Jane, sometimes known as Jenny Dobkins was born around 1780 someplace in Virginia to Jacob Dobkins and his wife, Dorcas Johnson.
Local Claiborne County, Tennessee, attorney and historian, P.G. Fulkerson (1840-1929), recorded his memories of the relationships of the early pioneer families which were later published in the local newspapers and historical society bulletins under the name of both “P. G. Fulkerson Papers” and “Early Settlers of Claiborne County.” P. G. would have been about 20 years old when Jane Dobkins Campbell died. If he didn’t know her, her certainly knew of her.
P. G. said:
Jacob Dobbins (sic)…children were Elizabeth who married George Campbell, Solomon married Nancy Adams, Jane married John Campbell, Jacob, Reuben, George married Nancy Parks, John and Peggy.
Jane’s birth year is as reliable as the 1850 Claiborne County census, which we all know is a “somewhat reliable” source.
In 1850, Jane is living with her son, Jacob Campbell and 70 years old would put her birth in about 1780.
Jane is found in the 1860 Claiborne County non-population census, known as the agricultural census, taken on June 1st, providing us with very interesting information about her agricultural possessions:
- 75 acres of land, 57 unimproved (Wow, she’s living off of only 18 acres and likely has been her entire life.)
- $1000 cash value of land, $30 value of farm equipment
- 4 horses, no asses or mules, 2 milch cows, 2 working oxen, 5 other cattle, 17 sheep, 25 swine, all of which were valued together at $496
- 63 bushels of wheat
- No rye
- 350 bushels of Indian corn
- 30 bushels of oats
- No rice or tobacco
- No ginned cotton
- 29 pounds of wool
- No peas or beans
- 10 bushels of Irish potatoes (white potatoes)
- 15 bushels of sweet potatoes
- No barley, buckwheat, orchard products, wine or other market garden produce
- No cheese, hay, clover, grass, hops, hemp, flax, flaxweed or silk
- 150 pounds of butter
- 29 pounds of maple sugar
- 30 gallons of molasses
- No cane sugar or beeswax
- 34 pounds of honey
- $30 value of homemade manufactures (not sure what this would be)
- $75 value of animals slaughtered
The photos of Jane’s land, today, show that it’s extremely hilly. Look at the mountain behind the house.
But, it has a good spring!
The spring emerges from the earth beneath the rock pile in front of the trees, shown below. A fresh spring, meaning clean uncontaminated water was the single most important aspect of scouting for land.
Obviously, part of Jane’s land was farmable – but I’m shocked to realize how much wasn’t. It wasn’t lying fallow because it was noted as unimproved which means there were trees standing and it had simply never been converted into farmable land – if it even could be. Looking at the steep incline, that’s very questionable.
The agricultural census allows us a different kind of glimpse into Jane’s life. One thing becomes immediately apparent – at age 80 she could not have possibly performed all of the work necessary to plant, cultivate, harvest and process the items on the list above.
Interestingly, Jane isn’t found in the 1860 regular census. She would have been approximately 80 years of age. It has been presumed that she died between 1850 and 1860, but given that other estates of deceased people in the agricultural census are listed as owned by the heirs, Jane must have been living as of the census date. I wonder how she was missed in the regular census which was supposed to have been recorded “as of” the same date. She definitely is not listed living with Jacob Campbell in 1860 as she was in 1850.
Perhaps she died right around this time and was recorded on one form, but not the other.
Not only don’t we know exactly when Jane died, although at this point, I’d presume sometime in 1860, but we also don’t know exactly where she is buried.
Jane was married to John Campbell, but there doesn’t appear to be a Campbell Cemetery from this early date. It’s possible of course that she and John are buried in what eventually became the Liberty Cemetery, above their home, in unmarked graves. The earliest marked grave at Liberty dates from 1889 with the burial of Daniel Jones, but the marker is contemporary.
If they are not buried in the Liberty Cemetery, then Jane and John are both likely buried in the beautiful Dobkins/Campbell Cemetery on her father’s original land which has remained in the family for more than 200 years.
The Dobkins/Campbell cemetery where Jane probably rests with her parents overlooks “Little Ridge” in the distance that separated her home from that of her parents.
While today one travels the roads, in years past, there were shortcuts over the ridge between the properties. John Campbell and Jane Dobkins lived “above” current day Liberty Church, which didn’t exist then, and Jacob Dobkins lived on what is today the private road called A. L. Campbell Lane.
Back then, there was assuredly a direct route over the hills through those passes to Jacob’s house.
What else do we know about Jane?
While we don’t know exactly when or where Jane was born, we do have some fascinating clues.
We know that Jane’s father, Jacob Dobkins, states in his Revolutionary War pension application that he enlisted in May of 1779 and resided at the time in Harrodsburg, Kentucky.
Jacob provides further details of where he served until August of 1781, so it’s likely that Jane was born in 1779 or perhaps early in 1780. Jane’s mother, Dorcas, could have been pregnant when Jacob enlisted. If Jane wasn’t born by February of 1780, then she probably wasn’t born until at least May of 1782, 9 months after Jacob returned home from the Revolutionary War. It’s unlikely that Jane was born after 1780, because all 3 census records agree that she was born between 1770 and 1780.
Jane is reported by many researchers to have been born in Dunsmore County, now Shenandoah County, Virginia, but based on Jacob’s 1779 enlistment, the Dunsmore County location is at least somewhat questionable. Was Jacob living in Harrodsburg alone when he enlisted? It’s possible, but then his wife could not have gotten pregnant during that timeframe.
Harrodsburg was one of the first 3 settlements in Kentucky, established in 1774, abandoned the following year due to Indian raids, then re-established in 1776. Harrodsburg is considered to be the oldest city in Kentucky and the oldest permanent American settlement west of the Appalachians. Jane may have been born there.
Keep in mind that at that time, neither Kentucky nor Tennessee was yet a state, and that part of the country was indeed Virginia, which is where Jane’s 1850 birth location is given after “Tennessee” was marked through.
In 1788, we find Jacob purchasing land in Washington County, Virginia, but the family might never have lived there. The boundaries of Washington County were vast at that time.
In 1789, when Jane would have been about 9 years old, Jacob, signed a petition to the state of North Carolina submitted by the residents living south of the French Broad River, somewhat of a no-mans land; not Virginia, not North Carolina and not yet Tennessee either. These people, most of whom had once been living in the by-then-defunct “State of Franklin” were asking for assistance – or more specifically, protection from the Indians – a plea that was denied by the North Carolina legislature.
Many years of Jane’s life are missing, but we know that regardless of where the family was residing in 1789, in the 1790 census, Jacob is listed in Shenandoah County, Virginia with 8 people in his household. Did he move back, or did his wife and children never leave? That’s hard to imagine, especially since he had several children. Proximity is required for that to occur.
In 1794, Jacob is listed in Washington County, Virginia in a lawsuit with John Sevier, the eventual governor of Tennessee. In 1795, Jacob is deposed in Shenandoah County, VA. Of course, he didn’t necessarily live there at the time, and he was clearly a woodsman, comfortable with rough, mountainous travel. I do believe this man had a case of wanderlust!
On March 12, 1795, Jacob bought land on the Whitestone Fork of Bent Creek in what was then Jefferson County of the Territory South of the River Ohio, on land where he would live as Tennessee emerged as a state in 1796 and until Jacob moved to Claiborne County by 1801.
This is the land where Jane would have grown up, or at least finished growing up. In 1795, she would have been about 15 and approaching “courting age.” By 1800, she was likely already married.
Unfortunately, these photos were taken during a trip years ago and I wrote on the backs before I knew better.
Jane would have blossomed into a young woman here, meeting John Campbell as his family came and went up and down the main road. Perhaps she and her sister coyly flirted, waving as the Campbell men passed by in their wagon or on their horses. Perhaps John and George tipped their hats, finding every excuse possible to ride up and down that road, eventually falling in love with the Dobkins sisters.
The Charles Campbell family didn’t live far away in Hawkins County.
From the Whitehorn Branch of Bent Creek to the area where Charles Campbell owned land, near the ferry crossing the Holston River, would have been approximately 8 miles via the main road.
The Dobkins sisters would have married the Campbell brothers in Hawkins County.
The land that Charles Campbell deeded jointly to sons George and John in 1793 could have been a wedding gift to both boys. Did they have a double wedding, marrying the Dobkins sisters? We simply don’t know. Many records are burned or otherwise nonexistent.
We can only imagine what a joyful day this must have been for both families!
A Permanent Home in Claiborne County, Tennessee
By 1801, Jacob Dobkins was in Claiborne County, and on February 26, 1802, John and his brother George Campbell, married to Jane’s sister Elizabeth, both sold the land they jointly owned in Hawkins County, originally sold to them by their father, Charles Campbell in 1793. Both John and George Campbell appeared in Claiborne County near Jacob Dobkins. On May 1, 1802, John Campbell purchased land.
On the map above, George Campbell’s land is at left, Jacob Dobkins’ land at right and John Campbell’s below – all roughly 3 miles apart as the crow flies.
By 1802, based on later records of their children, we know that Jane had at least one child, Jacob Campbell, who was born about 1801. Jane and John would have married in 1800 or earlier in Hawkins County. Perhaps she rode in the wagon from Hawkins County to Claiborne with an infant on her lap, pregnant for the next family member.
Based on what we know, Elizabeth’s birth year is reasonably well confirmed in 1780 or earlier, although it’s certainly possible that Jane was somewhat older and had borne several children by 1800.
From 1802 until her death about 1860, for 58 years, it appears that Jane lived on the land she and John purchased on Little Sycamore Road in Claiborne County, just above the Liberty Church and below the Liberty Cemetery today.
The changes that woman must have seen!
The arrow points to the Campbell home. The church is the brown building in the left lower corner, and the Liberty cemetery is the loop road in the upper right.
Looking down at the house from Liberty Cemetery, on top of the ridge behind the house.
Years later, Jane and John’s descendants donated an acre of land for Liberty Church, and later yet, gave land for Liberty Cemetery.
Looking south at the back of Liberty Church from the Campbell homestead.
Over the decades, Liberty Cemetery has become a neighborhood burying ground. If you could see “over yonder,” across the hills, you would see Jacob Dobkins land in the distance.
George Campbell’s homestead is over yonder in this photo, as is the Estes land. Jane raised granddaughter Ruthy Dodson after Ruthy’s mother, Elizabeth Campbell Dodson, died. Ruthy married John Y. Estes in 1841. He probably came calling, walking right across these bothersome “hills” that stood in the way between him and his sweetheart.
Maybe Jane was tired – tired of migrating from place to place as a child on what was then the westernmost frontier. Tired of fearing for her life from Indian raids. Or simply tired of moving and the instability therein.
Regardless of the motivation, the two Campbell brothers with their Dobkins wives bought land in Claiborne County and never sold it nor moved. They put down roots, deep roots. Jacob Dobkins may have been an adventurer in the walkabout generation, but his daughters and sons-in-law clearly were not.
Jane Dobkins and John Campbell probably built this house, or at least the central core cabin, with their own hands. The owners told us that a small log cabin was in the center of this house, along with a “hidden room” beneath the foundation.
Perhaps memories of spending long nights hidden in fear for your life were all-too-present for Jane.
I love these original stone steps leading into the original cabin door of the home. Jane and John built this, log by log and nail by nail. Jane stepped through this door, on these steps, every single day.
The Vintage Tour
I was fortunate to visit several years ago and the owners were gracious enough to permit us to walk around and view the home’s exterior.
In 1830, John and Jane were both enumerated on the census as age 50-60, so born between 1770-1780.
John and Jane raised their children in this home on Little Sycamore, but in 1838, John Campbell died at about 66 years of age. The local carpenter built his casket, as recorded in his estate inventory, and John was laid to rest, leaving Jane to manage a farm.
In 1840, Jane was enumerated as the head of household, age 60-70 (so born 1770-1780), living with 2 other people, a male 10-15 and a female 15-20. These were probably her grandchildren through daughter Elizabeth who had died around 1830. Those grandchildren were probably a great comfort and help to Jane who must surely have been feeling her accumulating years.
By 1850, Jane was living with her eldest son, although they could all have been living on the old home place which fortunately, still stands.
Walk around with me.
It’s easy to see as additions were made to the original home.
Beside the house, this spring nourished Jane and all of her children for her entire adult life.
There was probably an empty hollowed-out gourd left by the spring for all to use as a cup. Dip, drink and enjoy the wonderful cool water emerging from mother earth in the sheltering shade of the old trees.
I can close my eyes and see Jane walking to this spring several times each day. Furthermore, her milk and butter would have been put in a pool of the cool spring water to keep the milk from spoiling and the butter from going rancid. Water emerging from the earth is a consistent refreshing 52 degrees.
Jane visited this life-sustaining spring for roughly 58 years, and of those, more than two decades were as a widow.
At the end of her years, Jane probably sat in the shade reflecting, remembering and hearing the echoes of the voices of her children from decades earlier as they splashed gleefully in the welcoming water. Those children, some gone from this earth, some gone from Tennessee, and some with adult children of their own had picked up the torch and moved on.
Jane, probably on the north side of 80 years old was ready to pass over and join John.
Jane Dobkins Campbell’s Children
All known children of Jane “Jenny” Dobkins Campbell were born in Claiborne County, Tennessee.
- Jacob Campbell born about 1801 married Temperance Rice about 1820 and died in 1879/80 in Collin County, TX having 8 children, 5 males and 3 females.
- Elizabeth Campbell, my ancestor, born about 1802, married Lazarus Dodson about 1820 and moved to Alabama. She died sometimes between 1827 and 1830, possibly in Alabama, having 4 children, 2 males and 2 females. Lazarus moved back to Tennessee with the children, including Ruthy Dodson.
- Rutha or Ruthy Dodson (1820-1903) married John Y. Estes and had 5 daughters, including Elizabeth Estes (1851-1946) who married William George Vannoy and moved to Nocona, Texas. Elizabeth had two daughters, Doshia Phoebe Vannoy (1875-1972) who married James Matthew Hutson and Eliza “Louisa” Vannoy who married Joe Robert Miller.
- Elmira Campbell was born about 1804 and died after 1839 but before 1850. She was mentioned in John Campbell’s estate settlement in 1839 and was married to John Pearson, having at least 5 children, 2 females and 3 males. One daughter is possibly Catherine Pearson who was born in 1825 and married Walter Davis in 1842, having daughters herself.
- Jane Campbell was born about 1807 and died in Texas. She apparently had one child but not by Johnson Freeman who she married about 1829 and was divorced from two years later. See a future article about Jane.
- Martha Campbell born in 1807/1808 married about 1827 to Elisha Jones. She died after 1850 in Coles County, Illinois, having 9 children, 4 males and 5 females including Mary Ann Jones born about 1833, Elizabeth Jones born about 1836, Martha Jones born about 1839, Susan Jones born about 1843 and Margaret Jones born about 1847.
- Rutha (also called Mahala) Campbell born about 1808, married Preston Holt about 1827 and died after 1870 in Grainger County, TN, having 12 children, 6 males and 6 females including Eliza Louvesta Holt born in 1828/1829 and married Hugh Bray, Matilda Holt born about 1837 and married James Alexander Willis, Nervesta Holt born about 1842 and married Anderson Kingsolver, Malissa Holt born about 1842 and married James M. Brewer, Clemantine Holt born about 1843 and Minerva Holt born about 1849.
- George Washington Campbell was born in 1813 and married initially to Nancy Eastridge, then about 1844 to Mary, surname unknown. He died sometime after 1870, probably in Denton County, Texas, the father of at least one son, John.
- William Newton Campbell was born on June 9, 1817, married about 1835 to Sydnia Holt and died on November 12, 1908 in Tillman Co., OK, having 12 children, 5 males and 7 females.
Given this information, Jane had at least 52 grandchildren and likely more since several are probably either unknown or died before they could be enumerated in the census.
Jane’s Mitochondrial DNA
You may wonder why I noted and bolded Jane Dobkins’ granddaughters through daughters but not males. Women contribute mitochondrial DNA to all of their offspring, but only the females pass it on. It’s not mixed with the DNA of the father, so the mitochondrial DNA passed down through all females to the current generation, which can be male, is that solely of our ancestor. In this case, that ancestor is Jane “Jenny” Dobkins who received it from her mother Dorcas Johnson.
We know almost nothing about Dorcas Johnson’s mother except her name which can’t be confirmed. Was she European or was she perhaps Native American? If she was from Europe, what part of Europe? What was her heritage before the reach of genealogical records?
Those are the answers held by mitochondrial DNA testing.
If you descend from Jane “Jenny” Dobkins who married John Campbell through all females to the current generation, which can be male, I have a free DNA testing scholarship for you. Simply add a comment to this article or e-mail me at robertajestes at att.net with “Jane Dobkins DNA” as the subject. Guaranteed, that will get my attention right away! 😊