Will the Real Strawhorn Monk Please Stand Up? Documenting the Life of Strachan Monk (1787 – 1850/1860), Son of Nottingham Monk and Rachel Strachan

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William Anderson’s answer, as administrator of Nottingham Monk, to complaint of Amos Raynor,* Bertie County, North Carolina Court of Equity, 23 March 1825, listing heirs of Nottingham Monk; from loose-papers estate file of Nottingham Monk held by North Carolina Archives.

In the three-part series of postings I did recently about Daniel Cherry, his sister Talitha, and Talitha’s husband Strachan/Strahon/Strawhorn Monk of Martin County, North Carolina, and Tennessee, I noted that P.M. Harbert’s “Early History of Hardin County, Tennessee” has the following to say about Strachan (“Strawhorn”) Monk:

In the vicinity now called Pickwick, the white man found a rather prosperous tribe of Indians whose chief was called “Strawhorn Monk.” He is said to have had large possessions of horses and other property; this lot of Indians was unusually friendly to the invading white man.[1]

I also told you that, though Strachan Monk came to Hardin County along with other early Anglo settlers from Martin County, North Carolina, and though his lineage can confidently be traced back to immigrant ancestors from England to Virginia and from Scotland to North Carolina, the myth that he was an Indian chief living in the area that became Hardin County when the first European settlers came there has died hard, and has continued to be replicated by Hardin County historians.[2]

I noted as well that after I began circulating information about Strachan Monk’s actual lineage, some local historians revised Harbert’s story to say that Monk was an Indian settler whom the first European settlers of the area brought with them to the region that became Hardin County. And I told you that I have published my findings about the ancestry of Strachan Monk in an attempt to set the record straight — not because I have any vested interest in disputing native American ancestry in any of my family lines, but because, as a family historian, I’m committed to pursuing accurate accounts of my roots, not mythological ones. In 1991, I published an article “Will the Real Strawhorn Monk Please Stand Up?” in the Hardin County Historical Quarterly, which provides abundant solid evidence for concluding that Strachan Monk descends from English and Scottish immigrants to Virginia and North Carolina.[3]

Now I’d like to share with you some of that solid evidence: I’d like to provide you with a sketch of what I know about Strachan Monk and his ancestry, to complement my three-part series of articles on Daniel Cherry and Talitha and Strachan Monk. In this first installment in this new series, I’ll focus on what can be documented about Strachan Monk’s life, specifically.

The 1850 federal census indicates that Strachan Monk was born in or around 1787. On this census, he’s enumerated in the 9th civil district of Hardin County as Strawhane Monk. His age is given as 63, and his place of birth as North Carolina.[4] The census gives Talitha’s age as 60, and her place of birth, too, as North Carolina. This is the last document I’ve found for Strachan Monk. Talitha is enumerated (as T. Monk) on the 1860 federal census in Pine Bluff, Jefferson County, Arkansas, in the household of her son John B. Monk, with her age given as 71 and North Carolina as her place of birth.[5]

Some of Strachan and Talitha’s descendants in the Pine Bluff area think that both Strachan and Talitha Monk moved to Pine Bluff with most of their children between 1850 and 1860. In my view, it’s more likely that Strachan died in Hardin County sometime in the 1850s, and that after his death, his widow and most of his children moved to Arkansas (Strachan and Talitha’s daughter Minerva, who married Moses B. Batchelor, had already come to Arkansas in the fall of 1848 and settled in Hot Spring County next to Moses’ sister Delaney, who had married Minerva’s first cousin Lawrence Cherry Byrd). The loss of many early Hardin County records in courthouse fires in 1859, 1864, and 1949 makes it difficult to document many events in the lives of early settlers of that county.

One can conclude with a fair degree of certainty that Strachan Monk was born in Bertie County, North Carolina, since numerous documents place his parents Nottingham and Rachel Strachan Monk in that county in 1787 (and 1786 and 1788). For example, Bertie court minutes tell us that on the third Monday in February 1787, Nottingham Monk was appointed with John Miller and Joseph Jordan to be a searcher in the upper part of Capt. Speller’s district in Bertie (Bertie Court Minutes Bk. 5, p. 629).

In May 1787, Nottingham Monk appears on a Bertie jury appointed to lay off a road with members of the Leggett, Collins, and Rascoe families from James Leggett’s along Thomas Collins’ line and Benjamin Whitfield’s to the Cashie River opposite Lake Collins (ibid., p. 655). These families were all neighbors of Nottingham Monk. He lived on the Cashie southeast of Bertie’s county seat Windsor, where the river winds its way from that town to Batchelor Bay.

In August 1787, Nottingham Monk gave bond in Bertie with Henry Speller in the amount of £1000 for Henry Belote’s guardianship of James, son of James Bentley (ibid., p. 670). At the same court, James Leggett, Thomas Collins, Henry Speller, and Christian Reed were appointed to audit and settle Nottingham Monk’s accounts as guardian of Jonathan and Elizabeth Kittrell, Rachel Strachan’s children by her previous marriage to George Kittrell, son of Jonathan Kittrell and Ann Durant (ibid., p. 673). Nottingham Monk had assumed the guardianship of George and Rachel Strachan Kittrell’s children by 13 October 1787, when he begins appearing in the estate file of George Kittrell as guardian of George’s orphans. Here’s one of several accounts Nottingham Monk filed for his guardianship of the orphans, from George Kittrell’s estate file, with Nottingham signing the document:

Nottingham Monk Account of Guardianship of Jonathan Kittrell, 13 July 1791, George Kittrell's Estate File
Nottingham Monk, account of guardianship of George Kittrell’s son Jonathan, 13 July 1791, from George Kittrell’s loose-papers estate file held by North Carolina Archives.

The Belote and Monk families had already been connected in Northampton County, Virginia, before members of both families, including Nottingham Monk, moved from there to Bertie County, North Carolina. About Henry Speller: Bertie court minutes for December 1771 show Nottingham Monk’s sister Elisha having a son Thomas born six months before that date to Henry Speller, to whom Elisha was not married (Bertie Court Minutes Bk. 3, p. 996).[6]

Rachel Strachan Monk can also easily be placed in Bertie County in 1787. A 23 February 1791 answer filed by Nottingham and Rachel Strachan Monk in Bertie Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, in response to a complaint by George Kittrell’s children by his first wife, states that Rachel’s father George, who died in Bertie before 14 October 1760, died possessed of considerable property, leaving children Daniel and Rachel Strachan. The petition also states that Rachel Strachan married George Kittrell following her father’s death, and her mother Elizabeth, George Strachan’s widow, married Daniel Hendricks, who assumed the administration of George’s estate, but did not complete the administration. This document is in George Strachan’s loose-papers estate file; the heirs of George Kittrell claimed an interest in that estate due to Rachel’s marriage to George Kittrell.

Nottingham and Rachel Monk, 23 February 1791 Answer to Complaint of Kittrell Heirs, George Kittrell Estate File
Nottingham and Rachel Strachan Monk, 23 February 1791 answer, Bertie Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, to complaint of Kittrell heirs, from loose-papers estate file of George Strachan held by North Carolina Archives.

This document goes on to state that Daniel Hendricks then died (this was in February-March 1768), and Rachel later married George Kittrell (about 1777), who died in 1781, with the estate of George Strachan still not completely settled. The petition states that Rachel then married Benjamin Ward, who died (between 10 May 1782 and 26 January 1785), and after this she married Nottingham Monk, who then assumed administration of George Strachan’s estate.

The marriage of Nottingham Monk to Rachel Strachan Kittrell can be placed  between 22 February 1785, when the loose-papers estate file of her brother Daniel Strachan (who died in Bertie sometime before that date) shows Rachel Ward receiving her share of her brother’s estate, and 23 November 1786, when the estate of Nancy Ward paid Mrs. Monk. Nottingham Monk administered Nancy Ward’s estate. Bertie Court minutes for November 1786 show him giving bond with John Leggett and James Rascoe in the sum of £500 for this administration (Bertie Court Minutes Bk. 5, p. 619). As I noted previously, by 13 October 1787, Nottingham Monk appears in the loose-papers estate file of George Kittrell as guardian of George’s orphans Jonathan and Elizabeth, and this confirms that he had married Rachel Strachan by that date. Nottingham’s estate file contains a formal bond he gave for administration of the estate of Jonathan Kittrell on 10 August 1795, with Luke Warburton and Henry Belote as his securities.

Nottingham Monk Bond Guardianship of Jonathan Kittrell
Nottingham Monk’s bond for guardianship of Jonathan Kittrell, Bertie County, North Carolina, 10 August 1795, from Nottingham Monk’s loose-papers estate file held by North Carolina Archives.

The 1787 state census of North Carolina also shows Nottingham Monk Jr. (Nottingham Monk, husband of Rachel Strachan, was the son of an older Nottingham Monk who also came from Northampton County, Virginia, to Bertie County, North Carolina) enumerated in Capt. Speller’s district in Bertie County. All of these pieces of documentation tell me that it’s almost certain that Nottingham Monk and Rachel Strachan’s son Strachan Monk, who was born in or around 1787 in North Carolina, per the 1850 census, was born in Bertie County.

We know that Strachan Monk was a son of Nottingham Monk and Rachel Strachan because this is stated explicitly in a number of documents in Nottingham Monk’s estate file. As I showed you in my previous series dealing with him and his wife Talitha,  a 13 October 1824 bill of complaint of Amos Raynor (or Rayner, the spelling commonly used by this family in Bertie County) in Bertie Court of Equity, the original of which is in the loose-papers estate file of Nottingham Monk, states the following (the original document I’m transcribing here is at the link above):

That a certain Nottingham Monk late of Bertie County died intestate sometime about the year 1817 as well as he recollects leaving a very considerable personal estate consisting of between 15 and 20 valuable Negro slaves, a large stock of all kinds, bonds, notes, accounts & judgements in the whole of between $5,000 and $7,000 as he understands and believes.

That the said Nottingham Monk left the following representatives to wit: namely his widow and Jennet the wife of William Anderson, Strahorn Monk, Nebuchadnezzar Monk, Betsey the wife of Thomas Sorrell, and Rachael Monk who were the children of said Nottingham Monk and his distributes.

The widow mentioned here was not Rachel Strachan Monk, who had died between 20th and 24th December 1816 in Bertie. Nottingham Monk’s loose-papers estate file contains a receipt for a doctor’s visit and medicine for his wife dated 20 December 1816, and a 24 December 1816 receipt for a coffin he had ordered to be made for her. Following Rachel’s death, Nottingham Monk remarried to a Nancy whose surname I have not found; she appears in the estate records signing a promissory note on 4 March 1818 with Thomas Sorrell as her security, stating that, six months after that date, she would pay William Anderson $60.45 for value received. By 8 June 1819, Nancy had remarried to John Matthews, per documents in Nottingham Monk’s estate file.

As an aside, but an important one, Nottingham Monk’s estate file also contains receipts dated 27th December 1816 for a coffin he bought for an unnamed slave woman, and another dated January 1817 for a coffin for his son Stewart Monk.  On 13 February 1815, Rachel Strachan Monk had deeded to her son Stewart for love and goodwill the plantation on which she and Nottingham Monk lived in Bertie County (Bertie DB W, p. 368). The deed states that this land had come to Rachel from the estate of her brother Daniel Strayhorn, and that if Stewart predeceased his brother Nebuchadnezzar, the land would go to the latter. The deed reserves to Rachel and Nottingham Monk the right to live on the home plantation until their deaths, at which point the land would go to Stewart if he were living. The deed was witnessed by Amos Rayner and proven by him in August court. On 15 September 1818, Nebuchadnezzar sold Amos Rayner a portion of the Monk plantation, and this is what precipitated the legal dispute between Amos Rayner and the Monk heirs following Nottingham Monk’s death (Bertie DB Y, p. 165).

Stewart was apparently not yet of age when his mother made this deed to him. Nottingham Monk’s estate file has a receipt dated October 1816 showing that Nottingham had commissioned James Cherry to cut a coat for his son Stewart in that month, along with two pair of pantaloons and a waistcoat. For reasons mystifying to me, Monk family historians all over the internet have conflated Nottingham and Rachel Monk’s sons Strachan and Stewart, so that Strachan/Strawhorn Monk has now become Stewart Strawhorn or Strawhorn Stewart Monk. It’s not at all difficult to discover that these two sons of Nottingham and Rachel Strachan Monk were different people, and that Stewart died in January 1817 — if, that is, one reads carefully the documents in Nottingham Monk’s estate file.

In addition to Amos Rayner’s October 1824 Court of Equity complaint naming Strachan Monk among the children of Nottingham Monk, Nottingham’s estate file contains a response by William Anderson as adminstrator of Nottingham Monk, filed in Bertie Court of Equity on 23 March 1825. This document (it’s at the head of the posting) confirms again that Strachan Monk was a son of Nottingham and Rachel Strachan Monk.

Finally, William Anderson’s 9 March 1830 account of the distribution of the proceeds of the sale of the slaves of Nottingham Monk’s estate — this is another document in the estate file — again names Strawhorn Monk as an heir and distributee of the state, noting that his share was handled separately. He was the only child of Nottingham and Rachel Monk living out of state at this time.

William Anderson's Account of Distribution of Nottingham Monk Estate, 9 March 1830, Loose-Papers Estate File of N. Monk (1)
William Anderson, account of distribution of proceeds from sale of slaves of Nottingham Monk estate, 9 March 1830, from loose-papers estate file of Nottingham Monk, North Carolina Archives.

William Anderson's Account of Distribution of Nottingham Monk Estate, 9 March 1830, Loose-Papers Estate File of N. Monk (2)

Back to a chronological account of Strachan Monk’s life, insofar as it can be documented: a 17 January 1805 Bertie document confirms that Strachan Monk had come of age by then: on that date, he witnessed the will of John Pender of Martin County along with his father Nottingham Monk in (Bertie WB E, p. 267). As the following promissory note, the date of which has crumbled away, shows, at some point prior to John Pender’s death, he and Nottingham Monk had given security for a promissory note Belson Kittrell made to a William [Burlingham?] in Bertie.

I have the original document. It was given to me in the early 1990s by a local historian in Martin County, Harry Lewis Thompson, who had saved it and other court case files discarded by the Bertie courthouse in Windsor. It was Harry Lewis Thompson, who taught history at Martin Community College, who told me that Nottingham and Rachel Strachan Monk lived along the Cashie River as it meandered from Windsor to Batchelor Bay, with the Collins, Leggett, Pollock, West, Mizelle, Duckinfield, Smithwick, and Armistead families as their neighbors. I have a map that Mr. Thompson drew to show  me where each of these families lived on Cashie Neck; it’s not easy for me to share here, because it’s drawn on a piece of lumber with which he was working at the time, and is not very legible.


The 1810 federal census suggests that Strachan Monk may have been born earlier than 1787, though in my view, the date of birth implied on the 1850 federal census is likely near the mark: in 1810, Strawhorn Monk is enumerated in Martin County, North Carolina, with a household consisting of a male aged 26-44, and a female aged 16-25, a female under 10, and a slave. The younger female appears to be his daughter Nancy Catherine, who was born in North Carolina about 1809, according to the 1850 federal census.[7] As I’ve stated previously, we can determine the date of Nottingham Monk’s marriage to Rachel Strachan from various documents, which indicate that the marriage occurred between 22 February and 23 November 1786. If the list of their children in Amos Rayner’s 1824 Court of Equity complaint gives their names in their order of birth, then Strachan was the second child born to Nottingham and Rachel; their first child was their daughter Jane/Jennet, who married William Anderson in Bertie on 18 October 1808.

Between 1810 and 1820, Strachan and Talitha Cherry Monk moved their family from Martin County, North Carolina, to Tennessee, where they first settled in Davidson County, and were enumerated on the 1820 federal census there.[8]  As I mentioned in my series of postings about Daniel Cherry, Talitha Cherry Monk, and Strachan Monk, it appears very likely that Strachan and Talitha Monk made the move to Tennessee to join Talitha’s brothers, several of whom had come from Martin County, North Carolina, to Tennessee in the first decade of the 1800s. These included Talitha’s brother Eli Cherry, who also settled in Davidson County before moving to Hardin County in the early 1820s.

The rest of what I know about Strachan Monk, I’ve shared with you in my previous three-part postings focusing on his and Talitha Cherry’s lives in Hardin County. We know that the family had moved there from Davidson County by 1822, since Strachan Monk appears in Hardin court minutes serving on road juries in January and October 1822. My previous postings showed you documents indicating that he was a chain carrier (along with Jesse Cherry) on 24 July 1823, when Samuel Williams had a survey for 274 acres on the Tennessee River adjoining Isham Cherry (Hardin Co Land Entry Bk.1 Feb 1820-June 1835, pp. 190-1).

On the same day, Strawhorn Monk and Jesse Biggs served as chain carriers for a survey for John Waggoner (ibid., p. 190). The survey immediately following these two is Daniel Cherry’s survey of 274 acres (again, on 24 July 1823) on the Tennessee River at the mouth of Sulphur Creek adjoining Lawrence Cherry (Hardin County Entry Bk.1 Feb. 1820-June 1835, pp. 191-2). Jesse Biggs was the other chain carrier. This is the tract that Daniel Cherry would split in two on 25 September 1837 (Hardin Co. DB H, pp. 13-14), lending 137 acres to Strachan and Talitha Monk and selling the other half to his nephew Thomas W. Byrd in December 1837 (Hardin DB G, pp. 371, 451). It’s likely that Strachan and Talitha Monk had been living on this land from the time Daniel entered it in 1823.

I find Strachan Monk in Hardin County court minutes in March 1825, serving as a road overseer. Hardin court minutes for the period 1826 to 1833 have not survived. As I’ve also told you, in the period from May through September 1825, the Raleigh Register repeatedly ran a notice stating that Amos Raynor had filed suit against the administrator of Nottingham Monk, a suit in which Strahon Monk was a defendant, and for which he was being summoned to return to North Carolina to appear in Bertie Court of Equity in September 1825. I shared a copy of this notice with you in a previous posting.

Strachan Monk is enumerated (as Strawhorn Monk) on the 1830 census in Hardin County, with his age given as 40 to 50.[9] In 1833, S. Monk is taxed in Hardin County a few households away from his brother-in-law Eli Cherry (1833 tax list, Hardin County, p. 680).

I’ve also noted that John R. Byrd’s 24 April 1837 survey in Hardin County shows his tract of land bordering Lawrence Cherry and a conditional line drawn between the land of Strawhorn Monk and Byrd’s land (Hardin County Entry Bk. 2 Feb. 1821-Nov. 1837). Jesse Cherry was the surveyor for this land entry, with David K. Reed and David E. Byrd as chain carriers. This is the Jesse Cherry who appears to be a brother of Talitha Cherry Monk, whom I discussed in my previous postings about Strachan and Talitha Monk. John R. and David E. Byrd were nephews of Strachan and Talitha Monk, and David K. Reed was a brother-in-law of the two Byrd men. This survey confirms that Strachan and Talitha were already living on the 137 acres to which Daniel Cherry would lend them title later in 1837.

Strachan Monk then had his own survey of a tract of 200 acres on 6 January 1838, with the survey noting that the land was on the waters of the Tennessee River, and bordering John R. Byrd and Lawrence Cherry (Hardin Co. Entry Bk. 3 Sept. 1837-March 1846, p. 13, entry 257). I shared a digital copy of this land entry with you in my previous series of postings.

The 1840 federal census provides a snapshot of Strachan and Talitha Cherry Monk’s close neighbors in that year, which confirms what land records also tell us. Strawhorn Monk is enumerated in Hardin County’s 9thcivil district,  immediately following Samuel D. Byrd.[10] Then, after Strawhorn Monk, there appear the names David E. Byrd, Moses Batchelor, David K. Reed, Lovey Byrd, and John R. and Thomas W. Byrd, the latter separated separated by William Barnett. The Byrd men are all sons of Talitha’s sister Lovey Cherry Byrd. Moses Batchelor is Strachan and Talitha’s son-in-law, husband of their daughter Minerva. David K. Reed is a son-in-law of Lovey Byrd.

As I’ve also noted previously, on 27 February 1847 Strachan and Talitha Monk deeded their interest in the land lent to them by Talitha’s brother Daniel to Eli Monk, with R.W. Byrd and W.R. Bachelor witnessing the deed (DB H, pp. 14-5).

And this brings us to the 1850 federal census, the last document I find for Strachan Monk, as I noted at the start of this account — both the last document that I have found on which Strachan appears, and a snapshot of his family on the eve of their removal to Arkansas.[11] In addition to Strachan and Talitha, the household contains sons Eli Cherry Monk, aged 24, and Darling B. Monk, aged 16, both born in Tennessee. The next household is the family of Strachan and Talitha’s son Wiley Buck Monk, and the household preceding Strachan and Talitha is that of John R. Byrd. Enumerated after Wiley is the family of David E. Byrd, who is both a nephew to Strachan and Talitha, and their son-in-law, since he married their daughter Nancy Catherine Monk.

The next installment in this series about the life and ancestry of Strachan Monk is here.

* Just as the name Strachan appears under various spellings in Bertie records (e.g., Straughan, Straughon, Strahon, Strahan, Strawhorn), the name Raynor appears often as Rayner — and Monk is also often spelled Munk or Monck or Munck in both Northampton County, Virginia, and Bertie County, North Carolina records.

[1]P.M. Harbert, “Early History of Hardin County, Tennessee,” West Tennessee Historical Society Papers 1 (1947), p. 40.

[2]Tony Hays, “Who Were the First Settlers?” The Courier (Savannah, TN), 19 March 1987. See also Tony Hays, From Forest to Farm: Hardin County History to 1860 (Chattanooga: Kitchen Table Press, 1986), pp. 75-8.

[3]“Will the Real Strawhorn Monk Please Stand Up?” Hardin County Historical Quarterly 8,4 (Oct.-Dec. 1991), pp. 3-18.

[4] 1850 federal census, Hardin County, Tennessee (p. 212, dwel./fam 37/37; 17 Oct.).

[5]1860 federal census, Pine Bluff, Jefferson County, Arkansas (p. 16, dwel./fam. 96/96; 5 June).

[6]The court record gives her name as Lisha Monk. in  Note my subsequent posting in this series on the Monk family entitled “Elishe Monk, Her Son Thomas, and His Father Thomas Speller: Some Questions These Stories Pose,” which shows that the spelling the family used is likely Elishe, and that the father of her son Thomas Monk was Thomas Speller, not Henry Speller — something proven conclusively by the will of Thomas Speller.

[7]Nancy married her first cousin David Edward Byrd, and is enumerated in his household in the 9th civil district of Hardin County, Tennessee, in 1850 (p. 212 fam./dwel. 39/39, 17 Oct.).

[8]1820 federal census, Davidson County, Tennessee, p. 59; Strachan Monk’s name is given as Strahan Mink. The household has 3 males under 10, a male 16-26, a male 26-45, and a male over 45; there are also a female 10-16, a female 16-26, and a female over 45. By 1820, Strachan and Talitha Cherry Monk had sons Felix Grundy, who was born between 1816 and 1821, and Wiley Buck, who was born 24 February 1818. I have not been able to identify the other son born between 1810-1820. The female 10-16 is Strachan and Talitha’s daughter Nancy Catherine, and the female 16-26 is Talitha. Who are the older male and female? Nottingham Monk died between 28 January and 10 February 1818 in Bertie County, North Carolina; Rachel Strachan died between 20 and 24 December 1816 in Bertie County. Talitha’s father Jesse Cherry had died in Martin County, North Carolina, in February 1808. Her mother Elizabeth Gainer Cherry was still living, and would marry Edward Byrd in Martin County on 07 February 1822. No document I have found suggests to me that Elizabeth ever came out to Tennessee with her children who moved there.

[9]1830 federal census, Hardin County, Tennessee, p. 406. The household contains a male under 5, 2 males 5-10, 2 males 10-15, a male 20-30, and a male 40-50. Also in the household are a female 15-20, a female 20-30, and a female 40-50.

[10]1840 federal census, Hardin County, Tennessee, p. 261. The household has a male under 5, a male 5-10, a male 10-15, a male 15-20, and a male 40-50. Also in the household is a female 40-50.

[11]See supra, n. 4.

3 thoughts on “Will the Real Strawhorn Monk Please Stand Up? Documenting the Life of Strachan Monk (1787 – 1850/1860), Son of Nottingham Monk and Rachel Strachan

    1. Thanks for your comment, Justin. There’s not really folklore about native American ancestry for Strachan/Strahon Monk. This is an historian’s mistaken assumption based on a misunderstanding of his given name, often spelled phonetically as Strawhorn.


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