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Jason Duncan (jason@webjmd.com)
December 2001

William Blackburn, Early Traphill Settler


December 2001


         William Blackburn was an early settler in the Traphill area of northeastern Wilkes County.  His wife’s name was Sarah and they were listed in the 1850 Wilkes Co census living with their daughter in house #813: Wm. (86, born VA), Sally (85), and Sarah (38).  Their children were:


1.  John Blackburn                    1788 -

2.  Polly Blackburn                   1790 -

3.  Nancy Blackburn                   1791

4.  Mary Blackburn                    1792 -  3/ 1/1881

5.  William Burton Blackburn    3/26/1796 -  6/17/1870

6.  Lambeth T. Blackburn             1804 -       1840

7.  *Eli Austin Blackburn, Sr.        1806 -  4/11/1900

8.  Phoebe Blackburn            10/14/1807 – 11/26/1892

9.  Sarah Blackburn                   1812 -


While information on his family and descendants can usually be found, there is little proof documenting when William came to the area.  Was he born in the Wilkes area or did he emigrate from Virginia?  A widely held belief is that William was born about 1764, the son of Augustine Blackburn (born c1745), who was the son of Ambrose Blackburn (born c1720).  In order to understand the earlier Blackburn generation, here is some background information.


1768 Taxables for Rowan Co, NC, Upper Dan (now Surry or Stokes Co):  Ambrose Blackburn, Sr. taxed for himself, son Ambrose, Jr, son Augustine, and his four slaves:  Franck, Jude, Esther, and Kalchu.

Surry Co DB A, p3:  On 7/13/1771, Ambrous Blackburn sold 150 acres to his son Newman Blackburn for £60.  The land was located on Town Fork Creek, adjacent to Justes and James Hampton.

Surry Co DB A, p13:  On 12/31/1771, Ambrose Blackburn, Sr. gave a deed of gift to "his son Augustine Blackburn" including half of his land on the south side of Town Fork, one feather bed and furniture, and one saddle.  It was witnessed by William Hill and John Halbert.

Surry Co DB A, p12:  On 12/31/1771, Ambrose Blackburn, Sr. gave a deed of gift to Ambrouse Blackburn, Jr. including half of his land on the south side of Town Fork, negro boy Cain, negro girl Amy, and one sorrel mare.  The witnesses were William Hill and John Halbert.


This suggests that Ambrose Blackburn, living in the greater Surry Co area, had sons Ambrose Jr, Augustine, and Newman.  Surry Co was formed from Rowan Co in 1771.  Later, Wilkes Co was formed from Surry Co in 1777.  Also, Stokes Co was formed in 1789 from Surry Co.  Our William Blackburn would be about the right age to be a son of one of these three sons of Ambrose Sr. 


         Many researchers name Augustine as William’s father.  Augustine is said to be listed in the 1772 Surry Co tax list and in a Surry Co deed (DB A, p13-15).  On 10/13/1783, he received a grant (#484) for 600 acres near both forks of Great Neatmans Creek (Surry Co DB B, p308-9).  He is found on the 1787, 1788, and 1789 Wilkes Co tax lists.  On 12/21/1789, Benjamin Watson sold 600 acres to Augustine Blackburn (Surry Co DB D).  They were both living in Wilkes Co at the time.  On 4/6/1790 Augustine sold 100 acres on Oldfield Creek in Stokes Co and soon moved to the Pendleton District near the Saluda River in South Carolina.  He is mentioned in Pendleton records in 1791 and 1792.  On 6/12/1793, he lost his land in Stokes Co, NC, according to a deed describing it as 235½ acres sold on 5/7/1792 adjoining Ambrose Blackburn and Younger Blackburn (i.e. his nephew, son of Newman).  He later moved on to Jackson Co, GA, where his estate was appraised on 11/9/1796.  On 1/1/1798, an account of the sale of the estate of Augustain Blackburn, late deceased, was given in Jackson Co.  Augustine is said to have left a will dated 1794 in GA where he lists a son William who was a minor.  However, according to census records, our William would have at least been in his 20s at that time, not a minor.  Also, our William was in Wilkes at that time, and probably would not have been mentioned in a GA will.  Therefore, it appears that the William listed in Augustine's will must be someone else.  Of course, it is possible that Augustine actually had two sons named William:  one born c1764 who stayed in NC, and another born in the 1780s who went to GA.  It is also possible that the Augustine found in SC and GA records is someone else.  I have not seen any of those records first hand.


         If Augustine was not the father of our William, what about Ambrose Jr?  On 9/10/1778, he received a grant of 200 acres near Mill Creek (Surry Co, NC, DB A, p244-5).  On 10/31/1778, he sold 100 acres to Mack Ship for £60, land located near Townfork Creek, crossing Oldfield Creek (Surry Co DB A, p259-60).  Deeds dated 7/21/1785 and 10/16/1785 show Ambrose selling 100 and 450 acres (Surry Co DB C, p287, DB D, p103-4).  It appears that he was in SC by 1787 and was a Justice of the Peace in Greenville Co.  Ambrose was a witness to a deed for 200 acres sold by Reuben Stringer and his wife Elizabeth on 7/16/1787 in Greenville Co, SC.  He moved to Maury Co, TN, about 1803 where he died.  The family homestead is in Lewis Co, TN.  Upon the death of Ambrose Jr, his son John Blackburn inherited it.  In the 1840s the house served as the Lewis Co Courthouse.  The farm has since been turned into a museum.  Our William would have been in his 20s when Ambrose Jr moved to SC.  This information does not seem to support or counter the notion that Ambrose could be his father.  However, I have not seen any sources which list Ambrose Jr having a son named William.


What about Newman Blackburn, possibly the oldest son of Ambrose Sr?  He is listed in the 1768 Rowan Co Taxables with three taxables including himself, slave Juniker, and wench Sall.  He left a Surry Co will on 12/18/1771 naming five children including one named William.  Another son, named Younger, was the executor of the will which was received in the February 1772 court.  This places a William Blackburn of the right age in the right general area to be our Traphill settler.  However, there are still some unanswered questions.


The problem is that there were too many William Blackburns in the Wilkes/Surry/Stokes area in the late 1700s and early 1800s.  Here are all the Blackburns found in the following records up until 1800.


1787 Wilkes Census

#336 William Blackborn, Ferguson's Dist, 2M(21-60), 2 females

#2905 Auston Blackbour, Gordon's Dist, 1M(21-60), 1M(not 21-60), 6F, 2 blacks (12-50)


1790 Wilkes Census

Jas Blackburn, 13th Company:  2M(over 16), 1M(under 16), 2F

Wm Blackburn, 6th Company (Traphill area):  1M(over 16), 1M(under 16), 3F


1790 Surry Census

Susanna Blackburn: 2M(under 16), 3F

Jeremiah Blackman:  1M(over 16), 1M(under 16), 5F

John Blackman:  1M(over 16), 1M(under 16), 5F

Solomon Blackmon:  1M(over 16)


1790 Stokes Census

Younger Blackbern:  1M(over 16), 3M(under 16), 5F, 1 slave

Elizabeth Blackbern:  2M(over 16), 2F, 2 slaves

John Blackbern:  1M(over 16), 4M(under 16), 4F, 3 slaves

William Blackbern:  1M(over 16), 5 slaves


1800 Wilkes Census

William Blackburn (appears to be Traphill area):  3M(under 10), 1M(over 45), 1F(under 10), 3F(10-16), 2F(26-45), 1 F(over 45)


1800 Stokes Census:

Blackborn, Elizabeth

Blackborn, Isarel

Blackborn, William (age 26-45)

Blackborn, Younger

Blackburn, Bryson

Blackburn, Lucy 


         Before any conclusions are drawn from the census information alone, the Wilkes Co tax lists should be considered.  There is a William Blackburn listed in Wilkes Co tax lists in Hammon’s District in 1792, 1793, 1795, 1796, 1797, and 1799.  This district includes the Traphill area.  However, another man by the same name is also listed in tax lists for Ferguson’s District from 1786 to 1793.  This district was changed to “Wm. Blackburn’s District” in 1795.  Ferguson’s District was located in the western part of the county in what is now Watauga Co.  The William Blackburn of Ferguson made an application for pension (S14967) dated 10/15/1831 in Caldwell City, KY.  He stated that he was 75 years old and born on 2/12/1757 in Fairfax City, VA, where he enlisted.  After the war, he “lived a good many years in Wilkes Co, NC, then several years in TN, and then to Caldwell, KY, to live with children since 1828”.  He died on 3/13/1841.  The pension record states that he was married to “Sara Baird”, living with Harrison Blackburn in 1840.  Several members of the Baird family were listed in Ferguson’s District, located in the western part of the county.  However, he is not our William Blackburn, since our William lived out his life in Traphill.


         The tax lists indicate that there were two William Blackburns in Wilkes Co between 1792 and 1795.  Wilkes Co land records can be found for the William of Ferguson District from 1788 to 1794.  However, the first land record for William of Traphill appears to be in a deed dated 8/3/1807 where “Wm. Blackburn” bought 70 acres on the south side of Elk Spur Ridge from Thomas Billings for £50.  It was witnessed by Thomas Walsh and Jeremiah Cardwell.  (Wilkes DB F2, p42 and p56).  There is also a deed from 1821 and two from 1840 that appear to involve William of Traphill (Wilkes DB P, p364; Wilkes DB R, p121; Wilkes DB P, p163).


Before we continue, here are later listings for William Blackburns in Wilkes and Stokes Co censuses.


1810 Wilkes        William Blackburn:  2M(under 10), 2M(10-15), 1M(16-25), 1M(26-45), 1F(under 10), 2F(16-25), 1F(26-45), 1F(over 45)  --his neighbors indicate he was in the Traphill area

1820 Wilkes        William Blackburn:  1M(under 10), 1M(16-25), 1F(16-25)

  William Blackburn:  1M(10-15), 1M(16-18), 1M(19-25), 1M(over 45), 1F(under 10), 1F(10-15), 1F(16-26), 1F(over 45) 

1830 Wilkes        William Blackburn:  1 M(20-29), 1 M(60-69), 1 F(15-19), 1 F(60-69)

  William Blackburn, Jr:  1M(under 5), 1M(10-14), 1M(30-39), 1F(under 5), 1F(5-9), 1F(30-39)

1840 Wilkes        William Blackburn:  1M(under 5), 1M(5-9), 2M(10-14), 1M(15-19), 1M(40-49), 1F(under 5), 1F(10-14), 2F(15-19), 1F(40-49)

                          William Blackburn:  1M(under 5), 1M(5-9), 2M(10-14), 2M(15-19), 1M(20-30), 2F(5‑9), 1F(20-29), 1F(40-49)

                          William Blackburn Sr:  1M(70-79), 1F(20-29), 1F(70-79)


1810 Stokes      William Blackburn:  (over 45)

1820 Stokes      Wm. Blackbourn:  (over 45)

1830 Stokes      William Blackburn:  (60-70 living with old man in his 90s)

William Blackburn Jr

1840 Stokes      William Blackburn:  (50-60, must be Jr.)

1850 Stokes      William Blackburn:  (age 10, born NC)


So, what have we learned?  At first glance it appears that our William was the son of Newman who died in Surry Co in 1772.  At the time, this area included what later became Wilkes and Stokes Co.  Early Stokes Co censuses include Younger Blackburn, a known son of Newman.  These same Stokes Co censuses include a William Blackburn who was very possibly the brother of Younger.  But our William can be found in Wilkes Co at the time!  It appears that William, son of Newman, remained in Stokes Co, and therefore is not the man we are looking for.


            When is our William first documented in Wilkes Co?  The tax lists include two Williams between 1792 and 1795.  While one was living in the western part of the state, it seems likely that the other would be our William of Traphill.  However, in each of the censuses of 1787, 1790, and 1800, there is only one William Blackburn listed.  In 1787, it was the William in Ferguson District.  In 1790 and 1800, it appears to be the William in Traphill.  Perhaps one William was overlooked in 1787 and 1790.  By 1800, the William of Ferguson District had probably moved on to TN.


Also worth noting, there was another family of Blackburns living in the Ashe Co area in the late 1700s.  In Wilkes Co Heritage Volume 2, on page 121, there is an article on a Benjamin Blackburn "born before 1755" who fought in the Revolutionary War.  He married Elizabeth Adkerson.  While they are not listed as having a son named William, could they still be related somehow?


            Of course it is always possible that our William came from VA and was actually the first in his family to settle in Wilkes Co.  There is no definitive proof that he is related to any other Blackburns in the area.  However, the names of his children may be a clue.  His first son was named John.  Could that have been William’s father’s name?  One son named Eli Austin could have been named after his grandfather Augustine whose name was often spelled Austin or Auston in early records.  Son William Burton may have been named after his mother’s maiden name which may have been Burton.  Son Lambeth T. (Tye?) is not a very common name and may yield additional clues as to the parentage of our William Blackburn of Traphill.


            Much more research is necessary before the origin of William Blackburn of Traphill can be determined.  Other records which could be helpful are Surry Co tax lists, the Surry Co 1784/87 census, or possibly some early church records.  Since he lived in the vicinity of Old Roaring River Baptist Church, perhaps there is some mention of him in their early records.  Hopefully this report will generate new ideas and theories which will lead to the discovery of the parentage of William Blackburn.


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