Saturday, February 16, 2013

From Orange to Bedford: An Examination of the Probable Children of Jacob Wilhoite and Amelia Holt

The book “The Ancestors & Descendants of Jacob Wilhoite, 1751-1821, Vol. 1” by Jacob William Wilhoite and Della Faye Wilhoite [1991 – Beaver Press, Inc. – Manchester, TN] (and Vol. 2 as well) attaches a total of 14 children to Jacob and Amelia Holt Wilhoite. This list is duplicated all over the internet, plus or minus various children here and there. Unfortunately, since Jacob died without leaving a will, many researchers over decades have had to try and piece together a list of heirs using primarily circumstantial evidence. That sadly will be the case here as there is little formal documentation tying Jacob to any of his children other than John and William.

I am setting out today to try and make as complete a list as possible, while weeding out those who do not belong as children of Jacob and Amelia. I will go in order of how they are listed in the book, giving the name and details of each person, followed by stating why or why not I believe them to be children of Jacob and Amelia. Hopefully this list will be of assistance to those thrown off by the mismatched, assumed, and incorrect lists found all over the internet, as well as in published materials.

1. Jacob Wilhoite – Often listed as “Jr.”, this Jacob was born about 1781 in Orange County, NC and died about 1833 in Bedford County, TN. He married Mary “Polly” Powell on 2 Dec 1803 in Orange County. Jacob is found in the 1810 Census in Orange County listed as a “Jr.”. He is living right next door to Jacob Wilhoite “Sr.”. While a Jr.-Sr. relationship does not always mean a father-son relationship, when they live next door to each other and then proceed to move to the same county in Tennessee together, it makes a pretty strong case. Also, Jacob’s wife Mary’s brother, Thomas Powell, married Mary Wilhoite, and the two of them also made the journey to Bedford County. Though this evidence is circumstantial, I am confident in attaching Jacob Jr. to Jacob Sr.

2. Amelia (Milly) Wilhoite – Born 20 Nov 1782 in Orange County, NC and died 22 Mar 1865 in Bedford County, TN. She married John Whitesell on 12 Oct 1803 in Orange County, NC. Fortunately, Amelia is pretty easy to attach to her parents. Not only did she make the trek from Orange County to Bedford County with the rest of this clan (though it should be noted that that in and of itself does not guarantee they are the same family, as Jacob Sr.’s 1st cousin, Young Wilhoite, also took the same journey from Orange to Bedford, and there have been several times when the children of Young and the children of Jacob have been confused, as will be discussed further in this essay), but she is buried on the former property of Jacob Wilhoite in what is now referred to as the Whitesell-Wilhoite Cemetery. Amelia and her husband John are buried there along with a son, John Jr., and an Eveline Whitesell, who was either an unmarried daughter or a daughter-in-law. Also buried there are Jacob and Amelia Holt Wilhoite, their proven sons John and William, several grandchildren, and a few others. Based on Amelia’s marriage record proving she is indeed a Wilhoite, and her burial on Jacob’s property, I feel confident attaching her as a child of Jacob Sr.

3. Lewis Wilhoite – Born about 1786 in Orange County, NC and died after 1860 in Bedford County, TN. (Many trees have his date of death listed as 20 Feb 1863, but I have not seen any documentation proving this date.) He married Frances “Fanny” Christmas on 19 Dec 1813 in Orange County, NC. Obviously, Lewis also made the trek from Orange to Bedford. He is residing only a few households away from Jacob Jr. in the 1820 Census. His household for the 1840 Census has thrown many researchers off; he is listed as Willis instead of Lewis. It is most certainly the same person, as from 1830 to 1840 both households have very similar neighboring households. In 1840, he is only a few households from his nephew, Pearce Wilhoite, son of Jacob Jr. This Census has led many researchers to name him “Lewis Willis Wilhoite”. However, I am of the belief that this was simply an error by the census-taker. I have looked over many records and documents concerning Lewis, and not one indicates he had the middle initial “W”, or any middle initial at all. I think this was simply an unfortunate error which has led many researchers to give him an incorrect name. Lewis is listed as the bondsman for Catherine Wilhoite’s 1810 marriage to Flower Swift in Orange County. Additionally, Lewis’s close associations with Jacob Jr. and his son on the Census as well as John and William Wilhoite in Chancery Court records (they appear on nearly a dozen records together) lead me to believe he is indeed their brother, so I feel confident attaching him as a son of Jacob Sr.

4. John Wilhoite – John was born about 1810 in Orange County, NC and died before 1850 in Bedford County, TN. He married a Huldah B. Warner. Huldah is buried in the Whitesell-Wilhoite Cemetery, her original headstone still standing. The date of death on her headstone, 21 Mar 1844, matches the date of birth on the death certificate of her daughter, Huldah. John is also supposedly buried in the same cemetery, though his original headstone has not been located (there are many field stones and unmarked graves in the cemetery). John can be confirmed as a son of Jacob Sr. by an 1821 deed that is found in Bedford County Deed Book 0 on page 55 that has Jacob Wilhoite, Sr. deeding 200 acres to John “for love and affection for his son”. (Source: It should be noted that John is listed as “John M. Wilhoite” in most family trees and on pages concerning the Whitesell-Wilhoite Cemetery. However, none of the several Chancery Court or County Court records apply a middle initial to John. In fact, I have not seen him given a middle initial in any formal documentation anywhere, leading me to list him simply as “John” as there seems to be no proof that his middle initial was “M”.

5. William Wilhoite – Born 1 Mar 1804 in Orange County, NC and died 12 Jun 1839 in Bedford County, TN. He married Anna Adeline Warner and had 3 sons and a daughter, with two of those sons surviving to adulthood and one of them perishing in the Civil War. One of William’s granddaughters married Henry H. Horton, a governor of Tennessee. William is easily attached to Jacob Sr. per a deed identical to the aforementioned deed from Jacob Sr. to John. The transaction took place on the same day (page 57) for the same amount of land “for love and affection for his son”. (Source:

6. Catherine Wilhoite – Catherine was born about 1791 in Orange County, NC and died after 1860 in Bedford County, TN. Many trees have her date of birth as 16 Oct 1791 and date of death as Aug 1864, but offer no proof for either of those assertions. She married Flower Swift on 28 Jul 1810 in Orange County, NC with Lewis Wilhoite acting as bondsman. She has both a son (Thomas W.) and a granddaughter (Kezira K.) buried in the Whitesell-Wilhoite Cemetery on Jacob Sr.’s former property, with both of their original headstones still intact. The Swift’s are living two households from the households of John and William Wilhoite in 1830. Catherine’s association with Lewis, proximity to John and William, and her descendants being buried in the Whitesell-Wilhoite Cemetery lead me to confidently attach her as a child of Jacob Sr.

7. Sarah Wilhoite – Sarah was born 18 Dec 1784 in Orange County, NC and died 18 Dec 1841 in Marshall County, TN; these dates come from the Thomas Powell Family Bible, presently owned by Milton Thomas Powell, Jr. of Chapel Hill, TN. She married Thomas Powell on 5 Apr 1803 in Orange County. (It should be noted that the bible gives their date of marriage as 25 May 1803.) Thomas was the brother of Mary Powell who married Jacob Wilhoite Jr. The Powell’s reside next door to Thomas and Mary Wilhoite Murdock in both 1830 in Bedford County and 1840 in Marshall County. Sarah’s association with Jacob Jr. (marrying his wife’s brother) and Mary Wilhoite Murdock, as well as the fact that she made the trek from Orange to Bedford County presents enough circumstantial evidence to attach her as the daughter of Jacob Wilhoite Sr.

8. Mary “Polly” Wilhoite – Born 31 Mar 1779 in Orange County, NC and died 18 Aug 1838 in Marshall County, TN. These dates come from the Murdock Family Bible, now in possession of a Jane Murdock. She married Thomas Murdock on 27 Jan 1804 in Orange County, NC. Other than the trek from Orange to Bedford, the only close tie to the Jacob Sr. family appears to be the Murdock’s close association with the aforementioned family of Thomas and Sarah Wilhoite Powell, next to whom the family resides in 1830 and 1840. While this circumstantial evidence is decidedly weaker than many of the previous cases, since I am confident of Sarah’s tie to Jacob Sr. I am also fairly confident attaching Mary to Jacob Sr. Also note that this Mary is listed as “Cynthia (Polly)” in the Wilhoite book. However, her marriage record and other documents identify her as Mary or Polly; where the name “Cynthia” came from I haven’t the slightest clue.

9. Frances “Fannie” Wilhoite – Born 18 Jun 1796 and died 9 Oct 1846 in Bedford County, TN. She married a John Barrett. No marriage record has been found. As no marriage record has been found, there is no formal documentation in existence that gives Fannie, wife of John Barrett, the maiden name “Wilhoite”. She is listed as Jacob’s child in the Wilhoite book, and many online trees and databases apply “Wilhoite” as her maiden name, but there is no proof of that. I have not found any documents tying she or her husband to any of the Wilhoite’s or even the Holt’s. Though the family resides in Bedford County, their household has not been found to be in significant geographic proximity to any of the aforementioned Wilhoite households; there is also no documentation indicating that the family originated in Orange County, NC. I have seen no evidence that she is connected to Jacob Sr. or even that she was a Wilhoite at all. Until I am provided with any sort of documentation tying her to Jacob’s family, I do not feel she should be attached as a child of Jacob Wilhoite Sr.

10. Susan Wilhoite – No information is listed in the Wilhoite book on her other than she was born in born in Orange County, NC and she married a ______ Craig. I looked at all of the Craig households in Bedford County, TN for 1820, 1830, and 1840 and none of them were in proximity to any of the aforementioned Wilhoite households. There is not sufficient information that this Susan Wilhoite even existed, much less any information that would tie her to Jacob Wilhoite Sr. Therefore, I do not feel she should be attached as his child.

11. Mary Wilhoite – No information listed other than she was born in 1784 and married a _______ Kimmons. Several online trees have a Mary Eleanor Wilhoite marrying an Edward Kimmons. Edward Kimmons did reside in Bedford County. In 1830 he is in close proximity to Willis W. Wilhoite, son of Young Wilhoite Sr., and in 1840 he is in close proximity to Young Wilhoite Sr. himself. No marriage record has been found for this supposed union. There is no evidence that the wife of Edward Kimmons was a Wilhoite, much less the daughter of Jacob. If she is indeed a Wilhoite, she is more likely connected to the Young Wilhoite clan. Additionally, Mary Wilhoite, wife of Thomas Murdock, is almost certainly Jacob’s daughter, and it is not likely he would have two daughters named Mary. I do not believe there is sufficient evidence to attach this Mary as a child of Jacob Wilhoite Sr.

12. Hannah Wilhoite – The only information presented for Hannah in the Wilhoite book is that she married a _______ Moore. In scouring Bedford County, TN records and indexes, I did not find the Wilhoite clan closely associated with any Moore families of the county. I can find no evidence that this person even existed, much less that she was Jacob’s daughter; she should not be attached as a daughter of Jacob Wilhoite Sr.

13. Jennie Wilhoite – The only information presented for Jennie in the Wilhoite book is that she married a ________ Holt. This information is incredibly vague as there were a number of Holt families in Bedford County, TN who were all relatives of Amelia Holt, wife of Jacob Wilhoite Sr. Many of the Holt families were closely associated with the Wilhoite’s, which makes sense given their relation, but I found no record of any of them having a wife name Jennie. There was a Jennie Holt who married an E. T. Bomar in Bedford County on 16 Aug 1861, but that was most likely Virginia Holt, daughter of Henry Holt (born 1785 in North Carolina). I have found no evidence that this Jennie Wilhoite existed, much less that she was Jacob’s daughter, and therefore she should not be attached as a daughter of Jacob Wilhoite Sr.

14. Margaret Wilhoite – Volume 1 of the Wilhoite book only states that she was born Nov 1797 and married Jordan Cain Holt. In Volume 2, it became clear the books were referring to Jordan Cain Holt, Sr., son of Joshua Holt who was a son of Michael Holt. While this would make Jordan related to a daughter of Jacob Wilhoite Sr. he is actually more closely related to Mary “Polly Powell, wife of Jacob Wilhoite Jr., who would be his 1st cousin. Now Jordan Cain Holt was married to a Margaret. She is buried next to him in Center Cemetery in Shelbyville with the dates 30 Nov 1797 to 31 Jul 1853 on her headstone. Unfortunately, there has been no marriage record for Jordan and Margaret discovered. However, Jordan C. Holt appears to have been involved in at least 3 sets of Chancery Court Records with John and William Wilhoite, and several sets of County Court cases with John (one of those including William). However, since I only recently began to explore the possibility that Margaret could be a daughter of Jacob Wilhoite Sr., I have not yet explored these court cases to see if a relationship between Jordan C. Holt and the Wilhoite’s has been established. Until it has been, if it can be at all, I do not feel Margaret should be attached as a daughter of Jacob Wilhoite Sr., though the possibility of adding her as a child should remain open.

So in conclusion, unless proof can be brought to light that can viably attach Frances, Susan, Mary wife of Edward Kimmons, Hannah, Jennie, or Margaret as children of Jacob and Amelia Holt Wilhoite. Their list of children should, in order, look like this:

1. Mary “Polly” Wilhoite, born 31 Jan 1779
2. Jacob Wilhoite Jr., born about 1781
3. Amelia “Milly” Wilhoite, born 20 Nov 1782
4. Sarah Wilhoite, born 18 Dec 1784
5. Lewis Wilhoite, born about 1786
6. Catherine Wilhoite, born about 1791
7. William Wilhoite, born 1 Mar 1804
8. John Wilhoite, born about 1810

As previously stated, all but John and William are based on circumstantial evidence, which should be noted in any genealogical file concerning the family. However, I hope that by having all the evidence in front of you , you can see why each child is attached to this family.

Anyone with comments or additional information is welcome to contact me.


  1. William Wilhoite's daughter did not marry Henry H Horton. The daughter of John B Wilhoite son of William did.

    1. I meant it to say granddaughter. It has been revised. Thank you.

  2. Anna Adeline Wilhoite, (John's daughter),married, Henry Hollis Horton, in 1896. They served as Governor and First Lady of Tennessee from 1927 to 1933. In 1961 the Wilhoite farm was added to the Tennessee State Park System, and renamed The Henry Horton State Park on the Duck River. I have a little more info., but NOT much. I, had at one time a family book that went back to the time the Wilhoites came to this country. Sorry to say, it has been miss-placed., daughter of Mabel Wilhoite Toon.