Category Archives: Tillman

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.


Tobias Tillman, c1751-c1845, Revolutionary War Pensioner

Tobias Tillman is new research territory for me. My husband’s maternal line ties into the Nation family with his grandmother and, tracing backwards, Isaac Nation married Margaret Tillman in Preble County, Ohio on 27 February 1812.

Margaret, or Peggy as she was recorded on her wedding day, appears by name in just one formal record – that of her marriage – and she died relatively young, reportedly by 1835, probably in or near Overton County, Tennessee, where the Nation family had migrated.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve never done any real research on Peggy’s family. Identifying her father is quite simple, given that she was born c1790 and Tobias Tillman is the only man with that surname found early in Preble County, Ohio.

There is much heresay out there about Tobias, particularly the names of his parents, which I won’t repeat here because I have not found any documentation.

Source: Ancestry

What is known about Tobias is what he himself stated in his Revolutionary War application.

There are but a few facts gleaned from Tobias’s application. First, he was not literate and signed with his (X) mark. Second, he had no written documentation verifying his birth date, which he believed to be in the middle of June of 1751 or 1752. Tobias stated that he was born in Orange County, North Carolina, but we’ll look at that in a bit. He also had no discharge papers from his military service.

However, he did state that he was a private in the company of Captain W. O’Neal’s Company of Horse in Col. Butler’s Regiment in Orange County, North Carolina, serving from February until about the first of September of 1776. Tobias further stated that he was drafted two more times, but paid a substitute to take his place. He also was called on as a Minuteman for several short tours of duty.

It doesn’t appear that he took part in any of the major battles of the American Revolution. Instead, he was guarding the frontier from Indian attacks and British/Tory activities.

Tobias’s pension file actually has quite a few pages in it, but most of them relate to letters that (probable) descendants wrote to the Pension Office inquiring about his service.

No family members are mentioned, not even his wife.

Given the time period and scarcity of records, Tobias did include some very valuable information – a timeline of where he lived from birth to the present day (June 1833).

Tobias stated that he was born in Orange County, North Carolina, which may or may not be accurate. He wasn’t sure about his age. Also, if born in 1751, Orange County hadn’t yet been created. It wasn’t set off from parts of Bladen, Granville and Johnston Counties until sometime in 1752. I can’t find a month and day, so if it was formed after the middle of June, then Tobias still wasn’t born in Orange County. It is also certainly possible that Tobias lost track of a few years and was only in his late 70s in 1833 and really was born in Orange County.

Tobias continued to live in Orange County until the end of the war, which I would say was 1783. He then moved to Botetourt County, Virginia until 1806 and then continued on to Preble County, Ohio, where he had lived for 27 years.

As for Tobias’s wife, she is definitely Catherine, based on the 14 October 1823 land deed whereby noting that Tobias Tilman sold land to Jacob Tillman, his (probable) son on 14 October 1823. Both Tobias and Catherine are named in the deed and Catherine released her dower rights:

Catherine’s Dower Rights Released, 1823

Catherine’s prospective parents and siblings will be discussed in a future post, but it appears that her father and mother were Henry Scharp and Barbara Graves. Scharp records indicate that they followed the same migratory path as Tobias Tillman, from North Carolina to Virginia to Ohio. While Tobias didn’t mention living in Tennessee, his three eldest children married in Knox County, Tennessee and the Scharp family was in Tennessee at the same time.

The History of Preble County, Ohio, 1881 includes a page on Tobias Tillman and his family since they were early settlers.

Page 203
Source: Internet Archive Books

Much of what is printed is likely accurate, although due to early deaths of daughters and either an incorrect wife’s name (Nancy) unless it was a second marriage (not found), there are several omissions.

Correspondence in Tobias’s pension file indicates that grandchildren and later generations knew a lot about the family. There is no official record of Tobias’s death, but a statement in one letter says he died in 1845. That is likely true, as he was living with son Henry in Preble County in 1840 and not found in 1850.

Catherine was alive as of the 1823 land deed, but neither Tobias nor son Jacob Tilman are found in the 1830 census. There are no adults old enough to be Tobias and Catherine living with any of their children in 1830. Again, family correspondence in Tobias’s pension file mentions that Catherine died in 1837. In any case, she is not found in the 1840 census when Tobias was living in son Henry’s household.

Tobias wasn’t very helpful in passing on the names of his children and their vital statistics. He was unable to write, so I doubt a family Bible will be popping up anywhere. Thankfully, his FAN club traveled by mob and his surname is unique in the areas in which he lived, providing many clues. Therefore, it is likely that he had possibly as many as twelve children. Sarah, Rachel, Margaret and Eva are not mentioned in the county history article, so see below.


1. ?Sarah, born c1777, probably Orange County, North Carolina; died 1850-1860, Knox County, Tennessee; married David Gibbs. This couple reportedly married on 4 May 1797 in Knox County, but no marriage record has been found. The Preble County history article doesn’t mention her, but could be explained because by the 1880s, they had lost touch. The 1850 census lists her birth place as Virginia, but she might not have remembered living in North Carolina.
2. Barbara, born 8 November 1778, probably Orange County, North Carolina; died 18 December 1865, Preble County, Ohio; married Martin Rice, 16 November 1799, Knox County, Tennessee. Barbara’s gravestone gives her age at death as 87 years, 1 month, 10 days.
3. Elizabeth, born 25 December 1780, probably Orange County, North Carolina; died 10 May 1860, Preble County, Ohio; married Alexander McNutt, 22 December 1800, Knox County, Tennessee. Her gravestone gives her birth and death dates.
4. John, born 7 March 1783, probably Botetourt County, Virginia; died 24 February 1850, Preble County, Ohio; married Nancy Harless, c1805. Their marriage record hasn’t been found, but their daughter Sarah’s death certificate names both of them. His birth date is calculated from his age at death – 66 years, 11 months and 17 days.
5. Catherine, born 7 May 1785, probably Botetourt County, Virginia; died 24 January 1865, Wabash County, Indiana; married James Abbott, 14 October 1800, Knox County, Tennessee. Her birth date is calculated from her age at death noted on her gravestone.
6. Phebe, born 15 July 1787, probably Botetourt County, Virginia; died 11 August 1873, Page County, Iowa; married Jacob Loy, c1805, but their marriage record hasn’t been found.
7. Mary, born c1789; died before 1830;  married John Simonton, 22 November 1808, Preble County, Ohio. John Simonton is last found in the 1830 census with no female old enough to be Mary.
8. Margaret, born c1791, probably Botetourt County, Virginia; died c1835, probably in Overton County, Tennessee; married Isaac Nation, 27 February 1812, Preble County, Ohio. Margaret isn’t mentioned in the county history article. Given that she died early and far from the rest of her family, it isn’t surprising that an 1881 book would not mention her.
9. Rachel, born c1795; married Moses Huffman, 13 October 1825, Preble County, Ohio; reportedly died c1841. There is another Rachel who married Joel Thomas, 11 September 1828, also in Preble County. It appears that the second Rachel was the daughter of John, which leaves Tobias as the only possibility for the father of this Rachel.
10. Jacob, born 8 May 1801, probably Knox County, Tennessee; died 18 February 1870, Wabash County, Indiana; married Mary Thomas, 13 June 1822, Preble County, Ohio.
11. Eva, born c1803, probably Knox County, Tennessee; married Jesse Piles, 11 October 1821, Preble County, Ohio. Eva is not mentioned in the county history article either. She could possibly be a daughter of John Tillman, but, in any case, Eva died as a young wife, possibly in childbirth, because Jesse married (2) Mary Williams, 11 August 1825, Preble County, Ohio.
12. Henry, born 11 April 1805, in Tennessee or Ohio; died 5 October 1869, Whitley County, Indiana; married Parmelia House, 27 August 1826, Preble County, Ohio.

In future posts, I will take a closer look at the possible parentage of Tobias Tillman along with the family of Henry Sharp and Barbara Graves, the probable parents of Tobias’s wife, Catherine.