By: Jonesborough Genealogical Society
Psychologists say that people tend to remember the good things which happen and forget the bad ones, which is why most of us stay reasonably sane. This type of thinking seems particularly to apply to our ancestors. When viewed from a distance of a few generations they seem to acquire halos which grow larger with each passing generation. Close study of the records, though, shows us that most were a combination of strengths and weaknesses – just like people today. Stories that have run in this column reflect how fiction mingles with fact over the years.
He was born in Virginia in 1758, served in the Revolutionary War, died in 1834 and is buried in Fairview Cemetery. Family tradition is that he had twenty-four children by two wives. Some of the children were Jacob, who married Polly Keys; Ruth, who married Hiram Swaney, Elizabeth, who married Henry Haire; Sarah, who married John Campbell; Robert, who married Hannah Sands; Nellie, who married Sally Felts; Abigail who married Charles Bacon; Peggy, who married Young Keebler; Melinda, who married Patrick Irwin; Leeroy, who married Margaret Carmichael: John; Levi, who married Mary Rodgers; Joseph, who never married; and Mary, who married Alexander Stuart. In truth, while Leeroy Taylor may have had 24 children, he did not have two wives!
We don’t know the motivation or exact story or what happened, but let’s guess. One of the son, Joseph, maybe starts thinking about his inheritance and decides he doesn’t want to see it divided so many ways because he knows it really shouldn’t be. So, on 12 Sept. 1825, he takes Papa to Jacob Brown, Washington County Justice of the Peace, and has him swear as to the truth about his children. The son moves on to Bedford County, TN, and he sits on this sworn statement until after Papa dies, then on 23 April 1938, he registers the statement in the Bedford County Register’s Office. It may not have happened exactly this way, but the following deposition can be found in Bedford County Deed Book HH, p. 417:
State of Tennessee
This day personally appeared before me, Jacob Brown, an acting Justice of the Peace for the County and State a foresaid, Leroy Taylor, and declared an oath that he never married to Mary Wilson, with whom he lived for many years, and who had several children during the time he lived with her. He further said, that he never was married but once in his life, and then was married to Nellie Wilson, by whom he had the following issues – to wit: Salley, Mary, William, John, Joseph and Nelly.
He and wife, Ruth Gordon, lived in Union County, SC and had four sons: Jacob Jr., Thomas Benjamin and John Gordon, all born in the 1760s. They did not have a son named Jacob Gordon. Jacob and Ruth separated, and when he came to the Nolichucky in 1771, he was accompanied by Anne (Nancy) Henderson. If Jacob Gordon Brown was born in 1779 he would have to have been the illegitimate child of Nancy. Not only is there no record of her having children, but it seems doubtful that Nancy would give her child Nancy, Ruth’s maiden name. After Jacob was killed in a hunting accident in 1785, Ruth and the four sons settled their interests in South Carolina and came to Tennessee where Ruth took Nancy to court and was awarded the property Jacob had given Nancy. Ruth might have been a little hard to get along with, for she also had feuds in South Carolina, in North Carolina with the McDowells, and in Tennessee with her son Thomas over settling Jacob Brown’s estate.
Through all these court documents, quite a bit is known about this family. Benjamin Brown, son of Ruth and Jacob Brown, (not Jacob Gordon Brown), is the one who married Sarah Hawkins Sevier, daughter of John Sevier and his first wife, Sarah Hawkins. They were married in 1789 and moved on to settle Knox County. The name Jacob Gordon certainly sounds as if it belongs to this family – the most likely place is probably at a son of Benjamin and Sarah, although the birth date needs to be checked.