The scope of this essay is to present intriguing and generally unknown information about members of the family of Daniel Witcher, Sr., who in the late 1790s migrated to north-central Tennessee, to the geographical location we now know as Smith and Jackson Counties. This particular Daniel Witcher was enumerated in a 1767, Pittsylvania County tithable list. Many contend this Daniel was the son of Major William Witcher, which he was not. Click here and here for more evidence about the relationship of Daniel Witcher, Sr., to Major William Witcher.
Recently, documents have been discovered which validate that Daniel Witcher, Sr., had a brother named James Witcher. This particular James Witcher was born in 1750, was a Patriot in the American Revolution, and was buried in Smith County, Tennessee. In order to alleviate confusion when delineating same-named Witchers, this James will be referred to as Patriot James Witcher, and his brother will be called Daniel Witcher of Smith County, TN.
Daniel Witcher of Smith County, TN, died around 1815. He signed his last will and testimony on January 5, 1815. Only days later Daniel died, and so in the 1815, February court, Daniel’s will was subsequently proved before the Justice of the Peace.
Daniel’s wife Susan (Susanna), his ten children, and one grandson named “Alphons A Young,” were named as heirs to Daniel’s estate. The purpose of this writing is not to explore the body of that will or the person of Daniel Witcher of Smith County, TN. However, if interested you may click here to review an image of the referenced will.
I call your attention to Daniel Witcher’s will because the name “Alphons A Young” was listed and identified as a grandson of Daniel Witcher of Smith County. As we will see, the verified family connection between Daniel and Alphonso Young will prove astonishing!
As far as I can tell, time has apparently eroded the memory of this Tennessee Witcher family’s involvement in the formation of the Mormon Church. Thanks to a heads-up shared by the researcher at the excellent Phipps Family Genealogy blog, an amazing collection of very early Witcher family records has been located within the archives of the Church of the Latter Day Saints.
These earliest of church records reveal that Alphonso Young was baptized a Mormon on May 15, 1841. Not only was Alphonso one of the earliest converts to the Mormon church, as a member of church hierarchy, Alphonso was soon ordained a Melchizedek High Priest who served the Mormon Church at Nauvoo, Illnois. He is also found in church records to have had a direct working relationship with Mormon founders Joseph Smith and President Brigham Young.
For brevities sake, I am resisting the temptation to write in depth about the formation and earliest persecution of the Mormon Church.
However, for reference purposes, it should be noted that Mormonism originated in the late 1820s in western New York during a period known as the Second Great Awakening, out of which the Mormon Church was formally organized on April 6, 1830.
After suffering persecution by the local population, church membership was forced to migrate from Ohio to Missouri. Then by early 1838, by order of the governor of Missouri, the religious community was again expelled from their lands and ordered to leave the state. The displaced Mormons fled to Illinois, settling the city of Commerce, which was then a failing trading center on the banks of the Mississippi River. The town was subsequently renamed Nauvoo, after a Hebrew word meaning “beautiful.” Within months the reinvigorated town of Nauvoo had swelled to a population of almost 15,000 people. A tabernacle was erected, and upon its completion, the secretive rites of Mormon worship commenced behind its walls.
Until I can review the original records, I can only cite index cards provided by the church. These gateway records reveal that Alphonso Young was very active in ministry, busily executing Mormon rituals. The records of Alphonso’s rites are filled with fascinating clues about his immediate and extended family, including members of his grandfather, Daniel Witcher’s household.
In total I have located the names of twenty-eight individual relatives of Alphonso Young who were baptized in proxy. This practice is more commonly known as “baptism for the dead.” Not all of the individuals named in the proxy baptisms were Witchers, but all were, in one way or another, Alphonso Young’s family members. It’s very important to note all the individuals being baptized in proxy had died previous to the early 1840s baptism rituals.
Regardless of our perspectives of the matter, it’s obvious, that out of great love and concern for his family, Alphonso Young ensured these baptism rites were performed. In content the baptism records are extraordinary, as they indicate each individual had died by the time the rite was performed (around 1843) and because the relationship to Alphonso Young is listed. Relationships such as grandson, grandmother, uncle, aunt, cousin, 2nd cousin, stepfather, and father are noted.
For example, on May 7, 1843, in Nauvoo, Illinois, Alphonso was baptized for his grandparents Daniel and Susanna Witcher. Alphonso’s connection to the Witcher family is not only noted in the Temple Records but also validated by the will of Daniel Witcher of Smith County, Tennessee, in which Alphonso is by name referred to as a “grandson.”
On June 18, 1843, Alphonso was then baptized for his “great uncle” James Witcher and his “great aunt” Mary Witcher. These two individuals are the same persons listed in the family Bible record of Patriot James Witcher. The obvious family connection between Alphonso Young and James Witcher validates my analysis that Daniel Witcher of Smith County, Tennessee, and Patriot James Witcher were brothers. In my view, James and Daniel Witcher were almost certainly cousins of Major William Witcher of Pittsylvania County, Virginia. They were not his brothers. Click here to read my analysis of the relationship between Major William Witcher and James and Daniel Witcher. Scroll to the bottom of that webpage to view an image of Patriot James Witcher’s Bible record, graciously presented to us by the Nihoul-Leuty family.
Lacy Witcher was one of Daniel Witcher’s sons. According to another proxy baptismal record, Lacy, and his wife Peggy, had died previous to 1844. On May 21, 1843, Alphonso Young was baptized for his “uncle” Lacy and his “aunt” Peggy. This record is extraordinary as it time-stamps the life of Lacy Witcher, an important detail for those who have grappled with their research of the many Lacy Witchers of the era.
Two of Alphonso’s “2nd cousins,” listed as baptized by proxy, were, “Delila Prewit” and “Lydia McWharton.” Delilah and Lydia are listed in the family Bible record of Patriot James Witcher as daughters, and they both had obviously died previous to 1844. It’s valuable to note the surnames names of each of these women, thus providing insight into who they married.
Mormon records list the mother of Alphonso Young as Aley Bibb Witcher. She was one of the many daughters listed in Daniel Witcher’s 1815 will. Aley’s deceased husband was also the subject of one of Alphonso’s many proxy baptisms. I have not located the date on which that ceremony took place, but his father’s name is given as John Young. Apparently, John Young must have died a good bit before 1844, because Aley B Young then remarried a man named Levi Knotts, who also died before 1844. Levi Knotts was also baptized in proxy by Alphonso Young. After the death of Alphonso’s step-father, Aley B was listed in subsequent records by the name Knotts.
Here is a list of the twenty-eight souls and their relationship to Alphonso; individuals for which Alphonso Young was baptized:
Adeville A White, cousin
Adeline Roysen, a cousin
Jane Davis, cousin
William M White, cousin
Sampson Williams, uncle
Thomas J Williams, cousin
James Witcher, great uncle
Mary Witcher, great aunt
Daniel Witcher, grandfather
Susanna Witcher, grandmother
Delila Prewit, 2nd cousin
Lydia McWharton, 2nd cousin
Caroline Griffith, cousin
Martha Jenkins, aunt
Sally Ramsey, aunt
Lacy Witcher, uncle
Peggy Witcher, aunt
Susanna (husbands name not known), aunt
Milton Young, uncle
Milton D. Young, cousin
John Young, father
William Young, grandfather
Elizabeth Murphy, grandmother
Levi Knotts, step-father
Jane Marchbanks, aunt
Anne White, aunt
Susanne Wakefield, aunt
Tibitha Young, Aunt.
Other descendents of Daniel Witcher of Smith County were members of the Mormon Church at Nauvoo.
Alphonso’s uncle, Booker Witcher, is listed in the Temple’s membership rolls. An early 1850s, Jackson County, Tennessee, court record goes so far as to confirm Daniel’s son Booker had spent some time in Nauvoo, Illinois. No doubt within the confines of the Mormon commune.
From Jackson County, Tennessee, Loose District/Chancery Court Papers, Reel #79. This complicated chancery case spanned a period of time from the late 1840s to the mid-1850s, during which members of Alphonso Young’s family were fighting over possession of a piece of property. In one of the many depositions given during this case, Alphonso’s uncle Booker Witcher was interviewed. As the facts of the case were being discovered, Booker was asked about his time at Nauvoo, Illnois.
“Booker Witcher about age 67. I was at my brother Tandy K. Witcher’s house sometime between 1833-1837…he asked me to walk with him to Samuel C. Griffith’s…he asked his daughter Caroline for the deed and she got it and he read it over, gave it back and she laid it on a shelf where was some books... as we walked back he showed me the lines. Said he intended to do more for Caroline than his other children because she had done more for him.
Ques: How long was it before you went to Nauvoo that you heard the deed read?
Ans: Can’t tell…don’t know when I went to Nauvoo. I was in Iowa and Nauvoo together about eighteen months I was sick all the time…stayed about six months at Nauvoo…saw Patsy Workman. Seems to me like she had a child. Booker [X] Witcher”
The name Patsy Workman, referenced by Booker Witcher, was also mentioned in other depositions for this case. This woman also went by the name Martha and was a grand-daughter of Tandy K Witcher. Mormon temple records indicate Martha was born on September 8, 1824, is listed in the Mormon Endowment Register, and had married a man named Workman. Sadly, further Jackson County chancery court testimony indicated this woman and her two children died in the Rocky Mountains, as they made their pilgrimage to Salt Lake City, Utah. Click here to read the lengthy but amazingly detail rich chancery case.
I have great expectations that the family lineage of Booker Witcher, Martha Woodman, or Alphonso Young will be recorded in Mormon Temple records. Hopefully, we may well discover who Booker Witcher’s grandfather was. I predict the name James Witcher will be revealed as the father of Daniel Witcher of Smith County, Tennessee.
It should be noted that other interesting connections can be made between the names listed in the Jackson County, TN, chancery case and the names of those baptized in proxy by Alphonso Young. Even with a casual reading of the records, these connections are fairly obvious!
As I’ve pointed out, Alphonso Young was very active in the early Mormon Church. He was “set apart” in 1841 and 1844, and is noted to have had Hyrum Smith as his patriarch. Hyrum Smith was Joseph Smith’s brother. Also, Alphonso is located in the Mormon Endowment Register, which indicates he was born September 23, 1805. Another temple record reveals Alphonso was born to John Young and “Abey Bibb.” The name “Abey” is a mis-transcription of the name Aley B, the daughter listed in Daniel Witcher’s Smith County will.
Sensing impending danger to the community, Joseph Smith made a decision to move his flock west, to safer lands, in the unsettled region of the west coast. Therefore, on Feb 21, 1844, Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, “Directed the Twelve to select an exploring company to go to California to select a location for the settlement of the Saints.” Alphonzo Young was one of eight men chosen to go.
It’s otherwise obvious that Alphonso was in relationship with Joseph Smith.
In a letter dated May 6, 1842, addressed to Joseph Smith, a chaste Alphonso Young indicated his intentions to donate to the fund to build the Temple at Nauvoo. In that letter to Joseph Smith, Alphonso informs Smith that he suffered a “hereditary disease,” known as “a sick headache,” and by being baptized in the river, Alphonso believed he would be healed. This letter mentioned “Bro Lee,” no doubt John D. Lee, who Alphonso accompanied on a missionary trip in 1842. Click here to see an image of this letter. In yet another document, dated 1844, plans were being drafted for an independent Mormon government, in which Alphonso was to represent the state of Tennessee.
Joseph Smith did not oversee his flock’s migration west, for on June 27, 1844, he and his brother Hyrum were assassinated at Nauvoo, Illinois, by an angry mob. Quite possibly Alphonso was present when the body of Joseph Smith was buried.
After Smith’s death Mormons scattered. Some migrated to Salt Lake City, Utah, others formed into smaller Mormon denominations. It was in one such splinter group that Alphonso Young continued his ministry in the Mormon Church, he being located in church records as late as the 1860s, in Nebraska.
It’s a grand consideration that the Temple records in Nauvoo, Illinois, departed around 1847 and would find their way safely across the Rocky Mountains to their new home in Salt Lake City. How fortunate are we that those records survived the exodus, currently being safely housed by the LDS Church. Somewhere in those records, it’s very possible that Alphonso listed his great-grandparents within the lineage of his family, in other words, the father of Daniel and Patriot James Witcher. Perhaps even the ancestry of Major William Witcher will be charted. We can only hope!
The Mormon temple at Salt Lake City, Utah, has other interesting tidbits of Witcher family data.
For example John Seashoale Witcher is listed, both his birth and death date. Click here to read more about the line of John Seashoal Witcher. Also named are the apparent children of John Seashoale Witcher, namely John Sherman Witcher, Arthur B Witcher, and Margaret Louise Witcher. Within the body of those records are birth, marriage, and dates of death. Also, spouses of the children of John Seashoal Witcher are similarly noted.
When more details are recovered, I will promptly update this essay.
Wayne Witcher, 5x great grandson of Major William Witcher.
The Tennessee Witchers
the Mormon connection
A Witcher Family Genealogy
Please contact me at wwawitcher @ windstream. net
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