Jotham Brown (c1740-c1799), Maybe a Dissenter, 52 Ancestors #81

Blue Ridge

I love it when I tie into a line that has been well researched.  It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it’s definitely time for that happy dance.

I also love it when my ancestor has a really unique name.  Enough already with these Johns and Williams. I love the name Jotham.  I had never heard it before, outside of the Bible, before I found Jotham Brown, or better put, before I found Stevie Hughes who helped me find Jotham Brown.

We believe Jotham was born about 1740, but we don’t find any records until Jotham is in his late 30s, in 1778.  He could have been born somewhat earlier, probably in either Pennsylvania or Virginia, given the migration history of the other families where he is first located.

When Jotham was a child, the French and Indian War, also known as the Seven Years War, took place from 1754-1763 and involved both Pennsylvania and Virginia.  Not only was the land involved where Jotham most likely lived, but the conflict was protracted and often involved raids and attacks on settlers.  In many places, it was a time of fear and uncertainty.

French and Indian war

“French and indian war map” by Hoodinski – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

Of course, without knowing exactly where Jotham lived during that time, we can’t tell what he might have seen or how involved his family might have been.  Most healthy men in that timeframe served in the local militia, at least, which was then drafted for more active service during times of conflict or war.  Depending on his age, he could have served and his father most assuredly would have in some capacity.

Hampshire County, Virginia (now West Virginia)

The very first record we find of Jotham is in the Virginia Northern Neck Land Grants.

“Jotham Brown researchers may be interested in several deeds in Hampshire County Virginia, all of which can be found on line at the Library of Virginia. Jotham was very busy on Oct. 8, 1778.  He helped survey three tracts of land.  One can be found by looking up Frederick Royce 1789, (land surveyed earlier) and another is on surveys no. 21788-1794 page 87, and a third was on page 87 same survey no. 2.  Jotham Brown is named in a deed and survey done for John Berkeley grants R, 1778-1780 P. 170-171.  In the John Berkeley survey Jotham bought his land from John Royce. They lived on Spring Gap Mt.  John Royce was from Frederick county.  A John Brown from Frederick and a John Brown from Philadelphia are around the same community.  Hampshire records are not intact but an order book that starts around 1762 is at Library of Virginia.”

Thank you Mark Sampson for posting that information.  It’s very useful and helps us locate Jotham’s land.

A 1788 Hampshire County deed mentioned Frederick Royce (Rice’s) land on Great Capechon which is close to Spring Gap Road, as we’ll see in a minute.

Little Capecon (left arrow below) and Great Capecon (both right arrows) are both tributaries of the Potomac River.

Hampshire map

Although they are maybe 4 miles as the crow flies, the crow has to fly over a mountain range between the two, so while they are close, they aren’t direct.

Hampshire map 2

It’s pretty rough country.  Jotham Brown was obviously not intimidated by challenges.

You can see above and below that this area is also very close to Maryland, so it’s possible that Jotham’s family originated in Maryland.

hampshire map 3

In 1779, Jotham is mentioned as owning land adjacent to John Berkelery’s grant on Spring Gap Run in Hampshire County.  This also tells us that Jotham owns land.  I checked all of the Northern Neck land grants but I was unable to find the deeds mentioned online at the library of Virginia.  So if Jotham wasn’t granted land, he bought it from someone who was, like John Royce.  Clearly, Hampshire County deeds need to be checked, but they are not in existence.  Bummer!.

Virginia Land Grant Jotham

This land is close to the current Virginia/West Virginia border, bordering Berkeley County.  Spring Gap Mountain Road extends along Spring Gap Mountain running parallel to Little Cacapon.  The map below shows Spring Gap Road, end to end.

Spring Gap road

I cannot find a present day Spring Gap Run, but often a “run” was a creek that ran alongside the road.  Roads of course followed the easiest access, often carved by creeks through the landscape.  This land description mentions a fork, and on the northern end, there is indeed an unlabeled creek that includes a fork and runs along Spring Gap Mountain Road and dumps into Little  Cacapon.  This road is dirt today, so no Google street view available.  The top end of the blue line is at the fork in the creek branch near Little Cacapon.

Spring Gap Run

The Revolutionary War

Try as I might, I could find nothing at all about Jotham Brown during the Revolutionary War which lasted from 1775-1783.  Perhaps if the court records for Hampshire County were perused, there might be a mention of a contribution or a public claim.  It’s hard to believe he neither served nor contributed.  Many of the men from this area served in Augusta County units.  He did move during this time, so he could have potentially served out of Frederick or Botetourt County, but I’m sure that the Frederick County records have been thoroughly perused by earlier researchers.  Hmmm…I think I need to put this on my ever-growing “to do” list.

Most of the existing Hampshire County records begin in 1788.  Both fire and war have destroyed most Hampshire records.  Many of those not burned were carried away during the Civil War.  To make matters even worse, the remaining pre-1866 records from Hampshire are illegible.  Well, sadly, that part came off of the to-do list in record time.  There is nothing at Fold3 or at the Library of Virginia about Jotham Brown and military service, so this will likely fall in the “forever unknown” category.  During that timeframe in Virginia, all able-bodied men were minimally expected to participate in their local militia.  That was the only form of local protection.

Frederick County, VA

Jotham apparently moved from Hampshire County between 1779 and 1782 when he is found on the 1782 Frederick County Virginia census.  If he lived near the Johnson and Crumley families in Frederick County, VA, then he lived near White Hall, shown on the map below.  This is no hop, skip and a jump.  It’s 50 miles more or less from Spring Gap and not on flat land.

Spring Gap to Frederick

Stevie first finds Jotham in Frederick County, Virginia in the 1782 Virginia census in Col. Holmes district with 10 whites and no slaves, with the following neighbors:

Johnson, Topper Sr. – 8 whites
Johnson, Topper Jr. – 2 whites
Johnson, Moses – 6 whites
Brown, Jotham – 10 whites

On the same list and in the same district, but not a neighbor, we also find Catherine Crumbley with 1 white male and 3 blacks.  Catherine is the great grandmother of William Crumley (the third) who marries Lydia Brown in 1807 in Greene County, TN, the daughter of Jotham and Phebe Brown.

Crumley Brown connection

The 1782 census implies that Jotham and Phebe, assuming she is his only wife, have been married at least 15 years, given that they have 8 living children.  It’s unlikely that all of their children lived, so their marriage date is estimated as 1760 although it could have been as late as 1767.  Jotham’s eldest daughter Jane Brown Cooper was born in 1768 in Virginia according to the 1850 census.

Jotham is in Frederick County in 1782 along with Zopher (spelled Topper) Johnson “the elder,” who Stevie believes may be the father of Jotham’s wife, Phebe.

If Phebe, Jotham’s wife, is Zopher Johnson’s daughter, as has been theorized, then the Brown and Johnson families had to meet about 20 years before the 1782 Frederick County tax list for Jotham and Phebe to have married between 1760 and 1767.  In fact, in 1761 and 1762, Zopher Johnson, according to Stevie’s work, was living at the “Forks of Delaware’ in Northampton Co., PA.  Zopher was first found in Frederick County in 1771 on a tax list, so he apparently lived in Northampton County, PA for a significant time.  If Jotham Brown wasn’t in that vicinity in 1760/1765, then Phebe, his wife, can’t be Zopher Johnson’s daughter.  We need to look for Brown families near Zopher in Northampton County, PA.

If Jotham lived near the Crumley family in Frederick County, VA, who would, along with the Johnson family, migrate to Greene County, Tennessee about 5 years before the Brown family would do the same thing, then Jotham may have lived about 9 miles north of Winchester, near where the Crumley home remains today as the Crumley-Lynn-Lodge House, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, near White Hall, shown on the map above.  We know, according to Zopher Johnson (Sr.,) Revolutionary War veteran, son of Zopher the Elder, that he was living “near Winchester, Virginia” in 1781, per his Revolutionary War pension papers.  Since Jotham Brown was neighbors with Zopher, he too lived “near Winchester, VA” in 1782.

Botetourt County, Virginia

Apparently, Jotham Brown didn’t stay long in Frederick County, because in 1783, Jotham and Phebe purchased 233 acres of land in Botetourt County, Virginia on Brush Creek, a branch of Little River.  Jotham would have been about 43 by this time, having been born about 1740.  We don’t know where he was before 1778, but from 1779 to 1783 he moved at least twice – and not just the next ridge over – substantial moves.

Botetourt County was not close to Frederick County, but it was right down the wagon trail that eventually became US11, then later paralleled by the construction of I81.  I shudder to think how rough this journey was, and how long it took them to travel the 215 miles.  I just hope Phebe wasn’t pregnant during this chapter in their lives – but she likely was, because their son Jotham was born October 2, 1783.

Journey to Botetourt

Brush Creek runs for about eight to ten miles, as the crow flies, (certainly much longer as the stream zig-zags), about 4 miles southeast of but parallel with I81 in present day Montgomery County, Virginia.

Brush Creek Road, also labeled 617, runs alongside the creek for most of the distance until it intersects with 612 near Pilot.  Brush Creek itself continues along 612 to near Huffville where Brush Creek turns south, again crossing 612, and then ends, or more accurately, begins, before running its length and dumping it’s water into the Little River, at far left.

Brush Creek Botetourt Co VA

These two arrows show the headwaters, at right, of Brush Creek and at left, where it joins with Little River.  I would show you on Google maps, but not only is Brush Creek Road unpaved, so are all the roads for miles in any direction.  Google maps does “street view,” not “dirt road view.”  This is rough, mountainous, country.  Brush Creek is the area at Pilot, right of Riner Road, left of Check and above Tindall.

Brush Creek Satellite

As I looked at the larger map, I realized, I’ve been here – or at least close.  In March of 1993, a devastating blizzard hit Appalachia, known as “The Superstorm” and “The Storm of the Century.”  It truly was an inland cyclone and this part of Appalachia received about 45 inches of hurricane force driven snow.  I was snowed in for days in a truck stop motel north of Mt. Airy, NC, having gotten the last room available, and believe me, I was grateful to be there, no matter how smokey and roach-eaten, because most people were sheltered in the high school gymnasium eating sea rations as one big “happy” family.  By the end of that very long week, people had probably become engaged and gotten married, or at least begat children.  I had just read several books and done some genealogy.  Much less drama in the hotel room, not to mention hot showers!  And I found a little grocery with food.  With that and a microwave, I was all set.  I bought enough supplies to last a couple weeks if necessary.  Campbell’s soup can taste VERY good!

Brush Creek at I81

This area represents some of the roughest terrain in all of Appalachia.

brush creek in the fall

Why did Jotham select this area?  It makes you wonder if this is where his wagon broke down, so it’s where he stayed.  One thing about I81 – it actually runs along the crests of the mountains, which was part of the problem when they had that terrible blizzard.  They couldn’t get heavy equipment up to the interstate to clear it.  Originally, all of the paths and the wagon roads, such as they were, would have been twisty turny pathways through valleys and along streams and rivers.

brush creek road sign

Let’s take a tour along Brush Creek Road, thanks to the Brush Creek Facebook group.

Brush Creek road, creek, mountains

You can still follow those old roads today, like Brush Creek Road, above, if you get off of the main road and follow US11 as is slithers back and forth across and under I81, like a drunken snake seeking shelter in the mountain hollows.  Venture a mile away and you’d never know a modern road exists.  It’s a quick ticket back in time.  In the photo above, you can see Brush Creek to the left of the road.

brush creek mountain from the creek

This photo is looking at the mountains from Brush Creek.  The Brush Creek area is still very remote today.  This contemporary bridge is still wood.

Brush Creek mouth

This is Brush Creek where is drains into the New River.

Brush creek at New River

One thing you have to concede is that no matter how rough the terrain, and how difficult to eke a living out of this mountainous land, it is breathtakingly beautiful.

Brush Creek fall

Fall would be a stunning time of year in this heavily treed and mountainous terrain.

Brush creek fall mountains

I love old roads, because I know that my ancestors, Jotham, Phebe and their daughter, Lydia, traveled up and down these very same roads, more than 200 years ago.

Brush creek yellow tree

Jotham and Phebe lived on Brush Creek and Terry Creek in Botetourt, which became Montgomery County, for just under 20 years, near the Christopher Cooper family.

Brush creek old home place

This old homeplace on Brush Creek was known to be home to many families over the decades and probably across centuries.  Jotham’s early homestead probably looked much like this.

Brush creek farming2

Farming on Brush Creek was done with horses and plows, before tractors. Jotham might have used oxen rather than horses.

In Botetourt Co., VA in 1783, Jothem Brown Sr. bought land, located near William, Moses, James, Hezekiah and George Brown, Moses Johnston, Robert Foster and Christopher Cooper.

In 1783, 1784 and 1785, Jotham is listed in Capt. Eason’s District on the tax list in Botetourt County, VA with one white poll.

Jotham’s oldest daughter, and probably his oldest child, Jane would marry Christopher Cooper Sr., a Revolutionary War veteran, on October 20, 1786, in Montgomery County.

In 1788, in James Reynold’s 100 acre Botetourt County land grant, Jotham is mentioned as an adjoining neighbor on “Brush Creek, a branch of Little River.”

It was also about that time, in 1785, that two of Jotham’s sons-in-law, Christopher Cooper and William Stapleton, both Revolutionary War veterans, signed petitions to establish a “Reformed Church of Scotland” in Botetourt County.  This leads Stevie to suggest that if Jotham’s sons-in-law were Presbyterian, Jotham probably was too.  She is likely right. The Presbyterian church was the hallmark of the Scots-Irish and the Scots-Irish were the guardians of the frontier.

Fincastle Church

The Fincastle Church may have been the result of this petition.  The history of Fincastle Church tells us the following:

“After the Act of Religious Freedom was passed in 1785, the Established Church building in Fincastle came to be used by dissenters rather than by its former Anglican members. Since the tithe was no longer collected by the state, the church was destitute. Fincastle was largely populated by dissenters, chiefly Presbyterians, many of whom were member of the Sinking Springs congregation. This congregation was formed in 1754 when Robert Montgomery and Patrick Shirkey granted a tract of land about two miles east of Fincastle on Sinking Springs Creek for the use of the Presbyterian congregation. The community was interested in its own form of worship and was willing to provide for it. This was the meeting place for the inhabitants of the whole region and the beginning of the flourishing Presbyterian congregation that succeeded the Established Church in the present building.”

This tidbit may actually be part of the answer as to why Jotham Brown would choose to set forth on the Great Wagon Road and move his family to the frontier.  The official church of colonial America was the Anglican Church.  In Virginia, prior to the Revolutionary War, dissenters were jailed and worse, although, having said that, the Crumley family in Frederick County was originally Quaker.

Eventually, dissenting ministers were licensed, but still often mistreated.  The separation of church and state as we know it did not exist.  For example, tithes, meaning taxes, were levied and collected by the church.  Both Anglican church membership and attendance were required – and you were fined if you skipped church without a good reason.  What was and was not a good reason was determined by the church after you were summoned to explain yourself.

However, people were needed on the frontier to settle and to act as a buffer between the newly established settlements and the Indians, in essence, for protection.  If anyone was going to do that, well, then who better than a bunch of dispensable “dissenters” who weren’t terribly compliant anyway.  Troublemakers!  Best to ship them out where they could be useful.  As long as they paid their taxes, who cared?  So, the established church turned a blind eye, allowing the Scots-Irish or Scotch-Irish to establish Presbyterian churches on the frontier.  In fact, the colonial government offered a “bounty of lands” to the Scotch-Irish who would settle on the frontier.  And Winchester, in Frederick County, Virginia, was the gateway to the “Great Wagon Road,” ticket to the next step in freedom for those with a taste for adventure or for those unruly and unrulable dissenters. The flow westward began after the French and Indian War, which ended in 1763 and in essence opened the lands east of the Proclamation Line of 1763.

Line of 1763After the French and Indian War ended, the Great Wagon Road was the most heavily traveled road in America.  Oh, and in case you were wondering, the settlers treated the Proclamation line as if it didn’t exist, and settled where they wanted.  Needless to say, the Native people who lived on those lands were very unhappy with this turn of events – and with the settlers who were squatting without permission.  Conflict was inevitable.

1751 Jefferson map

This 1751 Fry-Jefferson map depicts “The Great Wagon Road to Philadelphia.”  For Jotham Brown, and thousands of others like him, it was the Great Wagon Road to the frontier, land and opportunity, with no guarantees.  In fact, the trip was risky, the new locations were risky, and frontier life was risky – which is one reason why families and neighbors traveled in groups.  It’s always good to have some assured help. It’s also why some people left – who wants to be the only one left behind.  By the time Jotham set forth on the Wagon Road, he knew that there were already pioneers established there – he wouldn’t be the first – and it was certainly safer than it had been during the French and Indian War or during the Revolutionary War when the Indians were fighting in alliance with the British to retain their lands and prevent further encroachment of settlers.  But settlers poured in, by the wagonloads, running like an endless stream into the backcountry.  The great tide of settlers was unstoppable.

Church on the Frontier

According to “The Tinkling Spring, Headwater of Freedom, A Study of the Church and her People 1732-1952” written by Howard McKnight Wilson, ThD, the Tinkling Spring minutes indicated that the Sinking Spring Church had been established, on the Catawba and James River, located across Sinking Creek from Fincastle, and continues today as the Fincastle Church.  In 1785, the Abington Presbytery was formed and these churches fell under its jurisdiction

It’s interesting to peek a bit into the time and place and workings of the frontier churches of this time.  While from an outside perspective, and looking back, they seem to be united in their desire to establish new churches and carry on the traditions of their church from the old country, that wasn’t necessarily the entire story if you looked from inside.

In 1936, Goodridge Wilson, Jr, delivered an address before the Abington Presbytery in connection with the Diamond Jubilee Celebration, and in it he said the following about controversy within the early church.

From the earliest days of its history Presbyterianism in America has been characterized by convulsive internal struggles over questions of doctrine and polity, and those struggles from the beginning were enacted in Abingdon Presbytery.

The infant Presbytery in the wilderness was hardly out of its swaddling clothes before figurative fists began to fly over the issues involved in Dr. Hopkins’s theological teachings. Even before the Presbytery was born some of its churches were rent asunder over the matter of psalmody. Revivalism had its advocates and its outspoken opponents. The complicated issues that brought on the great split of the eighteen thirties divided the Presbytery, and the bitter feelings involved in the issues of slavery and sectionalism profoundly affected its churches. All of these ancient controversies, and others of a more local character, made their impress upon the character of Presbyterianism within the Presbytery’s area, arid many of their effects are still with us, although the causes may he long forgotten.

The spirit in which these controversies were fought out is well illustrated in the dispute other whether Watts’s hymns should be used in worship or Rouse’s version of the Psalms be given exclusive recognition. In 1780 this issue came to a head in the congregations of Sinking Spring and Ebbing Spring, and probably in others. In these two it was brought before Hanover Presbytery and on complaint of Rev. Charles Cummings almost half of his members were dismissed from the membership of these two churches because they refused to use Watts’s hymns, insisting that only the inspired psalms should he sung in the worship of God.

The dismissed members proceeded to organize themselves into separate congregations, which accounts for the origin of Rock Spring Church and probably of Green Spring Church, the former certainly and the latter probably having been psalm singing congregations in their beginnings. As another sequel to this affair Rev. Charles Cummings asked to be released from the pastoral charge of his churches, and his request was granted by the Presbytery. Attention is thus particularly called to these intense and continuous internal conflicts because, while the bitterness and strife they engendered is to be deplored and the waste of energy that might better have been used for the saving of souls and ministering to human needs in the name of Christ is to be mourned, there are lessons of value in them that may well be pondered now.

These forefathers of present day Presbyterianism in Southwest Virginia were men of intelligence, men of courage, men of conviction. They believed what they believed, and counted their religious convictions worth fighting for, be the consequences what they would. They have thereby left us in sacred trust a hard bought heritage of truth to be maintained and passed on as new wine in new bottles. Viewing their record from the distance of many years they may seem to have been lacking in tolerance, and to have displayed more of zeal for non-essentials than of Christian charity, more of eagerness to vindicate their own opinions than of earnestness in reaching and saving men. But with our vision dimmed by the lapse of years we need to be very careful lest in our judgment of them we sin against Christian charity, and, even if these grave charges be sustained against them, their imperfection stands as a warning to us against falling into similar pitfalls, while their stubborn standing for the truth as they saw it demands that this generation be faithful to its trust, their essential faith, won by travail and held by struggle and passed from their hands to ours. This generation must not fail in that trust. If we were to put the wine of our day into bottles of theirs the result would be disastrous, hut it will he even more disastrous if we put milk and water, or even vinegar, in our bottles instead of wine

Men of courage, men of conviction, …a sacred trust, a hard-bought heritage…won by travail, held by struggle…counted their convictions worth fighting for – religious and otherwise.  He said it so well.

Jotham’s Death

As the sun sets over Brush Creek, below, the sun set on Jotham Brown’s life on Brush Creek as well.

Brush Creek sunset

In 1803, the Christopher Cooper family would move on to Greene County, another 170+ miles in a wagon.  Several more of Jotham’s children would either accompany them, or follow, including daughter Lydia, my ancestor, who would have been about 12 or 13 at the time.   In 1807, in Greene County, she would marry William Crumley (the third) who also came with his family from Frederick County, Virginia.

Botetourt to Greene County

But Jotham wouldn’t be with them.  In 1797, Jotham began to sell his land.  He was either preparing to move, or die…I guess we’ll never know which it was that he anticipated.  He would have been about 57 at that time, give or take a few years.  Certainly not old by our standards, but perhaps his body was just worn out.  The pioneer men worked exceedingly hard and had no health care, as we know it.

On March 6, 1797 in Montgomery Co., VA Jothem and Phoebe Brown sold a plot of their land to Joseph Moore.

I was able to find Terry’s Creek and Moore Road, adjacent, in what is now Floyd County, VA.

Terry's Creek from Brush Creek

Moore Road (686) runs left of but parallel to Terry’s Creek.  Dobbins Farm Road runs to the right of Terry’s Creek.  Since Jotham sold his land to a Moore, Moore’s Road is likely where Jotham’s land lay.  However, his homeplace was likely not on this piece of land, or he wouldn’t have sold it first, in 1797.

Moore Road and Terry's Creek

On the map above, Moore’s Road is at the left arrow and Terry’s Creek is indicated by the right arrow.

Moore Road only runs a short distance, maybe 4 miles, from Christianburg Pike to 679, although Terry’s Creek continues along 679 and then 673 for another couple miles.

Moore Road satellite

Looking at the satellite view, this land looks a little more farmable, judging by the fact that more has been cleared.

Floyd County farm

This picture was taken in Floyd County, VA which was taken from Montgomery County in 1831.  Floyd joins with Montgomery in the area of Brush Creek – between Terry’s Creek and Brush Creek.  Jotham’s land probably looked something like this beautiful rolling-hilled farm with the mountains in the background.

Sometime between when Jotham sold land in 1797 and when Phebe and his heirs sold the remainder of his land on Terry’s Creek, another branch of the Little River, on May 16, 1800, Jotham died.  Stevie indicates that the deed in Montgomery County deed book C, page 326 provides a complete roster of his children.  Jotham left his widow, Phebe and eleven children, six of whom were underage, although several were nearing adulthood.

May 16, 1800, Montgomery Co., VA, Deed book C, page 326. Heirs of Jotham Brown, deceased convey 104 acres lying in that county on Terry Creek, a branch of Little River to Benjamin Craig. Heirs listed as: Wife Phoebe Brown, Christopher Cooper (husband of Jane Brown), Salvanes (Sylvanus) Brown, John Willes (John Willis, husband of Esther Brown), David Brown, John Brown, Mary Brown, Lydia Brown, Elizabeth Brown, Jothem Brown, Mirey Brown, and William Brown.

Jotham Brown stone

We don’t know where Jotham was buried, but it is probably someplace on his land.

Some years ago, a descendant set this stone after researching in the area.  Unfortunately, that researcher isn’t sharing their information, so, we’re left to hope that indeed, they correctly located Jotham’s land and set this stone on the land he owned.  Tracy, a FindAGrave contributor, photographed the stone and was kind enough to send me the location.  A big thank you to Tracy.

Jotham stone location

This stone is located on Laurel Church Road in Floyd County, which used to be Montgomery, which used to be Botetourt County.

Jotham stone Laurel Church Road

The exact location of the stone is shown on the map above with the red arrow.  This is further north than Moore’s Road, but also on the upper reaches of Terry’s Creek – so this certainly could be Jotham’s last piece of land, the homeplace.  Would they have buried him here if they knew they were moving?  Might he be buried at the Fincastle church instead?  It’s possibly, but it’s more likely that in the 20 or so years that they lived in Botetourt County that there were other deaths and burials as well – so Jotham isn’t alone in the cemetery, wherever it lies.

On the map below, you can see the Laurel Church, the 608 marker which is where the stone is located, and the upper end of Terry’s Creek at the bottom of the view.

Jotham Laurel Church Terry Creek

I know this is the “hard way” to locate land, but sometimes, it’s the only option we have.  It’s rather amazing, if you think about it, that we can do it at all.

Jotham Terry Creek Moore Road Church

On this map, you can see the entire Terry’s Creek area, with Moore’s Road on the left, Terry’s Creek on the right and the location of Jotham’s stone at the top.

If this is the location of Jotham’s actual land, you’ll note that it’s equidistant between the headwaters of Brush Creek, at the top, and Terry’s Creek, at the bottom (red arrows).

Jotham Brush and Terry

We don’t know for sure if Phebe went with her daughter, Jane, and Christopher Cooper to Greene County, but most of her children did.  If Phebe did not move with them, then she too rests beside Jotham in the lost Brown cemetery, possibly located on their land between Brush Creek and Terry’s Creek in Montgomery, now Floyd, County, Virginia.

The DNA Message

When DNA testing first began, Stevie stepped up to coordinate DNA testing for the various male lines of Jotham Brown’s sons.  Not only do they match, which is always a good thing, but they established what the DNA of Jotham himself looked like.  You can see the Jotham clan in Group 34, from the Brown DNA Project page at Family Tree DNA.

Brown DNA Project

Furthermore, DNA testing provides us with the Jotham Brown haplogroup.  In old style notation is was R1a1 and new style, it’s R-M512.

In Greene County, it just so happens that another Brown family also settled early, although in a bit of a different area, near Carter’s Station, about 5 to 7 miles west of the Cross Anchor area where the Jotham Brown children are found.  However, Y DNA testing of the two groups proved unquestionably that they are not connected, at least not by sharing a common Brown direct line paternal ancestor.

Let’s see if we can use DNA matching to answer the question of whether or not the Brown family is Scots-Irish.  Looking at the matches map for one of the Brown descendant men, at 25 markers, we see that there is a proclivity of matches in England at one and two mutations difference.  His two exact non-Brown surname matches are brickwalled in the US.

Brown DNA European matches

This is not at all what I expected to see.  Hmmmm…..doesn’t look very Scots-Irish to me.  I do believe we have more yet to learn about this family.

At 37 markers, the only Brown matches are to Brown descendants.  The Brown men have a very specific haplotype, or DNA signature, which does them the very big favor of acting as a personal DNA filter, eliminating non-relevant DNA matches at 37 markers and above.  Unfortunately, there are no Brown men with known ancestral locations in the UK.

Taking a look at Haplogroup Origins, there are no matches at 37 markers, so looking at 25, we see the various haplogroup subgroups into which the Brown matches fall, and their locations – mostly England.

Brown haplogroup origins

Another tool, Ancestral Origins, which shows us the location where the Brown matches indicate that their most distant ancestors were from shows us that we have an overwhelming number of English, 61 compared to 8 in Ireland and Scotland, combined, at 25 markers.

Brown ancestral origins 25

I got excited for a minute, when I saw several 37 marker matches with Ireland and Scotland, until I realized, that’s the Brown men AND they aren’t united about where they think they are from.  The truth of the matter is, of course, that no one knows.

Brown ancestral origins 37

What we need is to find one of two things, or preferably, both.  One, a solid Brown match overseas and/or Jotham’s parents.  You know with a name like Jotham, he probably was not the first to carry that name.  He certainly wasn’t the last.

For now, but hopefully not forever, Jotham’s origins still remain a mytery.


We think Jotham was born about 1740 and we know he died between 1797 and 1800, but in between, it’s pretty foggy.

Unfortunately, we only have snippets of Jotham’s life, beginning when he was probably in his late 30s.  Before that, he saw first hand and up close both the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War.  Both of those events had to make a profound impression on Jotham, but since we don’t know where he lived during that time, we can’t even made an educated guess as to how they affected his family.

By the 1770s, he is in Hampshire County, VA, now West Virginia, and by 1782, he had moved to neighboring Frederick County where he is found as a neighbor to the Zopher Johnson family.  Stevie suspects Jotham’s wife might be Zopher Johnson’s daughter.  I’m looking for evidence of that, but have found none so far.  We’ll visit that question more specifically in Phebe’s article, yet to be written.  DNA may be able to help answer that question.

By 1783, Jotham was off again to Botetourt County, which was more than 200 hundred miles distant – in a rough wagon with no shocks.  He settled there and lived the balance of his life.

The only clues we have about Jotham’s possible religious leanings come from Botetourt where his two sons-in-law signed petitions supporting the formation of a Presbyterian church, which was at that time, a dissenting religion.

Jotham was apparently preparing to move again in 1797 by selling land.  Instead, he died.  His family sold the balance of his land and moved on to Greene County, Tennessee.

Jotham’s DNA suggests that his family was English, although what we really need for location proof is a very close Brown Y match who can document their ancestral location in England.  That indeed will be a red letter day.

Acknowledgements:  I would like to thank Stevie Hughes for her years of research and taking the lead on the Green County Brown DNA initiative, because without her, I would have a big blank spot on my pedigree chart where Jotham Brown’s name now resides.  If you would like a downloadable “everything you ever wanted to know about Jotham Brown’s family, and more” document, written by Stevie Hughes, click here.

Update 12-19-2015

Recently, the Jotham Brown line had a Y match to a Sylvanus Brown/Esther Dayton family from Long Island, NY who was found there in the early 1700s.  Sylvanus is such an unusual name that along with the Y DNA match, it’s quite compelling.  We know they do share a common Brown ancestor, we just don’t know where or when.

In addition, another long-time researcher tells me that the Cooper family was already established in Montgomery County when Jotham Brown and Phebe moved there in 1783.  Jotham and Phebe’s daughter, Jane, married Christopher Cooper, son of James, whose will was contested, and whose brother was named…Sylvanus.  So we have two families that include the very unusual name of Sylvanus meeting (again?) in Montgomery County, VA.

According to “Annals of Southwest Virginia”, Christopher and John Cooper were the first to acquire land on Brush Creek of Little River (Feb. and Nov., 1782). Jotham acquired land there August 20, 1783.  Moses Johnson acquired 200 acres on Brush Creek August 20, 1783, the same day Jotham Brown acquired his land.  James King (another Long Island and New Jersey surname) acquired 300 acres on Brush Creek September 2, 1782, so he was there early with Christopher Cooper.

Furthermore, the Zopher Johnson line that went to Illinois carries a story that Zopher Johnson Jr. (the grandson of Zopher Johnson the Elder) had an inheritance on Long Island but never pursued it due to lack of money.  True?  We don’t know, but that’s a very odd location for oral history out of Illinois.

Is this coincidence?  We don’t know, but if anyone has any information about the Johnson, Brown or Cooper families that can unite them on Long Island (or elsewhere) or provide an explanation for what is today, circumstantial evidence, I would be exceedingly grateful.

Update January 2019

A very kind cousin, Rita, who is even more obsessed with genealogy than I am, if that’s possible, found the signature of Jotham Brown in the marriage record of his daughter, Esther Brown and John Willis on January 1, 1793, extracted as follows:

John Willis and Jotham Brown of the County of Montgomery are firmly bound…for 50 pounds current money of Virginia…this 1st day of January 1793. John Willis has this day obtained a license for his marriage with Esther Brown daughter of Jotham Brown. Now if there should be legal cause to obstruct this said marriage then the above obligation to be void else to remain in full force.

Teste (witness) Charles Taylor

John Willis his Mark

Jotham Brown

As you can see in the actual signatures below, it does not appear that the signatures were signed by the clerk, meaning that we have Jotham’s actual signature. Thank you so very much cousin Rita!!!

Jotham Brown signature



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47 thoughts on “Jotham Brown (c1740-c1799), Maybe a Dissenter, 52 Ancestors #81

  1. I haven’t finished reading the post yet, so you may have discovered this on down the road, but you need to look for the land surveyed for Elias Poston at the Library of Virginia website. According to the abstract, Jotham’s land adjoined it. You find that survey and the adjoining surveys and you should be able to determine the exact location of Jotham’s land. You would most likely have to pull deeds further down the line also. Even if the early Hampshire Co. deeds are gone, you may be able to rebuild by using the original surveys in the area and existing deeds IF the later deeds stated the survey. In this case the Elias Poston survey.

  2. Roberta, Claims from Lord Dunmore’s War in Hampshire Co., VA:

    I have both Northern Neck grants and private-sale deeds from Hampshire Co. beginning in 1777 for my Hollenback family found at the Hampshire Co. Courthouse in Romney. There are public service claims for the Rev. War available on microfilm at the Library of VA. Early marriage records are sparse to non-existent. There are also 1782 & 1784 tax records online for the county.

    Attached is a list of missing Hampshire records from an old history of the county.

    There are many old court books in the basement of the courthouse, but I didn’t try to read them when I was there last. I did find some old loose papers in file boxes on shelves filed alphabetically by surname. Copies of the old wills that exist are in boxes on a shelf in the same room where the deed books are kept. I’ve visited there about 5 times, and still have a “to do” list for there. My family lived in a very different part of Hampshire, the part that is now Mineral Co., WV in a section known as Patterson Creek Settlement.

    My Thomas Hollenback was b abt 1735-1740, and I have found no record for him prior to the 1775 claim for Lord Dunmore’s War. I believe it’s possible he migrated there from one of the many Hollenback/Hollenbach/Hollenbaugh families in PA.

    I love your blogs!

    LouAnn Cameron

    Washington, NC


  3. Roberta, you have Floyd Co, West Virginia in 2-3 places in the article on Jotham Brown. It is Floyd Co VA, not West Virginia. My Blair family also lived close to Jotham’s land and to where the marker is before moving to Greene Co TN..

  4. I’m a descendant of Arabia Brown in Bedford Co., Va in this same time frame. He enlisted in the Rev. War and “was marched over the mountains to Boonesboro in 1778. His official rank was ‘Indian Spy.’ He states his duty was to look for signs hostile so and to alert the fort of danger. After this tour he signed up for another and was at Yorktown in 1781 when Cornwallis surrendered. After the war, he returned to Kentucky and settled in Garrard County. With his wife, Elizabeth “Betsy” Dooley he raised a large family.

  5. There are some early records at the HampCoWV courthouse in RomneyWV, incl. some original land survey books, early wills, deedbooks… I found will for Elijah DAVIS, naming all kids… Eureka!… Elizabeth Davis HELLYER of Noble Co. OH. A cuz put a new stone at Elijah’s grave, Racey Cem… did a FB… and we started an annual reunion at the co. fairgrounds in Noble Co OH… You and I have done some parallel research… Also, the ref to I-81, BotetourtCoVA… some original paths did “run the ridges”… the crests… originally were buffalo trails. I’ve driven a couple of secondary roads like that in WV… very pointy crests… amazing. I’ve read that one Indian path (orig. buffalo run, trail) runs from the Ohio R. east almost to the Monongahela R. w/o crossing a creek…

  6. P.S. My Elijah Davis was on tax list of Elias POSTON in 1784 (see Rondina Muncy msg above)… I have book of HampCo taxlists, censuses thru 1850, by Maj. Glen Michael, USA Ret…. the Postons were fr MD…

  7. In the 1782 Continental Census for Frederick County, VA, Jotham Brown is listed with 10 white souls. He is between Abraham Taylor, Thomas Baldwin, Topper Johnston, Sr (8), Topper Johnston Jr. (2), Moses Johnston (6) // Jacob Roof, William Legate, John Berry, John and William Handshaw, Robert Young . . . . They are in Colo. Holmes’ District.

  8. My 3rd great grandfather, William Stapleton, married Mary Brown, daughter of Jotham Brown and Phoebe Johnston Brown. William and Mary’s daughter Eliza (Elizabeth) Stapleton, married my 2nd great grandfather (by one portion of my family line) Thomas Testerman Livesay. My mother’s family is both Livesay and Testerman (these families intermarried A LOT,) which how my research took me to Jotham Brown, who would have been my 4th great grandfather. I have seen references in various family histories to a 1925 SAR application showing Jotham, Sr. connected to Thomas Brown who immigrated from Ireland and fought in the Battle of Brandywine. I don’t have a copy of this application. Other records show Jotham to be the son of Daniel Brown and Mary Catherine King, but I’ve never seen proof of that either. At any rate, I think this makes us some sort of cousins?

    • Yes, we are cousins. Have you taken an autosomal DNA test at either Family Tree DNA, 23andMe or at Ancestry? I wonder if we share any of Jotham’s DNA. I have not heard about the SAR application. Might be worth chasing down.

  9. Pingback: Ancestry Shared Matches Combined With New Ancestor Discoveries | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  10. Pingback: Phebe (c1747-c1803), Is Jotham Brown’s Wife Zopher Johnson’s Daughter?, 52 Ancestors #99 | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  11. Re the question of Jotham’s having come from England, I think his Old Testament moniker gives us something like an 80% or 90% probability that he was not of Ulster Scots stock. My impression is that the Scots-Irish Brown families in colonial Pennsylvania and Virginia overwhelmingly had names like William, Robert, Thomas, Alexander, James and John, The only Old Testament name that I’ve seen frequently among Scots-Irish Brown families is David. So when I come across a Brown family in the Shenandoah Valley or western Carolina during the 1700’s with an Old Testament name, my working hypothesis will be that — until proven otherwise — they are probably of English or German origin.

  12. Group 10 Brown DNA descendants from Aris Brown in Virginia to Tennessee.

    You might want to check Jonathan brown in Hickman County Tennessee

  13. I am g g granddaughter of PHOEBE ELLENDER BROWN CARPENTER who was youngest of 9 children brought to Buchanan Co MO in 1836 by covered wagon from Greene Co TN, parents being JOTHAM & POLLY (ANN) MC CURRY BROWN. Searching for years with many unsolved questions – – one being the last census she was listed on her father was listed as born in Scotland. She may have reverted back in her memory to stories she heard him tell of early ancestors. I’m looking forward to reading all of your article! Thank you

  14. This is by research but perhaps some review by the group could prove or disprove some.
    My DNA matches very close with the Jotham Brown line 34 from Ftdna R YP 5084 441, 664

    Starting with Capt William Tucker b.1589 m 2 Mary Elisabeth Thompson. ( I have some FF match with Elisabeth Thompson.)
    Sister of Capt William Tucker Alice Tucker d 1680 m Arthur Allen
    Son John Allen m Catherine Mayor
    Son Valentine Allen m Mary Page (another match for me)
    Daughter Elisabeth Allen m Francis Brown b. 1654
    Son Daniel Brown b. 1687 m Elizabeth Coleman
    Son William Brown b 1715 m Mary Allen (Neville??)
    Son Jotham Brown 1740 ???

    Let me know thoughts please.


    John Tucker 7/28/2017

    • Hi John. I’m a bit confused by this. Do you mean that you have evidence of Jotham’s parents? Your Y DNA would not match in the lineage you showed above. It would be broken by the female Elisabeth Allen.

      • Check if you believe that Jotham Brown b 1740 may be the Son of William Gerard Tucker and ?? Brown. May have taken the name Brown from then on down. Then the DNA would not be broken in this case.

        John Tucker

        • Since my previous comment, Jotham descendant/resercher H. Willam Brown has received his Big Y-700 results which move him and John Michael Brown to a new subclade DOWNSTREAM of my family’s own R-Y61291. We have no idea who the parents of my Abraham Brown were, but it seems rather obvious that Jotham’s Y-FT126417 subclade diverged from Abraham’s Y61291 paternal Brown line prior to 1740. Based upon the number of times “Sylvanus” appears as a given name in Jotham Brown’s family, we are now awaiting the Big Y update of Y-37 results for a descendant of Sylvanus Brown, born around 1713 in Suffolk County, NY.

          • I can’t tell you how wonderful this news is. If you need help with interpretation, just let me know.

          • Update on Sylvanus Brown — sometime on Feb. 6, FTDNA posted Garth Brown’s Big Y results, confirming him as R-FT126417 along with Jotham’s descendants who have also tested. I guess we now know at least one of the reasons for the given name “Sylvanus/Silvanus” in family trees involving Jotham Brown.

          • Hi Roberta and Tom, did you think the William Gerard Tucker /Brown Connection was accurate?? I did not follow exactly the connection with Sylvanus or Garth Brown from your latest testing and comments. Please spell it out what you believe and anything on Abraham Brown. Thanks much. Been searching for my connection with WG Tucker and perhaps his father for a very long time.

          • Tom may know, but I don’t know if there is any proven relationship with Abraham Brown. Clearly there is one, I don’t know if we have been able to connect the dots.

  15. Pingback: Mitochondrial DNA Bulldozes Brick Wall | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  16. Hi Roberta, if you’ve checked the “Brown” project on FTDNA in the last several days, you’ve probably noticed that Michael William Brown (#20597) and myself (#B4339) have drilled a hole through my brick wall to create an airway between Jotham Brown and my 3rd great grandfather Abraham Brown.

    It’s called R-Y61291!

    I wanted to enter into a cooperative venture with one of the Jothams, and Michael was feeling adventuresome. On our side we have Big Y-700 results for my son Phil and his fifth cousin Dustin who share Abraham (1770-1851) as their MRCA. A Y-700 update of my own Big Y is pending. Phil and I both have autosomal results, and I have a GEDmatch. Dusty is on FamilyFinder, but I was hesitant to put him on GEDmatch even though I administer his results.

    My own matches cause me to question how potent I am for Abraham’s genes since I was a member of his DNA Circle for a whole week before being permanently drummed from the corps. This was somewhat unusual since I had more matches than any of the other members of the circle for my 2nd great grandfather Robert Brown although my strength at that level seems to come from the Tindalls and the Wrights — the families of the wives of Abraham & Robert.

    According to the 1850 census when he was a widower living alone in Lawrence County, PA, Abraham was born in New Jersey in 1770 or late 1769. I have never seen him affiliated with any member of the Brown surname who was not his direct descendant. In 1797, he married Edith Tindall who was the only child of Revolutionary War veteran William Tindall and his first wife — Mary Edith Ambler. Abraham may have treated William as a substitute father, and his first child — my 2ggf Robert Alexander — was born in what is now Lawrence County, PA in 1798.

    If you are interested in family given names, Robert’s siblings were Joseph, William Marion, Mary E., Sarah Hull, Abraham B., John Squire, Lydia, Catherine, Caleb Joshua and Elizabeth. These names, with the exception of Caleb who died as an infant, are recorded in that order in Abraham’s 1851 will. Any thoughts?

    Tom Brown
    Huntsville, OH

    • That’s very exciting. If you’re talking about Circles at Ancestry, of course they are obsolete now. However, even before, if someone made their tree private and there weren’t enough matches otherwise, then the Circle disappeared. But the story is in the Y DNA!

  17. Roberta, I have emailed Mr Tucker. Like you, I am beyond skeptical, but on another front I believe I may have found an Irish path in one of my Y-67 matches that might tie in with the Scots-Irish dissenter thing. When I did the upgrade to 67 markers about four years ago, one Richard Calvert Alexius Donahue became my closest match at a GD of two. Since that time, a number of additional Browns have tested, but only my son at a GD of one has undercut Mr Donahue for me at Y–67 (unfortunately he has never tested further and thus far has not replied to my query). He is closer to me than a fourth cousin once removed, plus all of the “Jothams” and Garth Brown. I believe he is kit #141674 at FTDNA, and those results can be viewed at the bottom of the “O’Donoghue Society” spreadsheet where they rest with those of two other R1a member plus my own (currently unclassified) numbers. The Society’s own webpage finds the presence of those three R1a’s extremely curious. I have a few theories but without seeing any SNPs, it’s only idle speculation. In the meantime, the thought that “Donahue” is an Anglicized form of a Gaelic surname which roughly translates as “Son of the BROWN-haired warrior” provides some extra fuel for the fire.

      • Martin Voorwinden of the R1a project has observed that the descendants of Jotham, Abraham & Sylvanus Brown share DYS438=12, DYS557=14 and DYS450=9 in common as do Aidan Barber AND Richard Calvert Alexius Donahue. The only other holders of this STR trifecta I can find are the Curtis family members from our subclades’ upstream R-BY30527! Still not having any luck contacting Donahue.

  18. I just wanted to thank you for writing this piece which I just found this morning. Jotham and Phoebe Brown were my 6x great grandparents through Esther Brown and John Willis. (In fact my maiden name was Willis.) I knew when Esther and John were married, however I had never seen a copy of it before, how exciting! Back in 2014-2015 I traced my Willis family all the way back to them and that started my love of genealogy. I love history and this really painted a picture in my mind as to the time period in which they lived. Thanks again!

  19. My Browns moved from Frederick County to Botetourt County. They may be connected to the John Brown in Frederick you mention. My ancestry username is g1559. Ftdna: B9099. My mother’s gedmatch kit is: KM5090055

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