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Ancestor of the Month

May 2006   

 

Capt. William Sims

b.1730/31                   d.1797/99

 

Our ancestor William Sims is a difficult man to pin down.  His life hints of tantalizing tales, but specific facts are few.  His life is filled with riddles, questions, and huge blank spaces.

 

One reason that Sim’s life may be difficult to follow is that apparently there are at least three William Sims who served in the Revolution:  one from VA (ours), one from GA, and one from NC.   Conflicting and confusing information about William Sims abounds if one is not careful

 

Parents

 

Our William was born in Albemarle Co., VA, 25 Feb 1730/31.  Both his parents, Richard Sims (1676-1746) and Joanna Unknown (1678-?), were born and died in Isle of Wight, VA.  When the family immigrated to the colonies and which ancestor first arrived is unknown.

 

Sims Mill on Priddy Creek

 

As a young man William built the first mill on Priddy’s Creek in Albemarle Co., VA.  This event in itself could make an interesting story, but other than the fact that the mill was built, no information about it seems to be available.  Nevertheless, either the mill must have been successful or William’s family was wealthy. 

 

There are two reasons for this assumption of possible wealth. (1) William married in 1751 when he would have been about twenty years of age. Possibly he married before building the mill, but having a successful business would have been an attractive asset in courtship.  (2) He is usually identified not only as a  “mill owner,” but also as one who “lived at Aspen Grove Plantation, VA”.  Aspen Grove was a large plantation.  Money, either from his family or from the mill, would have been necessary to run it.

 

Aspen Grove Plantation

 

The plantation was built in 1732, when William was a baby.  The original owners may or may not have been his parents, but his parents were born and died in Isle of Wight, VA.  It is unlikely that they owned the plantation but chose not live there. 

 

Whatever the case, William was definitely living at Aspen Grove by 1761 when he was thirty years old.  In this year his daughter Joanna was born, and she is documented as “born at Aspen Grove Plantation.”   Here again, a few facts lead us to hunger for others. In all the consulted sources, all the Sims children are listed as born in Albemarle Co., VA.  Only Joanna—and  in only one source—is listed as born at Aspen Grove Plantation.  In that source, none of the other children is even listed. Most sources consulted simply give Albemarle Co, VA as the birthplace of all the children including Joanna.  If William lived at Aspen Grove, probably all the children were born there.  Thus, we have more questions or riddles. The family’s association with Aspen Grove would be interesting to discover.    (Note:  In searching for any Sims’ family connection, I discovered that the current owner of one Aspen Grove plantation in VA is Dr. Walter Lomax, a prominent African-American physician and entrepreneur from Philadelphia.  Interestingly, Dr. Lomax is the great grandson of one of the slaves who worked at Aspen Grove in earlier times.  However, Dr. Lomax’s Aspen Grove is located in another part of the state, and is not the same plantation as that associated with the Sims family.)

 

Marriages

 

William’s first wife was Annester Stapp (1728/29-c1759) Annester was the daughter of Joshua and Martha “Patsy” Coffey Stapp   William and Annester were married 6 Aug 1751 in Orange Co., VA and went on to have three children:  Elizabeth, James, and Lucy.  Annester died c1759 and William remarried on 2 Feb 1761.  His second wife was Agatha Robinson (1737-?).  Agatha was the daughter of  William Robinson and Agatha Beverly.  William and Agatha had ten children:  William, Mary, Joanna (our ancestor), Nancy, Agatha, Francis, Rosemond, John, Ann and Richard.

 

 For some time there was disagreement over Annester’s and Agatha’s backgrounds.  Was Annester’s name Stepp or Stapp?  Was Agatha Annester’s niece… or sister?   Was Annester rather than Agatha actually Joanna’s mother?  Generally these problems have been resolved and dismissed.  (The current consensus is given in the paragraph above)

 

French and Indian War

 

William served during the French and Indian war as a member of Hogg’s Rangers (led by Peter Hogg) and took part in several missions.  Hogg ‘s rangers were ultimately under command of young George Washington.  (Sim’s future son-in-law, John Dalton [daughter Lucy’s husband], enlisted in the army under him.)  Hogg’s Rangers and other ranger groups in the pre-revolution and in the revolution itself, were similar to modern day rangers in that they were crack shots, and though guerilla or Indian warfare was new, they were better at it than most.  Some of the conflicts in which Hogg’s Rangers participated were those concerning Fort Duquesne.  These battles did not go well for the colonists, but they were important to the French and Indian War in that the first battle and first shots were there. 

 

Fort Duquesne

 

In the 1740’s the British crown had given huge land grants in the Ohio valley to a group of influential Virginians—including Deputy Governor Dunwiddie, George Washington, and his brother Lawrence Washington.  The Indians favored the French over the British in the Ohio wilderness area because the French were less likely to settle, and they treated the Indians more fairly than the British did.

 

In 1753 Deputy governor Dunwiddie sent George Washington to the French with a letter of protest, demanding that the French leave the area.  The French refused.  On his trip, Washington noted a very strategic piece of land located where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers merged to form the Ohio. (This land is part of present day downtown Pittsburgh.)  Upon Washington’s recommendation, a small group of troops was sent in January of 1754 to build and defend a fort to be named Fort Prince George at this strategic place.  Work began 17 Feb 1754.   Unfortunately the French discovered the small group of soldiers, ran them off, and finished building the fort themselves, naming it Fort Duquesne after Marquis Duquesne, the governor general of New France.

 

Washington was in PA when he heard of the surrender of Fort Prince George.  He took command of an expedition to go to the fort, but he ran into a French scouting party along the way on May 28 and attacked it. He inflicted heavy casualties on the French and Indians and took numerous captives. When some of the French escaped, Washington ordered the quick construction of Fort Necessity.  On July 3 the French struck.  After a daylong battle the French forced Washington to surrender but permitted him and his men to leave the fort if they put down their arms.  This first battle of the French and Indiana War did not go in favor of the colonists, but it shows the hardships and strength of numbers they fought against.

 

Sandy Creek Expedition

 

Another expedition in which Hogg’s Rangers were requested to participate

came to be known as the Sandy Creek Expedition.  Governor Dunwiddie sent a message to Washington 14 Dec 1755 saying:  “The Cherokees have taken up the Hatchet against the Shawnanese [sic] and French and have sent 130 of their warriors into New River, and propose to march immediately to attack and cut off the Shawanese [sic] in their towns.  I design they shall be joined with three companies of rangers and Capt. Hogg’s company, and I propose Colonel Stephens or Major Lewis to be commander of the part of this expedition.”

 

Thus, in February through March 1756, a party of about 350 men set out with a wagon load of 2000 pounds of dried beef and pack horses with other food to sustain them in carrying out their mission.  They also hunted game along the way and gathered potatoes from deserted plantations. Unfortunately, midwinter is not the best of times to travel.  Hunting and foraging dwindled. The men averaged only about ten miles per day because of the weather and terrain, and the food soon ran out.  The situation was so bad that both the Cherokees and the soldiers began to desert.  Capt William Preston noted in his journal that the party considered killing and eating the horses.  More and more people deserted.  As a military maneuver, the expedition was a complete failure.  No enemies were killed, the French and Shawnees probably had a good laugh at the British and colonial soldiers’ expense, and the British relations with their allies, the Cherokees, were damaged.  Still, the men who endured would go on to help win the French and Indian war and many would fight in the Revolution to come.  They were strong and determined men.

 

In 1758 another expedition to Fort Duquesne was ordered.  Washington was in charge of the two regiments of Virginia troops, one of which included Capt. Hogg’s company.  The fort was taken, but fighting was fierce and casualties were high.  In just one of the VA regiments six officers and sixty-two privates were killed.

 

Later years

 

Either our William Sims was a prominent man or he was an effective soldier who rose through the ranks, for he did achieve the rank of Captain.  He did receive bounty lands.  That much we know.  At present his Revolutionary War service still needs to be uncovered.  That is one of our blanks.  In fact, from this point on, we know virtually nothing of William Sims except his date of death, 1797-99, and that is a span rather than a definite time.  Much is left to be discovered.

 

 Most important, however, we do know that by having a daughter named Joanna Sims who would later marry James Ownby in Rutherford Co., North Carolina, William Sims would become Eli McCarter’s great, great, great grandfather and our ancestor.  (But that just raises another question.  What was Joanna doing in NC?  Some of Williams’ other children who were married later than Joanna were married in Albemarle Co., VA…. More and more curious)

 

William Sims seems definitely a person to be revisited.  Hopefully we can unearth more information about him and answer some of our questions.

 

Captain William Sims is Papaw's 3-great grandfather.  If you are Eli McCarter's great great grandchild, William Sims is your 7-great grandfather.

 

Line of Descent from Capt. William Sims to Rev. Eli McCarter

 

Capt. William Sims (c1730-c1797) + Agatha Robinson (1737-?)

Joanna Sims (1761-1859) + James Ownby (1761-1850)

John Ownby (1781-1857+ Mary Koone (1793-1881)

Mary Ownby (1814-1886) + Thomas McCarter (1811-1888)

Thomas Hill McCarter (1846-1923) + Marriah Reagan (1842-1923)

Rev. Eli McCarter (1886-1955) + Mary Elizabeth Hatcher (1889-1969)

Sources

 

250th Anniversary 1756-2006 The Sandy Creek Expedition”  virginia regiment.org

 

“Background of the French and Indian War.”  US History.com

 

“Capt. William Sims.” Smokykin.com

 

Clingman, James.  “Still Running for Freedom.” Blackonomics.  Digest for the Blacklist @topica.com

 

“Fort Duquesne” US History.com

 

“Hogg’s Rangers” Looking for a Horsethief.info.htm (This website seems to have been removed from the Internet.)

 

Reagan, Donald B.  Smoky Mountain Clans, Vol. III, p. 65.

 

“William Sims.“  hamcomm.com/pafn08.htm 

 

 

 

 

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