James Brewster and Elloner Williamson were my g-g-g-g-g-grandparents. As best can be determined, they both came to America during the first half of the 18th century along with thousands of other Scots-Irish immigrants. No reliable information is available as to the identity of their parents.1 James' birthdate is unknown, but it is likely he was born during the 1720s in Ulster, or Northern Ireland. I've seen a year of 1720 listed in some sources, but without any evidence to support it. Elloner's birth date and place are also unknown. That her surname was indeed Williamson is attested to by the fact that several of her descendants were given that name, either as a first or middle name, including my own great-great-grandfather, Williamson Brewster Seward. Her first name is usually seen spelled just as you see it here. The Brewster surname is spelled quite often as Bruster, which you should keep in mind if you are searching for our ancestors in early records, or in data bases containing transcriptions of those records. James and Elloner both seem to have been illiterate, so wouldn't have been concerned with the precise spellings of their names.
The immigration of Scots-Irish settlers is described in some detail by Margaret (Logan) Morris in her book Irvins, Doaks, Logans and McCampbells of Kentucky and Virginia, whose entire text is available elsewhere in this family album. These settlers arrived in the Shenandoah valley of the colony of Virginia before 1750. This area was a part of Augusta county, which was subsequently divided into several counties. Rockingham coutny was formed out of Augusta in 1778 and its annals contain numerous references to James and other Brewsters. A compilation of these references has been provided by another Brewster descendant, Connie Shotts.
James and Elloner were married about 1753, in Augusta county, either in the part which is now Rockingham county or in what is now Jefferson county, West Virginia. They lived on the south banks of the Dry River and had the following children:
During the American Revolution, the Brewster family supported the cause of independence. James was too old to bear arms, but the compilations of Revolutionary Claims include several items involving payment to James for supplies or services. Daughters Elloner, Jannette and Nancy have been honored by the Daughters of the American Revolution for their support of the American forces by cooking and making clothing for them.
After the war, in about 1785, James and Elloner and many of their family members migrated west into what became Jessamine county, Kentucky. In 1803, they purchased a farm along the Harrodsburg Pike and moved into a house which is still standing and which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Please take our Brewster home tour and see several beautiful recent photos of their home. James died there 15 Aug 1807 and Elloner in 1811. It is likely that Polly and Nathaniel joined Elloner on the Brewster farm. The property became known later as the Nathaniel Dunn House. The 1810 census shows a large family headed by Nathaniel which included one older woman:
Head of Household
This is the only 1810 census record in Jessamine county which we could identify with James and Elloner's family. After their deaths, many of their descendants continued the family's migrations, moving north into Monroe and Orange counties, Indiana.
The following article was copied from Maxwell History and Genealogy, Florence Wilson Houston, Laura Cowan Blaine and Ella Dunn Mellette, 1916, C.E. Pauley & Company, and sent to us by Peggy Shock. Note that Margaret McCullough's list of children is somewhat different from what I've concluded, from other sources, above:
James Brewster of Augusta and Rockingham Counties, Virginia was born in County, Derry, 1720 and came to this country when eighteen years of age. He settled in the Valley of Virginia, not far from where the old stone church of Fort Defiance, today, stands, Cub Creek being one of the boundaries of his land. He married Elinor Williamson and had eight children, six daughters -- Margaret, Elinor, Sarah, Janet, Agnes and Mary -- and two sons, James and Henry.
The records of the church of Ft. Defiance for one hundred years were burnt, but it is most likely that he and his household were of that congregation, and probably helped to build the church.
The court records of Augusta County up to the time of the separation of Rockingham County from Augusts show him to have taken a very active part in the affairs of the vicinity, as his name is often used. On July 17, 1753, he served on a jury at an accidental death and from that date till 1781 he was continually named as witness to wills, appraiser of estates, taking part in fixing lines, opening roads, in spring, the ways of travel, in the settlement of controversies, care of orphan children etc. In 1757, he was appointed Constable of the Pasture. His name is also listed with the Virginia Militia in 1758...
[The next paragraphs are about the girls and the Indians and the girls weaving and providing food for the soldiers]
Later, James Brewster sold his land in Virginia and located in Jessamine County, Kentucky. He and his lifelong friend, James Dunn, are buried within half mile of each other. They had been born within a mile of each other in North Ireland. They lived within a mile of each other in Virginia.
Of his children, Henry was thrown from a horse and killed in Virginia; was not married. Margaret married Samuel Carr, the Tory, and lived and died in Virginia, but the others went to the blue grass country then being opened up in Kentucky.
Mary (Polly) married Nathaniel Dunn, and settled in Fayette County on a farm near Lexington. Agnes, who married William Alexander also settled on a farm near Lexington, and later removed to Indiana. Sarah married Benjamin Irvin, her cousin, and settled in what was then Mercer County, Kentucky. Rev. Benjamin Irvin was a graduate of Princeton in New Jersey in 1776. He became pastor of Mossy Creek and Cook's Creek Churches, Virginia, in 1780: organized the Harrisonburg Presbyterian Church in 1786; in 1809 assumed charge of the Paint Lick Church in Kentucky. Elinor married Samuel Dunn and settled on a farm near Danville. Janet married her cousin, Samuel Irvin, and settled on a farm near Richmond, Kentucky. James Brewster, Jr. married, and his wife died, leaving twin sons, James and John.
Margaret J. McCullough
From where in Northern Ireland might our ancestors have come? What traces of them might exist there? In December 2001, our cousin Steve Hofer contacted The Genealogy Centre of County Derry, Northern Ireland, in an effort to trace James Brewster and his lineage. The response, by Brian Mitchell, Genealogy Centre Manager, stated, in pertinent part:
Prior to the commencement of civil registration of births in Ireland in 1864 you will have to rely on church baptismal registers to confirm the birth details of James Brewster born c. 1720. Dates of commencement and quality of information in church baptismal registers vary from parish to parish and from denomination to denomination. Access to church registers is gained through knowledge of the parish address and religious denomination of your ancestor. If all you know is that your ancestor came from County Londonderry this effectively means that your ancestor could have worshipped in any one of 53 Church of Ireland parishes, 68 Presbyterian congregations or 28 Roman Catholic parishes that were in existence in the county prior to 1900.
As only a relatively small percentage of church registers in County Derry predate 1800 it is quite possible that you will not be able to confirm the birth details of James Brewster and siblings. For example of 68 Presbyterian Congregations in County Londonderry only three hold church registers with any entries predating 1800 . . . . [N]o Presbyterian baptismal registers in County Derry exist anywhere from 1710 to 1770. This, of course, means if James Brewster was baptised in the Presbyterian Church there will be no record of his birth.
I can confirm that our database of church registers . . . doesn't record any births of a James Brewster (including spelling variations) prior to 1750. It, furthermore, records no marriage entries of a James Brewster prior to 1750. And finally the database recorded no births of children to a father James Brewster prior to 1800.
It would seem, therefore, that our database of church registers will shed no new light on the origins of your Brewster ancestors. This doesn't necessarily mean that James Brewster and his siblings were not born in County Derry. It is quite probable that your ancestors were baptised in a church whose registers do not go far enough back.
Steve adds that "the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians did not maintain good church records, apparently because they did not want the information used for purposes of religious persecution or taxation." After their arrival in America, however, these same Presbyterians often did keep such good records that their records are frequently of great assistance to genealogical researchers.
Steve, who is a lawyer, provided the following verbatim transcriptions of James and Elloner's wills, which he obtained from the Clerk's Office in Jessamine county, KY. The comments in italics are Steve's. We certainly won't change a "jot or tittle" of the text which Steve transcribed so painstakingly from the original documents, but will break it down into smaller paragraphs, highlight any familiar names we see, and provide links to pages which contain additional information.
The Last Will and Testament of James Bruster, dated August 15, 1807, reads as follows [all spellings, capitalizations, punctuations and grammatical constructions are taken directly from the original document]:
In the name of God amen.
I James Bruster of Jessamine and state of Kentucky being weak in Body but of sound mind do constitute and ordain this my last will and Testament in the form and manner following viz. I Recommend my soul to God who gave it my Body to the earth to be buried at the discretion of my Executors hereafter mentioned it is my will and desire that all my just Debts and funeral expenses be first paid
Item The provision made for the support of my beloved wife Elenor Bruster in the sale of my land to Nathaniel Dunn which is in the article of agreement entered between said Dunn and myself I wish for her to enjoy and I give to my beloved wife a Negro girl by the name of Phillis and all my household furniture to dispose of as she pleases forever.
Item it is my will and desire that after my death and the death of my beloved wife that my negro man Jack be forever free.
Item I give and queath to my sun James Bruster the sum of thirteen pounds Lawful money of Kentucky.
Item it is my will and desire that the money arising from the sale of my land to Nathaniel Dunn agreeable to the article between him and myself & the one hundred pounds in Cash which I lent my son in Law Benjamin Ervin and all the bonds I have on my children money lent them and advances made them and all bonds and debts due me of every description of every kind except that before disposed of by this will be all equally divided into seven parts for the legatees hereafter named viz. The Children of my daughter Peggy Carr be considered as one part Legatee & receive one part Elenor Dunn2 receive one part my Daughter Sally Ervin receive one part my Daughter Jinny Ervin2 receive one part and my Daughter Agnes Alexander2 receive one part my daughter Polly Dunn receive one part which makes six parts which several parts and proportions I give unto my said children and their heirs forever.
Item I give and bequeath the remaining seventh part as above mentioned unto my Daughters Eleanor Dunn Jinny Ervin Agnes Alexander and Polly Dunn in equal proportion.
Lastly, I constitute and appoint William Alexander3 and Nathaniel Dunn Executors of this my last will and Testament ratifying this and no other, to be my last Will and Testament to which I have hereunto set my hand and affixed my seal this 15th day of August one thousand eight hundred and seven. Signed sealed and acknowledged in the presents of
Joseph W. Doake
his James X Bruster seal mark
Jessamine County August Court 1808
This last will and Testament of James Bruster deceased was this day produced in court and proven by the subscribing witnesses thereto and ordered to be recorded. Teste Samuel H. Woodson.
The Last Will and Testament of James Bruster was signed August 15, 1807, produced in Jessamine County, Kentucky, Court in August 1808 and ordered to be recorded. The document is recorded in Jessamine County, Kentucky, Will Book A, Pages 206 207.
The Last Will and Testament of Elenor Bruster, dated April 5, 1809, reads as follows [all spellings, capitalizations, punctuations and grammatical constructions are taken directly from the original document]:
In the name of God Amen I Eleroner Bruster of Jessamine County and state of Kentucky Being weak in Body but in sound mind do make and ordain this my last will and Testament in the form and manner following viz I commit my sole to God my Body to the dust to be Buried in a decent and becomeing manner
Item It is wish that all my Just debts and funirel Expenses be first paid also one bible purchased for William Alexander my Grand Son
Item I Give and bequeth to my Son James Bruster one pair of fire tongs and one Dollar in money
I Give and bequeth my negro Girl phillis to my Daughter Polly Dunn for fifteen years from this Date at which time she is to be free
And the Balance of my estate I will to be equaly divided between my daughter Elenoer Dunn2 Sally Irvine Jinny Irving2 and Polly Dunn and Nancy Alexander2 Lastly I appoint Wm Alexander3 and Nathaniel Dunn Executors of this my last will and Testament to which I have hereunto set my hand and affixed my seal this fifth day of April one thousand eight hundred and nine.
Signed sealed and
Acknoledged in the
Joseph W Doak
her Eleoner X Bruster seal mark
Jessamine County Sd. August Court 1811
The within last will and testament of Eleoner Bruster deceased was this day produced in court proven by two of the subscribing witnesses thereto and ordered to record Test Saml H. Woodson Clk
The Last Will and Testament of Elenor Bruster was signed April 5, 1809, produced in Jessamine County, Kentucky, Court in August 1811 and ordered to be recorded. The document is recorded in Jessamine County, Kentucky, Will Book A, Pages 300 301.