded Antioch. Records of this ancestor who lived 80 generations back (2363 years) were carefully maintained because the descendents were leaders in the Near East and Egypt and eventually Rome.

Listing every notable descendent of Seleucus would be lengthy and pointless, so I will touch only a few.  One of the decendants I will touch on is my 69th great-grandmother, Cleopatra Trypaena (born 135 BC).  Many people wrongly assume that pharohs and their queens were Egyptian but that would be incorrect.  After Egypt was conquered by Alexander the Great, Egypt was ruled by decendants of Syrians and Greeks whose ancestors had been installed by Alexander.  Cleopatra Trypaena was no different and was most likely Syrian.  It has been suggested that Cleopatra Trypaena was the mother of the famous Cleopatra who ruled Egypt with the grace of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.

A few generations of descendants later to my 62 great-grandfather was Gaius Asinius Quadratus of Rome (130-220 AD).  He was a senator who wrote 15 books about the history of Rome.

From Rome to the Holy Roman Empire arose my 38th great-grandfather Charles the Great or Charlemagne.  Most likely the greatest King of all time was born in 742 Ad and died 813 AD.  His ancestors and descendents were carefully recorded and that is responsible for many lengthy trees.

Ten generations later arrive William the Conqueror (1024-1087 AD) my 26th great-grandfather.  This Norman, by conquering England, established taxes, census and laws that established a different kingdom.  His son, Henry I Beauclerc, was the first King of England.

Six hundred years later, my 7th great-grandfather Lord William Johnson was born in Colonial Virginia (New Kent, Virginia 1697-1756). He was the son-in-law of Burgess Larkin Chew and was a landowner in Colonial Virginia.

If you are chasing a long ancestry line, keep after it and you may end up 80 generations back as I did.

From Europe to the Blue Ridge—Religion and Wagon Roads


an ancestral blog by Terrell Ledbetter


At the dawn of British settlement of Colonial America, Spanish culture found roots in Santa Fe and St. Augustine and French culture filtered down from Quebec to New Orleans. The first generation of my family in America began in Virginia in 1621, ten generations back.  This story is also a theme of the settlement of the Blue Ridge and it began before those intrepid souls boarded an immigrant ship to the unknown new world across the Atlantic. This story is a story of many of my family grandfathers but it is probably your story as well. Who were these people who left some family, friends and their daily existence to seek the unknown? Months of cramped and harsh life on a crowded sailing vessel led to a land they knew little about. Why were these people willing to take a chance on an uncertain future?

The prime, but not sole, factor for European relocation to America was religion; conflict of relatively new Protestant religion versus the traditional Catholic religion. In France, by mid 1560, a large growth in Protestants began mostly due to the writings of Calvin.  The Huguenots, as the French Protestants were called, had grown to nearly two million people by that time and considerable conflicts ensued between the much larger based Catholics in France.  From August to early October, 1572, the Catholics had killed thousands of Huguenots (over 25,000 in Paris alone). In 1685, Louis XIV abolished Protestants from France. Roughly a half-million Huguenots left France over the next few decades. Many went to Ulster as did many Scots seeking religious freedom.  IAround 1570, a French Huguenot family named LeBette crossed the channel and settled in a small fishing village on the north coast of England. Seaham was reputed to have been an ancient Viking fishing village. For roughly two generations, my LeBette ancestors lived there: slowly the Anglo language had changed the surname spelling to Ledbetter. In 1621, Thomas Ledbetter (born 1600) married Mary Molisse Thomas (born 1600) and shortly thereafter found passage to Virginia.  Passenger lists do not list the names of this couple but I am confident that they had apprenticed themselves to a benefactor, probably a fellow passenger, and settled in Charles City,County. Virginia after 1621. (Interesting enough, the population of the Colonial states in 1625 was estimated to be 1625 people). The next generation purchased land in what was to become Prince George County in 1635. They purchased hundreds of acres of land south of the James and Appomatox Rivers, south of present day Petersburg, Virginia. Several generations later, land in Brunswick County, Virginia opened up and the Ledbetters, along with many other new Colonialists, moved down the Wagon Road from the Shenandoah Valley to Brunswick for better farming land.

In sharp contrast to the LeBette’s who migrated as indentured servants, John Johannes Chew (1583-1668) arrived in Jamestown in 1621 onboard the ship “Charitie” from England.  John Chew’s family had been a prominent English family for over four centuries. He had received lands from the Virginia Company and became a planter on Pig Island; he became a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses and was officially called Burgess John Chew. This is a summary of America; one family came here as indentured servants and at the same year and place, another family came here as landowners and officials who had indentured servants of their own.  Over decades, the poor family became landowners and began to prosper while the rich family distributed land and holdings to numerous children thereby diminishing family wealth over several decades. In those instances where the oldest son inherited most of a family’s holdings, wealth was preserved significantly longer.  And here we are ten generations later, and I can reflect on the polar opposite status of my Colonial Virginia grandfathers.

Devastation due to wars between Germany provinces and France created a large exodus of Germans to Pennsylvania. The largest amount of German immigrants to Pennsylvania occurred from 1749-1754. These immigrants mostly came as poor farmers or craftsmen with a wife and two children. By 1775, there were about 75,000 German immigrants in America. In 1742, Johann Jacob Ries (born 1720) boarded the ship “Robert & Alice” in Rotterdam. This ship was not listed as a Palatine ship; it was Mastered by Mortley Cusack. After docking, the immigrants were taken to the Philadelphia Courthouse where their information was  recorded and where they took an oath of allegiance to the Government (England at that time). There is no indication of how this twenty-two year old made a living or where he first lived.  Johann married three years later to another German immigrant, Anna Marie Seiburren.  Eventually the family migrated down the Great Wagon Road from Philadelphia to Rowan, North Carolina near present day Winston Salem.  They German immigrants moved to new land in significant numbers, whether Morovian or Protestant.

Planned colonization of Ulster, Ireland began under English King James I.  Many Scots from the north lowlands, the highlands, and from Argyle and Galloway migrated to Ulster mostly during the early 1700’s. A few generations later, huge numbers emigrated to the American Colonies. These people were called Scots-Irish.

Hay tartan

The promise of a new life and land drew pure Irish and Scots as well as the religiously motivated Scots-Irish. One such Irishman was Joseph J. McDowell who was born in Northern Ireland in 1715. By this time, the land along the eastern coast was well settled and land for new settlement began in Pennsylvania.  When land opened up in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, he moved down the Great Wagon Road. At this time he fought in the French and Indian War and was a captain.  In 1761, he moved his family down to Quaker Meadows in Burke County, North Carolina. While ancestry records do not indicate this, Joseph must have had a brother that had migrated with him because the sons of the two brothers were both called Joseph McDowell, were cousins, and became confused in history. These two cousins, besides having the same name, lived in the same county, were in the North Carolina Legislature at the same time, and both were at the Battle of Kings Mountain. Quaker Meadows Joseph McDowell, Jr. son of Joseph McDowell, Sr. (1715) was reputed to be the leader of Burke County troops at the Battle of Kings Mountain while Pleasant Meadows Joseph McDowell, son of “Hunting” John McDowell was a Captain of a company at Kings Mountain.  This a perfect example of how ancestry can be difficult to get right.

carolina wagon road

William James Elliott was born in 1699 in Antim, Ireland and immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1737.  For seven years he settled in the Cumberland Valley, Pennsylvania and became on of the first families to move into the Valley of Virginia, Calf Pasture (Rockbridge) along with William Gay, James Stevenson, and the Garrett, Martin, and Dunlap families in 1744.  He lived in the Beverly Manor (118, 491 acres sectioned off for families in Augusta County, Virginia at the present intersection of I-81 and I-64). This was typical movement down the Wagon Road from Pennsylvania, through the Shenandoah Valley and then down to Rowan, North Carolina. William’s son Archibald lost his life at the Battle of Germantown, Revolutionary War in October 4, 1777.  It was his son William (1790-1862) that moved farther south on the Old Wagon Road to Rutherford County, North Carolina.  Here was land for the taking and was a good place to settle until the Cherokee Indian lands just west of Old Fort were opened up after 1785.

murphy tavern

Captain George Ledbetter (1742-1792) was a member of the Conventions of 1788 and 1789, well educated, and an officer in the Revolution under Col. Andrew Hampton at the Battle of Kings Mountain.  He had made the move down the Wagon Road from Brunswick County, Virginia to Tryon, North Carolina.  His grandchildren and great grandchildren, were farmers, carpenters and blacksmiths that serviced the many wagons that moved from South Carolina up into the Blue Ridge.  Higgins Ledbetter (1862-1932), great grandson of Captain George Ledbetter was a skilled carpenter and blacksmith and serviced many wagons in dire need.  His mother’s family operated a way station, tavern and Inn, for wagon traffic to and from the Bat Cave Area and South Carolina. It was called the Murphy’s High Porch Tavern. When many neighbors or travelers needed food or assistance, this family shared their surplus with them.


great wagon road 2


The wagon roads were improved trails overlaid on ancient indian trails and animal trails.  The trail was rough in many spots and nearly impassable for wagons. But it brought settlers to the Blue Ridge and it brought some commerce in the housing and feeding of travelers and from the upkeep and repair of the rough carriages that moved through the rough terrain.


Terrell Ledbetter

September 22, 2015

The North Fork Burnetts — Unraveling the Confusion — Jesse, Frederick Burnet Sr., Fed Burnett, Sophronia Burnett and “Granny Else”

craggy dome


an ancestral blog by Terrell Ledbetter . Revised November 16, 2017

The Black Mountain range consisting of twenty 6000 feet mountains forming a “J”, stand majestically over a mostly wilderness land that is (for most purposes) preserved from settlement, hunting and rampant logging because it serves as the watershed for the City of Asheville, North Carolina. You have seen the valley with the large lake supplied by steep mountain streams in movies. One movies in particular showcases the valley— “The Last of the Mohicans.” There is a family story to this land which falls below Black Mountain Gap and Potato Knob on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Clingman’s Dome and Mt. Mitchell. The prominent family in this picture is the Burnett family of the North Fork of the Swannanoa River.

Frederick McCloud Burnett (March 24, 1882-February 4, 1961) published “This Was My Valley” in 1960, a year before his death. Fred M. Burnett was the great-grandson of Frederick Thomas Burnett Sr. and the son of Marcus Lafayette (Fate) Burnett.  He was former district supervisor of the Interstate Commerce Commission from which he retired in 1949 to live in Ridgecrest.  The stories he portrayed had occurred as long as three generations before, about a hundred and sixty years.  It is easy to understand why there would be confusion.  Here in 2015, we have the benefit of census records, marriage and death certificates, land transaction records, copies of personal letters, grave markers, and many collaborating stories of past times.  Based upon public and personal records, the following is my depiction of the North Fork Burnetts (Burnet) who were a remarkable American family characterized as strong fighters and adventuresome settlers.  The stories told by Fred. M. Burnett saved tales we would otherwise never hear, and we are all grateful to him for saving our history.  In this blog, I attempt to unwound the confusion over dates and names that have been erroneously used over settlement of the North Fork upper valley.

Before beginning the story, it is appropriate to build background on general settlement in the Swannanoa Valley.  In 1784, Col. Samuel Davidson settled on Christian Creek, a tributary of the Swannanoa River.  He was killed by Cherokees and his wife retreated to the safety of Old Fort, some sixteen miles to the east.  Samuel’s twin brother, Maj. William Davidson, along with volunteers such as Capt. William Moore and Col. Daniel Smith, tracked to Cherokee raiders down and killed them near present day Biltmore Forest.  In 1785, these men moved into the Swannanoa Valley and were granted land to settle. Maj. Davidson settled at Bee Tree.  The significance of William Davidson to the Burnett family will be discussed further below.

Subseqently,  Buncombe County was formed in 1792.  Soon the State of North Carolina issued Land Grants to those that would file on unsettled land.  Here men began to file and claim parcels of land along the branches of the upper Swannanoa headwaters called Right Fork of the Swannanoa and the Left Fork of the Swannanoa. Early claimants of land on the North Fork of the Swannanoa and the Laurel Branch were David Taylor and Hamilton Kyle (1804).  Four years later, some of this land was sold to our Burnett ancestor.

The story begins with Philip Burnet (born in Scotland in 1688) relocated to New Castle, Delaware in 1712 with his son Frederick Thomas Burnet (born 1708).  Son Thomas, as he was called, relocated once again years later to Brunswick County, Virginia.  Subsequently he had three sons born in Brunswick County: Jesse Burnet was born in 1733, Thomas in 1735 and Joseph in 1743.


These brothers lived in the Morgan District of Rutherford County, North Carolina at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. The Burnet family had taken up land on the Second Broad River north of Catheys Creek near present day Bostic. When the Revolutionary War broke out, older brother Jesse tried to remain independent.  Brothers Thomas and Joseph were reputed to be Whigs which were Colonists revolting against the British.  Joseph and Thomas died the same day.  Thomas had been taken by Tories (Colonists loyal to the British King), tied to a tree and shot. Joseph died in battle which was October 7, 1780. During that battle, the Loyalist Militia reported to British Major Patrick Ferguson of the 71st Foot. Two hundred-ninety of the Loyalists were killed that day. The Patriot Militia with men such as John Sevier, Joseph McDowell and Isaac Shelby lost twenty-nine killed that day.

Margaret Else (estimated birth of 1740) was the first wife of Thomas Burnet and was reputed to have ridden a white horse to the battlefield on that October day in 1780. She was in search of relatives and loved ones.  A Dutch woman, she later married a Warren. In “This Was My Valley,” Fred. M. Burnett wrote: “She must have been an intrepid woman, with the courage and resourcefulness required to live in the wilderness, for Granny Else left for those to come after her a legend that she rode a white stallion alone to Kings Mountain seeking and finding her men who had joined other riflemen in the Revolutionary engagement. She did not know a battle had been fought until she met the hardy patriots returning from it. She was so sure she would find them alive, she brought food and clothing with her.  She found them near Lincolnton on their way home.” Obviously the original Granny Else was Margaret Else, not Peggy Null (see next paragraph) because of the ages of the two women on that October 7, 1780 date.  To add to this confusion, both women were named Margaret Peggy( Margaret Peggy Else and Margaret Peggy Null.)


Captain Philip Null was one of the Colonial Revolutionary War heroes, having fought most of the major wars in the conflict. He himself had his throat cut earlier in the war in North Carolina and was found and nursed to health by his future wife Anna Marie Margaret Bushong (her parents migrated from Germany two generations before). Philip and Margaret had a first child, a daughter named Margaret Peggy Null born on August 22, 1780. She was about seven weeks old when the Battle of Kings Mountain was fought. Her father was the second generation in America from a French Hugenot family which had moved from the Alsace/Lorraine area of Germany. The Nulls had settled along the South Fork of the Catawba, west of present day Lincolnton, North Carolina. Philip’s land was directly west of where the battle of Ramsaur’s Mill was fought. The Null farm was about thirty miles east of the Burnet farm.  

After the death of his two brothers, Jesse Burnet joined the Colonial cause, fighting battles including Guilford Court House in 1783.

Thomas had remarried a few years before his death at Kings Mountain to Elizabeth Littleberry. They had two sons; Littleberry Burnett and Swan Pritchett Burnett  The fate of Margaret Else is unknown other than her possible remarriage.  The son of Swan Pritchett Burnett was Joseph Jefferson Burnett who wrote a lengthy letter to nephew Dr. Swan Moses Burnett on September 29, 1886 detailing some of the Burnett heritage.

The first American census, the 1780 Census, had Jesse Burnett still living in Morgan, Rutherford, North Carolina along with sons Claborn Burnett (1768-1849) and Frederick Thomas Burnett (May 11, 1770-July 5, 1854).

As mentioned above, Major William Davidson was born in 1735, lived in Burke County, North Carolina and had a twin brother, Samuel Davidson, the first white settler in Western North Carolina.  Samuel was killed by Cherokees. Major William Davidson was also a brother of John Davidson who the Cherokee killed near the present town of Old Fort, North Carolina in July, 1776. Major Davidson had a prominent part in fighting the British.  After the Revolutionary War, Maj. Davidson was one of a party of relatives and friends ,who in 1785, crossed the mountains and formed the first white settlement west of Old Fort at the mouth of Bee Tree Creek, Swannanoa, North Carolina.

During the following years, Major Davidson claimed land of the upper North Fork of the Swannanoa, now part of the Asheville Watershed and Burnet Reservoir.  Years later, he transacted acreage to Hamilton and Thomas Kyle.  On August 15, 1808, Frederick Burnett Sr. purchased 130 acres from the Kyles.  It had been recorded that the land was on Laurel Creek which is southwest of the present damn spillway.  While that was all the acreage recorded, it is quite likely that additional land was bought but the records are not clear. There have been reports that additonal acreage was purchased in 1814. The records do indicate another 130 acres were purchased in 1824, most likely by Fed Burnett.

On April 14, 1795, Peggy Null age fourteen ran away from home and married Frederick Burnett Sr. in Rutherfordton, North Carolina.  The marriage document was misinterpreted as her name was listed as Peggy Neill.  Peggy’s parents were enraged and supposidly disowned her. The Nuils left for Pennsylvania not too long afterward, probably 1798. The 1800 United States Federal Census lists Frederick Burnet in Morgan, Rutherford, North Carolina.  He was over 26, his wife under 26, and three children under 16.  Frederick Burnett Jr. (Fed) was born in 1800. He was eight years old when his family moved to North Fork.

Sometime before 1808, Frederick Burnett must have scouted land around the Swannanoa River and found the upper reaches of the North Fork of the Swannanoa to his liking for hunting. I assume he made the land purchase before gathering the supplies need to resettle and for the journey west. It was said that three wagons were used. These wagons had to be unloaded and dismantled for crossing the Catawba and Swannanoa Rivers. It is likely that brothers Claiborn, David, and Lewis assisted in this undertaking. Fred. M. Burnett wrote that “Granny Else who had enthusiastically adopted herself to pioneer conditions and drove the “spike team” consisting of five horses was riding the saddle horse and driving in the lead with a magnificent white stallion…” Apparently Peggy Null’s grandchildren years after hearing Fed Burnett talking of the original Margaret Else with her stallion at Kings Mountain in 1780 and Peggy Null with her stallion at Old Fort in 1808, confused the two and began calling Peggy Null “Granny Else.” Homespun stories passed down over time were often enhanced or altered.  Panther stories attributed to Granny Else were also attributed to my great-great-grandmother Sophronia Jane Burnett. These stories of Sophronia were substantiated by her grandson John Walker.  While Peggy was not “The” Granny Else, she became Granny Else when her grandchildren began calling her by that name.

walkertown north carolina

Frederick Burnett Sr. built a two-room cabin on what was then called Laurel Branch. He was a skilled hunter, farmer, and operated the Burnet Mill. It was a grist mill in the valley powered by a water wheel, and later combined with a sawmill owned by Mr. Hart from the north.

Jesse Burnett lost his first wife in 1772. He did not make the move to Buncombe County with his son, but moved there late in life after he had lost his second wife.  He moved to Mecklenburg County, Virginia in 1820. He died in North Fork in 1824. He had lived to be 96 years old, Peggy Null lived to be 95, and Sophronia Burnett Walker lived to be 95. Jesse’s burial site is likely under the water of the Burnet Reservoir.

Fred. M. Burnett wrote that Fed Burnett, at age 16, climbed the ridges to the Blue Ridge and walked along the ridges to Big Lick (Roanoke, Virginia). where he was to get an auger from relatives. This trip took two months. What an incredible undertaking. This route is slower and much more difficult than taking the old Indian Trading Trail to Old Fort and the Holston River Trail up to Big Lick.  Someone knowledgeable of the Blue Ridge (before the road was established) must have talked of this route and it was most likely picked over the traditional wagon route because of potential threats from highway robbers and other bad sort. It is possible that by 1816, some small trails had been worn along the Blue Ridge, although it is hard to imagine that there would be horse trails due to the rocky and steep terrain. There were no known relatives at Big Lick; the family had settled in Brunswick County, Virginia and Rutherford County, North Carolina. Questions remain: how was Fed suppose to bring back supplies and an auger with no wagon or horse; how was he able to provide himself food and water for the reported two month journey; what exactly was he to bring back and from whom; is there any significance that the new Springfield Musket was produced in 1816? At any rate, this was a remarkable journey for a sixteen year old accompanied only by the super hunting dog Tige. I view this journey to be a bigger mystery than the Granny Else confusion.  

Somewhat after 1820, Peggy and Frederick’s relationship changed for the rest of their lives.  Frederick lived with his eldest daughter and her family in Franklin (about 60 miles west). Peggy stayed in the North Fork Valley and lived primarily with her son Fed and his family. The 1820 Federal Census confirms this. Peggy in her later years had long white hair and was deaf.

Fed Burnett and his wife Elizabeth Smart had ten children. Five boys died from the Civil War — battle, disease or injury: Drury, Berryman, John, Thomas, and William. Another son, Marcus Lafayette Burnett (Fate) joined the Confederacy at a very young age (see “This Was My Valley” for his story. and returned to North Fork at war’s end. Elizabeth Smart Burnett had lost her grandfather John Smart at the Battle of Kings Mountain and suffered the loss of five of her sons to the Civil War. She passed away in 1864 before she learned the fate of all of her sons. 

My great-great-grandmother Sophronia Jane Burnett was born in 1824 (second child). She was deeded land on Shope Creek after her marriage to James Washington Walker. In the 1997 book by Joan and Robert Goodson entitiled “On the North Fork of the Swannanoa River, ” a great tribute was made to Sophronia Jane Burnett Walker (an article by Deward Edgar Walker, Sr.

This article  by Deward Walker read: “She was tall, six feet plus, a gorgeous intriguing figure, beautiful twinkling hazel eyes, a face that could light up with a smile that was most enchanting, and Scottish red hair which seemed to change colors from the morning sunrise to the golden sunset. Her voice must have been like heavenly music.  Her commanding personality could subdue the most stubborn person.”

Peggy was living with Fed when Sophronia was born and was obviously a huge influence on her as she grew up. There seems to be many similar features of the two.

From the Blue Ridge Parkway a view of the ancestral Burnett land remains wild and beautiful. When you look down on that majestic valley, you can easily envision the life of that stout pioneer family.

GENEOLOGY:    (as it relates to my geneology; not all siblings and children are listed if not related to this story)

1st generation:      

Phillip Burnett, born 1688, Scotland, Immigrated to New Castle, Delaware in 1712

2nd generation:

 Frederick (Thomas) Burnett, born 1708, Scotland, Immigrated with his father to New Castle, Delaware in 1712

3rd generation:        

Jesse Burnett (1733-April 1824), born in Brunswick County, Virginia, died in North Fork; first wife Rebecca Judith Prince married 1772 in Brunswick County, Virginia. Judith Prince’s great-grandmother was Sarah Warren of Salem, Massachusetts who was falsely accused and imprisoned for witchcraft.  Sarah died in prison.

Thomas Burnett (1735-October 7, 1780) born in Brunswick County, Virginia, died at Kings Mountain; first wife Margaret Else, second wife Elizabeth Littleberry

Joseph Burnett (1743-October 7, 1780) born in Brunswick County, Virginia, died at Battle of Kings Mountain

Phillipp Burnett (female) (1744-1811 Virginia)

John Burnett (1760-1826 Georgia)


4th generation:        

children of Jesse and Judith Prince:      

Frederick Thomas Burnett (May11, 1770-July 5, 1854); Married Peggy Null on April 14, 1795 Rutherfordton, North Carolina

Claiborn Burnett (1768-1849)

Lewis Burnett (1771-1818)

Joseph Burnett (1778

Eldridge Burnett (died 1870) Georgia

Sarah Burnett (about 1775-1850) Alabama

Elizabeth Burnett (about 1794) Georgia

Ruth Burnett (about 1790-1800)

David Burnett (about 1801)

sons of Thomas:

 Littleberry Burnett-Rebecca Dobson

 Swan Pritchett Burnett

5th genration:            

children of Frederick Thomas Burnett Sr. and Peggy Null

 Frederick Thomas Burnett Jr (Fed) (Nov. 3, 1808-Jan 27, 1886)  Married to Elizabeth Smart (died 1772) and Elizabeth Ricketts Kyle

 child of Swan Pritchett Burnett :

  Joseph Jefferson Burnett (author of 1886 ketter)

6h generation:              

children of Fed Burnett and Elizabeth Smart

 Drury S. Burnett (1822-1865)

 Sophronia Jane Burnett Walker (1824-1919)

 Berryman Hicks Burnett (1827-1861)

 John Burnett (1831-1861)

 William Henry Burnett (1833-1871)

 Sarah Elizabeth Burnett (1834-1855)

 Daniel Burnett (1836-1899)

 Mary Jane Burnett Allsion (1838-1917)

 Nancy Ann Burnett (1840-1855)

 Thomas Frederick Burnett (1842-1864)

 Marcus Lafayette  (Fate) Burnett (1812-1933)

7th generation:            

 children of Sophronia Jane Burnett and James Washington Walker

 Albert W. Walker (1854-1927) married Nancy Creaseman

Sarah Elizabeth Walker (married Bill Daugherty)

Mary Jane Walker (married a Burnett)

Harriet Elizabeth Walker (married a Cordel)

Rhoda Eliza Walker (married a Daugherty)

Robert Albert Walker

Amanda Sophronia Walker (died young0

Julius Alexander Walker (married Alice Roxanna)  children included Oden Walker, Maude Walker Morris and Deward Walker

Lula Marsh Walker (died young)

Lena Walker (died youn


 child of Fate Burnett

Frederick McCloud Burnett Sr. (March 24, 1882-February 4, 1961)  Author of “This Was My Valley”

by Terrell Ledbetter  August 19, 2015, revised June 3, 2017, revised November 14, 2017.

Great-great grandson of Sophronia Jane Burnett and James Washingon Walker