My husband’s Sturgell line has been an enduring brick wall of sorts. I say “of sorts” because preponderance of evidence points to his father being William Sturgeon/Sturgill in Lawrence County, Ohio and his grandfather being Francis Sturgill, the Revolutionary War soldier who died in Ashe County, North Carolina in 1807.
I’ve mentioned a Sturgill researcher in past writings, who I haven’t named but who died a number of years ago. This person began interviewing various family members and visiting court houses in the 1940s and 1950s. The one thing this person didn’t do is document ANY of the findings. I contacted this person’s son a few years back and asked about any notes/documentation that he might have inherited. The answer was that that were no notes as his parent kept it all in their head. Ugh!
I’ve made more than one attempt on my own to cobble together the family of Francis Sturgill and his wife, Rebecca Hash, but new resources are appearing all the time so I decided it was time to try once again. The one “source” statement that I had on the Sturgills was that “land deeds proved all the children,” but I have found nary a land deed for any of them never mind any that proved parentage.
A big part of the problem is that this family lived on the frontier – Augusta County, Virginia before the Revolution, Grayson County, Virginia, Ashe County, North Carolina, Wilkes County, North Carolina near the nebulous state lines. In addition, they didn’t stay put.
Nevertheless, I am trying to see this brick wall with fresh eyes, so here goes.
Francis Sturgill IS an acknowledged patriot in the DAR ancestor index and many ladies have joined DAR as his descendants, including quite a few with relatively recent membership numbers so I know some kind of documentation had to be provided.
The following children, highlighted in blue, have descendants who have joined DAR. Those highlighted in red are reputed children, but documentation needs to be found:
- Lydia, born 25 February 1778, Virginia; died 15 June 1861; married Solomon Parsons
- John, born 1779, Montgomery County, Virginia; died 1865, Wise County, Virginia; married Jemima Wells
- James, born 1781, Montgomery County, Virginia; died 9 July 1855, Alleghany County, North Carolina; married Mary Herrin
- Francis, born 22 September 1782, Virginia; died 13 August 1846; married Phebe Weaver
- William, born c1784; died late 1840s, reportedly in Missouri or Arkansas in a mill accident; married Sophia King
- Joel, born 20 March 1786, Grayson County, Virginia; died c1878, Scott County, Virginia; married Rachel Waters
- Rebecca, born c1791; died c1829; married William Weaver
- Jane, born c1793; died c1848; married William Jones
- Ann, born c1795; died c1813; married Timothy Perkins
- Elizabeth, born 24 October 1799; died 11 July 1881; married (1) Mr. Steddem (Stedham?) (2) Daniel Jones
- Nancy, born c1803; died 1894; no further info on spouse
A recent visit to the Family History Library turned up little else in the way of documentation. I kept my focus on William Sturgill/Sturgeon, who I believe is the father of my husband’s 2x great grandfather, Isaac.
Not a single record or document links Isaac to a family. However, (1) William Sturgeon is found in the 1840 census of Lawrence County, Ohio, with several children in the household. One is a male who fits Isaac’s supposed birth year of 1823/4. (2) Isaac Sturgeon married Mary Bandy on 27 June 1844 in Lawrence County, Ohio. Records from then onwards document the family down to my husband. (3) William is the only Sturgill/Sturgeon found in the area in that time period. (4) Isaac Sturgell and wife Mary seemed to appear out of nowhere in the 1850 census of Barry County, Missouri, with no apparent family or friends from Ohio or Virginia (their previous home) nearby. (5) A distant cousin, knowing nothing about Isaac and Mary, shared the family lore that William Sturgill died in a sawmill accident in Missouri or Arkansas in the late 1840s – the exact time frame in which Isaac moved his young family to Missouri and Barry County sits in the southwest corner of the state, bordering Arkansas.
My biggest frustration with this research has been that this same distant cousin, long deceased now, kept no written records of his research or sources. He stated that “land deeds document the children of Francis Sturgill,” the Revolutionary War soldier.
I’ve looked several times and, while there are a handful of land deeds registered in the Sturgill/Sturgeon surname in the Virginia-North Carolina border area, not a single one of them mentions any connection to parents. Nor do I have land descriptions that link children to any land that Francis might have owned. Most of the grantor deeds match either land grants from the state of North Carolina to these people or else they match land descriptions of parcels that Sturgills bought from neighbors in Ashe County, North Carolina, where Francis reportedly died about 1805. I would dearly love to know where these purported land deeds can be found!
Records detailing the life of William Sturgill are few and far between. However, they do place him in the vicinity of his parents and likely siblings at the right time. They also appear to be the only family with the Sturgill surname, which supports the case for preponderance of evidence.
The 1800 census is lost for Virginia, where the Sturgills often lived. The 1800 North Carolina census records only one Sturgill in Ashe County, John, reportedly the eldest son of Francis. He was a young married man with a wife and one child at home.
William, born around 1783/4, would have been too young to be a head of household at this time.
By 1810, there are a number of Sturgills living in Ashe County, but the census taker unfortunately only listed them by first initials:
Page 1 –
Sturgill, J. 20010-201
Sturgill, R. 00010-1210002
Sturgill, J. 00010-101
Page 10 –
Sturgill, J. 40100-0001
Sturgill, W. 00100-30100
Page 13 –
Sturgill, F. 20100-10100
These families probably represented John, James, Joel, Francis and William Sturgill, along with their widowed mother, Rebecca.
This census finds five Sturgills in Ashe County, with four of them being next door neighbors:
Stogell, James 240010-2000101
Then, next door to each other:
Stogell, Francis 220001-1200101
Stogell, Joel 200010-3201001
Stogell, Rebecca 000000-0100101
Stogell, William 200010-2201001
By 1830, it seems Rebecca had passed away and some of her children were beginning to make their way westward. William followed a couple of brothers to Grayson County, Virginia. However, while he appears there in the 1830 census, there are no land records found in his name. It’s unknown exactly when he moved there in the 1820s; by 1837, documented land records prove William was in Ohio.
Sturgen, Wm. 3120001-0100201
William Sturgill reportedly married Sophia King, but there is an undocumented story about her being the daughter of a Dr. King of Newport, Rhode Island. I don’t know that I believe any of that. There is an Edward King living in Ashe County in 1800. He is over 45 years of age and has two females in the 10-15 year old age range. If William married a Sophia around 1805 and she was a King by birth, she could be one of these two girls. That would make a lot more sense than her being a daughter of a Rhode Island man with no ties to the Virginia-North Carolina frontier!
Whoever William’s first wife was, she had apparently died in the mid to late 1830s, possibly in Lawrence County, Ohio, as William married (2) widow Catherine Elizabeth Yingling Brown there on 12 March 1839.
The Lawrence County, Ohio census has the following listing:
Sturgen, William, 00213001-0001001
This may well be a blended family. However, this is the last census in which William Sturgill/Sturgeon appears. The last record I can find for him anywhere is dated a few days before Isaac got married – 24 June 1844, when he is mentioned in a land record.
By 1850, his second wife, Catherine, is living in the household of her adult son, Milton Brown, in Aide Township, Lawrence County, Ohio. It appears that Catherine had no children with William Sturgill.
I have found no land or probate records, nor newspaper articles, for William Sturgill/Sturgeon in Ohio, Missouri or Arkansas, but I do believe the accidental death at a sawmill explains how Isaac came to settle in Barry County, Missouri.
At this point, barring some miraculous find of long lost records, I don’t believe paper will ever prove the relationship of Francis Sturgill to William to Isaac. However, my husband does have some male Sturgell cousins who have some interest in family history. I wonder if one or more of them would be willing to take a DNA test? Those test results could provide very strong evidence of descent.