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Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Whittingtons, Part 2: William and Richard

The second generation of Whittingtons, also spelled Whittenton or Whitenton, follows the thirteen children of James and Frances (Frankie) from North Carolina to Tennessee and Texas. It is impossible to overstate the effect that the Civil War had on this generation, even if we do not have enough information to fully tell the tale. Those in Tennessee saw the war very close up, with enemy troops occupying their town, vicious battles happening just a few miles from them, having to endure incredible privations and economic hardships. Those in North Carolina had fighting going on around them and touching their lives in terrible ways as well, and those in Texas, while they may not have seen the carnage of battle, lost loved ones and were affected economically as well. This is Part 2 of the series.

Part 1: The James and Frankie Whittington Family
Part 3: Agnes and Telitha
Part 4: Gibson and Weston
Part 5: George, Solomon, and Othaneil
Part 6: Cason Coley, James Henderson, Quintillian, and Frances Ann

William Maynard Whittington

The eldest child of James and Frankie Whittington, William is something of an enigma. He was named after his maternal grandfather, William Maynard. Some family researchers say that he was married young, but no records have turned up to support that claim.

William was born 9 February 1799, probably in Johnston County, North Carolina. He was just nineteen months older than his next brother, and perhaps the two little boys grew up as playmates. They showed up together on the 1800 Census for Johnston County. The family was missing from that county in 1810 and the Wake County 1810 listing is itself missing, so perhaps that was where the family was living in 1810.

In 1820 William was a young man of 21, but he was still living with his parents and ten younger siblings, and probably he was helping his father with the farm work. If he was married, there is no female in the household who could have been his wife.

In 1823 William provided the bond for his sister Agatha to get married. Apparently the groom, Alexander S. Collins, did not have enough money to provide the bond himself.

William’s signature, at the bottom, shows that although he could write, he didn’t spell his name the same way that the clerk did. Instead, he wrote, “Wm M. Whitinton.”

In 1830 William would have been 31 years old. He does not seem to appear in the Census in North Carolina, unless he is mistakenly listed as being between 40 and 49 years old, which seems unlikely. In addition, if he were one of those listed, then his wife is likely older than he, and she and the children unaccountably disappear into thin air. And he would have had to have been married in his mid-teens, which is very uncommon, although not unheard of.

Sometime in the 1830s William migrated to Texas, a well-known migratory path for North Carolina farmers whose soil was worn out or who needed new resources. The many U.S. citizens who had moved there influenced their leaders to strike for independence from Mexico, which Texas achieved in 1836. Mexico continued to make war on Texas until the United States intervened in 1846. After Mexico was defeated, the United States annexed Texas. William acquired property in Victoria County on October 3, 1837. Perhaps he was among those who fought for Texas independence and later for its annexation by the United States. The next record known of William is a tax assessment for W.M. Wittenton for land in Victoria County, dated 1846.

The next official record we have is his probate file. He died when he was 49 or barely 50 years old, before March 1849, apparently alone. He was living in Victoria County, Texas, and had 320 acres of land on which he had a small herd of 27 head of cattle, 55 wild and tame hogs, some bees, a horse, a plow, and one double-barrel shotgun.

With no heirs or claimants, the estate was turned over to the sheriff in April 1849 to auction it off. The appraisal was about $700 including the land, but his personal property was worth only around $220 and at auction in mid-May 1849 brought in a little over $244. From the list of his belongings, he doesn’t appear to have had much of a domestic life. He owned a mattress, three blankets, a smoothing iron, and one pot. Those are all his household goods in the official inventory.

The probate file does not say what happened to William’s land, but other land records deal with the disposal of his 320 acres, the first being dated March 12, 1849, which is the earliest date for a record showing he was dead. Dates for the distribution of his land by deeds are on 4 June 1850, 25 June 1850, 12 February 1853, and 26 November 1853.

It is a sad ending for this eldest son, all alone even though his brother Weston had moved to the same county either just before or just after his death. Apparently the brothers didn’t keep in contact for some reason, and Weston didn’t even try to claim any part of his brother’s estate. However, their younger brother Cason later named a son after the eldest brother: the second William Maynard Whittington was born in Texas in 1867.

Richard Merritt Whittington

The second son of James and Frankie Whittington, Richard was probably born in Johnston County, North Carolina; his birth date was 16 September 1800. He and his parents and older brother were enumerated on the 1800 U.S. Federal Census in Johnston County; although the census taker was supposed to use the date of August 4th, Richard appeared on the census although born six weeks later than that. His brother was William, 19 months old when Richard was born.

The family probably lived in Wake County in 1810 and would have been listed on the census for that county, but it is missing. In 1820 they were back in Johnston County, and Richard and his brother William were still at home, probably working with their father on the farm. In 1820 the family had grown to include nine siblings younger than Richard and William.

Richard met a local girl, Martha Helen Peebles, while they were living in Wake County, and he and Martha were married March 16, 1826. They had the following children:
  • Mazy Helen Whittington, born June 1827 in Wake, North Carolina.
  • Eliza Jane Whittenton, born about 1829 in Wake, North Carolina.
  • James Thadeus Whittenton, born November 1830 in Wake, North Carolina.
  • John Peebles Whittenton, born about 1837 in Wake, North Carolina.
The 1830 Census recorded Richard and his family living in Wake County. There were Richard and his wife, both in the 20–29 age category, and two little girls under five. In addition, there was a teenage boy living with them, perhaps one of Richard’s younger brothers, or a brother of Martha.

For the 1840 Census Richard and his family were recorded still in Wake County, North Carolina. They lived in the Panther Branch township. Richard and his wife were in the 30–39 age category, and their girls were now between 10 and 15. Their boys were “under 5” and between 5 and 9.

In 1850 Richard’s family was living in Johnston County, District 4, which aligns with Panther Branch just over the county border. However, Richard’s middle initial was changed to “S” and his wife was not listed, so perhaps she had died. Richard’s profession was “stone mason.” This is the census where we get the names of the children: Mazy was 22, Eliza was 20, James was 19, and John was 13.

In 1860 Richard and three of his children were living in Neuse River, Johnston County, North Carolina. Richard was 60 years old and a farmer; Mazy (“Moza” on the census) was 32, James was 28, a farmer; and John P was 23, a teacher.

Nearby was a woman named Eliza who was married to an Alex McLeod. She was the right age to be Richard’s daughter, but no corroboration has been found. Eliza was reported to have died in 1892, but no record has been found to support this.

When the Civil War began, Richard and his family played a part in helping the Cause of the Southern States. His younger son, John P, joined the Army as a volunteer. His elder son, James T, had gone into partnership with his father in farming, and they paid a portion of their goods and earnings from their farm to support the Confederacy. On October 12, 1863, Richard signed one tax bill and James signed one as his agent. The farm produced 33 bushels of sweet potatoes above the 50 bushels each family could reserve for themselves, 3000 pounds of cured fodder, and 20 bushels of oats. They paid a tenth value, which was $6.50 for sweet potatoes, $15 for cured fodder, and $6.00 for oats. The next March James signed a tax bill for Richard for 8 hogs slaughtered, paying $60 in taxes, while James signed a bill for 5 hogs, paying $27. James’s hogs yielded an average 90 pounds of pork each; Richard’s 125 pounds each.

James did not serve in the military, which is a little surprising, given that the Confederate government allowed almost no exemptions from the draft. Perhaps James had a disability that disqualified him from military service while still allowing him to farm. Another possibility is that James T and Richard may have pooled enough money to buy the services of two other men to go in James’s place, although how the Confederacy allowed anyone to do this is hard to understand, since they really needed every last man able to stand up and hold a gun. Still, it is known that this was done sometimes, and there is an index card in the Confederate records that has the name of James T Whitenton at the top, then “See personal papers of” and the names of two men and the military organizations they served in:
  • Absalom Messer, Pvt, Company I, 24th Regiment North Carolina S. T.
  • Simeon Stephenson, Pvt, Company I, 14th North Carolina Volunteers (after 24th N.C.S.T.)

The tax bills prove that Richard lived at least to 14 March 1864, when he would have been 63 years old. There are no further records of Richard.

John Peebles Whittenton, who had been a teacher, served in the Confederate Army in Company C, 31st North Carolina Infantry, under Captain Andrew W. Betts. He volunteered in Wake County on October 4, 1861 at the age of 24. His regiment went out to the coast in December 1861 and defended Roanoke Island. In February when half the force was sick, the Union attacked the island forts by sea and ultimately captured the entire island. All Confederate soldiers were paroled according to the custom of the early part of the war—they gave their word not to take up arms until an exchange of prisoners was effected. The following September, the 31st North Carolina Regiment was reorganized at Raleigh, Wake County.

In the interim, John P was in the village of Bartlesville near Wilmington when he was hospitalized August 10, 1862, and treated for gonorrhœa. In those days there were no antibacterial cures for venereal diseases; symptoms could be treated to make them subside though. Twelve days later, on August 22, he began to be treated for cholera morbus, the non-epidemic form of the severe gastro-intestinal illness, characterized by vomiting and diarrhœa. The common treatment in those days was a dose of calomel, which sometimes had the unfortunate side effects of loosening the teeth, making the hair fall out, and destroying gums and intestines, i.e., mercury poisoning. But somehow he recovered and rejoined his unit.

Apparently John P was not a model soldier, for on September 15, 1862, he was reduced from the rank of Corporal back to a Private as Company C was reorganized under Captain WJ Long.

His company and the rest of the regiment went to Kinston in December 1862 and participated in tactical movements near New Bern. Then they marched to Wilmington on the south coast and fought on December 16th in the Battle of White Hall on the Neuse River. From there they moved to Charleston, South Carolina and were successful at repelling enemy actions at James Island, on the seaward side of Charleston, for a time. But sickness was rampant on the Island, so they were moved inland. They were ordered to Nashville and got up the coast as far as Wilmington when the order was countermanded and they were sent back to the vicinity of Charleston. There they were in a bloody battle when the Union attacked Battery Wagner on 18 July 1862, endeavoring to capture the harbor and then Charleston itself. The Confederates, with only 1600 men, successfully defended the Battery from the assault by 9000 Union troops.

The next winter, 1863, the 31st Regiment was ordered to Virginia and joined to General RF Hoke’s division near Petersburg. They spent most of 1863 at Ivor Station, midway between Petersburg and Chesapeake. In September 1863 John P Whittenton came down sick and had to go home for 30 days. He was granted $9.90 for rations and returned to his company October 14, 1863. We have no record of what specific illness gave him this furlough. His regiment was stationed on the James River for part of the time, evidently near its mouth.

At the end of 1863, John P and his regiment were part of Clingman’s Brigade, stationed at Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, on the coast outside Charleston. In May 1864 the 31st Regiment experienced day-and-night incessant fighting until the 31st of that month when they were sent on the railroad cars to Cold Harbor, Virginia, and participated in that horribly bloody battle, which lasted from May 31 – June 12, 1864. They were kept in the vicinity of Petersburg from that time, fighting battle after battle in the Seige of Petersburg. General Robert E. Lee was desperately trying to save the Southern capitol, Richmond, Virginia; Petersburg, just south of Richmond, was the main supply hub for Lee’s army, so that it was General Ulysses S Grant’s immediate target.

It was October 2, 1864, the last day of the Battle of Peebles’ Farm, that John Peebles Whittenton was admitted to Receiving and Wayside Hospital, or General Hospital No. 9, Richmond, Virginia. Two days later he was moved to Winder Hospital at Richmond, suffering from v.s. in his right hip, short for vulnus sclopeticum, meaning gunshot wound. He died on October 19, 1864.

Mazy never married. She made her home with her father apparently until his death and then lived with her brother James and his family thereafter. James Thadeus was married to Martha C. Kennedy on 25 April 1869 in Johnston, North Carolina.

On the 1870 Census James and Martha had their first child, Alice. James’s eldest sister, “Mazza” was 32 and with “no occupation” was living with them.

In 1880 James and Martha had four children: Alice, Lula, John, and Walter. James’s sister “Helen” was living with the family and helping to keep house. Curiously, James, still a farmer, lost a few years and appeared as 47 on this census, and his sister was listed as being 49.

On the 1900 Census James and Martha’s birth information was given as November 1830 for James and September 1845 for Martha. James’s sister Helen Whitenton was born in June 1827. James and Martha’s daughter Alice was a widow living there with her only child, Maude G Grimes, who was born in December 1887. Walter was still living at home, born March 1879 and no listed occupation. Since James was still a farmer, perhaps Walter was helping his father with the farm work. James died 21 June 1903 at the age of 72.

By 1910 Martha was a widow living with her son Walter and his wife, and Helen M, age 83, lived with them too. She was 82 years old in 1910 and reportedly died in 1911.

James and Martha’s children were Alice Rebecca, 1870–1937; Lula M, 1871–1950; John Merritt, 1874–1931; and Walter Thaddeus, 1878–1960.

Note: If you would like to purchase a complete book of the series with updates, sources, and more, please send me a message.


  1. Thank you for this wonderful read on the Whittington family!

    I was just out taking pictures of a cemetery in Johnston County, NC and came upon James Thadeus Whittington's grave and his wife's grave. They had not been entered onto yet, I've just added them. They are buried in Plainview Presbyterian Church Cemetery in McGee Crossroads, Johnston, NC.

    He and his wife Martha were the very first burials there. According to her death record, her burial was to take place at the "Family Farm Cemetery". So it seems this land that the church is now on was at one time their farm.

    I hope you don't mind, I've transferred some of the info. you've written up on James over to his findagrave memorial page. I've given you credit and listed the url to read it directly here at your blog.

    1. Thank you so much for this, Shannon!

  2. Greetings cousin,

    You may find the family bible of William and Catherine McLeod interesting. It list the marriage of Alexander McLeod and Eliza L Whitenton, 1 March 1855. The marriage bond has her as Elizer Jane Whitington and is dated 22 Feb 1855. The bible is viewable via the North Carolina Digital Collection at

    I am a descendant of Alex and Eliza and I look forward to reading your blog in depth later this week. I haven't looked at this branch of the family in several years and found your site on on a whim tonight. If you would like, you can contact me at

    Chet Rhodes

    1. Chet, thank you for the new information! I am very excited that you found my blog post about these ancestors. Welcome, Cousin!


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