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William J Witcher was born around 1808, in Surry County, North Carolina. He died in 1857, at the age of 49, presumably in Gordon County, Georgia. His father was Ephraim Witcher and his mother’s maiden name was Betsey (Elizabeth) Fips. The family of Ephraim and Betsey Witcher was large, with William J being the youngest of perhaps fourteen children.
A Surry County, North Carolina marriage bond for $500 dollars was secured March 18, 1834, for Willam J Witcher and Julina Burch. From a letter written in 1906 by Vincent Addison Witcher, we know that Julina Burch, “was educated at a grand, noble Institution.” I believe that Julina died in Surry County shortly after the year 1850. It should be noted that an 1847, defamation charge in Surry County repeatedly indicated Julina was known by the name "Judith," at least by the transcribing court clerk.
William J and Julina Witcher are presumed to have had eight children. This supposition is based on census and probate records and a letter written in 1956 by a grandson of William J William. In the 1956 letter composed by William Cleveland Witcher (WC Witcher), it was stated that William J had eight children total, five sons and three daughters.
In that 1956 letter, William Cleveland Witcher was replying to a previous correspondence which he received from a woman researching her Witcher family connections. A transcribed copy of WC’s response can be found by clicking here. From this letter we can glean many interesting, then contemporaneous, facts about William J Witcher and his close relatives.
Firstly, in his reply, “W.C.” Witcher wrote that his father’s name was “T.A. Witcher,” a man who had died in Brownswood, Texas, on July 5, 1939. My research of extraneous records confirms the name “T.A. Witcher” is one and the same as Taliaferro Asbury Witcher. From WC’s 1956 letter, we know that his father (Taliaferro Asbury Witcher) was the youngest son of William J and Julina Witcher. To read an essay about Taliaferro Asbury Witcher, and his communication with Civil War hero, Vincent Addison Witcher, click here.
According to WC’s 1956 letter, William J and Julina lost four of their sons to the Civil War, in which they fought in the Confederate Army. Three of the men were killed in action, with one of the four dying shortly thereafter, “from prison hardship the last year of the struggle.”
Those sons were James Newton Witcher, born around 1839, assumed to have died shortly after the Civil War, and William J Witcher, born around 1840, assumed to have been killed in battle. The third son was Emory T Witcher, who was born around 1842, also assumed to have been killed in action, plus an unknown son, who was also killed in the Civil War. The fifth son, who did survive, to later migrate to Texas, was Taliaferro (TA) Asbury Witcher. He was born December 2, 1847 and died on July 9, 1939, in Brownwood, Texas, at the age of 91.
The three daughters born to William J and Julina Witcher were Nancy J Witcher, born around 1846, Juliana Witcher, born around 1850, and Charity Ann Witcher, who was born February 22, 1838 and died April 10, 1894.
Before the start of the Civil War, an 1857, Floyd County, Georgia probate record reveals that William J Witcher had apparently died in 1857. This record indicates that three of WJ’s sons (those being James Newton, William J, and Emory Witcher) were assigned by the courts to live with their uncle, Taliaferro Witcher. However, from the 1860, Floyd County, federal census we know that only “Emora T Witcher, Orphan,” was still living in Taliaferro Witcher’s household.
From a Polk County, Georgia probate record dated December 7, 1857, we also know that William J Witcher lived in Gordon County, Georgia when he died, and that three other of William J Witcher’s children were placed in the home of Daniel C. Roberts. Those children were N.J Witcher, T.A. Witcher, and J.E. Witcher. The 1860-70 census records for Polk County, Georgia further identifies these three minors as Nancy J Witcher, Taliaferro “E” Witcher, and Juliana E Witcher.
William J’s daughter, Charity Ann Witcher, was apparently not placed by the courts into any particular home, at least I have not seen records indicating this to be the case. But the 1860, Polk County, Georgia census lists Charity (who was then 19 years of age) as a resident in the home of WL Walthall. In 1862 Charity Ann Witcher married Robert L. Young, and thus from that point forward is found in the Young household. Click here for more information about Charity Ann Witcher.
Since William J’s children were made wards of the court, it seems obvious that Julina Witcher was also dead by 1857. This is further supported by WC Witcher’s 1956 letter, which states that his grandmother had died when his father was around two years of age, thus indicating that Julina had died around 1850. The 1850, Surry County, North Carolina census sheds a bit more light on when Julina died, as well as when William J and his children were born.
The 1850 federal census for Surry County, North Carolina enumerates the household of William J and Julina Witcher. However, no thanks to some obvious mistakes made in that record by the census-taker, those records have baffled some researchers of that WJ Witcher household.
When one reviews this 1850 census record, it’s completely obvious that, on page 330, the census-taker inadvertently shifted the age and gender columns down by one row from the names to the right of that information, cascading misinformation throughout the body of that page. Thusly, household 885 (the Witcher household) is identified as being headed by William J Witcher, whose vitals indicate to be a female, nineteen years of age. Under William is listed a woman named Julina, who is identified as a male, 42 years of age, she being a farmer who owned 1,100 acres of land. It’s completely obvious that William J Witcher is the male individual who was the “farmer” who owned the 1,100 acres.
When one shifts this data up one row, it becomes apparent that William J Witcher was born around 1808, and his wife Julina was born around 1813. The children in this household would then be subsequently listed.
It is in this 1850 census where “Taifaro” Witcher is first listed as a three year old son of William J Witcher. One of the reasons I make this point is to establish that not all ancestral memory among the old-timers was accurate.
For example, the 1939, Texas death certificate for Taliaferro Asbury Witcher states that his father was Ephraim Witcher. This Taliaferro Asbury (TA) Witcher was the same individual listed in William J Witcher’s household in the 1850, Surry County census, and is further identified by his son, WC Witcher, (in the previously mentioned 1956 letter) as a son of William J Witcher. Despite what is stated in the Texas death certificate, the fact is Ephraim Witcher was Taliaferro Asbury’s grandfather. The mistake on the Texas death certificate was made by Miss Minnie Witcher, the spinster daughter of Taliaferro Asbury Witcher, who was obviously uninformed as to who her grandfather was.
Also, in the 1956 letter written by WC Witcher, and in a 1906 letter written to WC’s father by a close relative named Vincent Addison (VA) Witcher, the point is made that Ephraim Witcher (the father of William J) was the son of a then well known Revolutionary War soldier, Major William Witcher of Pittsylvania County, Virginia. After close examination of colonial era records, we now know for certain that Ephraim Witcher, who married Betsey Fips, was not the son of Major William Witcher. Even genealogical societies such as the DAR and SAR have renounced that assertion.
Interestingly, VA Witcher was not the only early Witcher ancestor who believed WJ Witcher’s grandfather was Major William Witcher’s son. In a letter written in 1939 by a great-granddaughter of Georgia pioneers James and Gilley Witcher, the claim is also made that Ephraim Witcher of Surry County, North Carolina, was the son of Major William Witcher. In a letter to her niece, Mollie Young Irwin wrote, “…[James Witcher was] the first cousin of Ephraim Witcher, son of William Witcher, Senior, who was a Vestryman in Camden Parish….” Major Witcher was also a vestryman in that county.
On the other hand, opposite the early Georgia Witcher accounts of who their patriarch (Ephraim Witcher) descended from, the Tennessee branch of Witchers assert that this Ephraim was a brother of Major William Witcher, one of “five brothers” who settled Pittsylvania County.
In an early book written about the Witchers of Smith County, Tennessee, the author stated, “John, William, Daniel, Ephraim, and James Witcher were contemporaries (probably brothers) whose names appear in the early records of Pittsylvania County, Virginia. Ephraim Witcher, the fourth of the original brothers, married Elizabeth Phipps, of Charlotte Co., Virginia, and they had a large family; most of their children settled in Georgia, many in Paulding County….”
Differing from the opinion of most researchers, I believe that William J Witcher’s father was almost certainly a first cousin of Major William Witcher. To understand more about my researched position, click here and here, to read my essays about Major William Witcher and Ephraim Witcher of Surry County, North Carolina.
Even if some contemporaneous letters may not be perfectly accurate memories of family history, they can be filled with extraordinarily important clues in family research. For example, looking again at the 1956 letter written by WC Witcher, we can glean intimate details about the early migration of various Witcher family clusters. For example, the letter points out that WC’s father grew up in, “the little village of Cedartown, GA., near Rome.” Using the 1860 census records, we can see that William J Witcher’s son (TA Witcher) did indeed spend his childhood in the Cedartown residence of his guardians, Daniel and Elizabeth (Witcher) Roberts. Elizabeth was William J Witcher’s older sister, and was therefore TA Witcher’s aunt.
Also, the 1956 letter mentions the “large family of boys and girls” who lived in the household of “C.N. Witcher.” This individual is Charles Neiman (C.N.) Witcher, who had moved from Georgia after the Civil War to Lampasas, Texas. Charles’ father (who was Diskin H Witcher, a nephew to William J Witcher) had been murdered in an Atlanta hotel by Charles’ older brother, in 1857. Between this tragedy and the ravages resultant of the Civil War, Charles Neiman Witcher gave up on Georgia and migrated to Texas in the late 1860s.
The 1956 letter also mentioned his father’s first cousin, “John Witcher, of Canon City and Cripple Creek, Colorado.” John Witcher was almost certainly John Tolliver Witcher, who was the grandson of William J Witcher’s brother, Taliaferro Witcher. You will remember that Taliaferro Witcher was the guardian of three of William J Witcher’s sons. So we see how the 1957 letter connects close Witcher relatives in four states, North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, and Colorado!
Before I move to far away from discussing the 1850, Surry County census, I want to comment on the final name listed in the household of William J and Julina Witcher. The individual’s name is practically indiscernible, the first name looking somewhat like “Wiliba”, the last name being Witcher. This person is listed as being a 75 year old male (born around 1776-77) and “insane.”
I am convinced this male is none other than Winston Witcher, who documents relating to the estate of Ephraim Witcher refer to as being under the guardianship of William J Witcher. A guardian return dated May 11, 1848, lists William J Witcher as guardian, who received for Winston, “two negros a boy named Norden aged 18 or 20 years [and] a girl mary aged 12 or 15 years.” If the 1850 record intended to record the name Winston Witcher (as I feel strongly that it did) I believe this to be an eldest son of Ephraim and Betsey Witcher, one forgotten in time.
Ephraim Witcher died when William J Witcher was around eleven years of age. In his will, Ephraim (William J’s father) left an estate to his wife Betsey and lists five of his children, including William J, who was to receive a horse worth $75, a saddle, and a bridle. Upon the death of Betsey, or the end of her widowhood, Ephraim’s estate was then to be sold and divided among “the whole” of Ephraim’s children.
Since the estate papers of Ephraim Witcher have been re-discovered and researched, we are now able to list the fourteen children of Ephraim and Betsey Witcher by name and estimated age, which I have done from youngest to the oldest.
Ephraim and Betsey (Fips) Witcher’s children
Betsey (Fips) Witcher never remarried; therefore the estate’s property was not totally liquidated until after her death in 1847, almost twenty-eight years after her husband’s death. I estimate Betsey (Fips) Witcher was around 85 years old when she died. The records for Ephraim Witcher’s estate provide a treasure of information for family researchers. For more details, click here.
Using Ephraim Witcher’s estate papers, and census records, I was able to list the children of Ephraim and Betsey (Fips) Witcher, by name and estimated year of birth. However, once I established the order of birth for these children, it became apparent that Betsey birthed some of her children in her late thirties and early forties.
Initially I was very hesitant to accept that this woman gave birth to so many children, so late in her child-bearing years. In fact, I diligently worked to determine if perhaps Ephraim had married two women named Elizabeth. My extensive research into this possibility concluded this is almost certainly not the case.
For one thing, after carefully studying four decades of census records for Surry County, Ephraim’s household constantly counted a white woman whose age corresponded with the expected age of Betsey (Fips) Witcher. For example, in the 1840 census for Surry County, “Elizabeth Witcher” is listed as the head of that household, she almost certainly being the “free white female – 70 thru 79” years of age. This census indicates this female was born between 1761 and 1770. As previously noted, I calculate Betsey was born in 1762.
In the 1810s, 1830s and 1840s, at least three of Ephraim Witcher’s sons (Benjamin, William J, and Taliaferro) had official connections with different individuals within the Phipps family. Ephraim and Betsey’s son, Benjamin Witcher, is found in early Elbert County, Georgia records with Lewis Phipps. The baby of the family, William J Witcher, is known to have had a close relationship with a Phipps family unit who lived in Grayson County, Virginia. Also Taliaferro Witcher was very intimate with certain Phipps families who lived around him in Ashe County, North Carolina. I expect these different Phipps families were close relatives of Betsey (Fips) Witcher, and therefore Betsey’s children were in relationship with their Phipps, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Probably the most convincing evidence that Betsey (Fips) Witcher is mother of all of Ephraim’s children is an 1842, estate record. In the November term of 1842, the children of Ephraim Witcher petitioned the courts, stating, “Complaining respectfully….your above named petitioners….That your petitioner Elizabeth Witcher hath become old and ill able to manage and control said slaves….” This petition did result in the division of twenty-one slaves in April of 1843.
The term “old and ill able” is completely compatible with the 1840, Surry County census, which indicates a white woman, aged between 70 and 79, lived in the household. This old woman was no doubt Elizabeth [Betsey] Witcher, who was listed as the head of that household in 1840, as her husband was dead.
Betsey must have been some woman. To have had as many children as she did, several late in her child-bearing years, is quite a remarkable feat! Plus she remained unmarried for almost thirty years after her husband’s death and ran the plantation in such a way that it prospered and increased greatly in assets, but no doubt with the help of her many children and slaves. I expect Betsey (Fips) Witcher took after her mother Tabitha Fips, who records indicate also possessed great spunk in her later years, after the death of her husband, John Fips. Click here to read more about Betsey’s mother, Tabitha Fips.
William J Witcher was apparently the baby of the family. He was around eleven years old when his father died. He was born around 1808. His mother is estimated to have been around 44 to 45 years of age when she gave birth to William. Apparently, this son is the only child to stay in North Carolina, to help care for his mother. An estate document dated “Nov Term 1842” stated that all of Ephraim’s children were then “absent from the state.”
Nancy Ann Witcher was around twelve years old when her father died. Census records indicate she was born around 1807. I have wondered if William J and Nancy were twins. As far as I can tell, Nancy Witcher never married, and for a time lived with her sister and brother-in-law, who was Daniel Cochran Roberts. The 1850 census for Paulding County, Georgia indicates Nancy was raising four children, who the census record indicates were born in “Tennessee.” I suspect these children were the orphans of Lacy and Peggy Witcher, both of whom I presume to have died in Tennessee.
Elizabeth Witcher was around fourteen year old when Ephraim died. She was born around 1805. Elizabeth (no doubt named after her mother) was also known as Betsey in the 1819 will of Ephraim Witcher. She married Daniel Cockran Roberts, they both becoming prominent, founding members of Cedartown, Georgia. She and her younger sister, Nancy Witcher, were founding members of the First United Methodist Church in Cedartown, which was organized in 1850. According to records, the original church building was an old log cabin, which stood near the corner of what is now College Street and Wissahickon Avenue, where now stands the First Baptist Church.
Lacy Witcher was around nineteen years of age when Ephraim died. He was born in 1800, and his mother was around thirty-eight years of age. From his father’s estate, Lacy initially received 83 acres, at that time known as “Lacefields Place.” Later in his life, Lacy fell on hard times. He resorted to burning down a Tennessee state official’s barn, over a tiff regarding his estranged wife. That crime cost Lacy three years in the Tennessee state penitentiary. To read more about the life of Lacy Witcher and his secret scandal, click here.
The above four children are assumed to have been living in Ephraim’s household when he died. Therefore, presumably because they were dependant children, William J and his three siblings received an advance on their inheritance. Benjamin Witcher was only mentioned in his father’s will because he then possessed one of the estate’s slaves, and as such, Ephraim’s will specified how he wanted that matter resolved. When Ephraim died, Benjamin was apparently living in Georgia.
Next I will list the remaining “whole” of Ephraim’s children.
At this point, I have no way of knowing when Tabitha Witcher was born. I do expect she was born in the 1780s and was named after her maternal grandmother, Tabitha Fips. The only records I know to prove the existence of Tabitha are the estate papers of Ephraim Witcher. In a November Term, 1842, court record, a petition to force Ephraim’s widow to relinquish control of the plantation’s slaves was submitted to the court by the heirs. A sub-group of those petitioners was identified as, “heirs of children of Tabitha Haney who intermarried with Diskin Haney.” However, subsequent records (such as the April 26, 1843, division of slaves report) indicate that “Milton H Haynie” was the administrator of Tabitha Haynie’s estate. I presume by 1843, Diskin Haynie had also died, but children of Tabitha and Diskin were alive as of 1843.
While as of this writing I have not resolved who Tabitha (Witcher) Haynie’s children were, I do know she was married to Diskin Haynie, and she died sometime before 1842. Early Elbert County, Georgia records (around 1800) indicate the Haynie family was quite prominent in that county, and Diskin Haynie is repeatedly found in those early records, along with Ambrose Witcher, Benjamin Witcher (Tabitha’s brother), and Lewis Phips. It should be noted that on December 14, 1841, Milton H Haynie purchased from Benjamin Witcher of “Morgan County, Georgia,” all rights and interest in his father’s estate. This record is found in Surry County records, deed book 3, page 48.
Taliaferro Witcher was around twenty years of age when Ephraim died. He was born around 1799. Taliaferro, and his older siblings, were not named in Ephraim’s will. I suspect that by 1819 Taliaferro had left the Witcher plantation, perhaps having relocated to the Ashe County, North Carolina area. Early records indicate that Taliaferro settled on the banks the New River, and according to census records, in Ashe County he once resided as a neighbor to several Phipps families, whom I believe to be close family members of his mother, Betsey (Fips) Witcher. Taliaferro became a captain in the local militia, was a lawyer, and a North Carolina state legislator. Taliaferro Witcher apparently amassed wealth, for example, owning twenty-two slaves, according to an 1860 federal slave census. For more information about Taliaferro Witcher, click here.
Daniel H Witcher was around twenty-three years of age when his father died. Daniel was born around 1796. I do not know if Daniel ever married, however, I suspect he did not. Daniel resided in Paulding County, Georgia by 1840. The 1850 census for that county indicates Daniel Witcher was living on Asa Prior’s property, who was his brother-in-law, Asa having married Daniel’s sister, Sarah Witcher. Daniel Witcher was appointed postmaster of Paulding County and served in that capacity from 1844 though at least 1850.
James Witcher (my 3X great-grandfather) was twenty-five when his father died. His mother was around thirty-two years old when he was born on January 6, 1794, in Surry County, North Carolina. For more information about James and his wife Tempy Witcher, click here.
Benjamin Witcher was thirty-one years of age when his father died. He was born in 1788. Early in his life, Benjamin moved to Elbert County, Georgia, where in 1807 he married Francis S McElroy. A federal mortality schedule indicates Benjamin was a school teacher. For more information about Benjamin Witcher, click here.
Sarah Witcher was perhaps William J Witcher’s oldest sister. She was thirty-three years of age when her father died, she having been born October 1, 1786. She married Asa Prior, and the two of them, in the early 1830s, were charter members of the First Baptist Church of Cedartown, Georgia. Asa and Sarah Prior were the original owners of the beautiful land now known as Big Spring Park. That natural spring supplies water for the town of Cedartown and was a gathering place for the Cherokee Indians in 1838, which were then eventually joined with other Native Americans to be marched west to Oklahoma on what became known as the Trail of Tears. Click here to read more about Asa and Sarah (Witcher) Prior.
Captain John Witcher was around thirty-eight years of age when his father died. He was born September 19, 1781. John was a very interesting man. By 1804 (at 23 years of age) John was captain of the militia in Surry County, North Carolina, and by 1807 was a justice of the peace. This man migrated with his younger brother, James Witcher, to northern Georgia around the year 1815. To read more about Captain John Witcher and his exploits in Cedartown, Georgia, click here and here.
Last are three obscure sons of Ephraim and Betsy (Fips) Witcher. Their existence is largely based on circumstantial evidence, but the evidence is strong enough for me to list them as sons of Ephraim and Betsey (Fips) Witcher. Their names were Winston, Ambrose, and Ephraim Witcher, Jr.
Winston Witcher was perhaps forty-three years of age when his father died. He appears to have been born around 1778 and could have been the first child of the newly married Ephraim and Betsey (Fips) Witcher. I base his existence on several estate documents, in which one 1843 record indicates Winston received “lot 5” of the division of slaves and an 1847 record in which William J Witcher is identified as Winston Witcher’s guardian. The 1847 guardianship record seems to establish Winston Witcher as the 75 year old, “insane” male listed in the 1850, Surry County census, which was then living in William J Witcher’s household.
Ephraim Witcher, Jr.’s, age is unknown. However, from 1813 to 1816, the whole of Ephraim Witcher, Sr.’s, previous listing of Surry County land holdings was perfectly split between an Ephraim Sr. and Ephraim Jr. Then, by 1818, both listings of land were once again placed under one “Ephraim Witcher.”
By examining previous years of Surry County tax records, I am able to deduce that Ephraim Witcher, Jr. may have been born around 1792, though this date of birth is not clear at all. He could have been born earlier, though I doubt it.
I suspect Ephraim Witcher, Jr., is the “Ephraim Witcher” who was listed as a soldier in the War of 1812 and who served in the Wilkes County, North Carolina, ninth brigade. Wilkes County was formed from Surry County. The location of this Ephraim Witcher’s enlistment compels me to believe the Ephraim Witcher who fought in that brigade was either Ephraim Witcher, Sr., or Jr., both of whom were listed in the contemporaneous tax records of Surry County, North Carolina. I also recognize many of the names in the Wilkes County, ninth brigade’s roster, such as Potter, Snow, and Oglesby, those individuals being neighbors of Ephraim Witcher. But due to the age of Ephraim Witcher, Sr., (in 1812 he would have been around 60 years of age), I hesitate to believe that Ephraim Witcher, Sr., was the individual listed in the military rolls of the Wilkes County militia. I strongly suspect the Ephraim Witcher of the Wilkes County, Rifleman Brigade was an obscure son of Ephraim and Betsey (Fips) Witcher, who I also think may well have died as a result of that conflict, as after 1816, I have not found this man in any North Carolina record, whatsoever.
Ambrose Witcher is found in a court document dated “Nov Term 1842.” This record indicates the legatees of Ephraim’s estate were petitioning the courts to allow Ephraim’s widow to divide most of the estate’s slaves because, “Elizabeth Witcher hath become old and ill able to manage and control said slaves….” This document states the petitioners, “are the tenants in common in said slaves entitled to partitions agreeable to the provisions and bequests of said testators will, that there was another child, Ambrose Witcher, who died a single man without child.” This document assures us that Ephraim and Betsey had a son named Ambrose, who died childless. It appears Ambrose’s brother, John Witcher, named one of his sons Ambrose J (AJ) in honor of his dead brother.
I am certain Ephraim’s son Ambrose was living in Elbert County, Georgia, in 1805 and 1806, when records indicate Ambrose Witcher, Asa Prior, and Diskin Haynie bought items from several estate sales, including items from Hadden Prior’s estate. Diskin and Asa were both married to daughters of Ephraim and Betsey. Those daughters were Tabitha and Sarah Witcher. Also, Ephraim’s son Benjamin, who married Sarah McElroy, is found in Elbert County records with his brother Ambrose Witcher. In 1811, Benjamin Witcher bought land from Alexander Cunningham, and the transaction was witnessed by Ambrose Witcher. However, as the estate records noted, Ambrose Witcher had no living descendants as of 1842.
Shortly after William J Witcher married Julina Burch in Surry County, North Carolina, he (and presumably his wife) moved to the Grayson County, Virginia area. Court records indicate William J Witcher was involved in probating the estates of several Phipps individuals. He would have been a young man around twenty-seven years of age. It’s my strongly held belief that William J Witcher had moved to the area because of his association with the area’s Phipps families, as they were almost certainly close relatives of his mother, Betsey (Fips) Witcher.
Other William J Witcher documents
In 1837, William J Witcher was appointed, with others, to appraise the estate of James Phipps of Grayson County, Virginia. I suspect this James Phipps may well have been the same individual who (around 1782) migrated to Montgomery County, Virginia, with William J Witcher’s father. Click here for details.
By July of 1838, William J Witcher and others, “proceeded to lay off and assign to Catherine Phips the widow of James Phips, decd…her dower.” In 1839, WJ Witcher and others, “laid off and assigned” to Jane Phipps, the widow of Benjamin Phipps, “her dower in the lands” of her deceased husband.
An 1838, Surry County mortgage was agreed upon between a certain Alexander Lane of Surry County, North Carolinia and William J Witcher, “of the county of Grayson and State of Virginia.” Alexander Lane promised to pay William J Witcher by January 15, 1840, or the collateral would be forfeited to William J.
The 1840, Surry County census indicates that William J Witcher had relocated back to Surry County. In 1842 William J purchases land from William Burch, who I feel certain was a close relative of his wife Julina (Burch) Witcher. A court record indicates that in 1845, William J was granted power of attorney for a matter concerning William Burch. Various other court records further detail the real estate dealings of William J Witcher within the Surry County region of North Carolina.
A very interesting court action against William J Witcher’s wife was appealed to the North Carolina Supreme Court. The matter concerned a charge of slander, in which the Witcher family was initially ordered to pay punitive damages of $2000. The outcome of the Supreme Court ruling is a bit hazy, but it appears that Julina (Judith) Witcher was exonerated by the high court.
The neighborhood infighting commenced around 1847. A woman named Huldah Snow then sued Julina Witcher for “defamation of character.” Apparently Huldah won her lawsuit, but the Witchers refused to pay the $2000 awarded by the court. This resulted in an arrest warrant being issued for William J and Julina Witcher. I have provided a few snippets from the original manuscripts forwarded by the Surry County clerk to the Supreme Court justices.
“ To the sheriff of Surry County, Greetings.”
“You are hereby commanded to take the bodies of William J Witcher and Judith [Julina] Witcher his wife if to be found in your county and then safely keep so that you have them before the judge of our Superior Court of Law at the next court to be held for the County of Surry at the courthouse in Rockford….and there to answer to Huldah Snow of a plea of trespass on the case to her damage two thousand dollars….”
The records continue by stating that the two were arrested and bond posted for the amount of $4000, with Thomas Burch, William J Witcher, and Judith Witcher posting the bond.
As the case was rehearsed in writing for the Supreme Court justices, it was revealed that “Judith” was sued for defamation of character for uttering, “several false, scandalous, malicious, and defamatory, words.” Apparently, Julina (Judith) was spreading rumors that Huldah Snow, a then single woman, was, “lewd and incontinent, in habit and character,” thus, “subjecting her to great social degradation,” by repeating the rumor that, “huldah had brought forth a bastard child.”
The transcript then details, in defense of Julina Witcher, that she (Julina) heard her negro say that, “Huldah had lost a child,” saying to the court that she, “got it from my negro, but I do not believe it, but she [Huldah] had better believe the report.”
Sadly, not long after her civil proceedings within the state courts, at the young age of approximately thirty-seven years of age, Julina died. It’s interesting to note that William J Witcher’s youngest daughter, Juliana, was born the year her mother died. Perhaps her mother died from complications of the birth, and the daughter was given her mother’s name.
Not long after Julina Witcher died, William J Witcher migrated to northern Georgia, probably Gordon County, where he lived only a few more years until his death at 49 years of age. Thus sometime after 1850 the last of Ephraim and Betsey Witcher’s children had left the Surry County area of North Carolina, bringing an end to the Witcher’s presence on the Mitchell River plantation, which was pioneered and established in the early 1790s by Ephraim and Betsey Witcher.
Scroll down to see a few actual court documents relating to William J Witcher. Depending on your browser, you may need to scroll down a bit.
Wayne Witcher. 11-26-16
William J Witcher -b- 1808
Julina Burch -b- 1813
A Witcher Family Genealogy