The Riddle of the Riddle Family

Sometimes I wonder why it has been relatively easy for me to have my ancestors jump the pond back to their European origins, but it has been so difficult to do with most of my husband’s lines. I can barely find their origins on the East Coast, never mind across the ocean. Then I stop and think for a moment and remember that most of his lines go back to Virginia and the Carolinas.

So it goes with his Riddle family. I wrote about Mary Riddle who married Henry Nations yesterday. However, Mary was only a stepmother to Dave’s great great grandfather, Joseph Michael Nation/s. Joseph Michael, also called Mike, married Christianna (aka Annie) Riddle, who was the younger sister of his stepmother, Mary Riddle. (Hmmm, Mary was the stepmother of her own sister. Interesting!)

Mary and Annie Riddle were the first and sixth born children of ten born to Isaac Riddle and his wife, Catherine Johnson. Isaac married Catherine on 26 August 1824 in Wayne County, Kentucky. They have hundreds of descendants and a lot is known about the family from their time forward.

I shared this photo in the Nations post, but only identified Mary Riddle Nations. Here are all the surviving siblings probably in the 1890’s:

Front: Betty, Mary, Joseph
Back: Catherine (Happy), Annie, Rhoda, Philip

There are a several hindrances to documenting the Riddles further back than Isaac’s parents, Joseph Riddle and Rhode Monk. First is the fact that there were so many darn Riddles, it is hard to separate them all out, especially when it is one of those families that repeated the same names in every family of each generation. Second, they never let any grass grow under their feet. All branches of the family kept on the move. Lastly, family lore kept descendants from finding out the real story for many years! The story has been retold many times about the heroic Captain William Riddle, a soldier of the Revolutionary War.

Because vital records are sorely missing in this time period, it’s necessary to look at both Joseph Riddle and his wife, Rhoda Monk, to even begin to sort out the truth about this family. Land deeds and court records allow the story to be pieced together.

First is the family of Joseph Riddle. Joseph was born about 1777 probably in Virginia, but possibly in North Carolina, as the family lived near the border between the two states. There is actually a death certificate filed for him in Cumberland County, Kentucky.

Joseph’s parents, William Riddle and Happy Rogers, are likely correct. Part of the family lore was that Hopy was an Indian, claimed I guess because of the name “Hopy.” However, her given name was likely Catherine as descendants named that were often called “Happy” in many records. “Hopy” may just be a misspelling of “Happy.”

Happy may or may not have been the daughter of Doswell Rogers.

Joseph’s death record correlates with a birth year of 1779. The 1850 census gives his age as 73, thus born about 1777 and he gives his place of birth as North Carolina. Family lore (no proof yet found) says that Joseph was a twin brother to Isaac Riddle, whose gravestone in Morris County, Texas gives a birth date of 4 April 1777 and death date of 30 November 1861. Isaac reported in the 1850 and 1860 census that he was born in Virginia.

William and Happy Rogers Riddle had six alleged children:

1. John, born about 1775
2. James, probably born about 1777
3. Joseph, likely born 1777-1779, given ages in 1850 & at death
4. Isaac, born 4 April 1777, per gravestone
5. Happy, born about 1782
6. William, born 1780-1783

Now, to continue the story, we need to switch to Joseph’s wife, Rhoda Monk. Rhoda was born about 1784 in Virginia, possibly in Russell County. Her parents were Shadrach Monk and Mary Roberts, daughter of Cornelius (Neal) and Mary Roberts. She was alive for the 1850 census, but her death record hasn’t been found and she hasn’t been located in the 1860 census. Cumberland County, Kentucky has extant death records for 1852-1859 and she isn’t in the 1860 mortality schedule. Joseph Riddle was listed as “single” in the death record, but everyone on that page was listed as single even though there are adults included on the page. If he was truly single, then Rhoda either died about 1851 or else her death wasn’t recorded for whatever reason.

There is no one document that explains the story of William Riddle and Happy Rogers, but keep in mind the FAN (Family and Neighbors) Club (all the highlighted names in this post) as you read the following excerpts from court records:

Montgomery County, Virginia

1779 Order Book 3, page 64. “First taken into consideration the unhappy situation of many individuals in this County of the New River, betwixt the River and the Flower Gap and also on the Reed Islands and Grassy Creek and Wallens? Creek, who from their remote and scattered situation have not had the opportunity of full and ample information, respecting the present Independence of America and having been deluded into acts inimical to their country by members of artful villains and emisarys sent from our enemies for that purpose and where as this court are informed from different Quarters , that those deluded people are sorry for their past crimes and desirous of being restored to the arms and friendship of the good citizens of this state. Therefore this Court ever desirous to extend mercy and to avoid prosecution as far as the safety of the State will admit, do hereby unanimously invite all persons in the above mentioned part of the county, Except as hereafter exempted.. to attend at the next court to be held in October and there throw themselves on the mercy of the Court, who hereby pledges their honor that every possible and reasonable lenity will be extended toward all such as accept hereof and give security for their future good behavior. The persons who we believe are not entitled to this invitation are Wm. Riddle & Nathaniel Britin”

Order Book 2, page 302, Nov 8 th, 1780 “ordered that Wm. Roberts, Neal Roberts, Moses Johnson, Richard Green, Richard Wright, Clem Lee and George Herd be restored their property again. It being lately taken from them by the militia of Montgomery and Washington Counties, as nothing appears against them with regard of their being enemies of the State.

Order Book 2,  Page 309,  March 5, 1782 “Ordered that John Roberts who has been inimical to the American cause be recieved as a citizen of this state and under the protection of the same on his taking the Oath of Alligiance and giving security for his good behavior for twelve months and one day where upon the said John Roberts acknoledges himself indebted to this commonwealth in the sum of twenty pounds
in security and Dozawell Rogers and John Rice in the sum of ten pounds each to be levied of their respective lands & Chattels and to the Commonwealth be rendered, yet upon condition that the said John Roberts shall be of good behavior for twelve months and one day from this time ordered.”

Montgomery County Court records: April 3, 1782 “Ordered Captain Wm Love return Hoppe Riddle a cow he took from her in the year 1780 or the sum of five pounds in specie.”

Then there is the story about Tory Oak in Wilkes County, North Carolina, found in Wikipedia:

At the beginning of the American Revolution, (Benjamin) Cleveland was commissioned a colonel in the North Carolina militia. He was elected to the North Carolina House of Commons in 1778 and to the North Carolina Senate in 1779. Until Lord Cornwallis invaded in 1780, the fighting in North Carolina consisted of guerilla warfare between patriots and Tories. Cleveland became known as the “Terror of the Tories” for his treatment of Loyalists. In 1779, two Tories looted the home of George Wilfong, a patriot and friend of Cleveland. The Tories used Wilfong’s clothes line to chase away his horses. The marauders were captured by Cleveland’s men, who had them hanged using the clothes line they had stolen. In revenge, a group of Tories led by Captain William Riddle kidnapped Cleveland. Cleveland’s men rescued him and he captured Riddle and two others. All three were hanged from the same tree, which became known as the “Tory Oak” and was an historic landmark behind the old Wilkes County courthouse (now the Wilkes Historical Museum).

Next, again in the Montgomery County Court Records:

Order book 2, Page 335, April 8th, 1782 John Riddle, an orphan of William Riddle of 7 yrs old to age of 21 (bound) to James Newell and James Riddle orphan of WM. Riddle , (bound) to James McCorkle and both were ordered by the court to “teach them reading, writing & Sypher and pay them the sum of 20 lbs. when they are 21.”

The final entry found in Montgomery County Court Records:

May 27, 1784 Order Bk. B- Page 63
An inventory and appraisement of the estate of Wm Riddle deceased, taken
April 24th 1784
4 ewes & three lambs——————————————–2–?
1 old mare —————————————————————–2
one small Improvement & Entry of land ————————15
1 ox4/two horses
1 grindstone 10/small feather bed ———————————–4-x0
1 old side saddle 20/one pair of sheep shears 2/6- –1–2.6 25–11–6

The above inventory was returned to Court and ordered to be recorded.
James McCorkle

Putting all these pieces together paints only one picture.  William Riddle definitely was a soldier of the Revolutionary War, but he wasn’t a patriot, he was a Loyalist and appears to be the Captain William Riddle who was hung by Benjamin Cleveland and his men in Wilkes County, North Carolina before 8 April 1782, when his two sons, John and James, were bound out.

William Riddle’s parents haven’t yet been proven, but Isaac is a name that runs through his descendants and there is an Isaac Riddle mentioned in Fincastle County, Virginia in the 1770’s. Perhaps future research will take this line back to where it will jump the pond!

43 thoughts on “The Riddle of the Riddle Family”

  1. Wow, quite a story. How did you search for those court records? Are they online through ancestry? Or did you have to go to the courthouse? Since my ancestors were almost all urban dwellers who rented, land records are of no help, but I’ve never searched for court records.


    1. I’m a Riddell but my dad changed his name from Riddle to Riddell
      John Edward Riddell his dad was John Riddle
      They are buried in spring grove cemetery
      In Cincinnati Ohio
      That’s how I found this
      I’m Teresa Riddell in Williamsburg ohio

  2. I am a descenndant of Happy and William. My great grandmother was Catherine Riddle’s grandadaughter. Her name was Happy Abston and she married a Walter Garrett. My father (her grandson) continued the family name Happy with me. I am Happy Garrett Lundquist. Younmay contact me at

  3. Found your blog post Googling Riddle. I am a descendant of Amelia “Milly” Riddle Hitchcock. She and her husband George married in Roane Co TN in 1806. They moved to Warren Co TN shortly after that where they raised a family and where Milly remained after the death of George some time between 1820 and 1828. There is a Basil Riddle who had land there next to Milly. He dies in Warren Co TN in 1834. There are two blog post about the Riddles in Warren Co TN on my Blog. Basil’s name is sometimes spelled Bazell Bazil and is indexed as Bogle in one or two records.

    Would love to know more about the Riddles.

    1. Hi Marie – It’s Bob Harrison. I also have Riddle/Reddell cousins from Virginia to present day Arkansas, as does my wife Prudi. I belong to a group called Fulk’s Run, Virginia which is in Rockingham County, VA and the location of Riddle Cemetery. They were a well known family there and were married to Custer and Lair family members. The Custers are said to be the family of George Armstrong Custer of Custer’s Last Stand fame. Old Isaac Riddle is buried there. One of my wife’s sisters was married to a Riddle in Texas but also her family was connected to them in the Russell County, VA area back in the 1700s-early 1800s. Lots of Riddles in NW Arkansas today.

      1. Hello! I’m also a descendant of the Riddle’s of NW AR. I live in the area in the city of Lincoln. Mathan And Rhoda Riddle who moved here from Jackson County, Alabama are my brick wall. I can’t seem to find any previous information on them. I’ve been researching for 15 years now. I would appreciate any information you might have on my Riddles. I’m also related to the Jones line in NW Arkansas. My maiden name is Jones. Thank you so much for your time!

      2. I’m the grandson of Hershel Riddle who was the son of Idus Riddle (born in 1895 in AR). Idus went to a Choctaw Indian school and the family was in the Stigler OK area. I think Idus’ mom was Eliza Riddle, born in 1856 in Alabama. My grandfather (Hershel) died in October 2020 and was very private about his heritage. He talked about living in OK in Stigler near the border of AR and Fort Smith. Eliza is listed as “widowed” in the 1940 census.

        Does anyone know who Eliza’s husband was (Idus’s father)?

        That’s my roadblock

        Any tips appreciated!

        1. Hello ~ My name is Vanessa, and I have been researching my Indigenous family roots, in particular looking for “Anne/Anna Riddle.” I’ve found Estella A Riddle, an Osage connected to Hominy, Oklahoma, in the 1920s. I also have a birth year of 1856 for her. Estella’s children were Lillie, Minerva, and Samuel. I’m piecing together stories my Gramma (1917-2008) and her sister (1915-2017) told me. I have a growing theory –from research– about how their grandmother came into the family. Your post is the closest one to match my records so far. I’d be grateful to talk with you. Thanks

  4. Am a decedent of a Riddle from Ky. Susan Riddle, daughter of Elam Riddle, who married Lazarus Cochran in Mt. Pleasant, TX. I have a Harriet (Happy)Rogers in my Riddle search.

  5. I am researching my Riddle family, but sadly I am unable to get further than my great-grandfather, William Archibald Riddle, born Oct 1855 in Alabama, to Martha Elizabeth, born Nov 1836, also in Alabama. His father was born in South Carolina, but i have no concrete info concerning who he was.
    Martha remarried an Abner McMillan Breazeale who was also born in Alabama, but his family came from South Carolina. He was born in 1820. They first appear in Muscogee, Georgia in 1870 census, then in Erath County, Texas, in 1880.
    William Archibald “Archie” Riddle married Mary Ophelia Megason and had several Children. The first born to them was my grandfather William Oxford “Willie” Riddle around 1894 I believe, who was murdered by his father in law, John Thomas Birchfield over 4 dogs (1938?)
    Martha shows up living with Archie and his family in 1900 census, and was widowed by this point. Her name is misspelled as Martha Brazil, rather than Breazeale. She also claimed to have only ever birthed one child. There is a census from 1860 that has a Mrs. Martha Riddle listed (Alabama) but it states there were 2 boys under 10 in the home, so I am not sure it is her.
    PLEASE, if anyone has any information that might connect my Riddle family to their own I would greatly appreciate your help. If anyone might have advice to help me map my family I would appreciate that info as well.
    This is very important to me. I’ve researched other branches of my family to the 1500’s. I cannot figure out why these two are alluding me as they are.
    My email is slivingston @suddenlink(dot)net. My number is 806-673-1195
    Thank you so much!

  6. I am the great grand son James Curtis Riddle his son my grandfather is lenard Riddle Married Florance Davis in fancily VA they lived in Hillsborough NC had several children my father is floyd Riddle sr my brother is floyd Jr my sister is Malinda I am Joseph a Riddle I can’t find anything on James Riddle other then he’s my great grand father I need ur help

  7. I am the great grand son James Curtis Riddle his son my grandfather is lenard Riddle Married Florance Davis in danville
    VA they lived in Hillsborough NC had several children my father is floyd Riddle sr my brother is floyd Jr my sister is Malinda I am Joseph a Riddle I can’t find anything on James Riddle other then he’s my great grand father I need ur help

  8. My name is Teresa Riddell My dad’s dad name was John Edward Riddell Sr from my
    My dad changed his name from Riddle to Riddell when he got out of the army
    From Louisville Kentucky then he moved to Cincinnati married Dorothy Lorenz
    His mom was Marie if anyone could help me I live in Williamsburg Ohio you can find me on Facebook under Teresa Riddell
    Thank you

  9. My great-great grandfather was John Riddle, the father of Sarah Winans Riddle and her sister Nancy. He immigrated to Illinois from Pennsylvania and Ohio.

    Sarah Winans Riddle, sister of Frances A. Riddle, a Civil War Union soldier, married Henry Asbury Saunders and of their six children Harry Ogden Saunders, married to Florence M. Logue, was the only one with descendants. He was my grandfather. I would be happy if this fitted into your tree somehow.

    1. Are you related to the Riddles from Chicago? I believe Major Riddle and family lived between Chicago and Las Vegas.

  10. I am a descendant of William and Happy. My lineage comes down from them six generations back. I did my Y-DNA through the Riddle Project in Familytree DNA and they put me in the William Riddle descendant group. I had never heard of the Melungeons until exploring this. Now when I look at some old family photos I can see the similarities. We had always been told that we were descendants of a Cherokee princess. I now recently found that we are distant cousins of Jimmy Riddle Hoffa. His mother was a Riddle from Indiana.

  11. My mother mentioned this guy and I’m apparently related and her first name is “happy” passed down so that my family would know family history from many many years, this was pretty cool to know she is now “happy lundquist” as maiden names are changed over years of course

  12. My comment is a “piece” of a ghost story. My grandfather was William Plummer of Germanton, NC. During the 1940’s, he and his family lived in what was always referred to as the Riddle House (possibly built by H. H. Riddle in the early 20th century) in Forysth County right on the Stokes County line. Some harrowing tales of sights and sounds from that house on the hill (now gone), in their own way, still haunts my family to this day. My 95 year old aunt is the only survivor left from those years and occasionally still mentions how nerve fraying the experience was. If you know anything at all about this branch of your family, please feel free to contact me.

  13. Does anyone on this site happen to know of a William Riddle from Virgina most likely born 1938-1942? He was in US Army , attended University of VA and served in Vietnam.

  14. Hello, I am looking for the parents of David Riddel- born 1730 in New Jersey or Cecil Co. Maryland. He died 1801 in Washington County, PA. He was married to Katherine Walton Riddle, and they had the following children”
    Samuel, Capt. William, Margaret, Abraham, Elizabeth, Catherine, and Absom. I would appreciate any help! Peggy

  15. Linda

    Just saw this site this morning never ceased to amaze me a lot of correspondence from people connected to Riddle even saw the Nation photo I shared many years ago on internet .


  16. Hello everyone, I read most of the comments my grandfather was born in Kentucky his name was Joseph Riddle in 1898 ,
    His sister was named Julia
    He left Kentucky and settled in Cincinnati Ohio and had a son named Louis which is my father , I’m looking for answers..

  17. my dad names is jerry david riddle im pretty sure he was named after his dad [my grandpa} who served in ww2 and is buried down in Bowing green KY

  18. My father was William Curtis Riddle, born in 1911. Father was Richard Chesley Riddle (Ches) from Callands/Chatham/Virginia. Mother was Cora Lee Green from Halifax County, Virginia, where General Nathaniel Green lived who was a Revolutionary War general. They moved to the edge of North Carolina, near Danville, Virginia when they purchased a farm near the Shady Grove community on Walters Mill Road. According to family information, the father worked in a Chatham tobacco warehouse while also farming. He was wealthy enough to own a car and to give land for a Baptist church on the Walters Mill Road where he and his wife are buried. He was musically talented, playing the organ in church. The wreck of the old 97 train coming through Danville was a tragedy that destroyed the train trestle near the Dan River and Riverside Cotton Mill. He is pictured squatting in the debris and devastation of the wreck, one of the first responders to the wreck on a Sunday afternoon. He has a drooping mustache and is still dressed in his Sunday suit.

    There is a William in my father’s ancestry all the way back to the 1700s. Ches and Cora’s children included Lavanna, Ethel, James (Jimmy), Lucille, Curtis, Arabell, Ira, Garnett, Aubrey, a set of female twins that did not survive and Arabell’s twin who did not survive. Aubrey (male) died before my father was born. Cora had chronic asthma as did my father. She sifted flour to make biscuits for lunch, inhaled the flour, had a heavy coughing spell, which burst a blood vessel in her brain. She died within hours. My grandfather died of pneumonia several years after Cora’s death. During the depression, the family lost the farm because there was also massive drought throughout the region causing many farmers to be unable to bring in crops. Farmers plowed fertilizer out of the tobacco rows in the fall that had been applied in early spring. They went to live in a cabin near the church. My father was a maintenance employee of Dan River Mills, Inc., the largest cotton manufacturer on the East Coast. He eventually supervised three floors of maintenance in the Riverside Division in Danville, Virginia. My mother worked in spinning in that division. Both had been thwarted in their educational aspirations by the Depression. My mother was taken out of school in the eighth grade and my father in the seventh grade. Each was very gifted; my mother wanted to be a nurse and had started the high school classes that led to that profession. My father would have been a mathematician in some way; he was truly gifted. Both were readers as well as followers of the daily news, buying newspapers throughout my years even though we often were very poor. Newspapers were important in our household, so they sacrificed to always provide us the daily paper. During WWII, my father worked seven days a week, 12 hour shifts for months without a day off. He was not able to join the military because of the asthma and lung damage. So he worked tirelessly as Dan River supplied uniform material. He died in 1988 of respiratory failure. I am Francis Marie Riddle; my sister was Sylvia Lee Riddle; she died of liver cancer in 2016.

  19. I have been looking for about 4 years to find my husbands grandmother. Can’t break the brick wall.
    Eva Alice Riddle b. 1886 Oklahoma d. 1975 Durant, Oklahoma
    M. Jesse Wilson Tubbs b.1887 Oklahoma d. 1892 Oklahoma
    Billie Tubbs
    Charles Rex Tubbs
    Pansy Tubbs
    Topsy Tubbs
    Alva Lynn Tubbs

    I had someone email me that Eva and sister Samantha were adopted by James Mooneyham . I have found him and his wife but can’t fine Eva’s biological parents.
    If anyone can help we would deeply appreciate it.
    Thank you

  20. What an interesting thread. I am Barbara Riddle Brewton, daughter of Green Hobson Riddle, Sr of Fort Payne, AL and Rome, Georgia. He was born around 1914. His father was Walter Bradford Riddle. Walter Bradford’s mother was a full-blooded Cherokee woman, who’s last name was Rook. We have a picture of her but no other information. The Cherokee part of us is clearly visible in her descendants. Walter Bradford lived in Fort Payne and Chicamauga, Georgia. His children were Brougten, Hobson, Leon, Morris, Lunetta, Meddie, Winifred, Catherine, Walter, and Myrtle. Three sons died before reaching adulthood. One of his great great grandson’s descended from Hobson is Ford Riddle of Greenville, SC. Walter Bradford was a minister known to travel to conduct revivals. His immediate family seems to have been located in the NE corner of Alabama, NW Georgia, and nearby areas of south Tennessee. We have more information, would like more information, and don’t really know how we connect to the rest of us. Growing up in Rome, GA. there was another Riddle family unrelated to us as far as we knew. Rome wasn’t that big. Don’t know if this information is useful to anyone but it is a subject that interests several of us.

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