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James and Dicey Bilbro McFarland, and their descendants in Henry and Wilson Co. TN

The American Historical Magazine and

Tennesssee Historical Society Quarterly

Vol. 9,

Ed. A.V. Goodpasture

pp. 356-365


(This concerns the family of John McFarland, his son James and wife Dicey Bilbro McFarland, and their children: John (M.D.), Nancy, William Heath, Dicey Ann, James Porter, Sarah, Jane Rachel, Frances E. and Martha, lived in Henry Co. and Wilson Co. Tennessee)


McFarland Genealogy.—It was about the year 1811 or 1812 that James, the eldest son of John McFarland, was united in marriage with Dicey, the eldest daughter of Berryman Bilbro. Here the Scotch-Irish blood of the Menees and McFarland families flowed together with the old English blood of the Bilbros. The men of the Menees tribe have often been prudent and fortunate in the selection of wives, but it may be questioned whether any woman has ever entered the family by marriage who contributed so much to its dignity and prosperity as Dicey Bilbro.

The children of this couple were John, Nancy, William Heath, Dicey Ann, James Porter, Sarah, Jane Rachel, Frances E. and Martha. The only one of these who failed to marry and found a family was William Heath. He was born on the 25th of March, 1817, and died on the 17th of September, 1838, being 21 years, 5 months and 22 days old. His mother, Dicey Bilbro McFarland, always cherished the warmest affection and veneration for her uncle, William Heath, of Virginia. He had visited the family of her father in Warren County, North Carolina, and had commended himself in a special manner by sympathy and counsel in connection with their misfortunes in the ancient Surry home, and she could never forget his worth and kindness.

The Heaths are an ancient family in America and seem to be derived from Sir Robert Heath, who in 1629 obtained a charter for a grant of land to the southward of Virginia, known as the Province of Carolina, which has been copied in full in the Colonial Records• published by the State of North Carolina (vol. 1, pp. 5-13). This vast territory occupied all the country lying between the 30th and 36th degrees of north latitude, and has been pronounced the most extensive possession ever owned by an individual subject. So far as I can perceive the family were not known in Surry County before 1681. In June of that year a list of tithables was taken by Benjamin Harrison in the district "from Sunken Marsh upwards," and Adam Heath was one of them, but it is not in my power to trace the descent from him down to the William Heath in question; nor is it clear whether the relationship with the Heaths had been established through the Bilbro or the Charles family. However. it existed, and Dicey Bilbro was very pleased to name her second son in honor of her beloved uncle, William Heath. But William Heath McFarland found an untimely death, being carried off by an attack of typhoid fever, and the name William Heath was shortly afterwards bestowed upon me. I have sought to wear it with the respect and dignity that belong to it; but since it has been written in various ways, as Heath, and Heeth, and Hcth, I selected the shortest form, but have not altered the mode of pronunciation, for the vowel "e" always receives the long sound.

John McFarland, M.D., the tallest as well as the oldest member of the family, measured six feet and seven inches in stature. He was a versatile, brilliant man, and enjoyed much success in his profession at Paris in Henry County. On several occasions he was a member of the State Legislature. He married Miss America S. Cook, a daughter of Judge Cook of Paris, who was greatly esteemed, and from her the name "America" has been widely adopted in the family. Dr. McFarland passed away in early life, leaving one child, John Porter McFarland who was born after the decease of his father. John Porter McFarland also chose the medical profession after the example of his father. He married Miss Pauline Anderson, a daughter of Churchill Anderson, Esq., of Lebanon, Tenn. I have already indicated, page 123, above, the manner in which the name Churchill became established in this family. They had two children, Pauline Porter and Churchill. The former married Mr. Gilruth, of Yazoo City, Miss., and the latter married Miss Linda Johnson. No issue in either case.

On the 14th of August, 1856, Mrs. America McFarland married A. R. Davis, Esq., a merchant of Lebanon, as her second husband.

James Porter McFarland likewise began his career as a doctor of medicine in West Tennessee. In 1849 he was seized with the gold fever and made his way to California, where he acquired a large property and returned to Middle Tennessee to enjoy it among the friends of his youth. In 1857, he purchased the estate of his father in Wilson County and shortly afterwards married Miss Eulalia Cowan of West Tennessee. They had six children as follows: Jamie, John Downey, Craig, Charles, Hayes and Lonsdale.


Jamie McFarland, the only daughter of the family, married Mr. William Cantrell. No issue.

John Downey, named in honor of Governor Downey, who was long his father's business partner in California, died without issue.

Craig McFarland married Miss Priscilla Cunningham. Issue: Eulalie and Elizabeth.

Charles is a prosperous business man in Texas, where he married Miss Eloise McAfee. Issue: eight children, of whom the names of only six are known to me, namely; James, Porter, Eloise, Charles, Eulalia, Frederick and Emily.

Hayes McFarland married Miss Caroline Edelman. No issue. Both of the above reside at Weatherford, Texas.

Lonsdale McFarland married Miss Elizabeth Crow, and has two children, Lyon Childress and Lonsdale Porter.

Nancy, the oldest daughter of James and Dicey (Bilbro) McFarland, married Harvey Peyton, Esq., who resided near Hebron Church, four miles west of Lebanon. The children of this union were Fanny, Lafayette, Jane, Elizabeth, James and John.

Fanny Peyton married Mr. Green White. Issue: Harvey, John Porter and other children.

Lafayette Peyton married a Miss Clayton, of Rutherford County. No issue.

Jane married Mr. Westbrook, who was a student from Mississippi, in the faculty of law at Cumberland University. Issue: Nancy and Charles Westbrook. Nancy Westbrook married Mr. Eddins and has issue. Charles married Miss Lucy Winfrey. Issue: Leon, Charles and Erin.

Elizabeth Peyton married Rufus Anderson, Esq., of Lebanon. Tennessee. They removed to Arkansas, where Mr. Anderson died leaving behind three children, namely; Rufus, Stonewall and a daughter. Stonewall is a highly esteemed Methodist minister.

James Peyton married Miss Mary Price, and they have several children, whose names are unknown to me. Both James and Lafayette Peyton and also Green White, reside in Rockwall County, near Dallas, Texas.

John Peyton was a member of the Seventh Regiment of Tennessee Infantry, commanded by Colonel Robert Hatton. He entered the Battle of Seven Pines, near Richmond, Va., with his regiment in June, 1862, and has never been heard of.

After the death of her first husband Mrs. Nancy Peyton married Captain William Major.

Sarah McFarland married Mr. John G. Swingley, who was of German extraction and whose forbears had belonged for ages to the Reformed German Church of the Rhenish Palatinate. The Swingleys are numerous in Maryland, and this family may have come from that State. The issue of this marriage were six children, namely: James, Martha, William, Thomas, America and George Swingley.

James Swingley was a soldier in the Confederate Army. After the war he married Miss Dora Owen. Issue: Guy, Leon, John and Pearl Owen.

Martha Swingley married James Harrison. Issue: Answorth, Henry and Eulalia.

Answorth married Miss Hattie Powell; Henry married Miss McConnell; and Eulalia married Richard Dew.

William Swingley married Miss Atkinson, and his brother Thomas married Miss Owen.

America Swingley married Gardner Guill. Issue: Sarah, Edine, Stella, Eugene. Of these Sarah married Samuel Wright, and they have two children; Edine married Wiley Williams; Stella and Eugene are still unmarried.

George, the youngest child of the Swingley family, is likewise married, but the name of his wife is unknown to me.

Jane Rachel, the fourth daughter of James and Dicey Bilbro McFarland, married Colonel James Hamilton, one of the most prominent and useful citizens of Wilson County. He was repeatedly chosen to serve in the State Legislature and was a person of wide and wholesome influence. He will long be held in grateful and affectionate remembrance. The issue of this marriage were Nancy Porter, America, James, Emma, John and Robert Hamilton.

Nancy Porter married Rev. Wesley G. Miller, D.D., who was for a whole generation a distinguished figure in the Methodist Church. He held prominent charges in many cities, and died at Louisville, Ky., where he was pastor of the Broadway Methodist Church. The issue of this marriage were Minnie, William, Jennie, America, Wesley Corprew and Nancy.

Minnie Miller married Captain Ernest Hines of the United States Army. Issue: Margery and John Hamilton Hines.

William is a successful physician in Little Rock, Ark., where his mother resides with him. Jennie Miller is not married. America Miller married Mr. Frank Cochran of Memphis. Wesley Corprew and Nancy Miller are unmarried.

America Hamilton married Mr. Charles Perry, of St. Joseph, Missouri. Issue: America, John and Robert Perry.

America Perry married Rev. H. E. Truex, a prominent and successful Baptist minister of Mexico, Mo. Issue: Eldon, Rachel and Aubrey Truex.

John Perry married Josephine Seay. Issue: America, John and Charles.

Robert Perry is also married and resides in California.

John Hamilton married Miss Nellie White. Issue: Roger and Courtney Hamilton, both of whom are unmarried.

James Hamilton married Miss Ruth Powell. Issue: James, Robert, Porter Price, John Perry, Samuel Stratton and Finney Hamilton, all unmarried.

Emma Hamilton married John L. Jones, of Columbia, Tenn. Issue: James, John L., Emma, Hattie, Horace and Elizabeth Jones. James and John L. are both married; the others are unmarried.

Robert Hamilton, named in honor of Colonel Robert Hatton, who fell at the Battle of Seven Pines, near Richmond, Va., married Miss Olie Hundley. They have two children and reside at Kansas City, Mo.

Frances E., the fifth daughter of James and Dicey (Bilbro) McFarland, married Thomas E. Williamson, of Green Hill, Wilson County. Several of my happiest years were passed under his roof as a pupil of the Academy at Mount Juliet. I owe much to this noble uncle and aunt. Their children were John William, Martha Hannah, Dicey Aline, George, Frances Ewing, Sarah America and Lelia Pearl.

John William, born August 30, 1848, studied for several years at the University of Virginia, where I had the honor to be his roommate during the session of 1866-1867. He married Miss Talitha Williamson. Issue: William, George, Olivia, Frances, Thomas.

Martha Hannah, born August 27, 1850, was first married to Captain Andrew Baird. Issue: Andrewna. Her second husband was Mr. W. W. Shute. Issue: Ewing and Jeanette. All of them are unmarried.

Dicey Aline married John Stroud. Issue: Katherine, Frances. Lilian, Johnnie and Helen Stroud.

Katherine married Bishop Dorris. No issue. Frances married Thomas Grizzard and died without issue. Lilian married Charles Cartwright. No issue. Johnnie married Dr. Thaxton Guill. No issue. Helen is unmarried.

George Williamson died unmarried.

Frances Ewing Williamson married Granville Johnson. Issue : Granville and Sophia Johnson.

Sarah America Williamson married Dr. Edgar Blair. Issue: Julian, Frank, lone and Edgar.

Lelia Pearl Williamson is unmarried.

Martha McFarland, the youngest and cheeriest member of the family of James and Dicey McFarland, married Mr. James H. Scales, a merchant of Triune, in Williamson County, who later removed to Gibson County, Tenn. Mr. Scales was a widower and had one daughter, Lavinia Kelley Scales, by a former marriage. She married Mr. Calvin Ferrell, a banker at Humboldt, and both of them have been greatly honored and loved by the members of the family. It is a sincere satisfaction to record their names in this connection.

The children of James and Martha McFarland Scales were Fanny, Sarah, Elizabeth, Theophilus Gentry, William and Martha Lee.

Fanny Scales married Mr. Edward Fox and had issue. Sarah Elizabeth married Mr. Pearcy, of Jackson, and has two daughters. Theophilus Gentry married and has one child, a daughter. William is an oculist of distinction at Pine Bluff, Ark., and has been married twice. Martha is unmarried.

Only two of the nine children of the McFarland family are still alive, namely, Mrs. Jane R. Hamilton and Mrs. Frances E. Williamson.

John and Nancy (Menees) McFarland had a daughter named Elizabeth whose existence was unknown to me until I read the will of James Menees. She had married a Mr. Davis, and James Menees appears to have regarded her with kindlier solicitude than was bestowed by him upon any other of his grandchildren, reserving two hundred dollars out of the share of Nancy McFarland for her especial benefit, and one hundred dollar.for the benefit of her son, James M. Davis. Mrs Susan Curd, of Wilson County, is said to have been descended from Elizabeth Davis. I remember Dr. John Curd and his brother, William Curd, as also two of his sisters, one of whom married Mr. Harvey Freeman, and the other Mr. William Dodson, of the Hermitage neighborhood.

John, the third child of John and Nancy (Menees) McFarland, married Sarah, a sister of Dicey Bilbro. His daughter, Dicey McFarland, married Mr. Alanson Wynne, and James McFarland, M.D., who resided east of Lebanon, was his son. Dr. William McFarland, a son of the aforesaid James McFarland. M.D., is at present practicing his profession in Lebanon, Tenn.

Arthur, the next child of John and Nancy (Menees) McFarland, married Miss Hollen Brinson, daughter of Rev. James Brinson, a Baptist minister of Davidson County. The Brinson family are said to have come to Tennessee from South Carolina. Their oldest child, James Brinson McFarland, was born in 1816; their second child, John Porter McFarland was born in 1818; William Arthur McFarland in 1820; Nancy Jane McFarland, who married Mr. Graves, was born in 1822, and Joseph Friend McFarland in 1824. The above five children were all born in Tennessee, but in the year 1826 Arthur McFarland removed to Ouachita Parish in Louisiana, and his next child, Elizabeth Ann McFarland, who married Mr. Hise in the year 1848, was born in 1826; Benjamin Menees McFarland. who died at Jackson, Miss., during the Confederate war, waa born in 1828; Haywood Alford McFarland was born in 1833; Hollen Laura McFarland, who married Mr. Simmons, and died at Homer, La., in 1894, was born in 18351 Roselma McFarland, who married Mr. Hardy and died in 1892, was born in 1840. Besides the above ten children who all founded families, there were three others, George Washington, Talitha C. and Patrick Henry McFarland, who died without issue.

The above was a family of decidedly Baptist tendencies in religious belief. Mr. James Brinson, the father-in-law of • Arthur McFarland was an ordained Baptist minister before he removed from Tennessee to Louisiana in the year 1820. (Paxton, History of the Baptists of Louisiana, St. Louis, 1888, page 238). There he became the earliest teacher of Baptist truth in the vast Ouachita region, and his family were in hearty sympathy with him. The historian mentioned above affirms that Arthur McFarland came to Louisiana in company with Mr. Brinson in the year 1820, but the McFarland family of Louisiana are stout in the affirmation that they did not arrive before the year 1826. James Brinson, who had induced them to remove passed away on the 5th of September, 1831, (Paxton, page 515), and in 1843, his son-in-law, Arthur McFarland is mentioned as having entered the Baptist ministry (Paxton, page 51). Mr. Brinson had settled at what is now known as Vienna. James Brinson McFarland, Joseph Friend McFarland and Elizabeth Ann McFarland resided at Athens, and Haywood Alford McFarland at Mt. Lebanon, La. John Porter McFarland was a Methodist minister and passed away in 1873, leaving behind him a beloved and venerated name.

Anne, the fifth child of John and Nancy (Menees) McFarland, married Mr. Somers and shortly afterwards removed to West Tennessee. Their children were Ann, James and John Somers. Mrs. Anna M. Gilchrist, of Nashville, was derived from this branch. It is matter of regret that I should have so little to relate concerning a family that is held in sincere respect by. myself and other people. I had the honor to be introduced to Judge Somers on one occasion, but I cannot recall that we had any conversation regarding family history.

Jane, the sixth child of John and Nancy (Menees) McFarland, married the Rev. Lewis Lindsey, a Baptist minister of Wilson County. Their children were James and John and Susan and Nancy. James Lindsey went early to Texas, where he established himself at Gainesville, and rose to opulence and dignity. He is married and has a family. His brother, John, also went to Texas where he married and had two children. One of the daughters married her kinsman, John Menees, and resides in Neely's Bend, but I have not learned what became of the other.

Nancy, the seventh child of John and Nancy McFarland, married William Bilbro, a brother of Dicey Bilbro. Their daughter, Eliza, married Mr. Jarman, near Murfreesboro. One of her sons is the Rev. L. B. Jarman. Dr. Bilbro, of Murfreesboro, also belongs to this family.

The youngest child of John and Nancy (Menees) McFarland was Benjamin Menees, who married Miss Young, a sister of 'Squire William Young of Wilson County, and removed to West Tennessee. His children were John, Ann, Jane and Benjamin Menees.

John was a merchant at Como, and died before the war between the States. He left issue, but I have no informatiton regarding them.

Ann McFarland married first Mr. Joseph William Clark, who passed away in early life, leaving behind a son. She afterwards married a Mr. Seat, residing near Humboldt, by whom she has issue.

Her sister, Jane McFarland, married Dr. Bethshares, of Humboldt, and had issue. Likewise the youngest brother, Benjamin Menees, Jr., married and had issue.