Ancestor of the Month
(Johny) Owenby (Ownby)
1735 d. 1824
Almost 275 years ago, our ancestor
John “Johny” [sic] Owenby (Ownby) either came to the American colonies or was born here. There is conflicting information on his place of birth. Some
researchers say he was born in Lancashire, England, where Owenbys have lived since before the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Others say he was born in Essex County, VA.
Those opting for birth in England say that young Johny came to Virginia with his father, John, Sr. (1710-1793) and
his grandfather, Arthur (1670-1737). Arthur died in 1737, two years after Johny’s birth, so if the three did come together
from England, that means two men (one about 65 years old and one about 25) brought a baby to start a new life in the new world. Doubts.
Owenbys, Ownbees, Onebys in Virginia
If Johny were born in the colonies,
however, events would be much more logical. John, Sr. would have had time to
find a wife, marry her, and start a family.
In addition, there are deeds and
legal papers that indicate some Owenbys were in Virginia before 1735, the date of Johny’s birth. First, on 21 Oct 1687, one Arthur OWNBEE of Rappahannock County patented 78 acres. He received this land for paying transport to the colony for two people: George Smith and “Teague,
an Irish boy." (Virginia paid people with acres of land if they “imported”
new colonists. Usually one importee equaled 50 acres. For some reason, Arthur received fewer acres than normal.) Second,
a 1714 deed in Essex County shows Samuel Henshaw and Kazia his wife of St. Anne’s Parish selling an Arthur ONBEE, planter,
30 acres in St. Anne’s for ₤30 Sterling. Third, there is an appraisal of one Arthur ONEBY’s
estate in 1737, the year our Arthur died.
Considering the inconsistencies of
spelling of the period, these three legal documents could all easily concern the same person.
The only problem would be that Arthur would have been 17 years old in 1687. Could
he have patented land at that age? (Descendants of the Owenby, Ownbee, Onbee
family in Sevier County, TN tend to spell their name Ownby. Just when this version of the spelling became standardized in the area is unknown. From this point on, we are going to go with the Tennesseans.)
Whatever the case, somehow a baby
or child named Johny Ownby who was born in 1735 ended up in Virginia. His
parents, John, Sr. and his wife (name unknown), moved before 1760 to Albermarle County, Virginia. (Albemarle later became Amherst County.) Other than being
the parents of Johny Ownby, not much is known about John Ownby, Sr. and his wife. We
do know that besides Johny, they had a son named James with whom John, Sr. moved to Kentucky in 1782, and where, on 26 Nov 1793 John, Sr. left “all personal property
and land to son James as he is getting advanced in age.” Powell Stamper Ownby is also sometimes listed as John, Sr.’s
son. (See #9 below**)
Luckily the 1737 estate appraisal
for Arthur ONEBY answers some questions about John, Sr.’s relatives since the Arthur Ownby in that case is definitely
ours. The document names Arthur’s 3 surviving children: John Ownby (This
would be John, Sr.), Mary (b. c1716) who married James Williamson, and Elizabeth (b. c1718) who married Carter Wells. The document also mentions Arthur’s grandson Thomas (1628-1798), "the son of
Thomas Ownby and Mary Brooks Stamper." Thus, John, Sr. did have at least one
brother—Thomas—and at least two sisters—Mary and Elizabeth.
Brother Thomas had apparently died young. His dates of birth vary from 1687 to 1701 to 1707 (though the 1687 date is
suspicious), and he died before his father who died in 1737. Thomas was probably
around 30 or 40 years of age when he died.
Johny and Nannie
We begin to get solid information
about 1760 when Johny Ownby married Nancy Ann Porter (1743-1818) in Albemarle County.
Nancy (called Nannie) was born in Orange County, VA. She was the daughter
of Ambrose (1731-1773) and Jemima (Smith?) Porter (no dates). Nannie’s
family had been in VA for at least three generations , and
her paternal grandparents Benjamin (1675-?) and Ann Campbell Porter (1704-?) lived nearby.
and Nannie lived in Albemarle County for about 10 years. During that time they
bought land and began their family. The first five of their fourteen children
were born in Albemarle (Amherst) County.
Ownby, born January 06, 1761 in Amherst, Virginia; died September 26, 1850 in Union Mills, Rutherford Co, North Carolina m.
4 Mar 1785 to Joanna Sims
(Our ancestor) (To learn more about James Ownby, go to the top of this page and click the sentence about previous
AOM’s. When you get to the Archives, scroll down the left margin until
you reach James Ownby. Click. Voila!)
2. John Ownby born 1764 Amherst,
Virginia; died c1773/1780 (John may have died in the Revolutionary War.)
born 1766; died c1800
born 1768 in Amherst, Virginia; died Unknown.
born 1770 in Amherst, Virginia; died Unknown
When Johny and Nannie began buying land, their first purchase was 359 acres that abutted land belonging to Nannie’s
parents. It was located along the Buffalo River.
They bought this land from Charles Parks on 27 April 1764. On 5
Sep 1768, they sold 111 acres of the land they had purchased from Charles Park to Martin Trap.
Five months later, on 5 Feb 1769, Johny sold 70 more acres of the Buffalo River land.
This time the buyer was David Blitz who paid nine pounds, twelve shillings for
the property. Nannie relinquished her dower rights to this property when they made that sale. Johny sold the last of their Buffalo River property 25 Feb 1769 to William Mays.
Move to Pittsylvania County, VA
It is possible that the last of the Buffalo River property was sold to allow the family the freedom to move to Pittsylvania
County, VA to be near Nannie’s parents who had apparently moved there. After
arrival in Pittsylvania County, Nannie and Johny had another child whom they named Arthur.
Ambrose Porter, Nannie’s father, was ill and died in 1773. On 18 June 1773 he had written his will in Pittsylvania County, Virginia and added a codicil a week later on 25
June 1773. The will was probated 22 July 1773. (Following is an abstract:)
Last Will and Testament of Ambrose Porter being very sick in body but of perfect mind and memory.
· To my daughter Ann (Nannie) 1 shilling.
· To my daughter Ann’s five youngest children: John, Milley, Susanna, Ambrose and Arthur to each one cow to be delivered to them
as they come of age 9 or 10 years. (Arthur was born in 1772 after the Owenbys moved to Pittsylvania Co.)
· To my daughter Mary 150 acres with the plantation that she now lives
on, on White Oak Creek, likewise the 2 cows she now has, 1 feather bed and a side saddle.
· To my two sons Benjamin and Joseph the remainder of my lands to be
equally divided. Benjamin to have the first choice and to Joseph one colt named
Partner. If either or both sons die without issue, then their part or parts to
go to my other children.
· To my well beloved wife Jemima Porter all the rest of my estate and
the use of my plantation during her life or widowhood.
· To my daughters Jane and Susanna at the death of my wife or her marriage,
fifty pounds each out of the moveable estate.
· Should there be anything over that, to be divided amongst my five
youngest children: Mary, Benjamin, Jane, Joseph, and Susannah.
Appoint Henry McDaniell and my son Benjamin Porter executors.
Witnesses: Richard Taliaferro, Peter James Bailey, Mary (X) Prosigh
Codicil: If Negro wench Bett continues to breed, her increase to be divided among my five youngest
children as mentioned above.
John Donelson security for executors.
Ambrose’s will shows his love for his family, but the codicil unfortunately reflects the attitude of the times
Family Continues to Grow
Johny and Nannie remained in Pittsylvania Co., VA for 7 or 8 more years, and their family continued to grow.
6. Arthur Ownby
1772 in Pittsylvania Co., Virginia; died 1861 in Rutherford County, North Carolina. m. 27 Jan 1795 to Barbara
Hill (1776-1854). Arthur and Barbara had
eight known children. Arthur is buried in Old Field’s Cemetery in Rutherford Co., NC.
7. Porter Ownby born
1774 in Pittsylvania Co., Virginia; died
1850 in Blairsville, Union County, Georgia. m 23 Feb 1797 to Martha Morgan, daughter of
Rev. Perminter Morgan, a Baptist minister. Porter and Martha moved to Georgia.
8. Thomas Ownby born 1776 in Pittsylvania Co., Virginia; died 1865. m. (1) 16 Apr 1798 to Mourning Hill m.(2)
10 Dec 1799 to Winnie Shelton
9. Elizabeth Ownby born 1778 Pittsylvania Co., Virginia; died 1815. m. 17 Nov 1798 to Powell Stamper Owenby. (**Powell Stamper
Ownby was reportedly adopted by Johny and Nannie Owenby [some say he was adopted by John, Sr.; others say by Thomas Ownby—yet
there is disagreement as to which Thomas.] The Ownby name may have been
added to Powell’s original family name—Stamper—or, he may have been the son of one of Johny’s brothers
(if so, Elizabeth and Powell were cousins.) If you check back to the 1737 estate
settlement, you’ll notice that Arthur’s deceased son Thomas had married a woman named Mary Brooks Stamper. Thus, the Stamper in Powell’s name may have come from her. Perhaps Powell was a child from a previous marriage. Whatever
the case, for those interested in solving mysteries, this series of relationships might be fun to figure out.
Family stories tell of Powell being killed by a falling tree.
A neighbor stated, “He had gone, very early in the morning to chop down a tree to make an Ash trough for his wife. She called him
to breakfast, he turned to answer her and the tree fell. The accident took place on Johny [sic] Warren's place - also on Bald
Mountain, where Powell and his family were living at the time of his death.”)
Move to North Carolina
Sometime before 1780 the Ownby family decided to move again. This time
their new home was in Tyron County, North Carolina. Tyron County was a huge county
that was later divided into several other counties, including Rutherford, which is where the Ownbys settled. Again they bought land, and Johny and Nannie stayed in that general area for the rest of their lives. They lived close to Colonel Hampton's Mill near Cove Road in Rutherford County. They also continued to
add to their family which was destined to grow to a total of 14 children.
10. John Ownby born 11 Jul 1781 in Rutherford Co., North Carolina; died 5 Sep 1869 in Sevier Co., Tennessee m. (1)14 Mar 1805 to Elizabeth Hill, daughter of John Hill, and (2) 13 Nov 1830 to Lucinda Mary (Lacie)
Martin. (John Ownby was named in honor of his older brother. The second John served in the War of 1812 as a private in Captain Bradley’s company of North
Carolina militia. As a result of his service, he received 158 acres of land in
Sevier County, TN and moved his family there.)
11. Nancy Ann Ownby born 1784 in Rutheford Co., North Carolina; died unknown—probably Illinois. m. 2 Oct 1803 to Ephraim Hill. Nancy and Ephraim moved to
Illinois about 1805.
12. Infant daughter Ownby born 1786; died before 1800
13. Joseph Ownby born 22 Feb 1788 in Rutherford Co., North Carolina; died September 1875.
m. 1810 to Hannah Wright
14. Nicholas Ownby born 1790 in Rutherford, NC; died unknown—probably Oregon.
m. 23 May 1821 to Lucy A. Martin. (According to several sources, Nicholas and Lucy moved to Oregon in 1845 as
part of the Tetherow Wagon Train. They took their 5 sons and 2 daughters, a large
herd of horses and cattle, and four well-stocked wagons. All of the Ownbys survived
the journey, but son John was later killed by Indians in 1852. Nicholas must
have been fairly affluent, for he hired several young men in Missouri to accompany and assist them along the way. Memoirs of one of the young men show that Nicholas was a fair, thoughtful employer who was admired by the
men he had hired. The young man said Nicholas treated them, “as if they had been his own sons.”)
(Note: John, Thomas, Nancy Ann, and Arthur’s spouses
were possibly siblings or otherwise related since they were all named Hill.)
Nannie and Johny lived in Rutherford County another 20 or so years. Nannie
died in 1818 and was buried in Mountain Creek Church Cemetery, five miles north of Rutherfordton,
NC. She was 75 years old. After her death, Johny may have
been restless. He moved to Montford Cove,
NC, for a time and then to Broad River township in Buncombe County, NC. Broad
River was near Bald Mountain where he was living at the time of his death. (In
fact, all these places are near each other.) Johny died six years after Nannie in 1824 and was buried in Old Field
Cemetery which is located about 5 miles north of Bat Cave, NC on NC Hwy #9 in Rutherford County. He was 89 years old.
We don’t know a great deal about Johny and Nannie, but we do know they were strong and determined
enough to carve out a home and living in the American frontier area during a time that took courage and tenacity. Given the same circumstances, how many of us could do what they did?
Johny Ownby was Eli McCarter’s 3 great grandfather. If you are Papaw’s
great great grandchild, Johny is your 7 great grandfather.
Line of Descent from Johny Ownby to Eli McCarter
Johny Ownby (1735-1824) + Nancy Ann Porter (c1743-1818)
James Ownby (1761-1850) + Joanna Sims (1761-1852)
John Ownby (1791-1857) + Mary 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)
“Ancestors of William Anderson Chandler” http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/k/e/n/Arva-Jewell-Kennedy-OK/PDFGENE19.pdf
“Descendants of Arthur Owenby.” http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/w/i/g/Jean-T-Wigglesworth/FILE/0015text.txt
“Descendants of Thomas Oneby.” http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/c/l/u/Linda-Clubb-CA/PDFODT3.pdf
“Early Ancestry of N. E. GA Counties: Union, Towns, White, Lumpkin, Rabun, Habersham, Dawson, etc.” http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=jbturner&id=I4689
“Genealogial History of the Ownby Family,
“John 'Johny' Ownby.” Smokykin.com http://www.smokykin.com/ged/f000/f90/a0009067.htm
McCarter Family Charts and Traditions
“Owensby Family Home Page, The.” http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/o/w/e/Gerald-Wayne-Owensby/WEBSITE-0001/UHP-0133.html
Ownby Family Genforum http://genforum.genealogy.com/ownby/messages/107.html
House of Names: http://www.houseofnames.com/fc.asp?sId=&s=Ownby&text2.x=33&text2.y=13
Reagan, Donald B. Smoky Mountain
Clans, Volume 3.