Clues to the Parents of Rev. War Pensioner Tobias Tillman


Today’s post on the parents of Revolutionary War pensioner Tobias Tillman of Preble County, Ohio is ALL speculation and clues, NOT proof!

Last week, I posted a lengthy story about the family of Tobias Tillman, a Revolutionary War pensioner who died in Preble County, Ohio about 1845.

However, while I’ve seen lots of websites and (spurious) online family trees with the names of his father and mother, I purposely omitted that information from my earlier FACTUAL post.

Today, it’s all about speculation. The ONLY parental names anyone will find online for Tobias Tillman are John Tillman from Montgomery County, Maryland and Eva Dryden. John Tillman reportedly first appears in Orange County, North Carolina in 1755.

An enquiring mind (mine!) wants to know the sources and proof for the statement that John Tillman and Eva Dryden are his parents.

I’ve already done a lot of digging around, although I will be the first to admit that it doesn’t meet the standard of a reasonably exhaustive search. In my digs here, there and everywhere, I’ve learned quite a bit about the early history of Orange County, North Carolina.

First of all, Tobias Tillman states in his Revolutionary War pension application that he was born in Orange County in the middle of June, in either 1751 or 1752.

Well, there is a problem right off the bat because Orange County was formed in 1752. I’ve looked i a lot of places, but can’t find the month and day in 1752 when it was formally created.

If Tobias Tillman was born in 1751, then it’s not possible that he was born in Orange County and if the county was set off after the middle of June in 1752, then he definitely wasn’t born in Orange County.

That led me on my first map excursion to determine which other county had part of its land set off to form Orange. The answer is THREE counties: Bladen, Granville and Johnston.

Second, one John Tillman supposedly first appears in Orange County on a 1755 tax list. I’ve read the original handwritten list, digitized and online, but it doesn’t show up well when I try to crop it, so here is a transcribed list I found online for the section where the Tillmans would be listed:

There are NO Tillmans to be found on the 1755 tax list. In fact, I also looked at land deeds from the county’s inception into the 1790s and NO Tillmans have been found buying or selling land in Orange County, North Carolina.

Next, I located a digital image of the handwritten 1779 tax list for Orange County, but I’ve again provided a transcribed list, which matches what I found:

We have one, and only one, Tillman on this list and that is Tobias, himself. Given that his war service was in Orange County, I would fully expect to see his name here.

However, there is no John Tillman or any other Tillman, for that matter. Had John died? Did Tobias not have any brothers or was he the only one old enough be taxed? Or did Tobias not have parents or male siblings living in Orange County?

Well, the answer isn’t that simple. There are no records that I’ve found so far that point in any definitive direction towards parents for Tobias.

One step that I haven’t seen mentioned in any of the online material about Tobias Tillman is that a researcher looked at records of Orange’s parent counties – Bladen, Granville and Johnston – to see if John Tilman might have lived in one of those counties before Orange was formed.

The David Rumsey Map Collection contains a 1776 map of North Carolina, which works in this situation. I’ve added green arrows to show the location of Bladen, Granville, Johnston and Orange Counties. I’ve added a red arrow to Craven County, which I will mention soon.

Northern Portion of 1776 North Carolina

The North Carolina State Archives has a number of old documents including land grants digitized and online. I started there and found several Tillmans.

The earliest Tillman mentioned was Moses Tilman, who appeared in Craven County in 1742/1743. By 1748 and 1755, he was in Johnston County. Johnston County was set off from Craven County in 1746.

A John Tilman appears in those land grants in 1761, when he obtained land on the south side of the Trent River in Craven County. This man served in the Revolution. as he was commissioned a major on 22 April 1776. Later, he lived in the part of Craven County that became Jones County, North Carolina. Could this man possibly be a brother of Tobias? Or a cousin?

There is also a William Tilman who has a land grant in 1778/1779 in Granville County.

Moses Tilman/Tillman/Tilghman was from Somerset County, Maryland, the same location where Tobias’s undocumented father was born. Moses’ birth year has been estimated as 1692 with his year of death (unproved by me) being 1790.

If related to Tobias, it is more likely that Moses could be his grandfather, rather than father.

It has been speculated that most of the early Tilmans were somehow related to Gideon Tilghman, who died in Somerset County, Maryland about 1720.

The source of this thought, along with the idea that one John Tilman was the father of Tobias likely began when Stephen Frederick Tillman published The Tillman Family in 1930:

Take a look at the information on pages 3 and 4:

Now for the all important question – What documentation is provided by Mr. Stephen Frederick Tillman? See for yourself:

He refers only to family Bibles, censuses and “documents” in the Library of Congress, in addition to a manuscript written by James D. Tillman Jr. of Meridian, Mississippi.

From my somewhat limited research experience on the Tillman family, I can identify the censuses and likely documents (Re. War pension file) that were used.

Sadly, there is no way to source the tidbit that John was Tobias’s father and probably the son of Gideon Tilghman and grandson of an earlier Gideon Tilghman.

I’m also not sure I believe the lore that John Tillman, aged 100+, was being carted around in the wagon as the family moved from Tennessee to Ohio. It is also concerning that I can’t find records that definitely pertain to this John Tillman in North Carolina.

However, there is no indication that John Tillman ever lived in Orange County, at least not that I’ve found, and I don’t think I believe that Tobias Tillman was actually born in Orange County – North Carolina, yes, but not in Orange County itself.

Have you noticed that I’ve made no mention of Tobias’s reputed mother, Eve/Eva Dryden? That’s because I haven’t found anything about her, other than her name copied and pasted or merged into all those online family trees. No sources at all!

I will continue until I complete what I perceive as a “reasonably exhaustive” search, but at this point, I am not sure proof of Tobias’s parents even exists.

Thus ends the story of Tobias Tillman’s parents, at least for now.


One thought on “Clues to the Parents of Rev. War Pensioner Tobias Tillman”

  1. Hi Linda,

    I like your write up and points of view on Tobias Tillman. I have Tobias “penciled in” as my 5th GGF. I say this as I do have DNA matches to his children Sarah, Elizabeth, Barbara, John, Margaret, and Henry. I say “penciled in” as I/we dont know the parents of my 3rd GGF Henry Tillman b Nov 22 1805 Virginia -d June 15 1854 Madison Co, Ohio. Whe nin 2019 I did my DNA test and had several matches to Tobias and the Harless family I “ahem-just knew” that John Tillman and Nancy Harless were my Henry’s parents….he was born in Va Nov 1805…and John and Nancy were married in Va in Sep 1805…shortly before the Tillman-Rice-Loy-McNutt-Harless-Abbott families moved to Ohio. I had no proof but it sure seemed like it could of worked. Then I did my Moms DNA and suddenly noticed she has a whole lot of Harless matches also so I soon gave up that notion that I had finally “cracked the case” that my father and many cousins hadn’t been able to do. I then decided in 2020 after looking into a “Y” dna test that Family Tree Dna does.Where they test for the Y chromosome that’s passed only Father to Son I thought I could finally solve the puzzle ( providing another male Tillman from my line has done this test also). I was really excited when I got the email saying my results were in. Until I looked a seen that my 4 highest matches ( 2 of them 1 step away and 2 -2 steps away) were surname Trussell. I called FTDNA and we went round and round for quite awhile and they looked into it and assured me that between 4 and 6 Generations ago myself and the top 2 matches will share a Grandfather. 3 of my top 4 matches have been exchanging emails and ideas , but no link as of yet. When we first started one of my matches stated “so somewhere you have a Great Grandfather thats a Trussell ?…I replied —or you all have a Great Grandfather thats a Tillman. Are you by chance a Tillman desendant ? Thanks for your write-ups and your time !
    Edward Tillman, Jr

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