Sunday, April 14, 2013

Bertie County, N.C. to Haywood County, Tenn. Migration

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Mules and Wagons, Mule Day 2011, Columbia, Tenn.

As I continue to climb my family tree, one question continues to come up. Why did so many of my Bertie County, N.C. ancestors load up their wagons in the early 1830s and head west to Haywood County, Tenn.?

Settling a new area was certainly not new to them. Many had parents and grandparents who fought in the Revolutionary War and I suspect they heard stories about traveling to Eastern North Carolina, building the churches and schools, clearing the trees and starting the farms and plantations that could, by the 1830s, be seen all over Bertie County.

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The Capeharts Baptist Church, Merry Hill, N.C. in Bertie County.
The present building was completed in 1918.

The Williams, Cobb, Steele, Dempsey, Castellaw, Capehart and Butterton families, all in my ancestry line, joined with a few other Bertie County families to found the Capeharts Baptist Church in Merry Hill, N.C. in 1824, so they certainly all knew each other well.

Most of my ancestors owned a small number of slaves and they farmed cotton, corn, and tobacco. By the 1830s, cotton had replaced tobacco as the crop of choice and for that, they needed lots of land. As each father divided the land for his children, the farms had begun getting smaller rather than larger. 

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Marker located on the Court Square in Brownsville, TN

No doubt they were aware of how well two of their own had done in Haywood County.

Just ten years earlier, Colonel Richard Nixon migrated to the area to settle 3,600 acres his father, Thomas Nixon, received for his service in the Revolutionary War.

Nixon, born in Hanover County, N.C., migrated to Bertie County around 1811 where he lived until migrating to Tennessee in 1821. According to "The Life and Times of Elder Rueben Ross," published in 1882, while in Bertie County, Nixon sent his son, Richard W. Nixon, to West Point Military Academy.

Colonel Nixon settled in an area that would be named Nixon's Creek in his honor.
“Colonel Richard Nixon blazed out his course and cut his own road from the settled vanity of Jackson, to where he pitched his tent, on the creek which took his name (Nixon’s creek), three miles east of Brownsville. The red men of the woods were encamped on the same creek – the noble Chickasaws – with whom he cultivated kindly relations, and for many weeks shared with them the hospitalities of their camp.”
Williams, James S. (1873) Old Times in West Tennessee. Memphis, Tenn: W.G. Cheeney
Nixon quickly convinced his nephew, Jonathan T. Jacocks, to join him there where they both prospered and no doubt sent word to their friends and family back in Bertie County.

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Brownsville Courthouse built in 1844.

I believe it certainly makes sense that Colonel Nixon worked with his friends back in North Carolina to help populate the new community he was helping to build. Colonel Nixon died in 1831.

Colonel Nixon's son, Richard W. Nixon joined his father and opened a store in Brownsville, Tenn. He later moved to Montgomery County, Tenn., made a "profession of religion," became an ordained minister and was the pastor of various churches until his death in March of 1881 at the age of 72.

Below are ten "heads of households" in my direct ancestral line who made the journey from Bertie County, N.C. to Haywood County, Tenn. in the early 1830s:

John D. Castellaw

John D. Castellaw, my fourth great-grandfather, was 55 when he settled in Haywood County. Castellaw had descended from Bertie County aristocracy. His second great-grandmother, Penelope Johnston, was the second wife of Charles Eden who was the appointed Royal Governor of North Carolina. She later inherited his historically significant home, Eden House.

Castellaw married Zilpha Spruill in North Carolina on 21 Jan 1804. She was the daughter of Simeon Spruill, a planter from Tyrrell County, N.C.

John and Zilpha Castellaw were among the original members of Capeharts Baptist Church. There were 74 charter members of the original church who had received "letters of dismissal" from the Windsor and the Wiccacon (Colerain) Baptist Churches of Colerain, N. C. so they could begin the new church at the Capeharts Meeting House. They had their first service on December 10, 1824. John appears frequently in the minutes of the church.

According to family history, at some point, Castellaw began leading wagon trains to Haywood County, Tenn. In 1834, he finally stayed in the area along with his wife, children, Harriet Warren Castellaw and Thomas Jefferson Castellaw, and their families.
According to Neil Baker of Windsor, N.C., the Capehart Baptist Church minutes refer to the Castellaws' final move:
"February, 1834 Prayer by Bro Castellaw - Brother and Sister Castellaw petitioned for letter of dismissal."
When Zilpha died in Haywood County on 27 April 1842, it is thought she was the first person buried in the Cobb Family Cemetery.

More about the Castellaw family
William Steele Jr.
Among the first to load his wagons and head west was William Steele, my fifth great-grandfather. He married his second wife, Frances Cobb, on 12 December 1822 at Eden House in Bertie County. William, Frances and their 4-year-old son, Andrew Patterson Steele were living in Haywood County by 1831.

Unfortunately, William died only three years later. His son, Andrew Patterson Steele, later married Sarah Elizabeth Butterton and they became active members of Zion Baptist Church. Their daughter, Margaret Rebecca Steele later married Henry Day Brantley, the son of Augustus Brantley, referenced below (they are my third great-grandparents).
Dempsey Nowell II
Nowell's grandfather, Martin Nowell was one of the original settlers of Bertie County having arrived there and purchased land by 1736. Nowell, my fourth great-grandfather was 31 when he and his wife, Elizabeth Rawls, migrated from Bertie/Hertford County to Haywood County by 7 Mar 1833.
The Nowells had five children when they headed west and their sixth was born soon after they arrived. 
Nowell was ordained a deacon at Zion Baptist Church in March 1839. Zion was still a very new church at the time, having begun in Nov 1836. The first pastor was George Williams and five years after he was ordained a deacon, Nowell's daughter, Catherion Nowell, would marry George Williams' son, Sol.

More about the Nowell family

George Williams

George, another fourth great-grandfather, is first mentioned as a minister at Holly Grove Baptist Church in Bertie County in the church minutes of 13 Dec 1828. He is included many other times until 1836 when he was chosen to be the first minister of the newly formed Zion Baptist Church in Haywood County.

George and his wife, Nancy, headed for Haywood County with their son, George “Sol” who was 16 and Harriett Ann who was three. Harriett would later marry Andrew Jackson “Jack” Outlaw who is referenced below. Sol would marry the daughter of Dempsey Nowell, above.

More about the Williams family
John Hardy “Jacky” Cobb
John Hardy Cobb, my third great-grandfather was 36 on 22 Apr 1834 when he arrived in Haywood County. Jacky, as he was called, is remembered as being short and very “round.” Cobb’s family had lived in Bertie County since the mid-1700s when his grandparents migrated from Isle of Wight, VA and he and his relatives are mentioned in many documents.

Jacky Cobb had married Harriett Warren Castellaw, the daughter of John D. Castellaw on 28 Apr 1820 and they already had six children when they headed to Haywood County with her parents. According to a family Bible, the journey took 50 days in a covered wagon. John and Harriet Cobb did well and he became a town constable and later a school commissioner and magistrate.

More about the Cobb family

William W. Watridge

My third great-grandfather, William Watridge, was 38 in 1836 when he migrated from Bertie to Haywood County. He had married Millie Thompson on 31 Mar 1821. Millie’s parents, James and Rachael Thompson, are buried on the land on which Millie grew up on the Bertie/Hertford County line. I have been unable to determine William’s parentage...yet.

William and Millie traveled to Haywood County with their sons James, who was 13 and Daniel who was only one. In 1840, they had their third son Dorsey. In 1886, Dorsey Watridge donated the land for the Holly Grove Baptist Church.

When William and Millie moved to Haywood County, they became very active members of Zion Baptist Church.

More about the Watridge family

Augustus Brantley

Augustus Brantley, another fourth great-grandfather, was 26 in 1837 around the time he loaded up his wagon in Bertie County and headed to Haywood County. Augustus’ father, Edward Brantley had been born in Bertie County in 1760 and had died there around the time Augustus moved.

Augustus’ wife, Martha White was the daughter of Solomon White and Martha Ann Outlaw. Martha White Brantley's brother was John Bemberry White.

The Brantley's oldest son, Daniel, was born in Bertie County but their remaining children, Robert, Mary, Julius, Henry Day and Solomon Norman were all born in Haywood County.

They became active members of Zion Baptist Church and their son, Henry Day Brantley, married Margaret Rebecca Steele referenced above.

More about the Brantley family

John Bemberry White

My fourth great uncle was 32 around the time he traveled the road from Bertie to Haywood. It’s likely he was part of the reason his sister, Martha White Brantley, and her husband, Augustus Brantley headed to Haywood County a few years later.

Bemberry had married Penelope Trotman in Bertie County and they had two young sons and two young daughters when they migrated. One of their daughters, Penelope Trottman White married John Charles Warren Cobb, one of the sons of Jacky Cobb, referenced above.

George W. Outlaw

Another fourth great-grandfather, Outlaw was around 30 when he and his wife, Luday Perry left Bertie County and headed for Haywood County. They had a son and two daughters and by the time their third daughter (my third great-grandmother), Elizabeth Temperance Outlaw, was born on 3 Nov 1833, they were in Haywood County.

Sadly, not everyone who started out on the road from Bertie to Haywood made it. George's father, Jacob Outlaw died during the journey and was buried in Knoxville, Tenn.

George and Luday were very active at Zion Baptist Church and when the new church voted to elect George Williams as the new pastor, it was George Outlaw who wrote the letter letting him know.

George and Luday’s oldest son, Andrew Jackson “Jack” Outlaw was just eight when he migrated with his family to Haywood County. He later married Harriet Ann Williams, George Williams’ daughter.

Charles Butterton
My fifth great-grandparents Charles Butterton and Elizabeth Thomas were married in Bertie County on 1 Jan 1833 and departed for Haywood County in 1835 when Charles was 30. Their daughter, Sarah Elizabeth, married Andrew Patterson Steele above. They too were very active at Zion.

I soon plan to spend more time researching the Bertie to Haywood County connection and hope to find more information about these brave settlers.

For more blog entries, visit my Blog Home Page or to check out the genealogy research about my specific family lines, go to Haywood County Line Genealogy Page.


  1. Thank you very much for this! I am thoroughly enjoying reading it!
    Gloria Clinton Escue-Haas
    Brownsville, TN

  2. This is very interesting. I've been going back on my White surname from Louisiana. My 4th grandfather Redding White was born in North
    Carolina in 1802. The 1850 census has him and his family living in Hayward county Tenn. I was a little stuck until I read this about Bertie county. My relatives must be related to yours. Thanks for the info.

    1. Redding White is my third grandfather. I'd be interested in sharing geneology with you! My name is Jeff White and you can find me on Geni and under

  3. Interesting read! Thank you for sharing. My great great grandfather is a Williams from Bertie County (James Williams). The family house apparently still stands. He never moved though, that branch of my family still resides in Merry Hill. Lots of dead ends in Bertie County during my research.