It's hard for me to imagine but, when my gr gr gr grandfather, James McGehee, was born, George Washington may have not yet become the President of the United States.
These United States of America were only a fragile union when James was born around the early to mid-1780s. The area where he was born was at that time a part of North Carolina at the time. Today it is the state of Tennessee. It was a part of North Carolina until 1784 when the area, including Hawkins County, became the ill-fated State of "Franklin." The region would later go back into the hands of North Carolina, only becoming the state known as "Tennessee" on June 1, 1796, the 17th state in the union.
So when James McGehee was born, the United States of America was just being born, and the state of Tennessee was still a future development. This area of East Tennessee was home to Native American tribes, trappers, traders, and pioneers, moving into the uncharted regions creating towns, villages, and roads. The city of "Rogersville" was laid out in 1789 (this will be important later), and all of it centered around the "Wilderness Road," and an area called "Bull's gap."
I explain all of this because this is the world in which little James McGehee would have grown up. His father and mother (whomever they were) would have had vivid memories of life in the British colonies as subjects of the realm and also clear memories of the war, which brought about the nation we know today. Likely, his parents remembered the home they left behind before coming to this frontier, a life lived in a more civilized and long-settled Virginia. It was a time of culture clashes as Native Americans saw these trespassers forge a way through their homeland and carve out a new world. Some Native tribes fought the pioneers, and others sought peace. No one could have known how these newcomers would forever change the face of the surrounding landscape.
Jane Patterson was born into this same world in 1782. We know this from census records from her later life. She and James McGehee were married in Oct of 1803 in Hawkins County, Tennessee. In later years, Jane would put these matters in writing when petitioning for a land grant based upon James' military service. She would state that she and James were married "by St Clair." My first thought was that "St Clair" was the minister who performed the marriage. However, I later realized that there was a community that arose north of the above mentioned "Bull's gap" and just 9 miles west of the above mentioned "Rogersville" (I told you it would come up later), and that community was known as "St Clair." It is unclear which of these she is referencing.
It is unknown how long James and Jane continued to live in Hawkins County. We only know for sure that we next find evidence of them in Lincoln County, Tennessee, on the border with what is today Alabama, around the town of Fayetteville.
There were a large number of people named McGehee who migrated to this same area. Many of them are on the various documents and tombstones of Lincoln County, Tennessee. We know that one of those men who lived in Lincoln County, Tennessee, was named William McGehee and his wife Direna (Shelton). We also know that William and Direna migrated here from Hawkins County, just like our James and Jane, and DNA comparisons between descendants indicate there is a connection. There were many other people named McGehee, who may have all been a part of this same family.
The first time we see my gr gr gr grandfather, "James McGehee," mentioned on any records that we can tie to Lincoln County, Tennessee, is the time during the War of 1812. He enlisted at Fayetteville, Tennessee, into Copeland's 3rd Regiment of Tennessee Militia. This group was active from January 1814 to May of 1815 and was involved in the famous battle of Horseshoe Bend on March 27, 1814. However, James was under Captain John Holshouser, and his group was held in reserve during the fight, according to records.
There is a "James McGehee" in the local records of Lincoln County, Tennessee, in 1820; however, we cannot prove that this is OUR James McGehee. In documents from 1826, we see "Pleasant McGehee" listed on county documents. Pleasant is James and Jane's firstborn child. James and Jane cuMcGehees children were all born in Tennessee.
They are as follows:
The McGehee families of Lincoln County, Tennessee, seemed to all live either Northeast, East, or Southeast of the town of Fayetteville, Tennessee. James and Jane may have lived in this same area. Many members of the McGehee family were living in the areas known today as Kelso, Flintville, and Mulberry.
There is a county record stating that "James McGehee" lived on the waters of Shelton's creek. I do not know if this "Shelton's Creek" is connected at all to the wife of William McGehee, Direna Shelton McGehee, but there is a possibility. This area, like Hawkins County Tennessee, mentioned earlier, was a wide-open and sparsely populated wilderness. I read one document that stated an old man named Abbot, lived for five years in the area and never knew there was anyone within "a hundred miles" of him.
We do not know the reasons for moving to Illinois, but we do know that by the census of 1830, James and his family lived in Morgan County, Illinois. All of their children
state on later records that they were born in Tennessee, so we know that this would have to be sometime after the birth of Jacob, their youngest son, who was born in 1827.
One thing to point out is that one of the granddaughters of James and Jane stated that they left "Alabama" for Illinois about 1829. This might indicate they actually lived over the border into Alabama, or at least thought they were in Alabama. Alabama was a territory and then had barely become a state at this time.
James McGehee is a prevalent name. It is impossible to prove at this point which, of the James' named in documents, is our James, unless there is other defining information. We can say that they arrived in Lincoln County, Tennessee, at least by late 1813. Still, we do not know when they left Lincoln County.
There is a "James McGehee" selling his land, March 25, 1829, to Elijah Mclaughlin. The deed again refers to the property connecting to "Shelton's Creek." It was four tracts of land. The document was registered on June 21, 1830, but I don't know if James would have to be present for it to be registered.
When the census of 1830 Morgan county Illinois was taken, James and his wife and children were listed on it. It was claimed by those in Jacob McGehee's family (James and Jane's youngest son) that he was born in Nashville, Tennessee. Nashville is a "fair piece" away from Fayetteville, Tennessee. Since he was born in 1827, it might be that he was born on the way to Illinois. There are no documents at this time (5/1/2020) that give us anything more than speculation about when they left Tennessee; we only know they were in Illinois in 1830.
An artist's rendering of the wilderness road found at wikipedia.com
COLONEL STEPHEN COPELAND
DESIGNATION: 3rd Regiment of Tennessee Militia
DATES: January 1814 - May 1814
MEN MOSTLY FROM: Overton, Smith, Wilson, Franklin, Warren, Bedford, and
CAPTAINS: John Biler(Byler), John Dawson, William Douglass, William Evans,
Solomon George, William Hodges, John Holshouser, Alexander Provine, Richard
Sharp, George W. Still, James Tait, Moses Thompson, Allen Wilkinson, David
There were approximately 660 men in this regiment. They were part of a brigade
led by General Thomas Johnson (the other regiment of Johnson's brigade was led
by Colonel R. C. Napier). Jackson's report of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (27
March 1814) mentions that Copeland's regiment was held in reserve during this
engagement. But a part of the regiment saw action, as muster rolls show
casualties from this battle in the companies of Captains Moses Thompson and
Allen Wilkinson. Their line of march took them from Fayetteville (where they
were mustered into service), through Fort Deposit, Fort Strother, and finally to
From: "Regimental Histories of Tennessee Units During the War of 1812"
SPECULATION ABOUT THE PARENTS OF JAMES AND JANE PATTERSON MCGEHEE
James' parentage is unknown at this time (10/5/2019), although we are reasonably sure there is a close connection to the family of William and Direna Shelton McGehee. There is circumstantial evidence for this conclusion, and the genetic evidence correlates with the circumstantial evidence. All of this evidence indicates that James was likely a nephew, a child, grandchild, cousin, or a similarly close relative of Wiliam McGehee, born in 1756 in Virginia and his wife Direna Shelton, also born in Virginia at that same time.
Many have already falsely indicated in their work that James is the child of William and Direna. However, exhaustive research has shown no proof of this at all. The fact is that some evidence leans toward him not being their son. New evidence will have to emerge before we can make any conclusion here.
The second family frequently confused with our James is the family of Samuel and Olivia Muse McGehee. This particular line of research is soundly proven false. Samuel and Oliva McGehee did have a son named James; however, Samuel's son James born in a different year in a different state and married a different woman. We know about the death of our James because we have the testimony of his wife, and friends of the family that reported in writing that our James died in Knox County, Illinois in February of 1835. James, the son of Samuel and Olivia, died over two decades later in Alabama in Feb 1857.
The only correlation between James, son of Samuel, and our Samuel is that this James "may" have lived in Madison co Alabama, which is about 50 miles from where our James had lived before 1830.
Numerous of our James McGehee's descendants are searching for his parents, and as soon as any proof is located, it will be quickly disseminated.
PARENTS OF JANE PATTERSON MCGEHEE
The parents of Jane Patterson have been assumed by some and added to numerous family trees on ancestry.com.
The most common is the family of Wiliam and Nancy English Patterson. William was the son of Robert Patterson, who had a mill in Hawkins County, Tennessee, in the 1700s. William and Nancy's family moved to Anderson County, Tennessee, after living in Hawkins County, Tennessee.
While I do believe that DNA evidence indicates that we do connect to this general family, the ONLY evidence that we have at all to indicate she is their daughter is a rumor that they had a daughter called "Jenny." Jane could be a cousin of William Patterson, a daughter, a niece, or any of several other family members. There is just currently no way to know.
So, as in the case of James, we do not know the identity of the parents of Jane Patterson is, and as soon as we can find a proven connection, we will pass along that information.
If you have any questions about this or you have the information you would like to add, please feel free to email me at email@example.com, and I would be happy to discuss this with you.
From the Hawkins County Website