52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #38 – John Willis

My paternal 3rd great-grandfather was John Willis [1775-1835] of Spartanburg County, South Carolina. He was the oldest child of Richard and Drucilla Pearson Barnett Willis. I have not found basic vital records for John but the International Genealogical Index of the Church of the Latter Day Saints lists his birth date as September 18, 1775 and death date as October 1, 1835; unfortunately, although these dates are reasonable based on other records, I do not know what records they were based on.

Based on the same International Genealogical Index, John married Martha Patsy Smith on November 21, 1799 in Spartanburg County, South Carolina. The clip from the 1800 census record in which John is enumerated a few rows from his father and listing just a male 16-25 and female 16-25 with no children would support that marriage date. 1800

The book, South Carolina Baptists (1), has a list of the members of the Friendship Baptist Church  of the Bethel Association of Spartanburg County for the years 1801 through 1803. The list includes John Willis, Martha Willis, Richard Willis, Sr., Richard Willis, Jr., Elizabeth Willis, and William Willis. Martha could have either been John’s wife or his sister; all the names listed are the older children of Richard and Drucilla Willis. Since Drucilla was not listed, it is feasible that married women may not have been listed and that concept makes it likely that Martha Willis was Richard’s daughter rather than John’s wife.

The 1810 census is one of particular interest because it lists one of my 3rd great-grandfathers, two of my 4th great-grandfathers and one of my 5th great-grandfathers: John Willis, Richard Willis, Arkilles Foster and William Blackstock, revealing they were all neighbors in South Carolina and each of my descendants of those family groups moved from South Carolina to Fayette County, Alabama. In this record, John and Martha have 4 sons under 10 and 2 daughters under 10. One of the males in the group of three would have been my great-great-grandfather, William Willis.1810Although John was not a slave holder, my other great-grandfathers were slave holders with Richard and William Blackstock each having five slaves and Arkilles Foster fourteen.

In the next decade, John and Martha ‘Patsy’ added a number of children: There were four sons and two daughters in 1810 and nine sons and two daughters in the 1820 census. Since there had been two daughters born between 1805 and 1810 and there was only one listed as born in that time frame for the 1820 census, it is presumed one of the daughters died during that decade. 1820In December 1820, John and Martha ‘Patsy’ were dismissed from Unity Baptist Church, presumably to attend another church closer to their residence. (2)

For the 1830 census, there were six sons and two daughters still at home.

1830In January 1835, John and his brother-in-law, Holman Rice Smith, entered into an agreement with John’s youngest brothers, Edward and Starling, to allow the younger boys to maintain the home for their parents making sure they were provided and cared for with the younger boys agreeing to a bond of $5,000 in favor of John and Holman Smith.

John died a short ten months later in October 1835, predeceasing his father by a little more than two years and his mother by a decade. I have not yet found burial information for John.

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(1) Townsend, Leah. South Carolina Baptists 1670-1805, Baltimore, Maryland, Genealogical Publishing Co. (Reprint), 2003, pp 135-136.

(2) Church minutes of the Unity Baptist Church of Spartanburg County, South Carolina from 1818 to 1904. http://www.piedmont-historical-society.org/unityminutes.html

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This blog was prepared as a part of Amy Johnson Crow’s  No Story Too Small 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge.

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