Footnotes to Reuben Wood’s Library

[Wordpress doesn’t like footnotes. It strips them out of the text and they vanish. Here are all the footnotes from both sections, but they’ve lost their connections to the text. Believe me, there was a mountain of research behind these blog entries. If you want a copy of the whole research paper, with the footnotes in the correct places, email me directly. Otherwise, you can puzzle through the footnotes here:];brand=default;

Or perhaps this was his travelling law library. Thomas Jefferson had a special travelling book collection which he’d take with him when travelling to and from Monticello; it was a stackable set of wooden boxes which, when opened up like “Lawyer’s Bookcases”, made its own bookshelf.

Dictionary of North Carolina Biography. Volume 6, T-Z. Edited by William S. Powell. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1996. (DcNCBi 6).

Samuel J. Ervin, Jr., “The Woods of Plymouth County, Massachusetts and Randolph County, North Carolina”. Unpublished manuscript given to the Randolph County Public Library, 13 Oct. 1972, by the author. [Quoting his “Prefatory Note”]. Henry Wood, great-great-grandfather of John Wood, was one of the Pilgrims who came to Massachusetts on the Mayflower in 1620.

Spruce McCay, States Attorney, was the first to be licensed to practice in the Randolph County court on 14 June 1779. He was a resident of Salisbury. On the same day, Nathaniel Williams became was the first licensed trial attorney, and his brother James Williams was the second on 15 Dec. 1779. They were evidently from Hillsborough. A William Locke was licensed on 9 Sept. 1782; then there is an information gap, after which Reuben Wood is already practicing on 13 Sept. 1787. See the Randolph County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions Minute Books 1 and 3. Book 2 has been missing and presumed destroyed for more than 100 years.

From John Wood Jr. was born May 23, 1716 in Middleboro, MA. He died May 3, 1794 in Randolph Co, NC. He married Sarah Clemons (born March 2, 1717) at Taunton MA on 28 Apr 1738. They lived at Middleboro MA until 1744, when he and Sarah took Letter of Transfer from the First Church and went to Berkley, Bristol County. They had four children, the first three are in Middleboro Records. Sarah was born in Freetown, MA, daughter of John CLEMONS Jr. & Judith WITHERELL; she died in Morris Co. , New Jersey. Wood ‘s second wife was Sibbel Wilborn/Wilborne who died August 13,1791. Her connection to the Wilborn/Welborns of Randolph County is not known, but they were close neighbors to John, Zebedee and Reuben.

“The Woods of Randolph County,” Randolph County Genealogical Journal, Vol. IV, #2, Winter 1980.

Genealogical information on the John Wood family is posted on at least a dozen family trees at www. The first mention of John Wood in North Carolina records is from Guilford County Deed Book 1, Page 92, where he witnessed a deed from Joseph Hinds to Simon Hines for 30 acres on Polecat Creek on 5 March 1770. There are no land purchases by John Wood on record in Rowan County (which included part of Randolph from 1755-1771) or in Guilford County (1771-1779). The first deed to John Wood is found in Randolph Deed Book 2, p.76, for 330 acres on Polecat Creek on the Trading Road. Witnesses were Joseph Hinds and Jesse Wilborn. On the other hand, Zebedee Wood’s first purchase, 100 acres on Sandy Creek formerly belonging to Herman Husbands, was recorded 6 April 1774 in Guilford County Deed Book 1, p.253. See also North Randolph Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. 3, #3, page 144.

The History of Morris County, New Jersey, published by W.W. Munsell & Co., 1882. Cited without a page number on

Princeton, then “the College of New Jersey”, is 34 miles due south of Mendam, NJ.

Randolph County Court Minutes refer to Capt. Wood’s tax district (1779, 1780, 1781); in Sept. 1781, Christian Brower was appointed Constable “for Capt. Zebedee Wood’s dist.”

Revolutionary War Pension Application of Andrew McPheeters, # S16950, Transcribed by Will Graves, 2/26/09. McPheeters was a resident of Grainger County, Tennessee, in August 1832 who swore “that in the last of October 1779 he substituted for a 3 months tour of duty in the place of Samuel Clark under Capt. Thomas Clark Lieut. Reuben Wood Ensign Simeon Garian we rendezvoused at Salisbury & marched to Charlestown under Col. Archibald Lytle a Continental Col. & joined General Lincoln at Charlestown he remained at Charlestown until the expiration of his service…”

A long tradition among Wood decendants is that Reuben married “Charity Haynes from South Carolina.” Both the Joseph and John Hinds families were neighbors of John, Zebedee and Reuben Wood, and Zebedee and Reuben served with both Hinds in the Revolution. Genealogical sources say that Hinds and Haynes are different ways of spelling the same family name. Hinds family papers found in Tennessee and transcribed in the Fall, 2007 issue of the Randolph County Genealogical Journal, p.16: “List of Capt. John Hinds Co. that completed a Tower of duty in the Regiment of horsemen, commanded by Co. Luttrell by order of the Board of War in the year 1780…  John Hinds, Capt.; Reuben Wood, Lieut.; Wm. York, Ensign; Wm. Alred, Sgt…” The following marriage license was kept in the same group of John Hinds family papers and must indicate a connection to his family: “State of North Carolina/ Randolph County

To any Minister of the Gospel Regularly called to any Congregation—or to any Justice within this State—You or any of you are hereby authorized an impowered to Solemnize the rights of Matrimony between Reuben WOODS and Charity HINDS agreeable to Act of General Assembly in that Case made and provided.  Given under my hand at office this 18th day of November Anno domini 1779.

Absalom TATOM CCC ”

long tradition among Wood decendants is that Reuben married “Charity Haynes from South Carolina.” Both the Joseph and John Hinds families


A List of The Company Who Served Under Capt. John Hinds in Randolph County by Coll. Collier, Ordered in 1781: John Hinds Capt.; Wm. York, Lt.”

RC Ct of P&QS Minutes, 9-13-1787: Reubin Wood, Atty at Law, serving as States Attorney.

“Spruce McCay” appointed States Attorney. 6-14-1779 (RCCt P&QS Minutes,p. 5) Paid $100 pds for attendance at 4 courts as States Attorney (3-14-80, p.18). His DCNB entry (Vol 4, p. 119) recounts the facts of his life. and . . After North Carolina ratified the Constitution, Stokes was appointed by President Washington to serve as the state’s first U.S. District Court Judge.

RC Ct of P&QS Minutes, 12-11-1787.

There is another possibility for Reuben Wood’s supervising attorney: Waightstill Avery. Spruce Macay (licensed 1778) and John Stokes (licensed 1784), may have studied with Avery (1741-1821), the first Attorney General of North Carolina. He graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1766, taught there for a year, then read law with Lyttleton Dennis, a prominent Maryland attorney. He moved back to North Carolina in 1769, finally settling in Charlotte. He served on the committee that drafted the state constitution of 1776. He moved to Burke County after the war and practiced law in the western district. In 1788 he was a nominee, along with Reuben Wood, for the state’s attorney job there. See his DNCB article, in volume 1.

RC Ct of P&QS Minutes, 9-15-1787, “Reuben Wood, Esquire, attorney for the State in said county resigns his appointment… and John McNairy, Esquire, appointed in his Room.”; 6-9-1788, Reuben Wood appointed attorney for the state; 6-12-1788, Reuben Wood, Esquire, resigned his appointment as attorney for the state and John Louis Taylor appointed in his room.” Taylor’s brother-in-law was another future Supreme Court Judge, William Gaston.

Boutell, Charles (1899) English Heraldry, page 120.

Zebedee Wood was sitting on the county bench on 13 Sept. 1787, and must have been appointed at some time between 1783 and then. RCCt P&QS, Minutes 1787-, p.2.

Delegates in 1788 from Randolph:  William Bowden, Zebeedee Wood, Edmund Waddill, Reuben Wood, Nathan Stedman, Thomas Douglas, Jeff Henley, William Bailey. In 1789 only Zebedee Wood, Reuben Wood, and Nathan Stedman returned.

Proceedings and Debates of the Convention of North Carolina, convened at Hillsborough on Monday the 21st day of July, 1788, for the purpose of Deliberating and Determining on the Constitution Recommended by the General Convention at Philadelphia… (Edenton: Printed by Hodge & Wills, 1789).

Minutes of the North Carolina Constitutional Convention at Fayetteville, pp. 46-49;

N.C. Manual.

Records of Buncombe County Court from April Term 1792 Til April Term 1796, Inclusive.

North Carolina, Buncombe County
April 16th AD 1792.
Agreeably to a commission to us directed the county Court of said county was begun opened and held at the house of Col. William Davidson Esquire…. On the motion that an attorney for the State in Buncombe county be appointed, Reuben Wood Esqur was duely Elected.”

Ibid, DNCB, vol. 6.

No comprehensive family history exists. The story of the three daughters who remained in North Carolina is set forth in the Ervin manuscript. has fragmentary records from the older boys, who all migrated West. My reconstruction of the family, from Federal Census and other records, is as follows: John L. and Sarah, called “Sally,” must have been the oldest as they are named after Reuben’s parents, following the custom of the day. John L. (b. Apr. 1783) was in TN at time of father’s death, married Sophia McDaniel and settled in Arkansas; Sarah (c.1780- c.1820) married Augustine Willis; Mary (called “Polly”, c.1785-Oct. 1834, married Joseph Wilson); “Dr.” Joseph (c.1789-d.Texas after 1850, in the home of his son Reuben D. Wood).; Alfred L. (Feb. 1791-1861, married Nancy Proffitt and died in Missouri); Edwin (c.1795-1814); Evelina (, md. Augustine Willis in 1822 after death of Sally); Laura or “Laury” (, md. Jethro S. Wilson, brother of Joseph Wilson).

The census of 1790 shows him owning 2 slaves; 1800 – 9; 1810 – 11; and there were 9 sold at his estate auction.

Biography of John Stokes, DNCB Vol. 5, p.454.

The 1821 catalogue of the Dialectic Society Library shows that it had about 500 titles, with a total of 1673 books. . Wood’s library had 225 titles, with perhaps 700 books. The Di and Phi libraries had more books than the University library at the time.

Joseph Wilson was elected to the NC House of Commons from Stokes County in 1810, ’11, and ’12. North Carolina Manual, 1913.

See Samuel A’Court Ashe,  Biographical history of North Carolina from colonial times… Vol 7, p.499: “AMONG the celebrated lawyers in western North Carolina of the olden time, the name of Joseph Wilson stands preeminent. His ancestors on the paternal side were Scotch; they came to North Carolina about 1730, and settled in Perquimans, near Edenton. William Wilson, of this family, moved first to Guilford County, then to Randolph County, where he married Eunice Worth. She was of English descent, and like himself was of the Society of Friends. They were the parents of Joseph Wilson, the subject of this sketch, who was born in 1782. His early education was directed by Rev. David Caldwell. He chose the profession of law and studied under Reuben Wood, a lawyer of note in Randolph County, whose daughter Mary he married. He was licensed to practice law in 1804 and settled in Stokes County. By native talent, force of character and application, he soon rose to the uppermost ranks of his profession. He was elected to the legislature in 1810. 1811, 1812, and was distinguished as a firm advocate of American rights in the troubles and controversy then existing between this country and England.  In 1812 he was elected solicitor of the mountain district, then embracing nearly the entire western part of the State.”

See also .

The Wilson brothers were Quaker descendants of John Worth of Nantucket; see

671. Joseph WILSON (235.Eunice5, 69.Joseph4, 9.Joseph3, 2.John2, 1.William1) b. abt. 1780, New Garden, North Carolina, m. Mary WOOD, b. abt. 1780. Children:

1258. Abigail WILSON b. abt. 1800, New Garden, N.C., m. 1818, Thomas SIMONS, b. abt. 1800.
1259. Samuel WILSON b. abt. 1801, New Garden, N.C, m. 1819, Ruth THORNBURY, b. abt. 1801, (daughter of Thomas THORNBURY and Miriam THORNBURY).
1260. Sarah WILSON b. abt. 1815, m. Coatsworth P. CALDWELL, b. abt. 1815.
+ 1261. Laura L. WILSON b. abt. 1817.

674. Jethro WILSON (235.Eunice5, 69.Joseph4, 9.Joseph3, 2.John2, 1.William1) b. abt. 1786, New Garden, N.C., m. Laura WOOD, b. abt. 1786. Children:

+ 1263. Jethro WILSON b. abt. 1810.
+ 1264. Evalina WILSON b. abt. 1813.
+ 1265. Cornelia E. WILSON b. abt. 1815.
+ 1266. Orianna WILSON b. abt. 1818.
1267. William J. WILSON b. abt. 1820, m. Mary CATHEY, b. abt. 1820.

Laura Theresa Wilson (1808-1848) md. 1. Marshall Tait Polk (atty of Charlotte, younger brother of James Knox Polk); 2. Dr. William Caldwell Tate (1808-1869) of Morganton; her daughter Catherine Elvira Tate (1848-1918) md. Willam Ellerbe Powe (1829-1903); their daughter Laura Theresa Powe (1868-1956) md. Samuel James Ervin (1855-1944), an attorney in Burke Co. for 65 year; their son Samuel J. Ervin, Jr. was the well-known “country lawyer” who as chairman of the U.S. Senate committee investigated Watergate; his son Samuel J. Ervin III was a U.S. District Court Judge; his son Samuel J. Ervin IV is yet another Burke County attorney….

It is unclear whether Augustine Willis (b.1770), the quondam husband of both Sarah and Evalina Wood, may have been a lawyer. Someone of the same name represented Halifax County, NC in the General Assembly in 1779 and 1786, but it appears that the parents of our Augustine Willis were John Austin Willis II and Mary Hayes Plummer. See . A son of Sally and Augustine was born in Maury County, TN in 1810; this is the same county where her brother John L. Wood lived at the time their father died. The Willis family subsequently moved to Madison County, Miss., where Augustine married the widowed Evalina Wood Moore in 1822.

Randolph County Deed Book 12, Page 156: I, John L. Wood of the State of Tennessee, Maury County, here… Quitclaim unto Alfred Wood and Edwin Wood of the State of North Carolina, Randolph County… all the Right, Title and interest that I have… as heir to any part of a tract of land on Sandy Creek formerly the property of Reuben Wood, Dec’d. –viz., the tract on which he Died… November 28, 1812. John L. Wood, Seal. Witness: Joseph Wood. Filed Feb. 1813.

Edwin Wood died before his father’s estate was closed; his own estate was probated 10 Feb. 1814 (RCGJ, op.cit., p.10).

In his estate file in the state archives in Raleigh is the “Will of Reuben Wood” dated 6-25-1812 which was not probated by the court (RC Gen. Journal, op.cit, pp.7-8).  The signature, if that’s what it was, is nearly illegible and there were no witnesses. There might have been some competency issues with probating the will; it named as Executor his minor son Edwin Wood, which Wood should have known was a legal impossibility; it specifically disinherited oldest son John L. Wood and fails to mention his youngest daughters Laury and Evelina.

From The Star, 7 Aug 1812: “Died In Randolph County, Reuben Wood, Esquire, Attorney at Law.” File at: .

Alexander Gray, Guardian of Edwin Wood;  Jesse Harper Guardian of Laury Wood, Joseph Wilson, Guardian of Evelina Wood. Gray, the wealthiest man and largest slaveholder in the county, would soon become a militia General during the War of 1812; Jesse Harper was the Clerk of Superior Court.

Charity Wood’s Petition for Dower, RCGJ, op.cit, p. 8, Nov. 1812

When Reuben died he possessed of 350 acres on Polecat Creek and 300 acres on Sandy Creek adj. Isaac Lane, Alfred Wood, John Brower and Jacob Brower. The property was divided among the children. The last 300 acres of the Wood property, the portion of Alfred, John and Joseph, were sold to Joseph Staley in 1821 (DB 14:108) and 1825 (DB19:202).

RCGJ, op.cit., p.7.

Painfully researching each title through the ponderous volumes of the Library of Congress’ National Union Catalog, as I did in Library School in 1981, would have been impossible to do and keep a paying job today. The British Library’s Short Title Catalog is a modern miracle!


9 Responses to “Footnotes to Reuben Wood’s Library”

  1. rdwootton Says:

    I am certainly impressed with the rich history presented herein. My relatives on my mother’s side hail from Seagrove and from Farmer. I am interested in the Johnson-Kearns history, especially my Mamaw’s (Nancy Agnes Johnson Kearns) father’s service in the War Between the States she would sometimes mention in our visist before she died and also the history of my Deputy US Marshal, Middle District of NC great-grandfather Isaac Thomas Brown. Another relative is a great, great grandfather anemd William Henry Chriscoe, one of the early potters to the area.

    • macwhatley Says:

      Henry Chrisco is my own great-grandfather, through my mother Kathleen Chriscoe. Her father, Walter Chriscoe, added the e on the end. Not all the family does. Through them I’m related to the Browns, too. And most of southern Randolph County!

  2. rdwootton Says:

    How far back do you trace both lines?

  3. rdwootton Says:

    Walter Boyd Chrisco was your grandfather? My great grandmother was Loretta Cattie Chrscio, her brother and your great aunt!

  4. Interfaith Freedom Foundation Says:

    I’m doing some research on Benjamin Swaim, who as many of you know was the founder and publisher of the “Southern Citizen” weekly newspaper from 1836 until 1844. It was Asheboro’s first newspaper. Benjamin was a protege of William Swaim, who was not only a cousin but the founder of the Greensboro Patriot. Benjamin also wrote and published a number of very basic law and business guides, one of which I have. Benjamin was also the President of the Manumission Society, an anti-slavery group, from the early 1820s to 1834. It is amazing to consider that this group was so outspoken on this issue, stopping only when it became impossible to articulate anti-slavery arguments in the middle 1830s.

    So…here’s my question. I really want to know more about Benjamin during the time he lived and worked in Asheboro. Can anybody tell me where his office was located? Does anybody know where his home was located? In fact, are there any homes associated with the Swaim family during the 19th century still in existence in Asheboro?

    Thanks in advance. This website is a great historical resource.

    • macwhatley Says:

      Benjamin Swaim (and I’m pretty sure they pronounced it “Swem”) is one of the great progressive figures of antebellum Randolph County.
      When I was in library school I wrote a lengthy paper on him and the Man of Business, which I will look for.
      I have both volumes of the MOB; I believe the public library here may have both volumes, and I think the law library at UNC-CH and Duke both have multiple copies.
      The Man of Business was so popular that other people continued to update and republish it for years after his death.
      I also have a copy of the North Carolina Executor, which he wrote and published, and one other one that I don’t remember the title of, offhand.
      There are only two antebellum buildings left in Asheboro, and neither of them have any connection that I’m aware of to Ben Swaim.
      [They are the 1838 Female Academy and the ca-1860 Marmaduke Robins law office]
      His house and office would have been within a block or two of the old courthouse, which was in the middle of the Salisbury/Main Street intersection.
      I have always thought it was on Main Street running south of the courthouse, but I could be wrong about that.
      His personal life was rather sad, as his wife and son I believe predeceased him. But I need to find my research paper to be sure about all that.
      And of course you must know by now in your research that the Southern Citizen and the printing office started out in New Salem, and then moved to Asheboro.
      The Swaims were from the New Salem area, and are buried in the Timber Ridge cemetery off of Branson Mill Road.
      The only original collection of the Southern Citizen newspapers belonged to the Henry Klepacki family, and were microfilmed by Duke many years ago.
      Last year the family member who inherited them auctioned them off on eBay, and despite a bidding war involving the local historical and genealogical society, they were bought by one of these “paper memorabilia” sellers, who pulled them apart and sold them page by page, advertising them as “ORIGINAL SLAVE ADS!!” and such B/S.
      That was a loss to local history which can never be repaired, and shows what happens when relatives inherit something and only want to cash out on it.

  5. Interfaith Freedom Foundation Says:

    Macwhatley, thanks very much for your helpful information. Someday I’d like to come see Robbins law office. Marmaduke Swaim Robbins and Benjamin Swaim were related, sharing common ancesters John and Elizabeth Vickery; the Robbins and Swaims intermarried early and often. (John and Elizabeth Swaim are my grandparents.) The Swaims, Robbins and Vickerys were crazy about the moniker “Marmaduke,” for reasons that are unknown to me; the Mendenhalls managed to mainly stay away from it, perhaps because its grandiosity offended their Quaker sensibilities. In any case, the story of the Robbins is a great extent also the story of the Swaims.

    Interestingly, the Robbins family apparently have a Spurgeon connection, which I’ve never quite figured out. Isiah Spurgeon Robbins died in the Civil War, as did Joseph Spurgeon Swaim, my gr. gr. grandfather. I have a theory about the Spurgeon connection. In the Baptist church at High Point in the early 19th century there was an elder named Spurgeon. My grandfather Ashley was a preacher in that church. Anyway, Ashley may have used his name as the middle name of one of his sons, perhaps as the Robbins did also. Anyway, in the great split in the late 1820s and early 1830s between the Primitive and Missionary factions of that Baptist church, Ashley and Spurgeon, sadly, ended up on opposite sides.

    Anyone have any other information about the Spurgeon connection?

    I was saddened but not surprised to hear about the originals of the Southern Citizen being torn apart and auctioned. Its a sad story but an old one. I have always been surprised at the recurring phenomena of people who believe that family historians are really out to find some secret document or factoid that will then lead somebody, somewhere, to fabulous wealth. They can’t believe that historical information and artifacts have an intrinsic value, sentimental and historical, that can’t be quantified in cold cash. This greed is the bane of the Americans. Thank God Duke has the entire collection on microfilm.

    I have an 1841 edition of Benjamin Swaim’s handbook the North Carolina Executor which was given to Cyrun P. Mendenhall in June, 1857. Mendenhalls were sharp business people without engaging in sharp practices, say family insiders, which is a powerful complement given the competitive business environment of that time–or of any time. Their involvement in the Underground Railroad is well-known. I would like very much someday to do an annotated version of the minutes of the North Carolina Manumission Society, for they are a veritable compendium of the most outspoken and idealistic people of the Piedmont at that time, motivated both by a practical applied Christianity and by the great 18th-century principles of the American Revolution as they understood them. William, Benjamin, Moses and many other Swaims were leading figures in this movement as they tried to deal nonviolently and sensibly with an institution that they experienced as evil and a source of great corruption.

    I am delighted and grateful to find out about this website, and hopefully will be graced by regular postings from it.

    Lawrence Swaim
    Executive Director
    Interfaith Freedom Foundation

  6. Mary Ann Miller Says:

    Wonderful research!
    Who can help me determine the father of Kentucky’s Dr. Shelby Willis from South Carolina? Dr. Willis’s son, Kentucky’s first poet llaureatte is also a Shelby Willis.

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