Tying together the clues in the family tree from Revolutionary War soldier Francis Sturgill through his children to Isaac Sturgell, my husband’s 2X great grandfather is not easy. It’s like a giant jigsaw puzzle.
Documentary evidence doesn’t exist to prove a clean trail of proof, but I believe there are enough puzzle pieces that fit to support the preponderance of evidence. This case study will examine each of those pieces to determine whether or not they support my hypothesis that Isaac Sturgell is, indeed, a grandchild of Francis Sturgill.
Beginning with family lore, e.g. undocumented statements of “fact”, I will seek out primary evidence to support or disprove each family relationship. I will begin by using a list of Francis Sturgill’s purported children, originally provided by David Sturgill in his 1960s books on the family.
David Andrew Sturgill was an early genealogist who avidly collected family data and stories from the 1940s onward. Because he interviewed relatives near and far, some of who were in their 90s and personally knew some of Francis Sturgill’s children, much of his work is invaluable; the family lore can’t be duplicated, but it can be used as clues to follow the Sturgill trail.
I corresponded with David in the later years of his life and the biggest issue I had with his work is that he didn’t cite any sources. It’s obvious from his books that he visited many courthouses and read hundreds of land deeds, tax lists and court records. Yet, without citing sources, replicating his work is a very tedious task.
One claim that he made is that the twelve children of Francis Sturgill and Rebecca Hash are clearly proven through land deeds, but perhaps for one of them (who he didn’t name.) This will be my starting point, along with the statement that Francis Sturgill married Rebecca Hash, daughter of John Hash, around 1775.
First off, Rebecca Hash was the daughter of John Hash, who died and left a will, dated 2 April 1784 in Montgomery County, Virginia and proved on 27 May 1784:
Virginia Montgomery County April 2, 1784
In the name of God, Amen. I, John Hash, being very sick and weak in body but of perfect mind and memory, thanks be given to God for it, and therefore calling to mind the mortality of my body and knowing that it is apointed unto all men once to die, do make and ordain this my last will and testament. And first, I give my soul into the hands of God who gave it and my body to ye earth, to be buried in a Christian manner at ye discretion of my executors. And as concerning such worldly estate as God hath given me I give and bequeath in ye following manner:
Item, I give and bequeath to my loving wife my manshun hous and ye sole benifit of all ye land on ye north side of ye creek as long as she lives; with one black horse and a black mare, and two twin cows, one yew and a lam, and a wheather [?], a bed and all ye furniture thereunto belonging; one large pot and a frying pan, one puter dish, one beason, and six spoons ; with 2 spining wheels, and 2 pair of cords and a hackle, one rideing saddle with a box iron and heaters and 2 pleats.
Item, I give and bequeath to my son John who I had by my first wife, five shillings.
Item, I give and bequeath to my son William a full and equall share with all my children of all ye remaining part of my estate, except one cow to Enoch Osborn and one to Francis Sturgen, or ye price of a cow each of them .
Item, I give and bequeath to my son Thomas all my land lying on ye upper side of ye creek so far as to a small run that emties in ye creek above ye ford.
Item, I give and bequeath to my son John, who I have had by my second wife, all my land on ye Lower side of ye above sd creek after ye deceas of his mother whom I leve ye sole executer of this my last will and testiment.
I give Richard Hall my grandson a 2-year-old red heafer.
Signed, seled, ratified and confirmed in ye year of our Lord 1784 and in ye presence of Test. Enoch Osborn Thomas Vaughn Robert Baker
[Signed by mark] John hash
From John Hash’s will, it is evident that he had four surviving sons, John (first wife), John (second wife), William and Thomas, along with two daughters, unnamed, but who married Enoch Osborn and Francis Sturgen/Sturgill. In fact, Jane Hash was the wife of Enoch and Rebecca the wife of Francis. Names of their wives have been proven in land records.
Part of the difficulty in tracing this family is the fact that the surname Sturgill was often Sturgeon or even Stodgill before the Civil War and found as Sturgill and Sturgell from the latter half of the 19th century onwards, at least among the descendants of Francis Sturgill.
Therefore, there is no doubt that Francis Sturgill married Rebecca Hash, probably about 1775. Next, a close look needs to be taken of their supposed children.
Ashe County records are somewhat intact. Land deeds and wills survive from its early years. However, probate records don’t begin until well into the 1800s. Now that its land and court records are digitized on FamilySearch, I decided to revisit this family and try to piece together proof of Francis’s children.
Birth year and order of the children are estimates, based on approximate years of marriage and years the grandchildren were likely born. Those who lived to the 1850 census reported their ages, but the accuracy of the information is unknown.
1. Lydia, born c1776, probably Montgomery County, Virginia; died after 1860, probably Alleghany County, North Carolina; married Solomon Parsons, c1796.
2. John, born c1778, probably Montgomery County, Virginia; died after 1860, possibly Letcher County, Kentucky; married Jemima Wells, c1800.
3. James, born c1780, probably Montgomery County, Virginia; died after 1850, probably Alleghany County, North Carolina; married Mary Herrin, c1802.
4. Francis, born c1782, probably Montgomery County, Virginia; died 1846, Ashe County, North Carolina, where he left a will; married Phebe Weaver.
5. William, born c1784; died between 24 June 1844, when he filed a land deed and the 1850 census, in southwest Missouri or just over the Arkansas border; married (1) Sophia King (no proof found of her name!) (2) Catherine Elizabeth Yingling, 12 March 1839, Lawrence County, Ohio.
6. Joel, born c1788; died after 1870; married Rachel Waters.
7. David, born c1790; died between 4 February 1848 and the 1850 census, probably Ashe County, North Carolina; married Elender Jones (no proof).
8. Rebecca, born c1792; died before 1830, probably Ashe County, North Carolina; married William Weaver, c1811.
9. Daughter (perhaps Mary), born c1794; died before 26 September 1813, probably Ashe County, North Carolina; married Timothy Perkins, c1812.
10. Jane, born c1798, Virginia; died between 1840-1850 censuses, Lawrence County, Ohio; married William Jones, c1816.
11. Elizabeth, born c1801, probably Ashe County, North Carolina; died after 1860, probably Ashe County, North Carolina; married (1) Nathan Weaver, c1817 (2) Allen Stedham, before 1830.
12. Nancy, born c1803, probably Ashe County, North Carolina; died after 1880, probably Grayson County, Virginia; married Andrew Osborn, c1828.
Part 2 will take a closer look at Francis Sturgill’s land transactions to set the stage for evidence can be to support the identification of his children.