Today, let’s look at the possible origins of Tobias Tillman, Revolutionary War pensioner.
There is a lot of “information” to be found, both in print and online, but there is one huge problem. Not a single source was identified in any resource I checked.
Most assign John Tillman and Eva (Dryden) as Tobias’s parents. However, I can’t find a single document created in their or Tobias’s lifetime that supports this idea.
In order to present my theory in an easy-to-follow format, let’s start at the beginning with Tobias’s purported immigrant ancestor, Gideon Tillman, who settled in Somerset County Maryland in the latter part of the 1600s.
Gideon Tillman was born by 1645, as his cattle marks were recorded in Somerset County, Maryland on 4 June 1666.
There are church records documenting Gideon Tillman who married Margaret Manax/Maneux, 15 February 1681 in Somerset county, Maryland. [Maryland Marriages, 1634-1777, by Robert Barnes]
Children born to “Gydeon & Margarett Tillman, “ apparently in Manokin, although I can’t find cited church records:
1. Gideon, born 12 October 1682
2. Solomon, born 13 February 1685
3. Eleanor, born 13 February 1688
4. John, born 15 September 1690
5. Moses, born 26 June 1692
6. Elizabeth, born 1 January 1694/1695
7. Aaron, named in father’s 1720 will
8. Joseph, called youngest son in father’s 1720 will
Next, we have another problem. Some claim that he married in the 1670s to an Eleanor (MNU), but there is nothing to support that idea. There is also an extensive list of children attributed to them, again with no sources cited, so I am sticking with the idea that Margaret was Gideon’s first wife and the mother of the children above listed.
His sons Gideon, Solomon, John and Moses are all of an age to be the paternal grandfather of Tobias Tillman.
What became of these four sons? The short answer is “I mostly don’t know.” No marriage records have been found for any of them, nor have I found probates for any of them except John.
The eight children above are all named in their father’s 1720 will. Gideon’s wife was named executrix, but he did not include her given name in the document.
The sons all inherited land and the will stipulated that none of the five boys were to sell or dispose of any land except to each other. The will made no reference to where any of the children lived or if Eleanor and Elizabeth were married. It is assumed that all the children lived locally.
There is one more helpful record in Somerset County. Gideon’s son John Tillman wrote his will there on 26 March 1733; it was proved in court on 16 June 1733. John’s wife Rosanna claimed her one third share and was named as executrix of John’s estate. Children who received bequests were Benjamin, Aaron, John, Moses, Rebecca and Manex.
John was likely the first born son as John Sr. staed in his will “should my brother Gideon lay any claim to the dwelling plan intended by my father for me and mine (before Benjamin and Aaron come of age) then the whole estate to be to use of the executrix to defend same.”
This portion of the will tells us several things. First, his brother Gideon was still alive in 1733. Second, John married right around his 21st birthday (c1711) and, third, his son John was born c1712 and likely turned 21 right about the time his father died.
Could brothers Benjamin, John and Moses have been the men who appear later in Craven and Johnston Counties, North Carolina? Perhaps. . . .
Now, how do we connect Gideon and his sons to Tobias Tillman?
There isn’t one other Tillman found in the records of Orange County, North Carolina from its formation in 1752 until the end of the American Revolution – not on the 1755 or 1779 tax lists, not in marriage records nor land records nor in probate records. Aside from Tobias stating in his pension application that he was born in and volunteered for war service in Orange County, the Tillman surname is not to be found in any other Orange County records.
If Tobias was truly born in Orange County just as it was formed in 1752, then the only explanation that makes any sense is that his father died when he was young, he had no brothers and his mother remarried.
On the other hand, we need to look at the parent counties of Orange County, particularly since Tobias was born in either 1751 or 1752.
Orange County was formed from Bladen, Granville and Johnston Counties and early land grant records indicate the presence of several Tillman males.
Gideon Tillman appears as early as 1766 when he received a land grant. Supposedly, this is Gideon Jr., born in 1682. However, he then would have been 82 years old when the land was granted. This I doubt.
No Tillmans are found on the 1763 tax list of Bladen County.
George Tillman received land grants in 1762/63 and William Tillman received grants between 1790-1793.
Johnston County records are more plentiful in terms of Tillman data. It is important to note that Johnston County was formed from Craven County in 1746. In addition, Dobbs County was formed from Johnston County in 1758, but existed only until 1791 when it was renamed Wayne County.
There is a Moses Tillman living in Craven County as early as 1739/40 when he witnessed a land sale from John Gatlin Jr. to Thomas Hustleton. Whether he was Moses Tillman, born 26 June 1682 in Somerset County, Maryland, there is no way to tell because no North Carolina record has been found indicating an age, other than he was at least 21 by 1739 to be able to witness a land sale.
Moses Tillman received grants in both Craven and Johnston Counties, with all the land located on the south side of the Neuse River.
John Tillman also received many land grants in Craven County beginning in 1761 through 1793. [These grants may represent more than one John Tillman.] He is called Esquire in some records.
John Tillman is on the 1779 tax list of Craven County.
Benjamin Tilghman received a land grant in 1766.
No early tax lists for Johnston County survive.
Moses Tillman appears on the 1769 tax list.
Joseph Tilghman appears on the 1780 tax list.
1790 Census – John Tillman, one M 16+, 2 M under 16, 2 F
1790 Census – Ann Tillman – 2 F
1790 Census – Joseph Tillman, 3 M 16+, 3 M under 16, 3 F
1790 Census – Mary Tillman, 1 M under 16, 4 F
Exactly how are all these Tillmans related? NO records have yet been found in North Carolina that explains any family relationship.
Unsourced Tillman family data online states that Moses Tillman (born 26 June 1692) of Craven and Johnston Counties and Gideon Tillman (born 12 October 1682) of Bladen County were brothers, both children of Gideon Tillman and wife Margaret of Somerset County, Maryland. I’ve already stated my doubts about Gideon in North Carolina being too old to be the Maryland man born in 1682.
The bottom line:
I do believe Tobias is part of the Tillman family that migrated from Somerset County, Maryland to North Carolina by the mid 1700s. Not only is the Tillman name relatively rare, but his known FAN club supports a Maryland connection.
I also believe the fanciful lore about Tobias’s father moving with Tobias’s family from Virginia to Tennessee to Ohio and then dying aged 105 years in Preble County, Ohio is totally untrue. Someone created this story because (1) Tobias’s eldest son was named John (presumably in honor of his father) and (2) John Tillman appears on the 1805 Anderson County, Tennessee tax list with Tobias. However, his son John was a young married man by 1805 and it is much more likely that he is the John Tillman on that tax list.
I’ve also found no evidence that a married couple named John Tillman and Eva Dryden ever existed!
Having said all that, I have found not one shred of evidence as to the names of Tobias Tillman’s parents.