Capt William Brockett
b 1748 d 1819-21
This was William’s signature in 1784,1 with its distinctive initial W with curling tails on either side. The same W is also on his birth record in his Family Bible (written by himself) and—in a shaky form in 1819—on his last Will & Testament:2
Thousands of people alive today descend from William and his wife Martha / Patsey. Maybe you are one of them? William fought in the Revolutionary War, first as a Private then as a Lieutenant. According to his son Benjamin’s signed testimony in 1839 William had generally been called Captain, so we also often refer to him as such. Records suggest he spent most of his adult life in the Carolinas. We don’t know of a record of where he was born, but we do have one showing the end of his life was in Tennessee.
The focus here is on the available primary evidence about William and some of his sons in order to support the analysis of the Y-DNA of their descendants. We need more participants! With the exponential increase in recent years of readily-available primary documentation, and especially of DNA tests, there is a place for a more strictly evidence-driven and fully-referenced account, with some healthy challenges to assumptions many of us may have taken for granted.
Contents of this page:
Many people have spent time and money investigating William’s life and family, and have carefully written down their thoughts and findings in privately issued family histories and papers. In addition there is no shortage of uncritically-thrown-together information on the internet about them. Three serious, recent researchers who have published can be mentioned, all descendants of William: Read More
2. Richard Nash, 2000 author of Nash, Pence, Brockett, Beardsley and other ancestors. A history teacher, Richard was well aware of primary and secondary evidence and critical analysis of them. He spent many years researching and thinking about his ancestors, traveling to their stomping grounds and searching for original documents. His aim was to tell the story of his own line, warts and all. One of his most interesting finds was the 1773-4 Craven County deed, reproduced below, which uncovered Capt William’s father. Richard was a strident critic of E J Brockett who had given Capt William a different father. Richard’s documentary evidence is listed as a Bibliography at the end of his book, with the text itself written in a vivid narrative style without footnotes. The book is not easily found, due to the small print run, so with his permission, selections have been reproduced in this Archive. Richard’s widow also kindly donated his other papers to be kept in the Broket Archive for posterity. Among these is his Time Line of Southern US Brocketts, also reproduced in this Archive.
3. Kathryn Chapman Fry, 2001 author of Brockett family history: featuring the William E. Brockett line (2001), privately published but available online.3 With respect to Capt William Brockett the overview of the 3 accounts of William’s heritage, the transcription of the Will and the pension application, and the maps are all useful.4 She also provided some handy sketches of the next generation, referenced from Effingham and White Co histories. Her focus then turned to James, the 8th child of Capt William and Patsey,5 and thereafter to his son Alanson Dee Brockett,6 and his descendants, about whom she provided much useful information, including many photographs. Fry’s account is clearly-written in a straightforward narrative style with few endnotes. Like Poland, she occasionally noted specific references, but mentioned her main sources in a Preface, principally in her case Mike Husman, who gave her “information that had no sources or footnotes, but much of it was from books.”7 Elsewhere she mentioned Nash’s research, principally regarding the third account of William’s heritage,8 which was Nash’s and which Fry favored, but her concluding sentence about his view was incorrect.9 And like Nash her aim was to tell the story of her own line—she was a great-grandchild of Alanson Dee Brockett and Elizabeth Harvey. Another of Fry’s sources that she mentioned was Olive Brockett Fogle via her Brockett Family History (April 1950). This was presumably the same as Olive’s 15-page typewritten booklet entitled A brief genealogy of the Brockett family (The branch that lived in Southern Illinois) generously given to the Archive by Barton Lewis in April 2018. It is undated but written when aged 67 “and now heading towards the sunset of life”. Fry gave a short account of Olive’s life, dating her birth to 1883.10 Adding 67 to that makes 1950. Olive was a granddaughter of Alanson Dee Brockett and Elizabeth Harvey and her booklet is a charming account of her many aunts, uncles and cousins. Her main informant about the early days was ‘Aunt Betsey Story’, a granddaughter of Capt William, who remembered him, and her 4 spinster daughters. Nevertheless Aunt Betsey Story’s story that [Capt] William Brockett was an immigrant from London, England, was clearly incorrect. But to return to Fry, with respect to Capt William it was a tertiary source.
The sign outside the Brockett Cemetery, Macon County TN, mentions the Revolutionary War Veteran William Ebenezer Brockett:11
and the inscription on the gravestone has William E Brockett.12 But the sign and the gravestone are recent. In none of the original records cited on this webpage was his name given as William E or William Ebenezer. So how do we know that he had E as a second initial or Ebenezer as a second name?
The earliest written occurrence so far found of William ‘E’ Brockett is in EJ Brockett’s 1905 The Descendants of John Brockett. EJB only gave him an ‘E’ here and there however, and not in the main text. In the main text EJB called him plain William,13 and it was only in some—though not all—of the chains of ancestors for later descendants that he added an ‘E’ to the William of the 5th generation.14 EJB provided no source, and as discussed below, gave an incorrect ancestry for William.
The two secondary publications, Poland 1996 and Fry 2001,15 both mentioned ‘William E Brockett’ in their titles, but neither apparently referred to him in-text as ‘William Ebenezer’. Poland didn’t give a source for the ‘E’ and similarly Fry simply stated in her Introduction, “The major focus of this Brockett history is on William E. Brockett and his many relatives. He will be known as William E. in this family history.”16 Both authors were clearly dependent on EJB in other respects. The other two secondary publications, Fogle 1950 and Nash 2000, always referred to him simply as William without ‘E’ or ‘Ebenezer’.17
So the ‘E’ and ‘Ebenezer’ are a mystery. But there must be an explanation. Perhaps Macon Co Historical Society or one of William’s descendants have evidence.
17-18th C North American genealogical records in general aren’t as plentiful as ones from England, and those for William Brocketts in particular in North America at that time are few and far between. Only 4 have so far been found from the 17th C and, surprisingly, the following are all the records of William Brocketts in N America currently known from the 18th C:18
1767: Road petition Craven Co NC.
1771: Married Patsey in New Bern NC.
1773-4: Land deed Craven Co NC.
1780-2: Revolutionary War service in SC.
1783: Birth of William Junr recorded in the Family Bible.
1785 & 1802: Involved with land deals on Nelyes Creek on the Catawba River in Craven Co NC.
1790 & 1800: Head of a household further up the Catawba river in the censuses for York Co SC.19
1819-21: Will written and probated in Smith Co TN.
Note: As of 27 Oct 2018 Ancestry.com included two grants of land to William Brockett in their North Carolina, Land Grant Files, 1693-1960 Collection:
· 1790: 200 acres in Jones Co NC. This was actually to a William BARNETT.
· 1829: 50 acres in Burke Co NC. This was actually to a William BRACKETT.
See the separate page for a discussion of these transcription errors.
Proof statement: It’s obvious from the spread of these dates that the 1703 deed concerned a William from an earlier generation. The 1703 man, who must have been at least 21 by then, clearly wasn’t the one who 64 years later signed the road petition or was involved in making a new road in his mid to late 80s or more. For the purpose of gathering records of Capt William, we can therefore discount the 1703 deed.
The other records lie within a range of 54 years, 1767-1821, and if the first was of a man in his early 20s the last could easily have been of the same man in his late 70s. The correspondences of place are also reasonable for one man during that time period. They are all for NC or SC except the final one in neighboring TN. It’s also beyond reasonable doubt from the records themselves that some of the 1767-1821 ones must have been of the same man. The road petition of 1767 refers to land he owned on the south side of Trent River, as does the 1773 sale. None of the other records suggest that there were two landowning William Brocketts in that area of Craven Co between 1767-1774, nor indeed clearly refer to a second William at all. Furthermore, the 1780-82 War service records and the 1785-1802 Catawba River ones were also fairly obviously of one man. We can therefore safely assume—using the tool of negative proof—that apart from the early 1703 deed, all these 1767-1821 records relate to one and the same William Brockett. After 1821 the next records we have found of William Brocketts in the US as a whole were all in Illinois: one in 1830, 34 and 40, another in 1840 and two in 1850. The one in 1830 and 40 was born between 1780-1800, and can be shown to have been the William Junr born in 1783.
But what if the 1703-67 gap in records for William Brocketts indicates an absence of records rather than an absence of Williams? This is an argument from silence, which while in theory could be entertained, in practice in this context, is overly speculative. According to Luebking, “Prior to the Civil War, most free adult males owned land; so if the land records of an area have survived but do not mention your ancestor, you should reevaluate the assumption that he or she lived in the area. In the South, which has far fewer vital records than New England, the land records are even more crucial to genealogical success.”20 The land records for NC at least show but one William Brockett. But even if another landless William was around in that area between 1703-67 and passed unrecorded it wouldn’t alter our proof statement here that these 1767-1821 records were all of the William we know as Capt William. There would simply just have been another William to whom none of these records refer and who left neither trace nor descendants. Realistically speaking—and pending any evidence to the contrary—it doesn’t seem in the least likely that there were any other adult William Brocketts in the southeast US during the 2nd half of the 18th C.
Did you find this proof statement convincing?
June 1767.21 “The petition of the habitants of Brice’s Creek humbly show your worships that an order for court was obtained by James Davis, Esq, some time past for laying off a new road, leading out of Trent Road, over his mill, across Neuse Rd, over a large swamp, and, whereas, your petitioners have lately been at a great expense and trouble in making a new road a small distance above his mill and over Brice’s Creek, we, your humble practitioners, humbly pray your worships that the order obtained as aforesaid be vacated or laid aside as your poor petitioners are by no means able to support both roads
[signed] … William Brockett …”
Comment: Brice’s Creek leads south off Trent River on the other side to New Bern, and Trent River leads off Neuse River.
This record dates technically to 1839—a recollection by Patsey from her pension application.
1. To all to whom these Presents shall Come Greetings William Brockett
2. of Craven County in the Province of North Carolina Gentleman Know Ye
3. that the sd. William Brockell [sic] for & in Consideration of the valuable sum
4. of Twenty Six Pounds proclamation money to me in Hand paid before the
5. ensealing and Delivery of these Presents by William Ives of the County &
6. Province aforesaid Plaintiff the Receipt whereof I the said William Brockett do hereby
7. Acknowledge that I am therewith fully Satisfied Contented and paid and thereof & of every
8. part & parsel thereof do acquit Exonerate & Discharge the sd William Ives his Heirs & As=
9. signs for ever by these Presents do freely and absolutely Give Grant Bargain Sell
10. Alien Enfeoff Convey & confirm unto him the said William Ives his Heirs and Assigns
11. for ever one Tract or parsel of Land Containing by Estimation two hundred Acres
12. being so much Granted by Patent to my Father Benjamin Brockit Dec’d bearing
13. Date the 10th. Octr. 1747. Situate on the So. Side of Trent River in the County aforesd.
14. joining Frederick Jones’s Patt’d Land & known by the name of Brockits Plantation
15. the Bustings [?] and Boundings referd to the sd. Patent To Have and to Hold the aforesd.
16. Land & Premisses thereunto belonging or any way appertaining unto him the
17. sd. William Ives his Heirs and Assigns for ever to his and their only proper use Bene-
18. fit Interest & Behoof for ever And I the said William Brockit do hereby covenant
19. Promise Grant & Agree to and with the sd. William Ives that I do & will hereby war-
20. rant & for ever Defend the aforesaid bargained Land & Premisses all & singular
21. the Lawfull Claim or Demand of any Person or Persons whatever having any
22. proper Claim or Demand in or upon the said Demis’t [?] Premisses but to the only
23. proper Claim of him the said William Ives his Heirs and Assigns for ever the
24. annual Quit rents that is or shall become due only Excepted In Witness whereof
25. I the said William Brockit have hereunto set my Hand & Seal this 23d Day Aprile
26. 1773 ~
27. William Brockett [seal]
28. September Craven Inferior Court 1774
29. Present his Majesty’s Justices30. Signed Sealed & Delivered
31. In the Presence of us
32. John Parkinson
33. Bazell Smith
34. Then was the aforegoing Deed Proved in open Court by the oath of Bazell Smith one
35. Of the subscribing Witnesses thereto agreeable to Law and ordered to be Registered.
36. Test. Christopher Neale C.T.C
Comment: Craven County’s seat of government was then—as now—New Bern (or Newburn as it was sometimes spelt), and Trent River flows into New Bern and joins Neuse River at Union Point. The description he gave himself of ‘Gentleman’ showed, as in England at the time, that as a landowner William considered himself of a class above those who actually worked the land: labourers, indentured servants and slaves.
The Revolutionary War stretched from 1763 to 1787, and a surviving contemporary receipt signed “in full satisfaction” by William himself detailed the extent of William’s service as 181 days in 4 operations between June 1780 and July 1782 along with the amount he was awarded in annual pension for each:23
2. 21 days ending 30 Jun 1781 as a horseman in Captain George Neely’s Company, for which he was awarded £21.
3. 60 days ending 18 Oct 1781 foot service as a Lieutenant in Captain George Neely’s Company, for which he was awarded £105.24
4. 42 days ending 1 Jul 1782 as a Lieutenant under General [William] Henderson, for which he was awarded £73 10s.
The total due annually came to £257.10.0 in South Carolina currency, equating then to £36.15.8½ Sterling, and in 1840 to $54.81.
This conflicts with the details in his widow and son’s application for a pension 55 years later—both in the length of William’s service and his rank.
Since the 1784 receipt was endorsed by William himself only a couple of years after his last engagement, it is safe to take it as the more accurate account. Its 181 days and ranks correspond with the service detailed in the Senate’s award of $493.29 to Patsey on 18 Feb 1840, comprising arrears to 4 Sep 1839 of $465.89 and six months allowance ending 4 Mar 1840 of $27.40, as:25
2. 21 days as a private in the infantry ($2.33)
3. 3 1/2 months as Lieutenant in the infantry ($44.44).
Total: $54.81 per annum commencing March 4th, 1831
The Revolutionary War began soon after the Brocketts arrived in York County, South Carolina, and in that state, more than anywhere else, the conflict became a civil war. In his political views William was a life-long Whig, and he was opposed to the Tories. Years later, in the pension application made by his widow, it would be said that William Brockett ‘was an active Whig living in a land abounding with Tories.’ It was a bitter, dangerous time.
Brockett joined Thomas Sumter’s brigade of mounted infantry and served in various South Carolina campaigns and battles until the war ended in 1783. He enlisted as a private and was promoted to captain when another man was demoted. Sixty years later, one of William’s sons would recall his father coming home wearing a sword and being called ‘Captain Brockett.’ …
William Brockett’s militia service was irregular in the manner of guerrilla warfare. On 12 July 1780, at Williamson’s Plantation, near the headwaters of Fishing Creek, they wiped out a scouting party of the dreaded Tarleton Legion, a vicious, hard-riding British unit of more than a hundred. Early in August they struck the British post at Hanging Rock. There and at other places which today are barely footnotes of American history, they dealt harshly with the Tories, as the Tories in turn did with them. …
Finally, the war ended. In 1784 the State of South Carolina gave William credit for 181 days of actual service and paid him 36 pounds, 15 shillings, and 8 pence half-penny. Also, as a consequence of being home rather more often than not during the war, a new child had been brought into the Brockett family about every other year or so.
William and Martha remained in South Carolina for more than 20 years after the end of the war. Shortly after the year 1800 they migrated to Smith County, Tennessee (that part of Smith County which was later cut off to form part of Macon County). Whether they all went together as a group, we don’t know. William’s son Benjamin was involved in land transactions there as early as 1805. Another son, 24-year-old Elisha, bought 20 acres on a branch of Peyton’s Creek in 1810, and their father, now 60 years old, bought 30 acres on Defeated Creek in 1808. Their cash crop was tobacco. In the autumn of 1807 Benjamin and Elisha and James signed a petition to the authorities to reduce the number of inspections of the baled crop. They said that too many inspections were damaging the tobacco.
Their new ‘plantations’, as they called them, were in the hilly, wooded, wild country across the Cumberland River, about 12 to 15 miles north of Carthage. What was then a wagon track is now a hard surface road….through Pleasant Shade and up Boston Branch to the little village of Russell Hill. Brockett Cemetery, on a piece of ground given to the community by one of the family (a local historian said by William), is a short distance east of the settlement, near the church.
William Brockett was mentioned in the following 4 documents listed in an index of S Carolina Plats For State Land Grants 1784-1868 on the Catawba River.27 In the first and last he appears to be the recipient of the grant, in the other two perhaps a witness. In any event they are evidence of his presence and involvement with land in S Carolina 1785-1802: Read More
2. 1791 James Crawford – Plat for 484 acres on Catawba river, Camden district
3. 1796 William Smith – Plat for 50 acres on Neely Creek, Pinckney district
4. 1802. William Brockett. Plat for 195 acres on Neelys Creek, York district
Sumter’s defeat in 1780 had been at Fishing Creek on the Catawba River, up W of Charlotte. Neelys Creek is a tributary of Fishing Creek, now a reservoir just north of Great Falls, some 50 m S of Charlotte. For the 1790 census William and family were recorded in York Co, SC, further up the river.
The 1790 census records for Newbern contain no Brokets or variants.29
1790: William Brockett was recorded as head of a household in York Co, South Carolina, aged 16 or over [i.e. b by 1774], with 1 other male aged 16 or over, 6 males aged 0-16 and 3 females (one presumably his wife).30 This suggests:
The dates of birth of the children correspond closely with the list in the Family Bible register so we can be confident that this was Capt William and his family. The number of sons suggests that James was born 1790 rather than 1791.
1800: William Brockett was recorded as head of a household in York Co, South Carolina, aged 45 or over [i.e. b by 1755], with 6 males, two aged 0-10, two 10-16 and two 16-26 (presumably sons), and 4 females, one aged 45 or over (presumably his wife), two 0-10 and one 16-26 (presumably daughters).31 This corresponds closely to the 1790 one to be certain it is the same family:
1810: No relevant Brokets have been found in databases for the USA 1810 census. If that census covered the state of Illinois relatively well, it suggests that between 1810-20 was when Brocketts first settled there. The first Brockett record in the Illinois Statewide Marriage Index (1763-1900) is from 1828, and in the Illinois Statewide Death Index (Pre-1916) is from 1878.
Thereafter, in the censuses of 1820, 30 and 40 Capt William’s widow and his sons and grandsons and their families were recorded in Illinois.
William’s statement in line 12 of the North Carolina 1773-4 deed that his father was Benjamin Brockit obviously disproves EJB’s Elisha,33 and makes it no surprise that William wasn’t recorded by Jacobus. However, recent DNA evidence shows that William’s descendants are related to other Brocketts who trace their descent from John Brockett of New Haven. So EJB’s end points—William and John of New Haven—appear to be correct, but not the line joining them. On the other hand, Nash’s link from William to Benjamin is correct, but the DNA evidence disproves the line above.
More research is needed.
Please check back later.
Page Last Updated: December 6, 2018