Confusion over the identity of the various John Atwells in Virginia and North Carolina will probably continue for a long time, but we would like to propose a theory and present a few facts to try to separate at least some of the players. The "Caswell, NC to Kentucky" Atwell researchers seem to have built a good framework, but there has been doubt about which John was which while at least three of them were in Caswell and Person Counties in NC around 1810. Fundamentally, our theory is that there were two pairs of Jr. and Sr. Johns. This is how we see the story of the two separate families:
The Caswell, NC to Kentucky pair showed up in Caswell about 1803 when the first of many Atwell land transactions around Hogan's Creek in the western part of the county took place. Some researchers believe that they came from Maryland. By 1820 that John Jr. had left North Carolina for Kentucky, but it may be that his father remained with another son, Locke, in Rowan County as the 1820 census shows two males born before 1775.
The other Jr./Sr. pair are closely associated with the Prince Edward Co., VA, area, where John Sr. is found in various chancery records and tax lists. Later there are records of his children's marriages in and around Prince Edward. This all fits with the most important piece of new information: Ms. Shirley F. Trotter of the South Carolina Genealogy Society is in possession of the Horace Atwell Bible and has posted a transcription of it. (http://dutchforkchapter.org
) Contained within the Bible was a loose sheet of paper which we believe describes our Prince Edward Co. John Sr. and his family. Horace is apparently the grandson of John Sr. The transcription contained a couple of minor errors which were found when Ms. Trotter graciously provided scans of the original document. Newspaper clippings in the Bible referring to a William Atwell in Texas are also believed to incorrectly connect to our line.
Interestingly, while the "Caswell to Kentucky" John Sr. is believed to have married Elizabeth Lockett, the Bible insert says that the "Prince Edward" John Sr. married Elizabeth Webster. No wonder there has been confusion. Using the information on the loose sheet combined with some other facts, this is how we see the first two generations:
1. JOHN1 ATWELL, SR. was born July 23, 1727, and died Abt. 1804. He married ELIZABETH WEBSTER April 20, 1761. She was born February 26, 1737/38.
Children of JOHN ATWELL and ELIZABETH WEBSTER are:
i. SAMUEL ATWELL, b. November 10, 1763; d. Bet. 1820-1822 in Prince Edward Co, VA
ii. MARY LEWIS ATWELL, b. October 22, 1765.
iii. GEORGE ATWELL, b. January 25, 1770; d. Aft. 1798.
iv. ELIZABETH ATWELL, b. Abt. 1771, Virginia; d. Aft. 1850, Christian County, Kentucky; m. ROBERT TURNER, September 02, 1791, Prince Edward County, VA; b. 1766, Lynchburg, Virginia; d. 1846, Christian County, Kentucky.
v. JOHN ATWELL, JR., b. August 1773, Virginia; d. Aft. 1819 m. (1) MARTHA (PATSY) RICE, December 22, 1796, Prince Edward County, VA; d. December 25, 1819, Caswell County, NC; m. (2) AGNES MARTIN, Aft. 1819; b. Abt. 1786, Tennessee?; d. Aft. 1850.
vi. CATHERINE LEWIS ATWELL, b. May 23, 1776.
vii. MATTHEW ATWELL, b. August 29, 1778.
viii. CHARLES HENRY ATWELL, b. March 17, 1780; d. April 08, 1852, Charlotte County, Virginia; m. (1) NANCY DUFFER October 9, 1816, Charlotte County, Virginia; m. (2) REBECCA ANN HANCOCK, April 25, 1842, Prince Edward County, Virginia; b. Abt. 1812, Chesterfield County, Virginia.
ix. FRANCIS D. ATWELL, b. October 22, 1785, Prince Edward County, Virginia; d. February 20, 1851; m. ELIZABETH SHARP, May 17, 1813, Prince Edward County, Virginia; b. April 09, 1786, Prince Edward County, Virginia; d. February 05, 1863.
Note that we believe that Elizabeth, the wife of Robert Turner is part of our family even though she ended up in Kentucky like so many of the "Caswell NC to Kentucky" line. She was married in Prince Edward at just about the same time as her brother John Jr.. Also, it is very interesting that two of the daughters were given the middle name of Lewis. Perhaps their grandmother (mother of Elizabeth Webster) was a Lewis. Both Webster and Lewis families are found in early records of Amelia and/or Prince Edward Counties.
It's reassuring that the children listed on the loose sheet can be found in later records, and they seem to be associated with the Prince Edward /Charlotte/Lunenburg area as would be expected. For example, George Atwell (later in Lawrence Co, TN?) is mentioned as providing surety for John Atwell Sr. in a Prince Edward chancery suit in 1796. John Sr., John Jr., Samuel and George are all found in the Prince Edward personal property tax lists during the 1790s. The Bible entries also provide significant information on the children of Francis D. Atwell (not shown here) who were well documented in Charlotte Co.
Other items of interest - the John Atwell Sr. in 1810 Caswell is now known for sure not to be part of our line because our John Sr. died about 1804 as reported in the Prince Edward chancery suit of John Atwell v. Estate of John Clarke Sr. Also, while we believe that our John Jr. and Martha went to Person Co., NC, around 1800 and moved to Caswell Co. after the 1816 marriage of daughter Nancy (Martha died in Caswell in 1819), the Atwell in the often-cited deed transfer in Person Co. of John Atwell ("late a private in Capt. McChesney's Co.") to John G. Wilson is not ours. The bounty land application file for that Atwell contains his 1815 discharge paper showing that he was born in 1760, so he was too old to be our John Jr. The fact that the deed transfer was recorded in Person Co. doesn't mean that he resided there. At this time we do not know what became of that John or if he were part of either of the lines discussed here. Finally, the Booker Atwell, b. about 1793 who has been reported to have enlisted in the Army from Prince Edward Co. in 1813 is probably not a brother of John Jr., but rather a nephew. He and his brother William (who applied for his land bounty after Booker's death in 1836) are more likely sons of Samuel Atwell who is found in Charlotte and Prince Edward counties in 1810 and 1820 and is shown to have had a number of sons.
The earliest record of our John Sr., aside from his birth date on the loose page, is in 1762 when he witnessed a deed transfer in Amelia Co., and a year later on the tax list for Amelia. By 1767 he is on the Prince Edward Co. tax list. We have no supported theory of where he was before that and would welcome any suggestions.
We believe that these developments should be of interest to Atwell researchers with ties to Prince Edward, Charlotte, Lunenburg, Smyth, Bland, Tazewell, and Wythe Counties in Virginia; McDowell and other counties in West Virginia; and probably the region around Wilson and DeKalb Counties in Tennessee.
Ray Atwell and Lois Kimmons