Case Study: Was Elizabeth Gwinn Spear Given a Maternal Maiden Name? Part 5 – Piecing Together Early Speers in Surry County, NC

So, how goes my quest to document a Gwinn-Speer connection in the family tree? Aside from Excedrin and a puzzle that seems to have many missing pieces, I’d say it is sailing along.

Joking aside, there is a dearth of Gwinn data alongside way more Speer references than I ever imagined. Today’s post will take a look at the family of Henry Speer (c1686-after 1734) of Somerset County, Maryland and his wife, Jane (said to be) Calloway.

Unlike the lack of vital records in North Carolina, Henry and Jane’s children’s birth do appear in Maryland records. Their children, born in  Somerset County,  include:

1. ?Henry, born c1721
2. John, born 13 February 1722/23
3. Jacob, born 3 Mary 1724/25; died before May 1802, Surry County, North Carolina; married Elizabeth (MNU)
4. Mary, born 27 May 1727
5. Sarah, born 20 May 1729
6. Andrew, born 3 December 1731; died before May 1817, Shelby County, Kentucky; married Elizabeth (Gentry?); (Children said to be Joshua, Robert, Richard, Leannah and Andrew)
7. Moses, born 1 June 1733
8. Aaron, born 25 November 1734

How many of Henry and Jane’s children removed to Surry County, North Carolina and exactly when did they migrate? That’s hard to say for sure, given the repetition of given names and lack of birth dates for the next generation.

Here is what the Surry County, North Carolina tax records have to say. I don’t know if any district lists are missing in 1771 and 1772; there is a decade gap between 1772 and 1782:

1771 – Andrew Speer (son of Henry, born c1731)

1772 – Robert (son of Robert, born c1750)

1782Robert, Leven (born c1735; died 1801, Surry Co., Thomas (said to be son of John and Elizabeth Speer), John, Andrew, John, Levi (said to be son of John and Elizabeth Speer) in one district and then Jacob Sr. (1724/25-1802), Henry, Benjamin (c1750s-after 1820), Jacob Jr. (c1750-1795) and William in another district.

Robert died during the Revolutionary War, but I don’t know if he was a casualty or if he died of illness or accident. He married Elizabeth (MNU), based on this court document:

Surry County, North Carolina Court Minutes, May 1782
Source: FamilySearch

Andrew Speer and Joshua Speer were both approved as administrators when widow Elizabeth relinquished her right. Robert Ayres, Jesse Benton and Henry Speers were sureties. (The Ayres family seems to have had ties to the Speers. Perhaps Elizabeth was an Ayres by birth?)

Joshua doesn’t appear on the 1782 tax list – did he turn 21 soon after the tax list was created and before the May 1782 court term?

If online info about Robert, Leven, Thomas, John, Andrew, John and Levi is correct, then Henry and Jane Speer’s sons, Andrew and John settled in one district of Surry County.

The second group, Jacob Sr., Henry, Benjamin, Jacob Jr. and William, are said to be Jacob Sr. (son of Henry and Jane Speer) and his children, Henry, Benjamin, Jacob Jr. and William.

Henry Spear, born c1721, reportedly died in 1771 in Worcester County, Maryland, so the Surry County Henry may well be son of Jacob. Henry stood out in his life accomplishments, serving as a militia captain, a county court justice and, at one point, was taxed on over 10,000 acres of land.

Also online are tax lists for Rowan County, North Carolina. Since Surry was set off from Rowan in 1771, I checked Rowan County for Speers. There are gaps in those early tax lists. 1768 was the closest Rowan County list to 1771 – there were no Speers on the list. Nor do any Speers appear in the earlier land deeds of Rowan County, North Carolina.That leads me to believe the family migrated en masse with a number of other Marylanders to North Carolina  closer to the 1771 time frame.

1790 – William, Benjamin, Richard, Jacob, Henry, Jacob Jr., John and Andrew – and Aaron.

Interestingly, Aaron Speer makes his first appearance on the list, but he is taxed year after year in districts with no other Speers. Is this Henry and Jane’s son, Aaron, born in 1734? Or is this a younger Aaron, possibly the son of Aaron or a son of one of the other Speer siblings? This Aaron would have been born no later than 1769 and maybe much earlier.

Surry County marriage records don’t clarify matters much either:

NOTE: Where I have identified people as a son or daughter, be aware that these designations are where others have placed them, but I have no idea if there is documentation of parentage.

Richard Speer & Ruth Richards, 19 December 1785 (son of Andrew, born 1731)
Andrew Speer & Elizabeth Murphy, 29 July 1788 (son of Andrew born 1731)
Catherine Speer & James Jones, 13 May 1797 (widow of Jacob Jr.???)
Elizabeth Speer & John Smith, 9 August 1797 (daughter of Benjamin)
Elizabeth Speer & Mayner Lackey/Leakey, 22 October 1800
Margaret Speer & William Stevens, 10 July 1790
John Speer & Elizabeth Steelman, 12 October 1784 (son of Henry born 1715, which seems in error to me)
Priscilla Speer & Jesse Truitt, 10 September 1787 (maybe daughter of Andrew)
Elizabeth Speer & Job Felton, 15 September 1786 (widow of Robert???)
Rhoda Speer & John Hunter, 13 December 1799 ( daughter of Robert)
John Speer & Mary Sprinkle, 26 October 1801
George Speer & Charlotte Ingram, 9 July 1795 (son of John & Elizabeth)
Nancy Speer & William Smith, 8 October 1800 (daughter of Benjamin)
Nancy Speer & John Romgen/Romyes, 21 October 1799
Elizabeth Speer & John Hagoman, 14 April 1796

There are but three Rowan County marriages:

Elizabeth Speer & Joseph Rutledge, 11 August 1772 ( daughter of Jacob, born 1724/25)
Amelia Speer & John Vandeveer, 9 January 1773 ( daughter of Aaron Speer, born 1734)
Mary Speer & Pat McGee, 12 December 1786 (daughter of Andrew, born 1731)

I’ve chased Speers here, there and everywhere in Surry County North Carolina, but have not come across one tie of any kind linking the Speer family to any Gwinns – and there actually were a few, very few of them – early in Surry County, North Carolina.

That’s coming up next!




3 thoughts on “Case Study: Was Elizabeth Gwinn Spear Given a Maternal Maiden Name? Part 5 – Piecing Together Early Speers in Surry County, NC”

  1. I also have a grandfather who moved from VA to Surry Co, NC. I’ve not had a lot of luck finding info.

  2. From Marriages of Surry County, North Carolina, 1779-1868

    Robert Speer Jr. married Caroline M. Gwyn on 20 May 1857, with Mitchel B. Tate as bondsman, married by Jesse Roberts, M. G.

    This marriage might be much later than you are looking for, though.

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