Nathaniel Witt (c1782 – 1826)

Nathaniel Witt was almost certainly born before his father left Virginia, but precisely when is unclear. He was apparently born after mid-1779, as the 1800 Jefferson County tax list, which included males 21 and over, lists only his father Joseph Witt as a single white poll. His first appearance in any record is as a witness to the will of Michael Coons, in which his father was named executor, on 17 March 1803.1  That suggests, but doesn’t require, that he was of age at the time.2  He was certainly of age when he married in Jefferson County, Tennessee to Mary Cate, daughter of William Cate, by bond dated 30 July 1804.3  Nathaniel was of age and signed his own name to the bond, with Collins Grisham as surety.

[Although the claim is sometimes made that he was the same Nathaniel Witt who signed a Tennessee petition from the “State of Franklin” in 1787, our Nathaniel lived a generation later.4

Nathaniel evidently lived on his father’s land after his marriage, since his only acquisition of land in Jefferson County appears to be a grant of 65 acres entered on 11 May 1811 and surveyed on 13 May 1811.5   I could find no record of a subsequent sale of this land, which was located about a mile from his father’s tract. The only other records of him in Jefferson County are those associated with the settlement of his father's estate (see Joseph Witt page). The last record of him in Jefferson County is his participation in the sale of his father’s land to Charles Cate on 6 March 1821.6  Neither Nathaniel nor any of his siblings (save his brother John) appeared the following year on the 1822 tax list of Jefferson County. Whether they went directly there or not in 1821 is unclear, but within three years they were in McMinn County.

Nathaniel Witt and family move to McMinn County

Nathaniel Witt, his widowed mother, and at least five brothers and sisters were in McMinn County by 1824, as was his father-in-law, William Cate. On 3 July 1824 Nathaniel Witt entered a grant of 160 acres on Mouse Creek just southwest of Athens in McMinn County, a tract upon which his wife and children continued to live well after his death.7   He had probably been living on this land for at least a year or two, given the normal delays in grant processing.

The minutes of Eastanallee Baptist Church for July 1823 or 1824 (the date is obscured in the record) contain a reference to the formation of the New Hopewell church: "The scattered members of Eastanallee Church living on Mouse Creek agreed to become a Constitution if found fit and petitions Pisgah and Zion Hill Churches for their ministerial help for that purpose to attend on the 4th Saturday in August at the Widow Witts on Mouse Creek."  (I note that a published version of this record reads "William Witt", but the original record is clearly "Widow Witt", and mistakenly identifies the year as 1819.) 8  “Widow Witt” surely refers to Sarah Witt, the widow of Joseph Witt and mother of Nathaniel.  Mary Cate(s),  Nathaniel WItt’s mother-in-law, was received into the church on the same day.

Nathaniel dies in 1826

Nathaniel Witt died intestate sometime in mid-1826. On 5 June 1826, William Cate was appointed administrator of the estate of Nathaniel Witt, “the widow of the said deceased being present and consenting thereto.”9  Several of the children were unmarried minors at this time, but the loss of McMinn’s records denies us information on guardianship or any other records of the estate.10

Mary raises the children

Mary “Polly” Cate Witt did not remarry, despite having an infant and several children at her husband’s death. She and some of her children continued to live on Nathaniel Witt’s 1824 grant for the next 17 years.   The 1830 census of McMinn County has a number of Witt households, four of them enumerated consecutively: Joseph Witt (aged 20-30), Edward “Cellers”, Sally Witt (aged 60-70), and Polly Witt (aged 40-50).11  These appear to be Nathaniel Witt’s brother, brother-in-law, mother, and widow. Nathaniel’s brothers Silas Witt and James Witt were nearby, as were father-in-law William Cate and sons-in-law Thomas Epperson and William Rucker. Polly Witt had in her household a male under 5, a male 5-10, a male 20-30, two females 10-15, and a female 15-20 – evidently the six children who were unmarried at the time.12

The surviving tax lists of McMinn County show Mary Witt, her son Silas (“Jr.”), her sister-in-law Mourning Witt, and her brothers-in-law James Witt, Joseph Witt and Silas Witt Sr. in the same district in 1829, 1830, 1831, and 1832.13   All but Silas Sr. and Mourning are also on the 1836 tax list. In 1836, Mary Witt was still being taxed on Nathaniel Witt’s 160 acre grant. Only her son Silas was charged with a poll. [Among the 162 taxpayers in this district were nearly all the related families, including William Cate and several sons, Solomon Hayes, Thomas Epperson, and Mordicai Rucker.]

Further evidence that Mary was still living on her husband’s 1824 grant lies in related deeds. Silas Witt, Nathaniel’s brother, had apparently acquired 80 acres adjoining Nathaniel’s grant, which he sold prior to moving to Alabama in 1834.  On 15 January 1834, Silas Witt sold this land to his mother Sally Witt, describing it as adjoining Polly Witt.14   Sarah Witt sold this tract, “with the exception of one acre where the meeting house now stands”, to Willis Wright on 23 January 1838, when it was again described as bordering Polly Witt.15   (“The meeting house” was apparently Hopewell Baptist Church.)  The 1840 census shows Mary Witt as age 60-70 with a female 20-30 (Catherine) and her two youngest sons in the household.  Mary Witt was still alive in late 1843.

William Cate, her father, had moved into Bradley County shortly after its formation, and died there by 1843. On 14 September 1843, the widow of William Cate sued his heirs, one of whom was Mary Witt.16  Though I’ve found no record of her death, she evidently died sometime after late 1843 and mid-1849.   She does not appear in the 1850 census either by herself or in the households of any of her children. Nor does she appear in the 1850 mortality census, which included deaths from June 1849.

The children identified

The children of Nathaniel Witt are identified in a series of deeds disposing of his property.  On 24 April 1841, five of the heirs sold their interests in “the estate of Nathaniel Witt dec’d…one tract containing 160 acres” for $50 each to Mordicai Rucker.17  These heirs were William Rucker and his wife Nancy, Thomas Epperson and his wife Sally, George W. Cate and his wife Mary, William Witt, and Katherine Witt.   Katherine and William sold separate shares, and were not a married couple.18  Two years later, on 3 March 1843, Mary Witt and four married daughters, for a total of $600, sold their individual interests in the 160 acres “descended to them from the estate of Nathaniel Witt, deceased” to James E. Rucker.19  The four married daughters were Mordicai Rucker and his wife Miriam, Robert Elder and his wife Polly, Thomas Grisham and his wife Betsy, and George W. Cate and his wife Mary.   All were of McMinn County, and all the women signed with their marks.  Finally, on 4 January 1847 Joseph (Nathaniel) Witt, having come of age, transferred his interest in the parcel to James E. Rucker.20   From these deeds, we can identify nine children: William, Joseph Nathaniel, Nancy, Sally, Mary, Katherine, Miriam, and Elizabeth, plus Silas Witt (whose widow was Mary Elder).

Two of the Witt children married children of James Rucker, as reported in a book on the Rucker family.21  Indeed, on 8 October 1839, the heirs of James Rucker, deceased, transferred their interest in his land to William Rucker, husband of Nancy Witt.22   The heirs included Joseph and Matilda Witt [an uncle of the other two Witts], and Mordicai Rucker, husband of Miriam Witt, who later purchased this same land from William Rucker.

The children (partially) identified

We have three additional family records of the children of Nathaniel Witt, none of which are entirely reliable.

  • First, the Rucker book published in 1927, mentions five of the nine Witt children in an incidental way.   It lists six children of Nathaniel Witt as: “Marriam” (wife of Mordicia Rucker), Joseph (husband of Matilda Rucker), Nancy (wife of William Rucker), Rathian, William, and Sally (wife of Thomas Epperson).23   Joseph Witt is misidentified here as a son of Nathaniel rather than a brother. The book provides details only for Miriam and Nancy, although the 1841 deed above is referenced. [This deed was clearly misread, as “Katherine” was misread by the author as “Rathian”.]  Of the six children named, Joseph was actually an uncle of the others, but five were definitely children of Nathaniel Witt.
  • The second record is an unsigned typewritten manuscript found in the LDS Library in Salt Lake City, which I will call the “CLHW” paper for brevity.24  It lists the same five children, and adds three more: Mary (wife of George W. Cate), Joseph Nathaniel Witt, and Silas Witt. The Rucker book was evidently a source for this paper (or vice-versa), though it adds more detail to some of the children. Some of the information in this book came from a “Mr. Carter”, who is also acknowledged as a source in the Rucker book, who was apparently a grandson of Nancy Witt and William Rucker, through their daughter Rachel who married Hiram Carter. This paper makes only rare references to original sources and seems to have been compiled from memory and interviews rather than from records research.   The paper adds “Rathian” as a ninth child, apparently relying on the misreading of the 1841 deed perpetuated by the Rucker book. It omits Elizabeth.
  • Finally, a grandson of Nathaniel Witt (William Breckinridge Witt) wrote a letter in 1947 mentioning eleven children: “My father’s name was William and [he] had two brothers named Joe and Nathaniel. There were eight sisters which I know very little about. Two of the girls married men by the name of Kates. One married a man by name Rucker. One married a Mr. Box.”25   Mr. Witt was born in Texas and probably never knew any of these siblings. The Box marriage is an error, as it actually refers to Mr. Witt’s maternal ancestors.

Census records, and the deeds above, clarify that there were three sons and six daughters.

  1. Sarah Witt (c1805 – aft1880) From the 1841 deed above, she was the wife of Thomas Epperson, married about 1823 or 1824 judging from their children’s ages. They are in the 1830 census of McMinn and the 1840 census of Bradley County, located near the other Witts.2627  The 1850 Bradley County census (in which Sarah is aged 44) lists fourteen children in the household.28  However, it appears that six of these children were not theirs, as the 1830 and 1840 census tell us they had only one daughter alive in 1840, while the 1850 census shows three females aged 23, 22, and 14. Those censuses also show they had five sons born by 1840, while at least seven are attributed to them. (The 1850 census shows two males named Joseph and two named Mary, which suggests the possibility that they were not siblings.) Further, three other children who in 1850 were aged 2, 6, and 7 are not in their 1860 household. It appears that Thomas and Sarah had, not the fifteen or sixteen often attributed to them, but more like eight or nine children.

    In 1860 they are still in Bradley County (Sarah now age 56) with eight children thought to theirs; six of the younger children in the household and two others (John R. and Nathaniel W.) next door. In the 1870 census Thomas and Sarah are enumerated without children, but sons Jesse and Benjamin lived nearby. In 1880 Thomas and Sarah are enumerated with the family of their son Thomas Jr. The Rucker book gives them a son named Green, although there is no independent record of any such son of Thomas Epperson.29   The “CLHW” paper mentions a Green Epperson who was the son of John Epperson (and a grandson, rather than a son, of Thomas and Sarah.30.) That paper mentions that they “are said to have” sons named John, Key, and Green, although only John seems plausible. I might note that only John was covered in any detail in that paper.31  The son John was apparently the John R. Epperson who was enumerated next door in 1860. Although descendants variously claim as many as sixteen children, evidently based on the anomaly of the 1850 census household, a careful analysis of census records show that they had no more than eight or nine children, with the first two being uncertain: perhaps John R. Epperson, perhaps Elizabeth Epperson, Nathaniel Witt Epperson, William P. Epperson, Joseph B. Epperson, Mary C. Epperson, Benjamin Epperson, and Thomas M. Epperson.

  2. Miriam Witt (9 July 1807 – 15 April 1884) According to Mrs. Whitley’s Rucker book and the CLHW manuscript, she married Mordicai Rucker (c1802 – c1855).32  She and her husband sold their interest in James Rucker’s estate in 1839 and their interest in Nathaniel Witt’s estate in 1843. They named their first son, born about 1826, “Nathaniel Witt Rucker”. They seem to have married about 1823, since the first child was born about 1824. They are in the 1850 census of McMinn County with Miriam’s age given as 43. Mordicai Rucker died by September 1855 according to a later court record, and on 5 November 1855 James R. Witt and Hilton H. Burke were appointed his administrators. His estate settlement, dated 8 July 1857, in McMinn County names the children as Silas N. Rucker, Rachel Rucker (wife of Hamilton Wasson of Missouri), Sarah C. Rucker (wife of Hilton H. Burke), Nancy Rucker (wife of Levi Swinford of Smith County, Texas), Mary M. Rucker (wife of Pleasant B. Bryan of Smith County, Texas), James C. Rucker (also of Smith County, Texas), and three minor children named William A. Rucker, Joseph C. Rucker, and Miriam M. Rucker, plus John E. Rucker, a minor who died a week after his father, and Wilford Rucker, a minor who died about a week before his father.33   Miriam was appointed guardian for two of the three minor children in late 1855 and assumed guardianship of the third minor child several years later. Her birth and death dates are from the “CLHW” paper and from her gravestone in the Hopewell Church Cemetery in McMinn County.34
  3. Silas Witt (c1808 – 29 September 1838) As Silas Witt “Jr.” (to distinguish him from his uncle) he was in the same McMinn tax district as other members of the family in 1829-1832 and in 1836. [Apart from other evidence noted below, the fact that he was not a child of Silas Witt Sr. is clear from the fact that Silas Witt Sr. did not marry until 1812 and his own son Silas was not born until 1834.] The appearance as a poll in 1829 indicates Silas Witt Jr. was 21 by then, thus we assume he was born after Miriam but before Nancy. He appears as a poll in 1829, 1830, and 1831, but was evidently the male 20-30 in his mother’s household in 1830. As “Silas Witt Jr.”, he was a witness to the 1834 sale from Silas Witt Sr. to Sally Witt, and was a again a witness when Sally Witt sold the land on 23 January 1838. He died between early 1838 and early 1840, for on 6 June 1840 when this latter deed was recorded, Robert McAdoo deposed that he saw Silas Witt, since deceased, sign his name.35   He is surely the Silas Witt whose gravestone in the Hopewell Baptist Church cemetery reads “29 September 1838, aged 29 years.”36

    He must have married a woman named Mary sometime after 1830. This Mary Witt appears near the other members of the family in the 1840 census, age 20-30, with a male aged 5-10 and two females under 5. She is clearly the “Mrs. Mary Witt” who married Robert Elder in McMinn County on 14 January 1841.37   Indeed, Robert and Mary Elder sold their interest in the estate of Nathaniel Witt in 1843. In Robert Elder’s 1850 household in Meigs County, Mary is age 40 and there are three children who nicely match those in her 1840 household: William (17), Sarah Ann (15), and Emaline (14). (There are four other children aged 1 through 7 who are Mary’s children by Robert Elder.) Robert Elder died testate in Meigs County in 1863. Descendants of Robert Elder do not claim William, Sarah Ann, and Emaline as his children; indeed they are not present in his own 1840 census household. They seem clearly to be children of Silas Witt.

    3.1. William C. Witt (c1833 – 3 September 1862) He appears to be the “Colonel” William C. Witt of Meigs County who married Mary J. Heron of McMinn County on 20 September 1855.38   He appears as William C. Witt in the 1860 census of McMinn County with his first wife and children Ella G. Witt (c1856) and Mary E. Witt (c 1858). His occupation was a bank cashier, evidently for a branch of the State Bank which sponsored a memorial service two years later.39  He was also in some sort of mercantile partnership with William A. Rucker, who sued him in 1860.40  I note that he operated a business called William C. Witt & Co. according to Goodspeed’s.41  His first wife died after the 1860 census and he remarried to Margaret Owen on 20 October 1860 in Meigs County. He died intestate, as noted by the McMinn court on 23 October 1862 when a year’s support was provided for his widow.42   The widow later remarried to Joseph Atkins; in the 1870 McMinn census she and her husband had both Ella and Mary Witt in their household, plus a third child William C. Witt (c1860). By the 1880 census, the couple had moved to Atlanta, Georgia where “Mollie” E. Witt and William C. Witt appear in their household.

    3.2. Sarah Ann Witt (c1835 – ?) She was probably the Sarah Witt who married A. B. Cate on 22 January 1860 in Meigs County.43  She was not further traced.

    3.3. Emaline Witt (12 February 1838 – 17 March 1865) She seems to be the Emaline E. Witt who married Evander McCorkle on 19 January 1860 in Meigs County.44  They appear in the 1860 census. She is buried in the Goodfield Methodist Cemetery in Meigs County from which her birth and death dates come.

  4. Nancy Witt (8 June 1811 – 31 May 1863) According to the Rucker book, she married William Rucker (c1804–1886). Her birth and death dates are given in the book’s section on William Rucker.45  They sold her interest in Nathaniel Witt’s estate in 1841. She was probably married by 1830, since William Rucker’s 1830 census entry shows a childless household with a female aged 15-20 who is probably Nancy. Like her sister, she named a child “Nathaniel Witt Rucker”. The first child was born 4 March 1832, consistent with a marriage date by 1830. They are in the 1840 census of McMinn near James Witt. They are in the 1850 census of McMinn, Nancy age 40, with eight children: Mary (19) James (17), Nathaniel (15), John (13), Sarah (11), Matilda (9), Rachel(6), and Margaret (5).46  They moved to Macon County, Illinois about 1853 where Nancy died and William Rucker remarried to Mary Houseworth. He and both wives are buried in North Fork Cemetery in Decatur, Macon County. The Rucker book gives the full names of the children, and names one additional child: Mary C., James Marion, Nathaniel Witt, John Lafayette, Sarah Elizabeth, Anna, Rachel, Margaret, and William T. Rucker. This family is also covered in some detail in the “CLHW” paper.
  5. Mary Witt (c1814 – aft1860) She was the wife of George William Cate, named as an heir of Nathaniel Witt in both the 1841 and 1843 deeds. She appears to be one of the females aged 10-15 in Polly Witt’s household in 1830. She and George W. Cate seem to have married about 1832 judging from the children’s ages. In 1840, they were living adjacent to William Cate Sr. in Bradley County, Tennessee, with four children under 10. They apparently moved to Smith County, Texas where they are in the 1850 and 1860 census (Mary aged 36 and 46). The eldest child was named “Nathaniel”.
  6. Elizabeth Witt (c1815 – c1877) The daughter in the 1830 household of Polly Witt, aged 15-20, appears to be the Elizabeth Grisham, later the wife of Thomas Grisham, who sold her interest in Nathaniel Witt’s estate in 1843. Census records suggest a birth year of 1815 and a marriage date by 1835. They are in the 1850 census of McMinn County (as “Grissom”), Elizabeth as age 34. There are six children in the household: Susan, Lavista, James, John, Joseph, and William. On 1 March 1867 Elizabeth Grisham homesteaded land on which she lived, declaring that her husband had abandoned her and her family.47  [Thomas Grisham apparently was in debt, as he was selling off his property at about the same time.]  A court record dated four years later indicates Thomas Grisham was living in Arkansas. Indeed, the 1870 census shows the couple was back together in Hot Springs County, Arkansas, both aged 52 (and with four additional children). By 1880, Thomas is in the household of their son Joseph in Hood County, Texas. Elizabeth had died in 1877 according to descendants.
  7. Katherine Witt (c1818 – aft1860)  Katherine Witt was evidently of age but unmarried when she sold her interest in her father’s land in 1841, signing the deed with her mark.48  (A misreading of this deed has caused “Rathian” to appear among the children of William Witt in several publications. The “K” does look a bit like an “R” but is unlike any other “R” in the document. The scrawled name in the body of the deed is clearly “Katharine”, as it is also on the signature line.)   She was apparently one of the two females aged 10-15 in Mary Witt’s household in 1830, and the female 20-30 in the 1840 household.  According to the “CLHW” paper, Nathaniel Witt’s daughter Katherine “married a Mr. Ball in Tennessee and she is said to have had an only child…Sene Ball b abt 1843 and died May 2, 1919 Birchwood, Tenn…[who] married Samuel Gamble…a brother of her uncle Joseph Nathaniel Witt’s first wife.”49  Catherine may have married a Ball after 1841, but she was using her maiden name again in the 1850 census when Catherine Witt, age 31, was in the McMinn household of her cousins Pleasant B. and Mary Bryan50 with a daughter age 7 named “Ascynith”. In 1860, Catherine Witt (age 42) and her daughter “Amatha” (age 16) are in the Meigs County household of her brother Joseph N. Witt.51   I did not find her after 1860.
  8. William M. Witt (16 September 1820? – 12 October 1871)  We have conflicting records of his birth year, but it appears to be about 1820. He seems to be the male 5-10 in Mary Witt’s household in 1830 and the male 15-20 in her 1840 household. He married Elizabeth Hayes, daughter of a neighbor named Solomon Hayes in 1845 according to his son-in-law.  He moved to Titus County, Texas in late 1846 with several Hayes relatives from McMinn.

    (See separate page for the family of William M. Witt.)

  9. Joseph Nathaniel Witt (31 December 1825 – September 1892) He was apparently an infant at his father’s death, and thus must have been the youngest male in Mary Witt’s household in the 1830 and 1840 censuses. The “CLHW” manuscript is the only source I have seen that names him as a son of Nathaniel Witt, and it contains quite a bit of information about his descendants apparently provided by “Mr. Carter”.52  It gives his birth date as 31 December 1827 (obviously impossible if he were Nathaniel’s son) and his death date as September 1892.  This birth date appears to be two years off, given the consistency of later records of his age. He gave his age as 24 in 1850, and 34 in 1860, 44 in 1870, and 54 in 1880 – all of which suggest that the birth year was actually 1825.  He also testified in his pension application dated 4 July 1891 that he was 65, which would only be correct if he were born in 1825.  On 4 January 1847, Joseph Witt sold his interest in Nathaniel Witt’s estate to James E. Rucker, having turned 21 four days earlier.53  He is in the 1850 census of Meigs County with his first wife, 16 year-old Charity A. Gamble whom he had married in Meigs County on 18 August 1849.54  Charity evidently died and he married again to Mary I. Whitmore on 29 October 1856 in Meigs County. They are in the 1860 census with the first two children below and his sister Katherine Witt.55   He remained in the same location, near the town of Georgetown, which successively became Meigs, Hamilton, and James counties in the 1860, 1870, and 1880 censuses. Joseph Nathaniel Witt served as a Captain in the Union Army and applied for an invalid pension in Meigs County in 1891.56   He stated in his application that he had lived in Meigs County since his discharge.  (The pension was not granted because he died during the application process.)  The “CLHW” manuscript gives nine children, all by the second wife, which matches census records and a biographical sketch of a son.57

    9.1 Maggie Henriette Witt (c1858 – ?)

    9.2. William Hopkins Witt (29 January 1860 – 31 October 1938)

    9.3. George Muncy Witt (20 January 1863 – 10 January 1924) He was apparently named after George Muncy, a neighbor of Joseph N. Witt.

    9.4. Nathaniel Witt (11 May 1865 – )

    9.5. Joseph D. Witt (c1867 – 4 September 1894)

    9.6. Thomas C. Witt (c1869? –

    9.7. Walter Whittier Witt (8 November 1871 – 24 May 1910) He married Jane Scruggs in Wise County, Texas in 1899 and is in the 1900 census of Tarrant County living in Ft. Worth. He is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery in Ft. Worth, Texas.

    9.8. Mary Catherine Witt (17 October 1873 – 11 October 1964) Her middle name is spelled with both a “C” and a “K” in various records. Her obituary appeared in the 12 October 1964 issue of the Chattanooga News Free Press.

    9.9. May Belle Witt (c1875 – 1929)

 

  1. Jefferson County Will Book 2, p38. []
  2. It was not legally necessary for a witness to be of age, but it was certainly the usual case. I would note though, that the John Witt who also witnessed this will may have been Nathaniel’s brother, whom we know to have been only 17 at the time. []
  3. Copy of original bond provided by Joann Van Boven. []
  4. North Carolina State Records, Volume 22, pp705-714 reproduces a petition from residents of the “State of Franklin” requesting severance from legal obligations to North Carolina. Among the signers were Elias Witt, Thomas Witt and Nathaniel Witt. They were not closely related to this Witt family. []
  5. Jefferson County Deed Book O, p252. The grant was actually issued on 3 May 1814 and recorded 1 January 1818. The 65 acres was assigned to Nathaniel Witt from John White, part of his 300 acre grant of 1810. []
  6. Jefferson County Deed Book ?, p219.  I have a photocopy of the page, but am unsure of the book. []
  7. Grant #3040, the southeast quarter of section 25, township 2, range 2 west, “beginning on the southwest corner of said quarter.” []
  8. New Hopewell Baptist Church, Mabel Lorene Norwood Boylston, (Self-published, 1996) p95. This page contains two photocopies of the original church minutes and a partial transcript. The transcript reads “William Witt’s” but the original record clearly reads “Widow Witt’s”.  [The same page, incidentally, contains the reference “recd Mary Cates by letter”, apparently referring to William Cate Sr.’s wife.] The date attributed to that entry by Ms. Boylston is July 1819, though it is not visible in the photocopy. However, the evidence suggests that the year was actually 1824, not 1819. Consider: McMinn County did not exist in any practical sense in July 1819, and there is no evidence that Big Spring or any other congregation existed that early. Further, it seems virtually certain that the “widow Witt” was Sarah Witt, who was still in Jefferson County as late as March 1821. One of the churches asked for assistance, Zion Hill, was not formed until 1822. Mary Cate did not receive her letter from the Dumplin Creek church until September 1822. Finally, the Hiwassee Baptist Association, to whom the petition must have been addressed, did not exist until May of 1823. The Hiwassee Association minutes of the first two annual meetings, for 1823 and 1824, neither mention this church, nor any petitions from it. That is particularly odd since the 1824 meeting was held at Big Spring, a church in McMinn just ten miles away. My guess is that the petition was begun in 1824 for submission at the 1825 annual meeting. The Hiwassee Baptist Association minutes are lost for the years 1825-7, but by 1828 New Hopewell was an established church, with Silas Witt one of the delegates to the convention that year. []
  9. McMinn County Court Minute Book 1824-31, p155. []
  10. It is possible that the records of either Eastanallee or New Hopewell churches may contain a reference to his death. The Eastanallee records exist, but I have not read them. The only McMinn records for the period are a court minute book, there being no probate books or other court records. []
  11. Several children of Hezekiah Witt, a distant cousin of Nathaniel Witt, had moved into McMinn at about the same time. []
  12. McMinn County 1830 census, p181-182 (listed consecutively): Joseph Witt 10001-00001, Edward Cellars 300001-30101, Sally Witt 00112-000000001, Polly Witt 11001-0021001. []
  13. Index to McMinn County, Tennessee, Tax Lists, 1829-1832 and 1836, Harald Reksten & Reba Boyer (Heritage Books, Inc., 1996). []
  14. McMinn County Deed Book C, p149 as abstracted in McMinn County, Tennessee Deeds and Other Data 1820-1880, Reba Bayless Boyer (1986). Joseph Witt and Silas Witt Jr. (Nathaniel’s son) witnessed the deed. []
  15. McMinn County Deed Book F, p288, as abstracted by Boyer. []
  16. Bradley County Chancery Court Minutes 1840-1850, p91. This entry is brief, indicating the filing of the suit, and contains no record of the details of the case. The case ws dismissed in March 1845. []
  17. McMinn County Deed Book G, p608. []
  18. This deed was mis-transcribed in Mrs. Rucker’s book, reading “Katherine” as “Rathian”. []
  19. McMinn County Deed Book H, p458. []
  20. Boyer, p52. []
  21. History of the Rucker Family, Edythe Johns Rucker Whitley (Hermitage Printing Co.,1927), p153 and p198. []
  22. McMinn County Deed Book G, p424 as abstracted by Boyer. []
  23. Whitley, p153 and p198. []
  24. Typewritten manuscript (author unknown) on file at LDS Library on reel #873927, item 7.  Filed as 929.273A1 no. 258.  This manuscript deals with some descendants of Charles and Livinia Harbour (sic) Witt, and specifically those of Joseph Witt Sr. I’ll refer to it herein as the “CLHW” paper, although the focus is on Joseph Witt’s descendants.  No author is attributed, but there appears to be some connection between this author and Mrs. Whitley. Both documents quote “Mr. Carter”. From the dates in the document, it appears to have been written at about the same time as Ms. Whitley’s book, sometime in the 1920s. []
  25. Letter dated 3 November 1947 from William Breckinridge Witt to Mary Lou Witt (born 1906), courtesy of Mary Lou Witt. This letter is partially transcribed on the William Witt page. []
  26. McMinn County 1830 census, p179: Thomas Epperson 10001-10001 (next to Jesse Epperson, presumably his father). []
  27. Bradley County 1840 census, p51: Thomas Epperson 221001-001001. []
  28. Bradley County 1850 census p364: Thomas Eppison (47), Sarah (44), Elizabeth (22), Harriet (23), Joseph (18), Caroline (14), Lucinda (7), Mary A. (6), Jackson (2), Nathan (20), Jesse (17), William P. (15), Joseph (12), Mary C. (9), Benj. (6), Thomas M. (3). All were born in Tennessee except for Harriet, whose birth place was Georgia. From the 1840 census, either Harriett or Elizabeth was not a child of this family, and neither was Caroline. The peculiar sequence raises the question of how many of these children belonged to Thomas and Sarah Epperson. The others were perhaps nieces and nephews. Or perhaps the surname was mis-recorded, as not one of these persons can be found in 1860. []
  29. Green Epperson, who “went to Illinois about 1882, later went to Kansas” according to the Rucker book [Whitley, p198] is completely mysterious. No one named Green Epperson, who could have been a child of this family, shows up in any census. Nor is there any Green Epperson in the 1900 census who could be this person. We can seemingly account for every child in the 1830 and 1840 censuses as well. []
  30. CLHW manuscript, p2 states that Green Epperson, eldest child of John Epperson, was born 7 October 1854 and died in Kansas. But he apparently had an uncle named Green as well. On p3 it states that “Thomas Green Epperson, son of Sarah Witt and Thomas Epperson, is said to have come to Illinois with the Rucker family.” []
  31. The family of John Epperson (c1825-1895) who is “said to have been” a son of Thomas and Sarah Epperson is listed in detail, although some of his childen are omitted, and it is clear that it was John R. Epperson who was meant. []
  32. Whitley, p157. []
  33. McMinn Chancery Court Records, p274. []
  34. Boylston, p23 and p28. []
  35. McMinn County Deed Book F, p288, as abstracted by Boyer. []
  36. Boylston, p30. []
  37. Early East Tennessee Marriages, Volume 2, Byron & Barbara Sistler (Sistler & Associates, 1987), p396. []
  38. Athens Post issue of 21 September 1855. []
  39. thens Post issue of 10 October 1862, which also mentions his date of death. []
  40. Chancery Court Records of McMinn County, Tennessee, 1844-1894, p39. []
  41. A History of Tennessee from the Earliest Times to the Present…McMinn County (Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1887). []
  42. McMinn County Will Book F, p474. []
  43. Meigs County original marriage records. []
  44. Meigs County original marriage records. []
  45. Whitley, p164. []
  46. Mary is in the household as the wife of L. H. Horton (26). []
  47. Boyer, p110. []
  48. McMinn County Deed Book G, p608. []
  49. “CLHW” manuscript, p36. []
  50. Pleasant B. Bryan was the son of William Bryan and Lucinda Cate (sister of Nathaniel Witt’s wife). His wife Mary was Mary Rucker, daughter of Mordicai Rucker and Catherine’s sister Miriam Witt. []
  51. The census appears to read “James M. Witt” but the wife and children are clearly those of Joseph N. Witt. []
  52. “CLHW” manuscript, p37. []
  53. Boyer, p52. []
  54. Interestingly, Charity Gamble and her brother Samuel appear in the household of their father Samuel Gamble next door to Jacob Gross, father of Catherine Gross, in 1850. Due to the timing of the marriage, Charity appears in both households. []
  55. This record (1860 Meigs census page 145) reads James M. Witt (34), Mary I. (25), Margaret (1), Wm. H. (6/12), Catherine (42) Amatha (16). This is clearly Joseph N. Witt. “Amatha” is probably meant to be “Asentha” or something similar. []
  56. Declaration for an Original Invalid Pension No. 981105. []
  57. See An Illustrated History of The Big Bend Country, embracing Lincoln, Douglas, Adams and Franklin counties, State of Washington, (Western Historical Publishing Co., 1904). []