George Dodson (1702 – after 1756), Disappeared Without a Trace, 52 Ancestors #145

Ancestors born in the early 1700s and earlier in colonial America become increasingly more difficult to trace. The Dodson line is no exception. The Dodson family does have an ace in the hole however, and that’s the compiled research of the Reverend Silas Lucas, published in a 2-volume set titled The Dodson (Dotson) Family of North Farnham Parish, Richmond County, Virginia – A History and Genealogy of Their Descendants.

Reverend Lucas includes information from an earlier manuscript by the Reverend Elias Dodson titled Genealogy of the Dodson Families of Pittsylvania and Halifax Counties in the State of Virginia which was written about 1859. The Reverend Elias may have confused the various Raleighs, unfortunately for my line, but he can be forgiven for doing so 100 years after the fact. He was also somewhat ambiguous about the various Georges. Certainly his manuscript in conjunction with the extracted and transcribed historical records is the only avenue one would ever have to sort through these families today. Dodsons are pretty much like rabbits and all of the cute baby rabbits have the same names, generation after generation.

Much of the information about George Dodson comes from Reverend Lucas.

Between 2000 and 2015, I visited many of the Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee counties involved, including historical societies, courthouses, museums, Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina State Archives and Jamestown, and I came away with little that Reverend Lucas had missed. To date, there doesn’t seem to be anything relevant in the Virginia Chancery Suite Index either, except, wouldn’t you know it, Pittsylvania County records aren’t indexed yet. When I visited Pittsylvania County a decade or so ago, their chancery suits were an abysmal mess and they allowed anyone to paw through them, opening bundles with no prayer of ever getting the right documents back in the right packet. It was a horrible and sad state of affairs and I’m positive that their chancery records, if they ever do come online, will be incomplete at best.

North Farnham Parish, The Home of the Dodsons

George Dodson was born on October 31, 1702 in Richmond County, Virginia, according to the North Farnham Parish Records, the son of Thomas Dodson and Mary Durham.

George Dodson married Margaret Dagord, 6 years his junior, daughter of Henry Dagord, on April 20, 1726, also according to the North Farnham Parish Records.

George’s father, Thomas Dodson, wrote his will in 1739 and died either in 1739 or 1740, leaving George “150 acres of land whereon the said George Dodson is now living.” Like many other colonial sons, George had set up housekeeping on some of his father’s land, likely with the anticipation that he would clear it, farm it and one day inherit the fruits of his labor.

In both 1746 and 1751, George Dodson was shown on the Richmond County quit rent rolls, a form of taxation. Thank goodness for taxes!!!

In 1756, George and Margaret Dodson sold their 150 acres to William Forrister and apparently moved on.

Richmond County Deeds 11-421 – Date illegible, 1756. George Dodson and wife Margaret of North Farnham Parish to Robert Forrister of same for 16 pounds and 4000 pounds of a crop of tobacco, 150 acres being a tract of land whereon they now dweleth, beginning at the mouth of William Everett’s spring branch, William Forrister’s line, the Rowling? Branch.. Witnesses: John Hill, Gabriel Smith, Ja. (x) Forrester.

Recorded April 2, 1756 and Margaret Dodson relinquished dower.

Now, if we just knew where William Everett’s spring branch was located, or William Forrister’s land or the Rowling Branch, which is probably Rolling Branch. I have not done this, but utilizing the property records of William Everett and William Forrister and bringing them to current, if that is possible, might well reveal the original location of the Dodson land. Absent that information, let’s take a look at what we can surmise.

The Forrister Property

We do have something of a juicy clue. In 1723, one Dr. William Forrester who lived in the Northern Neck area of Richmond County made a house call to the Glascock Family who lived on Glascock’s Landing on Farnham Creek which connected with the Chesapeake Bay. Something went very wrong, and Dr. Forrester was murdered. However, the subsequent testimony says that, “Gregory Glascock being examined saith that on the 5th of November last about midnight he set off in a boat with his father, Thomas Glascock from their Landing on Farnham Creek…”

George Dodson would have been 21 years old. This murder and the subsequent escape of the Glascock’s had to be the topic of discussion in every family, in church and at every public meeting for months, if not years.

george-dodson-northern-neck

By Ali Zifan – Own work; used a blank map from here., CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44344137

The Northern Neck of Virginia is described as the northernmost of the 3 peninsulas on the western short of the Chesapeake Bay, bounded by the Potomac River on the north the Rappahannock River on the south. It encompasses Lancaster, Northumberland, Richmond and Westmoreland Counties today, as shown on the map above.

dodson-northern-neck

On the bottom right areas of this survey map from 1736/1737, above, you can see Richmond County. On the contemporary map below, you can see Farnham Creek intersecting with the Rappahannock River. Farnham Creek begins in the upper right hand corner and looks to travel about 5 miles or so southeast to the Rappahannock, marked by the red balloon.

george-dodson-farnham-creek

It’s not far across the neck to the Potomac and the Chesapeake.

george-dodson-neck

Another William Forrester testified in his Revolutionary War pension application in 1836 that in 1779 or 1780 the enemy had landed on Indian banks or Glasscock’s warehouse in the Rappahannock River.

george-dodson-indian-banks

Indian Banks Road is shown by the red balloon, above, very close to Farnham Creek.

We encamped at Leeds town where the Companys remained for upwards of 6 weeks – Leeds town is a small village located between the Rappahannock and Potowmac [sic: Potomac] rivers. the object in placing us at that point was that we might aid in repelling any incursion which might be made by the enemy from either river. We remarched from Leeds town to Richmond Courthouse under the Command of Captain Harrison from thence to Farnham Church & from thence to Indian banks Glasscock’s Warehouse. The cause of our returning to the latter point was the information received of the approach of the enemy up the Rappahannock river. We remained for some time precise period not remembered. We marched to Farnham Church from thence & were discharged at the expiration of 3 months the term of our enlistment.

The North Farnham Parish Church on North Farnham Church Road, below, was built in 1737 and has been restored several times.

george-dodson-north-farnham-parish-church

On the map below, we find Indian Banks Road very close to Farnham Creek. The North Farnham Church and Indian Banks are both shown at opposite ends of the blue line on the map below.

george-dodson-church-to-indian-banks

Clearly, the Forrester family lived in this area, and so did the Dodsons who were their neighbors. Based on the two stories about the Forrester family, one from 1723 when Dr. Forrister was murdered, and the second from the Revolutionary War almost 60 years later, the Forrester family didn’t move. They still lived near Glascock’s Lansing on North Farnham Creek and the Rappahannock, and this is likely where George Dodson lived too, given that William Forrister was his neighbor and bought his land.

The French and Indian War

For the most part, Richmond County was spared the brunt of the French and Indian War which lasted for 7 years, beginning in 1754. However, men from Richmond County did belong to militias and furnished supplies to Washington’s army. Unfortunately, none of those militia lists remain today, at least not that I could find, so we don’t know if George Dodsons or his sons, perhaps, were involved.

French and Indian war

By Hoodinski – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30865550

Moving On

In 1756, George and Margaret Dagord Dodson were not youngsters. George would have been 54 and Margaret, 48. Their children ranged in age from Lazarus who was 28 years old and probably already married, to daughter Hannah, about age 9, born about 1747. Hannah may have died by 1756, because nothing is known of her after her birth is recorded in the church records.

George may have decided that moving was a “now or never” proposition, because their older children were of marriage age. Unless they wanted to leave their older children behind, if they were going to move, they should sell now and take them along while they still could – before the children became settled as adults into the area and wouldn’t want to leave.

The problem is that we don’t know where George and Margaret went.

George’s siblings went to Faquier County and joined the Broad Run Baptist Church there, but there is no sign of George on the list of members when the church was constituted in December of 1762, nor in any subsequent records with the exception of a 1770 rent roll.

In 1762, Thomas Dodson of Faquier County, George’s brother, released his right to his claim on the estate of his father, Thomas, to his brothers; Greenham Dodson of Amelia County, Abraham, Joshua and Elisha of Faquier County…but no George. Was this just an oversight?

Where was George, and why wasn’t he mentioned in this list? Was this an omission, or had he passed away? If he passed away, wouldn’t Thomas release his rights to George’s heirs? Or perhaps, just those siblings mentioned purchased Thomas’s portion of their father’s estate and George did not.

Between 1759 and 1761, George’s son, Raleigh was probably living in King William County, as he was noted in one court record, but there is no mention of George. Raleigh is also missing after that until he appears witnessing a deed in Halifax County in 1766 between Thomas Dodson and Joseph Terry. But again, no George.

Many researchers think that George joined his siblings and their children in Pittsylvania and Halifax County, Virginia, after 1766 when many Dodsons from the Broad Run congregation moved south. That’s possible, but there is no George with a wife Margaret before 1777 when George would have been 75 years old, and there were eventually many George Dodsons. George was certainly a popular name in the Dodson family.

Pittsylvania County, Virginia Records

The earliest record we have of a George Dodson in Pittsylvania County is a 1771 land grant for 400 acres to George Dodson, next to John Madding, and on Birches Creek, the location where so many other Dodsons settled. Tracking this land forward in time through deeds would tell us whether this belonged to our George, who likely died not terribly long afterwards, or to another George Dodson.

george-dodson-1777-document

However, there is another tantalizing tidbit. On February 8, 1777, George Dodson, Margaret (X) Dodson and Thomas Wyatt witness a deed of sale from Thomas Dodson to John Creel, for negroes. Seeing this saddened my heart, although we have absolutely no indication that our George owned other humans. Still, it reminds us of the ingrained institution of slavery that George would have witnessed on a daily basis.

Based on earlier transactions, the conveyor would have been “Second Fork Thomas,” either the son, brother or or nephew of George Dodson and Margaret Dagord. If this George was our George Dodson, he was likely a witness because he lived close or was nearby when the sale was consummated. This would suggest that George lived near the Birches Creek land an area gently sloping and partially wooded, shown below.

george-dodson-second-fork-birches-creek

This area falls between Highway 360, known as the Old Richmond Road, and the bottom of the map in the satellite view, below.

george-dodson-second-fork-map

This photo of an old building was taken at the intersection of Oak Level and River Road in Halifax County, an area that would have been very familiar to George if he lived long enough to make it to Halifax County near the Pittsylvania County border.

george-dodson-old-building

George and Margaret Dodson who witnessed that 1777 deed of sale may have been ours.  It was originally thought that this George and Margaret may have been the Reverend George Dodson whose wife’s name was Margaret too and also lived in Pittsylvania County. However, he is married to Eleanor in 1783 and didn’t marry Margaret until after that, according to Rev. Lucas. Therefore, the George and Margaret in 1777 cannot be the Reverend George and his wife, unless the other Reverend George Dodson’s wife was also named Margaret. Little is known about the other Reverend George Dodson.  Does everyone have to be named George and be a Reverend?

The George Dodson who died in 1825 was married to Margaret at the time he died.  She may not have been his first wife.  George’s children were born beginning about 1765 and marrying from the 1780s to 1812. This George and Margaret were not an older couple, so this is not the George Dodson who married Margaret Dagord.

In 1777, George Dodson begins a series of land transactions on Birches Creek which runs near and across the border between Halifax and Pittsylvania Counties. Furthermore, from this time forward, several George, Lazarus, Raleigh and Thomas Dodsons have a long intertwined series of relationships and transactions. We know that the Lazarus and Raleigh in these transactions aren’t ours, because George’s son, Raleigh Dodson left for what would become Hawkins County, Tennessee in 1778 when he sold his land in Caswell County and took his son, Lazarus Dodson, with him. That much, we know for sure!

Sorting Georges and Margarets

Reverend Lucas says that the Rev. Elias Dodson tried to straighten out the George’s apparently, saying the following:

  • Thomas and Elizabeth Rose Dodson were the parents of “Lame George the Preacher.”

The Thomas Dodson married to Elizabeth Rose is the son of Thomas Dodson who was married to Mary Durham and was the brother to George. Thomas, George’s brother’s will was probated in 1783 in Pittsylvania County.

  • Greenham Dodson was the father of “George the Preacher.”

Greenham was the brother of George Dodson and disappeared from Pittsylvania County records after 1777.

  • On page one of his manuscript, the Reverend Elias provides a list of the children of George Dodson and Margaret Dagord, but he only lists three of their children: Lazarus, Fortune (Fortunas) and David.
  • “Peggy married the 1st time Fortune Dodson, son of George on the first page of this book.”

Peggy is a nickname for Margaret. Peggy is the daughter of Elisha and Sarah Averett Dodson. Elisha is our George’s brother, making Peggy and Fortunas 1st cousins. Fortunas appears in the records in 1776 when he writes his will and in 1777 when the will is probated. Nothing is known of Fortunas between his birth in 1740 and his death in 1776, except that he married and was having children by 1766.

Elisha, Peggy’s father, was a member of the Broad Run Baptist Church. In December of 1762, Elisha and wife Sarah were “dismissed to Halifax.” This would suggest that George’s son Fortunas and Elisha’s daughter Peggy were in the same place by 1766 or so in order to have married and be having children. Was our George Dodson in Halifax by 1766, or was Fortunas traveling with his brothers or maybe living with his uncle, Elisha.

The following chart shows the complex intertwining of the various George, Margaret and Raleigh Dodsons, along with a few other twists and curves.  Click to enlarge.

george-dodson-chart-2

  • Lame George the Preacher, son of Thomas Dodson and Eleanor Rose, had wife Eleanor in 1779 and 1783. His known children are not the same as the George who died in 1825.
  • George who died in 1825 had wife Margaret at that time.  He may or may not have been the son of George and Margaret Dagord. The daughter of the George who died in 1825 married a Thomas Madding in 1798. John Madding owned land next to 1771 land grant to George Dodson.
  • Rachel, daughter of Rev. Lazarus Dodson married a Thomas Madding according to Lazarus’s 1799 will.
  • George the Preacher, son of Greenham, and George born in 1737 may have been conflated in the records.  We know that Greenham had a son George who was a preacher.  We don’t know what happened to George Dodson and Margaret Dagord’s son, George.
  • George born in 1737 may not have been the same George that died in 1825.
  • George, either the son of Greenham or the one born 1737, had wife Elizabeth when he lived in Patrick and Henry County in the later 1780s and 1790s. He apparently moved back to Pittsylvania County in the 1790s
  • George the Preacher, if he is not the same person as George born in 1737, could have had a wife named Margaret.
  • A Rolly Dodson has a land grant in 1765 on Smith River near Falls Creek which is in Patrick and Henry Counties (today) on the same river and creek as Lambeth Dodson patented land in 1747.  Lambeth was a brother to Thomas Dodson who married Mary Durham.  The Smith River area is about 20 miles further west than the Birches Creek area of Halifax/Pittsylvania County where the Dodson clan who arrived in the 1766 timeframe would settle.  No further info about this land patented by Rolly has been found in any county. This Rolly may not be directly connected to the Birches Creek group, or he may simply have arrived a year before the rest, sold the patent without registering it as a deed and moved east later when they arrived.
  • The Rolly above may not be Raleigh born in 1730 who bought land in Caswell Co., NC in 1766.
  • We know there is another Raleigh and Lazarus because in 1777 they take an oath of allegiance in Pittsylvania County.  Parts of Pittsylvania would later become Patrick and Henry Counties.
  • There is confusion stating that the wife of Second Fork Thomas was the daughter of Lame George, the Preacher, which is very unlikely as this chart is drawn and as reported by Rev. Lucas.
  • It’s possible that Second Fork Thomas is actually Thomas, the son of Thomas who was married to Elizabeth Rose, who could then have married his first cousin, the daughter of Lame George.
  • Needless to say, the Thomases, Georges, Raleighs and Margarets are confused and confusing in Halifax and Pittsylvania County, Virginia.

I tried to sort through the Peggy/Margaret scenario, but find the recorded facts to be somewhat suspect. If Fortunas died in 1776, he could have had an infant child. Assuming he did, the 3 other children would have been born between 1770 and 1774. That means Peggy would have been born in roughly 1750 at the latest.

If Peggy remarried to Raleigh Dodson Sr.’s son, Raleigh Jr., several years her junior who was born about 1756, and then had an additional 4 (documented by Raleigh’s will) or 6 children (oral history), one as late as 1790, Peggy would have been 40 or older when she had her last child. That’s certainly possible. One fly in this ointment is that Raleigh Jr.’s wife in Hawkins County in 1806 appears to be Sarah, not Peggy.

However, the Raleighs in Hawkins, Giles and Williamson County of the same generation all seem to be confused with conflicting information, so I would not bet any money on the accuracy of which Raleigh Peggy married after Fortunas died. There are at least two, if not 3, Raleighs of the same generation. One died in Giles County, TN in 1815, one in Williamson County, TN in 1836 who was (apparently) married to a Margaret and the Raleigh of Hawkins County who disappears after 1808. Reverend Lucas thinks that the Raleigh who was married to Peggy in Pittsylvania County, and Raleigh who sold land in April of 1806 in Pittsylvania County was the son of Raleigh Sr. However, the Raleigh that is the son of Raleigh Sr. is noted as “of Hawkins County” when he sells land in February of 1806 in Hawkins County, two months before the Raleigh in Pittsylvania County sold his land there.

Did Peggy, who is very clearly married to a Raleigh Dodson in 1791 when she and her siblings sell her father’s land, marry a different Raleigh?

Based on the 1777 loyalty oaths sworn, we do know for sure that there is at least one other Raleigh in Pittsylvania County at that time, because George’s son Raleigh Sr. is living in Caswell County, NC, and Raleigh Jr. would have been living with his father, barring any unusual circumstances. The Reverend Elias Dodson attributes a son “Rolly” to Rev. Lazarus Dodson, brother of Raleigh Sr., but Rev. Lazarus’s will in 1799 does not reflect a son by that name, by any spelling.

By 1766 when the Dodsons migrated en masse from Faquier County to Halifax and Pittsylvania County, our George would have been 64 years old. He had long surpassed his life expectancy at that time of 37 years, and George may simply have sold his land in 1756, at age 54, and died without purchasing additional land elsewhere. Not all records from this timeframe exist. Several counties have burned records between the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War, not to mention courthouse fires. George could have moved to a county whose records don’t survive today, but the most likely place for George to be found, if he was living, was with his siblings and children in Farquhar County and then in Halifax and Pittsylvania County, Virginia.

George’s Children

George’s children are recorded in the records of the North Farnham Parish Church. It’s a good thing, because without a will or estate records for George, we would have no information.

  • Mary born December 21, 1726
  • Lazarus Dodson born October 7, 1728
  • Rawleigh Dodson born February 16, 1730
  • Thomas Dodson born May 25, 1735
  • George Dodson born October 31, 1737
  • Fortunatus Dodson born March 31, 1740
  • Hannah Dodson born May 2, 1747
  • David Dodson probably born after 1740 if he is the son of George as identified by the Reverend Elias Dodson. However, he in not recorded in the North Farnham Parish Church records.

For more information about the children of George Dodson and Margaret Dagord, please see Margaret Dagord’s story.

DNA

I keep hoping that I’ll be included in a DNA Circle at Ancestry for George Dodson. Ancestry Circles are formed somewhat mystically, kind of like when the Circle fairy sprinkles fairy dust on your ancestors, you might receive one.

Ancestry does discuss how Circles are formed, in generalities. Circles are supposed to be formed when you have 3 or more individuals whose DNA matches and you share a common ancestor, but suffice it to say, I’m not included in a George Dodson Circle yet, even though I match or have matched 16 other people who share him as an ancestor. A few of the individuals I have matched in the past are no longer shown on my match list.  However, I still match 13 people who share George with me in our trees, as indicated by those green leaf Ancestor Hints.

The chart below shows my DNA+tree matches to descendants of George Dodson who married Margaret Dagord. I’s interesting, in light of the confusion about George, the son of George Dodson and Margaret Dagord, with absolutely nothing concrete about whether son George even lived, that 9 different people claim him as their ancestor, although their individual trees are highly disparate. One match claims “Second Fork” Thomas, who wasn’t a son of George Dodson and Mary Dagord at all. Still, my DNA matches theirs and we share George Dodson and Mary Dagord in our trees – however accurate or inaccurate those trees might be.

Match Predicted Relationship Relation-ship Child of George Shared cMs Confi-dence At FTDNA or Status
Cindy 4th cousin 7C David 32, 2 segments High
Claude 5-8th cousin 7C George 18.7, 1 segment Good FTDNA largest segment 39.19 cM
Beverly 5th-8th cousin 7C1R George 10.6, 1 segment Mod
DT Lazarus gone
Prince 5th-8th 6C1R George 8.1, 1 segment Mod
GD 5th – 8th 6C1R George 6.2, 1 segment Mod
Lou 5th-8th 7C George 15.8, 1 segment Mod
Lumpy 5th-8th 7C Fortunas 9.6, 1 seg Mod
LW 5th – 8th 7C George 9.1, 1 segment Mod
WT 5th-8th David gone
Erin 5th – 8th 7C George 7.5, 1 segment Mod
Missouri 5th-8th George gone
William 5th – 8th 7C Lazarus 7.3, 1 segment Mod
Brian 5th-8th 7C Lazarus 7.5, 1 segment Mod
Sybil 5th-8th 7C Thomas “Second Fork” 7.5, 1 segment Mod
Jack 5th-8th 7C George 6.5, 1 segment Mod FTDNA largest segment 19.31cM

Note that with the two people who are also found at Family Tree DNA, the largest segment size is very different. Unfortunately, as we all know by now, there is no chromosome browser at Ancestry, so I’ll just have to do the best I can without that tool.

Ancestry is known for stripping out sections of DNA that they feel is “too matchy” utilizing their Timber program, so I wanted to see if any of these matches at Ancestry could be found at Family Tree DNA who has a chromosome browser and provides chromosome matching information. In some cases, Ancestry users utilize their name as their user name, so are readily recognizable when you search at Family Tree DNA within your matches. I found two of my Ancestry matches at Family Tree DNA.

Claude has also tested at Family Tree DNA and his results there shows the single longest segment to be a whopping 39cM. The fact that Ancestry stripped this out made me wonder if perhaps that segment was found in one of the pileup regions, so I took a look.

george-dodson-ftdna-segments

The segment on chromosome 5 is a total of 39.19 cM. The next largest segment is 3.44 cM and found on chromosome 16. There is no pileup region on chromosome 5, so the missing 20.49 cM has nothing to do with a known pileup region. Apparently, there were enough people matching me on this segment that Ancestry felt it was “too matchy,” indicating a segment that they interpreted as either a pileup or an ancestry because we share a common population, and they removed it. That’s unfortunate, because as we’ll see, it’s clearly a relevant Dodson segment.

I moved to my Master DNA spreadsheet where I track my chromosome segments and do triangulation, and sure enough, this same segment has been preserved nearly intact in other Dodson descendants as well. You can see that one individual whose surname today is Durham carries a large part of this segment. Followup may indeed indicate that this segment came from the George Dodson’s mother, Mary Durham.

george-dodson-match-segments

A second individual who matches me at Family Tree DNA is Jack. We share 19.31 cM on chromosome 4 at Family Tree DNA, but the match disappeared entirely at Ancestry for awhile, then returned with only 1 segment of 6.5cM matching. My match to Jack is shown on the Family Tree DNA chromosome browser, below.

george-dodson-jack-segments

We may have lost George after 1756 on paper, but George really isn’t lost. Clearly, identifiable parts of George Dodson’s DNA have been handed down to his descendants. He is us.

Summary

We are fortunate to have any information at all about George. Were it not for the North Farnham Parish Church records, we wouldn’t know the date of his birth, the names of his parents or the name of his wife.

Our only other direct tie to the past is, of course, George’s father’s will where he leaves George land.

I wish we had more than the barest snippets about George’s life. We lose him entirely after 1756 when he sells his land in Richmond County, with the possible exception of that tantalizing February 8, 1777 deed in Pittsylvania County where George and Margaret are witnesses to a sale. Of course, we don’t know if that George and Margaret are married to each other, and we don’t know the name of the wife of at least one of the other George Dodson’s living in that area.  We do know that the George who died in 1825 was married at that time to a Margaret, and if she was his only wife, they were having children beginning in about 1765 and lived in the Halifax/Pittsylvania County area. That couple is not our George and Margaret.  So the 1771 land grant to George and the 1777 George and Margaret pair could well NOT be our George. But then again, it could. If it is, he is a hearty 74 years old in 1777, looking towards his three quarter of a century mark birthday that October 31st.

In my heart of hearts, I suspect that our George died sometime after he sold his Richmond County land in 1756 and before the 1766 Dodson migration to Halifax and Pittsylvania Counties. I think he really did disappear without a trace. No records, no will or estate, no oral history, nothing – except his DNA carried by his descendants today.

Acknowledgements

Much of the information about the early Dodson lines, specifically prior to Raleigh, comes from the wonderful two volume set written by the Reverend Silas Lucas, published originally in 1988, titled The Dodson (Dotson) Family of North Farnham Parish, Richmond County, Virginia – A History and Genealogy of Their Descendants.

I am extremely grateful to Reverend Lucas for the thousands of hours and years he spent compiling not just genealogical information, but searching through county records in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and more. His work from his first publication in 1958 to his two-volume set 30 years later in 1988 stands as a model of what can and should be done for each colonial family – especially given that they were known to move from state to state without leaving any type of “forwarding address” for genealogists seeking them a few hundred years later. Without his books, Dodson researchers would be greatly hindered, if not entirely lost, today.

Native American and First Nations DNA Testing – Buyer Beware

Native DNA in Feathers

This week, a woman in North Carolina revealed that she descends from the extinct Beothuk tribe in Canada as a result of a DNA test from a Canadian DNA testing company. This has caused quite an uproar, in both genetic genealogy and Native American research communities, and has been resoundingly discredited by geneticists.

People’s motivation for wanting to know if they have Native heritage generally falls into the following categories:

  • Curiosity and a desire to confirm a family story
  • Desire to recover lost heritage
  • Desire to identify or join a tribe
  • Desire to obtain services provided to eligible tribal members, such as educational benefits
  • Desire to obtain benefits provided to eligible tribal members, such as a share of casino profits

Questions about DNA testing to reveal Native ancestry are the most common questions I receive and my Native DNA articles are the most visited on my website and blog.

Legitimate DNA Tests for Native Heritage

There are completely legitimate tests for Native ancestry, including the Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA tests for direct paternal (blue box genealogy line, below) and direct matrilineal lines (red circle genealogy line, below). Both Y and mitochondrial DNA have scientifically identified and confirmed haplogroups found only in Native Americans, as discussed in this article. Both Y and mitochondrial DNA at appropriate testing levels can identify a Native ancestor back in time thousands of years.

Y and mito

However, if the Native ancestor does not descend from the direct paternal or direct matrilineal lines, the only DNA test left is an autosomal test which tests all of your ancestral lines, but which can only reliably identify ancestral heritage for the past 5 or 6 generations in any of those lines due to recombination of DNA with the other parent in each generation. Autosomal tests provide you with percentage estimates of your ethnicity although they can vary widely between companies for various reasons. All three of these tests are available from Family Tree DNA as part of their normal product offering.

If you’d like to see an example of genealogy research combined with all three types of DNA testing for a Native Sioux man, please read about John Iron Moccasin.

Less Than Ethical DNA Tests for Native Heritage

Because of the desire within the consuming public to know more about their Native heritage, several specialty testing services have emerged to offer “Native American” tests. Recently, one, Accu-Metrics out of Canada has been highly criticized in the media for informing a woman that she was related to or descended from the extinct Beothuk tribe based on a match to a partial, damaged, mitochondrial sample from skeletal remains, now in housed in Scotland.

When you look at some of these sites, they spend a lot of time convincing you about the qualifications of the lab they use, but the real problem is not with the laboratory, but their interpretation of what those results mean to their clients – e.g. Beothuk.

Those of us who focus on Native American ancestry know unequivocally that “matching” someone with Native ancestry does NOT equate to being from that same tribe. In fact, we have people in the American Indian Project and various Native haplogroup projects who match each other with either Native Y or mitochondrial results who are tribally enrolled or descended from tribes from very different parts of the Americas, as far distant as Canada and South America.

Based on this 2007 paper, A Preliminary Analysis of the DNA and Diet of the Extinct Beothuk: A Systematic Approach to Ancient Human DNA, describing the analysis of the Beothuk remains, it appears that only the HVR1 region of the Beothuk skeletal remains were able to be partially sequenced. An HVR1 level only match between two people could be from thousands to tens of thousands of years ago.

According to Dr. Doron Behar’s paper, A ‘‘Copernican’’ Reassessment of the Human Mitochondrial DNA Tree from its Root, dating haplogroup formation, haplogroup C was formed about 24,000 years ago, give or take 5,000 years in either direction, and haplogroup X was formed about 32,000 years ago, give or take 12,000 years in either direction. There are individuals living in Europe and Asia, as well as the Americans who fall into various subgroups of haplogroup C and X, which are impossible to differentiate without testing beyond the HVR1 region. A match at the HVR1 level which only indicates C or X, without subgroups, could be from a very ancient common ancestor, back in Asia and does not necessarily indicate Native American heritage without additional testing. What this means is that someone whose ancestors have never lived outside of China, for example, would at the basic haplogroup level, C, match to the Beothuk remains because they shared a common ancestor 24,000 years ago.

Furthermore, many people are tribally enrolled whose mitochondrial or Y DNA would not be historically Native, because their tribal membership is not based on that ancestral line. Therefore, tribal membership alone is not predictive of a Native American Y or mitochondrial haplogroup. Matching someone who is tribally enrolled does not mean that your DNA is from that tribe, because their DNA from that line may not be historically Native either.

Tribes historically adopted non-Native people into the tribe, so finding a non-Native, meaning a European or African haplogroup in a tribal member is not unusual, even if the tribal member’s enrollment is based on that particular genealogical line. European or African DNA does not delegitimize their Native heritage or status, but finding a European or African haplogroup in a tribal member also does NOT mean that those haplogroups were historically Native, meaning pre-Columbian contact.

Worse yet, one company is taking this scenario a step further and is informing their clients that carry non-Native haplogroups that they have Native heritage because a group of their clients who “self-identified” as “Native,” meaning they believe their ancestor is Native, carry that haplogroup. The American myth of the “Indian Princess” is legendary and seldom do those stories pan out as accurate with DNA testing and traditional genealogical research. Basing one client’s identification as Native on another client’s family myth without corroboration is a mind-boggling stretch of logic. Most consumers who receive these reports never go any further, because they have achieved what they sought; “confirmation” of their Native heritage through DNA.

A match, even in the best of circumstances where the match does fall into the proven Native haplogroups does not automatically equal to tribal affiliation, and any company who suggests or says it does is substantially misleading their customers.

From the Accu-Metric site, the company that identified the woman as Beothuk:

Native American linkage is based on a sample comparison to a proven member of the group, which identifies specific tribal linkage.

New for 2016: We can also determine if you belong to the 56 Native tribes from Mexico.

The DNA results can be used in enrollment, disenrollment, claiming social benefits, or simply for a peace of mind. We understand the impact that this testing service has on the First Nation and Native American community and we try to use our expertise for the community’s overall interests.

From Dr. Steven Carr, a geneticist at Memorial University in St. John’s (Canada) who has studied the Beothuk:

We do not have enough of a database to identify somebody as being Beothuk, so if somebody is told [that] by a company, I think we call that being lied to.

I would certainly agree with Dr. Carr’s statement.

According to the 2007 Beothuk paper, the Beothuk mitochondrial DNA fell into two of the 5 typical haplogroups for Native American mitochondrial DNA, C and X. However, only portions or subgroups of those 5 haplogroups are Native, and all Native people fall someplace in those 5 haplogroup subgroups, as documented here.

The Beothuk remains would match, at the basic haplogroup level, every other Native person in haplogroup C or X across all of North and South America. In fact, the Beothuk remains match every other person world-wide at the basic haplogroup level that fall into haplogroups C or X.  It would take testing of the Beothuk remains at the full sequence level, which was not possible due to degradation of the remains, to be more specific.  So telling a woman that she matches the Beothuk was irresponsible at best, because those Beothuk remains match every other person in haplogroup C or X, Native or not.  Certainly, a DNA testing company knows this.

Accu-Metrics isn’t the only company stretching or twisting the truth for their own benefit, exploiting their clients. Dr Jennifer Raff, a geneticist who studies Native American DNA, discusses debunking what she terms pseudogenetics, when genetic information is twisted or otherwise misused to delude the unsuspecting. You can view her video here. About minute 48 or 49, she references another unethical company in the Native American DNA testing space.

Unfortunately, unethical companies are trying to exploit and take advantage of the Native people, of our ancestors, and ultimate of us, the consumers in our quest to find those ancestors.

Reputable DNA Testing

If you want to test for your Native heritage, be sure you understand what various tests can and cannot legitimately tell you, which tests are right for you based on your gender and known genealogy, and stay with a reputable testing company. I recommend Family Tree DNA for several reasons.

  • Family Tree DNA is the founding company in genetic genealogy
  • They have been in business 16 years
  • They are reputable
  • They are the only company to offer all three types of DNA tests
  • They offer matching between their clients whose DNA matches each other, giving you the opportunity to work together to identify your common link
  • They sponsor various free projects for customers to join to collaborate with other researchers with common interests

When evaluating tests from any other companies, if it sounds too good to be true, and no other company can seem to provide that same level of specificity, it probably is too good to be true. No company can identify your tribe through DNA testing. Don’t be a victim.

These three articles explain about DNA testing, and specifically Native DNA testing, and what can and cannot be accomplished.

4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy

Proving Native American Ancestry Using DNA

Finding Your American Indian Tribe Using DNA

For other articles about Native American DNA testing, this blog is fully key-word searchable by utilizing the search box in the upper right hand corner.

Grandparent Inheritance Chart by Legacy Tree Genealogists

Today, Legacy Tree Genealogists is introducing a very cool new tool – the Grandparent Inheritance chart – and it’s free!

Anyone with at least one grandparent who has DNA tested from both sides can participate, meaning a total of 2 grandparents, but not through the same parent.

The resulting chart shows you at a glance the DNA that you (or the child) inherited from each of the 4 grandparents. Meet Natalie. On the chart below, you can see how Natalie’s grandparents’ DNA maps across her chromosomes.

legacy-tree-grandparent-inheritance-chart

legacy-tree-legend

Is this cool or what???

This is a wonderful science and inheritance teaching tool for grandchildren, if you’re on the grandparent end of the age spectrum – and a super gift – meaning the DNA testing and the chart, together!

In addition to the Grandparent Inheritance Chart, Legacy Tree is providing a free infographic as well, their DNA and Relationship Quick Reference Chart, showing the various the amounts of DNA you share with relatives, down to 4th cousins three times removed (4C3R).

legacy-tree-dna-relationship-quick-reference-chart-2

I like the color coded leaves showing direct ancestors, ancestors’ siblings and descendants.

Thank you, Legacy Tree!

Who Can Use the GrandParent Inheritance Chart?

In order to be able to accurately plot your DNA from each of four grandparents, one grandparent from each grandparent couple must be available to or already have tested, as shown in the chart below.

legacy-tree-who-can-test

The child can be either a male or female child.  Neither parent’s DNA is needed for the Grandparent Inheritance Chart.

How Does This Work?

Legacy Tree provides instructions for preparing and uploading your results for all 3 individuals.

Because you tell Legacy Tree the identity of the two people that tested, and which side of your tree they are from, Legacy Tree knows to display the matches from that grandparent on the mother’s side for example, and the balance of the maternal side must come from the other maternal grandparent if they are not available to DNA test.

You can use 2, 3 or 4 grandparents, if you have their DNA tests available.

legacy-tree-input-form

Let’s Get Started

To get started, go to https://www.legacytree.com/inheritance – but please finish reading this article before you actually do anything.

You will find the input form as well as detailed instructions for preparing your file.

The file you need to upload to Legacy Tree is not a raw autosomal data file like when you download your file to upload to GedMatch.

The contents of the file you need for Legacy Tree for the Grandparent Inheritance Chart are only the matching segments between the child and the grandparents, so a small subset of your chromosome browser matches downloaded in CSV format. If you’re saying to yourself, “But Ancestry doesn’t have a chromosome browser,” you’re right, but there are a couple of ways around that.

Vendors

The vendor recommended by Legacy Tree is Family Tree DNA, and with very good reason.  When preparing this article, I worked through the various different vendor file preparation instructions, and Family Tree DNA is BY FAR the easiest.

You can utilize files from different vendors, so long as those vendors are Family Tree DNA, 23andMe or Ancestry. MyHeritage is on the drawing board.  If the Ancestry files are Version 1, for tests run before mid May, 2016, I would strongly suggest that you upload your results to Family Tree DNA, which will give you access to the Family Tree DNA chromosome browser to download your results in the format needed.

If you tested on 23andMe V3, between December 2010 when V3 was introduced, and November 2013 when V4 was introduced, you can upload your 23andMe file to Family Tree DNA too.

These transfers cost $39 each and give you the added benefit of fishing in multiple ponds.

If you have tested at multiple vendors, utilize your Family Tree DNA file.

If you have tested on the 23andMe V4 file or the Ancestry V2 file, you can either wait a bit for Family Tree DNA to finish their development which will allow them to accept and process these files which are a different format than the test chip Family Tree DNA utilizes, and was formerly utilized by both Ancestry and 23andMe before they developed custom chips.  You can also utilize GedMatch to “equalize” and process the Ancestry and 23andMe files so that the output is compatible with the Family Tree DNA files.

Vendor File Version Options

DNA Test Vendor and Version Option 1 Option 2 Recommendation
Family Tree DNA > > Just follow the Legacy Tree Instructions – You’re good to go
Ancestry V1 (before mid-May 2016) Upload to Family Tree DNA and activate test for $39 Upload to Gedmatch and process utilizing Legacy Tree instructions Upload to Family Tree DNA which also gives you the benefit of matching in their data base and utilizing their tools
Ancestry V2 (after mid-May 2016) Wait for Family Tree DNA to finish development of import compatibility which should be released shortly Upload to Gedmatch and process utilizing Legacy Tree instructions Upload to GedMatch if you are comfortable with Excel and the instructions, otherwise wait for Family Tree DNA.
23andMe V2 (before December 2010) > Upload to Gedmatch and process utilizing Legacy Tree instructions Upload to GedMatch
23andMe V3 (December 2010 through November 2013) Upload to Family Tree DNA and activate test for $39 Upload to Gedmatch and process utilizing Legacy Tree instructions Upload to Family Tree DNA which also gives you the benefit of matching in their data base and utilizing their tools
23andMe V4 (after November 2013) Wait for Family Tree DNA to finish development of import compatibility which should be released shortly Upload to Gedmatch and process utilizing Legacy Tree instructions Upload to GedMatch if you are comfortable with Excel and the instructions, otherwise wait for Family Tree DNA
Need to test child or grandparent > > Test at Family Tree DNA

Preparing the Files

Legacy Tree provides detailed instructions for working with all of the vendor files, and I strongly encourage you to pay close attention to and follow those instructions exactly.

legacy-tree-file-prep

Here’s an example of the instructions for utilizing files from multiple vendors after the files are downloaded.

The instructions for each vendor include instructions for how to download your raw data file from either Ancestry or 23andMe.  You don’t need to do that if you tested at Family Tree DNA.

legacy-tree-ancestry-instructions

If you look at the difference in the instructions for Family Tree DNA files and the processing steps required for the other vendors, you’ll see immediately why both Legacy Tree and I both recommend that you use Family Tree DNA.

Additional Product

While the Grandparent Inheritance Chart is free, Legacy Tree does have an additional product they’d like for you to consider.

The Full Grandparent Inheritance Report can be viewed here and is a 30 page report that includes various traits that the child inherited from various grandparents.

As an example, I’ve included eye color, below.

legacy-tree-full-inheritance-report

This report builds on the information from the Grandparent Inheritance Chart and costs $100.

What If I Don’t Have the Right People – Can I Still Play?

I know a lot of people are going to be disappointed because they don’t have the right mix of grandparents, or enough grandparents to test.  However, you may still have an option.

The Grandparent Inheritance Chart is a version of what is called Visual Phasing.  This can be done, to some extent, manually, with siblings and cousins.  There is no automation, but Blaine Bettinger has written a series of articles detailing and illustrating the methodology.  Even if you’re going to utilize the free Grandparent Inheritance Chart, reading Blaine’s articles to gain an understanding of the underlying technology and concepts behind Visual Phasing is a great idea.

Blaine’s Visual Phasing Articles

http://thegeneticgenealogist.com/2016/11/21/visual-phasing-an-example-part-1-of-5/

http://thegeneticgenealogist.com/2016/11/22/visual-phasing-an-example-part-2-of-5/

http://thegeneticgenealogist.com/2016/11/25/visual-phasing-an-example-part-3-of-5/

http://thegeneticgenealogist.com/2016/11/26/visual-phasing-an-example-part-4-of-5/

http://thegeneticgenealogist.com/2016/11/27/visual-phasing-an-example-part-5-of-5/

Mary Dodson (c1730-1807/1808), A Touch of Luxury on Dodson Creek, 52 Ancestors #144

Mary Dodson, the wife of Raleigh Dodson is only mentioned two times by name.  I’m just grateful that both times, the name was the same.  Now, this doesn’t assure us that Raleigh wasn’t married twice, to two Mary’s, but we don’t have any evidence to suggest that.

Assuming that Mary was about Raleigh’s age, she would have been born about 1730.  Calculating the births of Mary’s children from known events in their lives, Mary’s oldest child’s birth would have been about 1751 or 1752.  Mary would have been roughly 21 or 22 at the time, so a marriage in 1750 or so would be suggested.

Raleigh’s parents were still living near Farnham Parish Church in Richmond County until 1756, so it’s reasonable that Raleigh married a young lady from the neighborhood. They probably courted in the neighborhood and flirted in church when they were supposed to be listening to the sermon. Maybe Raleigh stole a kiss out by the barn before he asked Mary’s father for her hand in marriage.

The North Farnham Parish Church Register of Births were extracted and published in the William and Mary College Quarterly, Volume 13, pages 139 and 180.  They have also been reproduced online here.

Various daughters named Mary born in the timeframe to possibly be Raleigh’s wife include:

  • Mary, daughter of James and Ann Thornton, born March 14, 1722-23
  • Mary Tarpley, daughter of William and Mary Tarpley, born Dec. 7, 1723
  • Mary, daughter of Moore and Margaret Fauntleroy, born February 28, 1725
  • Mary Beckwith, daughter of Marmaduke and Eliza Beckwith, born June 12, 1727.
  • Mary, daughter of James and Mary Tarpley born October 30, 1740 (implying that the child born in 1723 died)

The Mary born in 1740 is too late if Mary married Raleigh in roughly 1750.  There aren’t any people in Mary’s offspring or grandchildren named Moore, Fauntleroy, Tarpley, Marmaduke, Beckwith, Elizabeth, Eliza or Thornton.  Mary has a daughter named Margaret, grandson named William, but no son, William.  It sure would make attempting to identify a family easier if some of these unusual names were found among her children.

Of course, even if Raleigh and Mary were married in the North Farnham Parish Church, that doesn’t mean Mary was born there.  It goes without saying that the relevant records are missing.

If Raleigh and Mary were married in 1750 or 1751, their first child, a daughter, whose first name is unknown but married a Shelton was probably born about 1752.

In 1756, their first known son, Raleigh was born, probably someplace near North Farnham Parish Church.

Daughter Margaret, known as Peggy, would have been born about 1758 or 1759, either in Richmond County or perhaps Prince William.

Mary and Raleigh may have been living in Prince William County between 1759 and 1761 when Raleigh is mentioned in a lawsuit, but only once.

Mary’s sons, Oliver and Lazarus were both born around 1760, and they seemed to be close for their entire lives.  Lazarus conveyed land to Oliver’s children after Oliver’s death in 1819.  These men could both have been born in Prince William County.

By about 1763, Mary and Raleigh may have moved on to live near the Broad Run Baptist Church in Fauquier County, Virginia, founded as a dissenting church in 1762.  Several of the Dodson families, including Raleigh’s brothers who went on to settle in Halifax and Pittsylvania Counties in Virginia, border counties to Caswell County, North Carolina were dismissed from Broad Run, many together, in 1766.

The move to the Virginia/North Carolina border region in 1766 wasn’t trivial, with at least 5 children ranging in age from toddler to about 14.  It was about 300 miles and probably took about 30 days in a wagon. It’s very likely that a group of family members traveled together. The children probably thought it was a great adventure!

Raleigh is found witnessing documents in 1766 in Halifax County, Virginia, so they apparently settled there for at least some time.

On February 19, 1768, John Roberson and wife Margaret of Orange County, NC sold to Rolley Dodson of said county for 16# Virginia money 50 acres on the east side of the Country Line Creek.  Witnesses were Hugh Kelly, Henry Hicks and Henry Willis.

Why Mary and Raleigh bought land on Country Line Creek instead of in Halifax or Pittsylvania County, VA, with the rest of the Dodson clan, escapes me.  The land along Country Line was particularly difficult.  Even 100 years later, the 1860 census taker commented that the land along Country Line Creek was extremely rough.

raleigh-halifax-to-country-line

The map above shows Mary and Raleigh’s journey from North Farnham Parish, to Broad Run Baptist Church, to Halifax County, Virginia, and on to Country Line Creek.

Caswell County, NC was created from Orange County in 1777 and Raleigh’s land fell into Caswell. Orange County, North Carolina records need to be checked for Raleigh between 1768 and 1777.

country line creek

Daughter Nelly was probably born sometime in 1768, or perhaps a bit earlier.  She could have been born on Country Line Creek or perhaps someplace in either Halifax or Pittsylvania County in Virginia.

The Caswell County tax list for 1777 shows Raleigh assessed for property worth #172 in the Richmond District.

By about 1772, son James had arrived to join the family and would have been born in Caswell County.

Beginning in 1776, the beginning of the Revolutionary War was bearing down on Caswell County.  Local militia units were in place.  All able-bodied men were required to participate.  Raleigh would have been 46 years old, and we know that he did eventually serve in the war after moving to the western frontier, the part of North Carolina that eventually became Hawkins County, Tennessee.

On April 22, 1776, the Orange County militia unit that would become the Caswell County unit was formed and in late 1776, was headed out on the Cherokee Expedition.  For some reason, the unit was recalled – some say due to lack of wagons and pack horses.  It could have been during this time that Raleigh first saw the Holston River, if they got that far, and the land where he would eventually settle.  Or perhaps he simply heard about the opportunities for plentiful cheap land in this wild western part of North Carolina.

On July 5, 1778, Raleigh and his wife Mary sold their 50 acres of land on the south side of Country Line Creek to Clement Gann (the land being purchased of John Robinson) and evidently packed up a wagon and moved to what would eventually become Hawkins County, TN.  Fifty acres wasn’t much to farm and land grants for significantly more were available on the western frontier.  Raleigh proved to be an astute businessman.

The move to the Holston River from the Piedmont in 1778 was different from the move in 1766.  Mary was 12 years older, to begin with.  The 7 known children were now ages 6 to about 26. The oldest daughter had probably already married a Shelton, had children and already passed away.

What we do know about the married daughter is that she had 2 daughters by Mr. Shelton, Mary and Nancy, and Mary was old enough to witness Raleigh’s will in 1793.  That suggests that Mary was of age in 1793, so born in 1772, or earlier, which indicates that probably both Mary and Nancy were along with their grandparents in 1778 when they moved to the western frontier.

Mary’s unnamed daughter had likely already passed away back someplace on Country Line Creek, given that she only had two children.  Mary would have stood at her daughter’s grave, her arms around those two granddaughters, who probably reminded Mary every time she looked at them of the daughter she lost.

It must have been very hard for Mary to leave the graves of her children behind, and she surely did that, at least once.

mary-dodson-caswell-to-rogersville

The trip west would have taken more than a month and crossed mountain ranges.  This was a much different trip that through the winding gently sloping foothills of the Piedmont.  Wagons didn’t have brakes in those days, the inclines were steep and the trip itself was risky, and that’s without the threat of Indians. Once the mountains begin, around Martinsville, just west of Caswell County, they never end.

mary-dodson-lovers-leap

This particular area, called Lover’s Leap, for obvious reasons, is the “best” way to get from Caswell County to the west.  I have driven this many times in a Jeep, and I always PRAY that there is no logging truck behind me with brake trouble, no one coming the other way with a death wish, because there is no place to go except “over” and no logging truck in front of me that loses its load.  It’s a beautiful vista but a frightening journey. Every time. And that’s in a modern vehicle WITH brakes.

By 1778, we know that Mary and Raleigh were settled on the Holston River on Dodson Creek, where they would live for the rest of their lives.

holston river at dodson ford

They did not purchase land that was already cleared, but applied for land grants.  That meant of course, that Mary, Raleigh and all of the children helped fell trees, build a cabin and prepare the ground for at least a garden that first year. In the photo above, I’m standing on Raleigh and Mary’s land, peering out through the overgrowth at the Holston. It probably looked a lot the same then, except perhaps denser.

In the photo below, taken from across the Holston River on the north side, looking south, Raleigh’s land where he lived is located to the immediate right of the TVA plant smokestacks. Raleigh also owned the land where the TVA plant is located, but gave that land to his daughter Nellie and son-in-law, John Saunders.

mary-dodson-land-across-holston

The next photo is standing on the north side of the Holston, looking across onto Dodson land.

mary-dodson-holston

Raleigh patented land in Sullivan and then Hawkins County, at least 300 acres and purchased even more along beautiful Dodson Creek where it intersected with the Holston River.  While the county names varied on Raleigh’s land grants, it was the county lines that moved, not the people.  Raleigh and Mary settled on beautiful Dodson Creek, below, which still carries their name today.

mary-dodson-dodson-creek

Raleigh and Mary would have built a cabin when they arrived, much like the cabins of other pioneers in the area and set up housekeeping. Raleigh began his ferry business back and forth across the Holston, and farmed.

mary-dodson-michael-roark

Michael Roark was Raleigh’s neighbor on Dodson Creek.  This old photo of Michael’s cabin, built sometime after 1792, may have looked something like where Raleigh and Mary lived. Mary, I’m sure was quite familiar with Michael’s family and was probably close to Michael’s wife, Letitia Grigsby whose family also lived further up on Dodson Creek. They may have delivered each other’s children and assisted when ill.  Near neighbor women had to depend upon themselves because they had no one else on the frontier.

Raleigh Sr. was a successful surveyor, a ferryman operating ferrys across Dodson Ford on the Holston River, and worked as a stone turner in the local mill.  It goes without saying that Raleigh farmed, fished and hunted.  Everyone did, and Raleigh traded his corn, rye and wheat on account at the mill.  Two items he traded for were a hank of silk and calamanco, a glossy woolen cloth.

Mary’s life may have been much more robust on the frontier than it was back in Caswell County, at least after the Revolutionary War was over.  It appears that there was more money available and more opportunity.  However, all was not rosey, because as the war clouds loomed, so did the soldiers.

In October, 1780, the forces under Col. Arthur Campbell gathered at Dodson’s Ford before going downriver to the attack on the Overhill Cherokee towns of Chota, Talequah, Tallassee, and others.

This field lay between Dodson Ford on the Holston and the Dodson home. It’s likely where the soldiers camped, as it was flat and had access to water from Dodson Creek, behind the tree row. It would have been the perfect gathering point and muster ground.

dodson ford

Would the soldiers be successful?  What would the Cherokee do?  Dodson’s Ford was located on the old Warrior Path.  Would the Cherokee traverse the path, if they lost, killing every white person they could find?  And what about the Shawnee who were known to attack?  Would they take advantage of the situation, knowing the men in the settlement were absent?

Was Raleigh at home, or did he accompany Col. Campbell?  How about Mary’s son, Lazarus? Was Toliver old enough to go too, or did he stay home perhaps?  Mary had to be concerned when Lazarus was camped with the Indians in the winter of 1781/1782.  And why was Lazarus camped with the Cherokee before going “down to the Nation?”  The Revolutionary War was a time of great turmoil and anxiety on the frontier.

Raleigh and Lazarus both served from North Carolina in the Revolutionary War.  This part of Tennessee was still part of North Carolina at that time.  We know Raleigh was discharged in 1783, so he served from the Holston River, not from Caswell County.  Raleigh’s son, Lazarus served in the unit with him.  Both of their pay rosters were found in the North Carolina State archives.

Was Mary a patriot or a loyalist?  Patriots supported battling with the Indians and separating from England.  Obviously, the Patriots eventually won.  Loyalists supported remaining with England and supported the Indians, albeit mostly because the Indians were willing to fight the onslaught of settlers invading their lands.  Clearly Raleigh and Lazarus were Patriots, fighting for the cause. May be Mary just wanted the fighting and killing to stop, or maybe she felt strongly one way or the other.  Did Mary have a mind of her own or did she simply adopt Raleigh’s viewpoint as women of that time were expected to do?

Not long after that, in 1784, some of the residents in the part of North Carolina where Mary and Raleigh lived decided to form the rogue State of Franklin.

mary-dodson-state-of-franklin

By Iamvered – I, Iamvered, drew this map myself., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3868073

However, not everyone who lived there participated in the secession, nor agreed in practice or concept, so people living in that area in essence had two competing governments at the same time and no one really knew quite what to do. Emotions ran very high and assuredly, everyone had an opinion. Was there never to be peace?

In 1786, Raleigh, Lazarus and Toliver all three signed a petition for the formation of a new county to be taken from Sullivan. This new county was initially named Spencer County in the State of Franklin but would eventually become Hawkins County.  The verbiage in the petition provides a bit of perspective on the political climate, trials and tribulations faced by these hearty pioneers on the frontier.

        To the Honorable the General Assembly of N. Carolina —-

        We your petitioners, the inhabitants of Sullivan County, humbly sheweth that we have ever been disposed to have true allegiance to the Sate of N. Carolina being well attached to her government and revere her constitution, therefore we pray you to extend to us the benefits of civil law and continue us under your protection and relieve us from those intestine broiles that are aggitated among us by wicked and designing men, who are perverting your law and seducing your good citizens to withdraw their allegaiance from your government. As we view ourselves unequal to the task of supporting a separate government and are freely desirious of being continued under yours until such times that we may be separated with ease of convenience with your assistance and approbation. Should you at any time hereafter think it expedient to make a cession of any part of your vacant western territory for the payment of the National debt or other imports, agreeable to the requisitions of Congress, we pray you to continue your sovereignty and jurisdiction over us until such times that we may by our virtur, wisdom, experience, numbers and wealth inabled to conduct the affairs of government with credit and convenience to ourselves, to the honour of the parent state who gave their assent to our seperation, added strength to the union and gave ease to her people. We also pray you to take into consideration that indigeanes of our present circumstances and render to us every ease and indulgence that you in your wisdom and goodness may think consistent with the welfare and interest of your good citizens in general — and as sensitive measures have been used with those who have abused your powers and usurped your authority, we hope you will with the same spirit of uniminity consider the grievances of those who ever strove to support them — as our inclinations lead us to consult the welfare of our country and will enjoin us to defind our rights by a cheerful and stedy obedience to government and as the citizen depends on the wisdom and goodness of government.  We cannot doubt your prudence and leade to promote them. We also humbly conceive that when the precepts and powers of government are abused her Sovereignty and jurisdiction discarded, her public credit must sink and the private interest of the citizen can share no other fate, therefore that peace and tranquility may be restored, public credit and private interest revive.  We pray you to inforce your laws and exert the powers of government with a feeling sense of our sufferings. We supplicate you to whom the powers of government are given and beg your paternal interposition — and Whereas numbers among us look upon themselves to be considerabley injured by the precipitation and injurious proceedings of the Nominal Courts of the supposed State of Franklin. Many suits of law have commenced and judgment awarded against ___  _____. Seased and unlawfully sold to the greate prejudice of many your good citizens, we therefore pray you extricate us from every species of injustice there by devised against us as we have _____ of Society bound ourselves to the obedience of your laws. By them we expect to be protected in our rights. We also beg leniency, recommend to your mature consideration the vast extend of the County of Sullivan, which must undoubtedly render many inconveniences to the inhabitants thereof and for our eased convenience divide sd counties into two separate and distince counties as follows: (To Witt) Beginning where the boundery line between the Commonwealth of Virginia and the State of No Carolina crosses the North Fork of Holestons River, thence down Sd fork to its junction with Main Holeston, thence cross said River due South to the topp of dividing Ridge that divides the waters of French Broad River and Holeston River to French Broad River thence down Sd French Broad to its junction  with Holeston, thence down Holeston to its junction with the River Tinisee and thence down the same to the Such Whare Sd River runs through Cumberland Mountain, thence along the topp of the mountain to the afforesaid boundary line and thence along the same to the begn and

    We your petitioners as in duty bound shall ever pray —- <followed by list of signatures>

However, the war and political turmoil wasn’t the only challenge facing Mary.

It also appears from the Amis Store account books that Raleigh bought a lot, LOT of whiskey between 1782 and 1790.  Mary might have had a husband with a drinking problem.  If he had a drinking problem from 1782 to 1790, he likely had the same love of whiskey his entire adult life.  Perhaps this explains why we find no church records.

It’s also possible that Raleigh bought whiskey to resell to his ferry clients.

Raleigh seems to have still been actively engaged in his ferry business in September of 1792 and expected to remain so.  Published in the Knoxville Gazette, which was published in Rogersville in its early years, I found an ad for R. Dodson, dated Sept. 8, 1792 stating:

The public are hereby informed that there is a FLAT kept at Dodson’s Ford on Holston where constant attendance will be given to convey passengers across the river.  R. Dodson, Sept. 6, 1792

mary-dodson-dodson-ford

These two pilings from the old bridge crossed the Holston River either at or near the same location as Dodson Ford.

mary-dodson-dodson-ford-road

This is the closest location to the River of Dodson Ford Road on the south side of the Holston.  You can see the piling part way across the river and the landing on the north side.  The wires follow the same right of way.

Sometime between September of 1792 and July of 1793, it became clear to Raleigh that his days were numbered, and it would have been clear to Mary too.  Raleigh at 63 wasn’t old by today’s standards, but well beyond the average life expectancy of 37 at that time. Mary would have sensed that her life was about to change in unknown ways, and probably not for the better.  Widowed women often became dependent on their family for everything since they generally did not have the ability to farm for themselves and often owned nothing of their own.

Source: Hawkins County Wills:_ Page 145

In the Name of God, Amen. I, Rawleigh Dodson Sr. being in an infirm state of health but of sound mind and considering that I may shortly leave this life, I have thought it necessary to make this my last Will & Testament, revoking all former wills by me made, and in the first place I resign myself to the disposal of my Creator hoping for mercy & forgiveness. In respect of my Earthly affairs, To my wife I leave and bequeath my whole Estate real & personal to her use during her natural life, after which I leave to my son Rawleigh Dodson the plantation on which I now live with all the appurtenances, also one other piece of land joining, butted and bounded as appears by the patent in my name, also all my working tools, horses, except a motherless colt, three cows with their calves, one feather bed with the furniture, half the pewter, and one half pot mettal, also what hay I may have remaining. To my grandchildren Mary and Nancy Shelton, the remainder of my cattle equally divided, also the remainder of the pewter and pot mettal to be equally divided between them, and to Mary Shelton one bed and furniture, also the motherless colt, one cotton and one linen wheel and half the cards, the other wheel & cards to Nancy. There is a bond due me of fifteen pounds from Henry Rowan to be collected and my debts paid out of it. Peggey Manafee my eldest daughter having by her husband obtained credit for sixty pounds for which I have his note, I hereby direct my Executor to give up said note. My sons Lazarus and Tolliver I have done a Fatherly part by and hereby acquit them of all demands that I may have against them. My daughter Nelly the wife of John Saunders I consider I have done enough for, having given her husband the land he now lives on. My son James to whom I have (already) given several things, I now bequeath my claim on Thos. Jackson for share of some land to be obtained by a warrant by me given to said Jackson to be laid on the halves provided said warrant obtains a title for land. Warrant was for 300 acres. I also appoint my son Lazarus and my neighbor Rodham Kenner my Executors and do authorize and direct them to put this my said Will & Testament into effect. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal This 20th day of July A.D. 1793._Rawleigh x Dodson (seal) (his mark) _Test. Thos. Jackson Rodham Kenner Mary x Shelton (her mark)

Raleigh wrote his will on July 20, 1793 leaving his land to his son, Raleigh Jr.  The date of probate is not known, but indications are that he was still alive in Nov. 1794 when he and his son James sold tracts of 40 and 110 acres to Robert Brown (Hawkins deeds 2-328 and 2-329).  This land may have involved the joint patent with Thomas Jackson referred to in Raleigh Dodson’s will, which land he left to his son James.

Raleigh left everything to his wife in a life estate, which meant she couldn’t sell it, but she could use it for income for the balance of her life, and after that, the life estate went to whomever Raleigh left it to.  Raleigh did not name Mary by name in the will, but an 1806 deed provides that information.

By the time Raleigh wrote his will in 1793, we know for sure that one adult daughter who had married a Shelton had already died, probably several years previously.

Between the time Raleigh wrote his will and 1795, another daughter, Peggy, who was married to James Menasco died as well, leaving two children.

Mary endured a lot of grief in a short time.  You expect that you may one day lose your spouse, but you never expect to lose your children, especially not adult children.  Granted, at that time, death associated with childbirth claimed many women, but losing a husband and an adult daughter within a few months of each other is a heavy burden.

Mary would have been about 63 or so at this time, no spring chicken herself.  I’m sure that any of Mary’s children could have taken daughter Peggy Dodson Menasco’s two children to raise, but I have to wonder if Mary raised them?  That might have been considered a good fit, given that their father moved to Georgia and Raleigh had died. It’s unclear whether the children went with James or not.  If so, that would have been additional grief in 1795 for Mary.  She would clearly have known that she would likely never see those children again, watching, waving and sobbing as the wagon disappeared into the distance, headed south.

Raleigh Dodson Jr., sold his father’s patent land to James Breeden on January 29, 1806 and we find the following as well:

‘I, Mary Dodson, widow and relict of Raleigh Dodson, decd, relinquish and quit claim my right, title and interest to this land.”  (Hawkins deed 4-154)

I believe this is the last record we have of Mary Dodson.  She would have been about 76 years old in 1806.  Given Mary’s age, she would have had no choice except to quitclaim the land if Raleigh Jr. wanted to sell?  How would she have lived, farmed and supported herself without Raleigh Jr.? After that, we don’t know if Mary and Raleigh Jr. simply continued to live there, if they moved, or if Mary lived with a different child after Raleigh sold the land.

Raleigh sells additional land in December 1808 without Mary’s quitclaim, which could have been after Mary died and he was preparing to leave the area. The 1810 census does not exist for Tennessee and 1820 does not exist for Hawkins County.

Giles County, Tennessee, Court records show that a Mary Dodson, widow, was appointed administrator of the estate of Raleigh Dodson on September 7, 1815.

It has been speculated that the widow, Mary Dodson, from Hawkins County, may have gone with her son Raleigh Jr. to Alabama and then to Giles and Williamson Counties, TN.  Jackson County, Alabama was not a destination location until the Cherokee there ceded their land in 1819. The Cherokee did, however, cede land in Giles County in 1806.

There is one Rolla Dotson on the list of Intruders on Choctaw land in Giles County in 1809 and Raleigh Dodson is shown on the Giles County tax list in 1812. I am doubtful that the Mary in Giles County in 1815, widow, appointed as administrator of the estate of Raleigh Dodson, is the wife of Raleigh who died circa 1793/1794 in Hawkins County. Mary would have been about 85 years old in 1815, and if she were still living, it’s difficult to believe a court would appoint an 85 year old women as administrator of any estate. I believe these two families have been conflated because of similar names.  It is certainly possible that the Raleigh in Giles County was Mary’s son.

I suspect that Mary Dodson, wife of Hawkins County Raleigh Dodson, is buried right beside Raleigh, probably in the Saunders Cemetery on what was then called Dodson Ford Road, overlooking the Holston River where Mary spent the last 30 years of her life. I don’t think she would have wanted to be buried anyplace else.

raleigh-sanders-cem-2

Raleigh and Mary’s Children

Raleigh and Mary had several children, and were it not for Raleigh’s will, we’d have to do a lot of speculating.  Children as named in Raleigh’s will:

  • Grandchildren Mary and Nancy Shelton
  • Rawleigh Dodson Jr
  • Peggy Manafee (Margaret Dodson Manasco)
  • Lazarus Dodson
  • Toliver (Oliver) Dodson
  • Nelly, wife of John Saunders
  • James Dodson

Elisha, shown below, is not mentioned in Raleigh’s will.  This means that if Elisha is Raleigh’s son, Raleigh would have already taken care of Elisha’s inheritance and that Elisha did not own Raleigh any debts, or at least none that he mentioned or forgave.

  • Elisha Dodson (speculative)

Daughter Dodson (Shelton) – In Raleigh Dodson’s 1793 will, he makes bequests to his grandchildren Mary and Nancy Shelton, but no further information is given. Mary Shelton witnesses Raleigh’s will.  If Mary was of age when she witnessed the will, and her mother was 20 when she was born, that would put Raleigh’s daughter’s birth 41 years earlier, minimally, or 1752 or earlier.  There is no Shelton listed on the 1786 petition to form Hawkins County (although some names are illegible) and there is no Shelton on the Amis Store accounts beginning in 1782. This would suggest that Mary and Raleigh raised these girls, because Mary Shelton clearly had to be in close physical proximity to witness Raleigh’s will – likely tearfully standing beside her grandfather’s bedside as he slowly wrote the words with a quill pen that she would then witness that she had seen him write. 

The Dodson family has many interactions with the Shelton family in Pittsylvania County, Virginia.

Raleigh Dodson Jr. received in Raleigh’s will the plantation (after Mary’s death) on which Raleigh Sr. lived along with another abutting piece of land and other livestock and household goods.

Raleigh Jr. was born about 1756 in Virginia and Silas Lucas believes he died June 3, 1836 in Williamson Co., TN.  The Raleigh in Williamson County wrote his will Nov 26, 1828 and it was probated in October 1836.  He married as her second husband Margaret Peggy Dodson, daughter of Elisha Dodson and widow of Fortunatus Dodson.

Reverend Lucas tells us that Raleigh Jr. is on the tax lists of Pittsylvania Co., VA. which begins in 1782.  He purchased a tract of land there on April 16, 1798 from David Dodson.  Raleigh and wife, Peggy, sold this tract on April 15, 1806 which is about the time they permanently left VA.  I am not convinced that the Raleigh married to Peggy is the same individual as Raleigh’s son, Raleigh, whose wife’s name in the Hawkins County deeds is referenced as Sarah.

The biggest fly in that ointment is the fact that Raleigh Dodson, on January 29th, 1806 sold to James Breeden land in Hawkins County which was proven by Raleigh in February 1806 in Court.  In February 1806, Raleigh, “of Hawkins County” bought land as well.  It’s very unlikely that he and his wife returned to Pittsylvania County to sell his land in April of 1806. He would have sold it before he left because the journey over the mountains in a wagon was treacherous enough once. If he had not sold his land before he left, he would have appointed a power of attorney to sell his land.

Some researchers believe that Raleigh left Hawkins County after selling his father’s land in 1806 and wound up in Giles County, Tennessee, where he is on the list of Intruders on Choctaw land in 1809, on the tax list in 1812 and where one Mary Dodson, widow, was appointed administrator of the estate of Raleigh Dodson in September of 1815.

However, Raleigh sells additional land in Hawkins County in both November and December 1808, and there is a Raleigh Dodson on the Hawkins County 1809 tax list.

We don’t know what happens to Mary’s son, Raleigh Dodson.  It’s possible that he was the Raleigh who died in 1815 in Giles County or in 1836 in Williamson County, or perhaps he is simply unaccounted for.  There are no later records for him in Hawkins County after he sells his land.

Peggy, short for Margaret, was born before 1759 and apparently died sometime between when Raleigh wrote his will in 1793 and in 1795 when James Menasco sold his plantation and moved to Augusta, Georgia.  James remarried and died in 1803 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, leaving a will that mentioned his two children from Margarita Dotson as Juan, age 23 and Elinda, age 20.  John, born about 1779, settled in Giles County, Tennessee and was living there in 1809 as an intruder on Cherokee land.  Elinda may also have remained in Tennessee and eventually married.   

Lazarus Dodson, my ancestor, was born about 1760 in Virginia, married Jane and lived beside his father on Dodson Creek and the Holston River until after Raleigh passed away.  In 1797, Lazarus moved a few miles south, near Bull’s Gap, and by 1800, was living in Claiborne County, just beneath the Cumberland Gap.  He apparently went to Alabama in 1819 or 1820.  His children are referenced in deeds in McMinn County in 1826, Lazarus being noted as deceased.  You can read Lazarus’s story here.

Oliver (Toliver) Dodson settled in Anderson County, TN after selling his land in Hawkins County, from Anderson County, in 1805.  He was alive in 1806, but deceased by Oct. 16, 1819 when his brother Lazarus conveys land to his 5 children.

Oct. 16, 1819 – Lazarous Dodson of Claiborne Co. to William Dodson, Moses Stout, Willie Mullins, Henry Guttry, and Prudence Dodson, all of Anderson Co., for $1, 100 acres in Anderson Co. on Cane Creek by entry made by Lazarous Dodson, certificate #31 on Jan. 22, 1812, including the improvements where Oliver Dodson formerly lived.  Wit Elijah Jones, Jesse Dodson, John Cooper, John Lewalen. Proved Jan. session 1820.

The date of Tolliver’s birth is not known, but he would have been born prior to 1765 given that he was of age to sign the 1786 Hawkins County petition.  If he is by chance the “Schier Dodson son of Roby Dodson taken into the care of the Broad Creek church, then he was born before 1763, possibly in Fauquier Co., Va.  His name eventually evolved to Oliver by which he was known in adulthood.  Oliver died by 1819, probably in Anderson Co., TN.  The name of his wife is unknown.

On April 16, 1784 Tolapher Dotson entered for 5000 acres of Elk River for which a warrant was issued on Feb. 19, 1787.  He assigned the warrant to David Ross.

This transactions puts Oliver’s birth in 1763 or earlier.

Oliver first lived on Honeycutt’s Creek on the south side of Holston River in Hawkins County on a tract of land given him by Raleigh.  He sold this land in 1805 after he had moved to Anderson County. (Hawkins deed 4-135).  He purchased land in 1803, 265 acres in Anderson County from John Rhea and John Adair (Anderson deed A-61).  In 1806 he was on the tax list of Anderson County and was appointed to a road jury in the same year.  In 1819, Lazarus Dodson of Claiborne Co., assigned to the “heirs of Oliver Dodson” a tract in Anderson Co. which had been patented by Lazarus, but on which Oliver Dodson formerly lived.  Anderson deed E-135.  This Lazarus is not the father of Oliver, because Lazarus’s son, Oliver, was born in 1794 and died in 1875 in McMinn County.

The names of Oliver’s children have been gleaned from the deed records of Anderson Co., TN.

It would be presumed from this list of grantees that Oliver’s daughters were married to Willie Mulllins, Henry Guttry and Moses Stout.  We know little about Oliver’s four daughters.

  • Margaret Dodson married April 24, 1813 in Knox Co. TN to Moses Stout
  • Prudence Dodson evidently never married and was living in Calloway County, Kentucky in 1819
  • Daughter Dodson married Henry Guttry (Guthry, Guthrie) who lived in Claiborne Co. TN at one time
  • Daughter Dodson married Wylie or Willie Mullins

Oliver’s son, William Dodson, was born June 10, 1793 in Hawkins Co., TN and died May 11 or 12, 1872 in Jackson Co., Alabama, from tombstone and newspaper accounts of his death.  William and wife Mary are both buried in the Dodson Cemetery located at Lim Rock, Alabama.

mary-dodson-dodson-cemetery

William Dodson and his sisters inherited 100 acres in Anderson Co., TN located on Cane Creek near the town of Clinton from their father, Toliver.  In 1822, William deeded his one fifth share to Michael Spesart.  At the time, William Dodson was a resident of Decatur Co., AL, which is now an extinct county, existing only between Dec. 1821 and Dec. 1825.  William Dodson served as a justice of the peace in Decatur County being appointed Sept 7, 1824.  Earlier he had held this post in Jackson County being commissioned on Aug 4, 1820.  The 1830 census of Jackson County indicates that William and Mary Dodson had 1 son born 1810-1815 and 3 daughters born between 1820-1825 and 1 born between 1815-1820.

When land became available for patenting in Jackson County, William was granted several tracts between 1831 and 1837.  His land lay in Township 4 south range 4 east.  He also purchased land in 1831 from Woody Shelton and wife Sarah Shelton.  The town of Dodsonville, no longer in existence, was named for him.

Eleanor (Nelly) Dodson married John Isaac Saunders/Sanders and was probably born prior to 1768.  They lived on Dodson’s Creek on land given them by Raleigh in deeds 2-80 and 6-139.

mary-dodson-sanders-land

This land stretches from the mouth of Dodson Creek in the upper left hand corner of this satellite image today, including the land on the right of the creek.  This encompasses everything from the Holston River across the yellow areas which includes the original Sanders homestead on Sanders Road, up Dru Haynes Road to include the farm in the lower right hand corner, still owned by Raleigh’s and Nellie’s descendant today.

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Silas Lucas reports that John Sanders was a Revolutionary War soldier, although I have been unable to confirm his service.  It’s possible John may have served with Lazarus and Raleigh, and if so, finding his records could be very enlightening.  Nellie and John had 3 known children.

  1. George Nathan Saunders born April 20, 1788, died January 1873 and married on April 7, 1805 in Hawkins County to Mary Grantham
  2. James Saunders died in childhood
  3. Tabitha Saunders married a Mr. Chestnut

The dates of Nelly’s son’s birth puts Nelly’s birth at 1768 or earlier.  I don’t know where Nelly met or married John Isaac Saunders, but there are many Saunders found in both Orange and Caswell County, NC.  We don’t know when Nelly died, but she may not have lived long after Raleigh’s death if she only had 3 children.

If this is the case, then Mary suffered yet another loss in the same time span.

It’s likely that Nellie and John are both buried in the Sanders Cemetery on the old Dodson Ford Road as well.

raleigh-sanders-cem

James Dodson was apparently one of the younger sons of Raleigh, though little is known of him.  He was apparently born before 1772 because Raleigh does not mention that he is a minor when he wrote his will in 1793.  Silas Lucas indicated that James appears to have been living in Hawkins County for a number of years and suggests that he left after 1830.  I find nothing referencing James between 1797 and the late 1820s when an entirely new generation of Dodson men were becoming established.

The land referenced in Raleigh’s will to be inherited by James was on Dodson’s Creek, the sales taking place in 1790 and 1794.  The 1799 tax list of Grainger County has a James Dodson taxed for 640 acres in Capt. David Shelton’s district.

Reverend Lucas provides information about possible James Dodsons in nearby counties, but Mary’s son James cannot be positively identified and there is nothing known about his descendants.

Elisha Dodson

There is no Elisha Dodson mentioned in Raleigh’s will, but Elisha appears very early in Hawkins County, owning land adjacent both Lazarus and Raleigh and having an account at the Amis store by 1783, meaning if he is Raleigh and Mary’s son, he would have been one of the older children, born in 1762 or earlier.  Elisha would be too old to be the son of either Lazarus or Toliver.  There is no evidence to prove that Elisha is Raleigh’s son, but given that he arrives concurrently with Raleigh and his sons and lives in the family grouping, this possibility needs to be considered.  If Elisha is not the son of Raleigh and Mary, who is he?

The Silent Babies

The children documented above are the children who lived until either 1793 or were mentioned in Raleigh’s will.  These children were born between approximately 1752 and 1772, over a period of roughly 20 years.  If Mary was born about 1730, or so, they would have bracketed the time from her marriage to the end of her child-bearing years.  However, this leaves several slots in the family vacant, which means those babies were born in the following locations and died sometime before adulthood or 1793 when Raleigh wrote his will, whichever came first.

1754 – Probably North Farnham Parish

1764 – Possibly Fauquier County, Virginia

1766 – Probably Halifax County, Virginia

1770 –Country Line Creek in Caswell County, NC

There could have been additional children.  Mary buried at least 4 children who never reached adulthood, if not more. In addition, Mary buried her Shelton daughter, daughter Peggy and possibly, daughter Nellie.

Hawkins County Stragglers and Confusers

In 1838, Raleigh Dodson is mentioned in the chancery court records of Hawkins County as a Deputy Sheriff in a suit between George W. Brown and others vs Margaret Surguine and others. Jack Goins, the Hawkins County archivist found this and graciously sent it my way.  It motivated me to see if this later Raleigh is a descendant of Mary and Raleigh Dodson who settled on Dodson Creek.

In this case, in 1838, Judge Williams fined a group for contempt of court for objecting to the Judge’s decision by taking land from a widow. Margaret Surgoine, widow of James Surgoine founder of the town of Surgoinsville, Tn.

It is ordered by the court that Raleigh Dodson the deputy sheriff of this county in attendance on the court be fined $2.50 for a contempt of this court in not keeping silence in the court room and that execution issue therefore.

Ordered by the court that Thomas Whiteside, John Easley, William M. Cocke, and Archibald Greene be each fined in the sum of $2.50 for a contempt of the court and that execution issue for the same.

This doesn’t seem to have hurt Raleigh’s career, because in 1850, Raleigh, age 46, is deposed and said that he levied an execution of a negro girl of Ellis Riggs to satisfy a Judgement in favor of Cisby Austin. He was still clearly acting in the capacity of a sheriff.

This Raleigh seems to be an interesting character.

In 1834, Raleigh receives a trust deed from Valentine Wolf for land on Clinch Mountain that included a grist mill and two stills and tubs belonging to the distillery.

And one last Raleigh entry, just to confuse things. In 1843 Raleigh sells land to a William Williams, but in the sale of the land, on which Raleigh lives, we see that Raleigh’s neighbors are Mastin Moore and various Stubblefield’s, which tells me this land was near the Hawkins/Grainger County line.  Mastin is the brother of my ancestor Nancy Moore who was married to John R. Estes and living in Claiborne County at the time. The Stubblefield family traveled with the Moore line and married in, although downstream of my ancestor.

So, just who is this Deputy Sheriff Raleigh?  Let’s see what we can determine by process of elimination.

We know that two of Mary and Raleigh’s sons moved away, Lazarus and Oliver, and through their estates, we have a list of their children.  Son Raleigh certainly appears to have moved away about 1809. The fourth and youngest son, James, is found in the records in 1797 selling land, but not afterwards, suggesting that he too probably left.

Mary and Raleigh Sr.’s son, Raleigh Jr. disappears from Hawkins County records not long after 1808 when he sells his father’s land, although there is a Raleigh Dodson on the 1809 tax list.

The name Raleigh does not reappear in Hawkins County until 1810 in Thomas Dodson’s will as an underage child, and then in 1827 when Willis Amis sells Raleigh Dodson land. The 1827 Raleigh is the son of Thomas Dodson based on a deed in 1829 where 4 people, including Raleigh and his mother Jamima and brothers Elisha and James sell land purchased by Thomas Dodson on Cedar Creek.

No later than 1792, there is a Thomas Dodson in Hawkins County who owns land at the same time Raleigh Sr. does. Thomas lived on the north side of the Holston River at the mouth of Blair’s Branch. In 1798 Thomas also bought land called “James King’s improvement” lying opposite the mouth of Tate Creek. In 1800, Thomas bought land on the waters of Cedar Creek.

Thomas is likely Raleigh Sr.’s brother or his first cousin. In Thomas’s undated will (Lucas indicates this was before 1810) he lists wife Jamina, children James, Sarah, Elisha and youngest son Rolly.  Also mentions that if “Thomas Robinson and John Robinson lives with his wife Jamima and behaves orderly and well” they are to have a horse and saddle when they arrive at age of 21.  Executors Jamina Dodson, James Johnson and Samuel Riggs.  Witnesses James Dodson, Richard Hellson (Hittson?) and Richard Robertson (Will book 1- page 149)

In 1810, William Dodson, son of Thomas, dies, apparently with assets and without heirs.  William’s father, Thomas, winds up with William’s estate. Thomas who has already “relinquished all my own personal estate to my children” distributes William’s assets among his children, listing his heirs as William Johnson, James Johnson, Stephen Johnson, Jesse Dodson, Samuel Dodson, Rhoda Hitson, Thomas Dodson’s descendants – except for one lot in Pulaski County, KY.  Proved in Court November 1811 (Deed book 6-475)

This suggests there are two separate Thomas Dodsons that are elderly or infirm at the same time in Hawkins County – one who made a will and one who did not and distributed his son, William’s assets through the deed. These men and these lands were all north of the Holston.

This leaves 2 unidentified Dodson men functioning in the Dodson Creek group, owning land on Dodson Creek.

There is a John Dodson by 1801 that is an adult and is functioning in the group on Dodson Creek south of the Holston, buying and selling land. He is likely the son of Elisha because we know he isn’t the son of Lazarus or Oliver and he is too young to be the son of James. He could also be the son of Raleigh Jr. He dies in 1838 owning land on Dodson Creek as indicated in his will. (Will book 1- page 152)

There is also a William Dodson functioning in 1797 in the Dodson Creek group. He has to belong to either Elisha or Raleigh Jr.  If Raleigh Jr. was born in 1756, he could have married by 1776, and could have had a son, barely of age, in 1797.  If Mary and Raleigh Sr.’s son is the Raleigh that died in 1836 in Williamson County, his only sons named in his will are Bird and Presley. If Reverend Lucas is right and Raleigh Jr. left Pittsylvania County in 1806, then neither John nor William can be his sons and that only leaves Elisha Dodson as their possible father. Unfortunately, we have absolutely no idea what happened to Elisha other than his property lines are still referenced in the 1806 deed.

One last land grant proves quite interesting.  In 1834 the State of Tennessee granted to Elisha Dodson land on the north side of the Holston, adjoining James Johnson and others, beginning on the north bank of the river below Dodson’s Ferry landing.  This tells us two things.  First, Elisha’s land abuts the land of James Johnson, mentioned in the will of Thomas Dodson as probably his grandson.  So this tells us that Thomas Dodson’s land was not far from Raleigh Dodson on the other side of the Holston River.  A generation later, Elisha, Thomas’s son, is patenting familiar land, directly across the River from Raleigh’s original land half a century earlier.

From all of this, we gather than the deputy sheriff Raleigh is the son of Thomas, who is probably the nephew of our Raleigh Sr.  So Deputy Sheriff Raleigh is not a descendant of Raleigh Sr., but likely his great-nephew, named for him in 1804, 10 years after Raleigh Sr.’s death.

DNA

All of Mary’s children would have received her mitochondrial DNA, inherited from her mother, but only her daughters would have passed it on.

Men don’t pass their mother’s mitochondrial DNA on to the next generation.  Only females do.

Mary only had three daughters, Nellie, Peggy and the daughter who married the Shelton.

Nellie’s only known daughter, Tabitha, married a Chestnut.  Hawkins County deeds might reveal his name if Chestnut deeds were read individually.  In 1850, there is a Tabitha Chestnut, age 67, married to Henry Chestnut living in Monroe County, Tennessee.  We don’t know if this is the correct Tabitha Chestnut, or not.

Mary’s daughter that married the Shelton had two daughters, Mary and Nancy.  Unfortunately, we don’t know any more about Mary or Nancy either.

Mary’s last daughter, Peggy, who married James Menasco, had one daughter, Elinda, born about 1782.

We’re striking out here, because nothing is known of Elinda either.

Hopefully, in time, descendants of these daughters, through all females to the current generation which can be male, will appear.

At this point, mitochondrial DNA is our only hope for finding a match and possibly, Mary’s family.  I know it’s a long shot, but it’s all we have, short of that miracle Bible on e-Bay or undiscovered records in some courthouse basement.

Summary

When I think of Mary, I think of her raising children, burying some, working in the fields with Raleigh and being a hostess to weary travelers who needed rest.  Her life must have been difficult on Country Line Creek, and it makes me wonder why they bought that land instead of land in Pittsylvania or Halifax County, VA where the rest of the Dodson clan settled.

The combination of a small plot of land, rough terrain and the Revolutionary War may have made Mary glad to leave – although the frontier must have been frightening in a different sort of way.

I know that Mary made her own fabric, because Raleigh’s will left both a cotton and linen wheel to Mary Shelton, his granddaughter, clearly named for Mary, along with half the cards, and the other wheel and the other half the cards to the other granddaughter, Nancy Shelton.  I don’t know, but I strongly suspect that Mary raised these girls after their mother’s death and they learned spinning from Mary.

When a man died at that time, all of the property, except for the wife’s clothes, were considered his – so he would have bequeathed Mary’s items when he died.  Mary owned nothing in her own right.  Obviously spinning wheels and cards were considered valuable.

Pioneer women didn’t just make their clothes, they carded the wool, cotton or flax, spun it into thread, died it and wove it into cloth, then made clothes for the entire family. Contemporary cards are shown below.

mary-dodson-cards

The carding process disentangles, cleans and intermixes the fibers to produce a rolag or tuft of fiber suitable for the next step, which is spinning, shown with the cards, above. Personally, I think this looks a lot like what I get when I brush the cats and dogs, and I think I’ve missed a golden opportunity now for decades.

mary-dodson-spinning-wheel

By Detroit Publishing Co. – Library of Congress REPRODUCTION NUMBER: LLC-DIG-ppmsc-09892, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3510030

This woman at her spinning wheel may have looked something like Mary Dodson as she spun.

mary-dodson-contemporary-spinner

A modern spinner spinning thread from rolag.  You can see the cards on the table

Mary probably spun and wove since she was a child at her mother’s knee, and was surely quite proficient.  If you weren’t, your children went naked!  Mary’s cherished spinning wheel was probably one of the few things that she brought in the very limited space of the wagon when she and Raleigh made the trip from Caswell County to the Holston River.

Every inch of cloth was valuable and absolutely nothing was wasted.  After the clothes became worn, they were either remade into something for a smaller person, or the salvageable pieces were recycled into a quilt – along with scraps leftover from making the clothes.

In March of 1787, Raleigh brought Mary a surprise, or at least I’m assuming it was a surprise.  A hank of silk.  I’m amazed that the Amis Store even had silk, but they did because Raleigh bought that, along with his typical whiskey.  Maybe these two purchases are related.

mary-dodson-silk-hank

A hank isn’t very much silk, as demonstrated above, but I’m sure, absolutely positive that Mary was thrilled.  This may have been the first silk she ever touched.  Were her hands rough from work and snaggedon the threads?  Did she work the silk into a woven design of some sort?  What did she make? Oh, how I’d love to know!

Did Mary order this from the store, or did Raleigh bring it home as a loving surprise, maybe for her birthday?  Had Mary suffered a loss and Raleigh was trying to offer comfort?  Or, was Raleigh in a heap o’ trouble and brought this home as a peace offering.

The only other similar item was just over a year later when Raleigh bought 3 yards of calamanco, a thin glossy woolen fabric.  Some calamanco had stripes, but other types were solid colors and was used in quilting.  This fabric was often died vivid red or blue.  I couldn’t find a copyright free image to include, but you can see examples here.

Mary would have been about 57 years old.  Was she having trouble weaving, or was this perhaps a lovely gift for the pioneer woman, a touch of luxury on Dodson Creek?

I can see Mary lovingly smoothing the beautiful red or blue calamanco as she spread it out in the sunshine to decide how she was going to use the luscious fabric, probably with granddaughters Mary and Nancy excitedly looking on.  I can see Mary weaving the soft, shiny silk into some beautiful heirloom, perhaps for those granddaughters.

I will leave Mary here, on a lovely day on the Holston River alongside bubbling Dodson Creek, in the sunshine with her granddaughters and her calamanco, joyfully planning something lovely together.  This is how I want to remember Mary.

Acknowledgements

Much of the information about the early Dodson lines, including Raleigh and Elizabeth’s children, comes from the wonderful two volume set written by the Reverend Silas Lucas, published originally in 1988, titled The Dodson (Dotson) Family of North Farnham Parish, Richmond County, Virginia – A History and Genealogy of Their Descendants.

I am extremely grateful to Reverend Lucas for the thousands of hours and years he spent compiling not just genealogical information, but searching through county records in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and more.  His work from his first publication in 1958 to his two-volume set 30 years later in 1988 stands as a model of what can and should be done for each colonial family – especially given that they were known to move from state to state without leaving any type of “forwarding address” for genealogists seeking them a few hundred years later.  Without his books, Dodson researchers would be greatly hindered, if not entirely lost, today.

Concepts – Segment Size, Legitimate and False Matches

Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match!

One of the questions I often receive about autosomal DNA is, “What, EXACTLY, is a match?”  The answer at first glance seems evident, meaning when you and someone else are shown on each other’s match lists, but it really isn’t that simple.

What I’d like to discuss today is what actually constitutes a match – and the difference between legitimate or real matches and false matches, also called false positives.

Let’s look at a few definitions before we go any further.

Definitions

  • A Match – when you and another person are found on each other’s match lists at a testing vendor. You may match that person on one or more segments of DNA.
  • Matching Segment – when a particular segment of DNA on a particular chromosome matches to another person. You may have multiple segment matches with someone, if they are closely related, or only one segment match if they are more distantly related.
  • False Match – also known as a false positive match. This occurs when you match someone that is not identical by descent (IBD), but identical by chance (IBC), meaning that your DNA and theirs just happened to match, as a happenstance function of your mother and father’s DNA aligning in such a way that you match the other person, but neither your mother or father match that person on that segment.
  • Legitimate Match – meaning a match that is a result of the DNA that you inherited from one of your parents. This is the opposite of a false positive match.  Legitimate matches are identical by descent (IBD.)  Some IBD matches are considered to be identical by population, (IBP) because they are a result of a particular DNA segment being present in a significant portion of a given population from which you and your match both descend. Ideally, legitimate matches are not IBP and are instead indicative of a more recent genealogical ancestor that can (potentially) be identified.

You can read about Identical by Descent and Identical by Chance here.

  • Endogamy – an occurrence in which people intermarry repeatedly with others in a closed community, effectively passing the same DNA around and around in descendants without introducing different/new DNA from non-related individuals. People from endogamous communities, such as Jewish and Amish groups, will share more DNA and more small segments of DNA than people who are not from endogamous communities.  Fully endogamous individuals have about three times as many autosomal matches as non-endogamous individuals.
  • False Negative Match – a situation where someone doesn’t match that should. False negatives are very difficult to discern.  We most often see them when a match is hovering at a match threshold and by lowing the threshold slightly, the match is then exposed.  False negative segments can sometimes be detected when comparing DNA of close relatives and can be caused by read errors that break a segment in two, resulting in two segments that are too small to be reported individually as a match.  False negatives can also be caused by population phasing which strips out segments that are deemed to be “too matchy” by Ancestry’s Timber algorithm.
  • Parental or Family Phasing – utilizing the DNA of your parents or other close family members to determine which side of the family a match derives from. Actual phasing means to determine which parts of your DNA come from which parent by comparing your DNA to at least one, if not both parents.  The results of phasing are that we can identify matches to family groups such as the Phased Family Finder results at Family Tree DNA that designate matches as maternal or paternal based on phased results for you and family members, up to third cousins.
  • Population Based Phasing – In another context, phasing can refer to academic phasing where some DNA that is population based is removed from an individual’s results before matching to others. Ancestry does this with their Timber program, effectively segmenting results and sometimes removing valid IBD segments.  This is not the type of phasing that we will be referring to in this article and parental/family phasing should not be confused with population/academic phasing.

IBD and IBC Match Examples

It’s important to understand the definitions of Identical by Descent and Identical by Chance.

I’ve created some easy examples.

Let’s say that a match is defined as any 10 DNA locations in a row that match.  To keep this comparison simple, I’m only showing 10 locations.

In the examples below, you are the first person, on the left, and your DNA strands are showing.  You have a pink strand that you inherited from Mom and a blue strand inherited from Dad.  Mom’s 10 locations are all filled with A and Dad’s locations are all filled with T.  Unfortunately, Mother Nature doesn’t keep your Mom’s and Dad’s strands on one side or the other, so their DNA is mixed together in you.  In other words, you can’t tell which parts of your DNA are whose.  However, for our example, we’re keeping them separate because it’s easier to understand that way.

Legitimate Match – Identical by Descent from Mother

matches-ibd-mom

In the example above, Person B, your match, has all As.  They will match you and your mother, both, meaning the match between you and person B is identical by descent.  This means you match them because you inherited the matching DNA from your mother. The matching DNA is bordered in black.

Legitimate Match – Identical by Descent from Father

In this second example, Person C has all T’s and matches both you and your Dad, meaning the match is identical by descent from your father’s side.

matches-ibd-dad

You can clearly see that you can have two different people match you on the same exact segment location, but not match each other.  Person B and Person C both match you on the same location, but they very clearly do not match each other because Person B carries your mother’s DNA and Person C carries your father’s DNA.  These three people (you, Person B and Person C) do NOT triangulate, because B and C do not match each other.  The article, “Concepts – Match Groups and Triangulation” provides more details on triangulation.

Triangulation is how we prove that individuals descend from a common ancestor.

If Person B and Person C both descended from your mother’s side and matched you, then they would both carry all As in those locations, and they would match you, your mother and each other.  In this case, they would triangulate with you and your mother.

False Positive or Identical by Chance Match

This third example shows that Person D does technically match you, because they have all As and Ts, but they match you by zigzagging back and forth between your Mom’s and Dad’s DNA strands.  Of course, there is no way for you to know this without matching Person D against both of your parents to see if they match either parent.  If your match does not match either parent, the match is a false positive, meaning it is not a legitimate match.  The match is identical by chance (IBC.)

matches-ibc

One clue as to whether a match is IBC or IBD, even without your parents, is whether the person matches you and other close relatives on this same segment.  If not, then the match may be IBC. If the match also matches close relatives on this segment, then the match is very likely IBD.  Of course, the segment size matters too, which we’ll discuss momentarily.

If a person triangulates with 2 or more relatives who descend from the same ancestor, then the match is identical by descent, and not identical by chance.

False Negative Match

This last example shows a false negative.  The DNA of Person E had a read error at location 5, meaning that there are not 10 locations in a row that match.  This causes you and Person E to NOT be shown as a match, creating a false negative situation, because you actually do match if Person E hadn’t had the read error.

matches-false-negative

Of course, false negatives are by definition very hard to identify, because you can’t see them.

Comparisons to Your Parents

Legitimate matches will phase to your parents – meaning that you will match Person B on the same amount of a specific segment, or a smaller portion of that segment, as one of your parents.

False matches mean that you match the person, but neither of your parents matches that person, meaning that the segment in question is identical by chance, not by descent.

Comparing your matches to both of your parents is the easiest litmus paper test of whether your matches are legitimate or not.  Of course, the caveat is that you must have both of your parents available to fully phase your results.

Many of us don’t have both parents available to test, so let’s take a look at how often false positive matches really do occur.

False Positive Matches

How often do false matches really happen?

The answer to that question depends on the size of the segments you are comparing.

Very small segments, say at 1cM, are very likely to match randomly, because they are so small.  You can read more about SNPs and centiMorgans (cM) here.

As a rule of thumb, the larger the matching segment as measured in cM, with more SNPs in that segment:

  • The stronger the match is considered to be
  • The more likely the match is to be IBD and not IBC
  • The closer in time the common ancestor, facilitating the identification of said ancestor

Just in case we forget sometimes, identifying ancestors IS the purpose of genetic genealogy, although it seems like we sometimes get all geeked out by the science itself and process of matching!  (I can hear you thinking, “speak for yourself, Roberta.”)

It’s Just a Phase!!!

Let’s look at an example of phasing a child’s matches against those of their parents.

In our example, we have a non-endogamous female child (so they inherit an X chromosome from both parents) whose matches are being compared to her parents.

I’m utilizing files from Family Tree DNA. Ancestry does not provide segment data, so Ancestry files can’t be used.  At 23andMe, coordinating the security surrounding 3 individuals results and trying to make sure that the child and both parents all have access to the same individuals through sharing would be a nightmare, so the only vendor’s results you can reasonably utilize for phasing is Family Tree DNA.

You can download the matches for each person by chromosome segment by selecting the chromosome browser and the “Download All Matches to Excel (CSV Format)” at the top right above chromosome 1.

matches-chromosomr-browser

All segment matches 1cM and above will be downloaded into a CSV file, which I then save as an Excel spreadsheet.

I downloaded the files for both parents and the child. I deleted segments below 3cM.

About 75% of the rows in the files were segments below 3cM. In part, I deleted these segments due to the sheer size and the fact that the segment matching was a manual process.  In part, I did this because I already knew that segments below 3 cM weren’t terribly useful.

Rows Father Mother Child
Total 26,887 20,395 23,681
< 3 cM removed 20,461 15,025 17,784
Total Processed 6,426 5,370 5,897

Because I have the ability to phase these matches against both parents, I wanted to see how many of the matches in each category were indeed legitimate matches and how many were false positives, meaning identical by chance.

How does one go about doing that, exactly?

Downloading the Files

Let’s talk about how to make this process easy, at least as easy as possible.

Step one is downloading the chromosome browser matches for all 3 individuals, the child and both parents.

First, I downloaded the child’s chromosome browser match file and opened the spreadsheet.

Second, I downloaded the mother’s file, colored all of her rows pink, then appended the mother’s rows into the child’s spreadsheet.

Third, I did the same with the father’s file, coloring his rows blue.

After I had all three files in one spreadsheet, I sorted the columns by segment size and removed the segments below 3cM.

Next, I sorted the remaining items on the spreadsheet, in order, by column, as follows:

  • End
  • Start
  • Chromosome
  • Matchname

matches-both-parents

My resulting spreadsheet looked like this.  Sorting in the order prescribed provides you with the matches to each person in chromosome and segment order, facilitating easy (OK, relatively easy) visual comparison for matching segments.

I then colored all of the child’s NON-matching segments green so that I could see (and eventually filter the matchname column by) the green color indicating that they were NOT matches.  Do this only for the child, or the white (non-colored) rows.  The child’s matchname only gets colored green if there is no corresponding match to a parent for that same person on that same chromosome segment.

matches-child-some-parents

All of the child’s matches that DON’T have a corresponding parent match in pink or blue for that same person on that same segment will be colored green.  I’ve boxed the matches so you can see that they do match, and that they aren’t colored green.

In the above example, Donald and Gaff don’t match either parent, so they are all green.  Mess does match the father on some segments, so those segments are boxed, but the rest of Mess doesn’t match a parent, so is colored green.  Sarah doesn’t match any parent, so she is entirely green.

Yes, you do manually have to go through every row on this combined spreadsheet.

If you’re going to phase your matches against your parent or parents, you’ll want to know what to expect.  Just because you’ve seen one match does not mean you’ve seen them all.

What is a Match?

So, finally, the answer to the original question, “What is a Match?”  Yes, I know this was the long way around the block.

In the exercise above, we weren’t evaluating matches, we were just determining whether or not the child’s match also matched the parent on the same segment, but sometimes it’s not clear whether they do or do not match.

matches-child-mess

In the case of the second match with Mess on chromosome 11, above, the starting and ending locations, and the number of cM and segments are exactly the same, so it’s easy to determine that Mess matches both the child and the father on chromosome 11. All matches aren’t so straightforward.

Typical Match

matches-typical

This looks like your typical match for one person, in this case, Cecelia.  The child (white rows) matches Cecelia on three segments that don’t also match the child’s mother (pink rows.)  Those non-matching child’s rows are colored green in the match column.  The child matches Cecelia on two segments that also match the mother, on chromosome 20 and the X chromosome.  Those matching segments are boxed in black.

The segments in both of these matches have exact overlaps, meaning they start and end in exactly the same location, but that’s not always the case.

And for the record, matches that begin and/or end in the same location are NOT more likely to be legitimate matches than those that start and end in different locations.  Vendors use small buckets for matching, and if you fall into any part of the bucket, even if your match doesn’t entirely fill the bucket, the bucket is considered occupied.  So what you’re seeing are the “fuzzy” bucket boundaries.

(Over)Hanging Chad

matches-overhanging

In this case, Chad’s match overhangs on each end.  You can see that Chad’s match to the child begins at 52,722,923 before the mother’s match at 53,176,407.

At the end location, the child’s matching segment also extends beyond the mother’s, meaning the child matches Chad on a longer segment than the mother.  This means that the segment sections before 53,176,407 and after 61,495,890 are false negative matches, because Chad does not also match the child’s mother of these portions of the segment.

This segment still counts as a match though, because on the majority of the segment, Chad does match both the child and the mother.

Nested Match

matches-nested

This example shows a nested match, where the parent’s match to Randy begins before the child’s and ends after the child’s, meaning that the child’s matching DNA segment to Randy is entirely nested within the mother’s.  In other words, pieces got shaved off of both ends of this segment when the child was inheriting from her mother.

No Common Matches

matches-no-common

Sometimes, the child and the parent will both match the same person, but there are no common segments.  Don’t read more into this than what it is.  The child’s matches to Mary are false matches.  We have no way to judge the mother’s matches, except for segment size probability, which we’ll discuss shortly.

Look Ma, No Parents

matches-no-parents

In this case, the child matches Don on 5 segments, including a reasonably large segment on chromosome 9, but there are no matches between Don and either parent.  I went back and looked at this to be sure I hadn’t missed something.

This could, possibly, be an instance of an unseen a false negative, meaning perhaps there is a read issue in the parent’s file on chromosome 9, precluding a match.  However, in this case, since Family Tree DNA does report matches down to 1cM, it would have to be an awfully large read error for that to occur.  Family Tree DNA does have quality control standards in place and each file must pass the quality threshold to be put into the matching data base.  So, in this case, I doubt that the problem is a false negative.

Just because there are multiple IBC matches to Don doesn’t mean any of those are incorrect.  It’s just the way that the DNA is inherited and it’s why this type of a match is called identical by chance – the key word being chance.

Split Match

matches-split

This split match is very interesting.  If you look closely, you’ll notice that Diane matches Mom on the entire segment on chromosome 12, but the child’s match is broken into two.  However, the number of SNPs adds up to the same, and the number of cM is close.  This suggests that there is a read error in the child’s file forcing the child’s match to Diane into two pieces.

If the segments broken apart were smaller, under the match threshold, and there were no other higher matches on other segments, this match would not be shown and would fall into the False Negative category.  However, since that’s not the case, it’s a legitimate match and just falls into the “interesting” category.

The Deceptive Match

matches-surname

Don’t be fooled by seeing a family name in the match column and deciding it’s a legitimate match.  Harrold is a family surname and Mr. Harrold does not match either of the child’s parents, on any segment.  So not a legitimate match, no matter how much you want it to be!

Suspicious Match – Probably not Real

matches-suspicious

This technically is a match, because part of the DNA that Daryl matches between Mom and the child does overlap, from 111,236,840 to 113,275,838.  However, if you look at the entire match, you’ll notice that not a lot of that segment overlaps, and the number of cMs is already low in the child’s match.  There is no way to calculate the number of cMs and SNPs in the overlapping part of the segment, but suffice it to say that it’s smaller, and probably substantially smaller, than the 3.32 total match for the child.

It’s up to you whether you actually count this as a match or not.  I just hope this isn’t one of those matches you REALLY need.  However, in this case, the Mom’s match at 15.46 cM is 99% likely to be a legitimate match, so you really don’t need the child’s match at all!!!

So, Judge Judy, What’s the Verdict?

How did our parental phasing turn out?  What did we learn?  How many segments matched both the child and a parent, and how many were false matches?

In each cM Size category below, I’ve included the total number of child’s match rows found in that category, the number of parent/child matches, the percent of parent/child matches, the number of matches to the child that did NOT match the parent, and the percent of non-matches. A non-match means a false match.

So, what the verdict?

matches-parent-child-phased-segment-match-chart

It’s interesting to note that we just approach the 50% mark for phased matches in the 7-7.99 cM bracket.

The bracket just beneath that, 6-6.99 shows only a 30% parent/child match rate, as does 5-5.99.  At 3 cM and 4 cM few matches phase to the parents, but some do, and could potentially be useful in groups of people descended from a known common ancestor and in conjunction with larger matches on other segments. Certainly segments at 3 cM and 4 cM alone aren’t very reliable or useful, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t potentially be used in other contexts, nor are they always wrong. The smaller the segment, the less confidence we can have based on that segment alone, at least below 9-15cM.

Above the 50% match level, we quickly reach the 90th percentile in the 9-9.99 cM bracket, and above 10 cM, we’re virtually assured of a phased match, but not quite 100% of the time.

It isn’t until we reach the 16cM category that we actually reach the 100% bracket, and there is still an outlier found in the 18-18.99 cM group.

I went back and checked all of the 10 cM and over non-matches to verify that I had not made an error.  If I made errors, they were likely counting too many as NON-matches, and not the reverse, meaning I failed to visually identify matches.  However, with almost 6000 spreadsheet rows for the child, a few errors wouldn’t affect the totals significantly or even noticeably.

I hope that other people in non-endogamous populations will do the same type of double parent phasing and report on their results in the same type of format.  This experiment took about 2 days.

Furthermore, I would love to see this same type of experiment for endogamous families as well.

Summary

If you can phase your matches to either or both of your parents, absolutely, do.  This this exercise shows why, if you have only one parent to match against, you can’t just assume that anyone who doesn’t match you on your one parent’s side automatically matches you from the other parent. At least, not below about 15 cM.

Whether you can phase against your parent or not, this exercise should help you analyze your segment matches with an eye towards determining whether or not they are valid, and what different kinds of matches mean to your genealogy.

If nothing else, at least we can quantify the relatively likelihood, based on the size of the matching segment, in a non-endogamous population, a match would match a parent, if we had one to match against, meaning that they are a legitimate match.  Did you get all that?

In a nutshell, we can look at the Parent/Child Phased Match Chart produced by this exercise and say that our 8.5 cM match has about a 66% chance of being a legitimate match, and our 10.5 cM match has a 95% change of being a legitimate match.

You’re welcome.

Enjoy!!

Calling HOGWASH on 23andMe’s Ancestry Timeline

Every now and then, I’m aghast when I look at a product and wonder how the devil it ever escaped the lab.  Is there no quality control?  And who thought it was a good idea, anyway, and why?

23andMe’s new Ancestry Timeline, released last week, is one of those.

Not only is it incorrect, but it deceives people into believing something that isn’t true.

Let’s take a look.

23andme-timeline

My Ancestry Timeline at 23andMe is shown above. I notice that my Middle Eastern/North African is missing from the timeline.  It’s less than 1%, but then so is my Native American which is included.

You can see in the text underneath the timeline that 23andMe says this timeline reflects how long ago my MOST RECENT ancestor in that geographic location was born.

Let’s compare this with reality.  You may recall that I recently wrote the article, Concepts – Calculating Ethnicity Percentages. In that article, I utilized my known and proven genealogy for my 64 great-great-great-great-grandparents to calculate what my ethnicity results should look like.  I’m referring to the same chart of my 64 ancestors for this exercise as well, since I’ve already done a great deal of the work.  Let’s see how reality stacks up to the 23andMe timeline.

On the chart below, I’ve shown the geographic category, the dates from the 23andMe timeline reflecting my most recent ancestor’s birth, my most recent ancestor from that location, and the accuracy of the 23andMe estimate.

Category 23andMe Dates My Most Recent Ancestor Birth 23andMe Accuracy
British and Irish 1900-1930 1759 – Henry Bolton Utter hogwash
French and German 1840-1900 1854 – Hiram Ferverda Close
Scandinavian 1750-1840 No ancestor More hogwash
Eastern European 1720-1810 No ancestor Hogwash
Italian 1690-1810 No ancestor Hogwash
Native American 1690-1790 Uncertain, mother’s side – early 1600s, father’s side – unknown Not verifiable, reasonable

The part of this equation that I find extremely upsetting is the sheer magnitude of how misleading the 23andMe timeline is.  It’s not just wrong, it’s horribly deceptive – massively inaccurate by any measure possible.

Here’s what the 23andMe white paper says about this new tool:

“Admixture date estimator is a 23andMe feature that enables customers to find out, for each of the ancestries they carry, when they may have had an ancestor in their genealogy who was likely to be a non-admixed representative of that population.”

I’m a seasoned genealogist, so I know unquestionably that my 23andMe Timeline is not only wrong, it’s entirely hogwash in 4 of 6 categories. A 5th category is close, and the 6th is reasonable but not verifiable.

The disparity of the British/Irish dates between 1759 when Henry Bolton was born in London and 1900-1930 is evident without discussion.  I do have a lot of British Isles ancestry, but it’s a result of many ancestors, not one and no one born there even remotely recently, let alone within the past generation. For me, someone born between 1900-1930 would be a parent.

Looking back at the Calculating Ethnicity Percentages article, you’ll note that I don’t have any Scandinavian ancestors in any known generation.  The 8% that 23andMe estimates, if accurate, equates to between a great-grandparent at 12.5% and a great-great-grandparent at 6.25%.  If the Scandinavian was one person, they would have been born in that timeframe (1750-1840) – but there was no one person.  The Scandinavian has to be very ancestral, meaning ancient Vikings or Normans or found in the Dutch population which is often found to be “Scandinavian.”  Regardless, there are no Scandinavian ancestors in my pedigree which reaches back well before 1750-1840.  Neither are there any Eastern European or Italian ancestors. None. Nada. Zip.

Perplexingly, it’s that unverifiable category, Native American, that so many people are desperately researching and scavenge for any possible clue.  There is no way to determine whether that category is right or wrong, so they will assume that it is accurate.  However, judging from the track record of the other categories – it’s more likely to be incorrect than correct.  Resorting to history alone, we know that the first European settlers arrived in North America in the early 1600s and my Native heritage is small, based on both my genealogy and my DNA, so a range of 1690-1790 would be a “good guess” with no genetic information at all.  My proven Native ancestors were born in the early/mid 1600s, but I have not successfully identified all of my Native ancestors, in particular the one(s) from my father’s side and when they were fully Native.

For a beginner or someone with unknown parentage, this timeline is horribly, horribly midleading and will cause novices to make massively incorrect assumptions. A British or Irish ancestor born between 1900-1930? Seriously?  This timeline combined with the 39.8% British/Irish suggests a parent.  Think about what an adoptee would take away from this timeline – and how their research could be derailed as a result.  Without parents available to DNA test, this erroneous information could make someone question their parentage.

Here’s an example of just how misleading this information can be.

In my case, I know beyond a doubt that my mother was primarily descended from German and Dutch recent immigrants with some French and Native American (Acadian) thrown in for good measure.  So, based on this timeline stating that a British/Irish ancestor was born in the British Isles between 1900 and 1930, combined with my ethnicity results of 39.8% British and Irish, OH MY GOD, my father is not who I thought, but is some British/Irish man.  MOTHER………………

All I can say is thank goodness I’ve done the DNA testing that I have and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my father is my biological father and not some British man, despite what this timeline suggests.  If I had no other evidence – I certainly would believe that my father was a British man, and I’d be GRATEFUL for this (highly erroneous) information.

On the flip side, many people will utilize this tool to “confirm” suspicions about genealogy.  I’ve already seen this happening on various lists.  With 4 of 6 categories being entirely, provably, incorrect, not to mention that the first category reflecting my largest percentage of ethnicity is so dramatically wrong, one can have absolutely no confidence in any of the other categories. I can’t and neither can anyone else.

I’m not alone either.  This, from another long-time genealogist: “I am dumbstruck.  It couldn’t be further from the truth for me.  I am very colonial on both sides.  Most recent immigrant ancestor was 1797.”  And from another: “No.  Just no.  Not accurate.”

So let me say this again.

You. Can. Have. No. Confidence.

If you already know your genealogy, then you don’t need this tool.  If you don’t know your genealogy, then you’re going to be misled by this tool.

It’s very clear that anyone with many ancestors that came from a particular population, but that haven’t been born in that location in many generations will have an incorrect timeline.  This would include just about everyone with colonial American roots.  The amount of a particular ethnicity does NOT equate to aggregating that ethnicity into a single ancestor and equating the amount of ethnicity to a recent birth in that location.  This logic is predicated on a whole lot of assumptions stacked on top of each other, like a house of cards. And we all know about assume.

23andMe, you should be ashamed of yourself for perpetrating genetic hogwash on your unsuspecting, believing and often vulnerable customers.  Climb down out of your ivory tower, buy a vowel and get a clue.  Statistics in an academic environment and reality sometimes just don’t mesh – and you, 23andMe, have the wherewithal and the customer base to discern the difference. You are supposed to be a science company.  You have no excuse.

I understand the desire to provide new tools to customers, but inaccurate simplicity is never a priority over realism.

I hope 23andMe will have the decency to remove this new deceptive and misleading “feature” that should never have made it past “proof of concept” in the first place.

thumbs-down

Raleigh Dodson (1730-c1794) of Dodson’s Ford; Ferryman, Surveyor and Stone Dresser, 52 Ancestors #143

Can I tell you a secret?  I’ve been dreading and putting off writing this article because I’ve gathered information on Raleigh for so long, it’s in so many places and it’s not the least bit organized.  I hate messes like this, and Raleigh, truthfully, was a mess.

And even more discouraging, Raleigh wasn’t always a mess.

I had transcribed close to 200 pages in a MSWord document over 3 or 4 weeks while visiting Tennessee during multiple trips.  Notes made in courthouses during the day were transcribed at night on my laptop in hotel rooms.

I swear, I thought I transferred those files to my desktop at home – but I obviously did not – because after my laptop was stolen, those transcribed pages were no more.  Now, the saving grace, if there is one, is that I printed parts of those transcriptions which were in the files with some of the notes – and I made copies of some of the deeds at courthouses.  And if you’re wondering if I threw the original notes away after I transcribed them – yes – for the most part.  So, every time I have an anti-packrat moment and tell myself it’s OK to throw something away – I think of situations like this.

After that, for me, to even think about Raleigh was to feel very discouraged.  I can’t go back and recover much of what was lost.  Thankfully, I still have the most important parts and I think I’ve been able to reconstruct most everything relevant – although it felt like it took forever and it was far from joyful. But now it’s done and Raleigh’s life is in order – or as much order as I can give him more than 220 years after he departed this life. Now that I think of it, it’s pretty amazing that we can reconstruct any of  someone’s life nearly 300 years after their birth – as they traipsed across frontiers.

The bad part about doing original research is that you have to sort through a lot of chaff to find any wheat – and I’m reasonably confident that it’s just the chaff that is missing – because thankfully it was the wheat that I printed to use the following day when I returned to the courthouse.

And the answer to the next question you’re about to ask is yes, I do carry a printer (and also a scanner) with me when I travel. Most courthouses won’t allow scanners or photography of the books, but you just never know what else you’ll run across in other locations.

Bookends

We have the bookends of Raleigh’s life pretty well documented – birth and death.  The problem is that I wasn’t happy with that, and I had to go to Hawkins County and try to find his land.  And while it should have been relatively easy, scattered records, burned records and quirky turns made the task much more difficult than I expected.  Truthfully, with Dodson Creek, Dodson Ford, Dodson Creek Church and Dodson Creek Cemetery, how tough could this be – really?  The answer is, much more difficult than I anticipated.

It doesn’t help any that many of Hawkins County’s records burned in the Civil War, including marriage records and wills.  After the war ended, some of the wills were re-transcribed from the original wills that survived, but of course there are no probate dates or other information.  And not all wills survived.  Enough to make a genealogist tear their hair out.

In the First Families of Tennessee, Rawleigh Dodson is recorded as born in 1730, died circa 1794 in Hawkins Co., TN, married Mary unknown, settled in Sullivan County in 1786 and the proof of such settlement is a land grant.  Now, why couldn’t I just enter this into my genealogy program and leave well enough alone?

Because, I’m me and I just can’t.  There is so much more to our ancestors than their birth and death dates – and I had to get to know Raleigh.  I wanted to unravel his life, walk in his footsteps and on his land.

Come along with me and we’ll visit Dodson Ford – and it’s not a car dealership either!  But first, we visit North Farnham Parish in Richmond County, Virginia and travel with Raleigh along the way.

In the Beginning…

The North Farnham Parish Register records Rawleigh’s birth.  Michelle Goad extracted the information, as follows:

Born, Dodson, Rawleigh, son of George and Margaret Dodson, 18 January 1730.

The North Farnham Parish Episcopal Church as it stands today is believed to have been built about 1737.  It has been restored, although it was used as a stable during the Civil War.

North Farnham Church

Raleigh probably watched this church being built.  Maybe he even helped carry tools to the workers.  A 7 year old boy would have probably thought that was fun.  Maybe they let Raleigh pound a few nails too.

The church is located in Farnham, Virginia, in Richmond County on North Farnham Church Road (County Route 692) at its intersection with Cedar Grove Road (County Route 602) about 5 miles from the Rappahannock River.

raleigh-farnham-map

Raleigh’s parents surely lived someplace in the satellite image below.

raleigh-farnham-satellite

This area was settled quite early, being on a neck of land between the Potomac River, the Rappahannock River and the Chesapeake Bay, northeast of Richmond.  Maryland lies across the Potomac. This part of Virginia is flat and relatively unremarkable, sporting salt and pepper fields and woods.

raleigh-chesapeake

Given that the parish register included dates preceding 1737, the current building was obviously not the first church building.

Raleigh lived near this location for his entire childhood and perhaps part of his adult life.

In 1739, Raleigh’s father, George, was left “150 acres of land whereon this said George Dodson is now living” in the will of George’s father, Thomas Dodson.   This land is described as being “at the mouth of William Everett’s spring branch adjoining William Forrister and the Rowling? Branch,” when George and Margaret Dodson of North Farnham Parish sold the land in 1756 to William Forrester.

This also tells us that Raleigh knew his grandfather, and probably quite well, given that they lived on his land.  Raleigh would have been about 9 when his grandfather died.  A hard lesson for a young boy about life and death.

Raleigh’s marriage record has not been located, but it’s likely that he married someone who lived near his family in Richmond County, probably sometime around 1754 or 1755.

There is one piece of evidence that suggests Raleigh was living in Prince William County, VA around 1759 to 1761.  There is a court case, Raleigh Dodson vs John Webb in trespass with the notation that the defendant has a special parlance granted him.  Prince William order book 1759-61, p 241.

raleigh-1755-map

You can see, on the 1755 map above that Prince William County in the upper left to the left of the big A isn’t far from Richmond County on the “neck” in the lower right between the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers.  A more contemporary map from FamilySearch is shown below.

raleigh-prince-william

Raleigh may have attended the Broad Run Baptist Church in Fauquier County, formed from the southern portion of Prince William County in 1759, when a person whose name has been interpreted as “Roby” Dodson had an infant taken into the care of the church on October 9, 1763.  The infants name, interpreted as “Shier” could be a misread of Toliver or Oliver.  At any rate, we hear no more of “Roby” and “Shier,” and if Roby was Raleigh, we hear no more of him either.

The path from Richmond County to Broad Run, about 100 miles in a wagon, was only an interim stopover for the Dodson families.

raleigh-richmond-to-prince-william

Many of the Dodsons who found their way to Halifax County, Virginia were dismissed from Broad Run between 1763 and 1766.

raleigh-broad-run

The Broad Run Church, above, was founded as a Baptist church in 1762, which meant it was a church of dissenters.  At that time in Virginia, the Anglican church was the only legal church, meaning the only church recognized by law, and membership was mandatory.

Many Dodsons are found in the Broad Run Baptist Church records, but Raleigh is absent.  He would have been required by law to attend the Anglican church, but that doesn’t mean he attended or participated. He might have preferred to pay the fine.

Raleigh’s next appearance would be in Halifax County, Virginia. This trip was about twice as far, and through some rough mountains near Lynchburg, although they may have chosen the route through Farmville instead.

raleigh-prince-william-to-halifax

In 1766, Raughley Dodson and Lazarus, probably his brother, witnessed a deed from Joseph Terry to Thomas Dodson for land on the second fork of Birches Creek, Halifax County, VA Deed book 6-363. This Thomas or his son Thomas, the records are unclear, would thereafter be known as “Second Fork Thomas.”

Raleigh also had a brother Thomas.  The Reverend Silas Lucas identifies Second Fork Thomas as Thomas, the son of Thomas Dodson who married Elizabeth Rose, who was the brother to Raleigh’s father, George.  Therefore, if this is accurate, Second Fork Thomas, born about 1730, would have been Raleigh’s first cousin, not his brother or his uncle.  However, I’m not convinced that the records for Raleigh’s brother, whom nothing is known about, and Raleigh’s uncle Thomas, and Raleigh’s first cousin Thomas haven’t been conflated, especially given that “Second Fork Thomas,” according to Lucas, didn’t die until 1816 in Hawkins County, TN.

raleigh-thomas-dodsons

Thomas Dodson, thought to be “Second Fork Thomas” eventually lived near Raleigh on the north side of the Holston River in Hawkins County.  It’s unclear what happened to Raleigh’s brother, Thomas, although he could certainly be the Thomas in Hawkins County. The Dodson family is incredibly difficult to sort accurately.

Dodson’s Ordinary

Today, the original Dodson Ordinary in Halifax County is a historic site called Carter’s Tavern, located on the main road from South Boston to Danville across the road from Arbor Church, shown on the map below.

raleigh-arbor-church-map

The Dodson Ordinary has a rich and vibrant history of being a stage coach stop and sporting the ghost of a man killed in the building.  The original proprietor, Joseph Dodson, was born in 1724 to Thomas Dodson and Elizabeth Rose. This would mean that Joseph was Raleigh’s first cousin.

Joseph arrived in Halifax County in 1766, along with several other Dodson men, probably including Raleigh, and purchased the land on Toby Creek that would become the Dodson Ordinary.

Joseph Dodson died in 1773, leaving the plantation to his wife and son, Joseph.  The same year Joseph died, he sold land, along with “Second Fork Thomas,” in Halifax County.

raleigh-carter-tavern-sign

raleigh-dodson-ordinary

Restoration work within the Tavern revealed the name of Thomas Dodson etched in the fireplace stone mortar, along with a date of 1767.  Given that Joseph bought the land in 1766, it makes sense that in 1767, he would be building a house.  We’ll never know whether the etcher was Raleigh’s brother Thomas, or Joseph’s brother Thomas, or Joseph’s son Thomas, who would have been about 20 in 1766.  I’m betting on Joseph’s son!

Raleigh assuredly knew Joseph well and probably visited the Dodson Ordinary many times as the Ordinary was a regional location of commerce and a stage coach stop, along with a tavern, of course.  Judging from later records, Raleigh probably never met a drop of whisky that he didn’t like, and business transactions in that day were often agreed upon in taverns which were social gathering places for men!  I suspect liquor greased a lot of business deals.

raleigh-top-of-the-world

Across the road from Dodson’s Ordinary, the view is spectacular to the north, across the area of Birches Creek, called the “Top of the World” by local people. On a clear day, you can see the Peaks of Otter, about 70 miles distant as the crow flies.

Directly across the road from Dodson’s Ordinary and east a few hundred feet, local legend tells us that a revival was held under a bush where the Arbor Church is located today.

raleigh-arbor-church

We find the following information about Arbor Church:

The Arbor Church congregation is one of the oldest congregations in Halifax County. In the Spring of 1785 William Dodson, a missionary Baptist preacher held a revival under a bush arbor near Carter’s Tavern. As a result of that revival Arbor Baptist Church was organized with 35 charter members and Mr. Dodson as the first preacher. Mr. Samuel Dodson, owner of Carter’s Tavern donated a triangular lot of about 2 acres on which a log building was erected. The base of the triangle bordered River Road with the apex at a rock spring down the hill. Mr. Dodson said he gave the land that way so that the church would have a continuous supply of water.

In the picture, below, you can see the edge of Dodson’s Ordinary, later named Carter’s Tavern, on the right, and the church is the white building behind the trees on the left.

raleigh-tavern-and-church

Many of the Dodson family members who relocated to Halifax County had been members of Broad Run Church in Fauquier County, including the Reverend Lazarus Dodson, Raleigh’s brother, who was living in this area by 1767 and founded the Little Sandy Creek Church on the Dan River, which runs near the Virginia/North Carolina border.

The southwestern portion of Halifax County and the southeastern portion of Pittsylvania County became the center of Dodson family life in Virginia.  These counties bordered Caswell County, NC on the south, and the Dodsons spilled over into Caswell as well.

Raleigh Buys Land on Country Line Creek

In the winter of 1768, Raleigh bought into the American dream – land.

February 19, 1768, John Roberson and wife Margaret of Orange County, NC sold to Rolley Dodson of said county for 16# Virginia money 50 acres on the east side of the Country Line Creek.  Witnesses Hugh Kelly, Henry Hicks and Henry Willis.  (Orange County Deed book 2-160)

raleigh-halifax-to-country-line

Caswell County, NC was created from Orange County in 1777 and Raleigh’s land fell into Caswell. The Orange County, North Carolina Court of Pleas and Quarter Session records need to be checked for Raleigh between 1768 and 1777.

country line creek

The Caswell County tax list for 1777 shows that Raleigh Dotson was assessed 172# for property in the Richmond District.

Raleigh and his wife Mary sold their 50 acres of land on the south side of Country Line Creek on July 5, 1778 to Clement Gann (being purchased of John Robinson) and evidently moved to Hawkins County, TN about this time.

Given that Raleigh’s deed says on the south side, I’d wager that his land was where Country Line runs east to west, as opposed to the area where it runs more north to south.

We don’t know where on Country Line Creek Raleigh lived, but this is where NC62 crosses Country Line, just south of Yanceyville today.  You can’t actually see the creek, but you can pull off and fish, apparently.

raleigh-country-line

This area is very heavily wooded.  The 1860 census taker added notes about Caswell County, and he describes Caswell County as rolling and hilly as the streams are approached.  He then says, “The roughest areas are those along Country Line Creek.”  Raleigh probably lived along the portion of Country Line Creek shown below.

raleigh-country-line-satellite

In 1777, the heads of household had to take an oath of allegiance to support the Colony of Virginia against the crown.  Raleigh and Lazarus Dodson’s oaths were recorded in Pittsylvania county.  Oaths taken by George Carter included Elisha Dodson, George Dodson (possibly Raleigh’s father), Lazarus Dodson, Rolly Dodson, Thomas Dodson, George Hardy Jr., Joshua Hardy, William Hardy, Charles Lewis and John Lewis.  A Lewis family researcher says this looks like the “Mine Branch” Lewis family and then using Roger Dodson’s survey book,  we can determine that the location of George Carter’s land was south of Mine Branch near Double Creek in Pittsylvania County.

There is no way to tell if this is our Raleigh and his son Lazarus, but given that our Raleigh is living in Caswell County in North Carolina, this is likely not our Raleigh or his son, Lazarus who would have been about 17.  This is more likely Raleigh’s brother, the Reverend Lazarus Dodson, who did indeed live in Pittsylvania County.  The Rev. Elias Dodson names one “Rolly” as the son of Rev. Lazarus, which makes more sense than our Raleigh who was living in NC swearing an oath of this type in Virginia.

Raleigh obviously left for what would become east Tennessee sometime between July of 1778 when he sold his Caswell County land, and May of 1779 when Rawley Dodson and Dodson’s Creek are both mentioned in Washington County land warrant 1382.

After Raleigh had left Caswell, the name of Rawley Dodson shows up there once again in matters pertaining to the estate of John Moore, Jr. (1786-1791).  A list of accounts included the name of Rawley Dodson in Caswell Co., will book C, June court 1792.

raleigh-caswell-to-hawkins

East Tennessee

The area where Raleigh settled in present day east Tennessee was originally the Washington District, then Sullivan County, North Carolina, then in 1784 the highly political and volatile rogue State of Franklin, then in 1786 Hawkins County, North Carolina, then in 1790 the Territory South of the Ohio River which then became Hawkins County, Tennessee in 1796 when Tennessee became a state.  Raleigh lived in all of these places without moving an inch.  The boundaries moved around him, and not without a great deal of drama either.  Raleigh must have been in a constant state of emotional upheaval!

raleigh-1796-map

On the 1796 map above, Washington County is shown as land south of the Holston, with Hawkins County just across the river.  Hawkins C.H. means Hawkins Courthouse, which is today’s Rogersville.

Elijah Chissum had a ferry across the Holton River and Dodson Ford crossed just beneath Hawkins Courthouse too.

From the book Tennessee Land Warrants, Vol 4 Part 1:

Page 60 – 407 (291) March 10, 1780 Elijah Chisum enters 100 acres on the left fork of Dodson’s Creek, border begins at a bent below the first row of nobs and runs down the creek.  Warrant issued on June 18, 1780 by John Adair and the warrant was assigned August 16, 1788 by Elijah Chusum to John Cox (Thomas King, witness) 100 acres surveyed June 12, 1787 by Rawleigh Dodson, James Bunch and Reason Kartin, chain carriers, grant 527 issued Nov. 26, 1789

The above warrant tells us that Raleigh was a surveyor.  Another grant tells is that Elijah Chism’s line bordered Evans’ line, a neighbor of Raleigh.

From the book Valid and Invalid North Carolina Warrants in Tennessee by Dr. A. B. Pruitt:

Page 48 – Washington County warrant 1382 to Rowley Dotson for 150 acres on Dotson’s Creek and joins tract where said Dotson lives, warrant issued May 21, 1779 and warrant issued October, 24, 1779 by John Carter, Book 28, page 121

The entry book for John and Landon Carter, entry takers for “Washington Co., NC, now Tennessee,” shows a warrant, 1783, dated May 21, 1779, directing the surveyor of Sullivan County to “lay off for William Payne 150 acres on the Holston River adjoining a tract of land known as the ‘burnt cabin’”.  This land was surveyed on April 28, 1787 for Rawleigh Dodson by Rawl Dodson, deputy surveyor.

Did Raleigh survey his own land, or was Rawl Dodson, in this case, Raleigh Jr.?  It’s interesting that his nickname may have been Rawl.

The State of NC issued grants to Raleigh Dodson for two tracts of 150 acres, both apparently entered before Hawkins County was created in 1786; grant #1481 for 150 acres on the left fork of Dodson’s creek and #1489 for 150 acres on the south side of Holston River.  Dodson’s Creek, no doubt named by or for Raleigh Dodson, is a branch of the Holston River on the south side of the river and nearly opposite the town of Rogersville.  Dodson’s Ford was located near the mouth of Dodson’s Creek where the Indians’ Great War Path and Trading Path crossed the Holston River.

raleigh-1780-dodson-ford

“Dodson Ford -1780” is marked on this historic map, courtesy of the Hawkins County Archives.

The location of Dodson Ford was at one time was marked by a Tennessee Historical marker, although the marker was reportedly hit and then stolen years ago and never replaced.  The land around Dodson’s Ford is some of the most beautiful in east Tennessee.

raleigh-land

Above, the Dodson land looking south from across the Holston River. This is one of my favorite photos, because it conveys the flavor of the land and I think, the spirit of the frontiersmen, and women, who first settled these rolling hills along the river.

raleigh-holston

Looking upstream towards Dodson Ford from the mouth of Honeycutt Creek on the Holston River.  The Ford was about the location of the pillar on the right bank of the river in the distance.

raleigh-1789-grant

Raleigh’s 1789 land grant, above, is for 150 acres in Hawkins County on the south side of the Holston on Dodson’s Creek on the left fork above Evans line.  Beginning on a beech tree running thence:

  • West 110 poles to a white oak (1815 feet)
  • Then north 220 poles to a pine (3630 feet
  • Then east 110 poles to a stake (1815)
  • Then south 221 poles to the beginning (3646.50 feet)

This was granted at Fayetteville, NC on November 26, 1789.

Another grant was entered by both Lazarus and Raleigh, both granted the same day, November 26, 1789. (Click to enlarge.)

raleigh-1789-grant-2

Raleigh’s grant reads, “150 acres in Sullivan County on the south side of Holston River lying between Dodson’s Creek and a former entry including a spring at the head of Dodson’s creek, beginning on Lazarus Dodson’s line,” then metes and bounds, as follows:

  • Pine running thence along the same south 40 degrees east 100 poles to a hickory (1650 feet)
  • Then south126 poles to a post oak (2079 feet)
  • West 186 poles to a stake then (3069 feet)
  • North 35 east 236 poles to the beginning (3894 feet)

Lazarus’s grant reads as follows:

300 acres in Sullivan on the south side of Holston lying on both sides of Dodson’s Creek beginning on a red oak,

  • Then with a conditional line between John Sanders and said Dodson running thence along the same south 65 degrees west 240 poles to a poplar and black gum (3960 feet)
  • South 50 poles to a white oak (825 feet)
  • Rawley Dodson’s line
  • Thence along same south 40 east 140 poles to a white oak thence (2310 feet)
  • East 140 poles to a stake then (2310 feet)
  • North 200 poles to the beginning (3300 feet)

Raleigh’s deed, as it turns out, becomes quite important later in the story, as this is the land that Raleigh actually lived on and leaves to his son, Raleigh.  Raleigh Sr.’s son, Lazarus, lived right next door.  Father and son filed for and obtained their land at the same time.

Interestingly, the last sentence says “the said Rawley Dodson shall cause this grant to be registered in the registers office of said Sullivan County within 12 months from the date hereof otherwise the same shall be void and of no effect.”

So the grant was only the first step.  If you didn’t register the deed, the grant didn’t matter.

Page 124-798 (681) – Rolly Dotson enters 300 acres on the south side of Holston River and on both sides of Dotson’s Creek, border, begins on Dodson’s line on a branch at a white oak marked D, runs along said Dodson’s line and up the branch.  Duplicate warrant issued Sept., 28, 1792.

I’d love to find that tree with a “D.”

Between Raleigh and Lazarus’s main grants, they owned 600 acres, just under a mile by a mile square on the west side of Dodson’s Creek.  That doesn’t count Raleigh’s 1791 purchase of the Honeycutt land, which was an additional 163 acres.  Lazarus’s land actually crossed Dodson Creek and abutted John Sanders land, on the east side.

On the map below, the blue arrows approximate Raleigh’s grant, and the red includes the approximate land that Lazarus and Raleigh held together.  After Raleigh bought the Honeycutt land, those red arrows on the left would have moved over by Honeycutt Creek on the Holston. A one mile by one mile square of land is 640 acres and one Pole is 5.5 yards or 16.5 feet.There are 5,280 feet in a linear mile.

raleigh-land-boundaries

We know that Raleigh’s land included Dodson Ford which was the extension of the present day Old Persia Road/Tennessee 66 where it merged with Old Tennessee 70.  The old highway marker for Dodson Ford used to be located at this intersection.

So, Where was Dodson Ford?

We can pretty well place where Dodson Ford was located.

You can’t see the old road today on the satellite image, but you can see the old bridge just the other side of where Old Tennessee 70 intersects with Trail of the Lonesome Pine.

raleigh-old-road

A local man told me that the old bridge there was built where Dodson Ford used to cross.  The only part of the old bridge you can see today is the pilings near the south bank and in the river.  Arnott’s Island is the teardrop shaped island to the right of the old bridge.

Old Tennessee 66 was Old Persia Road which intersected with Old Tennessee 70 and Crossed the Holston where it ended, at Dodson’s Ford.  What we don’t know for sure is exactly where Dodson Ford was located, but we do know approximately, within a few hundred feet.

Based on what we know about our Raleigh’s deeds and the neighbor’s deeds, we now know that Raleigh Dodson and Lazarus owned land primarily west of Dodson Creek, top red arrow shown on the map below, including Dodson Ford which crossed the Holston River.

raleigh-ford-location

George Kite owned the land where the Kite Cemetery is located today and is also where Evan’s station was located, probably at the intersection of what is today Dodson Creek coming from the east and Louderback Creek on the south, marked by the bottom red arrow on the map above.  Of course, George Kite sold part of his land to Louderback, which is how that Creek obtained its name.  The old Kite house is very near the Kite Cemetery, which is the green square just below the Kite arrow.

On the satellite image below, you can see the location of the mouth of Dodson Creek, to the far right, Arnott’s Island, the bend in old Tennessee 70 where the Sanders Cemetery is located, marked by the red arrow a the bottom.  the scars from the old road that led to the old bridge across the Holston, likely where Dodson Ford was as well, are marked by the two arrows at left.

raleigh-dodson-ford-map

The location of the Ford itself was likely very close to where the old 66/70 bridge across the Holston was eventually built, which has now been torn down and dismantled, except for the bases.

raleigh-dodson-ford-pilings

We could call these the ghost sentinels of Dodson Ford – remnants of the past, standing watch today.

The TVA Authority land acquisition map from 1943 shows the old bridge over the Holston at this location labeled Tennessee 66 and Tennessee 70, confirming that Old 66 was indeed Old Persia Road.

And it would make sense that the bridge over the Holston, whenever it was built, was built at or near where the old Dodson’s Ford used to be located.  After all, the Ford was located at the easiest place to cross the river.

raleigh-tva-map

I wish someone had told me that there WAS a TVA land acquisition map when I first started trying to piece Raleigh’s land history together, because it would have been a LOT easier to work backwards through contemporary deeds than trying to work forward from land grants.

We Interrupt Raleigh’s Life to Bring you the Revolutionary War

In October, 1780, the forces under Col. Arthur Campbell gathered at Dodson’s Ford before going downriver to the attack on the Overhill Cherokee towns of Chota, Talequah, Tallassee, and others.

Both Lazarus and his father, Raleigh Dodson served in the Revolutionary War.

Their Revolutionary War service is documented in “North Carolina Revolutionary Army Accounts, Index to Soldiers residing in Washington and Sullivan County, 1781-1783.

NC Army Acct

Both Raleigh and Lazarus Dodson are listed.

nc army acct detail

After finding this tantalizing nugget, I contacted the NC Archives and eventually, visited, in order to obtain the original records.

According to pay records found in the NC Archives, in Raleigh, NC, Lazarus Dodson served in the Revolutionary War in August of 1783.  That is likely the date of his discharge, so he may have served earlier in the year.

Laz dodson rev war pay record

In 1783, an Act authorizing the opening of a land office for the redemption of specie and other certificates was passed, and all soldiers holding specie or certificates were enabled to redeem them by taking land in exchange, at a rate fixed by the state of North Carolina.

laz dodson rev war auditor record

Believe it or not, there were two holes punched in this document, reflecting how it has been stored.

Raleigh and Lazarus Dodson both served in the Revolution and are both found in the Morgan district which includes the land that would become East Tennessee.

raleigh rev war record

A second Rolley Dotson is found in the Hillsboro district (auditors Mebane and Nichols), which is the area of NC below Halifax/Pittsylvania in VA.  We know that our Raleigh was in East Tennessee prior to this time, but that this part of Tennessee was still North Carolina.

district auditors

The auditors and their corresponding districts found in the archives helped define which Raleigh was which.

nc rev war districts

We don’t know exactly who Lazarus and Raleigh served under, nor what they did when they were in service.  I wonder if they joined Col. Campbell on the march against the Cherokee in 1780/81, or if they fought at King’s Mountain in October of 1780, as did many men from this area.  Unfortunately, there is no roster for either event, but they are the most likely campaigns for men from Hawkins County to have participated in.  Colonel Arthur Campbell was involved in both, camped at Dodson Ford in late 1780 on his way destroy the Cherokee towns and was probably related to Charles Campbell, Raleigh’s neighbor on Dodson Creek.

Raleigh’s Life Resumes in Hawkins County After the Revolutionary War

In 1786, Raleigh signed the petition seeking the formation of Hawkins County along with his sons, Lazarus and Toliver.  Unfortunately, the original petition seems to be missing.

Raleigh is mentioned in numerous land warrants, nearly all of which were issued in the Dodson’s Creek area and subsequently assigned or sold to others.  I have limited the information here to the land Raleigh actually kept, because that is the most informative to us about Raleigh’s life.

In June 1791, Raleigh purchased a tract of 163 acres at a sheriff’s sale, formerly the John Honeycutt property, which adjoined the property of Elisha and Lazarus Dodson and included Honeycutt Creek.

June 6, 1791 – Thomas Berry sheriff of Hawkins County, to Rawley Dodson for 111#, 163 acres in Hawkins County on the south side of the Holston River including two plantations beginning on the river bank, Elisha Dodson’s line, Lazerus Dodson’s line, being a tract of land sold by execution the property of John Honeycutt.  Registered July 5, 1799  Liber E – 194

In December of 1808, Raleigh’s son, Raleigh, conveys Raleigh’s grant land to James Breeden, then Breeden sells the land to Daniel Seyster:

We know both Breeden and Seyster lived in the immediate area, because in 1801, a deed from James Breeden to Daniel Seyster described that land as being on Dodson Creek near Evans Station adjoining lands of George Kite, Breeden and Dodson’s line.

Stations were called such at that time because they were generally fortified homes in which other residents could take shelter, and of course, defend, in case of Indian attack.  This tells us that one of the early stations was indeed on Dodson Creek, and near the Kite land.  At least one old Kite home still stands, or did in 2009, within view of the Kite Cemetery.

raleigh-kite-cemetery

The Kite Cemetery includes the progenitor, George Kite’s grave and overlooks both the old Kite home and Dodson Creek.

raleigh-kite-cem-old-trees

This cemetery is named the Kite Cemetery, because George Kite is buried here, along with many of his family members, but there are also many unmarked graves.  The cemetery could have been in use before 1796 when George Kite arrived on the scene.  In fact, it may have originally been the Evans Cemetery. Early pioneers had to be buried someplace.

The photo below shows the old Kite home.

raleigh-kite-house

George Kite was the original Kite settler in Hawkins County, arriving about 1796.

raleigh-kite-dodson-creek

Dodson Creek runs in front of the Kite Cemetery, in the field across the road.

raleigh-dodson-creek-2

You can see the old Kite house in the distance below, across the roof of the newer home.

raleigh-kite-house-from-cemetery

In 1796, in deed book 1, page 196, George Kite purchased 600 acres from George Kiger (later written as Kizer and Kiser) on the south side of the Holston on Dodson Creek, formerly Honeycutt Creek, including Evans station.

In 1812, George Kite sells to Thomas Haynes half of the 200 acre tract from NC to John Gransby granted on November 27,1762 and that John Evans conveyed to Kite.  So we know that the Kite land is the original Evans Station land.  Eventually, Thomas Haynes’ descendants include Dru Haynes, after whom Dru Haynes Road is named today, running along the east side of Dodson Creek.

In 1813, George Kight Sr. sells 200 acres to Henry Louderback described as lying on both sides of the west fork of Dodson Creek on Evans old line on the southeast side of the creek.  Today’s Louderback Creek was originally known as Dodson Creek.

raleigh-kite-cem-map

An 1826 deed refers to the heirs of Daniel Cyster, deceased.  One John Dodson obtained a grant that bordered Cyster’s land and refers to Mark Mitchell’s land grant.

In 1806, Raleigh Jr. sells his father’s land.

January 29, 1806 – Rawleigh Dodson to James Breeden, both of Hawkins County for $500, 150 acres in Hawkins County on the south side of Holston, Lazarus Dodson’s line (refers to the original grant 537, dated Nov. 26, 1781 and registered in Hawkins County March 2, 1793), witness Richard Mitchell, Thomas Murrell.

Followed by:

To all whom these presents…I, Mary Dodson, widow and relict of Rawleigh Dodson decd do for a valuable consideration relinquish and quit claim my right, title…to the before described tract of land this <blank> day of 1806.  Witness Thomas Murrell, William (x) Jeffer, Rawleigh Dodson ack Feb 1806 and proved by William Jeffer and Raleigh Dodson registered August 20, 1806.

And then in deed book 6, page 139:

April 2, 1806 – James Breeden having bought of Raleigh Dodson a tract where on said Dodson now lives on the south side Holston River, 150 acres beginning in old line of Lazarus Dodson acd February 24 last by Dodson and Sarah Dodson in Hawkins court to said Breeden with John Saunders hereby assigns his interest in said land under a bond for $6000.  Witness Mark Goldsberry, Co? Foster

John Saunders signs off because this is Raleigh’s original land and John is married to Raleigh’s daughter.

August 20, 1806, transaction date January 29, 1806 – James Breeden from Raleigh Dodson 4-154 for $500 grant 537, 150 acres, original grant lines – Begin at Lazarus Dodson’s line run along same, east 100 poles to hickory, south 126 poles.

December 2, 1808 – Raleigh Dodson to James Breeden, for 150 pounds, the land lying below Dodson’s Ford on the south side of Holston beginning on the river bank at an elm and white walnut sprout on Elisha Dodson’s line, then with said line south 10 east 140 poles to a dogwood sapling and white oak on Lazarus Dodson’s line then north 70 east to Dodson’s Creek then north 94 poles to a white oak on the bank of the river then down the meandering of the river to the beginning.  Warranty and defending….as far as they may not interfere with the land of John Saunders and William Lawson…tract of land conveyed to my father at sheriff’s sale and I the said Raleigh Dodson having the said land devised to me do make over and convey my said right…”

Even though this deed is dated in December, it is submitted at the November Court and witnessed by A. Campbell and Thomas Jackson and ordered to be recorded.

raleigh-breeden-1808-deed

The January 1806 deed is very important, because it is the actual land Raleigh lived on, according to his will.  This deed tells us that Raleigh actually lived west of Dodson Creek, on the Holston, which makes sense when piecing the deeds of others in the neighborhood together.  We also know that Dodson Ford was on the west side of Dodson Creek, near but apparently not at the mouth of Dodson Creek, because the deeds never refer to the mouth of the creek.  This meshes with the 1808 land description.

Charles Campbell and Michael Roark lived in-between Raleigh Dodson and George Kite on Dodson Creek..  I would love to know exactly where.  There are three nice branches which would have been spring fed to the west of Dodson Creek and those branches are likely where Charles Campbell and Michael Roark lived.

One of those branches has this old bridge over Dodson Creek, leading to the field where the spring branch would be.  I suspect that Charles Campbell lived here.

raleigh-dodson-creek-campbell

Charles Campbell’s granddaughter married Raleigh Dodson’s grandson a generation later in Claiborne County. Relationships forged between families on Dodson Creek lasted for generations, even as those families continued the ever-westward migratory movement to new locations.

Raleigh’s Will

Raleigh seems to have still been actively engaged in his business in September of 1792.  Published in the Knoxville Gazette, which was published in Rogersville in its early years, I found an ad for R. Dodson, dated Sept. 8, 1792 stating:

The public are hereby informed that there is a FLAT kept at Dodson’s Ford on Holston where constant attendance will be given to convey passengers across the river.  R. Dodson, Sept. 6, 1792

Clearly sometime between September of 1792 and July of 1793, it became clear to Raleigh that his days were numbered.  Thank goodness he had a will, because we would have been quite lost without this record.

Source: Hawkins County Wills: Page 145

In the Name of God, Amen. I, Rawleigh Dodson Sr. being in an infirm state of health but of sound mind and considering that I may shortly leave this life, I have thought it necessary to make this my last Will & Testament, revoking all former wills by me made, and in the first place I resign myself to the disposal of my Creator hoping for mercy & forgiveness. In respect of my Earthly affairs, To my wife I leave and bequeath my whole Estate real & personal to her use during her natural life, after which I leave to my son Rawleigh Dodson the plantation on which I now live with all the appurtenances, also one other piece of land joining, butted and bounded as appears by the patent in my name, also all my working tools, horses, except a motherless colt, three cows with their calves, one feather bed with the furniture, half the pewter, and one half pot mettal, also what hay I may have remaining. To my grandchildren Mary and Nancy Shelton, the remainder of my cattle equally divided, also the remainder of the pewter and pot mettal to be equally divided between them, and to Mary Shelton one bed and furniture, also the motherless colt, one cotton and one linen wheel and half the cards, the other wheel & cards to Nancy. There is a bond due me of fifteen pounds from Henry Rowan to be collected and my debts paid out of it. Peggey Manafee my eldest daughter having by her husband obtained credit for sixty pounds for which I have his note, I hereby direct my Executor to give up said note. My sons Lazarus and Tolliver I have done a Fatherly part by and hereby acquit them of all demands that I may have against them. My daughter Nelly the wife of John Saunders I consider I have done enough for, having given her husband the land he now lives on. My son James to whom I have (already) given several things, I now bequeath my claim on Thos. Jackson for share of some land to be obtained by a warrant by me given to said Jackson to be laid on the halves provided said warrant obtains a title for land. Warrant was for 300 acres. I also appoint my son Lazarus and my neighbor Rodham Kenner my Executors and do authorize and direct them to put this my said Will & Testament into effect. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal This 20th day of July A.D. 1793._Rawleigh x Dodson (seal) (his mark) _Test. Thos. Jackson Rodham Kenner Mary x Shelton (her mark)

Raleigh wrote his will on July 20, 1793.  The date of probate is not known, but indications are that he was alive in Nov. 1794 when he and his son James sold tracts of 40 and 110 acres to Robert Brown (Hawkins deeds 2-328 and 2-329).  This land may have involved the join patent with Thomas Jackson referred to in Raleigh Dodson’s will, the land he left to his son James.

raleigh-will-page-1

raleigh-will-page-2

Raleigh’s will, above, was recopied into the will book after the Hawkins County courthouse burned in the Civil War.  The name Menasco was apparently misspelled or misinterpreted as Manafee.  An easy mistake to make, given that there were Manafee families in the county in the 1860s, and James Menasco had left in 1795 for Georgia after his wife died, so the name Menasco was unfamiliar in the county in the late 1860s.

Raleigh’s Wife, Mary

Raleigh Dodson does not name his wife in his will, but left to her his whole estate both real and personal during her lifetime “after which I leave to my son Rawleigh the plantation on which I now live and another piece adjoining”.  The adjoining land was that obtained from the sheriff in 1791.  Raleigh Dodson Jr, sold his father’s patent land to James Breeden on January 29, 1806 and we find the following as well:

‘I, Mary Dodson, widow and relict of Raleigh Dodson, decd, relinquish and quit claim my right, title and interest to this land.”  (Hawkins deed 4-154)

Giles County, Tennessee, Court records show that Mary Dodson, widow, was appointed administrator of the estate of Raleigh Dodson on September 7, 1815.

It has been speculated that the widow, Mary Dodson, may have gone with her son Raleigh Jr. to Alabama and then to Giles and Williamson Counties, TN.  There is one Raleigh Dodson on the Giles County tax list in 1812. Given that the court record says, “Mary Dodson, widow,” implying that she is the widow of Raleigh, whose estate she is being appointed administrator of, I am extremely doubtful that this is our Mary, widow of Raleigh who died in approximately 1794 in Hawkins County.  Raleigh’s estate had been resolved for years by 1815 and there was no need to appoint an administrator in Giles County. Furthermore, our Raleigh’s wife Mary would have been 85 or 86 by this time, a very unlikely candidate to be an estate administrator.

The Amis Store Ledger

In 1775, the grandparents of Davy Crockett settled in the Watauga colony in the area in what is today Rogersville near the spring that today bears their name. After an Indian attack and massacre, the remaining Crocketts sold the property to a Huguenot named Colonel Thomas Amis.

In 1780/1781, Colonel Amis built a fort at Big Creek, on the outskirts of the present-day Rogersville which was then in Sullivan County, NC.

That same year, about three and one-half miles above downtown Rogersville, Amis erected a fortress-like stone house around which he built a palisade for protection against Indian attack.  This is known as the Amis Stone House, shown below and here.

amis-house

The next year, Amis opened a store; erected a blacksmith shop; and built a distillery. Amis also eventually established a sawmill and a gristmill. From the beginning, Amis kept a house of entertainment which was also a stagecoach stop, a place for travelers to rest and spend the night as well as locals to gather.  Of course, it was a tavern too.

Built as a defensive garrison in addition to a trading post, the upper part of the house originally had rifleports instead of windows.  This speaks to the environment on the Holston in 1780 and 1781, when Raleigh Dodson and Thomas Amis began doing business.

Year’s later, Amis’ daughter Mary recalled that she frequently wakened to hear Indians grinding their knives and tomahawks on her father’s grindstone.

The view from Amis House is beautiful and is the vista Raleigh would have seen, overlooking Big Creek Valley.

raleigh-view-from-amis-house

By Brian Stansberry – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41895021

Thomas Amis also kept an account ledger book which is, thankfully, still in existence.  This is one of the only documents that shows who lived in this area in the early years.

Raleigh Dodson had an account with Amis.  The record book begins in 1782 with Raleigh’s account, as follows:

  • Oct 12, 1782 – to balance in settlement
  • November 20, 1782 – laying grubbin ghoe
  • April 8, 1783 – beating out plows
  • April 24, 1783 – 1 fish gigg, laying bar plow and coulter, 1.5 lb iron and mending gigg, sharpening plow, making Dutch plow
  • December – work on picks
  • January 3, 1784 – 1 gallon whisky
  • April 26, 1784 – whisky
  • Half Gallon whisky to Shelton
  • September 4, 1785 – balle in settlements
  • February 28, 1786 – half cow, 5 quarts whisky
  • December 24, 1786 – 1 gal whisky
  • January 20, 1787 – 1 pint whisky, half pint whisky
  • Undated – 3 pints whisky, half pint whisky
  • February 7, 1787 – 3 pints whisky
  • February 14, 1787 – half gallon whisky
  • March 8, 1787 – 1 quart whisky, 1 hank silk, to season mare, half pint whisky
  • May 5, 1788 – half pint whisky, 3 yards calamanco (a thin glossy woolen fabric often with stripes or checkered designs – you can see several examples here)
  • May 6, 1788 – 1 stock trist
  • 2 ballads(?)
  • July 10, 1788 – 1 pint whisky, sharpening plow
  • Sept 29, 1788 – 2 half pints whisky
  • October 28, 1788 – half pint whisky
  • November 5, 1788 – half pint whisky
  • March 24, 1789 – half pint fun (rum?)
  • April 12, 1789 – 1 quart whisky, half pint whisky, 1 quart whisky
  • July 5, 1789 – 1 gallon whisky
  • September 10, 1789 – 1 quart whiskey and jug
  • July 4, 1789 – 3 pints whisky

Mr. Rawly Dotson Credit

  • By Mabice (havice?)
  • By 1 skin
  • By 1 grindstone
  • By bale charged in new acct
  • By 24.25 bushels corn
  • By 2 days work

1788

  • March 28 – by 22 bushels corn
  • May 21 – By 2 days work
  • May 22 – by 5 bushels corn from W. Bell
  • October 10 – by 3 days work dressing the mill

1789

  • June 4 – by dressing mill
  • 10.6 carried to page 105

To balance brought forward from folio

  • June 22 – 4 gallon whisky, 1.25 gallons whisky

1789

  • August 4 – 1 bottle and whisky
  • Sept. 3 – 1 quart whisky
  • Sept 24 – half gallon whisky
  • Sept 25 – to shoeing horse for son James
  • Oct. 6 – making bar plow and finding iron, pinting (pointing) coulter, 3 quarts whisky from Sanders, half pint whisky, half pint whisky, three half pints whisky

1789 – Mr. Rawly Dotson credit

  • Aug. 14 – by cash
  • October 10 – by 2 bushels rye, by 206.5 pounds beef
  • Oct. 22 – by 1 peck wheat brought by William Payne Jr.
  • Oct 23 – by 10.5 bushels rye
  • Carried to folio 6 – 18.4

Mr. Rawly Dotson debit

1789 balance brought forward from folio

  • Nov. 4 – half pint whisky, 3 pints whisky, half pint whisky, half pint whisky
  • Nov. 9 – half pint whisky
  • Dec. 4 – making 33 nails and finding iron
  • Dec. 24 – 2 gallons whisky

1790

  • Jan 18 – half pint whisky, to ball in settlements, 2 half pints whisky, 2 pints whisky
  • Jan. 22 – to 15 paid for hackle, to one gander
  • April 23 – to able in whiskey

1789 – Mr. Rawly Dotson credit

  • Nov. 4 – by dressing mill, by 1 bushel rye
  • Nov. 9 – by one grindstone
  • Dec. 24 – by 2.25 bushel corn

1790

  • January 18– by 1 deerskin, by credit ammisted from 65 folio, by balee to charged to new acct
  • Jan. 22 – by 253 lb. port
  • 10.4 carried to folio

There are also much more abbreviated accounts for Talifero and Elisha in 1783 and Oliver and Lazarus in 1794.  Raleigh does not name a son, Elisha, in his will, but I would not be at all surprised to discover that Elisha had simply been omitted because his father had already seen to his inheritance and Elisha didn’t owe his father any debts.

Raleigh’s account tells the story of a farmer, and one who was probably very glad to have a resource to sharpen his plow blades, work on his picks and shoe his son’s horses.  I do wonder if the Shelton mentioned was the father of Raleigh’s granddaughters mentioned in his will.  It’s too bad there is no first name with Shelton.  A recheck of the Amis store accounts doesn’t show any Sheltons on the list of creditors.

Raleigh was also apparently a fisherman, judging by the fact that his fish gigg had to be mended which probably meant that he hit a rock when spearfishing.  Anyone carrying a fish gigg was in danger of being mistaken for the devil himself. Some giggs looked like pitchforks, and some looked more like barbed rakes. The photo below is from a museum and may well have looked similar to Raleigh’s gigg.

raleigh-fish-gigg

By Charlez k – Self-photographed, CC BY-SA 2.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7439566

Obviously, the Dodson family diet was varied with beef, wild game and fish.

It might appear that Raleigh drank a lot of whiskey.  I really do have to wonder if he had what would be termed today, “a drinking problem.”  However, given his ferry business, it’s also conceivable that Raleigh was selling whiskey, by the shot probably, to clients.  If he was a smart man, and one must presume he was simply to survive on the frontier, he would also have offered food and lodging to guests who needed to cross the river, along with livery service, taking care of and stabling their horses for the night.

So Raleigh’s whiskey may not have been all for himself…or maybe it was.

It seems that Raleigh traded “dressing the mill” for some of his purchases.

What is “Dressing the Mill”?

A mill used for grinding corn and grain must be dressed, usually once a year by a millstone “dresser.”  The stones ground themselves flat with usage, and the dresser would separate the upper and lower stones, and carve furrows in the stones in a prescribed pattern.  These furrows or grooves helped to direct the corn or other grain into and  through the millstones.

The furrow design is shown below.

raleigh-dressing

By Stevegray at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=728078

Dressing was often done in the dead of winter, or when the mill was otherwise closed to safeguard the secrets of crafting the mill.  This would also be the time when farmers like Raleigh would be less busy in the fields, so had time to dress the millstones.

The metal tools used to carve the furrows would often become imbedded in the mill dresser’s forearms.  Itinerant dressers would travel the countryside looking for temporary work, and the miller would ask the dresser to “show your mettle” which means rolling up his sleeves and showing his forearms to see if they looked slightly blue from an accumulation of iron splinters.  Of course, having these splinters didn’t mean you were a good dresser, only that you had some experience.

The photo below shows a contemporary stone dresser.

raleigh-stone-dresser

By Rasbak – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4492066

You can see a short video here.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/1rod/3610810417/

So, in addition to being a land speculator, a ferryman, a surveyor, a farmer and a fisherman, Raleigh was also a stone dresser.

Religion, or Lack Thereof

We don’t know anything about Raleigh’s religious beliefs, except that he was not a tee-totaller.  However, there is evidence of religious activity on the frontier, in churches in Hawkins County, and Raleigh is conspicuously absent – just as he is from the Broad Run Baptist Church .

The County Line Church in Hawkins County was constituted as “North on Holston” in March 1792 and while there are many Dodsons in evidence, Raleigh isn’t among them.  This church may have been too distant, being located on the north side of the Holston on the county line border between Hawkins and Grainger Counties.

However, the Big Creek meeting house that first met in June 1790 was held in what I believe was the location of the Amis Store.

Regardless, the “South Holston” appears in the Holston Association minutes in August of 1791 and included Jesse Dodson, William Murphy and George Evans as messengers.  In October 1792, there is a reference to Deader Creek Church whose messengers were the same William Murphy and George Evans as listed with Holston River, and I strongly suspect that “Deader Creek” is actually Dodson Creek – George Evans being the George Evans of Evan’s Station.

Of course, just because Raleigh didn’t take a leadership role as a messenger to the association didn’t mean he wasn’t a church member.  We do know that at least one of Raleigh’s son’s, Lazarus, took a leadership role in the Gap Creek Baptist Church in Claiborne County by 1805.

Raleigh’s brother, Lazarus, was a Baptist minister in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, as well.

Where is Raleigh Buried?

The good news, and bad news, is that there are few cemeteries in this area.  The Dodson Creek Cemetery, which was the location I initially suspected, is too far east and wasn’t established until 1831.  The deed is hanging on the cemetery fence, and the establishment date is on the stone, so obviously a lot of people ask.

raleigh-dodson-creek-cem

After working the deeds both forwards and backwards, in summary, I’ve found the following information about Raleigh’s land.  Remember, in the beginning when I told you Raleigh was messy – well, this is it!

  • Raleigh died in roughly 1794, leaving his home tract (presumed to be 150 acres and not the 300 acres total) and adjoining tract (or 163 acres) to son Raleigh.
  • Son Raleigh sold Raleigh’s original land to James Breeden on January 29, 1806, with Raleigh’s wife releasing her dower rights.
  • In 1816, James Breeden sold to James Saunders 120 acres of land on Dodson Creek.
  • In 1818, James Breeden sold 200 acres, 2 tracts of land to Samuel Smith, below Dodson Ford, abutting both Elisha Dodson and Lazarus Dodson’s lines.

Unfortunately, neither of these Breeden deeds match the 150 acres that Raleigh Dodson owned, but in the end, it doesn’t matter, because of what eventually happens.

  • James Sanders is the father of John Ross Sanders, born in 1815, and who inherited the land that his father James owned. John Ross Sanders is buried in the Sanders Cemetery, located at the bend in Dodson Ford Road (today Old Tennessee 70) directly “above” the Dodson Ford and where the old bridge was located.  The location of the cemetery is shown below, in green.

raleigh-sanders-cem-map

  • In 1844, James Sanders sold 184 acres to John R. Sanders at the mouth of Dodson Creek adjacent land of Peter Smith and others. John Ross Sanders dies in 1861 and is buried on his land.  His widow, Martha sells the land in 1874 to her daughter, Lucy, and son-in-law, James H. Vance, who are also buried in the Sanders Cemetery.
  • In 1818, Samuel Smith sold 160 acres on Dodson Creek to Henry Chesnutt described as below a large spring running into the creek, the road from Dodson Ford to Campbell (although Campbell is not clear) along said road to Smith’s meadow, across the bottom field, the Holston river below the mouth of Dodson Creek.
  • In 1819, Henry Chessnut sold to John A. McKinney 160 acres at Dodson’s Ford, west ?, south Dodson Creek leads from Dodson Ford to Knoxville, heirs of Samuel Smith, black walnut below mouth of Dodson Creek.

Unfortunately, this Chesnutt sale makes tracking Raleigh’s land even more difficult, because Lazarus sold his land adjoining Raleigh’s and John Sanders to James Chesnutt, so the Chesnutt family is deeply interwoven into this area.

  • In 1855, Charles A. McKinney and John Netherland, executors of the estate of John A. McKinney, sold to John Reynolds for $750 the land on the south side of Holston on the waters of Dodson creek adjoining land of John Reynolds, Peter Smith and others, begin at a black oak, west on the bank of Dodson Creek below the spring S46W134 poles to oak on bank line then with line 40W154p to road leading from Dodson’s Ford to Knoxville then with said road NE112P along said road to upper end meadow owned by John Reynolds at end of ditch made by John McKinney then on ditch north across bottom to walnut to bank of sluice then across sluice and NW to lower end of island at sycamores then up river to upper point of island then across sluice to SE course to mouth of Dodson creek, to then to the beginning, 163 acres – including the island immediately below Dodson’s Ford, half of which the said John Reynolds now owns.

This 163 acres is probably the same 163 acres that Raleigh purchased in 1791, adjoining his original land grant tract.  Below Dodson’s Ford would have meant downriver.  Dodson Ford would have been on Raleigh’s original land grant, not the land he bought in 1791.

Chili Sanders said that some of the islands washed away years ago in a flood. If these islands still exist today, they would include Arnott’s island and it would put Dodson’s Ford above Arnott’s Island, at the mouth of Dodson Creek – which is not mentioned in Raleigh’s deeds.  So it’s likely that Dodson’s Ford was actually just below Arnott’s Island today – and those other islands indeed washed away.

  • A clue to where John Reynolds obtained his land is found in this 1835 deed from James Smith wherein he deeds the land his father Samuel Smith died with, on the Holston River between Honeycutt Creek and Dodson creek – only the land of the heirs of Joshua Smith below and John A. McKInney above, and others, about 290 acres, half part James Smith is entitled to until death of his mother and then entitled to half of all land, which would be 109 acres all of which I sell my interest in.
  • In 1841, John Reynold sells some land to John Leonard and in 1855, John Leonard sells land to Valentine D. Arnott adjoining Peter Smith’s land, Isaac Louderback and others.

The land along Dodson Creek became unbelievably divided and convoluted. Many deeds don’t include the number of acres which makes identifying the land, unless there are metes and bounds that can be matches to earlier deeds, nearly impossible.  Samuel Smith died and his heirs had intermarried with the Chesnutts, Sanders, Reynolds and other local families.  People lost their land.  Land became divided between heirs.  Heirs bought other heirs land.  Divorces and remarriages happened. In at least one case, a deed was ordered to be recorded, and never way.  And of course, the courthouse burned during the Civil War.  Other than all of that, the land was easy to track.

However, eventually, the land coalesces once again.  By 1943, the Arnott and Bradshaw families owns all of this land in question.  As it turns out, the Arnott family sold the land to the Bradshaws, so all of this land at one time belonged to the Arnott family.

  • In a 1936 deed from J. F. Arnott to R. M. Bradshaw, the road crossing the bridge is referred to as 66 and 70 and the road from Rogersville to Greenville (70) and the road from Rogersville to Bulls Gap (66). It also refers to a deed from Hugh Chesnut and wife.
  • On December 26, 1889, Hugh Chesnutt and wife sold to W. D and J. F. Arnott 109.75 acres adjoining the land of John R. Sanders…Dodson’s Creek…Dru Haynes corner, stake in Dodson’s Ford road…tract from R. H. Reynolds to Hiloh Chesnut.
  • 1884 deeds from Hugh Chesnut and wife refer to one third undivided interest in land on Dodson Ford Road.
  • In 1895, Hugh Chesnutt and wife Hilary, W. H. Reynolds and wife Lucy, John R. Sanders, Nola Sanders and Mary Wolsey Smith share in three tracts of land – one of which is the John Ross Sanders land, the second appears to be on Dodson Creek but further north, near the Kites and D.L. Haynes and the third is their interest in the estate of John R. Sanders, decd.

Eventually, all of these people would sell to the Arnott family, according to the 1943 map.

It’s telling that in 1850, John Ross Sanders neighbor is Valentine Arnott.

raleigh-1850-hawkins-census

Therefore, all pointers suggest, strongly, that the John Ross Sanders cemetery is also where his father, James Sanders who reportedly died in 1863 is buried as well.

If indeed this is the land owned by Raleigh Dodson, it’s also likely where he is buried too.  Family cemeteries didn’t tend to disappear entirely, they tended to enlarge and were sometimes “renamed” to reflect the surname of the next family that owned the land.

raleigh-sanders-land-map

The John Sanders property is located on the east side of Dodson Creek on Sanders Road, shown above.  The original home is gone now, but there does not appear to be a cemetery on that land either, so John Sanders and Nellie are probably buried in the Sanders Cemetery on Old Tennessee 70 – the little green spot at left.

The Sanders cemetery is also located on the only readily available high ground.  The land on the north side of the road, formerly called Dodson Ford Road, between the railroad and the Holston River is too low and floods.  No family would bury someone where their grave would flood.

The only other reasonable possibility would be the Kite Cemetery, which is significantly further south, or possibly a now lost cemetery.

My bet is that not only is Raleigh buried in the Sanders Cemetery, but he lived on this land as well. He would assuredly have lived as close as he could to Dodson Ford, with quick access to the Holston, but far enough away that his home didn’t flood.  The Sanders Cemetery and surrounding land fits the bill exactly.

Sanders Cemetery

When I visited Hawkins County in August 2009, it was beastly hot, but Chili Sanders, a local firefighter and also a descendant of Raleigh Dodson, was kind enough to take me up to the Sanders Cemetery early one Sunday morning, while the temperature was only in the 80s, before it got hot.

FindAgrave has mislabeled the Sanders Cemetery as the Reynolds Cemetery and shows no internments, which is incorrect on both counts.

However, cemetery information obtained at the Hawkins County archives shows the Sanders Cemetery, #158, correctly and with directions.  “Take Highway 70 south from Rogersville, turn left after crossing the Hugh B. Day Bridge.  Cemetery is located on hill to the right after the railroad crossing.”  That’s exactly right.

When I visited in 2009, the cemetery was almost impenetrable, and were it not for Chili knowing exactly where to go and how to get in, finding and accessing this cemetery would have been nearly impossible.  Ok, scratch nearly.

raleigh-sanders-cem

This is the entrance and this is partway up the “hill” at the bend in Old Tennessee 70 just east of the railroad track.  We climbed the fence and hiked up the hill.  Chili assured me he had the property owner’s permission, and believe me, I prayed that he did and they didn’t forget.  Thankfully, everyone knows Chili, so long as they didn’t shoot first.  Overgrown cemeteries on private property in remote mountain locations in Appalachia are not someplace you really want to be discovered by unhappy property owners.

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The earliest marked burial is John Ross Sanders who died in 1861.

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This grave is probably marked because John’s wife, Martha, didn’t pass away until 1911.  She outlived John by 50 years and two months and remarried to a Smith.

raleigh-chili-sanders

Chili Sanders standing above the grave of James H. Vance born February 5, 1807 and died in 1884.  James was the son-in-law of John Ross Sanders and married to John’s daughter, Lucy. I look at Chili and wonder if he looks anything like Raleigh Dodson.

raleigh-james-vance

There are very few gravestones, but the cemetery itself is not small.

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There are many unmarked graves beneath the vegetation. You can see and feel them, meaning the sunken ground, and sometimes see the fieldstones peeking through the vegetation.

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I tripped over a few fieldstones buried in the underbrush which were in all probability, gravestones, and felt awful.  I wonder if that was Raleigh trying to get my attention.  “Hey, I’m here!!!”

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Thank goodness there were no snakes.

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Some portions of the cemetery were simply inaccessible.

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I would very much like to set a Revolutionary War stone for Raleigh in this location, near Dodson’s Ford, on land he assuredly owned. It pains my heart that Raleigh doesn’t have a gravestone.

Raleigh’s Children

Raleigh had several children, and were it not for his will, we’d have to do a lot of speculating.  Children as named in Raleigh’s will:

  • Rawleigh Dodson Jr
  • Grandchildren Mary and Nancy Shelton
  • Nelly, wife of John Saunders
  • James Dodson
  • Peggy Manafee (Margaret Dodson Manasco)
  • Lazarus Dodson
  • Toliver (Oliver) Dodson

Elisha is not named in Raleigh’s will, and is entirely speculative, based on the fact that he appeared with Raleigh and his children and owned land adjacent to both Lazarus and Raleigh.  If Elisha is Raleigh’s son, Raleigh had obviously already provided for him, and he owned Raleigh no debts to be forgiven.

  • Elisha Dodson (speculative)

If Elisha wasn’t Raleigh’s son, who was he?

You can read more about Raleigh’s children in Raleigh’s wife Mary’s article.

DNA

One of the traits that seems to be inherited by Dodson descendants is the love of genealogy.  Perhaps the fact that the Reverend Silas Lucas devoted so many years to Dodson research, so it’s relatively easy to track your lines has something to do with the popularity of Dodson family genealogy.

There also seems to be a disproportionate number of Dodson autosomal DNA matches as well.  I’m not sure if this is because the early Dodson’s were very prolific, producing a large number of descendants today, or if the Dodson DNA is particularly hearty (nah), or if the fact that the Dodson Lucas genealogy legacy produces a lot of trees, enabling people to connect their trees after DNA connects their genes. Probably the result of the first and third options.

At Ancestry.com, I have 387 DNA matches with whom I share a common ancestor is a tree.  Of those, 11 descend from George Dodson and Margaret Dagord through 5 separate sons.   Thirteen DNA matches descend from George’s parents, Thomas Dodson and Dorothy Durham through 5 separate sons.  Two descend directly from Raleigh through son, Toliver and son James.  I’m not counting my direct cousins through my own line.

That’s 7% of my matches from the Dodson line alone, which is a bit high, considering that I have 64 great-great-great-great-grandparents and Raleigh is one generation beyond that at my GGGGG-grandfather.

I think this is proof positive that a well-researched genealogy, in print, in one form or another, has a HUGE effect on the number of DNA-plus-tree matches you’ll receive on that line. It’s also evidence of why accurate research is so important.  Otherwise, everyone will put erroneous information into all their trees, and then will believe that because they match so many other people with the same trees, that they must all be correct and DNA confirms the genealogy.

That’s isn’t the case.

Ancestry matches your DNA and then, if you have a common ancestor identified in both your trees, even if they are erroneous in the same way, displays your common ancestor for you to view.  So just be wary of common mistakes and assuming that a DNA match validates genealogy as written.  It doesn’t.  You can both simply be wrong in the same way – and this most often happens when people copy trees without individually scrutinizing and verifying information and documentation.

raleigh-common-ancestor

It’s fun to see how you connect to common ancestors.

In Summary

Raleigh led an incredible life.  He lived in 3 states plus the wild State of Franklin and the Territory South of the Ohio.  He lived on and helped forge at least two frontiers.  When Raleigh moved to the Holston River in what would become Hawkins County, he was approaching the half-century mark, and in addition to homesteading, he would yet fight in the Revolutionary War.

Raleigh was clearly a multi-talented jack-of-all-trades; a skilled ferryman, a land surveyor and a stone dresser, in addition to being a hunter, fisherman and a farmer.  Of course, everyone on the frontier was a farmer, or you didn’t eat.

In addition to those skills, Raleigh was a Patriot and served in the Revolutionary War.  When Raleigh was discharged in 1783, he was certainly not a young man at age 53. He served with his son, Lazarus.  Lazarus and Raleigh were apparently very close.  Not only did they serve in the war together, they also applied for side-by-side land grants and lived on the Holston River between Honeycutt Creek and Dodson Creek together until after Raleigh passed away, probably in 1794.

Raleigh apparently did not apply for land as payment for his Revolutionary War service, but his son, Lazarus did.  Raleigh appeared to be quite savvy and didn’t seem like a man to leave much laying on the table in terms of what was due to him, so I wonder if there are transactions yet to be found, or he sold his Revolutionary War land claim before it was registered in his name.

A decade after his discharge, Raleigh was writing his will in Hawkins County on Dodson Creek where he and his son, James, made a final land sale in 1794.

Sometime after that, Raleigh passed away and his son, Raleigh, and his wife, Mary, lived on his land for the next dozen years, when the scene fades to black in 1808.

Today, Raleigh’s descendants still live along Dodson Creek – Chili Sanders being descended through daughter Nellie who married John Saunders/Sanders.

raleighs-turkeys

Chili was gracious enough during my visits to invite me to visit his home and allowed me to photograph his land – the same land that John Saunders owned which was obtained from Raleigh. So this was originally Raleigh’s land.  If you look closely, you can see turkeys in the distance, at the bottom of the hill, across the fence line. Raleigh probably looked out and saw turkeys too, and deer, and bobcat, and fox and wolves. Raleigh would have thought this was his lucky day!  “Hey Mary, turkey for dinner!”

This land wouldn’t have been cleared when Raleigh settled here, but Raleigh and his sons and son-in-laws, and their descendants for generations have cleared the land and forged a life from what was once unbroken wilderness – along Raleigh’s namesake Dodson Creek.

Indeed, Raleigh “showed us his mettle.”

Acknowledgements

Much of the information about the early Dodson lines, specifically prior to Raleigh, comes from the wonderful two volume set written by the Reverend Silas Lucas, published originally in 1988, titled The Dodson (Dotson) Family of North Farnham Parish, Richmond County, Virginia – A History and Genealogy of Their Descendants.

I am extremely grateful to Reverend Lucas for the thousands of hours and years he spent compiling not just genealogical information, but searching through county records in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and more.  His work from his first publication in 1958 to his two-volume set 30 years later in 1988 stands as a model of what can and should be done for each colonial family – especially given that they were known to move from state to state without leaving any type of “forwarding address” for genealogists seeking them a few hundred years later.  Without his books, Dodson researchers would be greatly hindered, if not entirely lost, today.

Update

In August 2017, Doug Jenkins, another researcher provided me with the following research, probably shedding light on Raleigh’s granddaughter Mary Shelton:

Internet researchers – with no source data – claim that James Chesnutt’s wife was Mary Dodson.  I doubt that because James Chesnutt wasn’t in the right place at the right time to have married a Dodson.  However, the name Raleigh does become in regular usage in the 3rd generation of Hawkins Co Chesnutts.  I think the name entered the family through the marriage of Hugh Chesnutt to Mary Shelton about 1800.  That is likely the Mary Shelton named as a grand daughter in Raleigh’s Will.  In 1850, a William Shelton left a Will in Hawkins County, Tennessee naming his sister, Polly Chesnutt, among other heirs.  I think the family is enumerated in 1850 in the Dodson Ford area and Mary Chesnutt (widow of Hugh) is enumerated with her son William Chesnutt.  Also in the household is a William “Chesnutt”, but that must be William Shelton b. 1785 in Virginia mistakenly called Chesnutt by the census taker.  By reading his Will, it would appear that William Shelton was an old bachelor.  This is consistent with the 1840 census data also, because there were 2 males born in the 1770’s in Hugh Chesnutt’s household.