The State of the Dutton 2017

(Or, “Make Zachariah Dutton Great Again!”)

Part I: A Personal Appeal

My dear cousins,

I’m writing this update as an overview of the state of research into Zachariah Dutton, his ancestors, and his descendants. As you may know, I’ve been in school for a long, long time. I finished two degrees in history, and then faced with a poor job market, decided to do another degree in computer science. School has been dominating my attention for the past several years, so I’m sad to say, I’ve fallen out of touch with a lot of you and let my Dutton research fall by the wayside. Speaking for myself, the State of the Dutton has been kind of meager.

I’d like to change that. Now that I am out of school and working a real adult job, my passions for genealogy and this family in particular have reignited. I started working on this family when I was a tender sixteen, and it’s with a little horror that I realize I’ve now surpassed twenty years since I started, and remember things I should’ve been doing but have been neglecting: people I should’ve been talking to, people I have lost touch with, people who are getting older or who are no longer with us. I haven’t been collecting family photographs or stories and have let a lot of family history slip into oblivion. This keeps me up at night. It’s only a little comfort to remember that many people don’t begin researching their family history until they are older and come to this realization far too late. I hope I still have the chance to make a difference.

So I’d like to be more active in contacting cousins, interviewing them, and visiting them. I’m not a phone person, but I’m going to have to become one. I’m glad many of you are online, but there are many others who aren’t, and many more who are more comfortable with talking than writing. I’m going to have to do a better job of getting in touch and staying in touch.

I would like to write a book about Zachariah Dutton and his descendants. I’ve been saying this and dreaming of this for twenty years, but I’d like to finally do it. There are two main things standing in my way. The first is a lack of “heart” in my research. I have a lot of facts on a lot of people I’ve gathered over the years, but it’s mostly just a skeleton without any meat; just names and dates. I want to write a book about real people, and to do that I need stories about them: who they were, what they did, what they were like — the things that can’t be read from the census or vital records or tombstones. There are some branches of the family where this will never be possible, where the people have no descendants and are all but forgotten, where my facts are all the remembrance we can offer them; but where it is possible, I want to bring my cousins’ stories alive.

I’ll need a lot of help with that. I’m naturally a shy and anxious person and have a hard time introducing myself to strangers or cold-calling people on the phone — and in this day and age, with so much distrust and concern about security and privacy, those are difficult for anybody. What worked for genealogists a couple of generations ago may not work as well now. I’m glad to be in touch with as many cousins through the Internet as I am. There are a few things I’d like to ask of you:

  • I’d like to know about your families. Not just your ancestors, but your children and grandchildren and brothers and sisters and the whole family. This book is about them, too: how a man born in the mid-18th century in Charles County, Maryland, led to the lives of hundreds of real people today.

  • I’d like to hear your stories. Stories about your ancestors of long ago, but also your stories. I would like to be able to write a brief biography of every person in the family: not just when and where they were born and died, but what they did in their lives. Occupations (what they did for a living), education (where they went to school and what they studied), religion (where they went to church), military, civic, and other kinds of service (what they offered back to their communities), hobbies (what they enjoyed) — these, and many more, are important things I’d like to be able to tell.

  • That’s asking a lot, to ask you all to write up all that information; so I’m prepared to do interviews. If you live someplace I could meet you or visit you, I would love to set that up. If not, we could do interviews on the phone.

  • If you have photographs, I’d love to have copies. Old photographs are grand — photographs of the children and grandchildren and even great-grandchildren of Zachariah Dutton — but any photographs are important. I’d like to be able to share photographs of as many cousins who are willing to share them. As for acquiring copies: I care about good, archival-quality scans when possible. I am willing to visit people with my scanner to copy original photos so they never have to leave their sight, or to pay for good copies or scans of photos.

  • If you have older relatives, especially those with good memories who might know more stories or have more photographs, I would love it if you could help me, either in gathering these, or in getting in touch with them and introducing me.

  • I’ve gotten serious about DNA research again, and I need your help with that. I’ll write more about that below.

I do care about your privacy and will not share your information indiscreetly or openly on the Internet.

The other obstacle in writing a book is going to be perfectionism. There are branches of the family I know nothing about. I want to make every effort to “fill out” the tree as much as possible, but there may be branches that will have to remain bare or skeletal for a while longer if I’m going to actually do this thing. I’ve considered doing this in iterations and publishing multiple editions. The once or twice I dumped my whole genealogy database into a “book” format, it resulted in a colossal 400-or-so pages. This is a weighty tome even before adding “meat,” stories and photographs. How to actually print this thing and how to distribute it is going to be another challenge. But I do very much want to do this, to honor this family and give back to everyone who has given to me over the years.

Part 2: Dutton News

As I said, I’ve been out of touch for a little while, so I’m not all that up on what research anybody else is doing. But here is a summary of what I’ve been doing in Dutton research over the last little while (which turns out to be the past few years).

Probably the last big breakthrough I made in research was discovering the parents of Margaret Barnett Ross, wife of Edmond Dutton. I already announced this in June 2015.

On my end of things, we’ve had a few deaths on my end of the family since I updated. Irene (Dutton) Pope, my dear great-aunt, daughter of Dan M. Dutton and Laura (Minor) Dutton, passed away May 1, 2015, at the age of 99. Estelle (Hunter) Smith, daughter of James W. Hunter and Odie (Dutton), our dear cousin who provided so many wonderful and priceless photographs of Edmond Dutton and his children, passed away September 15, 2015 at age 95.

What happened to 2016?? Oh, yeah. School.

As I mentioned before, I’ve re-built my Zachariah Dutton website. It is newly shiny and as several of you have already discovered, you can leave comments on every page. There is a blog where I have already written several posts about Zachariah Dutton. I probably won’t share all of my blog posts in full to the mailing list. I feel a little bit more freedom to write on the blog, at great length and about topics that may not be of interest to everybody, without fearing that I’m spamming you all the time. It’s the difference between inviting you to a lecture versus blaring into a megaphone. I will post announcements to the list with links every week there are new articles to share.

Part 3: DNA Research

As you may know, we’ve been involved in DNA research on Zachariah Dutton’s line for a few years. I’ve been promising a thorough DNA update for a while. Since I redid the website, I wrote a page with some brief history of our research:

In Y-DNA research, studies of the Y-chromosome passed down from father to son along the patrilineal line, we learned years ago that Zachariah Dutton does not match the descendants of the other Duttons in Charles County, Maryland, the family of Thomas Dutton and Elizabeth Hill, and their son Matthew Dutton who married Judith O’Caine. It appears from this that Zachariah Dutton’s father was not a Dutton. Who else he might have been we had little idea. Was there some other Dutton family who just happened to appear in the area? This seemed unlikely, since Zachariah’s haplotype (the set of his DNA variations that our DNA tests gave us) did not match any other Duttons. Since he was named Dutton, it seemed likely that he was illegitimate or adopted. The fact that he appeared in no legal records in Charles County with Duttons or anyone else seemed to support the illegitimacy hypothesis.

In autosomal DNA research, studies of all the rest of the chromosomes as they matched among Zachariah Dutton’s descendants, one of the first important revelations is that Zachariah did match other descendants of the Charles County Duttons: so he was kin to them, probably through his mother, adding additional weight to the illegitimacy hypothesis. This theory is still not completely proven and may never be, since there seem to be no written records of his mother.

There are a few frontiers to the analysis I’ve been doing lately, questions I am asking and am making progress in answering:

  • Who was Zachariah Dutton’s father? There has been a recent breakthrough here, and I hope to be able to make a major announcement about it soon, pending a few more tests due in the coming weeks to confirm my hypothesis.
  • What is the connection between the Dutton family and the Penn family, who both hailed from Charles County, Maryland, and who seem to have had a close relationship even after both families moved to Alabama? There have been some recent and important developments here, and I need more people to test, both of the Dutton side and especially on the Penn side, to study this further.
  • Who was Zachariah Dutton’s first wife, our ancestor? We may never know this for certain without definitive records, but it is my hope that by isolating her DNA, we can begin to get an idea.
  • Who were the families of the wives of Zachariah Dutton’s sons? A good bit is known about the family of Mary Hogan, wife of William Dutton, and Elizabeth Robinson Threadgill, wife of Samuel Sneed Dutton, but the rest are largely mysteries.

I am now working on identifying and collecting as many autosomal tests from Zachariah Dutton descendants as I can, to cross-reference the matches and identify unknown cousins and family connections. I would like to re-assemble, as much as possible, the chromosomes of Zachariah Dutton and his wife, in the hopes that we can answer questions about who they were and how they were related to others. DNA segments are like puzzle pieces, and all descendants of Zachariah are bound to have some. The more of the puzzle we complete, the more connections we can make with others and the clearer the picture of him and his wife should become.

So I’m interested is as many of you testing your DNA as are able and would like to contribute. There are several services out there who do this testing, and there’s been a question about which is best. I won’t give a comprehensive answer in this post, but I will try to do this in the near future. For now I will say that almost all of the research I’ve been a part of has been through Family Tree DNA. I am a co-administrator of the Dutton surname project there, and by being an admin, I can cross-reference and examine the results of members who have tested. A few pros of testing with Family Tree DNA, over other services:

  • FTDNA offers the widest range of testing services. Other services such as AncestryDNA and 23andme offer only autosomal testing for DNA genealogy. FTDNA also offers Y-DNA testing (for the male line), including advanced SNP testing, and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA, for the female line).
  • FTDNA offers the most advanced tools, including a chromosome browser used to map where DNA matches occur and determine how they intersect and overlap with other matches.
  • FTDNA has a comprehensive database of matches. I am not sure if AncestryDNA has surpassed it in terms of number, but FTDNA allows searching matches by surname, posting family trees, anything AncestryDNA provides. It is also, at $80, the least expensive over its competitors.

Testing with Family Tree DNA is by far the most immediately useful to me. I have a growing database of Dutton testees whom I am cross-referencing and mapping to find segments of DNA that belonged to Zachariah Dutton and his wife. On the other hand, I know there are many people who have tested with AncestryDNA, which has a willing marketing campaign and superior resources. Having tests on Ancestry, too, allows me to get in touch with these people and invite them to share their results on Family Tree DNA.

For anyone who has tested on AncestryDNA, Family Tree DNA offers a free autosomal transfer tool. By downloading your raw DNA data from Ancestry and uploading them to FTDNA, you can add your test to the FTDNA database and access your matches. This initial transfer is free; to fully unlock the account, including the chromosome browser and the ethnic analysis, costs $20. This is a very good deal, and would help me a great deal also.

Also, if you have tested with AncestryDNA, it would be very helpful to me if you would share your DNA results with me. Ancestry offers a sharing feature by which you can invite me to view your results as a guest. This will allow me to see who you match with, draw conclusions from your connections, and possibly get in touch with matches to invite them to contribute to our efforts.

I’ve written more about this, but covering the same basic information, at the DNA page.

Conclusion

I would love to be in contact with you more. I would love for you to help me with this research. For all of you who are reading this message, either by the mailing list or on the blog, I invite you to reply and share your connection to the Dutton family.

A Lost Son Comes Home: Callis Dutton

Hand-crank microfilm readerI count myself blessed in many ways for having gotten into genealogy at such an early age. One thing I consider a blessing that others might not expect is my exposure to research methods now less common in this age of online records: the thrill of road trips to investigate cemeteries, not knowing what I would find; days spent in dusty courthouse vaults hunting records; and perhaps the most nostalgic and most antiquated, hours spent hand-cranking microfilm readers in libraries to experience the census. In this day and age, every name in the census is indexed online, and a genealogist can go straight “to” the person they’re looking for — though many names are misread or mistranscribed, leading to people who are “lost” in the census. (I am pleased to see Ancestry.com and other services re-create the “filmstrip” to nearly approximate this experience.) In those early days, especially for later censuses like 1900, I had no access to an index, and instead started at the beginning of a county and scrolled through every page reading the names until I found someone of interest — often not even knowing who I was looking for, but in the case of the Duttons, seeing who I might find. It gave the experience of walking down roads and through neighborhoods, “meeting” these people and their communities as I went.

That was my experience the day at the Decatur library I investigated the 1900 census of neighboring Lawrence County, Alabama. By that time I’d been researching the Dutton family for probably a year or more. I felt, with a little pride, that I “knew” the Duttons and could identify families as I found them. I remember well the confusion I felt, and the intrigue, when I encountered Callis Dutton. I think I had first seen his name in a printed listing of Moulton City Cemetery, and didn’t readily know who he was or who he connected to. That day in June 1900, I met him as a child, and met his mother.

Lee Dutton

Lee Dutton was a single mother of two sons, unwed, age 32 (born June 1867), living as a housekeeper in the home of Mary Simmons in Moulton. She had two sons, according to this census, Callus L. born July 1895 and James L. born March 1900. I suspect the middle initials here are the result of a transcription mistake: later records show the full names of these sons to be Reeder Callis Dutton and James Riley Dutton. The census states that Callis was born in Mississippi and Riley in Alabama; the birthplace of the fathers of both is unknown. Lee states that her own father was born in North Carolina and her mother in Alabama.

1900 Federal Census, Lawrence County, Alabama: Lee Dutton and sons.
1900 Federal Census, Lawrence County, Alabama: Lee Dutton and sons.

Who was Lee Dutton? Why was she living apart from any other Duttons? Why was her son born in Mississippi? I envisioned a pregnant daughter running away in shame to have her child and later returning. I did not know who she was, did not know for certain that she even belonged to my Duttons (though, in the early days, I tended to assume that), but still, I felt a kinship with her.

A Speculative Connection

The fact that Lee said her father was born in North Carolina stood out like a beacon to me. Our Dutton family was, of course, from North Carolina, but more important than that, of the Duttons who came to Alabama from North Carolina, every one that I knew of arrived by about 1832. The vast majority of Dutton men of the Zachariah Dutton family living in Alabama in 1867 would have been born in Alabama: only the older men of the third generation like Thomas Dutton and William Zachariah Dutton, whose children were well known, were born in North Carolina. And there was one other, an outlier, to whom my mind soon went.

1870 AL Morgan: Alexander F. Dutton
The 1870 census of Morgan County, Alabama, showing Alexander F. Dutton and his family.

Alexander F. Dutton was a son of Samuel Sneed Dutton, the Dutton brother who remained in Anson County, North Carolina, when the rest went to Alabama. Alexander was born in ca. 1826 in North Carolina. Yet for some reason, he appeared in Alabama in the 1860s and joined the communities of his Alabama cousins. He appeared on the 1870 census of Morgan County, Alabama, living in Danville nearby other Duttons, and it took a bit of early detective work to identify him also.

1870 AL Morgan: Lee Ann Ryland
The 1870 census of Morgan County showing “Lean” Riland, otherwise known as Lee Ann Ryland.

In 1870, Alexander and his wife Dortha had three young children: Christopher, born ca. 1861; Frances born ca. 1866; and Lean (sic), a daughter, born ca. 1868. “Lean?” That was how I had the name entered into my database for several years, with a question mark. Later, looking around elsewhere in Morgan County on the same census, I found the name “Lean” referring to a girl at least one other time, in the hand of the same census enumerator (our kinsman David Day) — when the person referred to was otherwise identifiable as being named “Lee Ann.”

So I was able to conclude that Alexander F. Dutton, born ca. 1826 in North Carolina, had a daughter named Lee Ann Dutton, born ca. 1868. I soon identified Lee Dutton, the mother of Callis Dutton, born June 1867, whose father was born in North Carolina, with Lee Ann Dutton, daughter of Alexander F. Dutton. I was not sure — I had little proof besides the name, the similar dates, and the North Carolina connection — but it was the best I had for nearly twenty years.

There is a lot more to tell about Alexander F. Dutton and his family. He apparently disappears and I can no longer find him on the census after 1870. Tragedy befell him in 1891 — a sensational tale I will save for another day — and his family was scattered. In truth, Lee Dutton was probably living on her own because she had no one else, making her situation all the more desperate and vulnerable. In addition to Lee Dutton in Lawrence County, I find several other unidentified Dutton young people born of a North Carolina father living in various households in Cullman County, Alabama, in 1900. Through years of picking away, one of the most mysterious characters of Zachariah Dutton’s family tree has become one of the most compelling. I look forward to writing more about him.

Callis Dutton and Riley Dutton

Lee Dutton apparently never appears on another census after 1900. She died when her sons were young men and is buried near Moulton. In 1910, Callis and Riley Dutton are shown living as boarders in the home of John H. Brewer in Moulton.

1910 AL Lawrence: Callis Dutton and Riley Dutton
1910 census of Lawrence County, Alabama, showing Callis and Riley Dutton in the home of John H. Brewer.

By 1920, both sons were living in Chattanooga, Hamilton County, Tennessee, working as harness makers for the Southern Saddlery Company in the burgeoning southern city.

1920 census of Hamilton County, Tennessee, showing Callis Dutton and Riley Dutton.
1920 census of Hamilton County, Tennessee, showing Callis Dutton and Riley Dutton.

Callis soon returned to Moulton, where he married Minnie Helen Brewington on 28 December 1921. Riley remained in Chattanooga, where he married Gussie Mae Waller on 2 March 1921. Callis lived in Moulton for the rest of his life, and died on 3 March 1966. Riley eventually moved to Phoenix, Arizona, about 1942, and died there on 6 December 1959.

Callis Dutton and Riley Dutton never knew anything about their Dutton family. Though they grew up around other Duttons in Lawrence County, Alabama, they never knew how they connected to them. They raised their own families and went to their graves not ever knowing.

Coming Home

Callis Dutton
Callis Dutton, a photo Kelli Barrett shared with me.

In March of last year, Kelli Taylor Barrett of Moulton contacted me. I had published on my website that I thought Lee Ann Dutton, daughter of Alex F. Dutton, was the same Lee Dutton who was the mother of Callis Dutton. Kelli told me that Callis was her grandfather and that she thought this was her connection.

I had been hoping to get in contact with Callis’s descendants for years, but had never reached out. I wondered if they knew anything about his ancestry, anything that might help connect him, with any more certainty than this bald speculation I had been making for so long. Kelli said that they did not; that he never knew himself. He did know rumors about his father: Kelli said that Lee Dutton had reportedly been a housemaid for the Brewer family and that one of the Brewers was the father of both of her sons.

I encouraged Kelli to do a genealogical DNA test to see if we could confirm Callis’s connection to the Zachariah Dutton family. It wasn’t until this past month that I followed up with her. She shared her DNA results with me and I spent some time poring over them.

Kelli Dutton chromosomes
Kelli has a good chunk of very old Dutton DNA, especially on Chromosome 3!

It wasn’t long at all until I was able to confirm: Callis Dutton does belong to the Zachariah Dutton family. Kelli not only matched several confirmed descendants of Zachariah Dutton in Alabama and North Carolina, but she also matched Mike Dutton of the Maryland Duttons, only the fourth of our tests to do so, further bolstering that connection. Her closest match was to the daughter of Riley Dutton.

This confirmed the connection to Zachariah, but was it enough to confirm my speculation, connecting Lee Dutton to Alexander F. Dutton? How could we confirm this? I dug a little deeper into the results. I found, to my delight, that Kelli had close matches to a descendant of John Wakefield (1755-1845) and his wife Dorothy. Alexander F. Dutton’s wife, I had reasoned out, was Dorothy Ann Wakefield, a granddaughter of John Wakefield (more on that when I write about them). This match seems to confirm both Lee’s connection to Alexander F. and my identification of her mother with this Wakefield family.

Kelli Brewer chromosomes
And some BIG, recent chunks of Brewer DNA.

The last question I asked was about Callis’s father, rumored to be a Brewer. And sure enough, the DNA results seem to confirm this. One of Kelli’s closest matches was to a descendant of John Henry Brewer (1855-1933). This is, I did not even realize until I was writing this post, the man with whom Callis and Riley were listed as “boarders” in 1910 following the death of their mother. Could it be that John Henry Brewer was their father, and was now taking responsibility for his sons? The DNA cannot confirm that with certainty, but it does give strong evidence that their father was in fact some Brewer.

From having little but an uncertain connection and a speculative identification of Callis’s mother, just a few minutes with DNA allowed me to break through these walls and state with a fair degree of certainty: Callis and Riley Dutton were the sons of Lee Ann Dutton, the daughter of Alexander F. Dutton and Dorothy Ann Wakefield. The experience of early and simple genealogical tools helped begin this journey of speculation for me, but the perspective and tools of a modern genealogist, able to look out across all the records that would not have been readily available in one place several generations ago, and armed with such technological wonders as the Internet and genealogical DNA testing, helped power through to this conclusion.

The Mystery of Zachariah Dutton Jr.

In the course of writing another post about the children of children of Zachariah Dutton Sr., I happened upon some stunning facts I had not noticed before.

Zachariah Dutton Jr. is one of the most elusive figures in the genealogy of this family. We perhaps would not know about him at all if not for his naming in Zachariah Sr.’s will*. For years, the only other record I could find of who appeared to be Zachariah Jr. was an enumeration in the 1810 census of Brunswick County, North Carolina: Z. Dutton. In that census, he appeared to have a young wife and one son. There was apparently no other trace of him after that: no more censuses, no indications that he had any surviving descendants.

* Note that the suffixes “Sr.” and “Jr.” were not used in historical sources and I am only applying them to distinguish the two men.

War of 1812 pay vouchers, Brunswick County, N.C.
War of 1812 pay vouchers showing Zachariah Dutton’s and William Dutton’s militia service. (North Carolina State Archives [2])

Over the years, a few more facts have emerged. We do know that this man was named Zachariah Dutton and not some other “Z.”. He apparently went to Brunswick County early, and appears on a 24 July 1810 list of letters remaining in the post office in the Wilmington (N.C.) Gazette. Wilmington is in New Hanover County, adjacent to Brunswick County. Zachariah appeared in court minutes in Brunswick County in October 1813. He served briefly in the North Carolina Militia during the War of 1812, for a matter of a few months in 1814. To my surprise, I learned that apparently Zachariah’s brother William, my own ancestor, was in Brunswick County with him and served alongside him. We, the descendants of William, had never heard of this.

William eventually went on to Anson County, North Carolina, by 1820, where we suppose he settled near his youngest brother Samuel, before eventually going to Alabama in the 1830s. But Zachariah never appears in a census again, at least not that I have ever identified. What became of him? Did he die a young death sometime in the decade of the 1810s? If so, what became of his wife and child? The great temptation was to presume that the line simply died out. In any case, with no records pointing to it, it seemed to be lost to us forever.

Enter DNA

Elijah Bass Cherokee application, page 4
Elijah Bass Jr.’s Eastern Cherokee application, naming his mother as Matilda Dutton.

Until DNA. After our initial entrance into DNA research, I was not able to pay as much attention to it as I would have liked, so I depended on my Hogan cousins, the administrators of the Hogan Family Finder Project at FTDNA, to keep me updated. I was astounded one day when they contacted me with the news of a DNA match to a cousin, Anthony Di Dio, who appeared to be the descendant of Zachariah Dutton Jr., and with a record to back up the connection! Apparently, Zachariah had a daughter, Matilda, who married Elijah Bass, who claimed to be a descendant of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. I say “claimed” because the application made by their son, Elijah Bass Jr., was rejected. But it is this application that names Matilda Dutton as the wife of Elijah Bass Sr., and names Zachariah Dutton and Mary Dutton as the parents of Matilda.†

† It occurs to me as I write this that the identification of Matilda as the daughter of Zachariah Dutton Jr. isn’t completely bulletproof. Zachariah Dutton Sr. also had a daughter named Matilda. Could it be that this is the older Matilda, and this record actually names the wife of Zachariah Sr.? No, I don’t think so. This Matilda was born, according to the census, about 1807 in North Carolina. Zachariah Dutton Sr.’s first wife died ca. 1798, and all indications are that he had no children by his second wife Judith Parrish, per a prenuptial agreement separating his estate from that of his wife’s late husband and putting their estates aside for their respective children.

Elijah Bass Cherokee application, page 4
Elijah Bass’s Eastern Cherokee application, the next page, naming Matilda Dutton’s parents as Zachariah and Mary.

The paper trail was literally paper-thin, bound to a single reference in a single document. The document states that Matilda Dutton was born in North Carolina, but makes no definite connection to Zachariah Dutton Jr. in Brunswick County, Granville County, or anywhere else. (It is worth noting that the Bass family was from Granville County.) Zachariah Jr. in 1810 listed a son, not a daughter. Despite this document, other descendants of Elijah Bass and Matilda Dutton claimed Matilda was born in Pennsylvania, and made no connection to the family of our Zachariah Dutton. Until DNA, there was little to firmly attach even this document to — but the DNA evidence is unmistakable. Anthony Di Dio and at least two other tested Bass cousins each match a half-dozen other descendants of Zachariah Dutton Sr.

1850 Federal Census, Lawrence County, Ohio: Elijah Bass
The 1850 census of Lawrence County, Ohio, showing Elijah and Matilda Bass.

Elijah Bass and Matilda Dutton moved to Lawrence County, Ohio, in the 1830s. They appear there in the 1850 census, stating that they were both born in North Carolina, as were all their children. This latter fact, that all the children were born in North Carolina, is unlikely: Elijah likewise appears in the census in Lawrence County, Ohio, in 1840. They were apparently there by 1835, where a Lawrence County marriage record dated 20 March 1835 shows the marriage of Elijah Bass and Matilda Dutton. The 1850 census shows their oldest son, Elijah Jr., born ca. 1834 in North Carolina; he reports in other censuses too (cf. 1870) and in his Cherokee application that he was born in North Carolina.‡ So I strongly suspect that Elijah and Matilda were married in fact in North Carolina, but only recorded it legally after their move.

Elijah Bass Jr. and Elizabeth Arnold
Elijah Bass Jr. and Elizabeth Arnold. Elijah Jr. was the son of Elijah Bass and Matilda Dutton, the long-long daughter of Zachariah Dutton Jr.

‡ Elijah Jr. gives the birthdate 15 October 1835 in the Cherokee application. That’s possible, but not consonant with his recorded age of 16 in 1850. It would place his birthdate after the recorded birthdate of his parents, simplifying that problem, but would mean they traveled back and forth between Ohio and North Carolina in the span of a few months. Again, it’s possible, and probably not as far a distance as my Southern brain tends to make it: Lawrence County is in extreme southern Ohio (and below the Mason-Dixon Line!).

Elijah Bass Sr. and the rest of the family eventually ended up in Vernon County, Wisconsin. It is unclear to me when and where Matilda (Dutton) Bass died. I have been unable to locate her in any later censuses. If anybody else can, I’d appreciate the reference. It was a narrow shave: these people very nearly slipped through the historical cracks and were disconnected from their ancestral family for good.

More Mystery

Zachariah Dutton Jr. still bothers me intensely. I still have so many questions. Did he really die in Brunswick County ca. 1815-20? What became of his widow and who was she? Did he have any other sons or daughters? It bothers me that a son is listed for him in the 1810 census and not a daughter, as it should have been if Matilda was born ca. 1807 as indicated in the 1850 census. Is the 1810 census in error, or was her recollection of her age? Elijah Bass was born ca. 1810. If Matilda was born later than 1807, perhaps ca. 1810, then this would at least explain that.

Wondering these things, I decided to go back and check the 1810 census again. What I found made my jaw drop. I checked and re-checked the record.

Z. Dutton
1 white male under 10
2 white males aged 26-44
1 white female aged 26-44
38 slaves (!!!???)
1810 Federal Census, Brunswick County, North Carolina: Z. Dutton
1810 Federal Census, Brunswick County, North Carolina: Z. Dutton. (This image is manipulated to add the headers.)

Sure enough, Zachariah Dutton Jr. owned 38 slaves. That he was a slaveholder was not a terrible shock; his father Zachariah Sr. appears to have owned a few slaves throughout his life, from the earliest records of him in Maryland to his death and estate in North Carolina. But 38 slaves? This is an astounding number, more than all the other descendants of Zachariah Sr. everywhere ever owned combined. The Duttons, by and large, appear to have been yeoman farmers, owning their own land but generally, after Zachariah Sr., few if any slaves. But here is a record, if true, that challenges that entire notion. Is it true? Could it be in error? It is possible, but the record says what it says.

Hoeing rice
O. Pierre Havens, Upland rice (Hoeing rice). (Wikimedia Commons)

38 slaves would have been valued at something around $15,000 in 1810; this is not to mention the value of the land and crop one surely would have owned to need to employ that many laborers. It would place him in a class with the wealthiest men in the South: historians generally draw the boundary between a farmer and a planter at ownership of 20 slaves. It gives a strong indication to me of what Zachariah — and I suspect my own William, who was probably the other white adult male with Zachariah in 1810 — were up to. Brunswick County was and is a leader in rice production. Rice production, involving extensive systems of dikes and irrigation, was an especially labor-intensive and messy business, lucrative but risky.

Did Zachariah own this farm and all these slaves? Or could he have been an overseer or manager on someone else’s plantation? The 1810 census does not indicate. If he did own a rice plantation, it raises questions of how he came by the resources to do this, and more important, why there is so little record of him surviving. Surely someone with this much to lose would have left a will or some other estate record, but nothing like this has ever been found.

Perplexed, I wondered if there had been some record loss. And then I realized what must have happened. The courthouse of Brunswick County, North Carolina, was burned by federal troops in 1865, leading to a loss of some, but apparently not all records. It could be that records still survive to be found, and that no one has found them yet. We are probably lucky to have any record of him at all. Zachariah Dutton Jr. remains a mystery, one I will continue to chip away at as I am able.