Sunday, May 26, 2013

Headed to Chapel Hill Looking for a Dawson from Eden House on the Chowan River

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Source: An Architectural Monograph on Houses of the Southern Colonies

I'm trying to find more proof that my Castellaw family line can be traced back to Gabriel Johnston, the Royal Governor of North Carolina and it looks like I am going to need a road trip to do it.

This weekend I narrowed it down to one question. Is the Margaret Dawson who married my fifth great grandfather, John Castellaw, the same Margaret Dawson who was Gabriel Johnston’s granddaughter? 

The research required to get the question narrowed down was helpful in adding a few more details to my Castellaw family line while also giving me an opportunity to scan through several good books that include information about Bertie County, N.C.

In his book “Free African Americans of North Carolina, Virginia, and South Carolina,” Paul Heinegg, includes research regarding John Castellaw’s relationship with a “free mulatto” woman named Martha.

In several online posts, others have noted that after Martha’s death, John Castellaw married "a Dawson from Eden House on the Chowan River." 

That is certainly a significant clue since Gabriel Johnston made his home for many years at Eden House on the Chowan River, as did many generations after him.

To find some corroborating evidence, I dug a little deeper into the life of my fifth great-grandfather, John Castellaw.

Born in 1727 and a second-generation American colonist, Castellaw was a wealthy planter and member of the "assembly" in Bertie Precinct, NC. His parents were James Castellaw from Paisley, Renfreshire, Scotland and Sarah Williams Castellaw from Isle of Wight County, VA.

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Edward Moseley Map of North Carolina featuring Bertie Precinct
including notation of "J. Castellaw" on the Cashie River


It can be proven Sarah’s family had been in the colonies at least as far back as her great-grandfather, Robert Williams who was born in Isle of Wight in 1626. This was only 20 years after the first permanent English colony, Jamestown, was established in Virginia.

So through his mother, John Castellaw had roots back to the very beginning of the nation.

John's father James, although not born in America, was a man with a significant role in shaping the North Carolina colony.

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Permission from the King of Great Britain for James Castellaw
and Nathanial Hill to build a water grist mill in Bertie Precinct in 1736.


Nicholas Cobb Descendants” by Joe H. Cobb includes an article printed in the “Bertie Ledger Advance” on November 2, 1972 by Mary Best Bell in which she includes some detail about my sixth great-grandfather that sheds more light on his position within the community and provides an interesting additional connection to Gabriel Johnston.
According to Bell's article, James Castellaw:
  • was treasurer of Bertie Precinct from 1735 – 1748
  • served as juror in 1719 and on the Grand Jury in 1722 and 1724
  • was elected to the lower house of the General Assembly representing Bertie Precinct from 1725 until at least 1745
  • was very active in introducing bills for the improvement of the colony including efforts to obtain sound currency, navigation laws, and the handling of public debt
  • sold to Bertie one acre of land for the building of a courthouse around which a town called Cashy was formed
  • acted as an attorney in many court cases in the area
  • built a mill at what is now called Hoggard’s Mill which operated for more than 200 years
  • owned land in Bertie, Hertford, Northampton and Duplin Counties
  • was named to the post of Treasurer of Bertie in 1735 by Governor Johnston.
That last point is another small connection of the Castellaw family to the Johnston family.

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Castellaw's Mill became Hoggard's Mill as the property passed from
one family to another. These two photos are of the restored original buildings.
Harry Louis Thompson and his family were instrumental in restoring the buildings.


James died around 1749 and Sarah lived until around 1770.

James and Sarah had seven children.

Their son, John Castellaw who is my fifth great-grandfather and possible connection to Gabriel Johnston was born around 1727 in Bertie Precinct.

Although they were prevented from being married because of her race, it appears John began a relationship with Martha Butler around 1758 when he was in his early 30s and she was 19. In records, Martha is referred to as "mulatto." During the time, law forbade interracial marriages and any minister or Justice performing one lost his license so it’s interesting that Castellaw, who was from a family of great importance, chose such a controversial mate.

In “History of the Ancestors in America of Latham Lee Miller” by Latham Lee Miller, he states that Martha Butler had two sons by John Castellaw and includes the detail, “most likely before he married Margaret Dawson.”
Those two sons, who used the Castellaw surname, remained in Bertie County while most of the children of John and Margaret: Charlotte, Thomas, Bartholomew, John Dawson (my fourth great-grandfather), Henry D., Nancy and John W., migrated to Haywood County, Tennessee together in the early 1830s. One other brother, Thomas moved to Duplin County, North Carolina.

In his book, “Pell Mellers: Race and Memory in a Carolina Pocosin,” K. Paul Johnson includes the detail that “colonial tax lists identify Martha Butler as a mulatto or Negro woman in the household of John Castellaw.”

From a variety of sources, it appears John Castellaw married Margaret Dawson around 1775 when he was around 48 and she was 20.

Martha Butler possibly died around 1784 when she was 45 so it could be assumed he was no longer with Martha when he married Margaret, he maintained an “unofficial” relationship with Martha while he married Margaret Dawson or Martha died earlier than thought. John and Martha’s last child together seems to have been born in 1775.

John and Margaret lived many years together until his death in 1816 at the age of 86. Margaret Dawson Castellaw lived until at least 1813.

The website Appalachian Aristocracy notes John Castellaw's will was dated December 11, 1813 and was proved May 1816. His will included his children Charlotte, Thomas, Bartholomew, John Dawson, Henry D., John William and Nancy C. All were left beds and furniture. His property was left to his wife Margaret Dawson Castellaw. When she died, it was to go to his son John Dawson Castellaw. The executors were his wife, Margaret, and Benjamin Hardy.

Joe Cobb’s book notes the fact that John Castellaw’s wife was a Dawson can be determined from the will of Richard Dawson, dated 25 Mar 1796, in which he names his “brothers” John Castellaw and William Dawson as the executors. Brother-in-laws were often referred to as "brother" in legal documents during this time.

Was Margaret Dawson a daughter of John Dawson and Penelope Johnston, the daughter of Governor Gabriel Johnston and Penelope Golland?

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Robert Dinwiddie (1693 – 27 July 1770) was a
British colonial administrator who served as
lieutenant governor of colonial Virginia from 1751 to 1758


The Dictionary of North Carolina Biography: D-G, Volume 2” includes this entry about the couple:
“A young heiress, Penelope Johnston, the orphaned daughter of Governor Gabriel Johnston of North Carolina, had been living in Williamsburg for a year or more with Governor Dinwiddie’s family, sharing the instructions of the Dinwiddie’s tutor and absorbing the amenities of life in the governor’s palace. Her elopement with young John Dawson in 1758 caused consternation, certainly on the North Carolina side of the border. But the match was a happy one. The couple lived at Eden House, Bertie County and had four children: Mary, who married Nathaniel Allen; Penelope, who married Tristram Lowthler; William who died unmarried; and Lucy, who evidently died young.” Margaret?

Remember that will mentioned by Joe E. Cobb in his book that connects John Castellaw to the Dawson family? A copy of it is included in “The North Carolina Historical Register.
Dawson, Richard
March 25, 1796; May Term 1796
Susanna Evans daughter of Michael and Margaret Evans, six silver table and six silver tea spoons marked R. P. D. nephew George Dawson, sisters Ann Sebree and Elizabeth Dawson, brother George Dawson’s children, viz.: Jane, Hannah, James and George Dawson, brothers John Castellaw and William Dawson
George Outlaw and David Tavloe Exrs.
Test, Miles Bonner, James Yeats, H. Hardy.
So -- is this "my" John Castellaw mentioned as a brother?

I found an online entry that provided a few clues. From this, it can likely be determined:
Michael Evans who is mentioned in the will is the son of Richard Evans and Susanna Cautanche Evans.

Michael Cotench Evans was born around 1755 and married Margaret Dawson who was the sister of Richard Dawson and together, they had a daughter named Susanna Cotench Evans. According to his will, Michael died 17 Dec 1795.

That means the Susanna first mentioned in the will was Richard Dawson's niece by his sister, Margaret. Also, from the post, you can deduct that Richard and Margaret had a brother George Dawson and he had four living children: Jane, Hannah, James and George and they had a sister named Ann Dawson who married a Sebree and another sister, Elizabeth who was unmarried.

Finally, he included two "brothers" John Castellaw and another Dawson, William.

This post also notes Richard Dawson was a ship carpenter.
A dead-end. No solid connection between my John Castellaw and Gabriel Johnston's Margaret Dawson. And I can't find any more meaningful research that would help me out.

Except for this.

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Samuel Johnston (1733-1816), prominent voice for the Patriot
cause, lived at “Hayes,” the family estate at Edenton.
He was born on December 15, 1733, in Dundee, Scotland,
the son of Samuel Johnston and the former Helen Scrymsoure.
While still an infant, Johnston emigrated with his family
to North Carolina and Onslow County, probably at the
invitation of their kinsman, Gabriel Johnston,
royal governor of the colony from 1734 to 1752.

It seems Penelope Johnston Dawson was close to her cousin, Samuel Johnston, and wrote many letters to him about her life. Much of that correspondence is located at the University of North Carolina’s Southern Historical Collection in Chapel Hill.
“Correspondence with Penelope Johnston Dawson, Samuel Johnston's (1733-1816) cousin, begins in the late 1750s and continues throughout this sub-series. Her letters detail family and social life, social customs such as marriage and courtship, education of children, and health concerns, particularly the ague fever and an outbreak of small pox at Hayes in 1773. Following the death of her husband, Penelope also sought Johnston's advice in regards to plantation business, such as the selling of tar and livestock and the purchase of sundry goods. In 1772, she wrote several letters criticizing an overseer's ill treatment of slaves and asked Johnston to intercede.”
If Margaret Dawson is the daughter or some other relative of Penelope Johnston Dawson, she possibly will be included in these letters.

So look out Chapel Hill. Here I come. Genealogy road trip!

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.

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