William Withrow Sr.

I had to delete a previous blog post named “William S. Withrow” because it was easier to do a rewrite than an update. I am convinced that William Withrow, buried in the cemetery of the Old Stone Presbyterian Church in Lewisburg, West Virginia, is NOT the husband of Susannah Skaggs. The main reason I deleted the post is because that William Withrow died, according to his headstone, on 1 April 1836 in Greenbrier County. The fact is, my ancestor, William Withrow Sr., was living in Kanawha County, West Virginia, where he is last listed in the county Tax records on 28 May 1843. That is the last date on which he is listed along with his sons: Thomas, James, William Jr, Isaac, and Abel. What might also blow your socks off is the listing for a “Rob. Withrow” on 13 Feb 1833 one time only in Kanawha. So whether “Rob.” was William Sr’s father, brother or a complete stranger is yet to be determined.

If William was 21 years old when he married Susannah Skaggs in Greenbrier County, West Virginia, that places his date of birth around 1771. I know they were in Greenbrier County, WV for several years up until 1818 when he appears in Nicholas County, West Virginia in the Tax List (of course, the area at which he purchased the property at the foot of Gauley Mountain was still part of Greenbrier County until 1818). He appears on 2 May 1818 in Nicholas with 2 males 16 years of age and 2 horses. And that is where he was 25 March 1821, this time with 3 males of 16+ and 2 horses. *I’m going back to capture the tax lists for both Greenbrier and Monroe.

One reference quoted was as follows: “[William Withrow] was involved in several legal actions, some involving his indebtedness: Greenbrier County, Virginia on Feb. 26, 1798 and Monroe County, Virginia on Dec. 16, 1801. Refer to Monroe County, West Virginia Court Order book 1799-1801, p. 363.”

In the Greenbrier County Court Records (transcribed by Helen Stinson), William purchased “220 Acres” property in Nicholas County from Thomas Masterson “near the foot of Gauley Mountain on 28 Nov 1820.” I’ve got to look up the reference to this but the Greenbrier County Court Orders is cited and these transcribed records are available in the FamilySearch.org catalog.

**UPDATE: 8/19/2023: I can access the Greenbrier County Court Orders, transcribed by Helen S. Stinson, at FamilySearch.org. I (and you) will need to visit a local library that is associated with the LDS/Family Search records that allow you to browse records under lock online. Here are the quotes for Greenbrier County Court:

CITE: “Familysearch Digital Library”. 2023. Familysearch.Org. https://www.familysearch.org/library/books/viewer/547496/?page=245&viewer=picture&o=&n=0&q=

IMG 245 of 467
Court of 26 Mar 1799 (prior page)
Patrick Boyd vs Wm. Withrow in covenant, Richard Skaggs undertook for deft, then Skaggs surrendered deft. here in Court to custody of Sheriff to remain in common jail to debtors until he shall be discharged by due course of law.

IMG 328 of 467
Court of 28 November 1820
Deed from Thomas Masterson and wife to Wm. Withrow for 220 acres of land near the foot of Gauley Mountain admitted to record.

NOTE: Apparently, William had moved to the Gauley Mountain area prior to being listed in Nicholas County tax records on 2 May 1818, the same year Nicholas County was formed. (He is listed once in Greenbrier County tax list in 1817 because the foot of Gauley Mountain was still part of Greenbrier County. Meaning he had removed from Monroe County after being listed in the tax records in 1816). He also appears in Nicholas County in the 1820 Census, the same year he was granted the Deed to his property by Thomas Masterson in Greenbrier County Court. Somehow William avoided the Census in 1830 as well as the tax lists 1822-1829 for Nicholas County. With Fayette County being formed in 1831, that is the same year in which he (or his son William) appears up until 1833. The next tax list in which he appears is in Kanawha County on 2 April 1834.

It is important to understand that Nicholas County, when it was first formed, stretched from the eastern plateau of the New River Gorge and encompassed current day Webster County plus some, northerly to the Kanawha County border, southerly (if I recall correctly) the adjusted Greenbrier and Monroe County borders. Nicholas County was massive. It is here we find William in the tax list for four years, only to possibly re-appear on 25 Mar 1829 as Wm. Withrow, Jr – this possibly, was William’s son, now at least 16 years of age or older.

Of course, William doesn’t appear in Nicholas County after 1829 because a new county, Fayette, was formed in 1831. And there we find William listed in the Fayette County Tax List on 2 June 1831. Had he moved? Absolutely not. He stayed in one place: The new county formed around him. IF he is still in the vicinity of “the foot of Gauley Mountain” then he’s north of Ansted and east of Chimney Corner – just a short distance from the McGraws in my family.

One alleged daughter, Sarah Withrow, married in Nicholas County in 1820. I’m suspecting she and her husband are in Fayette County after 1831 as well but a good, hard study of her marriage record and the tax lists of her husband may answer this question.

William Withrow Sr disappears from the Fayette County Tax List after 1833. I think people thought him dead but no, we next find him in Kanawha County on 2 April 1834. Here in Kanawha is where we find William and his sons, listed in the tax lists. William Withrow Sr is last listed on 28 May 1843. His sons continue to be listed until 1847 before Putnam County was formed: We then find the boys listed in the Putnam Tax Lists beginning in 1848. But no more listings for William Withrow Sr. Only one William is listed in Putnam County and, of course, this is his son.

In the 1850 Putnam County Census, we find William Withrow Jr (not designated as Jr) living on what is commonly called Poca River – short for the Pocatalico River* – near the mouth which empties into the Kanawha River. I give you these reasons that I know this:

  1. William Withrow (Jr) is aged 44 years old. In his household we find that his mother, Susannah (Skaggs) Withrow is listed as 75 years old. His house number is given as 390.
  2. In house number 386 – same census, previous page – is Thomas Withrow, aged 42. In house number 387 is James P. Withrow, aged 21 years old. In house number 388 is his father James Withrow, aged 40. Turn to the next page. House number 389 is Isaac Withrow, aged 52. Then, of course, William “Jr.” and his family in house number 390.
  3. But in house number 391 lives Andrew “Falan” whose surname is misspelled. It is properly spelled “PHALEN.” I’ve written a blog post about Andrew Phalen and I know, since he is a maternal ancestor, that¬† he owned the property between the Kanawha River (as far north as an area north of Bancroft, WV, formerly known as Plymouth), as far east as perhaps Manila Creek, possibly Heizer’s Creek, and about as far south as Poca or Raymond City. Andrew opened a coal mine in the Plymouth area before 1850, and is listed as a “collier” in the census (shown below). In the 1880s, Andrew Phalen received his mail at the post office at Raymond City. The bottom line is that all these men lived within acres of each other.

1850 Putnam Census showing William Withrow (Jr) and Andrew Phalen.

The fact remains that these areas included what we locals know to be “Big Tyler Mountain” – an area north of the town of Cross Lanes, WV, and east of Poca, WV but still in the vicinity of the Pocatalico River.

There is a Withrow Cemetery located on Tyler Mountain but there is no listing for my ancestors, William Withrow or Susannah Skaggs, his wife. There is also the Tyler Mountain Memory Gardens but very few “old” graves as my parents bought lots in this cemetery when I was about 5 years old, so it is a newer cemetery. Let’s face it: It’s the Kanawha Valley and Withrows are buried all over the vicinity. And the Schowen Cemetery in Bancroft (*how the spelling came to be Schowen, I cannot imagine as the man himself, Lewis E. Showen, spelled his name without a “C”). I cannot possibly know all of the locations in which descendants of William Withrow Sr and Susannah Skaggs are buried in/near the Pocatalico River region.

Poca - Tyler Mountain

It is doubtful that headstones or graves exist for our deceased ancestors – even those born as late as 1850. This is because the headstones – if there were any – were most often made of limestone, sandstone, slate, and even timber, none of which withstood the years of weather and neglect. One cemetery in particular, the Poca-Varner Cemetery in Poca has had headstones washed away by flood water and, perhaps, even banks of the cemetery sliding into the river where headstones have been found after torrential floods.

Does it matter that there is no headstone? While it would certainly be nice, I know approximately where the folks lived and am certain they’re buried nearby, not in Lewisburg. My main argument being no one would haul a dead body 120 miles (from Poca to Lewisburg). That’s long before embalming was a “thing” and a trek of about 6 days one way, if you didn’t have issues with your horse or wagon. Dead bodies begin to decay immediately after death but it is most evident on Day 3.

Conclusion: William “S” Withrow, buried in the cemetery beside the Old Stone Presbyterian Church in Lewisburg, WV is not my ancestor nor was he the husband of Susannah Skaggs. And since their son Thomas married his first wife, Margaret Wood, on 12 October 1826 in Nicholas County, I seriously doubt that William nor his offspring appear in the 1830 Greenbrier County Census. Further, William is in Nicholas County in the 1829 tax list and Fayette County in 1831.¬† The William Withrow at Find-A-Grave (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/108332206/william-withrow) may quite possibly be the William Withrow listed in the 1830 Greenbrier County Census – sans the middle initial “S”- but the Find-A-Grave entry referenced above is NOT William Withrow, the father of Isaac, Catherine, Samuel, Thomas, William, James, Nancy, and Abel Withrow and the wife of Susannah Skaggs, all of whom most certainly died in Kanawha and/or Putnam Counties. But you can’t explain this to the individual maintaining the memorial, no no. Even when you present evidence of proof to your claims. Searchers, beware of Find A Grave listings – they are hints, not absolute fact.

William S. Withrow

*Pocatalico is pronounced “po-ka-TAL-uh-ko.” More info.