18,588 and Counting

After our major breakthrough in May 2021 for the Spratlin line, proving the widely-held belief that James Spratling (1742–1812) was the son of John Spradlin (1712–1769) and Mary English (1713–1756) was pure fiction, fake genealogy, we were not able to make any further progress on this line in 2022.

During 2022, we continued to invest considerable time improving the Knight family profiles on WikiTree in an effort to more widely disseminate recent research into the Knights of colonial Virginia. This effort has progressed well. Captain Peter Knight and Merchant Peter Knight are now shown there correctly as two different people, and the Knight-Basse marriage and lineage are now labeled as disputed.

As a result, we did not spend much time researching other lines, and did not add many new family members to our family tree in 2022.

Albion Howe—Honoring Lincoln

Brigadier General Albion P. Howe was one of nine Army general officers, along with twenty-five enlisted men, designated to the guard of honor that stood watch over President Abraham Lincoln’s remains and accompanied the body on the funeral train to its final resting place in Springfield, Illinois, from 21 April to 4 May 1865.

The members of the guard of honor were designated by order of the Secretary of War in General Orders, No. 72, issued from the War Department, Adjunct-General’s Office, on 20 April 1865:[2]

  • Brevet Brigadier-General E. D. Townsend, Assistant Adjutant-General, to represent the Secretary of War.
  • Brevet Brigadier-General Charles Thomas, Assistant Quartermaster-General.*
  • Brigadier-General A. B. Eaton, Commissary-General of Subsistence.
  • Brevet Major-General J. G. Barnard, Lieutenant-Colonel of Engineers.
  • Brigadier-General G. D. Ramsay, Ordnance Department.
  • Brigadier-General A. P. Howe, Chief of Artillery.
  • Brevet Brigadier-General D.C. McCallum, Superintendent Military Railroads.
  • Major-General D. Hunter, United States Volunteers.
  • Brigadier-General J. C. Caldwell, United States Volunteers.
  • Twenty-five picked men, under a captain.
  • * Brevet Brigadier-General James A. Ekin, Quartermaster’s Department, United States Army, substituted.

The Secretary of the Navy also designated three officers in an order on the same date:[2]

  • Rear-Admiral Charles Henry Davis, Chief Bureau Navigation.
  • Captain William Rogers Taylor, United States Navy.
  • Major Thomas Y. Field, United States Marine Corps.

While numerous photos of the funeral exist, we have found none of the guard of honor.

Howe’s participation in the events surrounding Lincoln’s assassination did not end there.

On 1 May 1865, by Executive Order, President Andrew Johnson appointed a military commission for the trial of eight persons implicated in the murder of President Abraham Lincoln, the attempted assassination of William Seward, and in an alleged conspiracy to assassinate other officers of the Federal Government.[3] The commission members were appointed by the President on 6 May 1865 in Executive Order—Special Orders: 211:[4]

  • Major-General David Hunter, U. S. Volunteers (President of the Commission).
  • Major-General Lewis Wallace, U. S. Volunteers.
  • Brevet Major-General August V. Kautz, U. S. Volunteers.
  • Brigadier-General Albion P. Howe, U. S. Volunteers.
  • Brigadier-General Robert S. Foster, U. S. Volunteers.
  • Brevet Brigadier-General Cyrus B. Comstock, U. S. Volunteers.
  • Brigadier-General Thomas M. Harris, U. S. Volunteers.
  • Brevet Colonel Horace Porter, Aide-de-camp (personal secretary to General Ulysses S. Grant).
  • Lieutenant Colonel David R. Clendenin, Eighth Illinois Cavalry.

On 9 May 1865, Comstock and Porter were relived from duty, and replaced by:[5]

  • Brevet Brigadier-General James A. Ekin, United States Volunteers.
  • Brevet Colonel C. H. Tompkins, United States Army.

The reason given for their replacement was that they were both senior aides to General Grant and since Grant was thought to have been a target for assassination, it would be improper for them to remain as judges. In reality, it appears that Comstock’s vocal opposition to trial by military commission instead of civilian court was the reason.

Among the nine members, note that three, Howe, Hunter, and Ekin, were also members of the guard of honor.

The trial was held from 9 May 1865 to 30 June 1865 in Washington.

During testimony on 30 May 1865, “Edward Johnson, formerly a general in the Confederate army, was called to the witness stand. Before Johnson could be sworn in, Brigadier General Albion Howe, the member of the military commission …, rose and submitted a motion that Johnson be ejected from the court and declared as an incompetent witness. Howe stated that Johnson had been trained and educated at the National Military Academy and that, after his time at West Point, he had been given a commission in the U.S. Army. Part of the requirements for getting a military commission was taking an oath of allegiance to the United States. Johnson took that oath and rendered his services as a U.S. Army officer. When the Civil War broke out, however, Johnson resigned from the U.S. army and joined the Confederacy. In 1861 then Captain Howe USA fought against then Colonel Johnson CSA at the Battle of Greenbrier River. Howe stated that Johnson’s hands were, “red with the blood of his loyal countrymen…in violation of his solemn oath as a man and his faith as an officer.”[19] Howe considered Johnson’s betrayal of his earlier oath as an officer evidence that Johnson could not be trusted to tell the truth under oath in this courtroom. Brevet Brigadier General James Ekin, one of the other members of the commission, rose and seconded Gen. Howe’s motion. … After further discussion, Gen. Howe replied that, based on the Judge Advocate General’s statement that Johnson was still legally considered to be a competent witness, he would withdraw his objection.”[6]

The eight defendants were found guilty and sentenced. Four defendants were sentenced to death by hanging, and were hanged on 7 July 1865:

  • David E. Herold, conspiracy and assisting John Wilkes Booth during his 12 days on the run.
  • George A. Atzerodt, conspiring with Booth.
  • Lewis Powell, alias Payne, conspiracy and the attempted assassination of Secretary of State William Seward.
  • Mary E. Surratt, conspiring with Booth, helping to facilitate his escape

After sentencing, but before the commission adjourned, there was discussion of recommending clemency for Mary Surratt in consideration of her sex and age. Five of the nine commissioners signed the recommendation. Howe did not. She was the first woman executed by the U.S. federal government.

The two assignments are said to indicate Howe had developed strong political connections among Republican power brokers, and Republican leadership felt he could be trusted.[7]

BGen Albion Parris Howe (1818–1897) is 4th cousin 7x removed of MKS in the Wetherbee branch.

[1] Library of Congress.
[2] “Official Arrangements for the Funeral of President Lincoln,” The American Presidency Project (https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/official-arrangements-for-the-funeral-president-lincoln).
[3] President Andrew Johnson, “Executive Order,” 1 May 1865, The American Presidency Project (https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/executive-order-415).
[4] E. D. Townsend, by order of the President of the United States (Andrew Johnson), “Executive Order—Special Orders: 211,” 6 May 1865, The American Presidency Project (https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/executive-order-special-orders-216).
[5] E. D. Townsend, by order of the President of the United States (Andrew Johnson), “Executive Order—Special Orders: 216,” 9 May 1865, The American Presidency Project (https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/executive-order-special-orders-211).
[6] “The Conspiracy Trial: Day by Day,” 30 May 1865, LincolnConspirators.com (https://lincolnconspirators.com/the-trial/may-30-1865/).
[7] Bill Hyde, The Union Generals Speak: The Meade Hearings on the Battle of Gettysburg (Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press, 2003), P79; Amazon.com (https://www.amazon.com/Union-Generals-Speak-Hearings-Gettysburg/dp/0807125814).

Say Anything …

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

— John Adams

18,312 and Counting

Our focus shifted in 2021 from the Watne branch to the Spratlin and Knight branches. In May 2021, we made a major breakthrough in the Spratlin line, realizing the widely-held belief that James Spratling (1742–1812) was the son of John Spradlin (1712–1769) and Mary English (1713–1756) was pure fiction, fake genealogy. We also invested considerable time improving the Knight family profiles on WikiTree in an effort to more widely disseminate recent research into the Knights of colonial Virginia.

At the end of 2021, there were 18,312 family members in our family tree.

CPT Peter Knight’s Command of Colonial Fort

Virginia Highway Marker E-70. [1]

On 21 Sep 1674, the Grand Assembly, held at James City, Virginia, enacted Act I – An act for the safeguard and defense of the country against the Indians. [2] to defend the northern frontier of the colony against the Susquehannocks and other Indian groups. The act provides for 8 garrisons and specifies the number of men each county is to provide. Ammunition, provisions, tools, surgeons, medicines, horses, pay to footmen and horsemen, compensation for families of those slain, and compensation for owners of horses killed are all specified. Rules of engagement and articles, rules and orders to be observed (26 in all) by the men are specified.

Act I specifies that 34 men out of Northumberland County, 25 men out of Lancaster County, and 25 men out of Middlesex County be garrisoned at one fort or place of defense on the Potomac River at or near John Mathew’s land in the county of Stafford (now Fairfax County), of which fort Captain Peter Knight is to be captain or chief commander.

Virginia Historical Highway Marker E-70, Colonial Fort, stands near this site at 38° 46.763′ N, 77° 3.111′ W, next to the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Belle Haven, Virginia. [1]

CPT Peter Knight (1620–1705) is 10th great-grandfather of MKS in the Knight branch.

[1] Virginia Department of Historic Resources, Historical Highway Markers, database search > E-70 > Colonial Fort, Fairfax (County). Virginia Department of Historic Resources, 1999 (photograph).
[2] William Waller Hening (editor), The statutes at large; being a collection of all the laws of Virginia, from the first session of the legislature, in the year 1619; …, Vol II (New York: R. & W. & G. Bartow (printer), 1823), pp326-336; digital images, Hathitrust.org (https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.35112104867892).

James Spratling’s Earmark

Livestock owners in the Colony of Virginia protected their rights to their livestock with earmarks, shapes cut into the animal’s ears. Earmarks were preferred there in the 17th century over branding. [1]

These earmarks were recorded in the county court to help in the return of stray livestock, or litigation over stolen livestock.

Our James Spratling recorded his earmark with the County Court of Lunenburg County, Colony of Virginia, on 4 Nov 1760. [2]

James Spratling’s earmark, 1760.

His earmark is described as “a Crop and Slit in the Right Ear, and a Swallow fork in the Left.”

These same earmarks are still in use today. [3]

James removed from Lunenburg County to Henry County, Virgina, before 1777. On 25 Nov 1779, he recorded a different earmark with the Court there [4]—it is difficult to read, but appears to say: “Under Kut in each Earr.”

James Spratling (1742–1812) is 6th great-grandfather of MKS in the Spratlin branch.

[1] Virginia DeJohn Anderson, “Animals into the Wilderness: The Development of Livestock Husbandry in the Seventeenth-Century Chesapeake,” The William and Mary Quarterly, vol. 59, no. 2, 2002, pp377–408; digital images, JSTOR (https://www.jstor.org/stable/3491742).
[2] County Court, Lunenburg County, Virginia, County Court order books, 1746-1865, Order books, 1759-1762; database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CS42-T9J3-6?i=235&cat=398428), image 236, verso.
[3] Arizona Department of Agriculture, Registered Brands, 2021, p5; digital images (http://searchagriculture.az.gov/docs/brandbook.pdf).
[4} Henry County, Virginia, Order and Minute Books, 1777-1904, General Indexes, 1777–1904, Order Books, v. 1-6 1777–1797; database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CS42-PXSG?cat=400740), image 61, recto.

Spratling with a “T”

Conventional wisdom assures us James Spratling (1742–1812), husband of Winifred Munday, is the son of John Spradlin (1712–1769) and Mary English (1713–1756). And this conventional wisdom goes on to assure us John is the grandson of Andrew Spradling (1652–1733) of New Kent County, Virginia, apparently Andrew Spradling the Immigrant.

  1. Andrew Spradling (1652–1733) and Ann (Unknown) Spradling (1652–unk)
  2. Andrew Spradling (1689–1738) and Elizabeth (Chaddock) Spradling (1693–1717)
  3. John Spradlin (1712–1769) and Mary English (1713–unk)
  4. James Spratling (1742–1812) and Winifred (Munday) Spratling (1751–1835)

Years ago, this author embraced this conventional wisdom, copying and pasting the line into our family tree. But does the conventional wisdom of 100s of unsourced on-line trees equal truth? A few minutes spent comparing an abstracted source to the primary source and a few Big Y-700 DNA tests have destroyed the conventional wisdom, replacing it with a blank sheet of paper.

The most extensive research of James Spratling and Winifred Munday was conducted by Marion S. Wattenbarger [1] before 1998. Marion’s research focuses on establishing that James’ wife Winifred is Winifred Munday, daughter of James Munday of Caroline County, Virginia. Her well-sourced research is a treasure chest, providing the primary sources for the life of our James Spratling.

But perhaps the most interesting thing about Marion’s research is what is not there—not one word about James’ parents or origin. Marion was the brave genealogist among us. She stuck to what she could prove.

How did James Spratling come to be the son of John Spradlin and Mary English?

Well, an abstract of course! So much easier to read an abstract than the cursive handwriting of the primary source—is cursive writing even taught in schools any more.

Records of Hanover County.
The Small Book, 1734–1735.

Jany., 1773.

Mary English, extor of Jno. Spradlin. Security Michael Gentry, Saml. Gentry.

Abstract of The Small Book, 1734–1735, Records of Hanover County. [2][3]

Our imagination fills in the rest. Mary is John’s wife—ok, that part is not hard to imagine as the wife is often the executor of the husband’s estate in this era. But he needs a birth date. He needs a death date. And throw in a child while we are at it. Or perhaps that came later, John being discovered in the area, with a very unique surname, the right age to be the father of our James, an ancestor in need of parents.

But something is already amiss. Do you see it? Why is a Jany. 1773 record in the 1734–1735 records of Hanover County, Virginia. Well, it isn’t.

In the primary source [4], image 23, left-hand side of the page, we find something very different.

In the record dated 5 Mar 1733 (O.S.), we find the probate for John Spradlin, deceased in 1734, not 1769, whose wife Mary Spradlin is executrix, with Samuel and Nicholas Gentry posting bond.

  • 5 Mar 1733 (O.S.), not Jany., 1773.
  • Mary Spradlin, not Mary English.
  • Nicholas Gentry, not Michael Gentry.

The primary source is clearly referring to John Spradlin (1678–1734) who married Mary Gentry.

Where did Mary English come from? Flip back one page to image 22, right-hand side of the page. There we find the 7 Jul 1727 (O.S.) settlement of the estate of John English, Mary English extor. This record and the record at the top of image 23, left-hand side of the page, are both missing from the abstract.

Mary English is her married name in the primary source. However, in the 100s of unsourced on-line trees, Mary English is her maiden name, and she is the daughter of John and Mary English.

The marriage of John Spradlin (1712–1769) and Mary English is an abstraction error, two records conflated into one. He does not exist.

Not convinced? Want to bet?

Descendants of Andrew Spradling (1652–1733) and James Spratling (1742–1812) have taken Y-DNA tests with FamilyTreeDNA. See the data on the Spradlin Project.

The descendants of Andrew Spradling are haplogroup R-FGC21301. Three descendants of James Spratling, including this author, are haplogroup R-BY67253. These two haplogroups are estimated to share a Most Recent Common Ancestor between 127 and 155 generations ago, between 1600 B.C. and 2400 B.C.

The Spradlings and Spratlings of the Colony of Virginia are not related in either the genealogical or the historical time frame.

The parents of James Spratling are unknown.

James Spratling (1742–1812) and Winifred Munday (1750–1835) are 6th great-grandparents of MKS in the Spratlin branch.

[1] Marion S. Wattenbarger, “James Spratling and His Wife, Winifred (Munday), Caroline and Henry Counties and Wilkes County, Georgia,” Tidewater Virginia Families: A Magazine of History and Genealogy, Virginia Lee Hutcheson David, editor, 12 vol. (Berwyn Heights, Maryland: Heritage Books, Inc., 2016), 6:1 (May 1997 – Feb 1998):30-38.
[2] “Records of Hanover County.”, The William and Mary Quarterly, vol. 21, no. 1, 1912, 49; digital images, JSTOR (https://www.jstor.org/stable/1922081).
[3] Gary Parks (indexer), Virginia Land Records From The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, the William and Mary College Quarterly, and Tyler’s Quarterly (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc, 1982), 85; digital images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/sharing/23352612?h=abdcc6).
[4] County Court, Hanover County, Virginia, Deeds, wills inventories, and settlement of estates, 1733–1735, Miscellaneous probate and land records, 1733–1792, Item 1, Deeds, wills, inventories, and settlement of estates 1733-1735; database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-99P6-3SFR?cat=365146), image 22-23.