Lavinia Butler, who’s your daddy?

I recently visited my family in Nashville, which gave me an opportunity to visit the Tennessee State Archives. I wanted to see some some deeds which are not yet available online at Family Search. I was primarily looking for additional information about Thomas Butler (1792-1862), and his wife Lavinia (1796-1859) who are my 4th great-grandparents twice over. (Southern genealogy…)

Online trees list Lavinia’s last name as being either Thompson, Bennett or Flowers. However, the only actual record of Lavinia’s last name that I have been able to find is the 1917 death record of her youngest daughter, Nettie Butler McArthur. This clearly shows Lavinia’s last name as being Bennett. (I am not sure what the sources are for Thompson or Flowers.)

The working theory

As I wrote in a previous post, one clue is that one of Lavinia’s older sons, Wiley Butler, lists Wilson County, Tennessee as being his birthplace in his Civil War military file. This places Lavinia and Thomas Butler in Wilson County in 1818. A Solomon Bennett is found in Wilson County (Statesville, near the Rutherford County border) in 1820. After a good deal of research (complicated by multiple Thomas Butlers!) I have concluded that the Thomas Butler who is found in neighboring Rutherford County in 1820 is most likely my Thomas.

It seems very possible that early in their marriage, Thomas and Lavinia might have lived with or near her parents, with their son Wiley therefore being born in Wilson County. (It’s also worth noting that Lavinia named one of her sons William Solomon Butler.)

Westward to Carroll County, Tennessee

There was more than one time frame to examine, however. Going forward, to Carroll County, Tennessee, I found deeds which by describing boundary lines place Solomon Bennett and Thomas Butler as close neighbors. (Witnesses to deeds were also typically neighbors who were close at hand.)

Carroll DB B, P 298. 14 Aug 1826. Benjamin S Long of Halifax NC to Thomas Butler of of Carroll TN: $232 for a tract on the waters of Sandy (Big Sandy river) part of a tract granted to Lunsford Long no 273. Adjoining Reuben Queen, William Morris containing 297 acres, 100 poles. Wits: Thomas Denton, William Aubry.

Carroll DB B, P 59. 14 Aug 1826. Benjamin S Long of Halifax NC to William Morris. $175 for 117 acres, part of a tract granted to Lunsford Long grant no. 175 adj. Morris’ line, Reuben Queen, Thomas Butler. Wits: Thomas Butler, Richard A Bennett. (Richard Bennett was Solomon Bennett’s grandson, a son of Ethelred Bennett.)

Carroll DB D, P 437. 29 Sep 1827. William Morris to Thomas Butler, both of Carroll. $13 for a 7-acre tract on the south side of Blount’s creek, part of a 117 acre tract deeded unto Morris by Benjamin S Long. Adj (Reuben) Queen. William X Morris (his mark). Wits: Daniel Butler, Thomas E Butler (Thomas Elias Butler is a probable son of Thomas Butler.)

Carroll DB B, p 298. 12 Oct 1829. Benjamin S Long of Halifax NC to Solomon Bennett of Carroll County, TN. $150 for 83 acres on the NE corner of a tract granted to Lunsford Long adj William Morris. Wits: Sion Rodgers, E M Rodgers, William X Morris (his mark).

So, from these deeds, it is clear that both Thomas Butler and Solomon Bennett occupied tracts of land purchased from Benjamin Long that were originally granted to Lunsford Long (Benjamin’s father.) They also each shared a boundary line with William Morris. Thomas and Solomon were close neighbors.

All of these people were early settlers of Pond Branch in Carroll County, Tennessee. This is a tiny, unincorporated community very close to both Natchez Trace State Park, and my grandmother’s hometown of Buena Vista.

A quick trip back east to Montgomery County, North carolina

But the first two or three of Thomas and Lavinia’s children were born in North Carolina. So, they must have met and married there. Back to the deed books!

Thomas Butler himself was too young to leave much of a record in North Carolina. However, his presumed father, Elias Butler, left a lengthy paper trail. For a start, the 1810 census places both Elias Butler and Solomon Bennett (who both have children the right ages to be Thomas and Lavinia) in Captain Green’s district of Montgomery County, NC. In fact, they are located just four houses apart!

Deeds provide further evidence of their proximity. Both Elias and Solomon lived on the northeast side of the Pee Dee River. Solomon owned 150 acres on Bishop Creek, just west of the current town of Troy, NC.

Grant # 905, 15 Jul 1795. To Solomon Bennett, 50 acres NE side of Pee Dee river on waters of Bishops Creek. Beginning at his own 100 acre survey whereon he now lives.

Elias was a much wealthier man with many deeds to his name. Several like these one mention the northeast side of the Pee Dee, Rocky Creek and Dison/Dyson Creek. They also make clear that he lived on this land, as Solomon did on his.

Grant #641, entered 7 Jul 1790. Elias Butler, 25 acres NE side Pee Dee River on west side Rocky Creek, own line, John Queen’s line.

Grant #767, entered 20 July 1795. Elias Butler, 150 acres, NE side Pee Dee River, fork of Dyson’s creek, John Carter, Joab Benton (Deaton?), Mitchell’s line, James Butler, Morgan’s path, James Butler, own line. James Butler CB.

Grant #1458, entered 16 April 1796. Elias Butler, 80 acres on Dyson’s Creek of little river adjoining his own line where he now lives, CBs Angus McAuley, Farquahart McAuley.

In the 1790s, Elias lived around 15 miles from Solomon, near the current town of Wadeville, NC. However, Elias apparently owned a mill of some kind of on Rocky Creek, which is much closer to Bishop Creek. Given that he and Solomon were found four houses apart in 1820, it seems very likely that Elias simply relocated northward before that point in order to live near his mill. This places Thomas and Lavinia within “courting distance,” especially given that every farmer in the area would have had dealings with the local miller.

Theory more or less proven, with another line to research in the future

And so, I’m ready to call it: Lavinia is the daughter of Solomon Bennett. Phew!

As for Solomon Bennett, he never seems to have owned very much at all, and it has been difficult to learn more about him. However, in 1783, he and a man named Drury or Drewry Bennett were chain bearers for a survey for a Montgomery County land grant to Mark Bennett. In 1790, Solomon is found in Montgomery County living next door to Mark Bennett Esquire, who was born before 1755 and therefore old enough to be Solomon’s likely father.

I’m taking a break to recover from Butlers and Bennetts at the moment, but will eventually circle back around to investigating this possibility.

2 thoughts on “Lavinia Butler, who’s your daddy?

  1. I cannot find any flaw in your arguments. I have found many of the same documents you presented, although not the ones from Deed Book B. By the way, any theory as to why his children did not take care of Solomon and Obedience, instead them being declared paupers?

    Liked by 1 person

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