When Virginia was partitioned in 1663, Tennessee became a western part of Carolina; thirty years later a further division left Tennessee within the jurisdiction of North Carolina. Ideas about the region remained vague well into the middle of the eighteenth century. The Upper Tennessee Valley, which Virginians thought was within their boundaries, was not explored until 1748, when Dr. Thomas Walker, sent out by the Loyal Land Company of Virginia, penetrated the territory to the present Kingsport. Two years later Walker with a party of Long Hunters (probably already familiar with the region) came down the upper Holston Valley, followed well-beaten bison trails westward, and crossed the Clinch River. From this point Walker and his wilderness scouts pushed north into Kentucky through the great mountain pass which he later named Cumberland Gap in honor of the Duke of Cumberland. When the French and Indian War broke out, the Overhill Cherokee petitioned the colonial governments of Virginia and South Carolina to build and strongly garrison a fort in their country. Virginia acted first Major Andrew Lewis led a party into the Overhill country and built a fort near Chota, the Cherokee capital. The South Carolinians, refusing to cooperate with the Virginians, set about building a fort of their own. The work was pushed to completion in 1757 by British regulars and militia from South Carolina, under the command of Captain Paul Demore. Named Fort Loudoun in honor of the Earl of Loudoun, commander of the British forces in America at the time, this was the first Anglo-American fort garrisoned west of the Alleghenies. The Virginia fort at Chota was never occupied. No sooner had the garrison taken possession than traders, artisans, blacksmiths, and small farmers began settling in the region protected by the fort. Many of them brought their wives, and “undoubtedly the first child born in the West to parents of the Anglo-Saxon race saw the light of day in the little community.” Fort Loudoun remained the westernmost English outpost for three years. Abandoned at the outbreak of the Cherokee War, it was reoccupied by the North Carolinians after the British victory of 1761. Trade with the Cherokee was resumed and white men could again travel unmolested through the Overhill region.
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What piqued my interest was the speculated Punch/Bunch connection, which set off bells in my head. John Bunch sounded like a name I’ve ran across in my own research: a John Bunch is believed to have been father of Ann, the wife of a William Blevins.
Here are a few links:
One thing of interest is that several of the researchers believed the Bunches to be Melungeon. The Melungeons were an inter-racial group known to have lived in the mountains of Eastern Tennessee and the Carolinas. In some aspects, the Melungeons might have originated similarly to the Seminoles, who had Creek, black, and white ancestry. I’ve not seen it widely discussed, but there was a lot of intermarriage in the southeast anyway. See Alexander McGillivray, William McIntosh, William Weatherford, and John Ross. I that we make it out to be a bigger deal than it was in that early period of American history. Maybe the Anglo-Saxon (i.e. English) settlers didn’t intermarry, but there’s pretty good record to indicate that the Celts (Irish, Scots, Welsh) did.
So, the documentation to link Mr. Obama to John Punch is a bit spotty, but to be fair, so is most of the records from the 17th century. I’ll make a similar unsubstantiated jump over the the John Blevins (b. 1801, Kentucky) whose father I can’t find, back to Ann Blevins (née Bunch), whose father was likely John Bunch, purportedly the son of John Punch, and with that say hello to my new-found, yet very distant cousin, President Barack Obama.
One of the legendary ancestors of the Blevins family in early colonial America was William Blevins, the Long Hunter. Since I started researching my family’s genealogy, I have read scattered bits and pieces about him. My ultimate goal is to determine whether or not my line descended from this man. There are lots of stories of William Blevins on different genealogy sites, but I will attempt to stick with published sources. I’ll try to piece the complete story together as best as possible in a series of posts.
Note: Despite some family claims, I don’t know if I am a descendent of this William Blevins or not. I just can’t fill in enough gaps to substantiate the claim at this point.
Which William Blevins?
One of the problems when researching William Blevins is knowing which “William” Blevins the information is pointing to. It seems like almost every generation in my family has had a William Blevins or two. This goes back to William Blethyn, Bishop of Llandaff in Wales, and many generations before him. Even in my immediate line, my father was Roy William Blevins, his father was Quillen William Blevins, his grandfather was William Smith Blevins… I think you are starting to get the picture.
There are even multiple William Blevinses that were Long Hunters. The William Blevins we are examining had a son named William who was also a Long Hunter, and later in life was known as “Old Bill”. This second William was purported to be a cruel man that would hang the meat from his hunts from the rafters of his house, but not allow his wife to have them, instead giving them to a mistress that he kept on his property (Williams, 2003). The William Blevins that I want to analyse here was a contemporary of a couple other men that are a little more well known: Elisha Walden (also Walling, Wallen), Lt. Henry Timberlake, and one of the most famous frontiersman, Daniel Boone (Draper, 1998). William Blevins was married to Agnes, Elisha Walden’s sister. Elisha may also have been the son-in-law of a different William Blevins, married to that William’s daughter, Mary (Withers, 1895, Luce, 1995). Other sources give Elisha’s wife’s name as Catherine Elizabeth, the daughter of a John Blevins (Wallin, ). According to Luce:
Within the Walden family there is a tradition that the Waldens left New Jersey and went along the Pennsylvania wagon trail across western Maryland and into Virginia accompanied by Blevinses from Rhode Island. This is very plausible as we know this was the common route of people moving south from the New England states.
There is also a bit of confusion as to who this William Blevins father was. Some say he was named John, others Jack, but again from Luce’s text:
Colonel John Sevier, writing in his journal, referred to Jack (John) and Will Blevins as having hunted along the Obias River, in what is now Fentree County, Tennessee.
The Long Hunt
The Long Hunt was a historical period of early American History that occurred in the 1760s. This was a period when very few settlers had ventured into what is now Kentucky and Tennessee. The men of the Long Hunt were the kind of pioneers that legend have been based on. William Blevins was one of these such men. There are several stories of his adventures in the wild. Here is one account recorded by O. Taylor:
There is no name on the hunter roll more familiar than the name of Blevins. Once William Blevins had to go through the mountains to salt his cattle. he came across them in a small clearing and was just in time to see them stampeded by a panther that had just killed a small heifer. As soon as the panther saw Blevins it leaped for him and succeeded in reaching his belt, which it tore from him, but with a dextrous swing of his knife, Blevins freed himself, the beast paying the penalty for its rash deed (Taylor, 1909).
Record of one of the early hunts is recorded in T. Belue’s The Long Hunt:
In 1761 Elisha Wallen, a tall, strongly built Long Hunter in his early thirties, led a score of like-minded men from the Smith River in Virginia to the Holston Valley. Jack and William Blevins, William Pittman, Henry Skaggs, Charles Cox, William Neuman, and William Harrison rode with Wallen. They skirted the Clinch and set up camp on Wallen’s Creek near the Cumberland Gap and slew game prodigiously for nearly two years. Wallen and his men returned to the region in 1763 for their fall hunt, this time pushing through the gap and into southeastern Kentucky, hunting and trapping along the Rockcastle, going as far as Crab Orchard. On both hunts the Virginians had reaped far beyond their expectations. Frontier Virginian John Redd, who knew Wallen well, said that “he always returned home from his hunts with his horses heavy laden with skins and furs”. (Belue, 1996).
The next major event in American history to which William Blevins was party was the Watauga Purchase, a contract between Charles Robertson, trustee for the Wataugah Settlers, and the Cherokee Nation:
This indenture, made the 19th day or March, 1775, by O-con-os-to-ta, Chief Warrior and First Representative of the Cherokee Nation or Tribe of Indians, and Attaculleculley and Savanucah, otherwise Coronoh, for themselves and the rest of the whole Nation, being aborigines and sole owners by occupation from the beginning of the time of the lands on the waters of Holston and Wataugah Rivers, and other lands thereunder belonging, of the one part, and Charles Robertson, of the settlement of Wataugah, of the other part, Witnesseth, &c. “The consideration was “the sum of two thousand pounds, lawful money of Great Brittain, in hand paid.” The deed embraced “all that tract, territory, or parcel of land, on the waters of the Wataugah, Holston, and Great Canaway or New River; beginning on the south or south-west side of the Holston River, Six English miles above Long Island, in said river; thence a direct line near a south course to the ridge which divides the waters of Wataugah from the waters of Nonachuckeh; thence along the courses of various said ridge nearly a southeast course to the Blue Ridge or line dividing North Carolina along the Virginia line to Holston River; thence down the meanders of Holston River to the first station, including all the waters of Wataugah, part of the Waters of Holson, and the head-branches of New River or Grate Canaway, agreeable to the bounds aforesaid, to said Charles Robertson, his heirs and assigns, ” etc. “And also the said Charles Robertson, his heirs and assigns, shall and may, peaceably and quietly, have, hold, posess and enjoy said premises, without let, trouble, hinderance, or molestation, interruption and denial, of them, the said Oconostota and the rest, or any of the said Nation.”
Signed in the Presence of John Sevier, Wm. Bailey Smith, Jesse Benton, Tillman Dixon, William Blevins, Thomas Price, Jas. Vann, Linguister.
Oconostota, and his X mark (Seal), Attacullecully, and his X mark (Seal), Tennessy Warrior, his X mark (Seal), Willinawaugh, his X mark (Seal) (Dixon, 1989).
Being of Welsh descent, one might assume that William Blevins might not have a strong allegiance to the British Crown, but whatever his reason, in 1777, he renounced his allegiance to the Crown:
I do Swear or Affirm that I do renounce and refuse all allegiance to George the Third, King of Great Britain, his Heirs and Successors, and that I will be Faithful and bear true allegiance to the Common Wealth of Virginia, as a Free and Independent State and that I will not at any time, do, or Cause to be done, any matter or thing that will be prejudicial or Injurious to the Freedom and Independence thereof, as declared by Congress, and also, that I will discover and make known to some one Justice of the Peace for said State, all Treasons or Traitorous Conspiracies which I know or hereafter shall know to be Formed against this or any of the United States of America, so help me God. James Blevins, Jr., William Heard, Julas Scruggs, William Blevins Jr., Ignatius Sims William Blevens, Sr., Joseph Newman, Daniel Newman, Samuel Blevins, Whilliby Blevins, Elisha Walden, John Blevins, Dillion Blevins (Wallin, 1990).
- Alderman, P. (1980). The Overmoutain Men. Johnson City, TN: The Overmountain Press.
- Belue, T.F. (1996). The Long Hunt: Death of the Buffalo East of the Mississippi. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books.
- Dixon, M. (1989). The Wataugans: First Free and Independent Community on the Continent. Johnson City, TN: The Overmountain Press.
- Draper, L.C. (1998). The Life of Daniel Boone. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books.
- Hamilton, E.L. (1984) The Long Hunter. Retrieved from http://www.danielboonetrail.com/historicalsites.php?id=156
- Luce, W.L. (1995). The Blevins Hicklin Connection. Retrieved from http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~standridge/dboone.html
- Taylor, O. (1909). Historic Sullivan. Charleston, SC: Bibliolife.
- Wallin, C.D. (1990). Elisha Wallen the Long Hunter. Johnson City, TN: The Overmountain Press.
- Williams, C.D. (2003). Tales from Sacred Wind: Coming of Age in Appalachia : the Cratis Williams Chronicles. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company.
- Withers, A. S. (1895). Chronicle of Border Warfare. Derby, UK: Leonaur Ltd.
Woman traces ancestral heritage:
The great-great granddaughter of a woman banished to Tasmania on a prison ship has made an emotional return to her ancestral home.
There is a story in the Mabonogion called “Math the Son Of Mathonwy” that tells of Gwydion and Gilfaethwy, who raped Goewin, the daughter of Pebin. Gwydion and Gilfaethwy were the maternal nephews of Math ab Mathonwy, who was lord over Gwynedd. Goewin was under the protection of Math, and Gilfaethwy had become greatly enamored of her.
The two concocted an adventure to acquire swine, which were unheard of in that time, from Pryderi, king of Dyfed. Gwydion, being a magician (trained by Math in those arts), conjured illusions to trick Pryderi into trading him the swine for apparitions of fine horses and greyhounds. The trick would only last a day and the brothers and their retinue quickly fled back to Gwynedd. They reached Caer Dathyl, Math’s residence.
That night, after Math and his men had left to secure the swine, Gilvaethwy stayed in Math’s chambers, and he and Gwydion rudely chased out all of the women from the chamber, except for Goewin, who they forced to remain.
On the next day a battle ensued between Math’s and Pryderi’s men over the trickery of Gwydion. Pryderi suffered major losses and negotiated terms of peace. Pryderi made his case against Gwydion, whom he called out for battle. With Gwydion’s magical advantage, he slew Pryderi.
After Math and his men returned home triumphant, he went back to his couch and placed his feet on Goewin’s lap, as was tradition at that time for a lord with his maiden. She informed him she could no longer fill that role, as she had been defiled. She told Math how Gwydion and Gilfaethwy had raped her. Math declared to avenger her honor and took her as his wife, bestowing upon her dominion of his lands.
Gwydion and Gilfaethwy avoided Court in a form of self exile, until it was forbidden for others to provision them. After a while, they returned to Math’s Court. They made kind speech to the kings, but he was set on punishing them for the needless deaths of many of his warriors, with the death of Pryderi being the only worthy action they had done. He then commenced to inflict punishment upon them.
Being a very strong magician himself, Math took out his wand and turned the two into deer. He commanded them to mate and return to him in a year. After the year, they returned, with a fawn. He then struck them with Magic to turn them into wild hogs. He took the fawn and turned him human, having him baptized and naming him Hyddwn, meaning “Stag-man”.
A year later the brothers in the form of wild hogs returned to him with a young hog with them. He then turned the brothers into a pair of wolves. He took the young hog, turned him human, had him baptized, and named him Hychddwn Hir, or “”Sow-man the Long”, for the long auburn hair that he had.
After the third year, the brothers returned with a wolf cub. He took the cub, turned him human, had him baptized, and named him Bleiddwn, or “Wolf-man”. He then told the brothers that his punishment of them was complete and turned them back into humans. They were washed and restored to their noble state.
So take it for what it’s worth. Let not facts get in the way of romantic legends.
In the history of the Blevins/Blevin/Blethyn/Bleddyn name, one of the more famous characters in the past thousand years would have to be William Blethyn, Bishop of Llandaff, who lived in the 16th century. There is a fair amount of information on him in out of print books, many of which can be found on Google books. At a later date, I’ll go back and give a better biography of him.
The one piece of historical information that is by far the most valuable, and in my opinion, of great importance to Welsh national heritage, is the William Blethyn Pedigree Roll kept at the Glamorgan Archives. A zoomable copy of the Pedigree Roll can be viewed here. One of the amazing things to me is that this roll purports to trace the lineage of William Blethyn back through the Welsh kings of antiquity and on to Brutus of Troy, the legendary founder of Britain. And even more astounding, the top left corner of the roll take the genealogy from Brutus all the way back to Adam. I’ll leave it to individual opinion how much of the genealogy presented is to be accepted as fact.
Copyright Glamorgan Archives (Reference CL/PED/1)
At some point in the future I’d like to transcribe the text of the roll and redraw the arms listed and research them one by one until I have a clearer picture of what all is here. Given the magnitude of information listed, this could turn into a life-long project. If there is anyone else out there interested in helping, please let me know.
[Update 24 February, 2017: It has been brought to my attention that the link to the pedigree roll on the Glamorgan Archives website is no longer functional, and that the Archives present staff does not appear to be aware of the document. We can only hope that it is still in safe keeping.]