Children of Thomas Whitlock (abt. 1745 – 1830) and Wife Hannah Phillips: Nancy Whitlock (1778 – 1863) and Husband Abner Bryson (2)

Christian County is in southwest Kentucky on the Tennessee border, in the Pennyrile Plateau region of western Kentucky. In 1864, Confederate troops burned the county courthouse as Union troops were occupying it, destroying many of the county’s early records. In his history of Christian County, Charles Mayfield Meacham discusses the Sinking Fork of Little River:[2]

The southern half of the county is of sub-carboniferous limestone formation, with a fertile soil and numerous springs and small streams. Two branches of Little River rise in the north and flow southward and come together a few miles south of Hopkinsville and the larger stream makes its way to the Cumberland River. Another branch of the same river flows through the western part of the county; it is known as Sinking Fork, because at one place the stream sinks and flows underground for several miles and rising continues its course. Hopkinsville is situated, or was originally laid out, on the east bank of the west branch of Little River, but the river now flows through the city.

Hopkinsville is the county seat of Christian County. According to Meacham, Christian County’s court was held at the Sinking Fork of Little River from November 1797, the year in which the county was formed, for a period of time before the court moved to Hopkinsville.[3]

Christian County circuit court minutes provide information about the case Abner Bryson filed in the county’s circuit court against John T. and Martha (Patsy) Bennett on 22 November 1833.[4] The complaint Abner presented at that court session indicates that John and Martha Bennett had made a deed for the land in question to a Benjamin Bryson. Benjamin is also named in the 14 May 1834 deed to Abner by the Bennetts for 407 acres discussed above. Court minutes for 18 May 1834 state that commissioner Abraham Stites had reported to court that the Bennetts had made a good deed for the 407 acres to Abner Bryson and the deed was recorded.[5] The case was then closed the following day.[6]

But who was Benjamin Bryson? I’ve found no record of any kind for a man with that name in Christian County in this time frame. Abner Bryson’s brother Reuben (1775-1858) is enumerated on the 1830 federal census in Cumberland County, Kentucky, next to Abner’s older son Thomas Whitlock Bryson, but Reuben had no son named Benjamin, nor did Abner and Reuben have a brother named Benjamin. My guess is that Abner had bought 407 acres from the Bennetts and they had made the deed out mistakenly to a non-existent Benjamin Bryson, and he sued to clear his title to the land.

John Tabb Bennett (1771-1845) was the son of Dr. Walter Bennett and Jenny Wyatt, and married Martha Warren in August 1799 in Chatham County, North Carolina. After deeding land to Abner Bryson, John and Martha moved to Monroe County, Mississippi, by 1840, and John died there in 1845.[7] An interesting extract from a journal kept by John Tabb Bennett’s father Dr. Walter Bennett was published in 1911 in Virginia Magazine of History and Biography.[8] Walter Bennett was born 22 May 1745 in County Leitrim, Ireland, and died at Hopkinsville in Christian County, Kentucky, on 21 December 1812. After arriving in America in 1766 and spending time in Pennsylvania, he went to Halifax County, Virginia, and by 1810, had made his way to Christian County, Kentucky.

Unless I’m mistaken, members of this Bennett family were intermarried with members of the Lander family into which Abner Bryson’s daughter Sarah Whitlock Bryson married. The 1830 federal census for Christian County, Kentucky, shows John Bennett and an Edward Bennett enumerated two houses from John Strode Lander, whom Sarah married in 1835-6. The Lander and Bennett families lived about ten miles west of Hopkinsville in the vicinity of Sinking Fork, and this seems to be where Abner Bryson and his family lived, too.

Cumberland County, Kentucky, Deed Bk. J, pp. 12-13

On 17 July 1835, Abner Bryson sold another piece of land in Cumberland County, Kentucky. The deed for the land sale states that Abner was of Christian County, Kentucky, and was selling to George Richardson Sr. of Cumberland County for $100 100 acres on Illwill Creek.[9] Both Abner and Nancy Bryson signed the deed without witnesses. On the same day, both acknowledged the deed and Nancy relinquished dower. The deed was recorded on 19 January 1836.

Christian County, Kentucky, Will Bk. K, pp. 550-3

Abner Bryson died in Christian County sometime before 3 October 1839, when his estate was inventoried at the request of his administrators, sons Thomas Whitlock and James Bryson.[10] The inventory shows that the appraisers were John S. Lander (who had married Abner’s daughter Sarah by this date), Elijah C. Cravens, and John W. Cook. The inventory suggests that Abner was a prosperous farmer who raised crops including corn, wheat, oats, flax, and cotton, and had livestock including horses, cattle, hogs, and sheep. Included in the inventory are enslaved people named Isam (i.e., Isham), aged 40, Alfred, aged 20, Sampson, Granvil (i.e., Granville), Henrita (i.e., Henrietta), an unnamed woman and her child Betty, Lucy and her child William, Luiza (i.e., Louisa), and Angeline. No ages are given for any of the enslaved persons listed after Alfred. If Alfred is the enslaved person with this name willed by Thomas Whitlock to his daughter Nancy in 1824, he was aged five years old at the time Thomas made his will. Together, the enslaved persons in the estate appraisal are appraised at $5,835.

The inventory also includes a list of property set aside for the use of Abner’s widow Nancy, including a hoe, a flax and cotton wheel, a loom, a sorrel mare and red cow and calf, a plow and gear, an axe, and a bed and its furniture. The inventory gives a date of 3 September 1839 as it states that the appraisal was done at the request of administrators Thomas W. and James Bryson. If this means that they filed this request on 3 September and the inventory was made on 3 October, then Abner had died by the earlier date — but I think the 3 September is simply a mistake and that the clerk intended to write 3 October. The inventory and appraisal document was recorded 29 October 1839.

Christian County, Kentucky, Will Bk. K, pp. 577-581

The sale of Abner Bryson’s estate was held on the same day on which the property was inventoried and appraised — 3 October 1839.[11] The primary buyer was the widow Nancy. Other buyers included Abner and Nancy’s son Thomas W. Bryson and their sons-in-law Reid Mackey and John Strode Lander. The enslaved persons listed in the estate inventory do not appear in the sale account. The sale netted $2,203.52. The account was recorded 6 January 1840.

The 1840 federal census shows Nancy Bryson heading her household in Christian County, Kentucky.[12] In addition to Nancy, who is listed as a female aged 60-69, the household has one male 20-29, one female 15-19, and four enslaved persons. The male aged 20-29 is Nancy’s son James, who was born in 1813 (per the 1850 federal census) or 1815 (per the 1860 federal census). I can’t identify the younger female in the household in 1840 — perhaps a granddaughter living with Nancy and James to assist her grandmother? Note that four of the eleven enslaved persons listed in Abner Bryson’s estate inventory appear to be in the possession of Nancy on this census.

On 24 July 1842, as administrator, Thomas W. Bryson filed an account of his father’s estate showing that, in addition to the net amount of the sale given above, there was $170.12 cash on hand when Abner Bryson died, yielding a total of $2,393.64.[13] The estate expenses were $1,060.87, leaving a balance of $1,312.77. The expenditures list $577.67 as “personal estate” allotted to the widow Nancy. As the court received the account, it rejected a voucher for $31.50, leaving a balance of $1,343.27. The account was recorded 25 July 1842.

Christian County, Kentucky, Circuit Court Order Bk. W, pp. 42-4

As a set of documents in Christian County circuit court’s order books and deed books shows, there was litigation between Abner Bryson’s heirs regarding the distribution of his land, with a division of the land naming his and Nancy Whitlock’s children. Christian County circuit court minutes for 20 May 1843 and a set of deeds made 16 December 1842 and recorded in the county’s deed books state that in May 1842, Abner’s son-in-law John Strode Lander and wife Sarah W. Bryson filed suit against the other heirs requesting an equitable distribution of the 537 acres Abner Bryson died holding in Christian County.[14]

Christian County, Kentucky, Deed Bk. 30, pp. 80-95

These documents state that Abner died with two tracts of land, one from John T. Bennett and the other from Henry P. Cornelius. This indicates that in addition to the 407 acres that John and Martha Bennett deeded to Abner Bryson on 15 May 1834, he had also acquired 130 acres from Henry P. Cornelius. I have searched and re-searched the Christian County deed index for a deed from Henry Proffitt Cornelius (1806-1895) to Abner Bryson, without finding one. 

These court and deed records name Abner Bryson’s heirs as follows: his widow Nancy; daughter Catharine Bryson with husband John Williams; son Thomas W. Bryson; daughter Hilpa Bryson with husband John A. Craft; daughter Elizabeth Bryson and husband Reid Mackey; son James Bryson; daughter Nancy H. Bryson; and daughter Sarah with husband John S. Lander. A plat of the division of the land in the court record along with the deed records states that as the widow, Nancy received a dower portion of 168 acres along with the “mansion house,” and each child received either 50 or 55 acres of land. James Bryson purchased the share of his sister Catharine and husband John Williams, ending up with a total of 105 acres adjoining his mother’s land, and this perhaps explains Nancy’s decision to live with her son James in the final years of her life: they had adjoining pieces of land and James was evidently farming his mother’s land along with his own.

As noted in the previous posting, in 1850 Nancy was living with her son James in Christian County, Kentucky, and appears on the census as 72 years old and born in Virginia.[15] The census states that Nancy had $1,020 real worth. James is 37, a merchant born in Kentucky with $570. Nancy and James are the only two members of the household. The next household enumerated was that of Nancy’s daughter Nancy and her husband William B. Sutton. 

The 1850 slave schedule for Christian County does not show Nancy holding enslaved people, but lists James Bryson with the following enslaved persons: one male aged 31; one female aged 20; and males aged 11 and 9.[16] Next to James is listed William Sutton, his brother-in-law, with two enslaved persons. 

As also noted in the previous posting, Nancy appears again on the 1860 federal census in the household of son James Bryson at Hopkinsville in Christian County.[17] Nancy is 82, born in Virginia, and has $5,000 real worth and and $5,000 personal worth. The census states that James is a farmer aged 45 and born in Kentucky, with $2,200 real worth and $4,000 personal worth. Also in the household are two of Nancy’s granddaughters, Nancy and Mary Mackey (spelled Mackie here), aged 21 and 24. They are daughters of Nancy Whitlock Bryson’s daughter Elizabeth N. Bryson, who married Reid Mackey, and who died 17 November 1857 in Christian County.

The 1860 federal slave schedule shows James Bryson with the following enslaved people: a female aged 50; a female aged 18; and a female aged 10. Nancy Bryson is listed with the following enslaved people: a male aged 45; a male aged 18; a male aged 12; a female aged 8; a female aged 6; a female aged 4; and a female aged 2.[18]

A 6 April 1863 Cumberland County deed by John B. Carver and wife Nancy G., late Craft, shows the couple selling Rufus Armstrong tof Cumberland County their interest in the estate of Abner Bryson and wife Nancy.[19] This deed indicates that Nancy Whitlock Bryson died in Christian County between 25 July 1860, when she’s enumerated on the federal census, and 6 April 1863.

Christian County, Kentucky, Will Bk. S, pp. 382-3

The Christian County inventory of Nancy’s estate is dated 12 September 1863.[20] The inventory, presented to court by administrator Lawrence Bryant, shows Nancy with the following enslaved persons at the time of her death: Bob, Bill, Harrison, Mary, Maria, Margaret, and Sampson. In number, these enslaved people match the enslaved people Nancy held on the 1860 federal slave schedule. It’s reasonable, I think, to assume that Bob was probably 45 in 1860, Bill was 18, Harrison was 12, Mary was 8, Maria was 6, and Margaret was 4. The only variance between the list of enslaved people in the estate inventory and on the 1860 slave schedule is that the slave schedule shows a final enslaved female aged 2, and the list of enslaved persons in the inventory ends with Sampson, a male, who must have been an older man, since he is also in the inventory of Abner Bryson’s estate. The enslaved persons in the inventory are valued at $3,300. 

Nancy’s estate also contained a half dozen Windsor chairs and a half dozen split bottom chairs; a clock reel; a bureau and clock; a bed, bedstead, and furniture; a press and table; a large pot and two kettles; and a set comprised of a shovel, tongs, and irons. The entire estate is valued at $3,342.00. Appraisers were C.W. Roach, John D. Tandy, and George W. Lander. The document was recorded 7 March 1864.

The sale of Nancy’s estate was held on the day it was inventoried, 12 September 1863.[21] Nancy’s son James purchased all the property, but, as with Abner Bryson’s inventory and estate sale, the enslaved persons listed in the inventory do not appear in the account of property sold at the estate sale. The document was recorded 7 March 1864.

Nancy’s estate was settled 13 February 1864.[22] The settlement shows the estate indebted to the administrator; there is no record of whether the estate settled that debt. The document was filed 7 March 1864 and recorded 4 April 1864.

I have found no record of where Abner Bryson and Nancy Whitlock are buried. In my next posting, I’ll discuss Abner and Nancy’s children and provide some notes about the Bryson family from which Abner descends.

[1] Christian County, Kentucky, Deed Bk. U, pp. 423-5.

[2] Charles Mayfield Meacham, A History of Christian County, Kentucky, from Oxcart to Airplane (Nashville: Marshall & Bruce, 1930), p. 8.

[3] Ibid., p. 18.

[4] Cumberland County, Kentucky, Circuit Court Order Bk. Q, pp. 211-2. See also p. 251 (same date, 23 November 1833), noting that the case was a chancery case. 

[5] Ibid., p. 323. 

[6] Ibid., p. 348. Stites was then paid $5.00 at the same court session for his services (p. 350).

[7] William B. Coles, The Coles Family of Virginia: Its numerous Connections, from the Emigration to America to the Year 1915 (New York, 1931), pp. 265-6; and Find a Grave memorial page of John Tabb Bennett, Palo Alto cemetery, Palo Alto, Clay County, Mississippi, created by Iriss Hill.

[8] “Journal of Dr. Walter Bennett and the Bennett Family (Contributed by Gen. W.H. Carter, U.S.A),” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 19, 1 (January 1911), pp. 88-94.

[9] Cumberland County, Kentucky, Deed Bk. J, pp. 12-13.

[10] Christian County, Kentucky, Will Bk. K, pp. 550-3.

[11] Ibid., pp. 577-581.

[12] 1840 federal census, Christian County, Kentucky, p. 224.

[13] Christian County, Kentucky, Will Bk. K, pp. 426-8.

[14] Christian County, Kentucky, Circuit Court Order Bk. W, pp. 42-4; Christian County, Kentucky, Deed Bk. 30, pp. 80-95.

[15] 1850 federal census, Christian County, Kentucky, district 1, p. 408 (dwelling 401/family 444, 4 September).

[16] 1850 federal slave schedule, Christian County, Kentucky, district 1, p. 59 (4 September). 

[17] 1860 federal census, Christian County, Kentucky, p. 732 (dwelling/family 545, 25 July).

[18] 1860 federal slave schedule, Christian County, Kentucky, p. 293 (30 July).

[19] Cumberland County, Kentucky, Deed Bk. P, p. 537.

[20] Christian County, Kentucky, Will Bk. S, pp. 382-3.

[21] Ibid., p. 383.

[22] Ibid., pp. 439-440.

2 thoughts on “Children of Thomas Whitlock (abt. 1745 – 1830) and Wife Hannah Phillips: Nancy Whitlock (1778 – 1863) and Husband Abner Bryson (2)

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