As most of you know, I've been working for years on all my ancestral
lines. Since you also know how thorough I'm trying to be on the Collinses,
you may be wondering when if every I'm going to tell you anything about
the collateral lines. Furthermore, I've shared my GEDCOM with those of
you using computers, usually with the warning that some of the early generations
are speculative. I hope you heed the warning: sometimes I enter a probable
identification in my computer to keep my data straight, before I have solid
historical documentation to prove it. The early Vinsons
are a case in point. I have a hypothetical, but beyond Temperance Vinson's
grandfather it is just that: whether a certain person was the father, uncle
or brother of another is sometimes hard to prove from the early documents.
I can't take the time to put everything together here, but I wanted
to give you something of an overview and update on some of these lines.
Once again, please take heed as to where I'm confident and where I'm not.
Notes on the Chestnut and Alexander collateral lines are forthcoming.
Temperance Vinson, of course, married James Collins the Revolutionary
War soldier. In my biography of him, I dealt with the assertion by Don
Jeter that Temperance was the daughter of James Vincent or Vinson who died
in 1809. However, there is documentary proof her father was someone else,
and besides, James Vinson's wife survived him and was about the same age
as Tempey, and he appears to have been a brother. (For details, see the
Collins chapters I've already produced.)
Temperance's father was unquestionably David Vinson, who
died in 1810. He left a wife named Frances or Fannie, and six daughters.
Or at any rate, six female heirs who split his land equally, and their
deeds (all of them sold their land to Tempy's husband James or, in one
case, to his son David) list some of them as daughters. Since the land
was divided equally, clearly all were daughters, and Temperance was one
of them. Four of the other five daughters eventually old their land to
none other than James Collins, while one sold hers to David Collins. There's
no question that David was Tempey's father. The deeds, estate settlements
etc. prove it.
Her mother is another question, which relates also to identifying David's
father. There were two David Vinsons in the Sandy Creek area of Franklin
County, NC at the time, sometimes called "old" David and "young" David
or "senior" and "junior", (also one was called "David the Constable", and
he was the elder), but they were not father and son: I believe they were
nephew and uncle. There is no real doubt that Tempey's father David was
"young" David. Years earlier, a deed from William Vinson to his son David
Vinson, apparently the "young" David, is signed also by David's wife Hannah.
The logical implication if the identifications are correct is that Hannah
died and David remarried, to Frances, and Hannah would likely be the mother
of the earlier daughters, including Tempey, who were already around by
the time of the older deed. Trouble is, one of the legal documents after
David's death and later sale of his land calls his widow "Hannah" while
all others call her Frances or Fannie. Either 1) somebody confused the
two wives a few years after both were gone, 2) Hannah might have been nickneamed
Fannie, and a clerk assumed the real name was Frances when it wasn't 3)
David left two widows, which for propriety's sake I won't assume.
Anyway, to cut this short: Tempey's father was definitely David.
Her mother is less certain. David's father was most likely (almost
but not quite certainly) William Vinson.
Now, there is plenty of evidence for Vinsons in Franklin County. The
older David Vinson was a brother of this William. So probably were Thomas,
Jesse, and other Vinsons of that generation living in Franklin County.
The problem is who William and David, etc.'s parents were. There is
undeniable deed evidence linking William, David, and I think Thomas to
Northampton County, NC. There we find a man, Thomas Vinson or Vincent,
who left a will in 1763 naming several sons and daughters inlcluding men
named William, David, and Thomas. Our William and David definitely came
from Northampton County. Were they these same men?
The problem is that there were other William and David Vinsons, or the
same, owning land still in Northampton. Did they own land both places?
Or were the Franklin County ones and those of Northampton cousins, or uncles,
or something to each other?
A problem, and this goes back all the way to the beginnings, is that
these Vinsons or Vincents (rather like the Collinses) used the same family
names in every generation. You'd name your kids William, David, Thomas
and Peter, and they'd name their sons the same, and pretty soon
there are four or five William Vinsons in the county.
I have not yet sorted this out with confidence. I belive it highly like
that our Vinsons are descended from the Thomas Vinson or Vincent of Northampton
County who wrote his will in 1763. He may be Temperance's great-grandfather,
but it's also possible there's another generation in there somewhere. had
a wife Isabel who was probably his only wife as she shows
up from the 1720s to the 1760s. He was already serving as "Constable above
Meherrin Creek" in 1716 and must have been at least 21 by then, so we can
presume a birth date in the 1690s or earlier.
This Thomas Vinson or Vincent, in turn, is clearly linked with
a group of Vinsons or Vincents who lived in Surry County, Virginia, just
over the Virginia/North Carolina line, who used the same sets of names,
and who may sometimes have owned land on both sides of the line. They in
turn go back to an old line of southeast Virginia. Right now my candidate
for Thomas' father is one Peter Vinson who died about 1728 and had a wife
Sarah Jones, but I am far from confident of that identification. On the
other hand, Peter was definitely related to Thomas. Father, uncle,
Like the Collinses, the Vinsons seem to have lived on both sides of
the North Carolina/Virignia line and to come from old southeast Virginia
stock; in the 1690s there was a Peter Vinson, tailor, in Surry County.
I can't be sure if he is an ancestor or not, but there were Vinsons in
the area as early as the Collinses. It also seems to be an old tidewater
line going back into the 1680s or beyond. But the exact lineage isn't clear,
and -- given the frustrating tendency to repeat names in every generation
of every line -- may never be.
I have noted in both the biography of Henry Collins and elsewhere that
there is little real doubt that the father of Henry's first wife Frances
Martin Collins, and of Willis Collins' wife Phebe Martin Collins, was William
Martin, a Revolutionary War soldier born in Virginia about 1760, who
died in Marshall County, Tennessee on 25 April 1842. William lived near
the Collinses in Georgia, along the Oglethorpe/Greene County line, moved
shortly after they did to Marshall County, Tennessee, and when he applied
for his Revolutionary War pension, Henry and Willis Collins were his witnesses.
I do not have an actual document proving that he was the father of Frances
and Phebe, but I think you'll agree the preponderance of evidence is considerable.
He tells us in his Revolutionary Pension application that he was born
about 1760 in Albemarle County, VA, and lived after the war in Nelson County,
VA, before moving to Georgia and later to Marshall County, TN. Nelson County
was formed from Albemarle about the time of the Revolution, and there were
a number of Martin families living in the Rockfish Valley of then-Nelson,
today Amherst County. The name William Martin appears among these families
frequently and there were several men of that name. This is foothill country
southwest of Charlottesville, VA, a very pretty part of the state (it's
also the area where the TV show The Waltons was theoretically set,
since its creator came from there).
I cannot, yet, identify how our William Martin fits in with these other
Martins. He served in the Continental Army from the battles of Trenton
and Princeton on through the Monmouth Campaign, later returned to Virginia,
joined the militia, and was at Yorktown when it all ended. He has actually
the most Revolutionary experience of any of our revolutionary ancestors.
The problem with tracing his ancestry is that he has such a common name:
there are lots of William Martins, even in the one river valley where I
think he lived. Someday I hope to learn more.
Some New Info and Some Warnings
The main new discovery recently on the Cowden line (ancestors of Mary
"Polly" Cowden Cook Collins, wife of John Collins) is the date of death
of her father, on or prior to 1 February 1843, in the Marshall County,
Tennessee estate records. (Marshall County Administrator's Book, Volume
B, Estate Settlements, 27-28.) (There is some ambiguity about whether the
date given is the actual date of death or the date of the estate inventory,
but clearly he died shortly before this date.) His death date has
been something of a problem, as a lot of people in the Cowden line seem
to have jumped to conclusions in the past. John B. Cowden in his book Southern
Cowdens said that this John Cowden died "about 1834". That this is
the right man is shown by the relatives in the estate sale and by the fact
that he and his wife were shown in the 1840 census as in the 60-70 range;
he was born about 1772.
In fact, since it could be years before my Cowden history is ready to
distribute, I had better issue some warnings for those of you pursuing
your own research. There is a DAR Application, #558270, by Mary Emma Rosson,
a Cowden descendant, which contains some very, very exact and very, very
wrong dates. I have tried through the DAR to find out what sort of documentation
she claimed to have; the works she cites on her application do not have
the dates she listed. Her own descendants say they are just quoting their
great aunt (or whatever)'s application. The DAR in Washington says that
any documents in the original petition (1971 I think) have been returned
to the local chapter in Texas. Mrs. Rosson is long departed, and cannot
be asked about her sources.
For example, for John Cowden just mentioned, she gives a death date
of July 10, 1818, in Marshall County, Tennessee. There was no Marshall
County then; our ancestor, his daughter Polly, wasn't born until 1819,
and besides, I've just noted
above that he turns up in the later censuses and died in 1843. 1818 is
about the time he sold his North Carolina land, though he was still
there during part of that year, and I don't know how she came up with this
The Rosson application also gives his wife, Elizabeth
Norris Cowden, as having died on August 10, 1825. No, she is still alive
in later records too. In fact, she was still alive when he died in 1843,
and seems to have died between then and the 1850 census, when she is not
found with any of the Cowden children's households.
Rosson also gave an exact, rather than approximate,
birth date for John Cowden, of April 6, 1772. He was born about that year,
but no known family record contains an exact date.
For these reasons, we should also ignore the statements
in the Rosson application that John Cowden the elder, father of the John
we have been talking about, known to have been born about 1735, was born
on January 6 of that year, and that his wife Jane or Jean Brown was born
in Lancaster County, PA March 10, 1735 and died in that county on November
10, 1785. This is odd, since we now know that John Cowden I died in 1777,
apparently in North Carolina, and that Jane was back in North Carolina
in 1778, so why should she have returned to Pennsylvania?. (For that matter,
we only have Rosson's word that she was BORN in Pennsylvania.) Because
when Rosson wrote all many people knew was that John Cowden I wrote his
will in Pennsylvania. I'm sorry to say that the only conclusion I can come
to is that she made these dates up somehow. In any event, if you run across
them, be very careful before you enter them in your charts. In fact, I've
got lots of documentation on John Cowden which I'll share, but none of
it backs up the Rosson dates. I'd warn EVERYONE from using ANYTHING from
the Rosson DAR application without triangulating it against another source.
In addition, many of you have material derived
through me from John B. Cowden's book Southern Cowdens. It
is generally well done and much better than what I have just been discussing.
But there are some errors. Among them:
1) John Cowden I's Revolutionary service. John
Cowden I served on the Committee of Safety of Rowan County, North Carolina,
and was on it when it adopted the Rowan Resolves at the beginning of the
Revolution. He also is shown several times in North Carolnia records as
providing supplies to the Continental Army. All this shows the man was
a partriot and because of these services any descendant could join the
DAR or similar organizations. However, in his book, Rev. John B.
Cowden decided that John Cowden was the same man who later served in the
Army in Pennsylvania. It is true that John Cowden of North Carolina wrote
his will in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania on May 29, 1777. Rev. Cowden
decided he then went on to join the Army there. But, John Cowden's
will was probated back in North Carolina on November 5, 1777, so
clearly he died between May and November. The man Rev. Cowden decided was
he was still serving in 1780-1781, and seems to have come not from Lancaster
but from Chester County. Unfortunately, Rev. Cowden cited pages in the
Pennsylvania Archives but did not tell his readers what those pages said.
They say Chester County. So our John Cowden I was a Revolutionary veteran,
to be sure, just not that one.
2) Rev. Cowden describes, in Southern Cowdens,
visiting the "old Cowden place" in what is now Iredell (original Rowan)
Co. NC, and says that the original kitchen was still in use when he visited
(his book was published 1933). Well, I've been there twice, couldn't find
the house he described, but can say for certain it was at least six or
seven miles south of the land which John Cowden I and his sons owned, according
to Rowan and Iredell records and even a plat map of which I have a copy,
and which shows both the father's land and that of the sons. Furthermore,
their land included a "Cowden's Ford", and though the Cowdens left by 1818
there is still a Cowden's Ford road in Iredell County. I don't think Rev.
Cowden had the right house. I'm sure he hadn't seen the land descriptions
(in fact, it's also clear from material noted earlier that he hadn't seen
the probate records either. I think he looked only at the wills on record,
not at the court minutes which dealt with probating them.)
3) I believe in some cases Rev. Cowden's lists
of children may be incomplete, but am not yet confident of this except
for John Cowden II, where he omits the daughter (Martha or "Patsy") who
married Joseph Simmons and moved to Texas.
4) Every Cowden descendant from Mathew (or Matthew)
Cowden of Paxtang has tried to identify his ancestors. I think it was Rev.
Cowden who traced him to a Thomas MacCowden of Northern Ireland. Some Pennsylvania
Cowdens say Mathew's father was William Cowden. Both Rev. Cowden and the
late Prof. Hubertis Cummings of Pennsylvania claimed to have found the
"only" Cowden family who lived in Ulster. Unfortunately they found different
families, in different counties. After years of looking at this, I think
the safest conclusion is that Mathew Cowden of Paxtang was definitely from
Ulster, maybe the son of a William Cowden (no firm documentation),
and any ancestry beyond that is guesswork. If you show earlier generations
on your tree, you may want to consider changing them.