The King Family of Wilkes & Ashe Counties, NC, c1800, Part 1

There is a bare branch on my husband’s family tree and I decided it was time to take a new look at it.

Dave’s 3X great grandparents are William Sturgill/Sturgell/Sturgeon with his wife purported to be Sophia King.

Now, the multi-spellings of the Sturgell surname aren’t the focus here. Sophia King is my target.

Today, we’ll look at the backstory and then, we’ll see what can be found about this mysterious lady and/or her family.

First, neither William nor Sophia lived to see the 1850 census. Second, they lived first in Ashe County, North Carolina, then removed to Grayson County, Virginia before William packed up and left for Lawrence County, Ohio, with his wife supposedly dying of yellow fever in western Virginia along the way.

That is likely true, given that there is a female 40-49 in the William Sturgeon home in the 1830 Grayson County, Virginia census, but William remarried in 1837 in Lawrence County. If Sophia didn’t die on the way, she didn’t live long after settling in Ohio.

William was born c1784 and Sophia, c1785, based on the fact that their eldest known child was born c1807.

What exactly is known about Sophia King?

The big HUGE problem is that there is not a single document ever found that includes her name.

How is it then that William’s wife has a name? Family lore.

A Sturgill cousin, long deceased, began collecting family stories in the 1940s when he was a very young man.  Given that two sons, Alvin and Isaac lived into the early 20th century and there were many living grandchildren, it is certainly possible that a grandchild provided the name of Sophia King as his/her grandmother.

A stumbling block here is that this family historian apparently rarely wrote down where information was found, so there is no way to try to verify a source or even figure out who the (oral) source was.

Another issue is that this cousin also stated that Sophia was the daughter of a wealthy Baltimore doctor, David King, and she met her husband while she and her father were wandering around the Virginia/North Carolina frontier around 1800 or so. Other fanciful versions of Dr. King’s life place him in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland and New York!

Several years ago, I tried to verify this unlikely sounding story. There was, indeed, a well-to-do Dr. David King who lived in Rhode Island. However, I found no evidence that he or his family ever spent anytime anywhere near the Virginia-North Carolina state line nor did I find any daughter of Dr. David King named Sophia. Therefore, I believe this family connection is a HOAX. More on this tomorrow.

Further complicating matters is the time frame in which the family lived.

Census records indicate that William had at least 12 children with his first wife . Per my own research, I only feel confident about identifying five of them:

Daughter born c1807
Daughter, born c1809
Daughter, born c1811
Daughter, born c1813
Alvin, born c1815
Elizabeth, born c1817
William King born c1821
Isaac, born c1823
Ruth, born c1825
Son, born c1826
Son, born c1828
Son, born c1830

Because the family lived in places where marriage records have not survived, until 1837, when William appears in Ohio, most of these children have remained nameless in terms of documentation.

Another complication is that William Sturgill/Sturgeon/Sturgell died before the 1850 census and left no probate in Ohio or any of the places in Missouri and Arkansas where I can place his children.

Family lore says he died in a sawmill accident in Missouri or Arkansas in the late 1840s. I tend to believe that as it would explain how Dave’s 2X great grandfather, Isaac Sturgell and wife Mary Bandy, came to be living in Barry County, Missouri on the Missouri/Arkansas state line. (FAN club)

In spite of evidence that I can’t find, this cousin did name all of William’s children and I actually tend to agree with most of them because, as adults,  they lived in LawrenceCounty, Ohio or next door in Gallia County.

William Sturgill/Stergeon/Sturgell was the only man anywhere around with that surname, so it seems very probable that those with the Sturgell surname who married in the 1830s-1850s are his children.

Here is the cousin’s list with my commentary (in red or green), plus my children:

Polly, born c1807; married David Greer; remained in Ashe County (possible, but there are several brothers of William who lived there in the same time period and could be her father, so she is a MAYBE)
born c1809; married Fielding Sturgill, 3 October 1839, Gallia County, Ohio (very likely)
born 1811; married John Sanders (very likely as they lived in Lawrence County, Ohio in 1850)
born c1813; died in childhood (possible, but can’t be proved)
Joseph, born c1813; married Rosaline Wiseman and (2) Susan Clark; lived in Hardin and Gallatin Counties, Illinois (No proof or documentation connecting this Joseph with William)
Alvin, born 1815; married Rachel Wray, 14 January 1841, Gallia County, Ohio (very likely)
born c1817; married Isaiah Callehan, 8 September 1836, Lawrence County, Ohio
William King
, born c1820; married Rhoda Farrell, c1840 (very likely as they lived in Gallia County, Ohio)
Nancy, born c1822; married George Hutson, c1844 (very likely as they lived in Lawrence County, Ohio in 1850)
born c1823; married Mary Bandy, 27 June 1844, Lawrence County, Ohio (very likely)
born c1825; married George Yates, 31 March 1844, Lawrence county, Ohio
John David, married (1) Mary Gillenwater (2) Susan Clark (unknown because aside from an undocumented tree online, I can’t find this couple in any other records.)

Note, too, that this cousin calls Nancy ‘Nancy Sophia’ but I find no primary records with a middle name or even a middle initial.

How does this match up with census records?

Daughter born c1807 (Polly)
Daughter, born c1809 (Phebe)
Daughter, born c1811 (Sabra)
Daughter, born c1813 (Rebecca)
Alvin, born c1815
Elizabeth, born c1817
William King born c1821
Isaac, born c1823
Ruth, born c1825
Son, born c1826
Son, born c1828
Son, born c1830

Well, it’s a close match, but not 100% since there is no place for Nancy. If Rebecca is wrongly counted as a daughter, it then makes room for Elizabeth to be born a bit earlier and for Nancy to fill her spot.

I have no idea what happened to the three boys born 1826-1830.

From the list above, I accept the following as children of William and his wife, possibly Sophia. The others aren’t impossible, but since I can’t place them near William or even find some of these people, they don’t make the list:

  1. Phebe, married Fielding Sturgill
  2. Sabra, married John Sanders
  3. Alvin, married Rachel Wray
  4. Elizabeth, married Isaiah Callehan
  5. William King, married Rachel Wray
  6. Nancy, married George Hutson
  7. Isaac, married Mary Bandy
  8. Ruth, married George Yates

There are few clues to be gleaned from William’s children, with the exception of William King, whose singular middle name provides a possible link to the King family.

As we will later see, Phebe is a second possible clue.

That sums up what is known or thought to be known about William and the possible Sophia King Sturgill before we jump back in time to North Carolina, where the couple likely married c1805.

Next, we’ll begin an in-depth look at the King family.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.