This weeks’ episode with Bill Paxton is really outstanding. Now, I might be biased, because as it turns out, Bill’s ancestor, Benjamin Sharp shares some historic events and locations with some of my ancestors too.
Bill started his journey in the library in Los Angeles, California, where their genealogist unrolls Bill’s pedigree chart. I sure wish someone would give me one of those with a bow and a few new ancestors to boot!
These pedigree giftings really make me smile. The recipients are always so excited to see their heritage literally open up before them.
Bill already knew quite a bit about his closest few Paxton ancestors, including that one of his ancestors was an officer in the Civil War, so Bill was looking back up the tree to the Revolutionary War era where he found 3 different men, all 4 times great grandfathers, who could well have served. Checking the DAR data base, only the last one, Benjamin Sharp, hit pay dirt.
Bill is off to the DAR headquarters in Washington DC. At the DAR, they produced the 1833 pension application for Benjamin Sharp, written in Warren Co., MO, documenting his Revolutionary War military service beginning in 1775. That’s when my ears perked right up, because the application, in Benjamin’s own handwriting said that he was at Black’s Fort, and at Glade Hollow, and that he was a spy.
For anyone with Appalachian, Western VA or Eastern TN history, both of these locations grab your attention, because these lands were truly forts, on the true edge of the frontier. Very few people were there, and the militia protected them, not from the British so much, but from Indians, most of whom were aligned with the Tories because the English promised the Indians that if they won, the pioneer encroachment on their lands would stop. These fort locations are found today in Russell County, VA.
From there, Benjamin Sharp served in the local militia unit, probably out of Washington County, VA, that rallied to fight in the fall of 1781 at King’s Mountain, a turning point in the Revolutionary War. At least two of my ancestors fought at King’s Mountain as well. Today, on the top of the hill, a monument to the men who fought and gave their lives has been erected. This battle, won by mountaineers known as the Overmountain Men and not professional soldiers has been termed the turning point of the Revolutionary War.
The British commander, Patrick Ferguson, made a grave error in issuing this challenge to the Overmountain men who he held in the greatest contempt.
“If you do not desist your opposition to the British Arms, I shall march this army over the mountains, hang your leaders, and lay waste your country with fire and sword.”
Them’s fightin’ words.
Let’s just say that’s not exactly what happened. Ferguson was among the men buried at King’s Mountain, and the British Army lost. Talk about both underestimating and inflaming your opponent.
You can guess where Benjamin is off to next. Yes, King’s Mountain is a historic park today and well worth the visit. A couple of years ago, I walked this trail myself and I can’t even begin to tell you the raw emotions I felt during that journey. I was fortunate to be alone on the walking path – of course that might had something to do with the fact that it was over 100 degrees. The men who fought at King’s Mountain did so in the cold rain – in fact – it was probably the rain that saved them – because rain softens leaves and underbrush and the Ferguson, stationed on top of the hill with the Tories, didn’t realize they were surrounded until it was too late.
At King’s Mountain, Bill discovers a letter from Benjamin Sharp in the book “American Pioneer” detailing the actual battle. Watching Bill read this letter standing on the actual battleground was quite gripping, especially knowing that Benjamin was describing, first hand, something my ancestors experienced too.
Bill wanted to know what happened to Benjamin after the Revolutionary War. Benjamin was only 18 at that time and he had his whole life in front of him. Bill’s next stop is the Library of Virginia in Richmond.
Bill discovers that Benjamin became a surveyor in Lee County, Virginia’s westernmost county which borders on the Cumberland Gap. Many of the men who served in the Revolution on the frontier did settle in this area. On the Lee County tax list of 1804, shown in the episode, I saw two names I recognized.
Benjamin Sharp moved on though, with the movement westward to Missouri. They didn’t say how or why Benjamin moved, but I’m betting it might have been where Revolutionary War bounty land was granted. Many families found themselves pushing the westward frontier due to these grants given as payment for military service.
Bill’s next and last stop is in Warren County where he finds and holds the original will of Benjamin Sharp in his hands. Benjamin lived a very long life and his will holds, well, let’s just say some surprises.
In fact, Bill has been surprised, or maybe shocked is a better word, several times along the way…and not always in a positive light.
This episode closes with Bill visiting his ancestor’s grave, deep in the brambles in the forest on private property that used to be owned by Benjamin Sharp. Bill leaves three small stones….but you’ll have to watch Sunday night to discover why.
This was a truly moving, heartwarming and sometimes gut-wrenching episode.
Here’s your sneak peek.
Bill Paxton’s episode airs this Sunday, April 19 at 10/9c on TLC.
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I also had ancestors who fought at King’s Mountain, Rogers & Robertson. Ferguson most certainly did make “a grave error” in underestimating those backwoods squirrel hunters, some of the toughest fighters of the day. Didn’t George Washington say that he’s rather have Scots-Irish troops alongside him than any other? I wish someone would start a Facebook page for King’s Mountain descendants. I think there are quite a lot of us.
I think that’s a wonderful idea and I think you should do that:)
I wouldn’t know where to start. 😛
Hi, Roberta, interesting post, but I think you meant to say that Ferguson’s TORIES were camped on Kings Mountain. The Continentals (who weren’t involved in this battle) were the good guys.
Also, according to the Encyclopedia of the American Revolution, Ferguson’s available forces consisted of 800 Tory militiamen and 100 picked men from three volunteer Loyalist regiments against 1400 to 1700 Patriot militia. He also failed to set up a proper defensive parameter, so in spite of his holding the high ground, he pretty much screwed up by the numbers.
You are right. Fixed.
Wow, he was in our neck of the woods at King’s Mountain ! Can’t wait to see it.
I can’t wait to see this episode.
There is a book entitled, “Robert Young Sr., Patriot & Pioneer” that describes the Battle of King’s Mountain beginning on about page 14. It describes how Robert Young Sr shot Colonel Patrick Ferguson. Robert young Sr. was my gggg grandfather. The book also mentions my ggg grandfather John Gilliland.
I was able to go to the King’s Mountain battlefield about 3 years ago and see the monument with my ancestors names – very moving, I couldn’t stop staring at it.
While in that area, I found a Gilliland Cemetery near Cosby, TN, where I discovered some of my ggg grandfather, John Gilliland’s descendants.
Thank you for your newsletter and everything else you do.
Digital copy of Robert Young Sr., Patriot and Pioneer.
It was an excellent episode…or rather is — I’m watching it now.
bkmnp.com is a fabulous resource! I am sitting at the Firehouse Inn in Rutherfordton, NC with Fred Wyler, whose ggg grandfather Samuel Newell faught at Blackmountain and he created the website to honor the men who faught there! Someone at the breakfast table said Bill Paxton’s relative faught there and Mr. Wyler knew of Benjamin Sharp!
I am also a Kings Mountain descendant, according to the history of my Starns/Starnes ancestors. Leonard Starnes may have been one of the oldest men fighting there, beside his son John Starnes. They are from Scott Co. VA. We visited the battlefield two summers ago and were impressed with the visual exhibit that helped us understand the logistics of the troops. Plan to go back next fall and hike to the monument.
Janet, My half sister is a Starnes descendant and her line appears to go back to Virginia and North Carolina (from Indiana). I’ve just recently begun to research them. Her kit # at gedmatch is A794004. Can you recommend any source material?
As I was watching this episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?” I heard the name Benjamin Sharp. I knew that I have a Benjamin Sharp in my tree, and YES! it was the same Benjamin Sharp in the show! I record every episode so I can view them later, and will review this one many time to capture the information to add to my tree. Tree name in Ancestry.com is “Strobel Family Tree”.
Wow. You hit it really lucky!!
Thanks! Apologize for the late response.
Yes, I also recognized the Sharp name from my tree. Benjamin Sharp’s father was John Sharp who is my 7x great grandfather. Benjamin’s sister Sarah is my 6x great grandmother. I believe that makes Bill Paxton my 6th cousin 2x removed. I’ll be sure to let him know – ha!
Sara, just now found this site. Sarah Sharp Berry is my ggg great grandmother, as is her sister Elinor (Sharp) Dunkin and her sister Elizabeth (Sharp) King. There was a lot of intermarrying in those hills! When I saw this show about Bill Paxton I knew immediately we were of the same family.
The other side my family also fought at King’s Mtn: The Shelbys
I also enjoyed this showing. I too have slaves in my history and the story goes that my ancestor was not nice and everyone left him after the civil war. Mr Paxton viewpoint at the end was uplifting and thought provoking in his last statement for many of us with slaves in our history. Too bad Ben Affleck didn’t see this before his decision.
It was an excellent episode. I was curious about the three stones, somehow I missed the explanation. I know it’s a tradition in the Jewish religion but Bill Paxton isn’t Jewish.
It was at the very end. Bill had picked up three small stones at King’s Mountain. He put them on top of his ancestor’s gravestone when he found it. In the photo, you can see the stones on the top. In a way, Bill was completing the journey.
after watching the episode, I wondered if William and Judith Sharp, who most likely were the slaves of Benjamin Sharp, who were free on the 1850 census and owned land, have descendants alive today?!? that would have been a very interesting meeting to show!
There may be descendants of William and Judith Sharp, but his son William Kuntze was a renowned chairmaker on whom I have written a book.
It’s too bad they didn’t try the SAR Patriot search. They would’ve found a William Paxton (1732-1795): Ancestor #P-267030
There are portraits of Benjamin his wife, daughter, son Dr. Benjamin ,and his wife in the Missouri Historical Society museum. I am also a descendant …Major B. SHARP was appointed clerk of the court for Missouri Territory by William Clark after accepting a land grant instead of back wages from the war. Our family has a lot more of his history…
It would be interesting to see how Bill is related to us…
John Gilliland of Kings Mountain was my 5th great grandfather. His son Robert migrated to here in Pulaski County, Kentucky.