A Witcher Family Genealogy
This essay will explore the paper genealogy of James Witcher, who was married to Gilley Edwards, and their son, Hezekiah. It is believed by pairing this particular pedigree with y-DNA tests, descendants from the family of William Witcher, Sr., can be verified.
The parents of James Witcher (who married Gilley Edwards in 1813) were John Witcher and Suzanna Key, of Pittsylvania County, Virginia. John Witcher was the son of Major William Witcher, who commanded his Virginia militia in the Revolutionary War. Pittsylvania County court records indicate this John Witcher also served in the Revolutionary War as a Lieutenant in the Pittsylvania County militia.
Fortunately, when John Witcher died, he left a will, which was proved “the 18th day August 1834.” The will identified his children as Frances, Betsey, Owney, James, Tempy, Benjamin, Denny, Joannah, and Polly. It is his children James and Tempy who will be highlighted in this essay.
Within John Witcher’s will, his wife was listed as “Susannah Witcher.” She apparently died in 1848, at which time a probate court divided John’s estate to the heirs. A copy of this detailed record will be found at the bottom of this essay. Within the 1848 record of inventory and appraisement, allotments were assigned to the heirs, who were listed by name. This probate record lists James, and his sister Tempy, as heirs who were to receive a portion of John and Susannah’s estate.
As to how I identify the John Witcher of this essay as the son of Major William Witcher, please click here and here. In addition, at the bottom of this essay, I have included a deed of gift record, dated 1806. In this record William Witcher, Sr., identifies John Witcher, Jr., as his son, and John’s daughter, Owney, as William’s grand-daughter. This is a snip from this record, “I William Witcher Sen….for and in consideration of the natural love and affection which I have to Oney Witcher daughter of my son John Witcher jr….[I] do give….one negro….by the name of Saley.” This granddaughter named “Oney” is listed as “Owney” in John’s 1834 will and as “Oaney” in the 1848 probate record of John’s estate. Keep in mind that Owney and Tempy were sisters, and therefore granddaughters of William Witcher, Sr.
As we work through this essay pertaining to the lineage of James and Hezekiah Witcher, the name Ephraim Witcher will be mentioned. This Ephraim was the individual who married Betsey Fips. One of the sons of Ephraim and Betsey Fips was James Witcher. This James Witcher married John’s daughter, Tempy Witcher. Click here for information pertaining to Ephraim Witcher.
In a note dated “December 28th 1811,” to the Pittsylvania County court clerk, John Witcher gave consent for his “daughter Tempy Witcher” to marry “James Witcher.” In the companion 1811 marriage bond record, two James Witchers were listed on the record; one was “James Witcher jr,” and the other “James Witcher Sr.” James, the son of Ephraim, was the junior, as he was born around 1794. James, the son of John, was the senior, as he was born around 1790. Both men would soon migrate into Georgia, in the early 1800s, and their lives would remain entwined until the end.
In the late 1790s and early 1800s, some of the children of John and Ephraim Witcher began to migrate from Virginia and North Carolina into the far northeast region of Georgia. There are an abundance of Georgia court records which document the early migration path of this family, but for time’s sake, I will only summarize their odyssey. However, you can click here to read about some of these early exploits in northeast Georgia.
In the first decade of the 1800s, court records indicate Witchers began to arrive in Elbert County, Georgia. This county is located in the far northeast region of Georgia. Over the next twenty-plus years, the federal government acquired land from the Creek and Cherokees and thus opened their lands up for allotments to Caucasian settlers. As those lands were opened up, records indicate Witchers were among the first who migrated southwest, moving from Elbert County (part of which became Madison County in 1811) into the newly formed counties of Jasper, Newton, Monroe, then dispersing further west, until in the early 1830s, most settled in the Cherokee lands of northwest Georgia. That region of the Georgia frontier would be partitioned into counties, including Paulding and Polk County, where many of our Witcher relatives finally settled.
In 1811, James Witcher, son of Ephraim and Betsey Witcher, married Tempy Witcher, daughter of John and Susannah Witcher.
In 1813, James Witcher, son of John and Susannah Witcher, married Gilley Edwards.
By 1819, court records indicate both of these James Witchers had migrated from Virginia into northeast Georgia.
A Pittsylvania County, Virginia, power of attorney record, dated 1819, indicates John Witcher had appointed his son, “James Witcher of the county of Madison and state of Georgia,” to be his attorney. James was commissioned to, “ask demand and receive of James Witcher (son of Ephraim) one negro girl named Anna and other property which I loaned my daughter Tempy who intermarried with the said James Witcher….” A copy of this record is found at the bottom of this essay.
I quote this power of attorney record to prove kinship and residence; namely that James and Tempy were siblings and children of John Witcher, and both lived in Georgia in 1819. This connection is important to understand, as John Witcher’s 1848, Pittsylvania County probate record refers to both these individuals as heirs of John and Susanna Witcher’s estate. More about this estate will be discussed shortly.
In the 1820, Federal Census, no James Witcher was found in Madison County, but two different James Witchers are located in nearby Morgan County, Georgia. However, a notice from Madison County, Georgia, dated July 9, 1822, indicates “James Witcher” had an undelivered letter at a post office in Madison County, presumably because James had moved away from Madison County.
The 1820, Federal Census indicates both James Witchers lived in Captain Leonard’s District, Morgan County, Georgia. One of them is listed as having three slaves, while the other had only one.
The James Witcher who owned only one slave, I believe, had John Witcher’s slave named Anna. That 1820 census record listed six people; one black and five white people in the Witcher household. This was very probably the family of James and Tempy Witcher.
The other James Witcher in Morgan County listed nine people, six whites and three blacks. Subsequent records indicate James Witcher (whose wife was Gilley Edwards) possessed slaves until the emancipation. Therefore, I believe the family listed in this 1820 census record was probably the household of James and Gilley Witcher.
In 1830, the federal census lists two James Witchers living in separate, but neighboring counties.
That 1830 census for Newton County, Georgia, lists a James Witcher in a household containing eight whites and no blacks. I expect the disputed slave would have been returned to Tempy’s father by now. I believe this is the family of James and Tempy Witcher.
At the same time, in District 284 of Morgan County, Georgia, the 1830 census lists a James Witcher, whose household contained six whites and two blacks. This probably was the household of James and Gilley Witcher.
In the 1840 census, both James Witcher families disappear from Newton and Morgan Counties. However, they reappear in two different Georgia counties to the west, Paulding and Meriwether Counties.
As a side note, many other official documents pertaining to the Witchers exist in the various counties I’ve mentioned. These records include deeds, lawsuits, estate records, estray records, court proceedings, and a variety of newspaper publications. These manuscripts are important as they help chronologize the western migration of the Witchers as new lands were opened up to settlement.
Both James Witchers are listed in the 1840 and 1850 census records. The 1850 census identifies the James Witcher in Meriwether County as the husband of “Gilla” Witcher. James and “Gilla” are listed with four youngsters: Benjamin Witcher, William Witcher, Elvina A. Witcher, and Harriet J. Witcher, all presumed to be children of James and Gilley.
An 1860, Federal Census record indicates James and “Gilla” Witcher had settled in Georgia Militia District 1076, in Polk County, Georgia. Twelve years earlier, this James had traveled to Virginia to receive his inheritance from the estate of John and Susannah Witcher. James’ portion was two slaves named Creasy and Patsey, plus some money. James’s sister, Tempy Witcher, received three slaves and some money. In the probate record, Tempy’s son, Diskin H Witcher, is listed as her attorney. The 1848 probate record states, “D.H. Witcher Attorney in fact for Tempy Witcher The wife of James Witcher.”
Therefore, from this record, additional proof exists that James and Tempy were children of John and Susannah Witcher. We also know this Tempy was married to another “James Witcher,” whom we can identify from his father’s estate records as a son of Ephraim Witcher.
Of interest is a letter written by a great granddaughter of James and Gilley Witcher. This letter (written in 1938 by Mollie Young Irwin) lists the children of James and Gilley Witcher as: Adeline, Hezekiah, Benjamin, Troup, Agnes, and Harriet. In a moment, we will begin to discuss the genealogy of Hezekiah, son of James and Gilley Witcher.
Mollie goes on to say, “after the war of 1812 my great-grandparents migrated to Monroe County, Georgia. From that section he went to Meriwether County, Georgia, and from that county to the section of Paulding, which later became Polk County.
In this letter, Mollie went on to list a few of Ephraim Witcher’s children and who they married. An example of what Mollie wrote is, “one of his [her great grandfather, James] cousins….Sarah Witcher [a daughter of Ephraim], married Asa Prior who was the founder of Cedartown….another cousin, Benjamin Witcher [a son of Ephraim], married Sarah McElroy…. His sister married a first cousin who was very dissipated.” This “dissipated” cousin was almost certainly the James Witcher, who married Tempy Witcher. Time will not allow me to elaborate, but ample evidence does indicate Tempy’s husband was indeed “dissipated,” as James Witcher, son of Ephraim, had run-ins with the law.
Mollie’s letter goes on to note, “Great grandfather [James Witcher] returned to Virginia in the forties [1840s] to visit relatives and receive an inheritance.” I have placed at the bottom of this essay a copy of a probate record, which documents the inheritance Mollie was referring to. This record was dated 1848, and does prove James Witcher was personally in Virginia to receive an inheritance.
James Witcher, son of John and Susannah Witcher, died February 9, 1873, in Polk County, Georgia. Click here to access the online estate records for James Witcher, husband of Gilley (You will need to log into your free FamilySearch account to see this record). After her husband’s death, Gilley Witcher filed for a widow’s pension, as James was a War of 1812 veteran. One of these pension records indicate Gilley Witcher died on December 21, 1882.
Before the death of James and Gilley Witcher, they experienced the sorrows of the Civil War, as so many families did during the Civil War.
As noted in the 1938 letter written by Mollie Young Irwin, Hezekiah Witcher was listed as one of the sons of James Witcher. This individual was attached to a regiment as a surgeon in the Civil War but was killed in action within three months of his enlistment.
During happier times, Hezekiah Witcher graduated from Medical College on the 4th day of March, 1851. I have included a transcription from the Southern Medical and Surgical Journal, Volume 7, in which the announcement of Hezekiah’s 1851 graduating class is recorded:
“Medical College of Georgia—The course of lectures in this institution was closed the last day of February, after a session of four months, during which there occurred not the slightest incident to mar the good feeling which prevailed between the Faculty and Students, nor to lessen the high esteem in which the class has ever been held by the community….
There were in attendance 159 gentlemen, of whom 127 were from Georgia, 13 from Alabama, 12 from South Carolina, 2 from Mississippi, 1 from Ohio, 1 from Tennessee, 1 from North Carolina, 1 from Kentucky, and 1 from Arkansas.”
Twenty-four names down, Hezekiah Witcher is listed as one of the graduates of this class.
Eleven years later, Dr. Hezekiah Witcher was killed in The First Battle of Murfreesboro. This battle was fought on July 13, 1862, in Rutherford County, Tennessee, when troops under Confederate cavalry commander Brig. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest surprised and quickly overran a Federal camp at the courthouse in Murfreesboro. The Confederate force suffered a relatively small casualty count. Unfortunately, Dr. Hezekiah was one of those killed in the Calvary charge.
Hezekiah’s widow, Virginia A Witcher, would later apply for a Confederate soldier widow’s pension. Those records indicate Dr. Hezekiah was killed in action at the “Battle of Murphysboro” on the 13th day of July, 1863. Those archives memorialize Hezekiah’s death by stating, “in making a charge upon the court house he was shot off his horse,” and he was hit with a, “Minnie ball by which he was instantly killed.” Family records indicate Hezekiah was brought home in the fall for burial in the Ammon’s family cemetery. An image of his memorial marker can be seen at the bottom of this essay.
Dr. Hezekiah Witcher left behind a widow named Virginia A, and two small boys, Warren Atkin and Hezekiah.
A Confederate widow’s pension record states Virginia A Witcher married Hezekiah Witcher on December 16, 1856. From other records, we know Virginia’s maiden name was Verdery. We also know Virginia had a sister named Mary Verdery, who married an individual named Col. Warren Atkin. This man became a member of the Confederate Congress during the Civil War and was very prominent during his days. I feel certain Virginia’s son, Warren Atkin, was named after her sister’s husband, Warren Atkin. The other son, Hezekiah, was no doubt named after Hezekiah’s dad.
Hezekiah Witcher, Jr., son of Hezekiah and Virginia, was born on April 26, 1862. He died March 1, 1937. These dates are taken from Hezekiah, Jr’s., grave marker. Later in this essay the lineage of Hezekiah, Jr., will be briefly discussed.
Hezekiah, Sr., enlisted in the Confederate Army on April 1, 1862. This date of enlistment causes me to wonder if Hezekiah ever saw his son Hezekiah, as Hezekiah, Sr., was killed in action only three months later, on July 13, 1862. James Witcher, the grandfather of Warren Atkin and Hezekiah, responded to the death of his son by giving his grandsons a fourteen year old slave girl, named Angelina.
A deed of gift, dated October 21, 1862, is recorded in Polk County, Georgia, within deed book C, on pages 272-273. These two pages indicate James Witcher deeded a slave named Angelina, “Of dark complexion, aged about 14 years,” to “grandsons of the said James Witcher.” Those grandsons are listed as Warren Akin Witcher and Hezekiah Witcher. The mother of the children is listed as Virginia A. Witcher, who the record states, “Shall benefit of the services of said negro,”…. until Hezekiah became twenty-one years of age, at which time there was to be a division made for both grandsons. I have included a copy of this deed of gift at the bottom of this essay.
I’ve only located one James Witcher in the 1860, Federal Census of Polk County, Georgia, that one being the husband of Gilley. It should be noted that in 1858, James Witcher, the son of Ephraim Witcher, had died. There is no doubt in my mind the James Witcher who initiated the 1862 deed of gift record was the husband of Gilley, and the son of John and Susannah Witcher.
Before I discuss the life of Hezekiah, Jr., I want to provide a transcript of the letter his dad wrote, as he was seeking to be immediately joined to a Confederate regiment. At the bottom of this webpage, I have included an image of the letter.
Cedartown Ga, Dec. 1st, 1861
James Deaver esq:
Dear Sir—I have written to Gov Brown, making application for a position as Surgeon, & have heard nothing from him in reference to the matter—I am quite anxious now to get such a position, in any Regiment composing Gen?? Caper’s Brigade, as Capt. W.T. Witcher will probably report to him, as he expects to go in Col Nunnerly’s Battalion, or Regiment, if extended to a Regiment. I would be much gratified to get a place in that Regiment, on his & many of my friends from this county, but I would gladly receive it—in any of the Regiments of that Brigade—and if you & your friends can aid me in securing the place, I will receive it—as a very great favor indeed—I feel that I can render good & efficient service, & will make every effort to render myself competent & faithful to the trust—Please try to work this thing for me & oblige yours
Very respectfully H. Witcher M.D. Try first for surgeon & then assistant surgeon Please as I am anxious to go—in haste H.W.
On April 1, 1862, Dr. Hezekiah Witcher was attached as a surgeon to the 1st Calvary Unit of Georgia, and was killed in action only three months later, on July 13 of 1862.
Until her death, for almost forty years, Dr. Hezekiah Witcher’s widowed wife apparently remained unmarried. Virginia A Witcher’s obituary can be found in a copy of The Atlanta Constitution newspaper, dated December 17, 1901. It reads as follows:
“Mrs Virginia Witcher Dead.
Catersville, GA. Dec. 16—(Special) Mrs Virginia Witcher died suddenly at the home of her sister, Mrs Mary Akin, last night….
She was the widow of late Dr. Witcher, originally of Polk County, and who was killed while a soldier of the Confederacy. She was a sister of Mrs Mary Ann Akin, of this city, Mrs John S. Prather, of Atlanta, and Mrs Verdery Battey, for years a well known writer for the New York Press. Her remains will probably be buried at Cassville.”
After the death of her husband, Virginia raised her children as a single, working mom.
The 1870, Federal Census record indicates Virginia A Witcher lived in Decatur, Georgia, and was raising her two sons, twelve year old Warren A, and eight year old Hezekiah Witcher.
The 1880, Federal Census indicates a 44 year old V.A. Witcher was a widow working as a public school teacher in Atlanta, Georgia. Her son W.A. Witcher lived with her. It appears her son Hezekiah was located in Cherokee County, where a Federal Census record indicates he was an eighteen years old working as a farm laborer.
On November the 10th, 1893, Hezekiah Witcher married Annie Mariah Loftin, in Smith County, Texas. It should be noted the city of Tyler is in Smith County, Texas. A Confederate pension record, dated February 20, 1894, indicates Virginia A Witcher was, “now absent from the state [Georgia] visiting her son in Tyler Texas.” This record no doubt indicates mom was visiting her newlywed son and her new daughter-in-law, who by this time was pregnant with Loftin Verdery.
The 1910, Federal Census record indicates Hezekiah Witcher had been married for 17 years to “Annie L Witcher,” who was age 37. The children were listed as Loftin V, a son 15 years old, and daughter, Emily H, 8 years of age. The family was then living in Tarrant County, Texas.
A grave marker indicates Hezekiah Witcher [Jr.] died March 1, 1937, and was born on April 26, 1862. This grave is located in the Greenwood Memorial Park and Mausoleum, in Fort Worth, Texas.
The 1910 Federal Census record indicates the son of Hezekiah and Annie was named “Loftin V” Witcher. Later records would identify this individual as Loftin Verdery Witcher. The grave marker for this Loftin indicates he was born on August 7th, 1894, and he died on March 3rd, 1938. On the stone his name is inscribed as “Loftin Verdery Witcher,” and his grave is located in Fort Worth, Texas, in the Greenwood Memorial Park and Mausoleum.
Loftin was no doubt named after his mother’s maiden name. Her name was Annie Mariah Loftin. Also, Loftin’s middle name (Verdery) probably came from his grandmother, Virginia A’s maiden name. Loftin’s grandmother’s maiden name was Virginia A Verdery. Thus the name Loftin Verdery Witcher was given to the son of Hezekiah and Annie. Also of interest, an Eastland County, Texas, birth certificate indicates Loftin, son of Hezekiah and Annie Witcher, was born in Tyler Texas, around 1894. This is the same period of time a Confederate pension record indicates his grandmother, Virginia A Witcher, was visiting from Georgia.
Loftin Verdery Witcher married Edith Mae Jackson, and the couple had a son in 1931, who the couple named Loftin Verdery. At this point, because this research has arrived in modern times, I will conclude listing the lineage of this family branch. However, I am glad to report, that despite extraordinary adversities, descendants of William, John, James, and Dr. Hezekiah Witcher are alive and well today, and for this I am very grateful and satisfied to know!
written by Wayne Witcher 1-09-2020
I would love to hear from any descendant of this family branch.
Just email me at
wwawitcher@windstream . net
or ask to be friended at our facebook page: Witcher Genealogy
The James and Gilley Witcher Family