The Robertson Genealogy Exchange

Who Was 1267A William Robertson?
A Guest Editorial by Elizabeth Bawden

There is evidence presented on this website that [1267] George Robertson was the youngest son of [126] Colonel Charles Robertson and his wife, Susanna [Nichols?], but the identity of one of his sons, [1267A] William Robertson, has not yet been established to a reasonable certainty.

[1267] George Robertson was said to have been born in 1766/67, and he died 27 Jan 1827 in Hardeman County, Tennessee. He and his wife, [Susan Nelson?], were said to have had twelve children of whom [1267A] William is named as the tenth. While much information has been printed about some of the other children, very little concrete evidence has been offered concerning [1267A] William, and descendants of two different William Robertsons believe their ancestor to be the son of [1267] George and [Susan Nelson?] Robertson. Both families have made claims in writing, and I would like to state the facts as I know them and see if some discussion can follow.

To distinguish between the two Williams, I will refer to each using his given name, middle initial, and place of death – that is, William B. Robertson of Alabama and William W. Robertson of South Carolina.

William B Robertson of Alabama was my great-great grand father, and I will start with him.

The first official record for William B. of Alabama is a marriage record dated 30 August 1816 in Madison County, Mississippi Territory (later the state of Alabama). The documents authorize the marriage of William Robertson and Margaret Franklin. At that time there were several William Robertsons owning land in Madison County. No land purchase record can be found that matches the tract later deeded over to the minor children as his heirs. Purchases by William and Elijah Franklin, formerly of Kentucky, match the general description of the Robertson family land, which bordered Lincoln County, Tennessee.

Notes signed by Wm B. Robertson, dated 1829, are in his estate file. The notes appear to have been unpaid by December of 1830. Letters of administration were granted to the brother in law Michael Smith Winford of Franklin County, Tennessee in June of 1832. No cemetery records for William or any family members are of record. The family land was forfeited due to non-payment. The widow Margaret petitioned the U.S. Congress for the right to make the last installment payment due the government. Her petition was dated December of 1831 and was ruled upon favorably. Title to the 120 acres was given to the "minor" heirs named as John, William, Julius, Minerva, Elijah, Smith, and Thomas. The land was sold Sept. of 1850 and most of the family can be found in Coahoma County, Mississippi. The son Smith doesn't show up in any official records and the daughter Minerva was in Marshall County, Mississippi with her husband Asa Cunningham. They married in that county in 1843. The widow Margaret is not found again after the 1850 census. The sons moved on to Louisiana and Arkansas.

I am less familiar with facts associated with William W. Robertson. He is buried in the Old Robertson Cemetery, Greenville County, South Carolina where markers show a date of birth as 1 March 1806 and date of death as 21 July 1878. His wife was Caroline McDowell, born 14 Oct 1810, married 24 May 1829, died 24 July 1875. He apparently left a will, which named his wife Caroline and children as follows: Louisa Jane, Alfred Calvin, Susan Elizabeth, William Davis, Mitchell King, Franklin, and James. The 1870 census record shows William W. was born in South Carolina.

To consider the issue of which William, if either, was possibly the son of [1267] George and [Susan?] Robertson, we need to look at the migration pattern of this couple, articles written for an historical magazine in 1898 and a DAR application submitted after 1945.

The migration pattern of [1267] George and [Susan?] Robertson can be seen by tax and census records. Tax Lists of Washington County, Tennessee list in the years 1790, 1791, and 1797 George Robertson, 1 pole. The 1820 U.S. Census for Overton County, Tennessee shows "Gelroge Robertson."

These locations are named in a sketch written in 1875 by their son [12676] Julius Caesar Nichols Robertson in The Masonic Jewel, Memphis, Tennessee: Jan. 15, 1875: Volume III, Number 1, 4. [12676] J. C. N. Robertson wrote:

I was born on the 20th of February, A.D. 1792, in Washington County, in the State of Tennessee; though it was then North Carolina, as the State of Tennessee was not admitted to the Union until 1796.... I was raised in West Tennessee, but about the time I arrived at manhood my father moved to Overton County, where in 1812, I volunteered in the Service of my country, and was one of the soldiers known as Gen'l Jackson's Old Tennessee Volunteers. In the spring of 1823, I removed with my family to the Western District of Tennessee and in the Fall of that year was elected first Sheriff of Hardeman County.

[1267] George Robertson died in 1827 in Hardeman County, Tennessee.

This western migration pattern of [1267] George and Susan raises questions. If the family was in Overton County, Tennessee in 1812 and continued in 1823 to move westward, how can a presumed son born in South Carolina in 1806 fit into this family? William W. of South Carolina would have been six years old or younger when the family moved to Overton County, Tennessee. When did he become of "South Carolina"? When did he separate from his family? Is there a reasonable explanation for this atypical direction taken by one son?

Military records show that five companies were formed from volunteers in Overton County, Tennessee for the War of 1812. A [12676] Julius C. N. Robinson is listed as a sergeant and William Robertson is listed as a 3rd corporal in Captain John Kennedy's Company in 1813. Unfortunately, the actual military records for William Robertson show no middle initial. This may or may not be William B. of Alabama, but it surely is not seven-year-old William W. of South Carolina.

The most convincing argument that William W. of South Carolina was somehow the son of [1267] George and Susan Robertson is found in a DAR application by Elizabeth Robertson Alford of South Carolina. Mrs. Alford states the names of the children of William W. and Caroline as George, John, Thomas J. Susan Elizabeth, and Alfred Calvin. She suggests they were named after [1267] George and Susan Robertson and siblings of their son William. Several of the children died as infants and do not, therefore, show up in their father's will.

Equally convincing are the names of the children of William B. of Alabama. Four of his sons have the same names as children of George and Susan – William, Thomas, John, and Julius. The uncommon name Julius hasn't been found on his mother's side.

Mrs. Alford quotes an article written in 1898, discussed in more detail below. A grandson of [1267] George and Susan Robertson wrote the article. She lists the children of [1267] George and Susan, but adds a middle initial of W to the name of William. No initial appears in the original article. She also states that Thomas, the son of [1267] George and Susan, who died in the War of 1812, is buried in the family cemetery in South Carolina. Her wording is thus: "tr[adition]. Says this Thomas buried in Old Robertson Cemetery, Greenville, -- who 'joined his brother,' William W." My question – why would someone who died in 1812 (William W. was 6) "join" his brother who died in South Carolina in 1878?

The last publication to be discussed here may shed some light on the question of which William best fits into the family of [1267] George and Susan Robertson. However, no positive proof is presented. In the American Historical Magazine in January of 1898 a lengthy article appears by Mrs. Charles Fairfax Henley, of Mountainville, Tennessee entitled "Maj. Charles Robertson, and Some of His Descendants." On page 29 she writes of the children of [1267] George Robertson and Susannah Nelson. On page 30 she names William and says that William married and moved to Alabama. No middle initial is shown for William in this article.

A letter dated February 11, 1898 from [1267B9] J. C. Moreland was printed in the March issue of the American Historical Magazine, pages 190-192. He was responding to the article by Mrs. Henley. As a grandson of [1267] George and Susan, he stated that it contained much valuable information, but that there were some errors as to the descendants of [1267] George. He could not give dates of birth and was brief in his comments. He had in his possession letters from [12676] J. C. N. Robertson. He gave additional information and made some comments regarding his service in the War of 1812. Regarding the listing of William, he merely wrote, "William, who was also mentioned." Again, no middle initial is used. I find this interesting that [1267B9] Judge Moreland didn't contradict what Mrs. Henley had written about William going to Alabama. Perhaps he simply didn't know what became of William.

If you have read this far, you can see that the jury is still out on the question of which William was the son of [1267] George and [Susan Nelson?] Robertson. There are many more William Robertsons in that same time frame that could be the one. I invite any and all comments and suggestions and information.

Submitted by Elizabeth Bawden
31 Oct 2003

Note by Tom Robertson: We at the Robertson Genealogy Exchange offer Mrs. Bawden's editorial as a service to the descendants of 1267 George Robertson, and we invite appropriate responses to the points made within it.

Last updated: Thursday, September 16, 2004

This article Copyright ©2003 Elizabeth Bawden. All rights reserved including those of electronic transmission and reproduction of the material in any format.

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