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Ancestor of the Month

June 2006 

 

James Owenby (Ownby)  

b. 06 Jan 1761 d. 26 Sep 1850

 

James Owenby appears at first glance to have had a well-documented, straightforward life.  Upon investigation, however, his life contains some mysteries and blank spaces reminiscent of those of his father- in-law, Capt. William Sims.  (Sims was our May Ancestor of the Month)

 

Parents

 

Born 5 Jan 1761 in Albemarle (later Amherst) Co., VA, James was the son of John (Johny [sic]) (1735-1824) and Nancy (Nannie) Porter Owenby (1743-1818).  Johny’s father John, Sr. and his grandfather, Arthur Owenby (1670-1737) were born in Lancashire, England.  Arthur Owenby brought his son John and young Johny with him when he moved to the colonies.  When they arrived in VA, the Owenbys settled in Albemarle Co.  Here Johny met Nancy (Nannie) Porter whose family had been in VA for at least three generations.  She was the daughter of Ambrose Porter (1731-?) and Jemima Unknown Porter (no dates).  Her paternal grandparents Benjamin (1675-?) and Ann Campbell Porter (1704-?) lived nearby.

 

The marriage of Johny and Nannie produced fourteen children:  James (our ancestor), John. Milly, Susannah, Ambrose, Arthur, Porter, Thomas, Elizabeth, John, Nancy Ann, female child, Joseph, and Nicholas. (The listing of two Johns is not an error.  The first John (1764-1773/80) either died young or in the Revolutionary War.  The second John (1805-?) who was born shortly after his older brother’s death, was named to honor him.)   

 

Sometime after 1778 Johny and Nannie moved their family to Tyron Co., NC.  Tyron Co was later divided into several counties in both North and South Carolina.  They settled in the part which became Rutherford Co, NC and lived on a farm near Green River.  Their first nine children had been born in VA, but the last five were born in NC.  The second John was the first child born in Rutherford Co.

 

Revolutionary War

 

By the time the Owenbys moved to Rutherford Co., our James was seventeen years old.  Shortly after arriving he joined the army.  On 01 Nov 1778, he enlisted as a substitute for Henry Keller.  Likely he was paid a fee by Keller for his substitution, and this may have been an incentive for his enlistment.  During his time in the army, he served as a private in Capt. George Taylor’s Co, of Colonel Hugh Brevard’s NC Regiment in Gen. Griffith Rutherford’s Brigade.  This stint in the army took him to GA and SC.  He was discharged 10 April 1779.

 

Back at home, James shortly discovered that he was to be drafted.  This time he served as a private from October 1779 to 24 March 1780 in Captain Robert Gilkey’s company of Col.Andrew Hampton’s NC Regiment.

 

James was still young—just nineteen-- and was probably both patriotic and adventuresome.  He enlisted again—this time as a volunteer in July of 1780.  He served three months, again as a private, and again in Capt. Robert Gilkey’s Co.  Capt. Gilkey, however, was now in Col. Charles McDowell’s regiment, under General Lillington.

 

Discharged in September from his previous enlistment, James entered service again only a few weeks later, either late September or early October, 1780.  He was substituting again, this time for Micajah Mayfield in Captain Samuel Williams’ Co., a part of Colonel John Sevier’s NC Regiment.  During this tour, he fought as part of the Over Mountain Men in the bloody Battle of King’s Mountain on 10 Oct 1780. This tour of duty lasted only one month.

 

In the early part of June of 1781 or 1782, James volunteered again and served as a private for fourteen months in Capt. John McClain’s Co in Col. Andrew Hampton’s and Col. Robert Porter’s NC Regiments.  This enlistment found James patrolling and guarding the lines between the whites and Cherokee Indians.

 

James’ final enlistment came in the spring of 1782 or 1783.  He served as a substitute for Thomas Haslip in Captain Hugh Beaty’s Co, in Col. Robert Porter’s NC Regiment.  This time he served guard and patrol duty at Russell Station at the mouth of Cove Creek in Rutherford Co, NC.  After his enlistment of three months was up, he was discharged and returned to his parents’ home at Green River.

 

Marriage

 

By now James was in his early twenties.  Time had come for marriage and family.  Here comes our first mystery.  On 04 Mar 1785 when both were 24 years old, James Owenby and Joanna Sims (1761-1852), were married by Jonathan Hampton, a Justice of the Peace, in Rutherford Co., NC. Joanna was the daughter of Capt. William Sims and wife Annister Stapp Sims. (Incorrect:  Joanna was the daughter of William and his second wife, Agatha Beverley.) The mystery is this.  Why were they married in NC?  Joanna was from Aspen Grove Plantation in Albemarle Co., VA.  Her family still lived there.  Why wasn’t she married in the home and heart of her family? Did her family let her travel alone or unchaperoned to NC?  Did James come to get her?   Why was she married by a JP instead of a minister?   Could the two have eloped?  One scenario pictures a disapproving Sims family with the young couple running away together

 

 Now arises a second mystery.    Not only is the marriage in NC intriguing; how did the two meet in the first place since she lived in VA and he lived in NC (that is--when he wasn’t tramping all over the South in the army)?  This mystery is fairly easy to explain.  Amherst Co. where James was born was formed in 1761 (the year of his birth) from parts of Albemarle Co. where Joanna was born (also 1761) and grew up. James may have known Joanna for all the seventeen years he lived in VA.    Perhaps, after the war he wrote to her, proposed, and asked her to come to NC.  Still, wouldn’t her parents have insisted that he come to VA for the wedding?  Wouldn’t that mystery be interesting to uncover?

 

Family Life

 

Whatever the case, James and Joanna found each other, married and had seven children:  Anester (Anna), William, John (our ancestor), Susanna, Sims, Ambrose, and Madison.  (Notice the family names.  Ancestors who use unusual family names—such as Sims, Anester, Ambrose, and Madison—certainly  make researching easier.  One sees those names and thinks: “Yes, that must be the right family.”  On the other hand, repetition of popular family names [such as John, James, and Joseph] can drive a person batty, especially when there is at least one such name in each family every generation, and they multiply exponentially—cases in point—the McCarters, Huskeys, and Ogles.)

 

James and Joanna lived in Rutherford County for most of their marriage.  In 1824 the family moved to Buncombe NC, and lived there until after 1832.  By 1836 they were living in Rutherford Co, NC again.   In 1845 they lived in McDowell Co., NC, but by 1846 they were back in Rutherford where they lived for the remainder of their lives. All this moving did not involve great distances.  Rutherford, Buncombe, and McDowell Counties are all adjacent to each other, forming a sort of triangle.  Other than the moves and the births of their children, the time period of their marriage is fairly blank. 

 

Later Years

 

In 1833 James was awarded a pension for his Revolutionary War service. He lived to be 90 years old, and when he died 26 Sep 1850, all his children had survived him:  his five sons--William, John, Ambrose, Madison, and Sims—and  his two married daughter—Anna  Coons, and Susannah Coon (Koone).  (Son John also married a Koone [Mary]) After James’ death, Joanna sought and was awarded a pension.  The application was granted in 1851.  It is highly likely that she lived with John and Mary after James died.  She died 1 April 1852 at the age of ninety-two.

 

Burial

 

At first glance there seems to be disagreement over where the couple is buried.  One source says they are buried in the Koone family cemetery in Rutherford Co., NC. This seems likely because of the connection with the Koone family. A second source says that James is buried in Union Mills, Rutheford Co., NC and that he is buried beside his wife.  Investigation shows that the Koone family cemetery is in Union Mills, Rutherford Co., NC. It is located just outside Gilkey, NC.   People buried there have surnames of Koon, Koone, Kuhn, and Morgan; there is one Owenby (James) and one Sims (Joanna). Their graves are side by side.  Mystery solved.

 

James Owenby lived a long life.  His early years were filled with action and adventure; his later years were apparently peaceful.  Dividing the two or perhaps cementing the two is the mystery of his marriage—which may turn out to be not a mystery at all.

 

James Owenby is Papaw’s great, great grandfathers.  If you are Eli McCarter’s great great grandchild, James Owenby is your 5-great grandfather.

 

Line of Descent from James Owenby to Eli McCarter

 

James Owenby (1761-1850 + Joanna Sims (1761-1852)

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

Mary Ownby (1814-1846) + Thomas McCarter (1811-1888)

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

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

 

Sources:

 

“Amherst Co, VA”  e Wikipedia.org.

 

Floyd, W. D. “Koone Cemetery,” in  The Cemeteries of the Area That was Old Tryon County North Carolina and Upper South Carolina Plus Other Stuff

 

“James Owenby” Smokykin.com

 

“James Owenby” To Catch a Horsethief.info.htm. (horsethief.info.htm) (This website has apparently been removed from the Internet.)

 

Map of Buncombe, McDowell, and Rutherford counties

 

McCarter family pedigree charts

 

McLean, Albert. “Revolutionary War Pensions, Buncombe Co., NC,” p.2.

 

Pension Records of Joseph Owenby (Heritage Quest)

 

Reagan, Donald B.  Smoky Mountain Clans, Vol. 3

 

The Owenby Family obcgs.com

 

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